A Conversation with Executive Producer Michael Jaffe
Q: How did you get involved in this project?
A: We worked on this project when it was at CBS for quite a while. That's where Michael Wright, senior vice president of original programming for TNT, first knew about it, as well. CBS wanted to make the picture but eventually decided they didn't. Michael had moved over to TNT by that time, and he expressed an interest in it, since it sounded right for TNT's JOHNSON & JOHNSON SPOTLIGHT PRESENTATION® film series.
Q: What's special about THE ENGAGEMENT RING?
A: The movie is part of a tradition that is popularly known to have begun with Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. What basically happens is that, within the first act of the play, you meet two people who are clearly very elegant, very smart, very superior and very witty. And you know right away they're going to fall in love, although everything in the first act says they're at odds. Everything's against them, but you know as an audience they're going to fall in love. The real question is how much fun you can have watching them do it. Hundreds of plays during the Restoration period in England follow that same basic formula. There have even been many books written about it. This movie follows in those footsteps. I think the audience will love it.
Q: How is it that a movie like this one, with no big explosions or special effects, is getting made in today's culture?
A: Well, I'm not a network programmer, and I don't make those decisions. I do know that I've made more than 100 movies, and, of those, there are maybe five that have followed the tradition this movie follows. Two people on opposite ends of the spectrum with all kinds of obstacles meet. They are smart, witty, fun, and handsome or beautiful, and they start out disliking each other before they finally end up falling in love. We just have to make sure it's fun for the audience watching them go through this process.
Q: How important is it for the audience to buy into the characters?
A: Things don't work if actors don't have a built-in kind of charm. If they're not people that people like, then it just won't work.
Q: This movie seems to have been cast with a strong eye towards the supporting characters, as well as the main characters. Tell us your thoughts about the supporting cast.
A: Getting Lainie Kazan was a homerun. I actually just discovered that her first television appearance was working for my father in 1964, so that's a real full-circle event, and I'm very honored to have her on this production. We've all seen her work. Her curriculum vitae goes on forever, and that's because of her talent. She always has something to contribute, and people genuinely like her. The same is true of Tony, who is fantastic, as well, along with the rest of the cast.
Q: How do you think this movie fits into TNT's "We Know Drama" branding?
A: I personally view anything that has human progress and interaction as drama. Some of it's funny, and some of it's tragic or sad, but it's still drama. Drama is the telling of a good story, and this is certainly a good story. So TNT knows drama, and they ordered this as proof they know it.
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