Jews in the News: Ginnifer Goodwin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johan

The spin-off has an “Alice in Wonderland” back story. BARBARA HERSHEY, 65, whose late father was Jewish, plays “The Queen of Hearts.” (Starts Oct. 10)


The NBC series, “Sean Saves the World”, stars Sean Hayes (“Will and Grace”) as a divorced gay father whose mother (played by LINDA LAVIN, 75) lives with him. His busy life gets even more hectic when his 14-year-old daughter moves in with him full-time.


Lavin is known for playing the title role in the hit ‘70s sit-com, “Alice.” Since 1987, she has carved out an outstanding Broadway stage career and has earned five Tony nominations, winning once. She must hold some kind of record: in all five nominated roles she played a Jewish character. (Begins October 2).


The HBO series, “Hello Ladies”, starts on September 29. Brit actor Stephen Merchant, who also created the series, stars as a gawky English web designer who re-locates to Los Angeles and tries to connect with the glamour crowd, including “hot” women. He makes two close American friends and the three guys go out and haunt trendy bars looking to “connect.”


One buddy, played by KEVIN WEISMAN, 42 (“Alias”), is a charismatic paraplegic who parlays his disability to his advantage in picking up women. Weisman, a practicing Jew, has often given his help to Jewish philanthropic causes. In 2005, he married a Jewish schoolteacher in a big Jewish wedding. Sadly, the couple, who have two young children, split-up last year.


The Showtime series, “Masters of Sex,” begins on Sept. 29. It is essentially an episodic biography of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the famous (late) human sexual response researchers. LIZZY CAPLAN, 31, co-stars as Johnson, who became Masters’ research asst. in 1957 and, after a long extramarital affair, became his wife in 1971.


This may be a breakthrough role for Caplan who has worked steadily in TV and films since she landed a smallish role in “Freaks and Geeks” in 1999. Even if you don’t know her name, you probably have seen her in some TV role, including several recent episodes of “New Girl”. Her film credits include “Mean Girls,” “Cloverfield,” and “Save the Date.”


Caplan, who had a bat mitzvah, spent some time on an Israeli kibbutz.


I’m Kvelling: Look How Good Little Tommy Solomon Has Done


Like most, I first became aware of JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, 32, when he played a space alien pretending to be human child (Tommy Solomon) on the hit sit-com “3rd Rock from the Sun” (1996-2001). Since then, not only has he defied the “child actor curse--- he has carved out a really great adult career as a (quite handsome) actor who seemingly can play everything from Batman’s ally, to Abraham Lincoln’s son, to a sci-fi hit man (“Looper”).


His new film, “Don Jon”, which opens on Friday, Sept. 27,  and got rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, is another career milestone for the actor: it marks his debut as a director and screenwriter of a full length feature film.


Gordon-Levitt plays a ladies’ man who scores with beautiful women every weekend (hence his nickname, Don Jon). But he is secretly addicted to internet porn. Seeking something more, he meets up with two extraordinary woman (played by SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 28, and Julianne Moore) who make him see and pursue better alternatives.


There is, by the way, quite a bit of humor in this film, although my description does make it sound quite dark. Gordon-Levitt has been praised for deftly balancing humor and drama in "Don Jon".


I guess, in a sense, Gordon-Levitt is channeling his late maternal grandfather, MICHAEL GORDON (1909-93). Gordon first made his mark in the late 1940s, directing tough crime films as well as an acclaimed film version of the dark LILLIAN HELLMAN play, “Another Part of the Forest.” Then he was blacklisted for several years and was grateful when he got to work again as the director of the amusing, but very light Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedy, “Pillow Talk” (1959).


In some ways, “Don Jon” combines both poles of Michael Gordon’s career.


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