Hollywood, Texas is home to the week’s most notable show business news about Texas stars, Texas stories, and other roles our state was born to play.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our remote work revolution, freeing employers and employees alike from the old-fashioned confines of office space and geography. Amid all this upheaval, Texas has emerged as a clear winner: We’ve become one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, thanks in large part to our reputation as one of the best states for telecommuting. People are abandoning costly coastal cities in droves for our more affordable pastures, realizing they can thrive here in their chosen professions. After all, why should, say, 50 Cent have to put up with New York’s steep cost of living when he can rap just as easily from Houston? Houston’s got guns, money, and belabored sex metaphors, too.
Texas’s newest famous émigré announced his arrival in Space City on Instagram this week, when he shared a photo of himself standing in front of the Astrodome wearing an Astros cap, his face beaming with all the lived-in regional pride of a hostage video. That excitement carried over to the caption: “I Love NY, but I live in Houston now I’ll explain later,” gushed the Queens-born Fifty/Fiddy, né Curtis Jackson, who has yet to offer a follow-up or explain much of anything. In the same post, Jackson shared a screenshot of a recent Deadline article about his latest TV venture, the anthology series Confessions of a Crime Queen, a docudrama that will reportedly draw from the real-life stories of women who reigned over criminal empires. Still, it’s as yet unclear whether that show has anything to do with Jackson moving here, unless one of those “criminal empires” is the whole Astros organization.
Regardless, the city has wasted no time in embracing him. Mayor Sylvester Turner welcomed him with a tweet throwing back to 50 Cent’s appearance at Sheila Jackson Lee’s Toys for Kids events last year. On Instagram, Houston rapper Paul Wall offered to drop off a spare slab. Spring Branch’s Tacos Doña Lena has already awkwardly Photoshopped him into a makeshift ad. Meanwhile, Jackson also joined the lineup of next week’s Night in San Antonio festival, presaging a likely future of lucrative, low-stakes local gigs that the financially savvy Fifty will surely take full advantage of now that he’s hanging around.
Naturally, there’s been some speculation that 50 Cent moved here because of money, realizing that to get rich or die tryin’ is a whole lot easier without the burden of a state income tax. Jackson made headlines last year for decrying now President Biden’s proposed tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers. While he’s since clarified that rant as “screwing around,” it’s still plausible that—like Elon Musk and Joe Rogan before him—Jackson views Texas as a libertarian paradise, a place where he’s free to be slightly more exorbitantly wealthy. (Countdown to Ted Cruz tweeting about joining 50 Cent “At the Club.”) And as with Musk, Rogan, and the dozen other famous people who have fled here from California and New York in recent years, we’re left to wonder whether that self-serving philosophical alignment truly counts. Are we supposed to consider all of these carpetbaggers as “Texans”? Has the same digital blurring that has obliterated our work boundaries also wrecked our regional identity? Is 50 Cent a “Houston rapper,” just because he lives in Houston now? I guess we’ll just have to explain later.
Megan Thee Stallion to Host Celebrity Pet Show
To be fair, Houston still claims the likes of Beyoncé, Lizzo, and Travis Scott et al., despite the fact that all of them decamped to New York and L.A. the second they hit it big. All of these stars live lavish, implausible lifestyles that no longer feel tethered to our plebeian earth—let alone Texas. Take, for another example, Megan Thee Stallion, the “H-Town Hottie” who just signed on to host a show where she’ll interview other celebrities about their pets. Announced this week, Off Thee Leash With Megan Thee Stallion will be one of the first major series to be produced for Snapchat, the platform beloved by Generation Z and anyone else who enjoys provocative content for precisely 24 hours, before it’s all erased in a haze of shame and targeted ads. Megan, of course, is a natural choice. Not only has she mastered Snapchat, she’s also a self-proclaimed “one of the best dog moms ever on the planet,” raising at least five dogs who are all more famous than you.
Houston’s That Girl Lay Lay Is About to Be Everywhere
Although she’s only fourteen, Houston rapper That Girl Lay Lay is already on a similar trajectory to megastardom—and she’s even already left her hometown behind for Atlanta. The viral star born Alaya High, who nevertheless still considers herself a “Houston girl,” is poised to break even wider this summer thanks to a huge Nickelodeon deal that will see her starring in her own TV series titled, what else, That Girl Lay Lay. The high-concept show finds her playing “an avatar from a personal affirmation app that comes to life,” navigating teendom while dispensing positive advice to her new, IRL friends. High will also sing the show’s theme song, just the first of a new raft of That Girl Lay Lay music and accompanying merchandise that promises to transform her, Miley Cyrus–style, into a veritable tween industry for years to come.
Disney Channel’s Amy From Amarillo Unmasks Supervillains in the Panhandle
Kids’ TV has long mined Texas for talent, of course—That Girl Lay Lay joins a long, lucrative lineage that includes Selena Gomez, Hilary Duff, and Demi Lovato—although it has rarely set its actual shows here. But that’s about to change with Disney’s Amy From Amarillo. According to Deadline, the upcoming comedy series will find newcomer Isabella Pappas playing the titular Amy, the teen daughter in a family of supervillains who’s hiding out in the anonymous plains of the Panhandle. Lucy Davis, of BBC’s The Office fame, joins Pappas as her evil mom, in a show that will presumably get a lot of comic mileage out of just how little there is to do in Amarillo—or maybe how the city will look the other way on supervillains electrocuting people with the lightning they shoot out of their fingers, provided they grease the local PAC first.
Shea Serrano Developing Comedy Series About His San Antonio Childhood
A far more down-to-earth version of Texas takes center stage in Primo, a new family comedy series based on the San Antonio upbringing of best-selling Houston author Shea Serrano. The coming-of-age story follows a Mexican American teen who’s being raised by a single mom and his five uncles—like a Latino spin on Full House, perhaps, albeit shot through with the kind of dry, savvy humor that’s made Serrano a must-follow on Twitter. There’s also the imprimatur of executive producer Mike Schur, the architect of Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place, who’s somehow figured out how to make smart, sardonically funny shows about characters who actually love each other, without ever drowning us in treacly sentimentality. Primo is being developed as part of IMDb TV, the free streaming service that was recently introduced by Amazon to ensure you’ll never catch up on enough quality television to function in modern society, forcing you to stay inside indefinitely and just have everything you need delivered. Primo sounds like it should help the cause; don’t come out until you finish it.
Eva Longoria to Tell the True Story of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
They say success has many fathers and/or uncles, but Flamin’ Hot Cheetos has but one: Richard Montañez. He invented the addictive, occasionally debilitating snack while he was working as a janitor at a Frito-Lays plant, taking a packet of corn puffs home to dust them with chili powder and other spices to create the company’s wildly successful foray into the Latino market and beyond. Montañez’s incredible rise, from the illiterate son of grape pickers to one of the most influential food executives in the world, offers an inspiring true tale of American grit and ingenuity that would make for a great movie—which is exactly why Corpus Christi native Eva Longoria plans to make it her directorial debut. This week, Deadline reported that Longoria has cast Quinceañera star Jesse Garcia as Montañez and Gentefied’s Annie Gonzalez as his wife, Judy. She’s also brought in Gentefied cocreator Linda Yvette Chávez to work on the script, with Longoria saying she’s aiming to bring a sense of Mexican American authenticity to “this story of great importance for our culture.” Sure, yes, it’s a movie about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which sounds a bit disposable and silly. But like the chips themselves, the actual story will likely stay with you for a while.
RoboCop Documentary to Bring One of Dallas’s Greatest Heroes Home
The similarly inspiring tale of how one ordinary policeman became his city’s savior—liberating it from crime and government oppression through little more than his own determination, and millions of dollars’ worth of cybernetic armor—is rarely claimed as Texas’s own. That’s because RoboCop, while filmed almost entirely in Dallas, takes place in Detroit. Still, Paul Verhoeven’s science-fiction classic captures pre-boom (and -bust) eighties Dallas through and through, using its Brutalist city hall and gleaming, Reunion Tower–topped skyline to create the film’s corporate dystopia vibe, and even blowing up chunks of its then-shuttered downtown. This connection will hopefully be cemented in RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop, a long-gestating documentary on the making of the 1987 movie that recently wrapped up filming. Using rare behind-the-scenes footage and fresh interviews with key players like Verhoeven, actor Kurtwood Smith, and even RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, RoboDoc promises to delve into the origin of what should be one of Texas’s most revered folk heroes.
This Week in Matthew McConaughey
We’re probably still safe from being plunged into our own nightmarish near-future run by Governor Matthew McConaughey, dispensing policy in the form of loopily rhyming, New Age-y—and mandatory—video chats. That said, Howard Stern isn’t taking any chances: in the wake of recent polls showing enthusiastic support for celebs like McConaughey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson getting into politics, the SiriusXM host cautioned on a recent show that this would force them to form actual opinions, thus destroying all the goodwill each star gets from being an agreeably handsome blank slate. McConaughey, as Stern pointed out, would eventually have to comment on mass shootings and pick a side on gun control. “As soon as he answers that, half of Texas is going to take him and throw him out a window,” Stern noted, correctly.
Obviously, it’s not a new observation, and this may be why McConaughey has more or less cooled it with that kind of talk lately. While he’s still been dutifully making the podcast rounds to promote his memoir, he’s mostly kept the conversation as vague as his politics, discussing positivity and “values” in a way that’s purely aspirational, but without really promoting—or condemning—anyone’s particular agenda. On his social media channels he’s mostly stuck to sports, cheerleading for his Texas Longhorns and Austin FC teams without ever mentioning their rivals by name, careful to avoid the barest whiff of us-versus-them. It’s probably a wise strategy, whether he wants to run for office someday or not. Though at this rate, Texas could soon be filled with enough celebrities that, as in California from whence they flew, electing one of them governor won’t seem all that ludicrous.
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Original posted at www.texasmonthly.com