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Hollywood Now: What to Watch in February and Baby News

Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik
Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik. Credit: Facebook

Baby News for Zooey and Laura

New Girl star Zooey Deschanel, whose parents were Quaker and Roman Catholic, converted to Judaism before her June 2015 wedding to Jewish producer Jacob Pechenik. Now the parents of Elsie, born in July that year, are expecting their second child. Laura Prepon (Orange is the New Black), who is Russian-Jewish on her father’s side and Irish-Catholic on her mother’s, and fiancé Ben Foster (Hell or High Water), who is Jewish, are going to be parents for the first time. Congratulations to all!

Maggie Siff
Maggie Siff. Credit: James Minchin/Showtime
 
Maggie Siff Comes Back for Billions 
 

In the Showtime drama Billions, about the high-stakes battle between hedge fund billionaire Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), Maggie Siff plays the pivotal role of Wendy Rhoades, Chuck’s estranged wife and Bobby’s trusted advisor. As the second season begins on February 19, Wendy has left Bobby’s company and is in couples counseling with her husband. “At the end of the first season she kind of blew everything up, walked out on these guys and she’s having an existential crisis. She’s trying to find her place in the world on her own and get her life back on track,” says Siff.

Best known for her roles in Sons of Anarchy and Mad Men, in which she played Jewish department store heiress Rachel Menken, Siff is Russian-Jewish on her father’s side and Irish-Swedish Protestant on her mother’s. “I grew up around my father’s family. We had a menorah and a Christmas tree. We would do Passover with family. I didn’t have a bat mitzvah but I went to lots of bat mitzvahs,” she recalls, noting that she doesn’t observe either faith, “But I feel culturally Jewish because of how and where I grew up.” She has been married since 2012 to Paul Ratliff, who is not Jewish, and they have a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Lucy.
 
Justin Bartha
Justin Bartha. Credit: Patrick Harbron/CBS
 
Justin Bartha Joins The Good Fight 
 

After seven seasons on CBS, The Good Wife, along with star Julianna Margulies, signed off the air in May, but its story didn’t end there. On February 19, Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart and Cush Jumbo’s Lucca Quinn segue to the CBS All Access streaming service in The Good Fight, a spinoff also set in the world of Chicago law. Diane, the victim of a scam that wipes her out financially, joins Lucca’s otherwise all-black law firm. The new series’ mix of familiar and new faces includes Justin Bartha, best known for The Hangover movies. He plays Colin Morello, the scion of a prominent political family. According to Bartha, he is “a golden boy JFK Jr. type” assistant U.S. attorney who faces off against Lucca Quinn in court and becomes romantically involved with her outside of it.

“It’s not a traditional kind of relationship. We might continue to be rivals and there will be conflict in the relationship,” Bartha says. “It’s a current, smart show with great characters and a financial scandal, which is fascinating. It’s also dealing with race head on. It’s really topical and the smartest writing I’ve found in a long time.”

Bartha, who is Jewish, says he feels connected to Jewish history and tradition “but I don’t necessarily practice the religion.” His wife Lia is not Jewish, and “She is not religious either. She was raised with Christmas and that’s about it.” Their two daughters, who will soon turn 3 and 1, will know the traditions of both faiths, he says. “We’re going to celebrate everything.”

Zoe Kravitz
Zoe Kravitz. Credit: HBO
 

Zoe Kravitz Has Some Big Little Lies

Zoe Kravitz, the daughter of musician and actor Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, has Jewish ancestry on both sides of her family: Her paternal grandfather, Sy Kravitz, and her maternal grandmother, Arlene Litman, were Jewish. Zoe has said she identifies as a “secular Jew.”

Starting February 19, Kravitz (Divergent, Mad Max: Fury Road) stars opposite Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley in Big Little Lies, HBO’s buzzworthy seven-part series based on Liane Moriarty’s bestseller. Kravitz plays Bonnie, a yoga instructor now married to Maddie’s (Witherspoon) ex-husband (James Tupper) in the story about moms with secrets and murder, set in an affluent Monterey, California community. 

Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." Plural form of the Hebrew word "mitzvah" which means "commandment," it has two meanings. The first are the commandments given in the Torah. ("You should obey the mitzvah of honoring your parents!") The second is a good deed. ("Helping her carry her groceries home was such a mitzvah!") The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." Hebrew for "candelabrum" or "lamp," it usually refers to the nine-branched candelabrum that is lit for the holiday of Hanukkah. (A seven-branched candelabrum, a symbol of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, is a symbol of Judaism and is included in Israel's coat of arms.)
Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller writes and reports from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for MNN.com, The Jewish Journal, Brain World, Lupus Now, Scholastic.com and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv'at Brenner in Israel and attends High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.

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