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Contributed photo by Cole Burston / Veronika Slowikowska has a new single out called "So Many Lies" that is part of a Luken Communications television production slated to premiere in 2021. The show has been delayed by the pandemic, but Veronika's album is moving forward.

The coronavirus has put release plans on hold for the first scripted show by Chattanooga-based Luken Communications, but the first single from the music-oriented series has debuted in the Billboard Top 100 Adult Contemporary Chart.

"So Many Lies" is by Canadian singer/songwriter Veronika Slowikowska, who uses only her first name in her music. Perhaps best known for her recurring role in "What We Do in the Shadows" on FX, she is to be the lead in the new show, "Becoming Alex," scheduled to debut on the Heartland network in 2021.

Those who work in the entertainment industry explain that few situations typify the "hurry-up-and-wait" way of doing business more than creating a new television show, movie or record album.

Any number of things can ground to a screeching halt a project that appears to be barreling down a mountainside on roller skates. The bigwig who supports it at the studio can suddenly change jobs, or a star can get sick or pregnant. Funds can dry up, or people in power can suddenly, and without warning or explanation, have a change of heart.

And, no matter what, such projects always seem to take longer than expected.

Luken Communications President Joel Wertman is a veteran of both the TV and music industries. In addition to overseeing a stable of networks that includes Retro TV, Heartland, The Action Channel, The Family Channel, and Rev'n, he has produced records for Bush, Goo Goo Dolls and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He is also a writer.

The Luken networks air a mix of old classic TV shows and movies, in addition to new, original programming such as talk shows. When Wertman conceived of the idea for the media company's first scripted show, experience told him it would take time. Nothing prepared him for a pandemic, however.

"It's been in the making going on three years," Wertman said of the project. "There is a gestation process, but obviously it has been made far more difficult because of COVID."

Add in the fact that the goal was to shoot the TV show in Canada, to take advantage of certain tax benefits, and it got even more complicated. Shooting for "Becoming Alex" was set to begin this past spring and the show was to be released this fall. That scheduling was put on hold because of travel restrictions and production studios shutting down.

Even before that, just finding his star was difficult enough, Wertman said.

"I auditioned about 60 girls," he said. "I had a very specific lead in mind. Somebody who could sing and act and play a young teen and an adult. I knew when I saw her, she was it.

"I wasn't looking for an actress. I was looking for someone who could be themselves, and she was it."

Slowikowska plays Alex Russell, a young performer who moves to Nashville trying to find her way in life and in music — while trying to figure out how the two fit together or if they even do.

"We see her in her 20s and in the business looking back and reflecting on everything," Slowikowska said. "She is a young woman figuring out her way in music, and it very much mirrors my own life."

Two years ago, Slowikowska was living in Los Angeles. She was working as an actor, but also was wanting to be a comedian and singer/songwriter and was feeling uncertain of exactly who she was. She said she felt somewhat embarrassed telling people she was a singer or a comedian, as if only one description defined her.

"I was trying to figure out if those things defined who I was as a person, but over the last six months, I've figured out I'm a person first, but also someone who makes a living as an actor and a singer."

Wertman wrote and will produce the TV show and wrote and produced the music along with son Shane P-W. More singles will follow "So Many Lies" before the full album's release, which is set for January.

Luken Communications is a privately owned broadcast holding company. It owns or operates around 80 television stations in the United States and six digital television multicast networks.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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