Houston hunks have pivotal roles in Drop Dead Diva season finale
When the two-hour season finale of Drop Dead Divais broadcast Sunday night (Liftetime, 8 p.m.) two H-town homeboys are gonna make us proud – Jackson Ryan Hurst, the show’s dreamy co-star, and Grayson Berry who plays — of all things —the director of a cat food commercial.
What’s special about this comedy-drama (besides our talented Houston born-and-bred actors) is that its lead character is the brilliant and beautiful plus-sized lawyer, Jane Bingum (played by Brooke Elliott). The show’s creator, Josh Berman, told USA Today that in Hollywood, beauty has been “defined as size 2 and under 25” and that he hoped Drop Dead Diva “can help redefine the paradigm.” Critics and fans have praised the show for featuring a full-figured woman who is smart and sexy in the lead.
Hurst, who grew up in Klein and graduated from Baylor University, plays Grayson Kent, a lawyer at Jane’s firm and her love interest — with a twist. When his fiancée Deb (a spoiled model) dies in a car accident she is reincarnated as Jane, the plus-sized lawyer. Learning what it’s like to be a woman whose dress size is now double digits (and is dead to her boyfriend) makes for good drama and comedy.
Previews of the season finale hint that Jane tells Grayson her secret. "Everything that we've been writing up to the last five minutes of Season 2 has been leading to this moment … and it's a crucial moment that changes the direction of the series," Berman told the Los Angeles Times. "During the two-hour finale, Jane finally makes a decision that she's going to tell Grayson the truth about her. In the course of making the decision, she comes up against Fred, her guardian angel, who doesn't want her to go through with it, but she proceeds to do so."
During a phone interview, Hurst didn't spill the beans on the season finale — particularly since a representative from Sony Television was monitoring the call. When I spoke with him, he was sitting on his patio in Los Angeles enjoying a beautiful morning sky and great California weather, taking the day off before his next gig, an appearance on NCIS, where he plays a character who is the “very, very opposite of Grayson” on Diva ,which must mean he gets to play a bad guy this time.
He was looking forward to seeing his chocolate Lab, Kona, who will be arriving in a couple of weeks; a friend in Austin keeps Kona when he can’t be with Hurst on location. (I told Hurst that I, too, am the proud owner of a chocolate Lab. Her name is “Cody-Don’t-Eat-The-Furniture.”)
While on a previous hiatus from Diva, Hurst spent two months in New Mexico starring as Lyman, a lovable loner in The Loop, an indie film ironically based on the novel by another Texan, Joe Coomer of Fort Worth. Hurst says The Loop will probably hit the festival circuit by the end of the year. From the positive reviews I read about the book, this is a film to anticipate. The words “deliciously quirky” come up a lot.
Before Diva, Hurst had a part in the Terrence Malick film, The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Not shabby company. It was shot all around Texas, with Houston landing a few scenes, and is scheduled for release in December.
Hurst, whose parents and two brothers live in Houston, got his acting start in Austin. He just decided one day to pack whatever would fit into his car and move to the Texas capital and focus on his new craft. He called his buddies to give stuff away he couldn’t take.
His first agent, Austin’s Heather Collier of Collier Talent, booked him on Tree of Life and then on a Lifetime original movie, Living Proof (executive produced by Texan Renée Zellweger). Hurst’s performance in Living Proof led to Drop Dead Diva.
Collier says that while Hurst “definitely has natural talent, he has worked really, really hard” and “has a great work ethic.”
Frequently, Hurst is described as “drop dead gorgeous” in this series, so I just had to ask him if his brothers, back home, were gorgeous, too. Laughing, he said, “They put me to shame!”
Another Houston Diva connection
Native Houstonian Grayson Berry, will also be seen in the Diva finale episode, but had no scenes with Hurst so the Texan’s paths didn’t cross in Georgia, where the series is shot.
Berry was in the Atlanta area for a couple of days playing the part of a director shooting a cat food commercial in which the “actress” is the best friend of the show's main character, Jane. All other plot information is very hush, hush.
While in Georgia, Berry was asked if he rode horses to school growing up or if he spent a lot of time camping out. Ah, our great state’s mystique!
Berry’s Houston agency, Pastorini-Bosby Talent, booked him on Diva. “He’s been nothing short of a dream to work with since the day he signed the contract — professional, dedicated, and very talented,” said owner Jenny Bosby.
While a senior at the University of San Diego, Berry took a job for CNN Local Edition (at age 23) and went on to become a sports anchor in San Diego and San Luis Obispo.
Though sports are a passion (tennis and baseball were his “best” sports at Stratford High) Berry felt he had much more to offer creatively than sitting behind an anchor desk. So, eight years ago he became a “struggling actor” in LA.
After his Drop Dead Diva episode was shot this summer, his “love affair” with Texas drew him back and Berry moved to Austin. Now, his career is beginning to cook and creatively, he’s all over the place, acting, writing and producing, and studying acting. His coach is Houston’s Deke Anderson, himself an LA transplant, and Berry praises Anderson as the” best coach, best mentor” he’s ever had.
He’s also producing two movies right now. One is about a high school that he describes as "Dazed and Confused meets American Beauty." Sounds totally, wonderfully insane.
“There’s no reason to go to LA,” Berry says. “All good actors are not in LA — just more of them. There’s quality here.”
For productions, he adds, “People in Texas will give you the shirt off their backs“ to help.
On Sunday night, a DVR will be a necessity for Texan-watching on the tube. Drop Dead Diva is on at the same time as the Emmy Awards, with a slew of Texans worthy of walking down the aisle to pick up gold.
Maybe, one day Jackson Hurst and Grayson Berry will be going down that aisle, too. And you read it here, first.
Jackson Hurst talks about his character on Drop Dead Diva:
My favorite example of Grayson Berry’s comedic talent is his Miller Lite commercial: