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Taylor Kinney helps 'Chicago Fire' celebrate a milestone

NBC's "Chicago Fire," about firefighters and EMTs at the Chicago Fire Department, took a beat to find its footing, but is now the tent pole of a growing Dick Wolf franchise that includes "Chicago P.D.," ''Chicago Med" and the upcoming "Chicago Justice."

Taylor Kinney, who plays Lieutenant Kelly Severide, is helping the series mark its 100th episode, airing Tuesday.

"It took a while to get a sustainable (ratings) number where we were like, 'OK, we're in the clear. We're good,'" he said.

Kinney, 35, is especially proud of how "Chicago Fire" has led the way for more TV and film production in the windy city.

"Now there's 'Empire' (on Fox), the four 'Chicago' shows, 'Exorcist' (also on Fox). It's just done so much for the city and I think maybe for a long time it was underrated as a backdrop or a place to tell stories, but there's no lack of cinematography of where you can shoot and how to use the city. ... I couldn't count how many people locally it employs," he said.

Shooting on location also helped members of the cast, which includes Jesse Spencer, Monica Raymund and Eamonn Walker, bond together.

"It created this familial atmosphere. We were forced to hang out and do things the first season whereas if you do something in LA or New York, it's more of a work environment," he said. "... We didn't know anyone. I didn't know anyone, maybe one or two people, but you spend time with these people. Someone's like, 'I'm gonna have dinner' or 'I'm gonna have a poker night,' and then it happened where we all just kind of enjoy each other's company."

Kinney said he's also become friends with real-life police officers and firefighters.

"I can't count how many. My appreciation has grown," he said.

Being in Chicago also provides some anonymity. Kinney, who was engaged to Lady Gaga until their split earlier this year, said he doesn't really get followed by paparazzi there.

"People are pretty gentle in Chicago."

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Follow Alicia Rancilio at http://www.twitter.com/

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Online:

http://www.nbc.com/chicago-fire/

'Game of Thrones' actor Peter Vaughan dies at 93

Veteran British character actor Peter Vaughan, who played the enigmatic Maester Aemon in "Game of Thrones," has died aged 93.

Vaughan's agent Sally Long-Innes says he died Tuesday, surrounded by his family.

Vaughan's face — if not his name — was familiar to generations of television viewers in Britain and around the world. His best-known roles included criminal Harry Grout in 1970s prison sitcom "Porridge."

Film appearances included "The Naked Runner," opposite Frank Sinatra, and "The French Lieutenant's Woman."

Like many British actors, he gained wider fame through HBO's "Game of Thrones." Vaughan played blind scholar Maester Aemon on the hit fantasy series.

Born Peter Ohm in the central England county of Shropshire, Vaughan was married first to the late actress Billie Whitelaw, and then to Lillias Walker, who survives him.

First lady to sit down with Oprah for interview

First lady Michelle Obama will talk about her time in the White House during an interview with Oprah Winfrey that will air Dec. 19 on CBS.

The network says Mrs. Obama will talk about her legacy as first lady and what's in store for her future. CBS is billing the event as Mrs. Obama's final one-on-one interview inside the White House.

While there has been much speculation about what the first lady will do after leaving office, the president has discounted a life in politics. He told Rolling Stone magazine that "you can see the incredible resonance she has with the American people. But I joke that she's too sensible to want to be in politics."

'Walking Dead' star Steven Yeun marries longtime girlfriend Joana Pak

Actor Steven Yeun, best known as fan-favorite Glen Rhee on "The Walking Dead," tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend Saturday in an intimate ceremony in Los Angeles, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending stories

Yeun married photographer Joana Pak on Saturday at the Paramour Estate in LA's Silver Lake area, E! News reported.

"Getting to celebrate the love between these two, last night, along with all their friends and family was so beautiful and special," a family member wrote Sunday on Instagram.

Getting to celebrate the love between these two, last night, along with all their friends and family was so beautiful and special!! This whole week has been an awesome, family-filled, fun time and it's been so great! (We've also gained a brother in-law from it!) #loveyouguys #pakpack A photo posted by Kayce Pak (@thepakpack) on Dec 4, 2016 at 9:34am PST

Several of Yeun's former cast mates were on the guest list, including Sarah Wayne Callies, who played Lori Grimes, Emma Bell (Amy Harrison), Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh), Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes), Normal Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier), Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes) and Alanna Masterson (Tara Chambler).

wedding ready.... A photo posted by Sarah Wayne Callies (@sarahwaynecallies) on Dec 3, 2016 at 9:50pm PST

this guy A photo posted by Sarah Wayne Callies (@sarahwaynecallies) on Dec 4, 2016 at 11:01pm PST

A most magical night with @ivanakatarina A photo posted by Emma Bell (@emmabell) on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:46pm PST

Mel Harris: 'thirtysomething' stars remain 'close' friends

Almost 30 years since "thirtysomething" went off the air, the now 50-something cast of the drama about a group of American baby boomers remain friends.

Mel Harris, who played Hope Steadman on the show, says she and cast mates Ken Olin, Timothy Busfield, Patricia Wettig, Polly Draper, Melanie Mayron and Peter Horton bonded while making the show, which aired on ABC from 1987 through 1991.

"We were also there for each other as co-workers, as friends and that bond has continued outside of it. Do we have dinner every Friday night together? No, which would be a hoot, but I would say every few years we get together. We see each other. "

Harris says she just recently ran into Olin in Vancouver, Canada, where she's filming the Hulu series, "Shut Eye."

"We went to dinner. It was just lovely."

The new series, which begins streaming on Dec. 7, is about fake fortune teller Charlie Haverford, played by Jeffrey Donavon ("Burn Notice"), who starts having real visions after suffering a severe head trauma.

Harris plays Nadine Davies, a wealthy socialite and one of Haverford's marks.

"It's her second bout with psychics," Harris says. "They're very good at getting her to trust them in the face of, 'Oh, I've already been burned once,' and in the course of the journey when she realizes that maybe she can't trust them. It's an awakening event for Nadine Davies."

The role marks the first regular one in almost a decade for Harris who in recent years has been focusing on fixing up old houses and working on TV pilots with her writing partner and husband Bob Brush. She decided to take on "Shut Eye" after Brush took a break from writing pilots to work on a book.

Harris says she's not sure yet if she'll continue acting when her writing partner frees up but says for the moment she's having fun.

"Otherwise, I wouldn't do it thirty-something years later."

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Online: http://www.hulu.com/shut-eye

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Follow Lauri Neff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Lneffist

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This story has been amended to correct a date in the second paragraph.

After Emmy, Sterling K Brown still winning with 'This Is Us'

Sterling K. Brown can chalk 2016 up as a win. He won an Emmy for his portrayal of Christopher Darden in FX's "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," and he's one of the stars of NBC's "This Is Us," which premiered this fall and is doing well in the ratings.

"This is probably the busiest time that I've had in my life so far," the 40-year-old actor said in a recent interview. "Busy is good, you know. Busy is better than bored and there's more recognition, like I try to feign the anonymity which I had before 'O.J.'"

"It has opened doors in terms of opportunities like auditions that would probably not have come my way in the past are now starting to become available to me so I'm enjoying it. It's really cool," he said.

"This Is Us" airs Tuesday on NBC (9 p.m. EST). The show also stars Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley.

Brown plays Randall, who was adopted by a white family. The story is told in two timelines, the past and the present.

"It's a really simple story," he said. "It's about a family, but the twist is that you get a chance to see the parents at the same age as the children in sort of this mid-thirties (time period) when you have all of these sort of critical decisions that sort of chart the rest of your life, you know? ... It reminds me of that moment when you say like, 'Oh, my parents — they're not perfect and it's OK that they're not perfect because they did the best that they knew how to do.'"

He recalls getting the script for the pilot episode while he was shooting "The People v. O.J." (Brown said he keeps his Emmy in the garage because it's sharp and he has two young children.)

"I was probably sitting at the prosecution's desk next to Sarah (Paulson), and I go, 'Yo, Sarah, I think I found something that I want to do.' She was like, 'Really? Is it really good?' I was like, 'Yeah, it's really good.'"

Brown especially enjoys reading fan reaction to "This Is Us" on social media as developments in the characters' lives are revealed in the present timeline.

"I love seeing the questions that the fans have like, 'When did Miguel (played by Jon Huertas) pop into the scene? Like, how the heck did that happen? What happened to his wife?' he laughed.

Brown says he counts himself as a fan and enjoys tuning in to see the various stories on the show unfold.

"I love the show and to be on something that you would love watching whether you are on it or not? That's the stuff."

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Follow Alicia Rancilio online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar

You can't stop the beat with 'Hairspray Live!' telecast

In the steadily escalating battle of the TV musicals, NBC's "Hairspray Live!" is the most ambitious contender yet.

It's got a deep bench of stars, including Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande and Martin Short. It boasts strong themes of racial equality, tolerance and self-acceptance. And it has the outsized, joyful talents of Harvey Fierstein as writer and actor, reprising his Tony Award-winning role as Edna Turnblad.

Executive producer Neil Meron also counts the TV musical's timing as a bonus, calling it impeccable despite its 1960s setting and roots in John Waters' 1988 film and, more directly, in the 2002-09 Broadway musical with Fierstein.

"People already were excited about it, but after the election they were saying, 'Boy, do we need this now,'" Meron said recently on a Universal Studios set as the cast rehearsed "I Can Hear the Bells" for Wednesday's telecast (8-11 p.m. EST).

With the country in a "divisive place," he said, viewers are eager for entertainment "that can be really healing."

"Hairspray Live!" is set in 1962 Baltimore, where "The Corny Collins Show" is TV's hot dance program and the focus of teen Tracy Turnblad's dreams. When she's chosen to perform and gains instant celebrity, the plus-sized dynamo uses it to fight the show's whites-only rule.

Tracy is played by Maddie Baillio, 20, of League City, Texas, a college student plucked from more than 1,300 hopefuls in an open-casting call for her first professional role. Short plays husband to Fierstein's supportive wife and mother.

The cast includes Derek Hough as Collins; Grande as Tracy's pal Penny; Hudson as record-store owner Motormouth Maybelle; Ephraim Sykes as her son, Seaweed; Chenoweth and Dove Cameron as mean mom-daughter duo Velma and Amber Von Tussle, and Garrett Clayton as Link, Tracy's squeeze. Two former "Hairspray" Tracys, Ricki Lake (the movie) and Marissa Jaret Winokur (the play), are set for cameo appearances.

Among the catchy songs sure to rattle around in viewers' brains for days: "Good Morning Baltimore" and "You Can't Stop the Beat."

The production is big (55 cast members, 600 costumes, 18 sets) and sprawling, designed to shift between the confines of two Universal Studios soundstages and a variety of backlot locations. It's also got an element of risk, following other recent musicals that aired live to ramp up the excitement factor (and keep viewers tuning into broadcast networks and commercials).

The TV musical competition is both intra- and intermural: The bar for "Hairspray Live!" was set at varying heights by NBC's "Sound of Music," ''Peter Pan" and "The Wiz" broadcasts. "The Wiz" aired live in 2015, as did this year's "Grease" on competitor Fox, and "Hairspray" plucked its pair of directors, Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski, from those respective telecasts. Jerry Mitchell, who choreographed the Broadway musical, also is aboard.

The "Hairspray" producers have "certainly upped the ante," said Hough. "The people who are part of this, including some who worked on 'Grease' as well, they want to try to top themselves."

Exactly, said Meron, who is producing "Hairspray Live!" with Craig Zadan. The partners also produced the 2007 movie version of the stage musical, with Nikki Blonsky as Tracy and John Travolta as Edna.

While "Grease" made creative use of backlot locations, Meron said the "Hairspray" plan is to spend more of the show, about 40 percent, outdoors on the lot.

That will include mundane facades transformed into a colorful Baltimore downtown, one that happens to be in sight of the clock tower featured in "Back to the Future." Neon signs advertise businesses including Waters Plumbing, a bow to the story's free-thinking originator, and Divine Pet Food. That honors the original film's Edna, the late Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead), who set the template for a male to own the role.

As with "The Wiz," which starred newcomer Shanice Williams, "Hairspray" is rolling the dice with Baillio. But Fierstein says it's no gamble.

She "has a voice that is just wonderful. ... She's excited about life. She's excited to do this," he told a teleconference, adding, "it's given me a whole new light to have this terrific new young star."

Fierstein showed plenty of spark on the set recently, interrupting an interview to playfully admonish a group of boisterous cast members on break.

"Don't make me come over there!" he shouted. Turning serious, the stage veteran said the demands of the TV musical, including learning to remain aware of multiple cameras, have proved a challenge.

"In the theater, I'm in charge of telling the audience where to look and what's important. Here, you need to very much give up all control" except over one's own performance, Fierstein said.

Director Leon explained that the production "is not theater, it's not TV, it's not a film — it's a hybrid of all of that. That's half the problem, understanding that. So we have to take this team of actors, get them in the same world, and present it in a way so that the viewers at home feel they are the live audience."

What they'll discover in "Hairspray," said Baillio, are themes that are as relevant as ever.

"One of the things I love about Tracy is her body positivity, and that she sees everyone as equal and believes everyone should be dancing together on 'The Corny Collins Show' and in life," said the sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College in New York. "It's bold to say, but I hope it changes opinions."

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Online: http://www.nbc.com/hairspray-live

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Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.

To create Baltimore in Hollywood, just ask Derek McLane

Set designer Derek McLane's transition from working on Broadway to the Oscars hit a bit of a bump on his first day.

McLane had showed up for work at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in 2013 when the show's TV director called him over to complain. "The backs of the scenery is all not finished," he was told. "'What am I going to shoot here?'"

That was when McLane got a reminder of one big differences between Broadway and the TV telecasts — cameras go everywhere, so everything needs to look good. "On Broadway, we never finish the back of the scenery," he said. "I just hadn't thought of it."

McLane really hasn't put a wrong foot since, becoming the go-to guy responsible for making the last three NBC live musicals and the last four Oscar telecast look great. His next challenge is "Hairspray Live! " on Wednesday.

He is a Broadway fixture — a Tony Award-winner who crafted the scenery for such recent shows as "Beautiful," ''China Doll" and a lot of sturdy doors for "Noises Off" — who found his skills translated to live TV. In addition to the Oscars, he's designed the sets for "The Wiz Live!," ''Peter Pan Live!" and "The Sound of Music Live!"

"It's very different in some ways, but in other ways, it's really not," he said during a tour of his midtown Manhattan studio. "We're still telling stories and all of these stories happen to be based on Broadway shows."

Playwright and director Moises Kaufman is a fan, having watched McLane create a stunning set of boxes upon boxes for "33 Variations," so lovely that it won him a Tony. "I believe in him tremendously. I think he's one of the great artists in America. I really do," said Kaufman.

For "Hairspray Live!" McLane is transforming nondescript fake store fronts in Universal's backlot in Hollywood into 1960s-era Baltimore. Adding to the pressure is that 40 percent of the show will be filmed outside. "It's definitely risky. But it's also so much more, I think, exciting," he said.

The show is based on a John Waters film that concerns the full-figured Tracy Turnblad whose fondest wish is to appear on a local television dance program and champion racial integration. The cast includes Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande.

McLane is building a record store, a jail, a TV studio, a high school gym, and a house for the Turnblads, among others. He's putting real cars from the era on the streets and little nods to the musical's roots (Look for the store signs for "Waters Plumbing" and "Divine Pet Food.")

The Yale School of Drama graduate consulted historic photos of the period and went down to walk around Baltimore, soaking in the flavor. "The sense of that period is important to the show, for sure," he said.

McLane was first tapped for live TV when he was doing the scenic design for the 2011 Broadway revival of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" starring Daniel Radcliffe. Two of the lead producers were Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who also were doing the Oscars in 2013. They asked him aboard for that and then asked him again when they revived NBC's love of live musicals.

He crafted an elegant set for "The Sound of Music Live!" — though when he looks back he thinks his bedroom for Maria was too small — as well as a Neverland for Peter Pan that took inspiration from the rock formations off the coast of Vietnam. His "The Wiz Live!" was heavy with technology and fantasy.

McLane said he hopes to be able to continue straddling the words of theater and TV, as well as creating worlds onstage for off-Broadway shows and national tours. He doesn't matter so much if it's millions of people or a few hundred.

"There isn't necessarily a correlation between something being big and good," he said. "There's nothing more satisfying ultimately than working on something that you think is actually really fun."

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Online: http://www.nbc.com/hairspray-live

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

A seasoned film critic eyes TV in 'Television: A Biography'

At 75, David Thomson is the sultan of cinema criticism. British-born but long based in America, he is the author of nearly two dozen film-related books including "Moments that Made the Movies," "'Have You Seen...?': A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films" and "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film."

Now Thomson has switched his gaze, and his analysis, to the TV medium. In "Television: A Biography" (Thames & Hudson, $34.95), he focuses on TV from its individual genres to its broad social impact during the past 70 years. As ever, his writing is bright, puckish and reader-friendly. At 400 pages, the book is a bit weighty, but not the prose.

But what made Thomson, who had never before put his take on TV between covers, decide to change channels? During a recent interview, he explained.

"I was at a point where I felt that the movies were not really going anywhere very exciting, and that if you were looking for the best American movies, you probably needed to look at television. 'The Wire,' 'The Sopranos,' 'Breaking Bad' — they were so much more ambitious than anything made for theaters. So I began to develop an historical perspective on TV that I had had on the movies for a long time. I'm much more interested now in thinking about and writing about TV than the movies."

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A VIEWER'S BOOK

"You may have watched a lot of TV but never thought systematically about it. I wanted to do a book which would give you a sense that the totality of the medium had been addressed. Not covered, but addressed. And if you have never watched television, after you read this book I think you can say, 'I understand what television is.'"

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A DIFFERENT CREATURE

"Our relationship with TV is different than with almost any medium we've had before. It's all well and good for something on TV to be so riveting that you don't want to miss a moment. But when you tune in to watch one show, you may end up just watching TV overall. There's such a lot on television that is sort of tidal — it just washes in and out, over you. You turn it on like you would turn on a light, and you may be doing other things. But even if you're not watching, it enters into you in ambient ways."

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SHORT LIST

Thomson, film's consummate list-maker, shared "off the top of my head" a few pick TV hits: "Monty Python's Flying Circus" ... the BBC version of "The Singing Detective" ... live coverage of the funeral of President John F. Kennedy ... "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" ... "a couple of episodes of 'All in the Family' where Edith is just sublime" ... the ESPN documentary series "O.J.: Made in America," which he calls "a major work" ... and, of course, "Breaking Bad."

"But this time tomorrow," he cautions, "I would revise the whole list."

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TV PRESIDENT

"With Donald Trump in the White House, I think we're going to get more of the same as with the campaign: His administration will have to be judged as an ongoing TV show. He is a television person, so I think it's going to be a presidency of shows and moments. My instinct is, in terms of policy, he's doing to be dreadfully disappointing to his supporters. But on TV, I think it's going to be amazing — until it becomes grotesque."

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LOOKING AHEAD

"We watch stories and stars, but it's more and more evident that, as TV viewers, we go where the technology takes us. My sense of television is that technology has always driven the whole thing, and I think that will continue. I think more sophisticated, interesting fusions of what we still call television with the computer are going to occur. That will be more important than any sort of new genre or new narrative form in entertainment. And I see the end of the movie house. But it's inevitable that a cellphone will be built into our hands. So maybe a screen could be implanted in our heads. I think that will happen!"

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EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore

Gene Simmons: Celebrities should 'shut their pie-holes' about politics

Gene Simmons has opened up about what he thinks of celebrities endorsing political movements.

Simmons, the co-founder and bassist for the legendary rock band KISS, appeared on Fox Business to speak about the dangers of celebrities getting involved in politics and how he thinks that the only way for a celebrity to affect change in politics is through voting.

>> Watch the clip here

<iframe width="390" height="219" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/CmP-FdxM17c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

“Why anybody in the fifth estate would care what a celebrity thinks or otherwise is the height of foolishness,” Simmons said.

“I think celebrities should basically shut their pie-holes and do what they do best.”

Simmons went on to speak of the foolishness of protesting the election when people who protest don’t vote and make excuses for it.

>> Read more trending stories

“I saw some of the great examples of democracy, people actually demonstrating on the street and so on,” Simmons shared. “When a newscaster went up and asked, ‘What are you demonstrating against?’ [protesters answered,] ‘We don’t like our president,’ and then the reporter asked, ‘Did you vote?’ ‘Well, I forgot to tie my shoelaces, the dog ate my homework.'”

Simmons then came out in support of the Electoral College, which he said was created to solve the issue of the popular vote; described himself as “well-read”; and finished by advertising a casino restaurant.

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