Many times famous actors and actresses will become "producers" -- the guiding hands behind a showbiz endeavor. This is often done as a way of facilitating a project that would otherwise die on the vine. Goldie Hawn, Pierce Brosnan, Jodie Foster and Kevin Costner are just a few of the performers who've gone this route.
Most of the time the shows are vehicles for the stars themselves, to show off some other side of their talent. But not always. A case in point is Sandra Bullock and her executive producer title on ABC's "George Lopez Show."
Bullock is no figurehead dabbler. She's a mother-hen, hands-on producer, who sought out veteran TV honcho Bruce Helford to get her started. It's an unlikely role for the appealing star of such films as "Speed," "Hope Floats" and her latest, "Two Weeks Notice."
"I don't know anything about TV production," she says. But she nourished the idea of producing a sitcom and set about trying to find a comedian to star in it.
"When we saw George, as soon as you see George there's such a disarming element to him," she says.
"Sometimes comedians can be really abrasive and that's all they can do, and you go, 'How are they going to translate to a sitcom when they have to act and be human and subtle?' And George just blew me away by all the levels he had in his performance. As soon as I saw him I said, 'You know what? His life is far more interesting than any of the stories we've heard because [truth] is always better than fiction.' "
Bullock, 38, says she was shocked by the dizzying speed with which television is realized.
"I like fast, but only in some things. It's nice to have the chance to develop the product. I'm used to things being slow and everyone arguing and collaborating. Television is super-fast. And once you get used to the pace and you realize that when Bruce says, 'I need to know now,' it means he needs to know now and not in two weeks -- which is more film time. Plus, I started out in the business of doing bad television. I always said if I could go back and do it well, it would be really nice. So it's sort of a guilty pleasure in repairing the damage I did as an actor."
Bullock's first foray into TV was a 1989 movie with a name longer than its running time: "Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman." She also starred in a pallid TV version of "Working Girl" in 1990.
"My first job was on a television show, and it was horrible, horrible. I didn't know how to speak up, and I kept saying if I ever get the chance . . . television has gotten so good now and you can do anything you want on TV, and I love comedy."
Bullock also enjoys the informality of TV. "It's nice not to have to go to work and look good on a superficial level," she says. "I love getting up early in the morning, I like the communal aspects of problem-solving. I like being with a group of people and everyone working together to make something work.
"That is because that was my childhood. My mother was in the opera. . . . I like chaos and problem-solving. And I like fighting for people who I think are really great. And I get satisfaction for my ego saying this person's going to be great doing this. I'm going to put myself on the line for this person."
Celebrity has never been Bullock's favored state of being. "I'm not at ease the minute I step off the set with celebrity. I'm so at ease on a film set. I love it. But I do like the treats you get. I get to travel, they send you boxes of free clothes. I keep some, give some away to friends. You call up somebody and say, 'I need a table, I want to make a reservation.' 'Okay' . . . you get a table. Who knows how long that will last, but I'm not going to lie and say those things aren't fun. But those are things that when you go home and go to bed you're not going, 'Ahh, I got that great new dress and a table at Spago.' "
. . . "I like chaos and