' ' Cinema Romantico: Leia Organa II

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Leia Organa II

“No, there is another.” 

TV shows can last years. If they do, roles typically remain set in concrete, but not always. As such, if roles in a long-running show change midway through, it is noticeable and frequently disconcerting. Think “Roseanne” where oldest daughter Becky Connor was played memorably the first five seasons by Lecy Goranson only to be replaced by Sarah Chalke for seasons 6 and 7 as well as Season 9 for reasons too convoluted to get into here. Chalke was fine, in her own way, but Goranson had laid such a specific air that adjustment was nigh impossible. The same was true of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” where Janet Hubert-Whitten played Vivian Banks, Aunt to Will Smith’s central character, for the first three seasons only to be replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reed for the concluding three. The tone of the character completely changed, and not for the better. Let me be clear: Hubert-Whitten was the one, true Aunt Viv.

This happens occasionally at the movies too. And even if The Incredible Hulk going from Bana to Norton to Ruffalo allowed for the right actor to finally emerge, more often Julianne Moore takes the baton from Jodie Foster to play Clarice Starling or, as much as it hurts my heart to say it, Elisabeth Shue takes the baton from Claudia Wells to play Jennifer Parker and the air goes out the room. It is not easy – not easy – to just up and change roles, any role, never mind one of the most iconic roles in the history of American culture. I say all this to illustrate the danger of what I am about to say.

Carrie Fisher died on December 27, 2016. Given her place in the pop culture as Princess cum General Leia Organa, her terrible, terrible death rippled throughout all of society. And this terrible, terrible death placed the upcoming conclusion to the new “Star Wars” trilogy in a bind since General Leia Organa was set to play a prominent role. The makers had to adjust on the fly. After all, how can you replace the original Leia Organa? You can’t. You absolutely can’t. And yet.

The other day My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife was watching Darren Star’s TV Land comedy-drama “Younger” (season premiere tonight on TV Land!), which she loves, starring Sutton Foster as Liza Miller, a 40 year old woman masquerading as a millenial to infiltrate an industry of age-ism. One of the show’s recurring characters is Cheryl Sussman, a business rival, who uncovers Liza’s secret and holds it over her. Cheryl is played by Martha Plimpton. And as I plopped down on the couch to watch along, I overheard a Plimpton put down. And in hearing that Plimpton put down, reader, I swear, like a bolt out of the blue, I heard such distinct echoes of Fisher’s husky timbre, the vocal incarnate of side eye, that I almost fell on the floor. She sounded just like Carrie Fisher, I said. And in that moment, I saw, I swear, a “Star Wars” with Plimpton as a certain Alderaanian cracking wise and running shit.

Granted, to blaspheme like this is to open a whole hornet’s nest, the “Star Wars” cognoscenti telling me that Plimpton’s just Mary Frann to Suzanne Pleshette, or Sammy Hagar to David Lee Roth, though that’s not right. No, this would be more akin to AC/DC replacing Bon Scott with Brian Johnson, eerily similar yet strangely unique, though even that isn't right because this is not an either/or. It would be like this: There was only one Carrie Fisher, certainly, just as there is only one Kate Middleton. But there are, as it turns out, two Duchesses. And while The Duchess of Cambridge, as everyone knows, might be the greatest, paradoxically, yet truthfully, The Duchess of Sussex, as everyone knows, is the greatest too. And if The Duchess of Sussex is an outsider, a commoner free of the monarchal roots, so too is Plimpton in so much as she stands firmly outside official “Star Wars” nobility. This will never happen, of course, merely one blogger’s pipe dream, but then, an American Hallmark leading lady becoming Duchess Kate’s Royal running mate was a pipe dream too.

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