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Friday, June 29, 2018

TV

John Gotti gave Armand Assante his blessing from prison for TV movie portrayal. Armand Assante never would have agreed to star in "Gotti," the 1996 made-for-TV movie, if John Gotti hadn't told him, "I would be honored to have you play me," a source said. The Gambino godfather was in prison, but spoke with Assante on a smuggled cellphone, the source told me. The actor won an Emmy and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the Teflon Don. That's quite a contrast from the critically panned performance of John Travolta in the recently released "Gotti" film. The Guardian noted his "truly dazzling array of crunchy-looking wigs." "John Gotti must be rolling over in his grave," laughed my insider. Assante, who has also played Friedrich Nietzsche and Odysseus, was just at the Los Angeles premiere of "Ulugh Beg: The Man Who Unlocked the Universe," in which he stars as the 15th-century astronomer. The docudrama was produced by Timur Tillyaev and Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, whose father was the ruler of Uzbekistan for 27 years. (PageSix)

Julian Fellowes is coming to Prince Philip's defense. The creator and writer of Downtown Abbey -- the Golden Globe and Emmy-winning PBS drama series that chronicled the aristocratic Crawleys in the early 20th Century -- is speaking out about Prince Philip's portrayal in the second season of Netflix's The Crown -- and why he believes it wasn't "fair" to the 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh. "The Crown is a wonderful piece of work, and a brilliant, brilliant writing from Peter Morgan," Fellowes, 68, tells Katie Couric in the new episode of her podcast, the latest installment of her editorial initiative with the BBC, which has also featured conversations with Sharon Horgan and Graham Norton. "It was beautifully acted, beautifully written," he says. "For me, I'm not completely comfortable with dramatizing people who are still alive and still living their lives. Because I think it's possible to be unfair. And in the second series, I didn't think it was fair to Prince Philip, to the Duke of Edinburgh, based on very little." Season 2 of The Crown was released Dec. 8 on Netflix and stars Claire Foy (Queen Elizabeth) and Matt Smith (Prince Philip). Fellowes explains, "Now I'll be punished for that because it's a great success and it deserves to be. I don't know. I think when people are still alive, living their lives, doing a good job and popular and loved, do they deserve it? And in that sense, I'm not sure they do." Couric then inquired if Fellowes believes "that a lot of artistic license was taken in the storylines in terms of how these individuals have been portrayed in the series?" "You're getting me into a tricky area here," says Fellowes. "I think that a lot of it was based on obviously very good research, but some of it was not. Some of it was extrapolation from a rumor or someone's rather prejudiced account. And then it was presented as fact. I'm not sure that's just." Although the Downton Abbey creator doesn't think the storyline was completely accurate, he applauds The Crown creator Peter Morgan. "But I'm a big fan of Peter Morgan, I repeat that. I think he's the best writer on television at the moment," says Fellowes. "And it's deservedly successful as far as I'm concerned." The second season of the Netflix show was set in the early 1960s, and much of the drama surrounded Queen Elizabeth sending husband Prince Philip off on a five-month tour, which is among the stresses explored. "When they finally get a chance to look at their marriage, it's in pretty dire straits," Foy told PEOPLE. "They've both in their own ways dealt with it and made themselves feel better or healed themselves in whatever way they are able to." Part of their "healing" involved welcoming their two younger sons, Prince Andrew (born in 1960) and Prince Edward (1964). The season was also a departure from the "fairy story" of last year's, said director Philip Martin. By the early 1960s, the public "is questioning whether we need a royal family," he said. "It's a complete energy change." There are also flashbacks to Philip's lonely childhood. (His own royal family was ousted during the coup in Greece, and his mother was institutionalized.) "We learn a lot more about him and his history and his heritage," said Smith, 35, who portrayed him in the series. "It has made him quite tough and resilient." (People)

Breaking barriers. With the help of trans activist Janet Mock, musician and writer Our Lady J and 140 trans or LGBTQ cast and crew members, Ryan Murphy launched Pose, a drama about NYC's Ball culture in the 1980s. "I was interested in bringing up a new group of people," the creator of Glee and American Horror Story tells Us. "When I was coming up in the industry, it was all white guys over 40 who had power. I'm interested in using my juice to promote other people." In addition to his usual starring suspects, including Kate Mara and Evan Peters, Murphy gave every person who wanted to audition a chance. "I think the days of casting a straight guy who puts on a wig and is a transgender person ... those days are over," Murphy, 52, says. "I feel like that's not fair and that's not real. There is so much talent in this community. We cast this show for six months and we read anybody who wanted to audition and I feel like you can feel it. It's an authentic show about an authentic group of people and I wanted to give them a chance, and they're so great!" It will also change the future of what Murphy does with TV. "It was a joy and I feel like that is how business has to be now. I feel like we're not gonna go back. We're going to go forward and be more true and authentic," he says. James Van Der Beek, who plays Matt Bromley, also tells Us that Murphy's drama taught him a lot. "I think what I came out with is just a greater understanding of the humanity and the complexities of the scene and what it means to be trans, and what this ball mean to the community and why," he says about joining the project. "It's a place where they could be celebrated in a society that tells them they should not be celebrated. Also, the courage that it takes for them to be authentic to themselves is really inspiring." Pose airs on FX Sundays at 9 p.m. ET. (US Weekly)

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