*Who knew Don Lemon was ready for his close-up?
Apparently Hollywood, as it reaches out to the CNN anchor and other real-life newscasters in an effort to bring a well-known presence as a bit of realism to big and small screen projects.
For producers of “Blue Palms,” a new series about a group of eccentric artists living in a dilapidated Hollywood apartment complex, Lemon looked to be the right fit. The newsman was among those named as part of the cast for the show’s pilot. At this time, a TV network has not picked up “Blue Palms.”
Although producers were tight-lipped on whether Lemon will be playing himself or a fictional TV reporter, they did voice their joy in Lemon agreeing to join “Blue Palms.”
“We were looking for someone who really had charisma,” “Blue Palms” executive producer Kim Sherrell told TheWrap. “Also, reporters who appear as themselves bring with them a certain authenticity to the role.”
As for Lemon actually appearing on “Blue Palms,” that is up in the air as a CNN representative disputed that the anchor will appear on the show.
Nevertheless, Lemon has carved his own lane out as an actor in front of the camera with appearances in movies such as “In the Storm” and “Beyond the Lights” and a turn on Fox’s addictive hit show “Empire.” With that, Lemon becomes part of a history of TV journalists who have played themselves in TV and film over the years.
Anchors doing duty include CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour (“Iron Man 2”) and legendary newsman Walter Cronkite (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as well as CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield, John King, Soledad O’Brien, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Fox News host Sean Hannity and veteran “60 Minutes” correspondent Morley Safer, who have all appeared on Netflix’s “House of Cards.”
Despite the pluses of having a TV newscaster cast in a movie or TV show, TheWrap notes that it hasn’t come without some degree of controversy.
In 1997, CNN was taken to task by critics who blasted the network after several of its on-air reporters portrayed themselves in the Jodie Foster science fiction film “Contact.” The controversy back then has since resulted in arguments from journalism purists who feel it blurs the line between news and entertainment as well as folks in the entertainment community, who are against real reporters moonlighting in show business.
“Reporters aren’t trained actors,” actress and former SAG-AFTRA vice president Anne-Marie Johnson told TheWrap. “Often they come off as stiff and awkward.”
“It’s disheartening,” Johnson added while pointing out how newscasters are taking away work that is very much needed by struggling actors. “When well-known and well-compensated news readers get hired to play themselves or a fictional reporter, not only do they take a job away from a trained actor, but they damage those actors’ ability to qualify for pension and health benefits.”
For more about Hollywood’s casting of real TV newscasters, click here.