When Hollywood meets Bollywood you'd expect a massive cultural shock. Not so, say the folks who made the next Cheetah Girls movie, “The Cheetah Girls One World,” which was filmed entirely in India.
“India has the largest filmmaking industry in the world, and I think for all of us we quickly decided we were going to take Bollywood 101 and we're going to learn the cast of characters there,” says Debra Martin Chase, executive producer of the film, which premieres Aug. 22.
“There are no casting agents. There are no agencies such as we know them. So casting is done by relationships, and we had to first figure out the lay of the land, and finally (casting agent) Judy Taylor came and sat in a room in Mumbai for a week and literally, day and night, auditioned people. So it's just different, but we had the most amazing Indian crew.”
Everyone was just so helpful on the set,“ says Adrienne Bailon, who plays Chanel. ”I think the one thing we realized was that there was no, like, departments. … Everybody just wanted to be helpful in anything they could be helpful in. So that was really awesome.“
”We brought over a lot of our crews from here in the United States,“ says Chase. ”Mona May did our costumes and (we had) our line producers, we worked with an Indian production company. We liaisoned with them, but by and large the bulk of our crew was Indian. And the last day, we were all in tears, because they were so dedicated, and we just loved them.“
You probably can't get more exotic than the rolling hills of Rajasthan where ”The Cheetah Girls One World“ was filmed. And its three stars — Bailon, Sabrina Bryan and Kiela Williams — couldn't believe their ears when they were told the Cheetah Girls' next musical would be shot there.
”After the second movie, and they asked us where we thought we would want to go in the world to shoot another movie, and we kind of said a couple of names, and India was definitely one of them. And then Debra was, like, ‘I think that might be possible,' and we were like, 'No way,'“ says Bryan, who also cut the rug on ”Dancing with the Stars.“
Still the three Cheetahs (the fourth, Raven-Symone, is not in this film) were in for a few challenges for which a lifetime of show biz had not prepared them. One of those was riding atop a 9-foot elephant in a basket while warbling a musical number.
”It was scary at first,“ says Bailon, ”definitely it's not something I would ever do if it was not a part of this movie, but it actually gave me an opportunity to do something that I probably would never do on a normal basis. I was, like, ‘I can do it.' (Director) Paul (Hoen) got me through it. He was like, ‘Adrienne, you CAN do it.'“
The elephant lies on her belly in order for her passengers to embark. ”She was super, super big, and we still had to take a ladder to get up into the basket, and then from there she puts her front legs straight,“ recalls Bryan, who plays Dorinda. ”So you're on this roller coaster with no tracks, you're just completely … like you're at an angle … holding on, and she brings up her other legs. And you're all good once she stands up (and walks like) bom, bom, bom.“
”We're trying to lip sync and trying to wave and trying to look kind of pretty,“ says Bailon. ”At one point Paul stops us and is, like, ‘Do you guys know the words to your own song?' And we were like, 'Yes, well, we're trying to concentrate and not DIE,'“ says Williams.
Co-star Michael Steger (who has a lead role in the coming ”Beverly Hills, 90210“) was lucky enough to be on the ground while all that was going on. ”It literally looked like they were about to tip over,“ he says. ”I was watching it from the outside, and I was pretty terrified. The elephant was swaying side to side, and they had a hand-held camera planted inside the little cart where they were. So they got footage.“
They also had to master a new kind of dancing. Choreographer Fatima Robinson explains, ”I was trying to blend what we call western dance with classical Indian dance. I had an assistant, an Indian assistant out there, and I basically took class in the very beginning and learned some of the, what we call ‘Bollywood' basics in the way of dance and then incorporated it in my style of dance. So it was really just, you know, merging those two worlds together and coming up with some really cool stuff that kids haven't seen here in America. So it was nice.“
While making the movie so far from home brought the three girls closer together it also taught them something about their work, says Bryan. ”We got a chance to really take this movie and step it up like four notches with the dancing, with the musical numbers in general, getting great cast members that we got to get to know. I just think everything about this movie has improved from the last one. We loved doing the last one. We loved being a part of it, but it was just such an awesome experience to know that, as we're getting older, our work is getting better and better.“
Comedian Margaret Cho will make another stab at television when her new show opens on VH1 on Aug. 21. Her last experience with ABC was not so successful. ”It was very difficult, and one of the things that I remembered was after I did my first screen test, one executive freaked out and said, ‘Please never, ever, ever show your stomach in public ever again. Never.' So that's why I'm like naked in the show all the time, as you'll see.“
Working in cable frees Cho up for her off-color jokes, a consummation not necessarily to be desired. ”Television has changed a lot, and also it's wonderful to be working with VH1, who have been incredible in really allowing us to be ourselves, which is a major problem in television when you work with an artist and you try to create a show. You make a show about them, they often do the wrong thing and you try to create them and make them into something else. But VH1 actually allowed us to be ourselves, which is really a miracle, and that's why this show is so exciting,“ she says.
Grammy winning singer Joss Stone has landed the role of Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII in Showtime's spot-on ”The Tudors.“ Stone, who's best known as the little blonde with the big voice, will appear in three episodes of the series' new season now filming in Ireland. The episodes, which will air next year, takes up after Anne Boleyn loses her head and Henry is forced to make this political alliance through marriage. Stone might not be so happy with the role if she knew that Henry referred to Anne of Cleves as ”that Flemish mare.“
Agatha Christie fans will be delirious to know that David Suchet will wax his moustache once more as the little Belgian sleuth in two more Hercule Poirot mysteries on PBS next year. The networks will also welcome a new Miss Marple when Julia McKenzie takes over the role of the nosy little sleuth for three episodes. And Irish actor Kenneth Branagh will not only star but produce ”Wallender,“ for ”Masterpiece Mystery“ based on the famous detective from the novels of Henning Mankell.