By Nate Bloom
“Wilderness” is an original Amazon Prime mystery-thriller series that will premiere on Sept. 15. Oddly, the number of episodes isn’t stated anywhere. Amazon never drops a whole season when a show premieres. So, be ready to follow it for about 10 successive weeks.
Here’s the basic plot: “Wilderness” revolves around a British couple Liv (Jenna Coleman) and Will (OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, 36) who seem to have it all: a rock-solid marriage and a glamorous new life in New York. Then Liv learns about Will’s affair. Her heartbreak is followed by furious rage and she wants revenge.
Will proposes a trip around America’s epic national parks to give their relationship a fresh start. Liv thinks the trip will give her opportunities to get revenge.
Four Jewish actors are top credited, but except for Jackson-Cohen, it is unclear (now) if the other three will appear in every episode. They are JONATHAN KELTZ, TALIA BALSAM and ERIC BALFOUR.
Jackson-Cohen, a very handsome fellow, is best known for playing the title role in “The Invisible Man,” a 2020 film, and for his lead role in the two “Haunting” series on Netflix (2018 and 2020). Critics liked “Invisible Man” and it made a lot of money. “The Haunting” series got a thumbs-up from critics and Netflix viewers.
Jackson-Cohen’s late father, DAVID, and his Orthodox Jewish family, left Egypt in the ‘50s and settled in the U.K. David’s widow, and Oliver’s mother, is fashion designer Betty Jackson. She isn’t Jewish. In a couple of interviews, Jackson-Cohen talked about his Jewish background, but didn’t discuss his religious upbringing.
Keltz, 34, is also the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. He was raised (only) celebrating Jewish holidays. He was born in New York, but mostly grew-up in Toronto. He had a recurring role on “Entourage,” an HBO series, and he had a biggish role in “Reign,” a CW series. He plays Detective Wiseman in “Wilderness.”
Talia Balsam, 64, plays “Bonnie” in “Wilderness.” Balsam is the daughter of the late actor MARTIN BALSAM, an Oscar winner. Her mother is non-Jewish actress Joyce Van Patten, now 89. Her parents’ marriage was brief. I don’t believe Talia has ever talked about her religious background, if any.
Talia has worked steadily since 1979, but never hit it big. Sadly, until George Clooney re-married in 2014, and had kids, Talia was most famous as George Clooney’s only wife (1989-93). She had a recurring role on “Mad Men” as the wife, and ex-wife, of star character Roger Sterling. Roger was played by John Slattery, Balsam’s real-life husband.
Eric Balfour, 46, plays “Garth” in “Wilderness.” He’s worked steadily since 2000, with big recurring roles on “Six Feet Under” and “24.” Both his parents are Jewish. In 2015, he wed fashion designer ERIN CHIAMULON and they have two children. Erin’s father is of Greek (not Jewish) background. Her mother is Jewish.
“The Morning Show” is an Apple+ drama series about a network news show. The 10-episode third season began on Sept. 13. I think “The Morning Show” is one of the best series anywhere. But it works better, I think, if you binge watch whole seasons.
This week, I was going to lay-out the “evolving” Jewish background of “Morning Show” star JULIANNE MARGULIES (“E.R”., “The Good Wife”), but I just discovered a recent, but almost obscure video interview with Margulies. It provides so much info about her Jewish community activities that I have to briefly postpone my “Morning Show” and Margulies item.
Not that long ago, I happened on an online bio of ‘Mama’ CASS ELLIOTT (1941-1974), the very talented Jewish member of the Mamas and the Papas, the famous ‘60s group. It noted that Cass had one child, a daughter named OWEN ELLIOTT-KUGELL (born 1967). After her mother’s death, Owen was raised by Cass’s sister, LEAH (also a singer).
I looked elsewhere and found out that Owen married (1991) JACK KUGELL, a versatile music producer. They have two children. Jack’s father, the late MARTY KUGELL, produced (1956) “In the Still of the Night,” a “doo-wop” classic.
I was 99% sure Jack Kugell, now 57, is Jewish. Then I asked a Jewish friend, an “oldies” DJ, about Jack. He had already confirmed that Jack was Jewish. It’s nice that Cass’s daughter married a Jewish guy with maybe the cutest, and “most tasty” Jewish last name I’ve ever come across.
Owen and Michelle Phillips (of the Mamas and Papas) were on hand when Cass got (Oct. 2022) a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.