Lyndsey Beaulieu was born and raised in New Orleans but moved away to attend the University of Virginia. After college she lived in Los Angeles where she became part of the HBO family as an assistant at the HBO offices, then as a Writers' Assistant on ‘Big Love.’ She has been with ‘Treme’ since the pilot and currently works as the Writers' Office Coordinator.

 

Monday
May232011

Talking to Khandi Alexander

By Lolis Eric Elie

Khandi Alexander is the cat’s pajamas.”  -- Eric Overmyer

For Khandi Alexander, ‘Treme’ represented another chance to work with David Simon. The two had first joined forces on ‘The Corner,’ an HBO miniseries based on a book David co-authored with Ed Burns. When David and Eric Overmyer were creating ‘Treme,’ they approached Khandi to play LaDonna Batiste-Williams, a mother, wife and bar owner whose fiery independence is being put to the test with this season’s plot twists.

My conversation with her was supposed to be about the current season and how Khandi the actor has been dealing with the attack that LaDonna the character suffers in the third episode of season 2 (entitled “On Your Way Down”). But before we could get to that topic, Khandi was revealing fascinating details about her approach to creating her characters. On ‘The Corner,’ she played Fran Boyd, a real-life Baltimore heroin addict who has since turned her life around in a dramatic fashion.

To this day, Khandi and Fran maintain a friendship born during the production of ‘The Corner.’ I wondered whether Khandi had found any real-life parallels to the LaDonna character in New Orleans.

Khandi Alexander: Yes. Yes I have. I was very fortunate. I came in one month prior to filming the pilot. I worked at several bars in Treme slinging beers, and I got to know people. I spent the night at a couple of people’s houses. I did the whole thing. I was looking for her from the time I got here. I don’t think I was looking for her in particular this day, but I found myself shopping in places I knew she’d be, the little bodegas and things like that. And it just happened this one day she was at the register and I just looked at everything she had on. I listened to what she was saying, looked at what she was buying, cigarettes, etc. I said, “That’s her.” I followed her a couple of blocks. Finally, I had to approach her. So I said, “I know it sounds crazy, but ...” She knew who I was, so she went along with me. Then we went back to the hotel and exchanged clothes. I bought the clothes off her back and I wore them for a week.

 It was emotionally very disturbing, to put myself in the middle of the life of someone who survived Katrina. It’s so raw. It’s far better now, now on the other side of the Saints having won the Super Bowl and years going by. But at that time, we were very new. The story we were telling was something people were cautious about. We wanted to be as respectful as possible and yet tell the truth. So you’re walking a fine line.

I always like to find the physical embodiment of my character. I really enjoy that aspect of my work. When I did research for ‘CSI: Miami,’ we went to Miami-Dade County and Los Angeles County, and I met with several coroners and top forensic medical examiners. They were predominately white males. Until, finally, the most breathtakingly beautiful woman in a mini skirt and high heels and hair down to her waist showed up. Full-on lipstick, 4-inch pumps, the whole thing, and I was like, “What?” And she told me that because she dealt with death all the time she could easily allow herself to wear sweatpants 24 hours a day. So she made the effort to hold on to her femininity and even took it to the extreme. So she was who I based that character on. That’s why I’d be in a swamp in high heels and people would go, “Well what are you doing?” I said, “Trust me, I know. This really does happen.”  

Q: When you got the script for the episode “On Your Way Down” were you shocked? Had you had any preparation for what was going to happen in that attack scene?

KA: Well, I’ve got to tell you the most interesting thing; before they gave me this script, David Simon and [episode writer] James Yoshimura came and talked to me. I was saying to them, “But she goes out fighting right?” I was the actress demanding of the creators that they make sure this character is fighting on the way out because I’m thinking, “They’re telling me they are going to kill this character off.” And I’m thinking, “That’s cool. As long as she goes out fighting. As long as you ain’t taking me out like a punk.” So all this time, I had no idea. I honestly thought, “Okay we’re going to wrap it up.” I really did. It was the craziest thing.

Friday
May202011

Eric Overmyer’s Music Crypt – Part II

By Eric Overmyer

My list of semi-obscure/not-quite forgotten New Orleans/South Louisiana albums/songs/performers/artists. 

On the cover of ‘Goin' Back to New Orleans,’ Dr. John is in full Indian regalia.  And his cover version of the title tune is fantastic.  But so is the original, by Joe Liggins and His HoneydrippersDeacon John does a good one too.  Joe Liggins was one of many New Orleanians, especially from the Creole Faubourgs (Treme, the Marigny), who chose their own version of flight and exile and went to Los Angeles post Jim Crow.

Another New Orleans singer who's as forgotten as Joe Liggins is Chuck Carbo, who led a doo wop group called The Spiders (remember them?  No?)  Chuck recorded a number of albums, and some of his most popular songs were "Black Drawers," "Drawers Trouble," and "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On."  I know what he was thinking about.  For years, his "Second Line On Monday" could only be heard on WWOZ and found on the flip side of the 45 of "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On," but it was reissued last year on ‘Chuck Carbo With Ed Frank's New Orleans Rhythm and Blues Band.’  Sonny and Annie sang it in Jackson Square in Season 1's Mardi Gras Episode.  "He must have been a VIP, for the Second Line to wind/From the CBD to the Vieux Carré /To Claiborne and Ursulines."  Talk about local.  Chuck Carbo should have been that kind of VIP, and Ed Frank, too, a now half-forgotten, and never famous, genius New Orleans piano professor. 

Like Ronnie Barron.  A running buddy of Dr. John's, a virtuoso player and singer, a Boogalese from the West Bank.  Check out his amazing vocal on his own compositions, "Louisiana Flood" on ‘It All Comes Back’ and "Broke My Baby's Heart” on ‘Better Days,’ both with the great Paul Butterfield.  There are a million versions of Earl King's "Big Chief" (five hundred thousand by Professor Longhair alone), but one of the best is Ronnie's, off his own solo album, ‘My New Orleans Soul,’ a great and undeservedly forgotten record.  He even whistles like Fess.  And drink some "Pink Champagne" off the same joint.

Goin' Back to New Orleans is not one of Dr. John's obscure albums, but ‘Tango Palace’ is, and it has some of my favorite Mac Rebennack tunes.  He wrote the album with the equally legendary Doc Pomus.  The title tune is tremendous: "Every town's got a tango palace…Every town's got a tango dancer/Pretendin' Latin ancestry…"  If only.  A great version of Chris Kenner's “Something You Got," the wonder "Louisiana Lullaby," and my personal favorite, "I Thought I Heard New Orleans Say."  "Red beans and pinball machines/Chicory coffee and hoodoo queens/File gumbo and pralines/Everything's hot down in New Orleans/I thought I heard New Orleans say/They is a street parade/Down on Esplanade/If it rains we'll feel no pain/Cause we gonna march today."  Yeah you right!  Tighten up with dat umberella!  Tell your bidness!

Wednesday
May182011

What’s on the Menu at Brulard’s?

By Lolis Eric Elie

I happened to be sitting on set with Alan Richman between takes of his scene in Episode 204. There was a copy of the Restaurant Brulard menu sitting around. He picked it up, took a quick look and pronounced it good. There was little time for a more thorough analysis. Soon he was back at work, doing another take. But the fact that at least one New York restaurant critic gave the menu a nod is testament to the combined efforts of Chester Kaczenski, our production designer, Chris Lynch, our chef/food stylist, Anthony Bourdain, who wrote the restaurant scenes in this season's episodes, and Soa Davies, a chef and member of the Le Bernardin brain trust.

Unless Victor Slezak decides to quit acting and open a restaurant using his character’s name and menu, this may be your only chance to drool over these dishes. 

Bon appetit.

Or, failing that, happy drooling!