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Brooklyn Decker Gains Her Acting Chops with the Netflix Hit, Grace and Frankie

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Few models have seamlessly made the transition to the silver screen and television as successfully as Brooklyn Decker. Brooklyn leapt from the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue (the Oscars of swimsuit modeling) onto the big screen in 2011’s hit rom-com, Just Go With It.

Aside from her classic slow-mo emergence from the Hawaiian sea in a swimsuit, reminiscent of the classic film, 10 starring Bo Derek, she held her own opposite comedic heavyweights Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. Hollywood took notice, subsequently casting her in 2012’s Battleship, alongside Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna and Liam Neeson. Next up was the ensemble comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting (based on the mega-bestselling mom-to-be tome) alongside a bevy of A-list actresses, including: Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick. Decker famously played the young and super fit “pregnant unicorn” who leaves actress Elizabeth Banks’ pregnant character scratching her head in envy and disbelief.

On social media, where most celebrities are retouching their images, Brooklyn thinks nothing of going makeup and photoshop-free at times, fearlessly repping the daily rigors of being a multitasking working mom, while adding tech entrepreneur to her growing resume with her recently-funded fashion startup, Finery.

Decker is currently riding a wave of success, playing the role of Mallory Hanson on the hit Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, now in its fourth season. Decker’s character Mallory is a young married mother of four children, navigating complicated relationships with her parents, played by Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen, and her sister, played by June Diane Raphael.

I caught up with this super babe turned superwoman for a chat about the success of Grace and Frankie, how Netflix is transforming the entertainment industry and the evolution of great characters on television.

TME: What have you learned about great comedy through playing the role of Mallory on Grace and Frankie?

Brooklyn Decker: I’ve learned from my colleagues on the show, especially June Diane Raphael who plays my sister. She’s one of the most talented comedic actresses I’ve ever worked with. What I’ve learned from her and from the rest of the cast is the more you’re playing a scene, the funnier it becomes. All of us, when we’re shooting, we play with each other… that sounds very in appropriate by the way (laughs)

TME:  (Laughs) Don’t worry. My mind was not in the gutter…

Brooklyn Decker: Ha! We’re like, “Can I push you here? Or maybe can you grab my hair here?” We do get physical, and we find a way to play with each other to bring physicality to the scene. What happens from that is it becomes funnier, and it feels more real. I really learned that from June, who, again is one of the funniest people in my life. And the wealth of talent on our show is just incredible. I’ve really learned that when it comes to comedy, if you’re having a fun time, the audience is going to have a fun time.

TME: I agree! June Diane Raphael is a very talented comedic actress, and the two of you play so well off each other as sisters on the show. There’s an interesting parallel of female relationships on Grace and Frankie. You have the close relationship between Jane Fonda’s character, Grace, and Lily Tomlin’s character, Frankie. At the same time, there is the sister relationship between your character, Mallory, and June’s character, Brianna. You don’t often get to see one close female relationship on television, so two female storylines in one show is pretty cool!

Brooklyn Decker: You’re one of the few people who have clued into that. Someone else commented to me that it’s rare to see sisters on television. There aren’t these female relationships that are at a deep level. I feel like Grace and Frankie does a really good job of showing sisterhood as friendship. But yeah, you are one of the few people who have mentioned that.

TME: Thank you for that, and I’m surprised more people haven’t made that observation. Tell me the difference between Jane Fonda’s comedic style and Lily Tomlin’s comedic style.

 Grace And Frankie

Brooklyn Decker: They approach their work entirely differently from one another. Lily is just in the scene. She doesn’t care about the technical aspect of a scene. She just wants to be present and then receive. As far as her character Frankie goes, she really embodies that. Jane is so technically perfect. She knows where every camera is, she knows when to take a pause, she knows how to angle her face. They do very few takes with Jane, because everything is pretty perfect. Whereas Lily gets on set and likes to play. You get something different from Lily on every take, because she’s constantly playing, constantly moving. They approach acting so differently; it’s similar to the difference in their characters. It’s fascinating to see the two of them work together. They just rib each other all day long. You can see that there’s so much love and history there.

TME: Because they’ve worked together before.

Brooklyn Decker: Yep, 9 to 5!

TME: One of my favorite movies of all time! Speaking of which, will Dolly Parton make a guest appearance on Grace and Frankie?

Brooklyn Decker: Abso-freakin-lutely! We beg for it every episode. They’re so secretive about it, that I don’t know if it is in the works, or if it will ever happen. I know that a lot of fans of Jane and Lily have wanted to see Dolly on the show because of 9 to 5. In the first two seasons they wanted to make sure that they fleshed out the show before they brought in what would be the tornado that is Dolly Parton. Now that we are in Season Four, they are playing it super close to the vest.

TME: How is it having Martin Sheen, who is also a fantastic actor, playing your father?

Brooklyn Decker: He is such a wonderful person. One of my favorite shows of all time, before doing Grace and Frankie, was The West Wing. Everyone says you should never meet your heroes because you’ll be disappointed. I was nervous to work with him, because I really had him on this pedestal. And he is such a kind, present, lovely person. My son was born when I was shooting the show, and the next week he brought me a rosary with the date that my son was born. He’s so paternal and wonderful, and to be able to play his daughter feels really natural. I have such respect and affection for him.

TME: You were pregnant in season three? I just watched it and you weighed 2 lbs!

Brooklyn Decker: Well, no, I was pregnant in season two, and then I was pregnant with my second this upcoming season four.

TME: I’m going to be on the lookout for a bump in season four!

Brooklyn Decker: It’s so confusing. June and I have four children altogether, off the show, and I have four children on the show. We have trouble keeping up with what’s real and what’s fake. It’s all very confusing (laughs).

TME: Do yours and June’s kids have playdates?

Brooklyn Decker: Yes. When I’m in LA they have; when we all get together.

TME: Could you see you and your husband (tennis star, Andy Roddick) being parents to four kids like your character Mallory?

Brooklyn Decker: Honestly, that’s my dream! I want a ton of children. Both me and my brother wish that we had more brothers and sisters. Whereas my husband comes from a family with three boys, and he likes the idea of two. So far, we’re good with two and we’ll see where that takes us.

 

TME: Of course, the main plotline of Grace and Frankie is that Robert and Sol, played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, come out as gay after their kids are grown up, they announce they’re in love and leave their respective wives (played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) to be together. Your character, Mallory, being one of the grown children, has to process and deal with that on the show. Have you ever thought about how you would react if that were to happen in your real life? If you had a parent who came out later in life and left your other parent, how do you think you and your brother might have handled those circumstances?

Brooklyn Decker: That’s interesting. I’ve had two male friends who had children and came out to their wives later in life. It hasn’t happened to me, personally, but people do go through it and I think I can relate to the kids on the show. During Season One, one of the more poignant moments was a scene when all of the kids were having a conversation, and basically saying, “We’re not mad that dad’s gay. We love dad no matter what. We’re mad that he’s been lying to his wife, our mother and our family, for twenty years.

For me it would be about the fact that they’ve been having an affair for twenty years; that would be a big deal. June’s character, Brianna, said on the show, “What if dad had been having an affair with a woman? We would all be pissed. But because it’s a man, we have to accept it.” I think that is so true. That was an interesting thing to tackle on the show, and I feel like that would probably be true in real life. If a parent was having an affair, and had been having an affair with one person for so many years, that would be the issue. For me, it would be less about their sexual orientation.

TME: You came on the scene as a model. Back when you were on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, was the end goal an acting career?

Brooklyn Decker: When I moved to New York and first started modeling, I moved thinking that I was just going to pay for school. That was the goal. When I started modeling I was eighteen, and all of my friends were in their freshman year at college. I really missed that. The reason I started studying acting was because I really missed school. My manager said, 

“Why don’t you get an acting coach and study acting? It will at least give you something to read and study when you’re on the road.” I liked that idea, so I started studying with a coach in New York and we started reading a bunch of Tennessee Williams. We approached it in a weird way, kind of academically. It was less about performance and more about learning and studying. I fell in love with studying acting. When I started auditioning, I didn’t think anything would come from it.

TME: What made you come to that conclusion?

Brooklyn Decker: Growing up in Matthew, NC, becoming an actor and becoming a model wasn’t a realistic career path. My brother’s a firefighter, my mom’s a retired nurse. It’s not something that you do where I’m from. We weren’t in the arts. In that respect, it was something that happened by chance. Once I started studying and auditioning, I fell in love with it and then of course I really wanted it. By 2010, I got three movies in one year. The second I booked my third movie, I said to my manager, “I’m quitting modeling. I’m done.”

TME: One of those movies was Just Go With It with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston?

Brooklyn Decker: Just Go With It, Battleship and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Once I booked my third movie, I had the courage to decide to stop modeling and focus on acting, and that was seven years ago.

TME: At what point did you feel like you made the transition from a model who’s done some acting, to an actor?

Brooklyn Decker: I don’t feel like that…yet.

TME: You don’t??

Brooklyn Decker: I do think that as a model, especially one who was in Sports Illustrated, which really puts you on the map, you have a lot to prove. People are constantly viewing you as one thing, and seeing you as sort of a wannabe (laughs).

TME: I get it. When you’re on the Grace and Frankie set, you’re surrounded by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, June Diane Raphael who is a seasoned comedienne. You got a seat at the table, but are you constantly questioning, “Do I belong here?” “Should I be here?” Or do you feel like, “Yes! I belong here.”?

Brooklyn Decker: I feel the insecurity that you just said of “do I belong here?” every single day. I think it’s me. It’s my own neurosis. But I do think that no matter what, any actor, and I’ve been acting full time now for seven or eight years, but any relatively new actor would feel insecure working with that group of actors. But I do feel a little bit more insecure because of where I came from, for sure.

Grace And Frankie

TME: How does the cast feel about you?

Brooklyn Decker: I don’t think they care. Jane is an ultra-feminist and she does not care what your past is. Her attitude is if you’re here, you are part of the show. I think that is how everyone feels.

 

TME: What would you say is the overarching moral of the story, or the overarching message of Grace and Frankie?

Brooklyn Decker: I think it really is that love and relationships come in all forms. Family can come in all forms. If you look at the central story, it’s the story of two women who typically aren’t represented on television. We don’t usually get to see women who are 80 going through life, and this show explores that. Second to that, I think it shows different forms of relationships. You have the two brothers who are adopted, and you see them navigating that with their parents. You have two sisters who have chosen completely different lives from one another, Grace and Frankie are exploring this sisterhood and family between the two of them, as two single women in their eighties. And Sol and Robert are a gay older couple who have just come out and are married.

TME: This show throws a lot of the “shoulds” that society places on us out the window.

Brooklyn Decker: In season three, Sam and Martin’s characters were wanting to go to gay clubs and open up their relationship, and they were wondering what gay couples are supposed to do. A lot of it was they thought they were supposed to be doing something because they’re gay. Just like Grace and Frankie feel all of these cultural expectations on them because they’re 80 years old. You see each of these characters defy what the societal expectations and projections are. It’s about busting through expectations placed on people.

TME: In past generations, television didn’t reflect the true messiness of life. I can remember my mother telling me that she would watch shows like Father Knows Best or Leave It To Beaver, where everything was so perfect and idyllic, and she would wonder why her family wasn’t TV perfect. The stories we are seeing now on television are embracing the messiness of life, which is what real life is.

Brooklyn Decker: Exactly! And the messiness is more interesting and what’s fun to watch. I don’t know what Netflix’s expectations were, but I do know there was pressure surrounding us when we were filming the first Season. The Netflix streaming demographic was a relatively new concept at the time, and they didn’t know who the audience was for this. What Netflix has discovered, and why it’s such a huge hit, is because it resonates with people in its messiness. The show makes people laugh, makes people cry… there are things people relate to and things that people learn from. Right now, more than ever, people want something that feels real, but also lifts them up. They need thirty minutes to have fun.

TME: What are your thoughts on the movement that Netflix has become? The fact that so many talented writers and actors are flocking to this platform, and everybody is coming on board and trying to be a part of it?

Brooklyn Decker: What’s so exciting about it is that, ultimately, the talent wins out. It’s the first time that we’ve really had that in Hollywood. Because there is such a wealth of opportunity now, you are really getting to see talent. The cool thing about Netflix is they can just make really good content, and with that, they can hire really good talent and they don’t have to be stars. Netflix doesn’t have to share their numbers, and they don’t share their numbers. They’re not about making sales at the box office, so they can just focus on making great content. You’re seeing the result of that. With the way the business is changing, talent wins out, and that’s exciting.

TME: Apart from the amazing Lisa Kudrow, are there any other interesting guest stars coming up on Season Four?

Brooklyn Decker: I don’t want to reveal who the guest starring actor is, but the important and interesting thing is the storyline with this actor. Sam and Martin are having a hard time in their relationship, and they ask themselves if they should bring a third party into it.  

TME: The honeymoon phase for Sam and Martin’s characters is over, and now they’re having problems just like any other couple.

Brooklyn Decker: Yep, real relationship problems.

TME: Your character, Mallory, announced that she is separating from her husband on the last episode of season three. Can you share how that unfolds this season?

Brooklyn Decker: I play a woman who got married out of college and who hasn’t been in the professional world at all. For the first time, I have to figure out what I want to do with my life, and Mallory goes back to work. And I may or may not be seeking employment with one of the family members.

TME: On another note, I want to congratulate you on getting funding for your tech startup, Finery! Can you share a bit about what the Finery app does?

Brooklyn Decker: When you think about what iTunes did for music – before iTunes you had tons of CDs in your car or in your house in a CD rack – iTunes took it all completely digital. We are doing that for your wardrobe. Everything is automated these days. Your banking is on your phone, your music is on your phone, your correspondence, everything. The one thing that’s still antiquated is your interaction with your wardrobe. Women will spend two hours a week figuring out what to wear. It’s not because we necessarily love clothes, or because we are fashion loving women, it’s because we need to get dressed. We felt there had to be a better way, and women can spend those two hours doing something more productive. We call ourselves your Wardrobe Operating System.

TME: What is a day in the life of Brooklyn Decker? You’ve got the TV show, the Finery app, the two small kids and the husband. How does it all break down day-to-day?

Brooklyn Decker: That’s something I’m still navigating. Fortunately, we have been on hiatus for the show for the last couple of months. When we were thinking about baby #2 we wanted to plan it around Grace and Frankie, so I didn’t have to come back to work right away. Our baby was born at the end of November, and we did our fundraising for this seed round for Finery starting in July and August. It all worked out that I wrapped the show, we did the [fund]raise, and then I was off four weeks before the baby was born, which was good because my doctor told me I couldn’t travel 30 days before my due date. We literally flew from San Francisco and I landed back in Austin (Decker and Roddick’s home city) at midnight, exactly 30 days before my due date (laughs). We had the baby, and now I’m back to work promoting Grace and Frankie and Finery.

 

TME: You’re making me tired! I need a nap now (laughs).

Brooklyn Decker:  And I’m not finished! Finery is based in New York, I’m based in Austin and for Grace and Frankie I work on the west coast. Yesterday I had conference calls for Finery, I was getting ready to fly to LA to do all Grace and Frankie press. Tomorrow I’ll fly back to Austin and I’ll be with my family.

Our Finery CEO is coming into Austin for meetings. It’s a juggling act, but I have a husband who is retired and who is wonderful. He is around and present with our kids, which is amazing; and I have a nanny. My family couldn’t afford a nanny when we were growing up, but we had neighbors. I’m lucky to have people around me who help, and I swear, it takes a village!

Season 4 of Grace and Frankie is now streaming on Netflix. Learn more about Finery.

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Caesar’s Reign Comes To The Big Screen With New Trailer For Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes

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Director Wes Ball breathes new life into the global, epic franchise set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows. As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is directed by Wes Ball (the “Maze Runner” trilogy) and stars Owen Teague (“IT”), Freya Allan (“The Witcher”), Kevin Durand (“Locke & Key”), Peter Macon (“Shameless”), and William H. Macy (“Fargo”). The screenplay is by Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds”) and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Avatar: The Way of Water”) and Patrick Aison (“Prey”), based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, and the producers are Wes Ball, Joe Hartwick, Jr., p.g.a. (“The Maze Runner”), Rick Jaffa, p.g.a., Amanda Silver, p.g.a., Jason Reed, p.g.a. (“Mulan”), with Peter Chernin (the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy) and Jenno Topping (“Ford v. Ferrari”) serving as executive producers.

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Masterchef Is Back! For Halo Season 2

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A quick recap – Halo is set in a war-torn 26th century, where humanity led by the United Nations Space Command or UNSC and their supersoldiers known as Spartans, fights against the onslaught of the alien conglomerate known as the Covenant. The full dust-up of Halo Season 1, can be found here. Onward into the introduction of Halo Season 2!

It’s been six months since the forced separation of Spartan Masterchief John (Pablo Schreiber) and Cortana (Jen Taylor), and the Silver Team has been sent on a mission to evacuate residents of the planet Sanctuary before the Covenant glasses the whole thing. This comes with its own set of challenges, given the resistance of the planet’s inhabitants, and it doesn’t help that Masterchef starts seeing things right in the middle of trying to save some marines. Or is he? Those energy swords the squad of Elites were carrying looked worryingly real.

Back on Reach, the Silver Team is entirely dismayed to learn they have a brand new Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) representative come in as the new boss, to finally replace the traitorous Halsey, James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan). And of course, Ackerson manages to immediately get under Masterchief’s skin, by not only expressing far too much interest in John’s relationship with Cortana but also apparently disbelieving of John’s report of his encounters on Sanctuary. That just means Masterchief has to go around, if not entirely over, Ackerson’s head.

Elsewhere, Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) is trolling the slave markets in his boredom, only to stumble across a soon-to-be indentured servant who claims he knows the whereabouts of the UNSC’s most hunted human, Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone). That should bring a huge bounty, but really, Soren should’ve known better by now.

Halo Season 2 premieres Thursday, February 8th, 2024, and will continue to air every Thursday, only on Paramount+!

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Reborn as a Vending Machine I Now Wander the Dungeon’: I look forward to your next use!  

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If the title of this delightful little isekai anime entry didn’t give it all away, our nameless protagonist is a vending machine fanatic who, after being killed by a vending machine, gets reincarnated in another fantasy-style world as one! 

Japan has a tendency to give birth to all sorts of crazed fads that can last for decades, and no one does better when it comes to the vending machine industry, too. These days there are vending machines that will serve you sushi you can actually eat, hot pizza in the box, wagyu steaks, freshly popped popcorn, and a whole mind-boggling array of tasty treats, and other non-edible but still useful items! Umbrellas! Condoms! Oxygen masks, sterile bandages, shoes, and emergency clothing! Actually, far more things that we use on an everyday basis, could be considered as technically a vending machine, and the anime explores that beautifully. Into the world of vending machine fanaticism, we dive! 

So our poor protagonist never gave a name, and inevitably when he’s discovered by his first official friend the starving hunter Lammis, she dubs him “Boxxo”. Like many isekai that seem to take inspiration from video games and RPGs, Boxxo discovers he ways he can communicate, level up his existence, and even evince magic-like powers and attack and defend against monsters and enemies. Though in the beginning, and as an underlying theme throughout the show, Boxxo is primarily concerned with providing unique never-before-tasted-in-this-world food and drink to the amazed folk, human and otherwise. 

Boxxo’s prices are entirely reasonable and hey, he can even choose to give out his wares for free on occasion, so his popularity immediately skyrockets. Lammis with her awkward charm and prodigious strength blessing, introduces Boxxo to other friends of Clearflow Lake Village and associates along the way – Director Bear, an actual bear-monster who’s the head of the Hunters Association; Lammis’ friend Hulemy, the insane genius magic item engineer; the Bearcats Suco, Pell, Short and Mikenne, cheerful hunters with astronomic appetites; even suspicious Kerioyl, leader of the Menagerie of Fools party. 

The show approaches the practicality and versatility of the true vending machine with amusement, but also with the love true fans display for things they’re passionate about. Certainly, things like a brothel needing a condom vending machine exist in our world, but to toss them into a potentially more innocent other-world isekai is a welcome and often hilarious treat. The show celebrates the cheerful idiocy and devotion of the fans to their chosen fandom, in this case, yes vending machines, but also the spirit of the lonely otaku finally finding their Tribe! 

Pay your coins to watch ‘Reborn as a Vending Machine’ on Crunchyroll now! 

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