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So you've got some time on your hands thanks to increasingly strict social-distancing recommendations from the CDC. While you're consuming hours of Netflix, what about all the people who make those shows — and write the books, direct the films and play the music that's keeping you sane in isolation? The Times reached out to stars, artists, filmmakers, showrunners and some of L.A.'s leading culture figures to find out what they'll be digging into for the next few weeks — at least.
I’m a fan of Robert B. Parker’s detective fiction, so I’m really looking forward to Mark Wahlberg’s take on Spenser on Netflix. And I’m going to play a lot more poker than I’ve been able to in years, especially now that my poker game has discovered how to play together online through a Zoom meeting. All the fun of cards and none of the germs!
Singer-songwriter and author
I’m reading Anthony Burgess’ bio of Shakespeare, and Hilary Mantel’s final book in the trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, “The Mirror and the Light,” so I’m immersed in Tudor and Elizabethan history at the moment. (They had plagues as well!) I’m going to catch up on “Outlander” and “Homeland,” and my son is going to teach me how to do a game on Xbox but says he has to think of something that’s not too violent for me.
Yvette Nicole Brown
Actor and writer, “Always a Bridesmaid”
Music-wise, I’m in love with the new albums by “Hamilton” alums Leslie Odom Jr. (“Mr.”) and Anthony Ramos (“The Good & the Bad”). On TV, the Hillary Clinton documentary is everything! And I’m thinking of diving back into reading “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino. I can use a refresher on that wisdom these days.
Showrunner, “The Terror: Infamy”
With two kids in the house, the vast majority of the content I'm consuming comes in short bursts for the rare occasions I have a free moment. For this, YouTube is your best friend. I'm partial to U.K. panel and game shows (“QI,” “Taskmaster,” “Would I Lie to You,” “Only Connect”) — and of course the Bon Appetit test kitchen is like “Cheers” for our times.
I started a book that’s somewhere between prose and a novel, “The Blue Clerk” by Dionne Brand. There are a few others on the shelf. It’s nice when the kids are around because they can expose me to new music. I’ve been listening to Sunny War, an artist from Los Angeles, and digging Yola and rediscovering the work of Jackie Shane.
Director, “The Lovebirds”
I always love listening to L.A. radio stations KCRW, KPCC and KUSC. I'll be doing a lot of that. Plus podcasts. Some of my current favorites are the newest season of "You Must Remember This"; Wondery's six-part "We Crashed"; and "Trumpcast" is always very good.
Actor, “Your Honor”
[My husband], Bradley [Whitford], and our kids have so far settled on “Glee” and “Cabin in the Woods.” We are so lucky to have so much content available to pore through, including old shows and movies we just never got to see, or did see and want to revisit. Nostalgia right now is the best. I can’t tell you how many people are telling Bradley thank you because they are rewatching “The West Wing” to calm down. Seven years of 22 episodes will take at least a few days!
I'll be reading some kid books with my daughter — “Little House [on the Prairie],” “Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear,” maybe “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry,” for discussion and writing. My mom is a teacher so I'm following her recommendations and blending them with my daughter's school's ideas. But as an adult, I'm watching “Law & Order” reruns, “Murder, She Wrote” for sure and every true-crime documentary that I can find — like “Evil Genius” on Netflix.
Catching up on a few films — we watched the always great Timothy Olyphant in 2010’s “The Crazies” last night — and a bunch of documentaries. I read the late Barbara Sinatra’s biography on Frank, but mostly my wife and I have been glued to social media for news and overall distraction.
Chef-restaurateur and host, “Ugly Delicious”
“Westworld,” because I loved the first two seasons. The highs are high and lows very low but the fact that they based a lot of the AI/consciousness stuff, I think, on a book I had to study in college — Julian Jaynes’ “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" — makes it worthwhile. And now with Disney+, I’m going to watch everything “Star Wars” all over again, plus things I’ve never watched like “Rebels” and “Clone Wars.” And I finally have a chance to catch up on reading — the biographies that Steven Naifeh and Gregory Smith cowrote on Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock.
I live on the Criterion Channel, where I'm making my way through the Andrei Tarkovsky films that've just arrived. In typical Blerd (Black nerd) fashion I'm also bouncing between past seasons of "Survivor" and all the "Star Treks" on CBS All Access. Also totally addicted to "Love Is Blind" and Marvin Lemus' new show "Gentefied" on Netflix. Excited for new "Boomerang" and "Twenties" on BET. Also, for Blerd reasons, playing the iPad port of the Super Nintendo game "Chrono Trigger."
Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly
Musician and actor, "Big Time Adolescence"
I am a huge fan of graphic novels/comics because not only is the writing very cerebral (depending on which ones you read) but the art and storylines bring in a fantasy element — sometimes real life sucks, like right now, and you just need an escape. "Saga," "Sandman: Odyssey," "Lucifer," "Snotgirl," "Kill or Be Killed," "Plastic," "V for Vendetta."
Actor-creator, “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay”
I’m catching up on things — I finally saw “Grey Gardens”! “JoJo Rabbit,” “The Good Place” and “Schitt’s Creek.” I’m also trying to do good learning: I’m doing research for my show and watching documentaries. I was really into all the tonight-shows-without-audiences. I like to listen to the staff’s reaction in the audience and judge how popular the host is with the employees.
Singer, Sylvan Esso
I am finally playing “Skyrim” almost 10 years after it came out — it is a perfect escape into dragon land. Lots of magic; beautiful armor; many, many books and conversations to have with townspeople; and a plethora of dungeons, caverns and underground temples to be explored. If I need a break from killing all the Draugrs, I go back to finding the last few charms in “Hollow Knight”: a beautiful, expansive, cute and dark metroidvania that I can't compliment enough. I am also eagerly awaiting the release of “Animal Crossing.” Nick [Sanborn, Meath’s husband and musical partner] was playing “Death Stranding” but had to stop since there is enough stranding going on.
I have one book I’m looking forward to starting, “Stay” by Catherine Ryan Hyde, which works really well with the times that we’re living in. Also “The Rise” by Sarah Lewis, which is about creativity. Oh, and flowers! Playing good music and flowers — those are my comforts, from pop to jazz to classical, a little hip-hop. I do Tidal playlists.
I am continuing to work as much as possible during this crazy time — first and foremost on the production draft of the season finale of "Sex/Life" but also on a couple of projects I have in development. If I didn’t live with two very active munchkins who currently require homeschooling, I’d be lying in bed, catching up on "Homeland" and writing up pitches for new projects. As it is, I’m not lying in bed, and those pitches are yet to be written, but I’m two episodes into this season of "Homeland" and loving it as much as always.
I am reading more books than television — partially because I find it calms my mind more than watching a screen, and also because our television is not working. I just finished Patti Smith’s “M Train” and am diving into “Year of the Monkey” now. I also just started to revisit Sylvia Plath’s “Unabridged Journals.” I’m now homeschooling my 9-year-old son and we are reading “Where The Red Fern Grows.”
Right now I'm reading Flea's autobiography, "Acid for the Children," and it's amazing. He writes in a really poetic way, from a sensitive perspective, about his brutal upbringing. It's been one of my favorite books in a long time. And I finally got around to watching the Alexander McQueen documentary yesterday and loved learning more about him. I find inspiration in creatives from all different kinds of mediums and art forms, I feel like their stories are all relatable in some kind of way.
My girlfriend and I started “Breaking Bad,” which we’ve been loving. She also got me the Nintendo Switch for my birthday, so we’ve been racing each other on "Mario Kart." I’m highly considering buying the new "Harry Potter Lego" game. I’ve been playing a ton of guitar and digging into Pinegrove’s most recent record, “Marigold,” as well as Dawes tunes. I’ve been writing new songs, started a puzzle and plan on reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers.”
Curator, the Wende Museum
"Gloryous Dance Affair" is the autobiography of the extraordinary philanthropist Glorya Kaufman who, following the death of her husband in a plane crash, created a new life for herself helping others. The experience of loneliness and despair pushes her to realize her true calling, a situation that feels particularly appropriate and relevant these days. I also took Peter Baldwin’s book "Disease and Democracy" down from the shelf and am halfway through. His book takes AIDS as a case study for investigating how national customs, cultures and histories shape countries’ responses to epidemics. It sheds light on why certain nations have fared better than others in combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the reads that are piquing my interest have inspiring, consciousness-expanding, soul-penetrating themes. “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle is a book I am about to crack open. I’m also really loving a book called “Womb Awakening” by Azra and Seren Bertrand. We have a record player in our living room that’s being put to good use for solo and family dance parties. Pretty much anything by Bob Marley and U2 is on repeat.
I’m working on my normal projects — mural collaborations with the ACLU and voter registration events for this summer and fall — despite the disruptions and panic. I’m reading Flea’s book, “Acid for the Children,” and Edward Snowden’s “Permanent Record” right now. I’m not a fearful person, so I’m embarrassed when I look at the behavior of a lot of people, in general, and specifically related to coronavirus. Of course I’m a believer in precautions, but society shouldn’t collapse over this.
Musician, Watkins Family Hour and Nickel Creek
Maybe in a contrasting response to stocking up on pantry items, I have begun trying to thin out my collections of vinyl that maybe I purchased for one song, or maybe the cover artwork drew me in … many records I have had over a decade and not listened once. So I am listening down to my collection and saying goodbye to the records that no longer do it for me. Also I'm rewatching "Better Call Saul" and "Cheers."
Musician, Watkins Family Hour and Nickel Creek
During the day I’ve been reading, playing guitar and talking to friends/family about everything that’s happening, and in the evenings I’m streaming TV shows like "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Arrested Development," anything Planet Earth-related, and comedy stuff like Tom Papa’s Netflix special "You’re Doing Great." It’s just so great! It’ll definitely take a bit of the edge off the ol’ anxiety.
I am reading “Black Dahlia Avenger” by Steve Hodel. I cannot do another thing.
Matthew Brennan, Randy Lewis, Deborah Vankin and Mikael Wood contributed reporting.