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Clint’s wife aims to launch the band she’s managing into the spotlight with new reality show

By Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — Francesca Eastwood is slouched sideways in a chair, her bare feet hanging over the seat’s arm. As the 19-year-old toils on her phone — going through old photos and reading about slavery on Wikipedia — she maintains conversation with half-sister Morgan. Both young women have recently emerged from a press junket at a luxury hotel and are noticeably annoyed.

“They asked so many questions about dad,” Francesca says, eyes still locked on her phone screen. “I mean, like, really?”

“Yeah, it’s like, guys, get over it,” 15-year-old Morgan dutifully agrees.

That there is interest in their old man isn’t wholly absurd — he is revered Academy Award-winning actor and director Clint Eastwood. But their dad wasn’t the focus of this media blitz. In fact, he wasn’t there at all.

This press junket was focused on the ladies in his life — both daughters and wife, Dina — and their new series. In “Mrs. Eastwood & Company,” which premiered May 20, the trio step out of Clint’s shadow and make their debut as the newest faces of E!, the same network that spawned the Kardashian empire. The reality offering has even secured the plum spot following “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” in its seventh season.

Although the show boasts the Eastwood name, the one genuine celebrity remains on the sidelines.

“This is not about what it’s like to be married to Clint or to be the daughter of Clint,” said Dina, joining her daughters at the table and reminding them to turn off their phones so they can “make good impressions.” She continued, “If people are watching it for that, they’ll be disappointed. It’s a whole other dynamic.”

On this particular day, that dynamic proves to be chaotic — aspirin searches, cheek kisses between sisters at random moments, an unnecessarily long discussion of the trappings of fame, and a daughter trying to persuade her mother that she needs her own publicist. The series, too, frequently shifts focus. Sometimes it’s about the family’s life in Carmel, Calif. Other times it’s about something else altogether: a South African boy band called Overtone that Dina is managing. She discovered the group while Clint was filming “Invictus” and invited them to move into the Eastwood mansion.

Dina, who spent many years as a TV news anchor in Central California, said she originally pitched a show about a manager and her band: “I didn’t go through Hollywood shopping a family reality show. That’s the last thing my husband would probably want me to do. And I get why. And, you know, a lot of people are worried for Clint — they think this show will ruin his reputation. I just realize you cannot control all the noise.”

Clint does make a few cameo appearances — undoubtedly to the relief of the network brass.

So how does one convince Dirty Harry to participate in a reality series? Dina admits that persuading her husband to let cameras into their home took some time.

“I think he knows I’m not going to exploit my kids on television,” the 46-year-old said. “I told him, ‘I know you don’t want to this, probably, but you kind of have to.’ He’s a great husband. He knows it’s important to me and he knows I’m not going to jack up his reputation. He’s in a couple of episodes out of 10 by his choice. If I said today, I need you in a scene, he would not do it. He did what he wanted to do. He’s got a duck’s back, nothing affects him. But this has actually pushed a couple of buttons with him. I think he feels that I’m putting us in … I don’t know …”

Clint quickly made it clear that there needed to be boundaries between his work and the TV show. Dina said that she considered bringing cameras with her when she went to visit her husband on the Atlanta set of “Trouble With the Curve,” a movie he’s starring in with Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams. Clint put a stop to it.

Dina said she understands her husband’s perspective and insists her focus is in using the interest in her family to drum up interest in Overtone. “It’s the anti-attempt at fame for me,” Dina said. “I did this show so it could serve as a launching pad for Overtone. Let’s face it, reality TV is an entry into the business now.”

Suzanne Kolb, president of E! Entertainment, said part of the appeal of adding the Eastwood women to the network’s talent pool was to break down perceptions.

“I was most intrigued by the fact that they are just not exactly what you’d expect,” Kolb said. “In some respects, when you hear ‘the family of a film icon,’ you have this perception that they’ll be a little stuffy or it will be wealth to the point of inaccessibility somehow.”

Morgan and Francesca are all too aware of the possibilities that lie ahead, if the show’s a success. Reality stars like “Jersey Shore’s” Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi have made millions in endorsement deals and books. And the Kardashian family has raked in millions more as a result of the fame they achieved from appearing on a hit reality series.

“I think it’s a great door opener,” said Francesca, the daughter of Clint and actress Frances Fisher. “I think that there is a certain amount of influence and power that you get when you’re in the public eye.”

“Um, same thing,” Morgan added. “I still haven’t fully tasted what it’s like to be in the entertainment business — I’m probably going to really soon. But, yeah, I’d want to just do endorsements and stuff and work with my sister.”

Dina isn’t necessarily opposed to her daughters’ ambitions. But she hopes they can control the terms.

“I want us to stay on our own. I don’t want us to change. And Clint doesn’t want us to either.”



10 p.m. EDT Sundays


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