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Entertainers of the Year: Joshua Maloni's top artist interviews of 2022

by jmaloni
Tue, Dec 20th 2022 07:20 pm

Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni


Let’s face facts: It’s tough out there.

As people continue to migrate back into society post-pandemic, they are faced with a red state-blue state disdain that trumps any Yankees-Red Sox or Bills-Dolphins rivalry; not to mention growing inflation coupled with shrinking supply chain goods; an inability to find workers, or finding workers and an inability to pay them; and not one, but three pesky viruses.

How do we get out of bed in the morning?

While faith, family and friends certainly are remedies, it doesn’t hurt to have a concert to look forward to – and we had plenty this year, thankfully; new music; a great edge-of-your-seat thriller; or some new recipes to sample.

That’s where these talented individuals come into the conversation.

They face the same challenges we all face – but with a goal of entertaining these same masses.

And what does it mean to entertain, if not to bring happiness, excitement, enrichment and, yes, sometimes a good, old-fashioned distraction?

The artists interviewed here – my Entertainers of the Year – are responsible for the songs in our heads, the faces in our 55-inch, high-def frames, and the dinner we’re about to eat. They are worthy of this recognition – and my thanks for taking time out to chat and say “Hello” to the NFP audience.




Gabby Barrett and her husband, Cade Foehner, on the set of "Pick Me Up." (Image courtesy of Sweet Talk Publicity)

  • Country music superstar and ‘American Idol’ standout Gabby Barrett

From the article: Though no one knew who Gabby Barrett was five years ago, she knew herself – what she believed in, what she was capable of, and what she could accomplish if given the right platform.

Gabby said, “Goodness, I certainly have just come a very long way. I have been performing for quite a long time, originally starting from nothing. I mean, I started vigorously touring when I was about 11 years old – started really singing when I was 9. And I just went kind of everywhere for many years, wherever I could possibly go. It was me and my dad and sister that would just go everywhere. And so, I was just touring, singing in grocery stores and malls, and, oh gosh, fairs, small restaurants. I’ve literally sang in the corner of a Chick-fil-A before. I was just singing and going and doing as much as I possibly could.

“I'm originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I have two very hard-working parents who have always had multiple jobs my entire life. So, I think my parents definitely instilled a hard-working characteristic in myself, as well, and I don't take things for granted. And I know that people would die to be doing what I do, and be able to do this job.”

Mandeep Dhillon as Allie Rajan. (CBS photo by Erik Voake/©2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the article: When CBS debuted “CSI: Vegas” last season, part of the appeal was that the show was bringing back original “CSI” stars William Petersen (Gil Grissom) and Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle). While that caught the attention of both hardcore fans and casual channel-flippers, it was the new cast members who made the iconic franchise feel fresh and fun.

Mandeep said, “I think it’s the perfect way to do something like that. I think, if I had created a show – and it had run for so many seasons, and then we wanted to bring it back – I think that would be the perfect thing. You do it with fresh characters, but then you pay your respects, and also give the audience what they want.”

Lizzy Greene stars as Sophie Dixon on "A Million Little Things." (ABC photo by Jack Rowand)


From the article: Lizzy Greene has achieved something many of her contemporaries have not: a second act.

Lizzy said, “I came straight off of Nickelodeon. And so, my experience in the television world was kids comedy. When I went out for my first pilot season after that show had wrapped, I got this show that came in front of me. It really spoke to me, because of how it talks so openly about mental health. And the pilot itself is just so, so amazing.

“Just getting it in front of me, it was just an amazing script. I just loved the story that was going to be about a bunch of friends and how they heal from something that is so tragic.”

Josh Groban (Photo by Doug Inglish/courtesy of BB Gun Press)


  • Acclaimed singer and star of ‘Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration,’ Josh Groban

From the article: In took a pandemic to bring Josh Groban the one thing he hadn’t earned over the course of his storied career: a break.

Josh said, “You know, when you've done 5,000 concerts, my body knows what a concert should feel like; but they were amazing. It was so incredible to be kind of shot out of that cannon and be out in front of an audience, and to be with my band, and to feel that connection again after so much time doing it virtually – and so rarely. It was great.”

Dylan McDermott as SSA Remy Scott. (Photo: Mark Schäfer/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the article: “There's something going on with this guy.”

While that’s how “FBI: Most Wanted” showrunner David Hudgins described Supervisory Special Agent Remy Scott, he could’ve just as easily been describing the actor playing the show’s new lead: Dylan McDermott.

Dylan said, “What's different about Remy, I think, than other procedurals, is a lot of these shows, they're just people doing things because that's their job, and they do a good job. But with Remy, it's very personal what he's doing. He's on a mission. He's on a quest. And there's a dynamic inside of him that he's trying to figure out; his own psychology.”

The Barenaked Ladies perform "The Big Bang Theory Theme" outside of Hibbard's Original Frozen Custard in Lewiston.


From the article: It was three years ago that Hibbard’s Original Frozen Custard announced a partnership with acclaimed Toronto band The Barenaked Ladies. The end result was “Big Barenaked Bang,” an original recipe made with ground coffee, chocolate coffee beans and semisweet chocolate bits.

Ed said, “This was always a place we came every time we played at Artpark. We would either walk out here or cycle out here. It was just kind of a fun part of playing this venue. It’s a cool, family-owned business; local institution. When they approached us about doing a flavor, we said if we can donate our proceeds to charity, we’re all in.”

Tyler said, “I specifically stated that the only flavor we were interested in is one involving coffee! (Laughs)”

"Marry Go Round" stars Amanda Schull and Brennan Elliott. (Photo ©2022 Hallmark Media/photographer: Bettina Strauss)

From the article: Amanda Schull is a unicorn.

She is an outlier in an industry that relishes sameness.

A creator whose path to success is contrary to established convention.

Amanda said, “I love what I get to do for a living. And I think maybe it was meant to be that I was an actor, because I don't know that there's any other career I could have been satisfied doing – because I love the opportunity to learn about all of these different careers, and to zip on other people's suits and experiences – and not have to settle on my own.

“I'm the kind of person, when I go out to eat, I like to have lots of appetizers. I like tapas rather than settling on one big thing.”

Kimberley Sustad as Kerry in "Lights, Camera, Christmas!" (Credit: ©2022 Hallmark Media/photographer: David Astorga)


From the article: Equally inspiring was putting Kimberley Sustad in the lead role. No stranger to holiday films (“The Nine Lives of Christmas,” “The Nine Kittens of Christmas,” “Christmas by Starlight”), Sustad is the perfect counterbalance to the escapism often found in these pictures. The roles she’s played are of real people, with real jobs, who are big-hearted and appropriately pessimistic. Perhaps a better way to say it is Sustad’s characters are keenly aware of “This is too-good-to-be-true” moments. Still, they don’t retreat when such opportunities are presented, but press on toward the goal – whether it’s finding love, saving a family diner, or rescuing a batch of kittens.

Kimberley said, “I've been very fortunate to be able to do Hallmark Christmas movies every year, and it sort of bumps you into the (mood). … I kind of get into it in the summer, when we start filming these things (laughs), because that's when we're making Christmas movies. And then if I'm writing one, it feels like Christmas all year. All the time. So then when Christmas actually comes, I've already kind of done all the signature things – like the light shows, the decorating of the tree; and so, it's almost like round two, again, when the holidays come around. …

“I love them. I think there's something so nostalgic about the holidays. I don't know what it is, but listening as the Christmas music starts playing, watching all the lights or looking at them, and driving through the neighborhoods, it just reminds you of being a kid, which was so fun and simple.”

Shantel VanSanten as special agent Nina Chase. (Photo by David M. Russell/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc.)

From the article: While it was shocking to see Shantel VanSanten’s character come to such an abrupt end on the USA Network’s “Shooter,” it wasn’t a surprise to see her career skyrocket once that series wrapped in 2018.

Shantel said, “You know, it's interesting; I think when you hear the name Dick Wolf, and the empire and global domination that he has, you know that you're going to be entering into a family. And so, that aspect wasn't even a question. I knew that I was interested in it. My main thing was I did want to know about the character (laughs). I think that, as an artist, we constantly search for being able to kind of dive into not just a world for the sake of wanting to be in it, but to actually find a role that you know you can lend your stories and your voice to.”

Brooke Williamson on "Tournament of Champions III." (Food Network photo)


From the article: With double the contestants and double the challenges, who better to win Food Network’s “Tournament of Champions III” than B Dub?

“Top Chef” alum and season one titleholder Brooke Williamson leads a field of 32 culinary masters looking to win host Guy Fieri’s meat-grinder of a competition and take ultimate bragging rights.

Brooke said, “I did know a good handful of the chefs competing. We all kind of run in a tight circle regardless of what network we're on or where we've competed. A lot of us just sort of know each other. It's a tight community.

“So, it was just a really fun experience. Of course, a very stressful experience, but I knew from my history of competing on ‘Top Chef,’ on ‘Knife Fight,’ on what have you, that the quick fires – the sort of ‘set the clock, here's some ingredients, and go’ scenarios is kind of where I perform at my highest level. So, it was a really exciting, fun competition for me, and I think a great way for me to showcase what I'm sort of inherently good at.”




Jesse Lee Soffer as Jay Halstead, Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton and Jason Beghe as Hank Voight. (NBC photo by Lori Allen)

Marina Squerciati as Kim Burgess and Patrick John Flueger as Adam Ruzek on NBC's "Chicago P.D." (Photo by Lori Allen/NBC)

From the article: “One Chicago” – the triumvirate of “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D." – has become the cornerstone of NBC’s scripted programming, with each show among the network’s most-watched series. At the foundation of that universe is the Halstead brothers – Dr. Will (Nick Gehlfuss) and Det. Jay (Jesse Lee Soffer).

Jason on his character, Sgt. Hank Voight: “He bounces back, but sometimes, you know, it's a Super Bowl. You know, it doesn't bounce where you want it to bounce. But it does bounce, and where it bounces is the question.

“But he will do his best, as always. It's just there's more stuff working against him. So that makes it interesting. You know, there's no game without an obstacle.”

From the article: “Burzek” just can’t catch a break.

Engagement, separation, pregnancy, miscarriage, near-death experiences – in nine seasons of “Chicago P.D.,” intelligence unit officers Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati) and Adam Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger) have gone through a lot together.

But what happened last week might take the catastrophe cake.

Marina said, “When I read it, I was like, “Oh, they’re happy – no!

“It was such a surprising twist when I read it, which, as an actress who has read scripts every week for nine years, it was cool. It was a cool moment to be like, ‘Wow.’ It's just like so unexpected at the end. It was fun.”

Patrick said, “It was fun to play that moment … but I don't know. I knew that the downfall was coming (laughs).”

Jeremy Camp (Photo courtesy of Premier Production/EPIC Agency/CMA Media Promotions)
  • Christian singer and the subject of ‘I Still Believe,’ Jeremy Camp

From the article: The story of Job has been shared over the years in myriad church and Sunday school sessions. For many, that’s all it is – a story. But for Jeremy Camp, a key question within the 42-chapter book became all too real when his 21-year-old wife died 21 years ago.

Would he trust God on his darkest day?

Jeremy said, “I think that, overall, I've come out on the other end just more resolved than ever before. What I mean by that is like, even when I'm on stage, there's this sense of just – how do I say this? I just feel that resolve when I'm on stage. Even when I'm sharing, when I'm playing, there's no angst. There's no, ‘I got to make sure that the crowd is doing this, or doing that,’ at all. It's just, I know exactly what God's calling me to do. I know that he's called me to do it. And I know he's going to give me the ability to do it.”

"Law & Order" key art by NBCUniversal.

From the article: The mothership is back.

“Law & Order” is returning for a 21st season on NBC – complete with Sam Waterston as D.A. Jack McCoy!

Creator Dick Wolf’s iconic series will, the network noted, “continue the classic bifurcated format that was created for its original run” and “once again examine ‘the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.’ ”

In 2022 – and as fans will see in the season premiere – it might be more accurate to call it “Law vs. Order.”

Odelya said, “I have been a fan of ‘Law & Order’ since I was a kid. I would watch it in the ’90s. This is a dream come true, and I cannot think of another show or franchise that I could be a part of that would get me as excited as this one does.

“This is the show that got me interested in law. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I would watch and love anything that covered a murder case, forensics, etc. And who wouldn’t be super excited (and also nervous) to be working with this amazing cast? I am learning so much every day and feel so fulfilled as an actor.”

Sophie B. Hawkins (Photo by Shervin Lainez/courtesy of Press Here Publicity)

From the article: Sophie B. Hawkins is in a good place these days.

The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has found a creative groove – and it’s come at a perfect time. She is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her Platinum-selling debut album, “Tongues and Tails,” and the smash hit “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Hawkins also is touring with her contemporary, Paula Cole, whose seminal “This Fire” (and hits “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” and “I Don’t Want to Wait”) commemorated 25 years in 2021.

Sophie B. said, “I feel happy. And I feel so clear. Like, when I get up and I'm working on my different projects, I don't feel stressed and confused about what I'm doing when.

“When I'm going out to do a show, and I've practiced and rehearsed for that show, I know what I'm doing. When I work on my memoir, I know exactly what I'm doing. And then when I switch gears and I go into my musical, I feel ‘OK, I know exactly what I’m doing.’ And I actually like moving around and being very, very focused, and then moving off on to something then coming back to it.

“I've never been able to do this in my life. And I honestly think that having two children, and going through COVID, has trained me to be able to be really happy completing things. It's not linear anymore. It's like everything has its own lane, and I keep switching lanes – but not neurotically. And it keeps me fresh and happy. I don't get bogged down by, I don’t know, just the heaviness of youth. I have the levity of age!”

Chef Geoffrey Zakarian on "Big Restaurant Bet." (Food Network photo)

From the article: Add cheerleader to Geoffrey Zakarian’s already impressive resume.

With aspiring restaurant owners in need of guidance – particularly with everything they’ve faced since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – Zakarian is taking a “can-do” approach to “Big Restaurant Bet.” He is putting $250,000 of his resources into “the next rising star in the restaurant world” on a new Food Network competition series.

GZ said, “The Food Network is a 30-year-old phenomenon that has made everyone leapfrog technically, emotionally and knowledgewise for so many years, in so short a period of time. I'm just happy to be a part of that.

“I was always a part of food. I was a chef/restauranteur for many years, until 2007, when I got the nod to start ‘Chopped.’ So, when I got on as a judge, people who didn't know my restaurants thought I was a judge. And then I won ‘Iron Chef.’ And they're like, ‘Wait a minute, you're a chef!?!’

“To me, it was like, ‘What? That's what I've been doing my entire career. I've been a chef.’ So, it was very easy to go on a network and be around food, and talk about food, and be a quote-unquote “expert” on food to judge people; to judge other people's plates. That was very easy.

“I had no idea what was to come. I had no idea that the power of the network, even 15 years ago, was powerful. Now, it’s like immediately you turn on the TV, there’s 25 chef shows on TV. Right? Between Netflix and Bravo, and all that, and Food Network and Discovery and HGTV, it's amazing what's happened. That happened, literally, in 15 years. On our watch. We watched it happen.”




Kenny Wayne Shepherd toured with the legendary Buddy Guy on the first "Backroads Blues Festival."

(Images courtesy of Kenny Wayne Shepherd management)

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