Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cheryl Hines Shows 'School Pride'

You know and love Emmy-nominated actress Cheryl Hines as comedian Larry David's long-suffering wife on the HBO hit "Curb Your Enthusiasm." And this working mama is one busy gal. When she's not doing stints on "Brothers & Sisters" or parts in movies like "RV" or "The Ugly Truth," the actress steps behind the lens as director on films such as last year's "Serious Moonlight," a drama starring Meg Ryan and Timothy Hutton. Now, she's donning her reality TV producer cap -- yes, really -- with the new NBC docudrama "School Pride," a six-week series that focuses on revamping and revitalizing one school at a time.

You actually came up with this idea a few years ago when you renovated a school in Compton?

I had joined forces with a school principal. And we renovated her school and it had such a big impact not only the students and the teachers and the parents, but also the whole community. We were just so excited about what had been accomplished that the school board asked if they could move Jackie, the principal, to another school. So we did that school. Then one of my friends said, 'This should be a show, so America can see how you're doing this and people can be inspired by what you're accomplishing." So we joined forces with NBC and this summer went across the country and renovated seven schools. And we had a blast doing it and some really touching, exciting moments along the way that we captured on camera?

Okay, first things first: how did you end up volunteering at a school in Compton?

Well, I was volunteering with a reading program called Read Across America, where I would go in read books to kindergartners, first-graders, second-graders. Just go in and read and go home. But I was inspired to reach out to these schools. My first instinct was to reach out to schools in other countries, schools I thought really needed helped. But a friend of mine said, 'What about our country?' He said, 'Why don't you start with the school where you're volunteering.' And I thought, 'Do they really need help?' So I cold-called Jackie, the principal, and asked what I could do. I said, 'Is there anything I can do?' So she invited me down to see the school and what would really help. And they needed a lot of help. It wasn't just soccer balls and jump ropes. The school hadn't been painted in 28 years. Their playground had been taped off with police do-not-cross barriers, because the sand underneath it was infested with bugs. There were just a lot of problems. All of those problems were sending a message to the kids saying, 'We don't care about you.' Jackie and I wanted to send a message to the kids saying, 'We do care about you!'

Now you're taking this message national with the show?

That's right. We want students across the country to know we do care, we want parents and teachers and community members to see how they can show that they care -- and we want to have a good time doing it.

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