The Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour is a two-week long event that takes place in Los Angeles and where networks bring the cast members from their new and top-rated shows to promote. Journalists attend panels with the talent and mingle with the stars to learn about their latest projects.
VitalThrills.com got a chance to attend the NBCUniversal Winter Press Tour, which kicked off the TCAs, and got firsthand details about its upcoming lineup.
Project Runway Winter Press Tour Panel
The hit reality show is making its comeback on its original network Bravo, but expect major changes. Longtime host Heidi Klum and her stylish sidekick Tim Gunn will not be returning. Instead, supermodel Karlie Kloss will take over and Christian Siriano, season four winner of Project Runway, will serve as her mentor.
“What’s really great is and obviously, like, I’m very close with Tim and very close with Heidi and they’re amazing and so talented. But I think what’s really great about this new season is that for the first time the mentor for the designers gets to be a real designer. Tim was never a designer. He never worked in the business. He was a teacher,” the former winner said.
Siriano, who has dressed A-listers like Michelle Obama, Gwen Stefani and Sarah Paulson, plans on drawing from his experiences to give meaningful advice to contestants.
“When the designers have a red carpet challenge, I can actually give them real feedback, because I just dressed people at the Golden Globes the week before. So I’m giving them almost, like, real fashion industry feedback. And I think that it can, hopefully, only help them.”
Diversity among the runway models is another welcome change for the series.
“We have full-figured models, we have African-American models, we have our first transgender model in Project Runway this season,” judge Nina Garcia told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour.
Garcia, ELLE’s editor-in-chief, returns to Project Runway as a judge alongside two newcomers: designer Brandon Maxwell and former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth.
Project Runway premieres on Bravo March 14th.
Abby’s Winter Press Tour Panel
Natalie Morales stars in NBC‘s new comedy about a backyard bar as the first Cuban-American lead of a sitcom since Desi Arnaz, “Which is crazy!” Morales laughed. “That was in black and white.”
The midseason 10-episode series is already getting compared to Cheers, which also aired on NBC. But executive producers Josh Malmuth and Michael Schur don ‘t seem to mind. “It’s a nice comparison, but I think our show is much better,” Malmuth joked.
“When Josh and I were beginning to plan the show we were acutely aware, no matter what we did, it would be seen through the filter of Cheers,” Schur chimed in, guessing that had they cast the show entirely with 90-year-old female actors, “people would still go ‘That’s kind of like Sam.’”
So they stopped “trying to outflank that inevitable comparison,” Schur said. “There is no way to beat that show. If you can get in the conversation with that show, it’s a dream come true.”
The cast members are all about it too. In fact, Morales would love Ted Danson to make an appearance.
“Abby worked at a lot of bars and she didn’t like people telling her what to do, so she decided to do her own thing. Eventually, people just started hanging out at her house and they’d pay her a few bucks for a drink. This turned into Abby making a bar in her backyard. She has a complicated relationship with her dad, which we’ll discuss on the show. There hasn’t been much talk about her mom or the rest of the family yet. No one has been cast in the role of my dad yet, but I was really pitching Ted Danson real hard. He’s the most famous TV bartender and he just so happens to be on a sister show on the network, The Good Place.”
She teased, “I’m not sure if that would work though, I think my dad is supposed to be Latino. Maybe my mom, too. I’m not sure how that will breakdown in the future, so maybe he would make sense. Wouldn’t that be awesome, though?”
Something else that sets her character apart is that Abby is the first openly bisexual lead of a network sitcom. “Yes, [Abby] may date women. She also dates men. So what?” Morales said. “She was also in the Marines. She was also a bartender. There are many, many things about her. We are all multifaceted people.”
The characters aren’t the only interesting thing about the show. The multi-cam sitcom is putting a spin on the traditional format by shooting outdoors in front of a live audience.
It was wonderful to get to rehearse outside and be outside,” said star Jessica Chaffin. “Usually you’re in a soundstage all day, which is like you could be in Vegas, you could be 8 a.m. or 2:00 in the morning, and it all feels the same.”
Abby’s debuts on March 28th.
Pearson Winter Press Tour Panel
Although Suits is coming to an end, one of the characters will live on. Gina Torres will continue to portray Jessica Pearson in the USA Network spinoff from the popular legal drama titled Pearson. The show will focus on the high-powered attorney as she enters the dark scandalous world of Chicago politics.
Suits creator and executive producer Aaron Korsh and executive producer Daniel Arkin, talked about how the series will stand on its own from the original show.
“Jessica is the link between Suits and Pearson,” Arkin said. “It has Suits DNA but we wanted the show’s concept to be grittier, raw, more real, showing more facets of her personality and life.
On Suits, fans were used to seeing Jessica call the shots and know her place, but that won’t be the case now. “We are seeing her behind the ball, not knowing everything (on Pearson,)” Korsh said. “People reject her for a change.”
Jessica’s position is changing, but her fashion icon status is not.
“I think it will be tragedy if they didn’t see that part of the DNA carry over,” Torres said and revealed she came up with the idea of Pearson after she “became obsessed with the 2016 elections.”
Although Jessica still will be wearing perfectly-tailored designer outfits, expect to see a more causal side to her wardrobe as well, since the show will be chronicling her professional and personal life.
And expect a very different show.
Suits was set in the world of “high-rise corporate law,” and Korsh pointed out, Pearson will be more at the ground-level. Jessica left New York City to “do good [and] get to the core of why she wanted to be a lawyer,” Arkin said, and the new show will see her coming up in the corrupt political world of Chicago, where she will often be “behind the 8-ball.”
“You do now get to see… a fully-fleshed out woman and what it costs her to be at the top of her game,” Torres said. “She was always in service to the firm but now she’s in service of her own life and what does that look like?”
Superstore Winter Press Tour Panel
Now in its fourth season, the NBC workplace comedy continues to take on topical issues while maintaining the balance of being funny, but not preachy. When asked if the writing team approached the show differently following Donald Trump’s presidency, creator Justin Spitzer said, “I don’t think we’ve changed the way that we write the show, I think we mentioned Trump once.”
America Ferrera added: “More and more people are looking for conversations that are honest and authentic and explain the world around us. Justin and the rest of our writers are able to masterfully address these without picking a side or saying who’s wrong or who’s right. One of the nicest things anyone has said about our show is that it’s the type of world that they want to live in and it’s a world where people can be so different from each other and believe such different things but treat each other with decency and that’s something that we’re not seeing a lot of in society and it’s something that we have in our show.”
While Ferrera is the star of the show, playing single mom Amy, she also serves as a producer behind the scenes.
“It’s much more a relationship and an ongoing conversation with Justin about the creativity of the show – where we are going, where the characters are going, what the longer arcs are, but also just what’s happening with the show?” Ferrera said of her producer role. “Are we reaching who we want to reach? Are there things that we want to talk about that we haven’t gotten to talk about? Are there audiences and people who we want to get the show in front of that we haven’t yet had the opportunity to?”
“It’s incredibly collaborative, and I feel like I’ve learned so much from working with Justin. And I feel like I’ve had a lot to bring, and I’ve gotten to really exercise different aspects of my creative self in the role,” she said.
There’s no word yet whether Superstore is getting a fifth season, but one thing Ferrera would like to see is her character from Ugly Betty meet Amy.
“I came off of Ugly Betty and wasn’t on a show for five years and part of what drew me to the character of Amy was that I was playing this sunny young woman that the world couldn’t knock down and that was fun and exhausting and felt like one experience of womenhood, where you wake up everyday and put on a smile and make people feel inspired and Amy was on the exact opposite of that spectrum. She doesn’t feel the need to smile and that was so [interesting] to me to explore what it was like to walk in the world as a woman without trying to make people like you. It was a great experience to go from Betty to Amy and I would love to see those two women [together],” she told the press.