LOS ANGELES -- ABC's new fall TV lineup gets curiouser and curiouser with the launch at 8 tonight of "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland."
The series, a spinoff of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," was originally intended to be a short-run summer program to fill in the fractured fairy tales void between "Once Upon a Time" seasons. It was so good that it was pulled from the summer schedule and added to the fall lineup.
Then, the network went down the casting hole to select relatively unknown British / Australian actress Sophie Lowe as the spirited and spunky Alice. This Alice couldn't be any more different than the one Lewis Carroll imagined. Lowe's portrayal is being described as the toughest Alice presented over the decades.
"She can kick a-- and look after herself," Lowe says. "I had a little training before we started filming, but I come from a dancing background and I used to do gymnastics, trapeze, trampoline and things like that. So, I feel kind of comfortable throwing myself around."
Executive producer Edward Kitsis -- who has the same job on "Once Upon a Time" -- explains that just as in that series, the central figure is a strong female character. There was never any thought Alice would be a damsel in distress. They like the idea that she would go back down the rabbit hole -- sword in hand -- to find her true love.
Just like Alice, Lowe finds herself in a strange new world when filming the series. The 23-year-old actress has been working in films and on TV since she was 15, but she's never worked in front of a blank green screen, a process that allows backgrounds to be added later through computers.
The physical demands coupled with the new technology are creating an acting challenge for Lowe, but she's not complaining.
"It's hard for me to be negative about this experience. I'm just so happy to be a part of it. It's surreal. It's my dreams have come true, basically. I've wanted to play a role like this and to be in a show like this. I'm very blessed to be a part of this family. But it is, it's a crazy roller coaster," Lowe says. "There's long hours and things I've not experienced before, like all the interviews, but I can't complain because I feel blessed to be part of this."
Two of the hardest things about the new job were getting around in Los Angeles and learning an American accent. She feels rather accomplished at both now.
Lowe was familiar with Alice before taking the role. She's been a fan of the Disney movie -- the live-action one from Tim Burton, not the animated version -- and her mother read Carroll's books to her when she was young. She finds it interesting that the only book her mother owned when she was a child was "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and now she gets to bring the character to life.
Reality series a dream for 50 Cent
NEW YORK -- 50 Cent said he's excited to be part of the new Sundance series "Dream School" because the reality show focuses on uplifting people.
The show, which airs 10 p.m. Mondays, follows a group of high school dropouts who are trying to graduate. 50 Cent appears in the series with filmmaker Oliver Stone and actor David Arquette.
"The actual reality programs that exist right now ... kind of focus on the train wreck, and this show is more about providing opportunity," the 38-year-old rapper said in an interview last week.
The 15 teenagers from the Los Angeles area who appear in the designed "dream school" dropped out of high school because of issues including fighting, financial problems and pregnancy. One transgender student said bullying forced him out of school and another didn't enter the ninth grade because he wanted to care for his cancer-stricken mother.
"I see a lot of myself in some of the kids," said 50 Cent, who grew up in Queens, N.Y. "My son is 17 and he could very well be in that situation if things didn't have a change for the better with me. I remember ... the obstacles of temptation in front of me."
"Dream School," a six-part series, also features Jesse Jackson, journalist Soledad O'Brien, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison and producer-rapper Swizz Beatz. 50 Cent, who has sold millions of albums and has appeared in films, is one of the show's executive producers.
He said Arquette made an impact on the transgender student.
"The kid immediately had a connection that felt safe," he said of the 42-year-old actor, whose sibling, Alexis Arquette, is transgender. "Because of (David's) own journey, he was able to utilize his experience to make that person's experience better, and the guy went on to graduate."