In the 1990s Debi Mazar’s cat-eyed glamour was spotted everywhere, alongside close friend Madonna. Arm-in-arm they strolled red carpets across two continents and partied with a glittery group of social provocateurs.
As an actress, Mazar came on the scene and shone brightly in the 1990 iconic mob film, Goodfellas, as Ray Liotta’s coke-addled mistress. She then appeared alongside actress Annabella Sciorra in Spike Lee’s 1991 interracial romance drama, Jungle Fever and followed that up with two more Spike Lee films, Malcolm X and Girl 6. In 1995 she spiced up the screen as one half of Sugar & Spice alongside Drew Barrymore in Batman Forever. More recent projects included the role of sharp-tongued publicist Shauna on HBO’s runaway hit series, Entourage, which aired from 2004-2011.
Her characters have always been quick to offer a sarcastic comeback or some bold advice, no effs given. If film and television casts can be compared to ingredients, then Mazar is surely the hot sauce.
These days, the mom of two teenage daughters splits her time between New York City and Italy. Landing on another hit series with TV Land’s Younger, now going into its seventh season, Mazar takes the reigns once again as irreverent artsy urbanite, Maggie. The show centers around a Gen-X divorcee who poses as a millennial to jumpstart her career in book publishing, only to have worlds collide in parenthood, work and love.
When speaking with Mazar, she gives it to me straight, no chaser. A dye in the wool New Yorker with an Avant-Garde spirit, she shares her views on friendship, parenthood, social media and the art of risk taking.
That’s My Entertainment: In your series, Younger, your character Maggie is the catalyst that gives the other characters permission to make bold decisions that they wouldn’t ordinarily make. In your own life, who has given you permission to draw outside the lines?
Debi Mazar: I surround myself with many friends that do that for me; it’s not just one person. Certainly, it starts with my husband. I obviously run things by him. In my life, I’ve had people I looked up to who were older, or who had sage advice in their soul to offer. Sometimes it could even be my teenage daughters. Their thoughts are generally so pure. My older gay male friends always have sage advice, and my girlfriends, [the late fashion designer] Isabel Toledo being one of them, and Madonna being one of them… ultimately, you know deep in your soul what you should do, and I’ve always been a risk-taker.
TME: Are you as bold and irreverent as the characters you’ve played?
DM: I think I’m bolder than my current character on Younger, for real! Maggie is a little more Bohemian, and she’s [artsy]. I sometimes wish she could be even bolder. I know she’s a catalyst for the story. Often, in my life, I’m just like, “Oh please, just fucking do it already!” I think I’m a little bit more the type of person in my own life who will say, “Do what you need to do,” as opposed to merely suggesting. There have been times with the character of Liza (played by Sutton Foster), where I wish my character, Maggie, could have offered her that type of direct advice. But we have to tell a story and stretch it out for television.
TME: Younger just finished its sixth season, and you’re going into your seventh season. It’s amazing when you consider how much competition there is for people’s attention these days. Why do you think the show has resonated with your audience?
DM: Our show is about female relationships, for the most part. They’re strong women who are bonding together and lifting each other up. In a world that is so crazy, I think that is a big part of the show’s appeal. Our show is also filled with humor, it’s extremely positive and light. It really is entertainment.
The marketing machine that TV Land and Viacom put together, in terms of promoting the show and how they continue to promote the show, has been aggressive and fun. I give them a lot of credit for throwing it out into the stratosphere, especially on a network that was all about reruns. When I first got offered the show and they said it was on TV Land, I said, “Wait, isn’t that the rerun channel?”
TME: That reminds me of what Dave Chappelle said about the first season of Chappelle’s Show airing on Comedy Central. He said, “That wasn’t exactly the place to be at the time.” Sometimes it takes one groundbreaking show.
DM: Yeah, I was like, “Oh, that’s weird. I don’t know.” (laughs) Of course, I would love being next to I Love Lucy, but they were doing this whole new launch of original programming when Younger started. Having the platform of Hulu, and wherever else you can watch Younger, that’s helped enormously to blast it out, and the show has sold well, globally. I hop through airports constantly, and no matter where I go people tell me they watch Younger. Ultimately, our show is about love.
Allison Kugel: I would consider you a Gen-Xer, like me. There is a Gen-X versus Millennial component to the show that speaks to a lot of people. Do you long for what was, or are you more of an embrace the times we’re in kind of person?
Debi Mazar: I’m a mother of teenagers, so I’ve had to deal with Millennials and Gen-Z, and I find them so refreshing. I am a Gen X type of person in terms of where I live, and liking how things used to be, and yes, I do complain that I liked New York City better when it was less crowded. I liked the city when it was edgier and not so antiseptic and cleaned up. On the flip side, I’m also a modernist and someone that looks to the future. I can’t sit around talking about how things used to be, because you have to exist in how things are and make your next decisions based on that. I can easily decide that I’m moving to Italy tomorrow, because I married an Italian and we have a country home in Florence. And I can choose to really go a whole other route, pretend like I’m in the Renaissance, and live in the country and tune out a lot of stuff. But I’m kind of addicted to certain things at this point. I have Instagram and I sit and check my phone for things all the time.
TME: Darren Star is the brilliant creator of Younger. What would you say are the hallmarks of a Darren Star (Beverly Hills, 90210; Sex and the City; Younger) television series?
DM: Darren likes to push buttons in terms of sexuality. He likes to push buttons with love triangles, the dynamics of friendships and with fashion. He loves all of that. If you watch any of his shows, there is always an element of people that are living on the edge, having to make decisions; they are dressing up and going out; they are having fun; and they’re voracious and hungry for things. His shows are funny, witty, fast-moving and nice to look at. The greatest thing Darren does is write wonderful female characters. I mean, remember when Sex and the City was happening? A lot of people were like, “I’m the Samantha of my group,” or “I’m the Carrie.” With my character, Maggie, on Younger, I’m happy to play a lesbian. I think it appeals to a huge demographic within the LGBTQ (at this point Mazar laments that she may be leaving out some letters) community. It’s relevant.
TME: Darren Star recently claimed there is a statistic showing that women are often put in positions of power during extreme corporate shake ups, placing them on what he referred to as “the edge of a cliff,” and making them more vulnerable to failure in their respective positions. In Younger, Hilary Duff’s character, Kelsey, experiences this when she is put in charge of Millennial Publishing during a shake up in the company. Do you think the audience is ultimately looking to be entertained by her failure, or inspired by her success?
DM: I think the audience is watching to see what happens. We all live on the edge of not knowing whether we’re going to be a failure or a success, and failure and success is something that is measured by ego. It could be measured in many different ways. I don’t know if that is a proven statistic, but I happen to think that women are stronger than men in many ways. Women turn shit around all the time. There are a lot of success stories in Corporate America of how women have turned things around. So, I don’t really know where that statistic comes from and I don’t think it’s a male or female thing, necessarily. Half of it is luck and timing, anyway.
TME: Do you think someone can become extremely successful playing by the rules, or do you think that rules must be broken while chasing a dream?
DM: A rebel has to break rules. You have to take chances, and you have to fall on your face before you get back up and know that you made a mistake, and you can try to do it differently. I think you have to break the rules to a degree… in a smart way.
TME: Who in your life has made you most proud to have been born a woman?
DM: It’s interesting, because I wanted to have a son, but I got daughters. I’m proud that they ended up being girls, because they’re magnificent. I look at Malala [Yousafzai] paving the way. She was tortured; being a woman representing a society and getting shot in the head, and then going out there and being an activist. There’s the Gloria Steinems of the world, and a billion other women of the world. Had they been born men… I just think that gender isn’t necessarily the answer. The gender discussion now is so big that sometimes people aren’t born women and they choose to become them. And, hey, that’s a beautiful thing too.
TME: Why do you think ageism is so prevalent in American culture, specifically?
DM: Oh God! Well I think it’s not just America, unfortunately.
TME: Since you live in Italy for part of the year, would you say it is similar or different in that respect?
DM: I feel young for my age, to a degree, but my body doesn’t always feel so young because I’m not, and it’s just how it is. Throughout history, men were always the presidents in America. We still haven’t had an American president that’s a female. When I’m in Europe, people appreciate people, whether they have leathery skin or not. It’s about character and their souls and their mind.
I do feel appreciated in America, because I think it’s about the frame of mind of the person who might feel the ageism. I might not be able to go out and get a job that a twenty-year old is getting, but I don’t try to do that. In fact, when I was in my late twenties and early thirties, I was chasing after the roles of grandmothers on sitcoms. I don’t care about the number. As an actor, we all have to be different shapes, sizes, colors and have imperfections. That’s what makes us look interesting.
TME: What are your thoughts on Younger’s lead character Liza (played by Sutton Foster) relaunching her career in publishing by lying about her age? The series starts off with her pretending to be 26, although she is a forty-year-old divorcee with a teenage daughter.
DM: When the series starts off, her character was damaged. She was a divorcee suffering from a broken heart, a broken family, living in the suburbs, truly devoting herself to her child, which we all do. Suddenly she is single and going, “Oh my God, my daughter is moving out and going to college. What the hell am I going to do?” When she comes to my apartment, I am there to save her and wrap her up in my arms and be a friend first. I tell her, “I love you, you’re great, you’re beautiful.” When all of these [job] interviews are not working out, I suggest she have some fun and change it up. When I first started my career, I didn’t have a lot of acting credits and I fudged a little bit on my resume to make it look better than it was, because I wanted to get some action. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hustling, embellishing and trying to convince people that you can do the job.
TME: Speaking of this generation leading the way, what’s one piece of technology that you can’t live without, personally and professionally?
DM: Instagram, hands down! I’m able to post a still-life image that I find beautiful, or I’m able to show something that I shoot a picture of, that’s funny and makes people laugh. I’m able to share a photograph of a throwback from a moment in my life. It’s a reflection of my sense of style, my sense of photography, my sense of depth of field, color and comedy. To me, Instagram is really that and I keep my feed positive. On the flip side of it, when people come after me for my anti-Trump stuff or political stuff, I just block certain people. I don’t want to read into it and fall down that rabbit hole. I love WhatsApp because you can talk to anybody all over the world, and I also love how in Europe everyone walks down the street voice messaging into their phone’s mic, instead of texting. That’s my new favorite thing to do.
TME: Towards the end of season six of Younger, your character Maggie is having a steamy fling with actress Nicole Ari Parker, who guest stars on the show. What was that like?
DM: You know, Nicole Ari Parker did the two episodes of our show and we never closed out the fact that we’re having this little affair. Then I date a guy after her. It shows that Maggie’s hot to trot, and she’s on the market
TME: Your character is very fluid, sexually?
DM: Actually, she’s not fluid, but she is just seduced by a single moment with a man in that one episode. So, she’s not fluid. But if Darren [Star] decides I’m fluid in season seven, then I guess I will be (laughs).
DM: But he decided, at least in season six, that I wasn’t, and I’m fine with that. If I have to, I’d much rather make out with girls than make out with guys, because I’m married, and I only want to kiss my husband.
TME: I get that.
DM: I mean, if I have to it’s okay, it’s part of my job, but it’s much easier for me to go on set and be like, “Look, we got this. Let’s make this fun.” Sometimes you get these actresses who get a little bit nervous. I just make them feel calm and loved and feel easy about doing the scene with me.
Nicole [Ari Parker] and I had moments where we’d be on the street ready to make out for a scene, and I taught her how to kiss me for the cameras. We didn’t have to put tongues down, we just put our lips together and smash our faces together like they did in the 1920’s movies. It doesn’t have to be this groping, weird thing. Actors can make it look good if they know what they’re doing. It’s really about the suggestion of sensuality.
TME: You’ve had a group of eclectic and fabulous friends over the years. What kinds of people do you typically gravitate towards in your own life?
DM: I’m that person that supports all people. I love fucked up people; I love straight shooters; I love people that are very by the book. I just see beauty in all kinds of people. When you let go of the norms and you allow people to be who they are, you find beauty and strength in them.
Younger airs on TV Land on Wednesdays at 10/9c. Catch up on Seasons 1-6 on TV Land On Demand or on Hulu and PlayStation Vue. Follow Debi Mazar on Instagram @debimazar.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.