Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend
Q: I’m very sad that “Superstore” is ending. I know America Ferrera was big before the show, but where did Jonah and Dina come from?
A: Working-class sitcom “Superstore,” which closed its doors for the last time on March 25, was largely billed as a return to the small screen for America Ferrera of “Ugly Betty” fame.
But as you point out, it also gave breakout roles to some rising young comedic actors — particularly Lauren Ash (Dina) and Ben Feldman (Jonah).
On the way to landing this gig of a lifetime, both came up the hard way through increasingly large sitcom roles and supporting film turns.
Feldman had the earlier success, landing a central role in the two-season sitcom “Living With Fran” (as star Fran Drescher’s teenage son) back in 2005.
He later landed a couple of high-profile recurring roles — as Fred on “Drop Dead Diva” and Michael Ginsberg on the prestigious cable drama “Mad Men.”
Ash, meanwhile, has fewer long-running roles on her resume, but she arguably has the stronger comedy pedigree, having been an improviser in the legendary Second City comedy troupe. She joined the troupe through its Canadian branch because, by the way, Ash is Canadian (born in Belleville, Ont.).
She actually won some comedy awards in Canada before breaking into the U.S. TV biz (and after doing some Canadian TV, including “The Ron James Show” and “Almost Heroes”).
Her biggest non-“Superstore” role was as Marika on ABC’s short-lived but dearly missed “Super Fun Night,” the girl-buddies comedy starring girl-buddy great Rebel Wilson.
Ash also has a sideline doing voice work, starting with the Canadian cartoon “The Dating Guy,” but more recently including the role of Scorpia on “SheRa and the Princesses of Power.”
Q: I just saw a listing for a movie called “Iron Mask,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, that’s apparently a year old. How have I never heard of this before?
A: Frankly, because it wasn’t made for you.
Everything about this movie defies belief, from the outlandish hairpieces worn by stars Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger to the fact that it’s actually a sequel to one of the biggest hits of all time (in Russia).
This film, a Chinese-Russian co-production, is actually a sequel to the 2014 adventure “Forbidden Kingdom” (or “Forbidden Empire,” depending on which country you’re in), which featured neither Chan nor Schwarzenneger.
That film starred Jason Flemyng (still best known on this side of the pond for his role in 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) — who also stars in “Iron Mask” as well — as the explorer Jonathan Green. Green is once again embarking on a swashbuckling, seafaring adventure in support (maybe ... it’s not always clear) of Russian Czar Peter the Great.
I say this all defies belief, but that’s only because we aren’t intimately familiar with “Forbidden Kingdom” in the same way Russian and Chinese audiences are. That film, also released direct-to-video here, was an enormous hit out East as the highestgrossing movie in Russia in 2014. All they would need to do is see Flemyng in his own spectacular wig to understand exactly what’s going on.
As a result of all this, “Iron Mask” got very little marketing in North America. Instead, it quietly slipped onto streaming services and TV schedules.
Interestingly, the marketing it did receive in North America and the U.K. put Schwarzenegger and Chan front and center — their faces are bigger than Flemyng’s on the poster, and they get more screen time in the trailer — despite the fact that their roles in the actual film are brief.