Jews in the News: Maya Rudolph, Sean Penn, Alex Winter

Space, Fantasy Stuff; Maya as Kamala; and Much More

"Away" is an original Netflix series that premieres on Sept. 4. Hilary Swank stars as an American astronaut who must leave her husband and teen daughter behind in order to command an international space crew embarking upon a treacherous, three year-long mission. There are six more characters in the credits, and I presume they are crew members. Two are Jewish: JOSH CHARLES , 48 and MARK IVANIR, 51.

Charles, the co-star of hit TV drama “The Good Wife”, is the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. He’s described himself as Jewish. In 2013, he wed SOPHIE FLACK, now 38. Flack, whose mother is Jewish, is a retired New York City ballet member and a novelist. The couple has two children. Avenir’s family left the Ukraine and settled in Israel when he was four. He’s worked steadily in mostly smallish film parts since 1988.

 Keanu Reeves and ALEX WINTER, 55, co-star in the fourth “Bill and Ted” movie ("Bill & Ted Face the Music"). It will be released via video-on-demand on Aug. 28. Plot: the pair is warned that they have 78-minutes to create a song that will save all life in the universe.

 It looks like MAYA RUDOLPH, 48, will appear at least a couple of times on SNL when the series resumes sometime this fall (no date set yet). Rudolph played Senator Kamala Harris in three SNL debate skits last season. (She was recently nominated for a guest appearance Emmy for these skits).  Last week, she told “The Hollywood Reporter” that SNL creator/producer LORNE MICHAELS, 75, all but said she’d be back: “He sent me a GIF of myself, as Kamala, in sunglasses, sipping a cocktail and saying, ‘Oh no.’ ” 

Rudolph added that she doesn’t think that of her herself as an impressionist, but she has long noticed that when she quotes anyone, it somehow just comes out in their voice. She attributes this to being a good listener.

 After the first skit, Harris sent out this tweet: “That girl being played by Maya Rudolph on SNL? That girl was me. Rudolph told "The Reporter": "It [the tweet] was really clever and great and, so I wrote her back. But I haven't had the chance to meet her. I would love to.”

 Rudolph is the secular daughter of African-American singer Minnie Riperton, who died when she was 7, and DICK RUDOLPH, now 74, a songwriter/producer. Her parents are best known for co-writing Riperton’s biggest hit: “Lovin You” (1975).

I have no doubt that SEAN PENN, 60, will win the humanitarian award at a future Oscars ceremony. Almost quietly, he’s emerged as a master organizer of disaster relief. It began in 2005, with help for Hurricane Katrina victims. Some then said it was a publicity stunt. But then, in 2010, he founded and oversaw an organization (“CORE”) that did tremendous work to help Haitian earthquake victims. In 2012, CORE and Penn did the same for Pakistanis, following an earthquake there. Last March, CORE began free Covid-19 testing in California. Testing sites have expanded exponentially across the country (including Native American reservations). CORE works with local organizations and its reputation is so high that major foundations are now funding it. (I have to add that Penn, the secular son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, used connections in 2013 to facilitate the escape of a Jewish businessman being held in a Bolivian jail on dubious charges. Penn then took him to his LA home and helped nurse him to health.)

 Something fun: I was inspired to do this ‘top 5' list by the recent death of a Jewish inventor. All 5 invented something critical to entertainment, broadly defined. My entries are minimal, so look them up, please. (1) RUSSELL KIRSCH died on Aug. 11, age 91. He invented the pixel and scanned the first digital photo; (2) EMILE BERLINER (1851-1929) Inventor of the flat disc or gramophone record; PETER GOLDMARK (1906-77) Inventor of the 331⁄3 rpm, long playing record; RALPH H. BAER (1922-2014) He is called the “father of the video game.” He was critical to the creation of the first home video console; and MARTIN COOPER, now 92. “Father” of the hand held cellular phone. I had the pleasure of talking to Cooper a couple of years ago. He told me had his second bar mitzvah when he was 83. This is not unique; there is a tradition that once you reach 70, your biblically ‘allotted’ lifespan is up and if you reach 83, a second bar mitzvah is appropriate.


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