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PHOTO BY: Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images
Nov. 28: Comedian/Host Jon Stewart, 59
As host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show from 1999 to 2015, Jon Stewart, 59, redefined the comedic sensibilities and political discourse of a generation of Americans, spawning imitators on both sides of the aisle and starting his march toward an eventual 22 Emmy wins, out of 52 nominations. After stepping down from the show, Stewart — who was born in New York City on Nov. 28, 1962 — stopped just commenting on politics and instead dedicated his time to making real change. As an advocate for health benefits for 9/11 first responders and war veterans, Stewart has spoken passionately on Capitol Hill, and when the Senate passed the bill to extend funding for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, he called the experience “the honor of my life.” In 2020, he dipped his toe back into the entertainment world when he wrote and directed the political satire Irresistible about a local election in a small Wisconsin town, and this fall, he returned full-time with Apple TV+’s The Problem With Jon Stewart, a biweekly current affairs show in which each episode is dedicated to a big topic, such as war or guns. It’s good to have him back. . — Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 27: Director Kathryn Bigelow, 70
It would be impossible to try to pin down the signature style of Kathryn Bigelow, 70, who became the first woman to ever win an Academy Award for best director for her pulse-quickening 2008 war film The Hurt Locker. (Among her competitors at the Oscars that year — when she also picked up best picture — was her ex-husband, Avatar director James Cameron!) Bigelow’s first 10 movies have veered wildly, transitioning seamlessly and stylishly between genres, from her outlaw biker movie debut, 1981’s The Loveless, to 1991’s Point Break, about a gang of surfers (who also rob banks), from 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty, a harrowing account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, to 2017’s Detroit, about police brutality during the 1967 riots. While Bigelow broke the Oscar glass ceiling, don’t assume that she’s a Hollywood insider. As Oliver Stone put it, while writing about her for the 2010 Time 100 issue, “Her passion for films that challenge conventional sympathies (crooked cops, a heroic Russian submarine commander) led to long spells of being shunned by the studios. But Bigelow always found her way back.” For her next project, the former painter, who was born on Nov. 27, 1951, will executive-produce the new docuseries Year Zero, about the ways in which people around the globe (including a monk, a revolutionary, a poacher and a sex worker) dealt with the encroaching uncertainty of the pandemic in early 2020. If anyone can make sense of the chaos surrounding us, leave it to Kathryn Bigelow. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 26: Singer Tina Turner, 82
With a résumé that includes eight Grammy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and honors from the Kennedy Center, Tina Turner, 82, has more than lived up to her nickname: the Queen of Rock & Roll. In fact, this fall, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a second time, this go-round as a solo artist, after previously being inducted with her ex-husband, the late Ike Turner in 1991. But perhaps an even more accurate royal title might be the Empress of Reinvention. Born to a family of Tennessee sharecroppers on Nov. 26, 1939, Turner spent her early career under the thumb of an abusive partner, and despite her unhappiness, she recorded some of the most ebullient hits of the century, such as “Proud Mary.” But it wasn’t until 1984, at the age of 45, that she truly came into her own with the game-changing, five-times-platinum Private Dancer album, complete with a new look, the best legs in the business and a golden lion’s mane of hair that screamed power. She formally retired from public performances in 2009 and has spent the past decade cementing her legacy: releasing her second memoir in 2018, collaborating on a Tony-winning Broadway musical about her life and sitting down for interviews for the 2021 HBO documentary Tina. “Look what I have done in this lifetime with this body,” she says in the film. “I am a girl from a cotton field that pulled myself above what was not taught to me.” — Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 25: Actor John Larroquette, 74
Few actors can steal a scene as handily as John Larroquette, 74. In fact, his turn as Night Court’s sleazy and sex-obsessed prosecutor Dan Fielding earned the actor a then-record four consecutive Emmy wins, a feat only surpassed in 2016 by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Since Night Court went off the air in 1992, there has rarely been a television season in which the actor— who was born on Nov. 25, 1947, in New Orleans — didn’t appear on the small screen, from his four seasons on The John Larroquette Show to later roles on The Practice, Boston Legal and The Librarians. In 2011, he made his Broadway debut opposite Daniel Radcliffe in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and returned the next season in Gore Vidal’s election-themed drama The Best Man. In an era when shows like Murphy Brown, Mad About You, Full House and Roseanne had all been revived in some fashion, it’s no shock that the acclaimed 31-time Emmy-nominated Night Court is staging a comeback: NBC recently greenlit a reboot starring Larroquette and The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch as the daughter of Judge Harry Stone, played in the original series by the late Harry Anderson. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 24: Actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson, 65
It’s not a stretch to call playwright-actor-director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, 65, the hardest working man on Broadway this season. Born in Lackawanna, New York, on Nov. 24, 1956, Santiago-Hudson might be known to non-theater-lovers for his 60-plus episodes as Captain Roy Montgomery on the ABC detective series Castle or his turn as Raul Gomez on Billions. But if you really want to see the creator in his element, you’ll need to catch him on a Broadway stage. In 2001, he gained critical acclaim for his one-man show Lackawanna Blues, an ode to the boarding-house owner Rachel Cosby (or Nanny) who helped raise him as a child outside Buffalo. Throughout the course of the show, he inhabits some 20 characters, and when he revived the play on Broadway this fall, New York Times theater critic Maya Phillips described it as “a winsome performer’s master class in storytelling.” If you didn’t catch the revival before it closed on Nov. 12, you’re in luck: It was adapted into a star-studded 2005 HBO movie, which earned star S. Epatha Merkerson a best actress Emmy. Over the years, Santiago-Hudson has become a celebrated interpreter of the works of August Wilson, the late playwright known for his 10-play cycle about Black life in Pittsburgh across the 20th century. He’s recently begun a similarly fruitful collaboration with Dominique Morisseau, who is taking up Wilson’s mantle with her three-play Detroit Project. This winter, he’ll direct the Broadway premiere of her play Skeleton Crew, about a Detroit automotive factory in danger of closing, starring Phylicia Rashad. Don’t miss this one! — Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 23: News anchor Robin Roberts, 61
Considering where she came from, it’s no surprise that Robin Roberts, 61, would go on to big, groundbreaking things: Born in Alabama on Nov. 23, 1960, Roberts grew up on the Mississippi’s Gulf Coast with a father who was a member of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen and a mother who was the chairperson of the Mississippi Board of Education. Following a successful run on the women’s basketball team at Southeastern Louisiana University, she became a sportscaster, joining ESPN in 1990 and hosting SportsCenter. But her journalistic skills and approachable warmth soon led to bigger and better things, and in May 2005, Roberts was named coanchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, a position from which she has been able to interview the likes of President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris. Through the years, Roberts — who is one of the nation’s first openly gay news anchors — has invited American audiences into her personal life, sharing her diagnoses with breast cancer and the rare blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome. This summer, she debuted the Disney+ series Turning the Tables With Robin Roberts, in which she chats with powerful women such as Billie Jean King, Debbie Allen and Melissa Etheridge. The show’s title comes from the fact that, unlike a regular interview show, the women often end up asking each other questions. As she described it on GMA, “We drink the tea and we spill the tea.” — Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Nov. 22: Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, 63
From action thrillers (True Lies) to heist comedies (A Fish Called Wanda), family favorites (Freaky Friday) to twisty whodunits (Knives Out), Jamie Lee Curtis, 63, can master any genre — yes, she even somehow made digestive yogurt brand Activia seem cool. But despite a fun-loving, easy-breezy spirit that oozes out in every public appearance, for many horror fans, she’ll always be thought of as that terrified teen babysitter Laurie Strode in the Halloween franchise. Born on Nov. 22, 1958, to Psycho starlet Janet Leigh and actor Tony Curtis, she was practically born to play the part, and she deliciously skewered slasher tropes in the Ryan Murphy horror comedy Scream Queens. This year, she returned to the franchise for her sixth appearance as Laurie in Halloween Kills and — spoiler alert! — she survived another day to appear in next year’s final installment, Halloween Ends, a movie that she has said will “make people very angry.” While Curtis is widely known as a daughter of Hollywood, she’s proving to also be one of its coolest moms: Last year, her daughter Ruby came out as transgender, and Curtis has spoken out about being an ally and “a grateful student,” despite occasionally slipping up and making mistakes. “But if one person reads this, sees a picture of Ruby and me and says, ‘I feel free to say this is who I am,’” she told People magazine, “then it’s worth it.” —Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 21: Actress Goldie Hawn, 76
Need proof of how bolt-out-of-the-blue charismatic Goldie Hawn, 76, was in the 1969 comedy Cactus Flower? Just check out Roger Ebert’s list of the cast members from his Chicago Sun-Times review: “Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and — wow! — Goldie Hawn.” (She ended up winning a best-supporting-actress Oscar for the role.)
The former go-go dancer and summer stock actress, who was born on Nov. 21, 1945, propelled to “it girl” status as a regular on the sketch comedy classic Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. She quickly developed a trademark style: the sometimes ditzy but always magnetic all-American with boatloads of wit just below the surface. Pauline Kael, of The New Yorker, once described her as “Goldie Hawn of the blue goo-goo eyes and the big, fizzy smile.” And Hawn put those features and charm to great use in a string of comedies that banked on her effervescence, including Shampoo, Overboard, The First Wives Club and Private Benjamin, which landed at number 82 on the American Film Institute’s list of “100 Funniest American Movies of All Time.”
The mother of three successful actors (Kate Hudson, Oliver Hudson and Wyatt Russell) has taken fewer roles in recent years, with 15 years passing between 2002’s The Banger Sisters and her next starring role in the 2017 action comedy Snatched. But she’s clearly having a blast. Case in point: In her last two film roles, Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles and its 2020 sequel, Hawn has gotten to flex her holiday muscles as Mrs. Claus opposite a Santa she definitely has chemistry with — Kurt Russell, her real-life partner since 1983. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: John Shearer/Contour by Getty Images for CMT
Nov. 20: Comedian Joel McHale, 50
A walk-on tight end for the University of Washington football team, comedian Joel McHale, 50, never actually played a game. In fact, he once told The Washington Post that the most glorious moment of his athletic career was skit night, when he did an impression of the team doctor: “And that went over so much better than anything I had done on the field that I thought, Hmmm, maybe I should pay attention to that.”
After performing improv in Seattle in the ’90s, McHale — who was born on Nov. 20, 1971 — rose to national fame as the host of E!’s The Soup, a weekly clip show on which he provided his blistering commentary about reality TV, talk shows and celebrity news. During his tenure as host from 2004 to 2015 (and then for a season on Netflix’s follow-up The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale), he honed his acid snarkiness, which he used to full effect as emcee at the 2014 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. That trademark sarcasm served him well in the cult NBC sitcom Community, on which he starred as disbarred lawyer–turned–community college student Jeff Winger. Since the show ended in 2015, McHale has become a go-to television fixture, hosting a reboot of the retro game show Card Sharks, playing Starman on the CW superhero drama Stargirl and becoming a recurring (and fan favorite) guest panelist on The Masked Singer. —Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP Photo
Nov. 19: Actress/director Jodie Foster, 59
With her two Oscars, three Golden Globes (plus an honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award) and a robust résumé as a director, Jodie Foster, 59, has an undeniably impressive Hollywood career. But when you consider that the actress, who was born on Nov. 19, 1962, has been going strong for more than half a century and escaped the hazards of child stardom, her genius becomes even more awe-inspiring.
After making her debut on Mayberry R.F.D. in 1968, Foster broke out with her role as a child prostitute in the film Taxi Driver, which The New York Times summed up succinctly in the headline: “Jodie Foster’s Rise From Disney to Depravity.” Her career began to take off, but she put it on pause to go to Yale, where she majored in African American literature. Although her postgraduation career reboot got off to a rocky start, she hit big again with her Oscar-winning performance as a rape survivor in The Accused. The ’90s saw a series of hits that included Little Man Tate, Nell, Contact and, of course, The Silence of the Lambs, which led to Oscar number two and her No. 6 spot on the American Film Institute’s list of Hollywood’s greatest heroes of all time. In a 2018 Conan interview, Foster said that she’s devoting 90 percent of her time to directing these days, but when the right role comes around she remains a powerhouse performer. Take, for instance, this year’s The Mauritanian, in which she starred as Nancy Hollander, the real-life defense attorney of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, earning a Golden Globe and an AARP Movies for Grownups Award for best supporting actress. —Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 18: Author Margaret Atwood, 82
We’re sure that Margaret Atwood, 82, is a perfectly lovely person, but she just may be responsible for more nightmares per capita than any other artist alive today. That’s because the Canadian author, who was born on Nov. 18, 1939, in Ottawa, created the utterly plausible and totally terrifying 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which imagines a near future in which the United States government has been replaced with a fundamentalist, totalitarian regime that treats women like livestock.
Atwood has written dozens of novels, short-story collections, graphic novels and books of poetry, but Handmaid’s continues to cast an enormous shadow, spawning stage adaptations, ballets, operas and, most notably, an Emmy-winning Hulu series starring Elisabeth Moss. In 2019 she returned to Gilead for a sequel called The Testaments, and the novel earned Atwood her second Booker Prize — a joint win, shared with Bernardine Evaristo.
“It would have been quite embarrassing for a person of my age and stage to have won the whole thing and thereby hinder a person in an earlier stage of their career from going through that door,” said Atwood, who, at 79, became the prize’s oldest winner ever.
In 2020 she released a book of poetry, Dearly, about far-ranging topics like love, grief and zombies (!), and next spring will see the publication of Burning Questions, a collection of 50 essays written since 2004, in which she offers her thoughts on climate change, authoritarianism and the nature of granola. No one ever accused Atwood of being predictable! —Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP Photo
Nov. 17: Director Martin Scorsese, 79
One of the defining directors of the new Hollywood era, Martin Scorsese, 79, burst onto the scene in 1967 with his first feature, Who’s That Knocking at My Door?, starring his New York University classmate Harvey Keitel. Roger Ebert called it “absolutely genuine, artistically satisfying and technically comparable to the best films being made anywhere” — not too shabby for a scrappy project that started as a student film. By the 1970s and ’80s, his style began to crystallize in cinematic classics such as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, as he kept unearthing new ways of exploring his favorite themes: Catholic guilt, crime, Italian American identity and the pitfalls of machismo and modern masculinity. Scorsese, who was born in Queens, New York, on Nov. 17, 1942, has racked up nine best director Oscar nominations (out of 14 total nods), making him the most-nominated living director, behind only William Wyler. But it took a long time for him to finally snag a win, with 2006’s The Departed.
Over the years, Scorsese has amassed a stable of regular collaborators, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. The pair will star together in his next project, Killers of the Flower Moon, a true-crime tale about the murder of several members of the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma after oil was discovered on their land. The film is being touted as the first time that Scorsese and his two muses are working together, but it’s actually the trio’s second collaboration, after 2015’s The Audition, a 15-minute commercial for a Macau resort and casino with a reported $70 million budget. To put that in perspective, the budget for Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (not adjusted for inflation) was $75,000. —Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 16: Actress Lisa Bonet, 54
Effortlessly chic and incredibly cool, The Cosby Show’s free-spirited Denise Huxtable was the kind of teen television star who inspired a generation. You either wanted to be her, be her best friend or take her to the prom.
The now 54-year-old Lisa Bonet was so magnetic, in fact, that producers created a spin-off, A Different World, centered on her character’s time away at Hillman, a fictional historically Black college. The actress, who celebrates her birthday on Nov. 16, was reportedly written out of the show after the first season, when she became pregnant; to explain the absence, Denise dropped out of college and traveled to Africa. Bonet semiretired from acting in the mid-1990s, but she has continued to steal scenes on shows like Ray Donovan, on which she played a self-destructive addict named Marisol. (For something lighter, check out her turn as Rosa Parks on the Comedy Central series Drunk History, on which inebriated comedians retell historic tales and actors duplicate their garbled narratives.) Bonet also has the distinction of being the matriarch of one of Hollywood’s most fun families. She’s the mother of Big Little Lies actress Zoë Kravitz, who starred in the Hulu television adaptation of High Fidelity, a movie in which Bonet appeared in 2000. After splitting with Kravitz’s father, rocker Lenny, Bonet began dating Aquaman star Jason Momoa in 2005, and the pair had two children before marrying in 2017. In case you’re wondering, Lenny and Jason are on such good terms that they even wear matching jewelry. —Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 15: Disco legend Anni-Frid Lyngstad, 76
Of all the improbable things to happen in 2021, perhaps the most delightful was this month’s release of a new ABBA album, Voyage, the Swedish group’s first in 40 years (and, according to new reports, also its last). The 10 new tracks will coincide with the debut of a futuristic concert production that will pair a live backing band with digital avatars made using motion-capture suits and footage from 1979.
Also worth celebrating this month: Nov. 15 marks the 76th birthday of ABBA singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad, better known as Frida — or “the brunette one.” Did you know that, in addition to being pop royalty, the Norwegian-born, Swedish-raised Lyngstad is technically real royalty? Her late third husband was Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen.
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Lyngstad released new studio albums in Swedish and English, and, most recently, she recorded a duet version of “Andante, Andante” with Cuban-American jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval in 2018. But her true passion has been environmental activism. “My commitment to environmentalism is not a hobby or a second job,” she told a Swedish newspaper in 2005. “It’s a way of life that comes right from my heart.” — Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 14: Prince Charles, 73
Ninety-five-year-old Queen Elizabeth II has become the longest-reigning monarch in British history, which has left her eldest child with a slightly less exciting honor: At 73, Prince Charles is now the United Kingdom’s oldest and longest-serving heir apparent. The man who would be king, who faced scrutiny for his very public divorce from Princess Diana in 1996, has had a challenging past few years, including when his younger son, Prince Harry, stepped down from his royal duties. In January, Charles, a longtime activist on sustainability and climate issues, launched an economic recovery program called Terra Carta, which aims to raise $10 billion in green investments by 2022. In a perhaps more unexpected turn, the Prince of Wales has become something of a pop culture curiosity, showing up in West End and Broadway plays (King Charles III) and musicals (Diana), films (Spencer), and television series, with Josh O’Connor winning a Golden Globe and an Emmy for playing him on The Crown. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: Antonio Calanni/AP Photo
Nov. 13: Actress Whoopi Goldberg, 66
Whoopi Goldberg, 66, has been such a cultural fixture for decades that it can be easy to forget just how many glass ceilings she’s broken on her path to becoming one of America’s most-beloved celebrities. Known for roles such as Celie in The Color Purple and Deloris Van Cartier in the Sister Act franchise, Goldberg has racked up more than her fair share of Hollywood firsts. She was the first Black woman to win a Grammy for best comedy album, the first Black woman to host the Oscars and the first Black actress to win an Oscar in 50 years, for her turn as the psychic Oda Mae Brown in Ghost.
Perhaps most notable of all, she’s one of just 16 people — and thus far, the first and only Black woman — to win a coveted EGOT, or an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony grand slam. Since 2007 she’s faced perhaps the biggest challenge of her illustrious career: wrangling the big personalities and bigger opinions as moderator of The View. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 12: Artist-Activist Neil Young, 76
If you’ve spent any time singing along to “Old Man” or “Heart of Gold” or “Down by the River,” you no doubt experienced the simple poetry of the great Canadian songwriter’s lyrics, the raw emotion in his reedy tenor. The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (once as a solo artist, once as a member of Buffalo Springfield) had a profound impact on the trajectory of popular music in the 20th century. In fact, his highly personal lyrics and signature distorted guitar sound have earned him the nickname “the Godfather of Grunge.”
But his appeal as a cultural icon extends well beyond his music. Young has always been a trailblazing activist, who has spoken out against war, racism, climate change and even Monsanto (don’t forget, he cofounded Farm Aid). When Rolling Stone placed him at No. 34 on its “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, 59, wrote: “Neil is the guy I look at when I think about getting older in a rock band and still having dignity and relevance and honesty. He’s never, ever sold out, and he’s never pretended to be anything other than what he is.” He went on to say that whenever the Chili Peppers get asked to sell a song for a commercial, he thinks, “Would Neil Young do this? And the answer is no. Neil Young wouldn’t f--kin’ do it.” —Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 11: Actress Demi Moore, 59
With her raspy voice and raven hair, Demi Moore was instantly captivating in 1980s classics like St. Elmo’s Fire and About Last Night, but she broke out of the Brat Pack with her career-redefining role in 1990’s Ghost, which went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time up to that point.
A string of early ’90s hits — such as A Few Good Men and Indecent Proposal — made her an undisputed Hollywood power player and, in 1996, she earned a record-breaking $12.5 million for Striptease, a watershed moment in the fight for equal pay for actresses.
Over the years, Moore’s blazing charisma as an actress has often been overshadowed by tabloid tales about her marriages (to Bruce Willis, 66, and then Ashton Kutcher) and her sex symbol status, which reached a boiling point when, at seven months pregnant, she posed nude for the cover of Vanity Fair.
In recent years, Moore has had the freedom to take on smaller, more interesting roles (including an erotic podcast called Dirty Diana). And in 2019, she reclaimed the narrative with her raw and revealing memoir Inside Out.
“I think a memoir is not about receiving. It’s about giving,” she told Jimmy Fallon in a Tonight Show appearance. “And unless you’re really willing to go on a journey of exploration of yourself, and share yourself, then there really isn’t any point in doing it.” — Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for InStyle
Nov. 10: 'Grey's Anatomy' star Ellen Pompeo, 52
Ellen Pompeo didn’t have many major credits to her name when she signed on to play a “dark and twisty” intern on a new ABC medical drama by first-time showrunner Shonda Rhimes, now 51, in 2005. It’s hard to imagine either of them knew the gold mine they had on their hands, but Grey’s Anatomy almost immediately became a pop-culture sensation, launching into television’s top 10 most-watched series within its first season. And Meredith Grey became its beating heart — for 18 seasons and counting.
Audiences stuck with her through the highs (marriage, promotions, kids) and the lows (breakups, career setbacks) and the very, very lows (a plane crash, drowning in icy water, COVID-19, jail time, losing her mother and her half-sister and her husband). For her efforts, Pompeo has gone on to be one of the highest-paid actresses on television today, and this September she launched a new podcast called Tell Me, in which she has candid conversations with the likes of Cindy Crawford (55), Sanjay Gupta, M.D. (52) and her Grey’s Anatomy husband Patrick Dempsey (55). —Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 9: 'Glee' Creator Ryan Murphy, 56
In Fox’s musical comedy Glee, a ragtag team of high school misfits ascend the show-choir ranks to become national champions. It’s an apt metaphor for the career of series creator Ryan Murphy, who has gone from launching minor hits (like Popular and Nip/Tuck) to becoming one of the most powerful men in television — and he continues to do it on his own terms. In shows as different as American Horror Story, The Politician and Ratched, he’s developed a signature style that freewheels between camp and horror, melodrama and musical, with narratives that often put marginalized groups in the forefront, such as the transgender cast of Pose and the differently abled characters on American Horror Story and Glee.
Lately, Murphy has sought inspiration in the true stories of 20th-century U.S. history, as he’s retold tales of fashion-world legends (Halston), Hollywood rivalries (Feud) and celebrity scandals (American Crime Story). Next, he’s expanding the franchise with two new anthology series: American Love Story, about JFK Jr., and American Sports Story, which will follow the downfall of NFL player turned convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez. Murphy’s personal approach to TV-making is clearly paying off. He’s racked up six Emmy wins out of 36 nominations, and his $300 million, five-year pact with Netflix has been called the biggest producer deal in television history. —Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: Jason Mendez/Invision/AP
Nov. 8: Actress Alfre Woodard, 69
When the film critics at The New York Times revealed their list of the 25 greatest actors of the 21st century, tucked in among Oscar winners like Nicole Kidman, 54, and Denzel Washington, 66, was Alfre Woodard, a staggeringly accomplished actress who hasn’t always gotten the roles she deserves.
“In a just world, there would be a bursting roster of great performances to fill this entry… to reflect the full range of Alfre Woodard’s gifts,” wrote A.O. Scott, 55, who called her “an unforgettable presence, at once regal and utterly real.”
After an Oscar-nominated turn in 1983’s Cross Creek, Woodard quickly won an Emmy for Hill Street Blues — her first of four wins out of an astounding 17 nominations. In recent years, she’s received raves for her performances as Harriet Shaw, a plantation owner’s enslaved “mistress” in 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, and as death-row warden Bernadine Williams in 2019’s Clemency.
And her slate continues to be full: Woodard is currently starring opposite Jason Momoa in the Apple TV+ sci-fi series See, and she’s developing a sure-to-be-fantastic miniseries in which she’s currently expected to star as voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Can we expect Emmy nomination number 18? —Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 7: Songwriting legend Joni Mitchell, 78
To a generation who came of age in the late 1960s and ’70s, Joni Mitchell, 78, provided the soundtrack to their lives. Her run of hit albums in the early ’70s made her a star, yet Mitchell is a child of the Canadian prairie, born in Fort Macleod, Alberta, and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. There, a teacher introduced her to writing poetry, and she soon began singing at bonfires, coffee shops, jazz clubs and, once, a late-night moose-hunting show.
Her songwriting style is unbound by traditional genres; she borrows liberally from jazz, rock, pop and folk, crafting lyrics that are at once personal and political, plainspoken and rhythmic. Mitchell has earned nine Grammys (including a lifetime achievement award), been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is No. 9 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time” list; her 1971 album, Blue, was selected as the third-best album ever by Rolling Stone, and NPR ranked it No. 1 on its list of the greatest albums by female artists. Next month, Mitchell — who rarely makes public appearances anymore — will be celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors. —Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for THR
Nov. 6: Kennedy Clan’s Maria Shriver, 66
This member of the Kennedy clan — daughter of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver — is both an activist, following the family legacy, and a broadcast journalist, a career she began in her youth.
Currently divorcing Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who managed to fit into the Democratic dynasty, she was first lady of California when he was governor, and mother to their four children.
Shriver’s mother was an inspiration, and she has followed in her activist footsteps, serving on the board of the Special Olympics (which her mother founded in 1968); chairing fundraising events for Best Buddies; and starting a nonprofit, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. Her activism with Alzheimer’s research has taken many forms, including producing the Emmy-winning HBO docuseries The Alzheimer’s Project, writing a best-selling children’s book called What’s Happening to Grandpa? and publishing a brain-stimulating coloring book designed for adults with the disease. ——Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images
Nov. 5: Actress Tilda Swinton, 61
Known for her pale, androgynous looks, Scottish actress Tilda Swinton has straddled the line between arthouse and mainstream moviemaking.
After starting her career in the 1980s in the small experimental films of director Derek Jarman, she became a mega box office star. We are talking unabashed blockbusters such as The Chronicles of Narnia series (she’s the White Witch) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (she’s the Ancient One).
Swinton won a best supporting actress Oscar for the 2007 legal thriller Michael Clayton, paired with George Clooney, but she never left her artsy roots behind. Take, for instance, the 2013 installation, in which she slept in a glass box at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
This year, Swinton debuted three very different movies on the film-festival circuit: In The French Dispatch she stars as the staff writer of a New Yorker–like magazine; in The Souvenir Part II she exudes maternal warmth as the mother of a budding director (played by her real daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne); and in Memoria she’s a Scottish expat in Colombia who obsessively tries to find the source of an explosive boom noise that wakes her up one morning — yes, it’s as odd as it sounds.
Next up? She’s leaning into her ethereal side as the Fairy with Turquoise Hair in a stop-motion-animated Pinocchio adaptation by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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Nov. 4: Survivor Host Jeff Probst, 60
When the Primetime Emmys debuted a new category for outstanding reality show host, in 2008, Survivor’s Jeff Probst won the inaugural award. Then he repeated the next year. And the next. And the next.
This fall, as the reality juggernaut entered its 41st season since premiering in 2000, the former Rock & Roll Jeopardy! emcee and Access Hollywood correspondent has only solidified his reputation as one of the best TV hosts of all time, a man known for his compassion and his true interest in the lives of contestants.
His globetrotting work with Survivor has forever cemented his place in the American pop culture imagination. TV Guide listed the words he says to eliminated contestants, “The tribe has spoken,” as number 6 on its list of the greatest catchphrases in television history — right up there with “Yada, yada, yada” and “How you doin’?” — Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: David M. Benett/Getty Images
Nov. 3: Vogue’s Anna Wintour, 72
One need not know a thing about the media or high-fashion worlds to know that Anna Wintour is the presumed inspiration for The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly, the imperious editor played by Meryl Streep’s character in the movie version of the best-selling book.
Known for her signature bob-and-bangs haircut, dark sunglasses and demanding persona, the British-American magazine editor is one of the most influential voices in journalism. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II, now 95, named her in 2017 a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her work in fashion and journalism.
Wintour has been editor in chief of Vogue since 1988, but her fiefdom has grown over the years: In 2013, she was named the artistic director of all Condé Nast magazines, and in 2020, she became the chief content officer for the publisher worldwide.
Want to see the real Anna in action? Watch the documentaries The September Issue (2009), about the creation of the 840-page September 2007 issue of Vogue, or The First Monday in May (2016), a look at planning the Met Gala, a benefit that has turned into a red-carpet fashion show, which she has chaired nearly every year since 1995. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
Nov. 2: ‘Friends’ star David Schwimmer, 55
It’s safe to say that no matter what David Schwimmer does for the rest of his acting career, he will be best remembered for his Emmy-nominated, 10-season run as paleontologist Ross Geller on NBC’s sitcom Friends. Such is the will of the fates when you are on a monster hit and your character is half of a will-they-won’t-they couple that includes Jennifer Aniston (52). It’s even more assured when you get your own catchphrase: “We were on a break!” (Ross says it at least seven times to defend himself against cheating accusations.)
A graduate of Northwestern University, where he performed in the same improv group as Stephen Colbert, Schwimmer has maintained close ties to his theater roots. He cofounded Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company in 1988, appeared on Broadway in 2006’s The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial and has both starred in and directed critical hits off-Broadway and in London and Los Angeles.
In 2016 he played defense attorney Robert Kardashian in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and now he stars as an NSA agent on the British sitcom Intelligence, created by and costarring Ted Lasso actor Nick Mohammed. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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PHOTO BY: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Nov. 1: Apple CEO Tim Cook, 61
This Alabama-born business leader is not your conventional billionaire executive. For one thing, he’s got no plans to blast into space anytime soon.
When he was named successor to Apple founder Steve Jobs a few months before Jobs’ 2011 death, Cook brought a different leadership style to California’s competitive Silicon Valley. Cook is calm and collaborative; tech publications have called him a “Southern gentleman” on more than one occasion. He’s also gay. In 2014, in an op-ed in Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook publicly came out, making him the first openly gay chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.
“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now,” he wrote. “So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.” His sexual orientation had at times caused him difficulty, he said, but it gave him “the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.” No doubt. — Nicholas DeRenzo
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