How Hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards May Have Saved Leslie Jones From Getting COVID (EXCLUSIVE)

Welcome to this week’s “Just For Variety“…

Leslie Jones didn’t exactly run to get a COVID vaccine. “When it first came out I was like, ‘I’m not taking that shit,’” the former “Saturday Night Live” star tells me. “They just going to come up with a potion and we’re sup- posed to take that shit? … I was like, ‘I’m going to wait until the last batch and then maybe somebody could talk me into it.” But then she spoke to her aunt’s friend, a biologist working in COVID research. “She was like, ‘This is very serious. Please get vaccinated,’” Jones says. But she still wasn’t ready — that is, until she was asked to host the MTV Movie & TV Awards, airing live from Los Angeles on May 16: “I was like, ‘I gotta be sage so let me just go bite the bullet.” She says she’s going to avoid pandemic jokes: “I hope we make it a party,” Jones says. “I just want to bring joy to people. Everybody is going to be hearing about me and about me dating. I’m just trying to have joy. I just want everybody to laugh their ass off.”

She also wants winners to keep their acceptance speeches short. She says she wasn’t a fan of the unusually long thank-you remarks at this year’s Oscars. “And why did they all look so scared?” Jones asks. “They looked like hostages with someone standing on the side with a gun or something. When it gets down to Glenn Close doing ‘Da Butt’ being the most exciting thing, we have lost ourselves. I’m not mad at it, but it just shouldn’t have been the most exciting thing that happened that night.”

With lockdown restrictions easing, Jones has returned to stand up. “The first time I hit that stage, I didn’t know that was part of my medicine of life,” she says. “I was like, ‘Damn!’ I slept like a baby that night. I didn’t know that was an element of what was missing out of my life.”

As for the dating life we’ll hear more about on during the awards on Sunday, Jones says, “I want a guy like the house I just bought — solid! You know what I’m saying? I don’t have to replace any window frames or fixtures.”

SIGHTINGS: Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban and their daughters celebrating Mother’s Day at the Hotel Bel-Air, as were Angelina Jolie and her family. … Stars of the “Gossip Girl” reboot, including Evan Mock, Thomas Doherty, Whitney Peak, Eli Brown, Zion Moreno and Savannah Smith, dining at NYC’s L’Avenue at Saks.

Two years ago, Jaden Smith launched the I Love You food truck to distribute food to the homeless in Los Angeles’ Skid Row area. Now, the actor-musician and philanthropist will open an I Love You restaurant. “It’s for homeless people to get free food,” says Smith, whose’s Water Box project to provide access to clean water to underserved communities is featured in New Balance’s new We Got Now video campaign. “But if you’re not homeless, not only do you have to pay, but you have to pay for more than the food’s worth so that you can pay for the person behind you.” We Got Now, which also includes NBA champion Kawhi Leonard, sprinter Sydney McLaughlin, tennis star Coco Gauff, footballer Sadio Mané and professional skateboarders Tiago Lemos and Margie Dida, aims to encourage people to come together to change the world, either locally or on a global scale. “I love New Balance,” Smith says. “They’re family. I’m always working on some New Balance-related thing.”

And maybe getting his father Will Smith a pair of new sneakers for working out. The “Men in Black” star went viral earlier this month when he posted a shirtless photo on Instagram that showed he let his body go soft during the pandemic. ‘This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru the pantry,” Will wrote, in part. “I love this body, but I wanna FEEL better. No more midnight muffins…this is it!”

Jaden laughs, “We all know the shape that he’s in. We joke around with him in the family. It wasn’t really a surprise to us. We’ve seen him evolve into that. It really was not a surprise at all.”

Also on the horizon for the younger Smith, the release of the fall/winter 2021 collection of his fashion line MSFTSrep as well as a new edition of his latest album “Cool Tape Volume 3.”

In the last year, we’ve seen Noma Dumezweni as a scene-stealer in “The Undoing,” co-star on HBO Max’s “Made for Love” and most recently, play Elektra’s (Dominque Jackson) mom on “Pose.” She’s currently filming Rob Marshall’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” She’s can’t talk about her secret role, but she can rave about stars Halle Bailey (Ariel) and Jonah Hauer-King (Eric). “There’s a moment when the camera zooms in and you see both of them. I was watching on a monitor and was like, ‘If that’s not iconic, I have no taste.’” The Tony nominee went on to say that the two are “fucking adorable”: “They’re just so sweet together.” Not so sweet are Dumenzweni’s scenes with in “Pose.” Inspired by Jackson’s own story of being rejected by her family for being trans, Elektra’s mom is shown throwing her daughter out of the house. “When I went to go film, I was really nervous,” Dumezweni tells me. “I said to Dominique, ‘I know this is your story, but I’m not your mother. I can’t do that, but we can do it act and make a real story.’ And she was just perfect. From that moment on we had a laugh.”

Jane Krakowski will star in the Roundabout Theatre 2021 gala, “Curtain Up, Light the Lights!,” taking place June 7 in Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield. Also on the bill are The New York Pops and Titus Burgess along with appearances by Roundabout alumni Rachel Brosnahan, Whoopi Goldberg, Emma Stone, Blair Underwood and Vanessa Williams. A stream of the evening will be available for $25. For more info, go to

Garret Dillahunt is remembering his late “Raising Hope” co-star Cloris Leachman, who died in January at age 94. He visited her just two months before she passed while riding his motorcycle from L.A. to Austin, where he films “Fear the Walking Dead.” “She was quite frail, but she was also the same Cloris,” says Dillahunt, whose latest project is Zack Snyder’s Netflix zombie movie “Army of the Dead.” “I sat on the edge of the bed, and she held my hand, and she said, ‘I’ve missed you terribly.’” At one point, while making “Raising Hope,” Dillahunt was feeling a bit jaded, so he asked Leachman how she still loved acting. “She said, ‘I feel like a detective. You walk onto the set, and you just start finding out little things about this person, and you start piecing them together. That’s just so exciting to me,’” he says. “It was very inspiring.” Without giving away spoilers, it’s at least safe to say that Dillahunt has some rather brutal fight scenes with the undead in “Army of the Dead.” The 56-year-old did many of his own stunts. In one scene, a zombie tiger swats him around like a piece of catnip. “I was being jerked around on ropes and I had to be flopping. At one point, my arm kind of came over one of the ropes so it was between my bicep and my ribs,” Dillahunt recalls. “By the time that was done, I had a gigantic bruise on the inside of my arm and along my ribs. It didn’t hurt but it was just gigantic and purple.” He adds with a laugh, “I got a lot of mileage out of that, acting tough and stuff.” Dillahunt will also be seen in “Blonde,” Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates‘ novel about Marilyn Monroe starring Ana de Armas in the title role. Dillahunt has been friends with Dominick ever since he directed him in 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” “I read with potential Marilyns years ago when he was trying to cast this but he couldn’t find anyone,” Dillahunt says. But then de Armas, who is Cuban-Spanish, came along. “Andrew likes to shoot screen tests like a film on sets and locations,” Dillahunt explains. “Ana came out of hair and make-up in this beautiful blonde wig, with the mole and in that iconic white dress. It was magical. And this was the screen test so it was before she did any dialect and voice work and she’d be across from me and every once and while these perfect Marilyn sounds would come out of her.”


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