For Jill Wagner, a Winston-Salem native, the chance to star in “The Legend of 5 Mile Cave” was “a no-brainer for me.”
“I have two firsts — my first period piece and my first Western, two things on my bucket list of things that I’d love to do,” said Wagner, perhaps best known as one of the hosts of ABC’s “Wipeout” and has appeared in various films, TV shows and Hallmark TV-movies. She fondly recalls watching “Gunsmoke” reruns with her grandfather while growing up, and was also a big fan of “Little House on the Prairie.”
“5 Mile Cave,” a family-friendly Western TV-movie, airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on INSP (channel 461 on Spectrum Cable, also available on other services). Another part of the TV-movie’s appeal was that Wagner has a long-standing relationship with INSP, having starred in the series “Handcrafted America” for them.
In “5 Mile Cave,” she plays Susan Tilwicky, a strong-willed widow in 1929 whose farm is on the verge of foreclosure but who refuses to give up on her late husband’s dreams. “I felt a real connection to her; she’s the kind of woman I would look up to,” Wagner said. She reluctantly takes in a boarder, a burly drifter named Sam played by Adam Baldwin, who shares tales of the Wild West with Susan’s impressionable young son Tommy (Jet Jurgensmeyer) as he helps tend the farm. Susan has some qualms, not wanting her son to become too enamored with flights of fancy, but eventually befriends Sam as his past catches up with him.
The story is split across two time periods, some of it taking part in the late 19th century and shot in Arizona, with Jeremy Sumpter as gunslinger Shooter Green, the subject of Sam’s tales, and part in 1929 and filmed around a farmhouse outside Atlanta.
One thing Wagner had to adapt to was the dialect for a character in 1920s Kentucky. “Not only is it a different Southern accent but it’s slower,” she said. “They had a certain cadence they spoke in, softer and slower. I remember trying to get that right. It was a challenge for me, I have to admit. I was kind of nervous to speak for the director the first time, but I had to just go there.
“When I saw the movie, it didn’t make me cringe,” she added. “If it doesn’t make me cringe, that’s good.”
Working with Adam Baldwin, best known as the irascible mercenary Jayne in “Firefly” and “Serenity” and the gruff but lovable John Casey on “Chuck,” was another bonus. “Adam is awesome,” Wagner said. “Total pro, totally down to Earth, a great actor and a real privilege.”
Wagner had played a mom before, including in the movie “Braven” where she played the wife of Jason Momoa, but this was her first time playing a mother since becoming one herself. “Now that I have a stepdaughter who’s 9 years old, it helped me feel more grounded in that role,” she said. “Before, I felt I had no idea what I was doing.”
In 2017, Wagner married former professional hockey player David Lemanowicz. They recently moved to a farmhouse in Tennessee, but she hasn’t had much of a chance to enjoy her new home yet. “My land overlooks the North Carolina mountains, so that’s a little bit of home,” she said. “As much as I love my farm in Tennessee, spring and summer are my favorite seasons, and I’ve been gone for spring and will be gone for most of summer.”
She has several other cable movies coming up for Hallmark, including “Mystery 101: Playing Dead,” which will debut at 9 p.m. June 23 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and the forthcoming “Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses,” with even more in the works. “They’ve kept me pretty busy,” she said. “I’m going back to Vancouver to shoot two more movies, and then a vacation in Hawaii.”
The crime comedy-drama “Claws” returns for its third season at 9 p.m. today on TNT. The series follows a group of manicurists led by Desna (Niecy Nash), whose Florida nail salon became a front for money laundering, which over the course of the series has led them into a life of crime.
Jenn Lyon, a UNC School of the Arts alumna and High Point native, plays Jennifer, a brassy, “tenuously sober” manicurist who is Desna’s best friend and confidante. Lyon previously had a recurring role on “Justified” and was a regular on the comedy “Saint George,” and has had guest roles on such shows as “Army Wives,” “Louie” and “Suburgatory.”
I’ve now had a chance to watch the bonus features from the digital home video release of “Game of Thrones: Season 8” from HBO Home Entertainment. And whatever your opinion of the season itself — which some fans complained felt rushed — the extras are a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into the series as a whole. While many Digital HD releases of TV shows are sadly lacking in any extras, this one has more than two hours of material.
“The Last Watch,” a 113-minute documentary, is an exhaustive look at the work behind the scenes on the show, with the focus on the production crew, stunt teams, extras and special effects crews rather than on the stars. “In Production,” a four-minute short, has the cast looking back on the legacy of the show and preparing to say goodbye. And “Anatomy of a Scene” is a compelling 17-minute documentary entirely focused on the epic battle scene in “The Long Night,” the siege of Winterfell by the White Walker army.
The Digital HD version of Season 8 is now available on various platforms including iTunes and Vudu. There is no word yet on the DVD/Blu-ray release of the show, but those are typically released in December for gift-giving purposes.
Several popular — but perhaps not popular enough — shows have just gotten the axe. SyFy canceled “Happy,” a bizarre series with Christopher Meloni as a grizzled detective who teams up with an imaginary flying unicorn voiced by Patton Oswalt, after two seasons, and “Deadly Class,” about a high school that trains assassins, after one. And Amazon has canceled “Sneaky Pete,” starring Giovanni Ribisi as a con artist, after three seasons. Also, the streaming service DC Universe pulled the plug on “Swamp Thing,” which has only aired two episodes so far. The series, shot in Wilmington, has a cast including Jeryl Prescott, a former Winston-Salem resident. DCU will presumably show the remaining eight episodes that were produced.
Several local people advanced to the next round on “American Ninja Warrior” following Wednesday night’s Atlanta round.
Kenny Niemitalo, from Trinity, and Chad Hohn, the owner of Level Up Triad training center in Thomasville, came in at numbers 8 and 16 respectively, completing the course and moving to the next round as well. And Neil “Crazy” Craver, an artist from Winston-Salem, did not make it through the obstacle course, coming up short on the “mega wall,” but did well enough to qualify as number 19.
They will all advance to the Atlanta Finals, which will air later this summer on NBC.