The Insiders: 4/2/06

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Quinto in Spelling series

Who knew that among her talents, actress Tori Spelling is a CMU magnet. Three stars in VH1's "so noTORIous" (10 tonight), loosely based on Spelling's life, are graduates of Carnegie Mellon University.

Green Tree native Zachary Quinto (CMU class of '99, Central Catholic class of '95) stars as Spelling's best friend; James Carpinello ('96) plays her roommate; and Brennan Hesser ('03) plays another friend. In the first two episodes, CMU grad Joe Manganiello ('00), who grew up in Mt. Lebanon, guest stars as Spelling's love interest.

"They do sometimes talk about, 'Remember that class?' or 'Remember that teacher?' but it's fine," Spelling said about being odd-woman-out in some on-set reminiscences. "They're all so talented."

Quinto, whose most prominent part to date was as CTU computer analyst Adam Kaufman in season three of "24," gets the juiciest role as Spelling's gay Iranian Muslim best friend, Sasan, a character based on Spelling's real-life best friend, Mehran.

"You want to respect and honor [the real-life person] as much as you can while giving it your own spin in that unique situation," said Quinto, whose ethnicity is half-Irish and half-Italian.

"so noTORIous" was developed a year ago for NBC, which passed on the show. Actors' contracts had to be renegotiated when VH1 picked up the series. (Basic cable shows generally pay actors less than broadcast network series.)

"Going into the renegotiation process, I was expecting a much more drastic situation," Quinto said. "VH1 really stepped up to the plate in ways I wasn't sure they'd be able to."

'Pepper' producer

Gretchen Berg, who grew up in Franklin Park before attending Northwestern University, called on her summer internship experience at WTAE while writing/executive-producing the new WB series "Pepper Dennis" (9 p.m. Tuesday, WCWB).

Rebecca Romijn stars as the title character, a Chicago TV news reporter who's climbing her way to the top of the TV news business.

Berg said the makeup room at WTAE was the place people went to "download their day." She incorporated that location into "Pepper Dennis," using it as a gathering spot much as Central Perk did on "Friends."

"It's almost like a girl's bathroom in high school," Berg said. "You go and get out the gossip for the day."

Berg said she and writing partner Aaron Harberts set "Pepper" in Chicago because they needed a market that made Pepper's top-market dreams just beyond her grasp.

"I know there is a show [we'll do] that will take place in Pittsburgh someday," Berg said. "I love it there. Every time I go home, it's just so beautiful. And 'The Guardian' did it so well. It's such a film-friendly city."



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