Chattanooga on stage, screen and behind the scenes: Many local folks making it in the national entertainment biz

Caroline Mescon, 24, is production secretary on NBC's "Heartbreaker" series, which she says will premiere early next year.

Canedy Knowles threw a temper tantrum on the streets of Manhattan this week - and she couldn't be prouder.

That scene opened last Monday night's episode of "Odd Mom Out," the new Bravo scripted show in which Knowles plays the recurring character of Marisa, an Upper East Side mom in New York City.

She is one of several homegrown actors and actresses who have either been on the air so far this year or who are involved in projects that will air later this year. While Samuel L. Jackson is arguably Chattanooga's most famous actor, he is supported by a cast of established or rising stars representing the Scenic City.

"Odd Mom Out" was created by and stars Jill Kargman, playing a fictitious version of herself, Jill Weber. The show satirizes the elitism of the city's wealthy mommy cliques. Knowles' character has her meltdown - complete with jumping up and down in stilettos before throwing her cellphone to the sidewalk - because her son wasn't accepted to the prestigious kindergarten she desired.

"That's not something I would do, but felt so good to do," Knowles laughs. "It satisfies that impish part we all have to want to act that way. That's why I love playing Marisa."

The actress also had a good role in the May finale of "Blue Bloods," the CBS drama starring Tom Selleck as the patriarch of a family of New York City policemen. That was Knowles playing the trauma-team nurse who wrestled Donnie Wahlberg (Danny Reagan) out of the ER as his wife was being prepared for surgery after being shot.

"That was a really fun character and experience," she says. "We came in a day early and they had medical experts there who taught us the procedures of how to save someone from a gunshot wound. So I learned how to do that sequencing and to understand what their roles would have been. The director had us do it a bunch of times so it really felt very immediate and tense with all the emotion. When it got to the moments where I was wrestling with Danny, it really felt real."

Or viewers might have caught Knowles in "Blacklist" at the first of this year, playing a mom who discovers a dead body while walking her daughter to school.

The actress and her real daughter, Davis, are currently working in an independent film together called "Mommy Heist," about three moms who hold up a jewelry store. The mother-daughter team is also filming a "mommy travel show" with another company that she says she hopes will end up on television.

In fact, the entire Knowles family has the acting bug. Rex Knowles and Sherry Landrum, her parents, are known locally for founding Chattanooga State Community College's Professional Actor Training Program. This summer, Landrum has been leading children's summer theater camp in Atlanta; her husband is taping a show there that he plans to pitch for television. The premise of "The Joke Hunter" is two guys traveling the U.S. looking for a good joke, he says. Knowles asks the campers, ages 9 to 18, to give it their best shot.

"It's funny, they have some great jokes. This is what Art Linkletter must have felt like when he said kids say the darnedest things," he jokes.

Jessie Knowles, the couple's other daughter, is directing a documentary about the Atlanta Workshop Players; their granddaughter, Lexi Knowles-Coffey, has a part in "Not Just a Kid" music video for the band LOUD.

"The whole family has a DNA strain that just makes us all have to do this," Canedy jokes.

Equipping Nashville's musicians

Ben Jumper has a big stake in the success of "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" television special on ABC Tuesday night, but you won't see him onstage.

Jumper, a Chattanooga High School graduate, owns Soundcheck in Nashville, the largest rehearsal studio complex in the world under one roof. It's a 126,000-square-foot facility with nine rehearsal studios, 16 artist relations offices, instrument and backline inventories. Kenny Chesney rehearses there before his tours, as do Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan and Reba McEntire.

"We provide all music instruments for the CMA Awards, CMT Artist of the Year and the CMT Awards," says Jumper. "We provided all instruments for eight stages during CMA Fan Fest in June, including LP Field."

Tuesday night's TV special, which airs at 8 p.m., is an overview of the country music acts who performed at this year's Fan Fest.

During the first season of "Nashville," the country music-themed TV drama filmed several scenes in Soundcheck. Those shots in which Gunnar and Scarlett are songwriting in a writer's room are at Soundcheck. After the first season, the television show replicated those rooms for its sets, just like it did with the Bluebird Cafe.

"They mention, 'We're rehearsing at Soundcheck' all the time on the show. Hayden (Panettiere) and Jon (Jackson) have had arguments in our hallways," Jumper jokes. "We've been affiliated with 'Nashville' since it came to Nashville. We provide a good percentage of the instruments they use onstage; the bands rehearse at Soundcheck. Our trucks, our front door, our break room, our hallways show up on the TV show quite often."

He and wife Katie have homes in Chickamauga, Ga., and Nashville and they recently purchased saxophonist Boots Randolph's old farm in Nashville and plan to settle there after selling their Chickamauga farm.

Gillespie video is Emmy nominee

At the first of this year, Damon Gillespie shot a sketch with a (then) up-and-coming comedian named Amy Schumer. The Center for Creative Arts grad was one of four guys in a boy band singing "Girl, You Don't Need Makeup" to the Comedy Central star. The sketch was a satirical send-up of One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful."

"We sing how beautiful she is without her makeup, then she takes her makeup off and we are all shocked," Gillespie described in an earlier interview with the Times Free Press. After seeing her without cosmetics, the quartet advises "You'll be the hottest girl in the nation, with just a touch of foundation."

The video went viral - 3.5 million views on YouTube - and received an Emmy nomination in July for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics (by Kyle Dunnigan). It's one of seven Emmy nominations Schumer and her comedy show received. The winners will be announced Sept. 20.

'Fired' to hired?

Terrell Owens lasted 15 seasons in the NFL, but it took just five tasks working for real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump on "Celebrity Apprentice" before the wide receiver got sacked in January. The UTC alumnus was eliminated because he didn't have a reserve of big-dollar donors to call upon like his competitors.

The T.O. that viewers saw on "Celebrity Apprentice" was not the provocative NFL player known for flamboyant stunts on the field. Owens was low-key, professional and respectful to his competitors, earning high praise from Trump before he uttered his famous catchphrase, "You're fired." TMZ called it "one of the nicest sackings in the history of the show."

T.O., 41, says he's hoping to hear "You're hired" from an NFL owner, according to his June interview on Rich Eisen's Direct TV show. Owens emphasized he is not retired and he's ready to get back on the field. Until then, he's spending time encouraging young athletes. On July 25, he walked with Team USA at the Special Olympics World Games' opening ceremony in Los Angeles, broadcast by ESPN.

'90s Nostalgia

Jimmy Fallon threw one of television's biggest surprises when he reunited the cast of "Saved by the Bell" for a "Tonight Show" sketch on Feb. 4. The audience's cheers shot off the decibel chart, and the subsequent YouTube video went viral with more than 31 million viewings.

Fallon played himself in a Bayside High School scene with Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack), Tiffani Thiessen (Kelly), Mario Lopez (Slater), Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie) and, of course, Chattanooga's own Dennis Haskins (Principal Belding).

"They reached out to us about two to three weeks before the show aired," Haskins says. "We all agreed to keep it a secret so that the impact could be as big as possible since fans had continued to ask for a reunion. It was like throwing a surprise party for our fans. Frankly, it was a gift to us as well."

Busy year for Boston

Rachel Boston began and will end this year starring in Hallmark movies. "A Gift of Miracles" premiered Feb. 15, in which she co-starred with Rita Moreno. The actress just wrapped a Christmas movie shot in Canada for Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, which will air in December.

The Girls Preparatory School alumna was magic as Ingrid Beauchamp in "Witches of East End," the Lifetime series that disappeared in 2014 after airing two seasons, then reappeared three weeks ago on Netflix. Deadline Hollywood announced in March that Boston had been cast as a series regular in CBS' civil rights crime drama pilot "For Justice." The show is based on James Patterson's novel, "The Thomas Berryman Number." In the pilot, Boston plays Lisa, a Department of Justice lawyer.

Syndicated sensation

With more than 377 television episodes to his credit over 33 years working as an actor, it's a rare day when Leslie Jordan isn't on the screen in a "Reba" or "Will & Grace" rerun.

"It's a good feeling to be up in the middle of the night and turn on TV and 'Oh, there I am!'" he jokes. "You see yourself and go 'Cha-ching!' I get a little money for each of those reruns, but it takes about six months from the day it airs in syndication until it gets to me."

The week of July 20 alone, Jordan was seen in three reruns on cable networks.

Jordan won an Emmy in 2006 for his role as Beverley Leslie on "Will & Grace." The Brainerd High School and UTC alum says he has been on the road so much with his one-man show that his TV career has "fallen by the wayside. But I turn 60 this year, and I feel like I'm working more than I have ever worked before."

Keeping Up with a Jones

Brainerd High School grad Nina Jones has two TV projects targeted for fall airings.

"First is 'South of Hell,' that will air on We channel. It was shot in Charleston, S.C., late last year and this winter. Eight episodes were ordered. It's created by the same folks who created 'Dexter.' Cleverly written," she says by email.

She has just begun shooting "The Detour" in Atlanta for TBS, tentatively scheduled for a November release. Jones says it is written by Samantha Bee and Jason Jones from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

"I think it's going to be pretty funny."

Setting the scene for 'Salem'

"I've been doing 'Salem' for WGN and Fox TV," says John Zachary, another Brainerd High alum. Zachary is production designer for the TV show's fictional account of events surrounding the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692. "Salem" is the first original-scripted series by WGN. Its second season began in April.

Zachary is building quite a resumé in Hollywood, with more than 40 series, pilots and features to his credit. He was production designer for four seasons of "Raising Hope," Season 2 of "Sleepy Hollow" and art director for four seasons of "My Name Is Earl."

Married or divorced from 'Medicine'?

She's in. She's out. She's back in maybe?

Bravo shocked fans of "Married to Medicine" with its May announcement that Mariah Huq would not return as a regular cast member when Season 3 debuted in June.

"Married" follows six Atlanta women who are doctors, married to doctors or somehow connected to the medical field. Huq, a UTC grad, was in medical sales when she met her husband, Dr. Aydin Huq.

Huq is creator and producer of "Married," so how could the network squeeze her out? She posted on Facebook that she was "disheartened" by production's decision to "diminish" her camera time. Bravo talk-show host Andy Cohen tweeted it was her choice to go.

Without Huq's drama, the reality show lost its pulse. Then unexpectedly, after five Huq-less episodes, there she was on July 19 in a heart-to-heart scene with her frenemy Quad Webb-Lunceford. However, no sign of her the following week.

So is she in or out? Perhaps the answer lies in recent rumors that Huq is joining "Real Housewives of Atlanta." Entertainment websites are alleging that Huq will take NeNe Leakes' place on the Bravo reality show, however, an official announcement has not been made.

Comedian to watch

Malachi Nimmons lived here until he was 6, then returned at age 20 to study with Rex Knowles and Sherry Landrum at Chattanooga State. Graduating in 2008, he moved to Los Angeles the next year.

"The apartment I was staying in burned in L.A., and I didn't know what I was going to do," he says. "So I moved to Chattanooga for a couple of months, then I found out Canedy (Knowles) was touring company director in New York for Chicago City Limits."

After auditioning three times, he was offered a place in the improv troupe and moved to New York in 2012. Nimmons says he worked at FAO Schwarz for a year until he started getting enough work to be a full-time actor. His first TV gig was on "World's Dumbest" on Tru TV, hosting seven episodes for Season 16 in 2014.

Although building a reputation for comedy, Nimmons was more likely to be seen on dramas this year. He played a friend of a murder victim on Debra Messing's "Mysteries of Laura" and an extra on "Blue Bloods."

"Debra Messing is incredibly lovely. It's a little nerve-wracking to see somebody on TV so many times, then be standing in front of her. On 'Blue Bloods,' I played a guy named Barry who just walks up in a crowd and asks the police what's going on. I had a whole two lines," he laughs.

He has just finished shooting a new comedy series starring Aziz Ansari (Tom Haverford on "Parks and Recreation"). He is cast as Dwayne, an assistant director in an episode about a commercial Ansari is shooting. Dwayne will be a recurring role.

Watch for her name in credits

Caroline Mescon, 24, is production secretary on NBC's "Heartbreaker" series, which she says will premiere early next year. The medical drama stars Melissa George as Dr. Alex Panttiere, a renowned heart surgeon who operates on her own terms and pushes the boundaries of medical science.

Mescon, daughter of Jed and Phyllis Mescon, says her job is to keep the production office running smoothly.

"We are the hub of production - everything from supplies to deliveries, setting up stages and talking to the studio. There are tons of different departments that range from art, costumes, set decoration, camera, assistant directors, construction, lighting and the list goes on. It's kind of like managing a department store - different sections and interests, but all under the same roof."

Mescon says her goal is to be a line producer, "the person who is in charge of all the physical production of the show. They make sure the show stays within the budget and help plan out how a show will get shot. It's a tough job, but I love it. One day you'll be seeing my name in the credits - 'Produced by Caroline Mescon' - I'm sure of it!

"I absolutely love the people I work with. Not a day goes by that I'm not excited to go to work in the morning."

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.