AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

1/26/12

Missing: A Conversation With Ashley Judd



By Winnie Bonelli

“I am not CIA. I’m a mother looking for my son.” Once she could utter that statement without dissolving into a bundle of giggles, Ashley Judd knew everything else would be a walk in the park. She mischievously added, “Kind of daunting, you know. It’s no small thing to be a trained operative for the CIA. I didn’t take it lightly.”
      
The 43-year-old film actress\humanitarian\political activist portrays a frantic, determined mom, Becca Winstone in WABC-TV’s midseason replacement  Missing, premiering at 8 p.m. tomorrow (March 15). In each hour episode, Judd manages to get chased, trampled, beaten, and shot as she treks through most of Europe’s major cities in search of her son, young Michael Winstone (Caleb Smith), who went missing during a summer internship in Italy.
       
Although fans haven’t seen much of Judd over the past few years, she’s hasn’t  been idle. Along with earning a Master in Public Administration degree from John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, she also penned a memoir titled “All That Is Bitter and Sweet.”
        
“Obviously, I was aware that this is a golden age in television, that incredible film producers are making special TV. That once rather impermeable membrane between film actors and TV actors has completely vanished,” the Kentucky native said.
        
“I remember turning on The Big C, a show I enjoyed, and there was Liam Neeson during a guest turn. While I was in school people were sending me a lot of television material, but it was either try to get an ‘A’ in Health and Human Rights or read a script. I figured that since I was in school, I might as well go for the grade.”
        
After wrapping up her scholastic studies, she got the call. “My agent called me with that special lilt in her voice, the one which all actors love to hear – ‘I think I found the one.’ I flew to Los Angeles and met with the producers. They pitched me a sensational idea.
        
“We’re going to film 10 episodes, which does work well with the balance of my very abundant life. Hey, each episode is event TV, set in a glorious European capital. What’s not to love?” asked Judd, whose “abundant life” includes a husband – racing car driver Dario Franchitti, a global ambassadorship for YouthAIDS, a preventative program under Population Services International, and three fashion lines – AJ, Love Ashley, and Ashley Judd.
        
Working in television isn’t entirely new, considering Judd landed her first acting job back in 1991 on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The two-episode gig cast her as Ensign Robin Lefler, a Starfleet officer. Graduating afterward to the big screen, a partial  list includes Ruby in Paradise, Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, Where the Heart Is, High Crimes, and 2004’s Cole Porter musical bio, De-Lovely, opposite Kevin Kline, that garnered her a Golden Globe nomination.
        
Proclaiming, “I love to fight and I find it easy and rewarding,” Judd does the vast majority of her own stunts in Missing, and fluently speaks French, Italian, but couldn’t entirely master Czech. That footage didn’t make the cut, Judd quipped, “Please get off my back, at the same time I was trying to fly a helicopter.”
       
And a bonus for any viewer that has faithfully watched and waited until a season’s finale and then unceremoniously been dismissed, producer Gregory Poirier promised a resolution, “I will tell you this story will close by the end of the season. You will feel satisfied and you will think, ‘Oh, my God. Now it’s going there.”

Winnie Bonelli writes for Life & Style Magazine, The Independent [Hamptons], New Jersey Monthly and The Herald News. She is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle.

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