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TV RECAP: Project Runway All-Stars S4.Ep12

FOUR designers remain this week: Helen Castillo; Michelle Lesniak; Dmitry Sholokhov; Sonjia Williams

This week’s challenge: create dazzling red carpet gowns to be remembered forever

Of course this is tied-in to an upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopic and the actress playing Marilyn introduces the challenge via video.

“It’s red carpet. It’s what I do,” says Helen.She’s designing something with a cap sleeve again. Helen purchases a beaded fabric in a mint julep color. Sonjia wants to design a dress with “bow that’s in your face.” She chooses several gold fabrics. “I want a moody romance,” Michelle explains. She spends her entire budget on one fabric, a silk burnout velvet. Dmitry buys off-white lace and white fringe which he plans to tea dye to match the fabric.

Helen in the workroom

Helen in the workroom

In the workroom, Michelle and Dmitry tell Helen that her fabric doesn’t have enough sparkle. She flips out a bit. She says: “I bought Chantilly beaded lace. You’re going to tell me, the girl that has made a Grammy performance gown [for a performer I’ve never heard of] that my fabric is not sparkly.”

Isaac Mizrahi arrives to interrupt the designers with a mini-challenge. He says he wants to introduce a legend. “She’s been saving the day in Hollywood for 75 years.” In trots Lassie. [Lifetime is paying the bills yet again.] The winner will be designing for Lassie. Well-trained Lassie delivers the gift bags to each designer which include fabric and their themes and rescue dog assignments. Helen gets sci-fi; Michelle has Western; Dmitry gets gangster and Sonjia receives musical comedy.



Mini-challenge: design a piece of movie-themed canine couture

Michelle who has yet to win a challenge wins.

Michelle with the rescue dog

Michelle with the rescue dog

Back to work on the main challenge, Zanna arrives for critiques in a fabulous outfit but with terrible hair. Why doesn’t she do something about her hair? Her clothes always look spectacular. Her hair looks overworked and dry. Dmitry’s never been in the bottom but Helen thinks his fringe dress looks like a “dirty mop.” Although Zanna thinks Helen’s dress is Victorian looking and too old-fashioned, Helen comments: “I’m feeling confident because I see black, I see dirty mop and I see cheap gold.”

eye candy: Dmitry in the workroom

eye candy: Dmitry in the workroom

Runway critiques



design by Sonjia

design by Sonjia

“It feels dramatic and memorable.” –Isaac Mizrahi
“It’s impactful.” –Georgina Chapman


design by Michelle

design by Michelle

“I think the textile is the star of this dress. I didn’t love the chain.” –Alyssa Milano
“This is the best you’ve done. It’s mysterious, where it’s lined. I can’t tell where you’ve lined and where you’ve left sheer. The back is enchanting.” –Isaac Mizrahi
“It’s very pretty. It’s a simple shape. The patterning doesn’f feel expensive.” –Georgina Chapman


design by Helen

design by Helen

“It’s a classic silhouette.” –Alyssa Milano
“Very safe but perhaps too safe.” –Georgina Chapman
“I love this dress. It didn’t move beautifully.” –Isaac Mizrahi


design by Dmitry

design by Dmitry

“This dress blew me away. Might be my favorite thing ever.” –Alyssa Milano
“It really looks like this is thousands of dollars. Your length is great.” –Georgina Chapman
“Beautiful dress but fringe is maybe not Oscar.” –Isaac Mizrahi

Dmitry is the WINNER

Sonjia is IN

Michelle and Helen must compete in a last minute challenge. They have to reinvent a look using at least three losing designs in an hour. Helen freaks out as she doesn’t like destroying other people’s designs.
Helen: “I can’t cut up somebody else’s work.” [but she can critique them.]
Michelle: “Well just cut up the really ugly stuff.”

Sadly Michelle is OUT. Helen is IN.

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Lifetime TV movie review: Megachurch Murder


Based on Hamlet, Megachurch Murder focuses on a pastor’s daughter and a scheming ministry. After her pastor father –Hamilton Spears [Malcolm Jamal Warner]–dies in a suspicious bicycle accident Hannah [Shanica Knowles] starts drinking heavily. She soon uncovers information that another pastor– Clay King [Michael Beach] –wanted to expand the church to bring in more money and her father opposed the idea. To complicate matters Hannah starts dating Clay’s son Oliver [Romeo Miller] and her mom [Tamala Jones] is involved with Clay. At one point Clay tells Hannah’s mom Martha: “Get her under control or I will. Our future is bright baby and I’m not letting anything, including Hannah, win it.”


Most murders involve money and perhaps using the guise of a church it’s easier to commit financial crimes. Oliver is the good son and Marcus [Corbin Bleu] is the bad son who does the terrible bidding for his father. There’s even a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern moment with a pair of the congregation who meet with Marcus to “figure out what is wrong with Hannah.” They attempt to poison Hannah by putting money in her flask but she’s so happy with Oliver that she dumps it out, foiling their plan.

Updated Shakespeare plots can be cool. This isn’t the best ever but it’s fun. I’m not into church or the church scene but it works here. Shanica Knowles does an excellent job in the Hamlet role as the brooding and confused daughter.

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TV: Project Runway S4.Ep11 RECAP

FIVE designers left this week: Helen Castillo; Fabio Costa; Michelle Lesniak; Dmitry Sholokhov; Sonjia Williams


Designers head out over to the Marchesa showroom and Georgina Chapman and co-founder of Marchesa Keren Craig greet them to introduce the challenge. They meet a bride-to-be and will be assigned a bridesmaid for whom to design a dress. Alyssa Milano will officiate the wedding on the runway. Why? Because she can. And so the bride gets a free Marchesa wedding gown.


This week’s challenge: design bridesmaid dresses suitable for multiple events

The winner will be a VIP at Marchesa during New York Fashion Week, receives beautiful china set as well as a Marchesa diamond ring.

The bride said her color choices are navy, plums, taupe and gray.

“I love love. I’m so excited for you,” Michelle gushes.

Helen says: “I love bridal so I’m so excited.”

They sketch at Marchesa until heading to Mood with a $150 budget. “I never know what my things will look like until I start working,” Sonjia admits.

During dinner Sonjia starts crying. “It’s hard to challenge yourself every single week to come up with a great design,” she explains. “I’m exhausted. It seems whatever I’m doing isn’t working.”

“Why did I pick this bitch organza?” Fabio laments


“Looking around the room, I think mine is the most romantic here,” Michelle opines.


“Everybody is more developed and everybody is more experienced. It’s the best of the best. So it’s harder to compete,” says Dmitry in maybe his most humble comment yet.

Michelle: “Helen’s three words are wool crepe, cap sleeve and lace. Every design that’s what she does.”

the judges with guest judge Cat Deeley

the judges with guest judge Cat Deeley

The critiques


—says she designed a fit and flare


“It’s really flattering.” –guest judge Cat Deeley
“It is a very nice dress. I just wanted a bit more.” –Georgina Chapman
“It’s really flattering but it a little heavy. It skews a bit older.” –Alyssa Milano
“Tasteful is good but I’m looking for a bit more here.” –Isaac Mizrahi

—wanted the bridesmaid to be comfortable and have fun in it


“I’m conflicted. You got me thinking. It’s one of the more exciting dresses on the runway.” –Georgina
“I’m baffled. Too much drapery.” –Isaac
“I love that Studio 54 feel.” –Cat
“This was my favorite dress. I love this dress. I gave it the highest score of the day.” –Alyssa


—said he wanted to design classic and modern simultaneously


“It’s a little bit of a departure for you. Hemline kinda a mess.” –Alyssa
“I love the shoulders but would like the sleeve to come down more.” –Cat



“I’m getting a little phallic from this center applique piece and the bottom to me looks a little circus.” –Alyssa
There’s something unresolved about the sleeve and it’s a pretty ide what you’ve done. I appreciate that you pushed it a little bit. –Georgina
Later Georgina adds: “Michelle is onto something more interesting than Fabio.”

—aimed for elegant but modern


“It’s so unattractive. I don’t know where to start. The Cleopatra neckline, the draping at the bottom.” –Isaac
“Not your best week All-Stars!” –Isaac
“There’s nothing new about this dress. –Georgina
Later Georgina calls it “offensively dull.”
“I kinda like this dress. But it’s safe.” –Cat


FABIO is ELIMINATED (after weeks in the bottom)

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TV: Project Runway All-Stars S4.Episode 10

I haven’t been doing my usual weekly Project Runway update for Project Runway All-Stars S4. I’m starting now until season end. My favorite designer Samantha Black is gone so it doesn’t matter that much anymore. However I do like watching arrogant and gorgeous Dmitry Sholokhov. I’ve seen most Project Runway seasons except for his (10) and season one.

Sonjia and Michelle chat

Sonjia and Michelle chat

SIX designers left this week: Helen Castillo; Fabio Costa; Michelle Lesniak; Jay Sario; Dmitry Sholokhov; Sonjia Williams

Fabio for some reason thought he needed to design his own fabric and created a truly dull product. pastels on white. spattered paint look. Michelle chose an unusual print that no one liked. Sonjia doesn’t sketch and waits for the material to speak to her. She really works in a strange organic manner but managed to create lovely designs this week. She had a piece of bright yellow fabric and didn’t know what to do. So she hyserically says: “So I decide to YOLO this dress.” And poof! a cool tube dress.

Isaac Mizrahi, Georgina Chapman, Alyssa Milano and Zanna Roberts Rassi rang the closing bell for NASDAQ.


This week’s challenge: design two-piece separates for QVC. also design another more high fashion look that coordinates with the separates.



design by Sonjia

design by Sonjia

design by Sonjia

design by Sonjia


design by Dmitry

design by Dmitry

design by Dmitry

design by Dmitry


design by Helen

design by Helen

design by Helen

design by Helen



design by Jay

design by Jay

design by Jay

design by Jay


design by Fabio

design by Fabio

design by Fabio

design by Fabio


design by Michelle

design by Michelle

design by Michelle

design by Michelle

Sonjia is the WINNER.

Jay is OUT.

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BOOK to FILM: Get Reading!


Recently watched The Drop. It’s just like the book as Dennis Lehane wrote the screenplay for the film based on a short story and then wrote the novel based on the screenplay. It stars Noomi Rapace, Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini and a cute cute cute puppy! Plenty of Dennis Lehane novels have been adapted to film– Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone.

live by night

Even though I’m not an avid mystery/thriller reader, I’ve sought out a few Dennis Lehane because he’s a local author and many of his books take place in Boston.I took Live By Night out of the library because Ben Affleck will be directing the film version of that one this summer. Read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout when it came out many years ago [Strout is also a lively speaker] and am delighted to see such a quality miniseries on HBO with Frances McDormand. I don’t read a lot of mystery/thrillers so if they’re adapted to film I’ve likely not read all that many of them.

Like most people I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars as well as The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins before I saw the wonderful film versions. Sometimes the film version is better than the book but often the book is better than the film. Sometimes it’s a good story either way. I’m a bibliophile but not a literary snob that must read every book before seeing its cinematic adaptation. Most Nicholas Sparks, fantasy, romance or YA I’ll give a pass.

wolf hall

Damian Lewis as Henry XIII

Damian Lewis as Henry XIII

It’s usually best to read the book a while before the film comes out or cast announcements unless you want to envision certain actors in the role. I read Shutter Island right before I saw the film so I pictured Leo DiCaprio the entire time. Not a bad thing. I plan to read Wolf Hall in the next month before the BBC mini-series starring Damian Lewis as Henry XIII.

some 2015 film releases and the source material:

casual vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
starring: Simona Brown; Hetty Baynes; Lolita Chakrabarti
release date: February on BBC One


Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
starring: Carey Mulligan; Tom Sturridge; Matthias Schoenaerts
release date: May 1

child 44

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
starring: Tom Hardy; Gary Oldman; Noomi Rapace; Paddy Considine; Dev Patel and Charles Dance.
release date: April 17

serena film2

Serena by Ron Rash
starring: Jennifer Lawrence; Bradley Cooper
release date: March 27

dark places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
starring: Charlize Theron; Chloe Grace Moretz; Christina Hendricks; Nicholas Hoult and Corey Stoll.
release date: TBD

price of salt

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
starring: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara
release date: TBD


The Mordecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli
starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow; Ewan McGregor
release date: January 23

me before you

Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes
starring: Emilia Clarke; Sam Claflin
release date: August 21

black mass

Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill
starring: Johnny Depp; Benedict Cumberbatch; Kevin Bacon; Juno Temple
release date: September 18

secret scripture

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
starring: Rooney Mara; Vanessa Redgrave; Eric Bana; Jeremy Irons
release date: TBD


The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
starring: Jessica Chastain
release date: TBD


A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
starring: Robert Redford; Nick Nolte
release date: TBD

Books books books

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: actor Jayson Warner Smith [Rectify]

“Everything out here is just so complicated and there’s so much pain and hate. And I think I might be too broken.” -–Daniel Holden

If you’ve yet to watch Rectify, you’re missing out on one of the best television programs ever. Near-perfect writing, direction and acting. It’s disturbing, gorgeous and compelling. Exquisite writing–helmed by creator Ray McKinnon– and nuanced characters propel this show about a guy released from death row after 19 years due to DNA evidence. Everything and nothing has changed in his small southern town. It’s an ambitious show with a fantastic premise. The state convicted then 17-year-old Daniel Holden [Aden Young] of raping and killing his then girlfriend. He survived the 19 years on death row through extensive reading and meditation. Holden returns home to the devoted mother [J. Smith-Cameron], stalwart sister [Abigail Spencer], a step-father, step-brother who doesn’t like or trust him and a teenaged half-brother.

Female writers and directors added to the mix make this a spectacular, provocative show. The entire cast is superb not only by Aden Young. Stand-outs include J. Smith-Cameron as Daniel’s patient mom Janet Talbot and Adelaide Clemens as Daniel’s conflicted sister-in-law Tawney [truly think she should be nominated for several episodes of season two]. Jayson Warner Smith impressively plays creepy child molester and death row resident Wendall Jelks who incessantly taunts Daniel through the prison walls.

Jayson Warner Smith and I became acquainted via twitter– as one does these days– and he agreed to answer some questions via email. I wanted to hear that southern drawl but some other time. Maybe he’ll record something on my iPhone.

Amy Steele: You’ve been acting since you were a child. What appeals to you about it?

Jayson Warner Smith: It’s one of the few things I’m kinda good at. I love the process of telling a story and creating something for others to learn from and enjoy.

Jayson Warner Smith

Jayson Warner Smith

Amy Steele: What have you learned throughout the years of acting and taking acting classes?

Jayson Warner Smith: Acting is a selfish act. You are doing it for yourself. You can’t be concerned with how it’s “coming off”. You can only be in the moment. If you’re watching yourself or gauging an audience’s reaction then you are entertaining. Nothing wrong with that but it isn’t acting.

Amy Steele: You do a lot of theater. What’s different in theater vs. television vs. film. What do you like about each form?

Jayson Warner Smith: TV and film are almost identical except you have very limited time with TV (and budgets usually). Theatre is an entirely different animal. Yes, you still want to be authentic and real and in the moment so to speak, but in theatre, you have to keep it up for 2 or more hours night after night all while making sure that everyone in the back row is getting it. Keeping the reality of the moment fresh every night is the magic. If you are doing that then it works.

On camera work presents a different challenge. Here you are allowed the joy of just being real with what is going on. You don’t have to project your voice to the back row cause there’s a mic on you and right over you capturing everything. On camera, you don’t need to show your emotion in a big way as you have to in theatre. The camera is right there and picks up EVERYTHING. The challenge on camera is not acting but “being”. You want it to be as real as possible. Of course, we don’t really have sex or kill people or die on camera but we want to be as real and in the moment as possible all while living in an imaginary world. It’s a bit tricky.

I also teach acting now. My goal is to help my students learn the techniques and habits that work best for them in getting to this “authentic/real place”. Whatever works is my motto. I teach what is called “The Strasberg Method” but there are many other techniques that work very well. It’s all about what works best for the individual.

Amy Steele: As I mentioned to you on twitter, you’re very good and super creepy as Wendall Jelks on Rectify. Why did you want to play Wendall?

Jayson Warner Smith: First of all, thank you. That’s a good question. It’s not so much that I wanted to play “Wendall” per se as I really really wanted to work on Rectify. Ray McKinnon is the most talented person I have the pleasure of calling friend now. He and I had met through friends over the years but I had never had the pleasure to work with him in any way other than a day on the set of Footloose (2011). I’d been following his work over the years and just wanted to do whatever I could to be there with him. I had heard the auditions were happening and I wasn’t getting a call to come in. I was very disheartened. Finally I called my agent and asked, “Why am I not reading for anything on Rectify?” “We and casting just don’t see you in these kinds of roles.” they replied. I’d seen the script (another too long story) and I knew I could play Wendall. Unfortunately, no one else did. I told my agent I wanted to read for it. She was reluctant but agreed. I “self-videoed” the audition scenes and sent them in. She sent them on to casting and I had a call-back immediately. I went down to Griffin, GA where the show is shot and met with Ray McKinnon and Keith Gordon. Ray didn’t really like my audition video as I had made some choices that were misguided but, he saw what he was looking for in me. He then spent two hours with me directing a “video call-back” to be sent to network. He was ready to hire me but I had to be approved by SundanceTV. I was approved two days later.

Jayson Warner  Smith as Wendall on Rectify

Jayson Warner Smith as Wendall on Rectify

Amy Steele: How do you get into the role? What type of research did you do? Have you spent time with actual prisoners?

Jayson Warner Smith: No research really. No time with prisoners. I understand what drives socio/psychopaths via years of acting. Mainly though, I just let the script guide me. Of course, I’m not like Wendall at all (I hope) so I have to rely on my imagination and the skills I’ve learned over the years to “go there” with the things that he does.

Amy Steele: Wendall seems evil to the core. What’s the greatest challenge of this part?

Jayson Warner Smith: The thing about evil is that evil people don’t think they’re evil. It’s just that what they consider normal is considered evil by most of humanity. The real challenge is just acting normal while saying and doing really vile things. To be more specific, It’s really the amazing writing that makes him creepy and evil, my job is to make sure what the writers want comes through in the performance. I use all kinds of different techniques that I don’t want to discuss. Mainly I just do whatever works on the day.

Amy Steele: The Rectify cast seems great. The writers are fantastic. Are you all very close even if you don’t have scenes together?

Jayson Warner Smith:They are great and yes, they are fantastic! I am so fortunate to be a part of this. While we are here filming yes, we are all equals. But, once we wrap, everyone disperses and moves on to other projects or back home wherever that may be. On a personal note, I have had the wonderful fortune of doing all of my work on Rectify with Aden Young who plays Daniel. I also worked with Johnny Ray Gill in Season one who plays Kerwin who is probably the most sympathetic character on the show and Kerwin is a child murderer. Fantastic writing and acting indeed. Aden and I have become pretty close. Of course, he is back in Australia now so we don’t exactly hang out. We really spent a good deal of time together though during season two. He and his family rented an old farm house on 100 acres near Griffin and I would stay with them while I was in town shooting. Absolutely first rate folks. His wife Lo Carmen is a fabulous singer/songwriter as well as an actress. And his two boys are a delight.

Amy Steele: You left L.A. so many years ago and moved back to Atlanta. Why did you move? [I think that you can live anywhere and have an acting or creative career if you have talent.]

Jayson Warner Smith: While I have no regrets about my three year tenure in LA back in the early 90’s, I was completely unprepared to be there. I had no credits and no audition experience of the kind you need in LA. It took two years to finally get an agent and I bombed my first two auditions and he quickly dropped me. It was a great lesson. After three years I was broke and had no agent and I was offered a dinner theatre gig back in Atlanta and I took it. I’ve been back here ever since.

Amy Steele: Is there a role you’d like to play that you haven’t had a chance to do yet?

Jayson Warner Smith: I’ve gotten too old for most of them. There are a few though, Fagin in Oliver!, Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey. Mostly I’d like the opportunity to create an interesting character role with some longevity on TV and some meaningful rich roles in films.

Amy Steele: For someone who’s never seen Rectify how would you briefly describe it?

Jayson Warner Smith: A rich dramatic experience that takes its time and does it right. A real Southern American story told by real Southerners. Unfortunately most anyone outside the South doesn’t really know what that means. Their only exposure to Southern life is via TV and film where it is typically presented in a mostly incorrect stereotypical version.

Amy Steele:What are some upcoming projects you’re working on?

Jayson Warner Smith: Very excited. I actually have five films set to come out in 2015. All are independent works. 99 Homes by Ramin Bahrani and Mississippi Grind by Ryan Fleck & Ana Boden [AS note: the duo responsible for Half-Nelson and It’s Kind of a Funny Story] will both be at Sundance in January. I’ll be there too. In 99 Homes I play Jeff, Michael Shannon’s crew chief on a foreclosed home clean out crew. It’s a major supporting role and I will be in and out through the film. In Mississippi Grind I play a poker player named Clifford in an early scene where the two leads Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn meet for the first time.

In I Saw the Light the Hank Williams Biopic I play legendary country singer Hank Snow. I am in one scene where I introduce Tom Hiddleston who plays Hank Williams at a concert. In Heavy Water, an Atlanta independent film, I play Mickey, a homeless man who is the sidekick, so to speak, to Carter Jenkins’ in the starring role. Lastly I have a small role as a hunter in a locally made sci-fi/horror flick called Beacon Point. I get killed pretty quickly.

Amy Steele: So watch for those films and for Rectify to return in the spring on Sundance Channel. If you’ve yet to see it, you’ll find Rectify streaming on Netflix. Thank you to Jayson.

**all pictures are from Jayson’s website.

purchase at Amazon: Rectify


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STEELE PICKS: 12 Best Television Programs of 2014

download (1)


Perfectly written and acted. dark. intense. riveting. Excellent cast and complicated story-lines. A thinking-person’s program.

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S4 excellent. Now in Pakistan where Carrie Mathison [Claire Danes] serves as deputy director of the CIA. Claire Danes dazzles as Carrie Mathison. She depicts mental illness better than anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s not a crutch. It’s not a disability. It’s part of Carrie’s personality.



there’s something off-the-reservation wild [and inherently sexy] about this show about U.S. Marshals in Kentucky. It’s quite masculine. It’s a male-dominated setting but there’s nothing sexist about it. Timothy Olyphant superb. Also I enjoy Alicia Witt’s turn as a bold, kick-ass law student who keeps defending her deadbeat trouble-maker redneck brothers.


The Knick

medicine in the early 1900s. I’m in. It’s early days at the Knickerbocker hospital in Manhattan.


Orphan Black

generally I don’t like sci-fi however this series about clones fascinates me. Plus Tatiana Maslany vividly acts out all the clones. They all have peculiarities that make it fun to watch.


Orange is the New Black

everything to say about this show has been said. diversity, humor and pathos.


Call the Midwife

Child-free by choice. Never wanted children. No interest in being pregnant but this female-centric show is wonderful. written by women, directed by women, centered on stories about women. friendships and careers.


Mad Men

almost over and it’s as brilliant as ever.


The Honourable Woman

a twitter friend asked me how this show was and I said it was complex and confusing. Stylish and powerful. In college I majored in Political Science and English. Took a class called The Arab/Israeli Conflict. That helps a bit. Maggie Gyllenhaal is phenomenal. All the women are power players and run this show from Gyllenhaal as CEO Nessa Stein embroiled in the Arab-Israeli conflict to Eve Best [Nurse Jackie] and Janet McTeer and Lindsay Duncan.


Happy Valley

Sarah Lancashire is a genius. Here she’s a police officer in a small UK town. See also: Last Tango in Halifax a sweet and funny show about an aging couple who rekindle a high school romance.

Nurse Jackie

Nurse Jackie

flawed and caring Jackie. the outstanding Edie Falco. excellent writing by women because honestly who better to write such a layered, complicated female character than women.


Getting On

Dry comedy about the day-to-day in a rehab facility. Aging and death couldn’t be handled any better than this. Maybe I can relate because I’ve worked in healthcare/eldercare. It’s smart and the troupe of actors including Niecy Nash, Laurie Metcalf and Alex Borstein is fantastic.

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TV Preview: Project Runway Threads S1.Ep.8 (finale)

The season finale of the latest Project Runway spin-off Threads airs Thursday, December 18 at 10 pm. The show features teenage designers. This week: Zoe; Christopher; Mady.

Each episode features a challenge and a “surprise door twist” which involves creating a second design. The second designs adds pressure these teens don’t need. There’s already not enough time for one design. During the opening “show us your style” challenge, the winner receives some sort of advantage in the main challenge. It’s varied each episode as if they don’t know what works and what doesn’t as if they’re making things up as the show goes on and maybe they are. Some advantages: stopping your competitors; stealing your competitor’s assistant; a half-hour jump-start. this week the winner receives a consultation with designer Christian Siriano, one of the show’s judges. Host Vanessa Simmons still seems uncomfortable.

Has this show been renewed yet? It must be hanging by a thread.

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TV Preview: Project Runway Threads S1.Ep7

It’s already challenging to be a tween/teen but then when you’ve got the added pressure of competition it’s intense. This week designers Molly, Alex and Julia compete for the 25K prize package. The challenge: create a cover-worthy look for Seventeen magazine. There’s also some advantage by the winner of the “Show Us Your Style” challenge at the beginning of the show and a surprise-door-twist which entails a second design.

Vanessa Simmons hosts. She is joined by judges Christian Siriano and Youtube sensation [I can’t stand this title] Ingrid Nilsen.

Project Runway Threads airs [past most teens bedtime if they have school] Thursday at 10:00 pm ET/PT.

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: fashion designer Samantha Black [Project Runway All-Stars]

Samantha Black on Project Runway: All-Stars S4

Samantha Black on Project Runway: All-Stars S4

Samantha Black is cool. She stood out for me from the first episode of Project Runway S11 and I was rooting for her. I like her personal style and the clothes she designs. She’s laid back yet edgy. Plus she’s smart and genuine. The 28-year-old Brooklyn resident and Pratt Institute graduate runs two clothing companies Sammy B Designs and Samantha Black. In 2011, Black presented her first show at New York Fashion Week [NYFW]. Solange did the music for the show, attended and sat in the front row. “I’m really excited when people want to wear my clothes and people see it,” Black told me. She’s shown at NYFW nearly every season since. Named “designer to watch” by both Essence and Ebony magazine, Black created garments for celebrities such as Kerri Hilson, Brandi, LaLa Anthony and Angela Simmons. She’s back on Project Runway: All Stars which airs Thursdays at 9 pm on Lifetime.

I spoke to Sam by phone last week.

Amy Steele: I was a really big fan of yours during your season (11) so I’m so happy to speak with you. And I just really like your style and everything.

Samantha Black: Thank you!

fashion designer Samantha Black

fashion designer Samantha Black

Amy Steele: When did you get interested in fashion design?

Samantha Black: I always liked clothes and when I was 16 someone said I should take classes in fashion design. ‘You know you like to doodle.’ So I took a pre-college fashion design course and I loved it. And ever since I thought ‘I want to be a fashion designer.’

Amy Steele: Did you go to fashion school?

Samantha Black: I went to Pratt. I got a bachelors in fine arts but my major was fashion design.

Amy Steele: What did you take away from going to a design school?

Samantha Black: It’s actually really intense. At least Pratt’s program is really intense because you still have your liberal arts program and you have your major classes. [AS note: this sounds like Berklee College of Music] So fashion classes are six hours long. Serious projects. It’s a serious, intense program. You lose half the class. Pratt puts out more entrepreneurs. That’s the path I want to take eventually.

Amy Steele: What inspires your designs?

Samantha Black: I get inspired by art, architecture. I live in New York so you see such crazy style every day. Even my personal style. I dress funky one day and preppy another day. I wanted to create a line that embodies all those things because you can dress that one girl who likes a lot of things.

Amy Steele: I was going to say who are you designing for? So she sounds eclectic.

Samantha Black: She’s definitely an eclectic woman. She’s into all different kinds of music and culture and things like that. Some people say the IT Girl’s closet has to have something from each genre and that’s kind of my line all-in-one.

Amy Steele: So Sammy B is your line?

Samantha Black: I started off with Sammy B and I also have Samantha Black. Sammy B is a little more funky and easy to wear pieces. I’ve really been pushing my Samantha Black line for the last couple of years. In 2011 I started working on the Samantha Black line.

Amy Steele: And this is all on your own.

Samantha Black: I originally started in the industry working [corporate] and I did that for about four years. When they closed my division I started working on my own line. I started working freelance too. I don’t have any investors. All the money I make I literally put into my line. It’s a hard struggle to balance the two. Sometimes I freelance and have to go to an office depending on who the client is.

Amy Steele: What is your greatest challenge as a designer?

Samantha Black: It’s the business side. I definitely don’t think from that side of my brain. I’m an artist. Over the past few years I’ve taken business classes [Macy’s Business Program] so I can really up that side of my business for it to really be something. I’m getting into programs and learning how to be a fully functioning business. To really prosper I have to do it the right way. Budgets. From the ground up. It’s more important than designing because even if you have a good design, if you can’t get it sold . . .

Amy Steele: What is a little bit of your process? Are you setting aside specific time to design? Do you carry around a sketchbook?

Samantha Black: I have three sketchbooks in my purse right now. While I’m riding the subway I use it as my sketch time to try to get some ideas. I might have swatches in my bag. I like to get a few ideas and then I like to search the market. I get inspired by my fabrics. Then I start working on patterns and things like that.

Amy Steele: Who are some designers you admire?

Samantha Black: McQueen, LAMB, Alexander Wang. I think they’re young and hip and edgy at the same time.

design by Samantha for first challenge

design by Samantha for first challenge

Amy Steele: How would you describe yourself as a designer?

Samantha Black: I think I design feminine with an eclectic edge. I try to make the designs flatter a woman’s body and be sexy and be comfortable at the same time. Easy to wear. Details. I like prints. I like patterns. My clothes are a direct representation of my personality. The way I dress, the way I design. My personality comes out in my clothes. I’m usually the loud fun one.  I have a big personality. Sometimes I wonder if people can really see it on the show.

Amy Steele: It’s the editing but you can see it in your clothes. You said you’re loud but you seem very laid back. How are you under pressure?

Samantha Black: I’m very chill. I grew up with a lot of boys. I kinda grew up as a tomboy as well. I’m not really into drama at all. I could care less about it. I tell people how I feel right away so I never really talk behind someone’s back. People always know how I feel.

Amy Steele: What was your takeaway from season 11? [Season 11 was the Project Runway: Teams season]

Samantha Black: That season was a little different. A little interesting. Because things are happening so fast and you’re always so stressed out it’s hard to stay true to yourself as a designer all the time. It’s important to make something but always stay true to your vision at all times.

Amy Steele: What interested you in coming back for Project Runway All-Stars?

Samantha Black: Season 11 got a bad rap for being teams and the way it was set up. I wanted the experience of working by myself. I wanted the experience that every other season had. I didn’t make it where I wanted to in my season so it was another opportunity. This is people from seasons 10, 11 and 12 and Chris and Jay from the Bravo seasons. I kind of knew everyone’s skills and visions. It’s good knowing that.

design by Samantha for second challenge (unconventional)

design by Samantha for second challenge (unconventional)

Amy Steele: What is the best part of being on Project Runway?

Samantha Black: I love seeing people actually work. It’s a special thing to see other creatives in the same field and see how they work. In corporate fashion you’re on a computer. I’m the only one of my friends who has my own line so I don’t get to see others work. There aren’t that many of us that have our own lines. I don’t get the same out of it as everyone else does.

Past seasons were surprised by how close season 11 was. It ended up being the closest season. I think because of working in teams we had to get along. Other seasons you start off everyone to themselves. We’re a lot closer than other seasons. This season of all-stars we’re close. We are younger and newer seasons so we have a bond.

Amy Steele: Good luck with everything. It was really nice talking to you and I’ll talk to you on Twitter.

Samantha Black: Thank you. Have a great weekend.

You can follow Samantha on Twitter

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