October 9, 2013 at 11:54 am , by Sonia Harmon
The Academy Award-winning actress has clearly got the acting thing down (see: The Help, Fruitvale Station, and the upcoming Diablo Cody film Paradise) so we chatted with her about an entirely new venture—publishing her first novel.
You’re publishing your first novel, Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, as part of a young adults book series. What inspired you to come up with the character?
The characters in my book are doing everything I ever dreamed of doing, from martial arts to actually solving a mystery. I grew up reading a lot of mystery books—everything from Nancy Drew to The Hardy Boys series—so I just decided to put pen to paper and the book and Randi’s character began to take shape.
How did you start writing the series?
It’s what I do in my downtime. I’ve had some acting roles that were recurring—we call it “day playing” because you work a day here, a day there. And between those days, I had to do something to keep myself from going crazy.
Is becoming an author something you always wanted to do?
I knew I wanted to write for kids because growing up reading shaped who I am as a person. It also took a lot longer for me to finish a book because I have dyslexia. It definitely was a challenge, but you cope and figure out ways to get through it. Once I jumped that hurdle, I actually began to enjoy reading.
Absolutely. I have severe stage fright. The biggest thing for me was reading aloud. I wasn’t confident that what I was saying was actually on the page, quite honestly. To this day, I hate table reads and it definitely has affected how I approach my work. I start memorizing as soon as I get a script because I know it’s going to take me longer to feel confident. Even though it’s a challenge, I don’t feel encumbered by it.
So far there are two books planned for the Randi Rhodes series. Do you already know where you want to take the character?
There are so many adventures to be had. I’m excited for everyone to read the books but I’m also a little nervous—you feel vulnerable when people read your work because it’s a part of you. But this really is a dream come true.
September 27, 2013 at 9:00 am , by Bethany Cianciolo
The Masterchef dishes about working with kids on the new Fox show, Masterchef Junior, which debuts September 27. Please Joe, tell us you don’t make any of the little contestants cry.
The contestants on the show range from age eight to 13. Do you judge differently on Masterchef Junior than you do on Masterchef?
We want these kids to cook on the same level as the adults, so we try to treat them the way we treat the adults. The kids were a little bit tepid in the beginning, but as much as we’re judging them, we’re also coaching them.
So you don’t go easy on them?
You’ve got to give them love, but sometimes a little bit of tough love is also good. And the kids are great because they’re honest—they speak their minds unhindered, which makes for great reality television.
How did the kids fare in the kitchen as compared to the adults?
They’re better than the adults, I swear to god. A lot of the baking is really impressive because baking is very technical. I think their use of what we consider really gourmet ingredients is amazing.
What’s one of the main pieces of advice you gave the children during the show?
Don’t be frustrated. The one thing that kids do is take their setbacks very seriously. So I think you’ve got to teach them how to regroup, come back and do better next time. The adults have a little bit more maturity—they can deal with setbacks and have more patience. But the kids make up for that because they have so much passion and energy for cooking.
Do you think you would’ve liked being on a cooking show as a kid?
No, I was much too stupid. These kids are much smarter than me!
September 5, 2013 at 8:54 am , by Sonia Harmon
We love Taye Diggs for his acting whether it’s on TV (Private Practice), the big screen (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) or the Broadway stage (Rent, anyone?), but we especially love him for his commitment to children’s education. The issue especially resonates with Diggs since he’s the proud dad of his four-year-old son, Walker, with wife and actress Idina Menzel. We chatted with the actor (and children’s book author!) about being a parent, his new movies and the hilarious six-second Vine videos he posts on Twitter.
Why is education important to you?
Once I found out that around two-thirds of kids in poverty didn’t have books at home, I partnered with Kellogg’s and Scholastic to help change that. I was a very avid reader and I have no idea where I’d be today were it not for books. And now I’m a children’s author; in 2011 I wrote a children’s book called Chocolate Me. So this is something that’s close to my heart. (Click here to learn more about how you can help give hundreds of thousands of books to kids.)
Where did you get the inspiration to write Chocolate Me?
I wrote it to help kids who are dealing with the same situation that I dealt with as a child. My mother did an amazing job, but it would’ve been even easier for her if she could’ve just whipped out a book about that specific moment when kids were making fun of me because of my skin color and how I should love myself and find my self-esteem from within. I’m working on a second book called Mixed Up Mike that will address my son’s point of view, being the product of an interracial marriage.
What’s been the most challenging part of parenthood?
Realizing how much more vulnerable I am. I have no control over how much love I feel or how much fear I have when he leaves the house everyday. But I relish the moments when he hugs us and tells us how much he loves us. The other day he even said he wished he could go back in time so that we could be friends in school.
That’s so adorable. And you’re a working dad—you’ve got a couple of films coming up.
Yes, I worked with Paula Patton on a movie called Baggage Claim and the role was a bit of a departure for me. My character is this overly ambitious, self-involved politician who’s obsessed with his little dog. So that left room for lots of comedy and improvising. I’m also starring in Best Man Holiday, which is a sequel to The Best Man. It’s the same character, but he’s older and has more experience under his belt and you get to see how the relationships have changed.
We hadn’t had a night like that in Manhattan in a while so we just took advantage. It was so much fun. I love those Vine videos. I could do eight a day.