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Berlanti announces new ‘Riverdale’ spin-off

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Lucy Hale is “Katy Keene” (Image courtesy The CW)

Television powerhouse Greg Berlanti has announced another spinoff from his popular CW series, “Riverdale.”

Like the previous show, Berlanti’s new series is inspired by the iconic “Archie” Comics. “Katy Keene” follows the lives and loves of four iconic “Archie” characters — fashion legend-to-be Katy Keene (Lucy Hale), singer/songwriter Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray), performer Jorge Lopez/Ginger (Jonny Beauchamp), and “It Girl” Pepper Smith (Julia Chan) — as they chase their twenty-something dreams in New York City… together.

The show’s official synopsis:

“Katy designs clothes for anyone she can, including her friend and roommate Josie, whose singing talent catches the attention of Alexander Cabot (Lucien Laviscount), a CEO who hopes to reboot the record label division of his father’s corporate empire. But Alexander’s dream of signing Josie to a recording contract meets resistance from Cabot Media’s powerful senior vice president Alexandra (Camille Hyde), who also happens to be his twin sister. Josie and Katy’s roommate Jorge works at his family’s bodega and has his eye on Broadway, but after a series of rejections, he hopes to take his drag performance career as Ginger to the next level. The mysterious Pepper Smith plans to open her own version of Andy Warhol’s Factory. She has the connections, but no one seems to know where she got her money — or if she really has any at all.

“Katy struggles to manage the pressures of her day job at Lacy’s Department Store and her very demanding boss, Gloria (Katherine LaNasa), who is a legendary personal shopper. But Katy has the support of her longtime boyfriend, KO Kelly (Zane Holtz), who has his own dream of becoming a professional boxer. As these aspiring artists take on the runway, the recording studio, Broadway, and the NYC social scene, they will find more than just a career in the big city — they’ll find long-lasting friendship.”

“Katy Keene,” like Berlanti’s other “Archie” shows (“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” which airs on Netflix, was a previous spin-off from the “Riverdale” universe), will feature LGBTQ characters.

Berlanti, who identifies as gay, has a long history of creating content with strong LGBTQ representation. His shows have featured several historic firsts, including the first same-sex kiss between two men on network television (“Dawson’s Creek”), the first same-sex legal marriage on network television (“Brothers and Sisters”), the first recurring transgender character on primetime television (“Dirty Sexy Money”), and the the first live action transgender superhero (“Supergirl”). He also wrote and directed the theatrical film, “Love, Simon,” which the first teen comedy from a major studio to feature a same-sex romance as its principal narrative.

“Katy Keene” will premiere on the CW network February 6, 2020. You can watch the trailer below.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride in the Park

Annual celebration featured vendors, performers

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(Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

Baltimore Pride in the Park was held at Druid Hill Park on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Linus Berggren)

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PHOTOS: “Portraits”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs at the Kennedy Center

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A scene from "Portraits," as performed in a technical rehearsal at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, June 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performed “Portraits” at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Sophie Zmorrod embracing life on the road in ‘Kite Runner’

First national tour comes to Eisenhower Theater on June 25

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Sophie Zmorrod (Photo courtesy of Zmorrod)

‘The Kite Runner’
June 25 – 30
The Kennedy Center
$39-$149
Kennedy-center.org

Newly single, Sophie Zmorrod is enjoying life on the road in the first national tour of “The Kite Runner,” Matthew Spangler’s play with music based on Khaled Hosseini’s gripping novel about damaged relationships and longed for redemption. 

“It’s a wonderful time for me,” says Zmorrod. “I’m past the breakup pain and feeling empowered to explore new cities. A lot of us in the cast are queer, so we figure out the scene wherever the show goes.” 

What’s more, the New York-based actor has fallen in love with the work. “I love how the play’s central character Amir is flawed. He is our antihero. He has faults. As a privileged boy in Kabul, he bears witness to his best friend’s assault and doesn’t intervene. He lives with that guilt for decades and gets that redemption in the end.” 

“He does what he can to right wrongs. For me who’s regretted things, and wished I could go back in time, it resonates. Watching someone forgive themselves and do the right thing is beautiful.” 

Via phone from Chicago (the tour’s stop before moving on to Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on June 25), Zmorrod, whose background is Lebanese, happily chats about sexuality, ethnicity, and acting. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Looking at your resume, I see you’ve been cast in roles traditionally played by men. And have you played queer characters? 

SOPHIE ZMORROD: Oh yes, both. Whether or not they’re written on the page as queer, they sometimes turn out that way. And that holds true for this show too.  

With “The Winter’s Tale” at Trinity Rep, I played Leontes — the king who banishes his wife — as a woman. So, in that production it was about two women and touched on the violence that women sometimes inflict on other women.

And there was Beadle Bamford in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” also at Trinity Rep; I played him as a woman who was masculine and wore a suit. It was a great opportunity to explore myself and gender expression. That was a really good experience. 

BLADE: Are you an actor who’s often be called in for queer roles? 

ZMORRAD: Not really. I’m what you might call straight passing. Sometimes I’ve had to advocate for my queerness. To be a part of something. 

Similarly with my ethnicity. I’m called in to audition for the white and Arab roles. It gets tricky because I’m not the exactly the white girl next door and I’m not exactly Jasmine from Disney’s “Aladdin” either. 

This is one of the reasons, I really want people to come see “The Kite Runner,” Audiences need to experience the reality of the wide diversity of Middle Eastern people on the stage. We’re all very different.

And not incidentally, from this 14-person cast, I’ve met some great people to add to those I know from the Middle Eastern affinity spaces and groups I’m connected to in New York.

BLADE: In “The Kite Runner” what parts do you play?

 ZMORRAD: Three characters. All women, I think. In the first act, I’m an elderly eccentric pomegranate seller in the Afghan market, waddling around, speaking in Dari [the lingua franca of Afghanistan]; and the second act, I’m young hip and sell records in a San Francisco market; and at the end, I’m a buttoned-down American immigration bureaucrat advising Amir about adoption.

BLADE:  Your training is impressive: BA cum laude in music from Columbia University, an MFA in acting from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company, and you’re also accomplished in opera and playwrighting, to name a few things. Does “The Kite Runner” allow you to flex your many muscles? 

ZMORROD: Very much. Playing multiple roles is always fun for an actor – we like malleability. Also, there are instruments on stage. I like working with the singing bowl; it’s usually used in yoga as a soothing sound, but here we save it for the dramatic, uncomfortable moments. I also sing from offstage. 

We are creating the world of the play on a very minimal set. Oh, and we do kite flying. So yeah, lots of challenges. It’s great. 

BLADE: It sounds like you’re in a good place both professionally and personally.

ZMORROD: It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable. But I’m on the journey and excited to be where I am, and who I am. 

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