Jarett Wieselman

These Former Weinstein Collaborators Are Making A Documentary About Sexual Assault In Hollywood

Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick have announced that their next project, which “will examine abuse and cover-ups within the entertainment industry.” The filmmaking duo were behind two powerful documentaries about sexual assault: 2012’s The Invisible War, which looked at sexual assault in the military; and 2015’s The Hunting Ground, which was about sexual assault on college campuses, produced by The Weinstein Company.

The still-untitled film will focus “on the behavior of predatory perpetrators such as Harvey Weinstein and others” and “the culture that enables and protects them, as well as provide a safe place for survivors to share their stories,” according to a press release. The film will also feature “the many emerging voices for change.”

According to the filmmakers, the idea for this project came to them a few years ago while they were on the awards circuit for The Hunting Ground and audience members would approach them after screenings to share their stories of assault. “Every time we screened that film in Hollywood, actors and executives would come up to us and say that they had had similar experiences right here,” Ziering said in a statement. “So, we began working on this project and immediately found ourselves grappling with the same forces that had kept this story silenced for so long. Everyone was frightened about what would happen to their careers, and worried about whether they would be sued. Distributors were unwilling to fund or release the film, and few people were willing to talk on the record.”

But following the New York Times and The New Yorker’s bombshell stories about Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse, Ziering said it felt like “an invisible dam collapsed.” For proof of that, look no further than Amazon’s now-fired Roy Price, Nickelodeon’s now-fired Chris Savino, and the more than three dozen women who have accused director James Toback of sexual harassment.

“People at long last are speaking out in large numbers, and we feel this industry, and the country, is finally ready for an unflinching film about the reality of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood,” Ziering said.

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

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Channing Tatum Has Pulled His Movie About A Sexually Abused Boy From The Weinstein Company

Channing Tatum announced he will no longer develop his film, about a sexually abused 17-year-old boy, with The Weinstein Company. The company was producing Tatum’s directorial debut alongside Reid Carolin, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.

Tatum’s announcement comes one day after The Weinstein Company’s board of directors terminated the employment of Harvey Weinstein, who resigned in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault lodged against him by more than 40 women.

“The brave women who had the courage to stand up and speak their truth about Harvey Weinstein are true heroes to us,” Tatum and Carolin wrote in a joint statement, which was posted to Tatum’s Instagram. “They are lifting the heavy bricks to build the equitable world we all deserve to live in. Our lone project in development with TWC — Matthew Quick’s brilliant book, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock — is a story about a boy whose life was torn asunder by sexual abuse. While we will no longer develop it or anything else that is property of TWC, we are reminded of its powerful message of healing in the wake of tragedy. This is a giant opportunity for real positive change that we proudly commit ourselves to. The truth is out — let’s finish what our incredible colleagues started and eliminate abuse from our creative culture once and for all.”

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was being adapted from the fiction novel written by Quick about the 17-year-old boy of the title who plans to shoot his former best friend, Asher, then kill himself, on his birthday. The conclusion of the book reveals that Asher sexually abused Leonard a couple of years prior.

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

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An Executive Producer On “The Mist” Says Bob Weinstein Sexually Harassed Her

Amanda Segel, an executive producer on the Spike series The Mist, told Variety that Bob Weinstein sexually harassed her during the time she worked on the show, which was produced by The Weinstein Company.

Segel told Variety that during a dinner with Weinstein at Dan Tana’s in LA in summer 2016, Weinstein asked her “highly intimate questions and made romantic overtures.” According to Segel, he asked how old she was “because he told her he didn’t want to date anyone younger than his daughter.” Segel also said Weinstein told her “he was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel because his daughter was staying at his home in Los Angeles.”

At the end of the night, Segel said he invited her to his hotel room and she declined. After that, Segel told Variety she declined additional invitations from Weinstein for about three months until her lawyer told The Weinstein Company executives she’d leave The Mist if Weinstein’s overtures didn’t cease. “‘No’ should be enough,” Segel told Variety. “After ‘no,’ anybody who has asked you out should just move on. Bob kept referring to me that he wanted to have a friendship. He didn’t want a friendship. He wanted more than that. My hope is that ‘no’ is enough from now on.”

Weinstein’s representative denied Segel’s claims to Variety, releasing the following statement: “Bob Weinstein had dinner with Ms. Segel in LA in June 2016. He denies any claims that he behaved inappropriately at or after the dinner. It is most unfortunate that any such claim has been made.” A representative for The Weinstein Company denied to Variety that Segel’s lawyer contacted the company.

This allegation comes less than two weeks after a pair of explosive articles in the New York Times and The New Yorker reported that Weinstein’s brother and Weinstein Company cofounder, Harvey, has been harassing and assaulting women for decades. As a result of more than 43 women coming forward to share their stories, Weinstein was fired from The Weinstein Company and he may face criminal charges.

While many have accused Bob Weinstein of covering up his brother’s crimes, he has denied that he knew about Harvey’s actions, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “No F-in’ way was I aware that that was the type of predator that he was. And the way he convinced people to do things? I thought they were all consensual situations. I’ll tell you what I did know. Harvey was a bully, Harvey was arrogant, he treated people like shit all the time. That I knew. And I had to clean up for so many of his employee messes. People that came in crying to my office: ‘Your brother said this, that and the other.’; And I’d feel sick about it.”

BuzzFeed News has reached out to a representative for The Weinstein Company for further information.

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

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The Stars Of “Marshall” On Racism, Anti-Semitism, And Representation

The upcoming film Marshall is set in 1941, two decades before Thurgood Marshall became the first black Supreme Court justice. It follows Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) as he’s tasked by the NAACP with representing Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), a black chauffeur accused of raping and attempting to murder Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), the wife of his employer. But the judge (James Cromwell) refuses to let Marshall speak for his client — literally. With Marshall’s voice stifled under the court’s threat of perjury, the task of keeping Spell out of jail falls to Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a local insurance lawyer.

Despite the fact that Marshall is set more than 75 years ago, its explorations of racism, anti-Semitism, and domestic violence are still incredibly relevant. “I feel like we can fool ourselves sometimes into thinking we’ve gotten past certain issues, but the time has brought to the surface the level of ignorance and bigotry that exists currently within this country and within the world,” Brown said during a conversation with Boseman and Gad at BuzzFeed’s New York offices in late September. ”The film taking place in 1941 feels, in a strange way, contemporaneous, and for me, I think the next four years will be a time in which films like ours are going to help shine a light on the fact your shit stinks.”

Below is a conversation between Boseman, Brown, and Gad, in which they address social media’s impact on social justice, the responsibility they feel in Hollywood, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.

Barry Wetcher

Gad, Boseman, and Brown in Marshall.

I hesitate to use the word “glad,” but are any of you glad that this movie is coming out at this moment in American history?

Chadwick Boseman: The producers wanted it to come out last year. They wanted it to be shown at the Obama White House. I think things happen the way they’re supposed to happen. There’s no way of predicting the way people are going to interpret it, but the one thing I will say is, when people watch the news, there is a sense of anxiety and hopelessness. I feel like what this movie brings to the table is, Okay, we have been in these dark waters before and this is how we got out of them. We have been on the precipice of war before, just like in this movie, and we made it through by making those alliances, [by] seeking the truth. I think this movie is a light to that, and hopefully people see that.

Sterling K. Brown: I feel like we can fool ourselves sometimes into thinking we’ve gotten past certain issues, but the time has brought to the surface the level of ignorance and bigotry that exists currently within this country and within the world. The film taking place in 1941 feels, in a strange way, contemporaneous, and for me, I think the next four years will be a time in which films like ours are going to help shine a light on the fact your shit stinks.

CB: And it’s been stinking for a long time.

SKB: A long, long time.

CB: Yeah, I’m not glad that it’s happening during this time, but I’m glad that at a time like this, we have this [film] to present.

Josh Gad: I remember while we were filming discussing Ferguson a lot. Which was still relatively close, in proximity, to when we made the movie, and we all sort of saw a relevance in the film as it pertained to that event. Then something like Charlottesville happens and there’s a whole different context to put it in. Unfortunately, I don’t think it mattered when this movie came out, because these issues have clearly not been resolved. They’re clearly ongoing and uglier than ever. There’s just a new platform for it, and I think that, yes, it has a certain urgency that maybe it didn’t necessarily have before, but that message will only get more and more urgent. I hope this film exists outside an echo chamber and is a celebration of these men and the work that they were willing to do when it was not in their own best interest to do that work. And a message of hope. The NAACP was busy then, they’re as busy as they’ve ever been now, and their work continues to go on. To celebrate their efforts is also one of the great thrills of this movie because they’re working overtime now.

Matt Salacuse for BuzzFeed News

Chadwick Boseman

Social media has been instrumental in taking what are sometimes local stories and making them global issues. How important has social media been to social justice?

JG: I think it cuts both ways. I think it’s a very useful tool in terms of calling out things like bigotry and supremacy, but I think it’s also a platform for bigots and supremacists. It’s amazing because it’s instantaneous, it’s an opportunity to present your opinion, especially in the case of Twitter’s very direct manner, but that directness comes at a cost. And the problem is people speak in their respective echo chambers. You have the people who need to hear the message on one side not necessarily hearing it because their followers or the people they follow are all essentially patting each other on the back with the same message. I think it is an effective tool, but it’s just that — and like any tool, it can be a wonderful thing or it can be easily taken advantage of.

SKB: Agreed. You wind up preaching to the choir in both situations and the people you want to hear the message on the opposite side don’t necessarily hear it — or if they do, they just say, “It’s more of the same liberal thing you’re always pushing.”

CB: Previous to having such a strong voice through social media, protests would be covered in a one-sided way. I think because now social media has such a strong impact, it forces all of the major media groups to consider what is going to be said on the other side. Are people going to say we purposefully did not cover this? Even though I agree with everything said, I think it had to continue to be used as a tool so you can’t have all the news stations only showing it from one side.

“So much of being black in America is a matter of survival. If you are able to make it to a certain age — 40, 50, 60 — it’s achieving in spite of, rather than because of.”

Josh, your character starts off trying to abandon Spell’s case so he can maintain his fragile status quo but ends up becoming a much more conscientious person by the end. What appealed to you about Friedman?

JG: I think that the message is as relevant today as it, unfortunately, was in 1940. Reggie Hudlin, our brilliant director, made a comment yesterday that I thought was really apropos. It’s a movie that is also about alliances. Alliances in times like the one that’s represented in the film are so essential because you can’t fight without having people of like minds willing to take the chance despite all the adversity. That to me was really important.

This movie essentially is a superhero origin film, which I thought was fascinating. And it’s a real-life superhero. It’s [Marshall] who is out there without a cape but in a suit and tie, going from state to state facing the barrels of shotguns and willing to do the right thing, willing to say the right thing, willing to put his money where his mouth is and willing to fight for others to get to the same place he’s at — that woke place. And Sam Friedman is one of those people who’s awakened by this incredible legal mind and is willing to take the leap, despite his hesitations, despite the fact he knows there will be consequences.

All of those issues really spoke to me, and at the time we made it, Marshall had a certain relevance, and now in 2017, it’s taken on a whole different relevance. I don’t think any of us understood where things were necessarily headed, but it’s a testament to the fact that this piece we’ve done, despite the fact it takes place over 50 years ago, is as relevant today as it would have been then.

Matt Salacuse for BuzzFeed News

Sterling K. Brown

Towards the end of the film, Spell reveals the truth about what happened between him and Eleanor Strubing. He explains that the reason he lied about their consensual relationship is because that truth could have gotten him killed just as easily. Sterling, what went through your mind when you got to that part of the script?

SKB: So much of being black in America is a matter of survival. If you are able to make it to a certain age — 40, 50, 60 — it’s achieving in spite of, rather than because of. You are warring against institutions that are not out for your best interest. Miscegenation in parts of the country was a crime and sometimes punishable by death, and even if it wasn’t on the books, unofficially it was punishable by death. The idea of interacting with a white woman in the first place was something he knew was dangerous, so the fact this man put himself in a position where he was intimate with someone, he knew that was a bad, bad thing. So now what do I do? This woman has falsely accused me of something I didn’t commit, so now I’m sitting here in a jail cell — but what’s the alternative? Do I admit that I actually did what I did and be free where people can have easy access to me or do I just ride this time out? There’s no good thing. But I will say that Thurgood is able to make him understand that freedom has a cost and it means you have to put yourself in a position sometimes of being hurt.

Throughout the movie, it’s revealed that the judge and the prosecutor would strike unflattering comments from the record — which was openly happening at the time. It demonstrates the broken bedrock our criminal justice system is built upon. Why is it important to show that people were and are fighting a system that wasn’t designed, from the beginning, to benefit them?

CB: The law in our country is based on precedent. Precedent is set in one case and then used in another case and another case and another; and precedent has been set, in some cases, to keep prejudice alive. That is, to me, the beauty and the strength of Thurgood Marshall. Not only did he fight things as an attorney on the lower courts, but he lost in order to get cases to the higher court. Then he became a judge, and by becoming a judge, you now get to not only interpret law, change law, fight law, but you get to make law, so it can trickle back down and be corrected. That, to me, is why you do this movie, because Thurgood Marshall worked on every end of that spectrum that before had only worked against people that didn’t have a voice.

“You step in the shoes of someone who has done something incredible … and it becomes a part of you.”

The end of the film includes a real quote from Marshall where he says he’s not trying to put out fires, he’s chasing fire itself. Do you feel that encapsulates Marshall’s mission?

JG: It’s beyond significant. I hope it inspires a new generation of activism and of people who are willing to take on that fight, because going after fire itself requires a lot of sacrifice. It requires a lot of yourself. This brilliant legal mind is essentially muted, but he’s still able to create others in his image who are willing to take on the fight.

SKB: It inspires me. When I think about someone who had the legal mind and the ability to go out and protect these men, to defend these men at the risk of his own life, it makes me ask today, in 2017, now that I have a platform, how do I use my voice to try to move the needle? You forget that one man can really and truly make a difference, and the movie illuminates that in the most beautiful way.

In addition to Marshall, there’s a responsibility inherent in several of the characters you three have played. Sterling, you’ve talked about how important it is to you that This Is Us show Randall as an involved, engaged father. How meaningful has the audience reaction to that character been?

SKB: It means the world to me. Somebody was giving me a statistic that in the majority of the country, most people live in very insular circumstances where the majority of the people they interact with are of the same race as themselves. So when you have a chance to go into people’s homes on a weekly basis and share with them a human being they may not get to see with regularity and show his humanity, hopefully they can recognize, “Hey, that guy is like me.” I’ve had multiple instances, and they’ve become less and less as people know who I am, but where people cross the street or clutch their purse a little tighter. Maybe if you recognize humanity in all forms, then preconceived notions of who you think someone is can change. Little by little.

I would imagine there’s a different degree of responsibility involved when you play a real person. Chadwick, why do you think that’s something you’ve repeatedly been attracted to?

CB: You step in the shoes of someone who has done something incredible and you start to feel certain things that they feel and it becomes a part of you, essentially. If I only live my life, that’s one thing; but if for a second I can feel a little bit of what made this person great, what does that do to me? What comes from that experiment? That’s what it is: having the opportunity to, for a second, live a different life and grow from it in a way you can’t do with your own.

Matt Salacuse for BuzzFeed News

Josh, you’ve talked about the sick kids you call as Olaf. Does knowing how important this character is to so many children raise the bar for what deems a sequel worthy of making?

JG: John Lasseter, who is in charge of both Pixar and Disney Animation, is such a perfectionist, he never wants to do anything unless it’s worthy of continuing the story. Frozen 2 wasn’t something that was just hatched because the first one was successful. It was because there was more story to tell. It’s scary. You create characters that are indelible and then you have to keep telling their stories, and it is that thing where people loved it first time out of the gate, how do I make sure to keep the audience excited and engaged so it doesn’t just become a rehash of their same expectations? That to me is part of the fun of what we get to do.

“I want to see a diverse enough landscape where everybody gets a chance to shine.”

Chadwick, there are obviously a lot of expectations that come along with playing Black Panther, so what was it like to be at Comic-Con and hear everyone lose their minds when they saw the first trailer?

CB: Oh man, people were crying. I started crying. I think I was the only person up there, other than Ryan [Coogler, director], who had seen pieces of it — and [Marvel president Kevin] Feige, of course. I knew when we were watching it that nobody knew Kendrick [Lamar’s song “DNA”] was gonna come in and it had already completely slayed everybody before it got to that! Everybody was losing their minds, and I was like, “They don’t even know this music is about to drop right now!” The first time I ever heard Kendrick’s song, I said, “They’re going to use that in the trailer.” I knew it. So when it was about to come in, I said, “Watch this.” And it was literally like pandemonium. As soon as that song came in, it was a wave of energy! People were crying. I was like, “This is like a Michael Jackson concert.” Literally.

What goes through your mind when you see that reaction?

CB: I hope the movie lives up to it! [laughs]

Matt Salacuse for BuzzFeed News

Gad, Boseman, and Brown.

Sterling, Hollywood loves the “overnight success story” narrative, but you’ve worked very hard in a lot of thankless roles to get where you are now. Does that make what’s happening even richer, since you know what the other side of that coin looks like?

SKB: I would say so. I look at people who get theirs early on in life; can they truly have the appreciation for it? Some do. But that was not my story. For 15 years or so, it was toiling away in obscurity, hoping that a costar could turn into a guest star could turn into a recurring could turn into possibly a series regular. This moment is really lovely. The level of talent I get to work with now, the opportunities that are coming my way are really nice. Before, I was on the outside looking in like, “Oh man, I know Chad’s gonna get that. It’ll be cool.” Or “I know [Anthony] Mackie’s gonna get it.” You know what I’m saying? Whoever the person was — Idris [Elba] — but now it’s like, “I may be able to get a shot at this joint!” It’s good, it’s really great, and I think because of the beginning, I’m never in worry of my feet floating off the ground, because it’s easy come, easy go. I want to see a diverse enough landscape where everybody gets a chance to shine, everybody gets a chance to eat, and not just a tasty side dish, but folks are getting some meat and potatoes in their bodies and contributing to the conversation and putting characters into the world of substance that are complicated, that are intriguing, that everybody gets a chance to see a reflection of themselves on the big screen.

Like, when you talk about the Panther, when I saw that trailer, I was like, “Oh, damn” — and I read the script! I read it, I have a small part, I’m in it too, but it’s like, “I can’t wait for this joint.” This is gonna be hot.

CB: I’ve had that similar feeling of being on the outside looking in and seeing over a period of time how the industry has changed and what opportunities for people of color have presented themselves. That [Brown] and I can actually be in this movie together, whereas there was a period of time where it would only be one person. And we know who that one person is. It’d be Denzel [Washington] in this movie, it’d be [Laurence] Fishburne in that movie, Sam Jackson in that movie, and Morgan Freeman in this one. It’s very few opportunities like Glory where you would see them — Mo’ Better Blues, you have Denzel and Wesley [Snipes] — working together. I feel blessed to be in a time where I can do this movie with him … and I can do a movie with Michael B. Jordan and it’s okay. It doesn’t even have to be such a big deal, because the opportunities are not so scarce. And that’s an important moment to note.

You have people, and you know exactly who I’m talking about, they hope you do bad because they want your spot. Not knowing that your spot was never for them in the first place. They have a spot, and if they do the things to get to their spot, they’ll have their spot. And it’s just as good as mine. Just to have that sort of sense that it’s a shift, and I can appreciate [Brown] and I can appreciate Michael and I can appreciate David [Oyelowo] and I can appreciate … Idris and appreciate their work and love their work and not feel this competition. I mean, we’re always going to compete, but competition in a healthy way. I love that. I think some people don’t know we’ve gotten to that point, so I’m saying it out loud. And it’s important to note because that determines how you proceed. If you’re proceeding in the wrong way, therefore you’re going down the wrong avenue, and if you just do your lane, you’ll get to your thing.

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

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“Black Panther” Stars Can't Wait To See White Kids Dressed As T'Challa For Halloween

As excited as he is to see Black Panther, the film’s costar Sterling K. Brown is even more elated that his sons will get to see a black superhero on the big screen because when he was a child, that concept was inconceivable.

“I get a chance to take my little boys to go see Black Panther, which is…that’s magical,” Brown told BuzzFeed News while promoting his new movie Marshall, which — like Black Panther — stars Chadwick Boseman in the titular role. “It’s something that I could not have conceived of necessarily when I was a child. I conceived of Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton — and I loved them and I enjoyed them, but to see somebody who looks like me and my son gets a chance to see them…that’s dope.”

While Brown said he hopes the film’s crossover appeal will result in young white kids dressed as Black Panther for Halloween, Boseman said he’s already seen how widespread the character’s popularity is.

“I’ve seen little white kids dressed up as T’Challa,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I’ve seen pictures and I’ve seen it in person. You know, I’ve seen, like, family members’ kids, friends’ kids. They show up on Halloween and they’re the Panther and they understand that I’m the Panther, and they want to show me. People call me and say, ‘We wanted to buy him Spider-Man, but he kept saying Black Panther.'”

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

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The Rare Practicing Jewish Character In Hollywood

While there have been plenty of Jewish characters in film, usually the most “Jewish” thing about them is their last name: Cher Horowitz in Clueless, Jim Levenstein in American Pie, Frances Houseman in Dirty Dancing, etc. Their religion rarely factors into the movie itself.

That’s why it’s particularly noteworthy that Marshall — the upcoming film about Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) defending Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) from accusations he raped a rich white woman (Kate Hudson) in 1941 — not only features a central Jewish character, but that that character’s faith is a large part of the story.

In Marshall, attorney Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad) is shown attending temple services with his family, heard talking about the importance of his faith, and one scene even features a member of his congregation donating money to Spell’s defense.

For Gad, whose grandparents survived the Holocaust, the role is a source of pride — especially since he knows how rare characters like Friedman are in pop culture. “There’s a comment that’s sort of notorious in Hollywood, especially by creative people of Jewish background, where there’s a great fear that something might be ‘too Jewish’ for audiences,” Gad told BuzzFeed News. “I think one of the refreshing things about this film is it does embrace that very thing and to me, it was so important because it’s true. I mean, you don’t really get to see that.”

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

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Josh Gad Gets Emotional Talking About The Sick Kids He's Called As Olaf

Josh Gad could have never anticipated that voicing Olaf in Disney’s mega-popular Frozen franchise would afford him the opportunity to fulfill the wishes of many sick children.

Since the movie was released in 2013, Gad has made countless calls to gravely ill children whose only request is to speak with Olaf. “I actually get choked up thinking about some of the kids that I’ve left messages for because it’s so … it’s so fleeting,” he told BuzzFeed News while promoting his new movie, Marshall. “It’s such a little thing that I do that goes such a long way for these children. But you take their mind off of it for a minute, for a day.”

As a parent of two himself, Gad understands that granting these wishes not only brightens the kids’ days, but also their parents’. “Hopefully you give their parents a distraction,” he said. “As a parent, it’s the hardest thing to think about and, you know, I take ownership of the fact that that’s as much my job as doing the voice for commercial reasons. The fact that it has transcended that is such a wonderful thing, but it’s also really sad. I would take all of it back if it just meant that the kids could have a normal life. You know at the end of that call is another call where the child is gone.”

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

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TV Writers Explain The Importance Behind Their Gun Violence Episodes

All in the Family, “Archie and the Editorial” (1972)

Tandem Productions

Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) goes on television to condemn gun control, then he’s later robbed at gunpoint.

“I encourage writers to deal with what’s on their minds, pay attention to what’s going on in your culture, your home, your neighborhood, your country and don’t be afraid to write about that.

“Gun control has been an issue ever since I was old enough and sensible enough and sane enough to know it was an issue. It’s so engrained in our culture and we people who lean left have not really made the case that needs to be made for what the Second Amendment really means. The Second Amendment doesn’t endorse people’s right to have attack guns. People may have guns if they belong to militias or they’re protecting their towns or are policemen or whatever. The Second Amendment doesn’t say they can have attack guns, but it’s been used and misused … we shouldn’t be selling attack guns. We shouldn’t be selling weapons of mass destruction to anyone who wants one.”

—Norman Lear, creator

Beverly Hills, 90210, “The Next Fifty Years” (1991)

90210 Productions

Scott Scanlon (Douglas Emerson) accidentally kills himself in front of David Silver (Brian Austin Green) after finding his father’s gun.

“As early as June 1991, Beverly Hills, 90210 was no longer ‘the little show that could,’ but a full-fledged ‘teen demographic hit,’ which would go on to generate a 75% share with teenage girls, 12-17.

“We didn’t build those kind of numbers solely because of Jason [Priestly] and Luke [Perry]’s sideburns, or because of our glitzy [Aaron] Spelling imprimatur, but because of our commitment to bring issue-oriented social drama into the mix. To this end, I distinctly remember hearing about a 17-year-old who had been accidentally shot and killed in a hotel near Disneyland on grad night on the morning I was supposed to inform Doug Emerson, the actor who played freshman nerd Scott Scanlon, that we were not picking up his option for Season 2. But instead of kicking him to the curb, I asked if he would come back as a recurring character for a few episodes in which, after returning from a summer spent with his grandparents in Oklahoma, his best boyhood friend — West Beverly D.J., David Silver — would effectively shun him (and his ubiquitous cowboy hat) now that he started hanging out at The Peach Pit with the popular kids.

“Interesting enough, it was the only time I can remember that Fox executives came to Mr. Spelling’s office to team up with my boss in an effort to talk me out of doing the culminating episode, ‘The First 50 Years,’ in which Scott accidentally shoots himself with his father’s gun in front of David at an excruciating, cringeworthy birthday party after Steve [Sanders], Kelly [Taylor], and the others left for hipper pastures. Thankfully, the powers that be backed off once they sensed my passion and understood my motivation — which was nothing short of changing the gun laws in America, and our political culture in the process. By the following year, Bill Clinton became our president (with overwhelming support from young women voters between 18-24 who watched our show). Two years after that, the Assault Weapon Ban became law. A good time was had by all.”

—Charles Rosin, co-writer and executive producer

My So-Called Life, “Guns and Gossip” (1994)

The Bedford Falls Company

A gun goes off in school and Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall) is pressured to reveal who it belongs to.

“We were writing stories about teenagers, and felt a responsibility to explore, as best we could, some of the complex issues affecting the lives of young Americans. We felt we owed that to our audience.

“Back then, I could never have imagined how much worse things would get.

“But the numbers of the dead pile up, year in, year out… We shake our heads, intone the words ‘thoughts and prayers’ and act like there’s nothing we can do.

“Don’t we owe our children more than that? Is there nothing we can do about the ease with which people in this country can acquire automatic weapons? Where are all the ‘pro life’ people? Oh right. That only applies to fetuses. Do we really want our children to inherit a country where it’s harder and harder for a woman to control her own body and destiny, and easier and easier for someone to turn a joyful gathering into a mass grave?

“Prayer is vital, yes. But we can’t just pray.

“God helps those who help themselves. And to quote AA’s serenity prayer, what we desperately need now is ‘courage… to change the things we can.'”

—Winnie Holzman, creator

Law & Order, “Gunshow” (1999)

NBC Universal

Following a mass shooting in Central Park, Jack McCoy goes after the gun manufacturer for knowingly selling a design that could more easily be converted to an automatic weapon.

“I wrote ‘Gunshow’ in 1999 because I wanted to call out the gun profiteers who marketed easily-modified (wink-wink) semi-automatic assault weapons to the public and then hid behind the Second Amendment when these weapons were modified to full automatic and used in mass killings. In real life, nothing has been done in the years since to regulate and hold accountable those businesses that make and sell easily modified semi-automatic weapons. And so, tragically, almost 20 years later, the Las Vegas shooter was able to modify his arsenal of ‘legal’ semi-automatic weapons to full auto.

“Myself, I’ve got nothing against guns per se. I’ve got nothing against hunting — I spent many a chill morning in a duck blind with my dad. And I’ve got nothing against responsible people buying a gun to protect their home and family. But back in 1999, I wanted to make the point that reasonable people can disagree about the Second Amendment. Most Americans would agree that the Second Amendment is not a blank check. Freedom of movement is another right enshrined in the Constitution and yet everyone agrees that you need a driver’s license to get around, that you can’t drive a tank or a Formula One car on the freeway. Reasonable and strictly enforced local and federal gun laws, along with a national database, could put a dent in the body count. But we know all that. Just like we know that most of what the NRA and the gun lobby say is fear-mongering crap. They are in it for the money. For all the good the NRA does promoting gun safety, they completely undermine that mission by lobbying and intimidating politicians into a catatonic state whenever gun laws come up for debate. Does the NRA and its fellow merchants of mayhem really care about the Second Amendment? Only in so far as it allows them to make money off the gun business. Their support of our Constitutional rights is selective — they support the broadest reading of the Second Amendment at the expense of our inalienable rights to life and the pursuit of happiness.

“The NRA has successfully defended the unfettered right of companies portrayed in ‘Gunshow’ and of gun owners to make and purchase easily modified semi-automatic weapons. The NRA’s arrogant rallying cry is ‘I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.’ This past weekend, thanks to the NRA’s lobbying efforts, a madman was able to pry the life from the cold dead hands of dozens of innocents in Las Vegas.”

—Rene Balcer, writer and executive producer

Degrassi: The Next Generation, “Time Stands Still” (2004)

Bell Broadcast

After Rick Murray (Ephraim Ellis) is humiliated in front of his classmates, he attempts to get revenge by bringing a gun to school, where he shoots — and paralyzes — Jimmy Brooks (Aubrey Graham aka Drake).

“We started developing Degrassi: The Next Generation a year or so after the Columbine school shootings. Back in 2000, mass casualty shootings (like the one at Columbine, and a tragic list of other schools) were still a relative anomaly. Columbine was horrifying, and it stuck with me, the writing team, and Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn, because the shooters were teenagers.

“Canada, of course, has had our own share of horrific mass shooting deaths, the most shocking happening when I was in high school. In 1989, 14 female students at Montreal’s École Polytechnique were gunned down by a deranged man full of hatred towards women. Canada is not immune to gun violence. No country is.

“In Degrassi, Rick Murray was always a character with problems, particularly around his anger, and his fragile ego. These manifested in his controlling, abusive relationship with his girlfriend, Terri MacGregor, which we explored in Season 3 – and then everything came to a head in Season 4, when other Degrassi students pulled a prank on Rick, humiliating him live on TV, and he decided to get his revenge.

“It was important to us (and Brendon Yorke, who wrote the two teleplays) that we present Rick as both a perpetrator, and a victim. Rick was violent, and the victim of violence. When pushed to the edge, Rick decided to get revenge in a terrible way. Ease of access (Rick goes home and grabs his late father’s unsecured handgun), plus mental instability, led to Rick returning to the halls of Degrassi with the intent to ‘get back’ at those he perceived had done him harm, only to target the two characters (Jimmy Brooks and Emma Nelson) who were actually on his side.

“We wanted to explore why. Why do teenagers do such terrible things? And how. How does a teen get his hands on a gun and bring it to school? How does no one see the warning signs? How does no one act on the warning signs? Or choose to turn a blind eye? How does someone as young and intelligent as Rick sink so deeply into his own anger, and hatred, that he decides to kill?

“When a tragedy occurs, like in Las Vegas, gun rights advocates cry, ‘People kill, not guns.’ Yes. People do. But they kill because they can access guns. In the fictional world of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Rick Murray shot Jimmy Brooks and then himself because, while consumed by a blinding vengeance, he was able to get his hands on a gun.”

—Aaron Martin, co-writer and executive producer

One Tree Hill, “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept” (2006)

Warner Bros.

Years of bullying lead Jimmy Edwards (Colin Fickes) to bring a gun to school.

“To be honest, I simply wanted to do a story about kindness — about being kind and gracious and tolerant at a time in life when a week feels like a year and a month feels like forever. At the time that I conceived of the episode, the Columbine High School tragedy was the most significant recent tragedy and people used to whisper when they would refer to it. I didn’t want to whisper. I wanted to talk about it loudly and remind kids that their time in high school amounted to about 700 days, all in — ask them to believe that it gets better and urge them to look past their struggles, even though those struggles are real.

“I wanted to ask the pretty and popular and well-balanced and well-adjusted young people to use their powers for good and not ill. There weren’t a lot of anti-bullying campaigns that I can recall at the time. What I do recall is how frightened Hollywood was when I first suggested the episode. How concerned the executives were that the episode would somehow encourage violence rather than discourage it. I remember one of them said ‘God forbid a kid walk into a school with a handgun after this episode airs,’ and I replied, ‘That’s already happening and it’s going to keep happening. We should talk about it.’ For me, the episode’s not about gun violence as much as it’s about violence. Full stop. And kindness. And a broken kid who couldn’t see past his very real and very immediate pain.

“I once wrote a script for a television series that was quiet and charming and heartfelt and kind. Two studio executives called me at home and said they normally send e-mails about scripts they read, but they wanted to personally call to tell me that it was one of the most beautiful scripts they’ve ever read. (It was based on a book, so the author gets more credit for that than I do.) Then they said, ‘Unfortunately, we’re not sure we’re in that kind of business.’ If television and the stories we tell can truly make a difference, if Hollywood can actually influence someone sitting in the dark somewhere who is struggling with real world problems, shouldn’t we be in that kind of business? That’s what I was chasing when I wrote ‘With Tired Minds…’ I simply wanted to remind young people that kindness matters. It did when I was young, and it always will.”

—Mark Schwahn, creator

Hit Record on TV, “Regarding Guns” (2015)

Less than one month after Dylann Roof killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s crowdsourced series used facts, animation, music, and Zac Efron to talk about guns.

The word ‘culture’ — unless it comes after ‘pop’ — is sort of looked down on as snooty. And to try to address something really serious with music and with drama and with comedy, some would consider insensitive because generally, if you look at TV, none of it’s there to address real life issues. It’s there to offer viewers an escape, a distraction, a bit of entertainment. And there’s nothing wrong with that — I totally enjoy a popcorn movie — but I think there’s also a place for talking about real life stuff because I really think that communication is a big part of the issue.

“A song or a piece of comedy that makes some people laugh could start a conversation and that conversation can be productive. It won’t be productive if it’s just people yelling at one another, and that was a concern of some people on the site: Conversations about guns never lead anywhere productive, it just leads to people yelling at each other. And there’s truth to that if you look at the current conversation about guns; or anything people feel strongly about. Often times it’s like people approach conversations with their minds already made up and with a certain amount of prejudice, so I really wanted to do it and I wanted to do it in such a way that avoided that prejudice.”

—Joseph Gordon-Levitt, creator

Degrassi: Next Class, “#SorryNotSorry” (2016)

The newest Degrassi series once again discussed gun violence in an episode that has Hunter Hollingsworth (Spencer Macpherson) secretly bring a gun to school.

“Gun control in and of itself is not a major issue in Canada, since guns are in fact controlled here. So when we have told important and moving stories about bullying or mental illness that have involved guns, our main theme has not been whether guns or gun control are good or bad, but rather how guns can unfortunately and sometimes tragically exacerbate situations.

“When Hunter brought a gun to school in the ‘#SorryNotSorry’ episode, it was an act of both desperation and mental illness — he was talked down by his brother and in later episodes, received much needed therapy.

“In the ‘Time Stands Still’ episode, Jimmy ended up being an innocent victim and spending the rest of his student life in a wheelchair, shot by Rick — who was both a bully and being bullied — and who himself died in the struggle. For that episode we researched heavily with Barbara Coloroso, who wrote a book on the Colombine tragedy, showing how bullying can create a toxic environment, where it is sometimes difficult to tell who are the bullies, who are the bullied, and who are the not-so-innocent bystanders who have turned a blind eye to what is going on.”

—Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn, creators