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Eriq La Salle and that 'Under the Dome' 'very, very big event'

The chill has definitely left the air and in Wilmington (aka Wilmywood), it is hotter than ever. Not because of the 85-degree heat, but because of the stars flying in like a breeze in the night. With the Nicholas Sparks flick The Longest Ride, gearing up for the summer and two of our sophomore shows (Under the Dome and Sleepy Hollow) in full force, the celebrity power in North Carolina is exploding.

Eriq and Sheila

Sheila Brothers and Eriq La Salle.

Not only has Under the Dome been bringing in guest stars, but also guest directors. I had the honor of hosting one of them on my radio show yesterday morning on Sunny 104.5: the gorgeous Eriq La Salle. It took everything I had not to call him Dr. Benton. Yes, he played that hot doctor on ER. He’s got a lot going on at the moment, as he is not just an accomplished actor, but also a very talented director and author. Yep, he writes books, too, and is currently working on his Martyr Maker series. James Patterson called his soon-to-be-released second novel, Laws of Wrath, an “all thriller, no filler, white-knuckled treat.” Although I didn’t get a sneak peek of his upcoming page-turner, I have read his first book, Laws of Depravity. I can safely say if you love Patterson’s Alex Cross series, you will LOVE this one too.

As if that is not enough, La Salle has found time to direct episode 10 of Under the Dome. For those of you who don’t know, he has been directing films and television shows since 1996. Neil Baer, who is now the showrunner for Under the Dome, was also a producer/show runner for ER. From there, Baer left the show to go do Law & Order: SVU. “He was the one who offered me my first television directing gig,” La Salle said. “So I did a couple of those, and then I just started doing various shows.”

La Salle has been quite intrigued with Under the Dome since season 1, and he’s a fan. He said, “It’s a very different kind of show. It’s not your usual ‘cop, medical, lawyer’ show. This type of storytelling is great, and Stephen King is the master. I like directing shows that I like to watch. I like being a fan of a show and then getting to direct it. It’s really cool.”

Even though it is his first time in Wilmington, his surroundings are still quite familiar. Not only has he had a long relationship with Baer, but he has already worked with many of this season’s cast. “Eddie Cahill I directed on CSI:NY,” La Salle said. “And, of course, Rachelle — I have such a weakness for her!”

Yes, Rachelle Lefevre is beautiful; however, that is not why she intrigues La Salle. He worked alongside Lefevre on Baer’s A Gifted Man as an actor as well as a director. “I just adore her!” he said. “She is crazy cool. She gets it. She has a great sense of humor. We have a great time.”

And let’s not forget one of his all-time favorites, Sherry Stringfield, who also worked with him on ER as Dr. Susan Lewis. “I don’t know how much work we are going to get done,” La Salle admitted. “We are going to spend so much time laughing and being silly!”

Eriq 1Even while he’ll be bringing some fun to the set, he’ll be bringing his experience as well. “My job is to come in and tell the best possible story. The advantage I have is that I am an actor. Myself and other actors, we speak the same language, and I find that actors tend to be more trusting of me,” he said. “I spend a lot of time with them. There are some directors that are so focused on the shots and aren’t as performance- and story-driven. That’s sort of what I’m known for as a director and why people hire me. They know they will get some good shots as well as performances. That’s what I bring.”

As a director, La Salle definitely has his own style, but he always respects the show first: “It’s not about your style sticking out. It’s about integrating your style into the existing show. I respect the parameters of the show but give it a boost.”

So what can we expect out of episode 10 of Under the Dome? “We will learn more about some interesting relationships that develop that are big surprises,” he coyly said. C’mon, Eriq, give us more! “Oh, there is a very big event that happens. A very, very big event. That’s it. That’s all I’m going to tease you with.”

Haha! OK, fair enough. La Salle begins shooting episode 10 this week. During his prep time, he has gotten to know our film crew here and has ventured out a bit. Just like the many film-industry folks before him, he loves it in North Carolina. If you happen to be in the area, you can meet him yourself, as he will be doing a book signing for Laws of Wrath here in Wilmington at the Mayfaire Barnes & Noble on Saturday, June 14, at 3 p.m. — just in time for Father’s Day.

I’ll keep you posted on all things Dome on my blog, The Wilmywood Daily. Until then, that’s a wrap!

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