Festival Review: PaleyFest 2023


PaleyFest is a five-day TV Festival that took place from March 31 through April 4, 2023 at Hollywood’s famous Dolby Theater. The UCSD Guardian’s Arts & Entertainment writers were given the opportunity to attend, walk around the red carpet, meet some TV stars, and watch screenings of the shows highlighted. This year, the PaleyFest highlighted seven shows — here are the three A&E covered.



“Is this an April Fool’s joke?” That was the question on the lips of many attendees at “Yellowstone”’s PaleyFest event, held, as fate would have it, on April 1. The annual television festival offers fans a first look at upcoming episodes of various shows, followed by panels featuring cast and crew members. “Yellowstone,” the gritty neo-Western family drama often described as “The Sopranos” on a ranch, was heavily featured in PaleyFest’s marketing. This was in no small part due to the festival’s promise to have the entire Dutton family in attendance — gruff patriarch John (Kevin Costner), cutthroat businesswoman Beth (Kelly Reilly), golden-child Kayce (Luke Grimes), and black-sheep Jamie (Wes Bentley) — along with other fan-favorite characters like Monica and Rip. The panel also boasted creator and showrunner Taylor Sheridan, who has parlayed “Yellowstone”’s success into several spin-off programs on Paramount+. 

Yet, reporters lining up for the pre-panel red carpet were handed a press brief that was no joke: the entire roster of attendees had been swapped for a handful of supporting actors. The bait-and-switch created palpable tension as expectant fans gathered at the top of the stairs to the red carpet. Interviewers scrambled to come up with new questions, while some debated skipping the event altogether.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, rumors had swirled about production delays and cast difficulties. Fueling these speculations was the series’ failure to release a premiere date for the second half of its fifth season. The cast who showed up in place of the slated attendees handled the situation with grace, sharing anecdotes about filming past seasons and gamely dancing around questions about the show’s future. 

Moses Brings Plenty, an Oglala Lakota actor, spoke to The UCSD Guardian about playing Mo, the thoughtful right-hand man of Chairman Rainwater (Gil Birmingham). When asked about his character’s mindset going into the second half of season five, he shared, “I’m just being open-minded. Waiting to see. I love the mystical aspect of not receiving scripts right now because I like to keep my character organic. I don’t want to know too far ahead — if I know too far ahead, I’m already going to be there.” 

Actress Wendy Moniz-Grillo, who plays Montana governor-turned-senator Lynell Perry, was similarly tight-lipped about what’s next for “Yellowstone.” She did, however, share her favorite part about filming the first half of Season 5. “I really liked the beginning when John [Dutton] gets introduced as the new governor. We have those scenes of the inauguration … and we were outside, there were a lot of people, and the cast was mostly together, so it was a lot of fun.”

After the red carpet, PaleyFest attendees viewed an already-aired episode from the season’s first half. Then, the panelists took the stage, greeting a bewildered audience who had just been informed of the new roster. The ensuing discussion offered a dismal update: the cast had no information on when the show would resume filming, meaning “Yellowstone”’s promised summer 2023 return is unlikely. While the panelists shared amusing stories and garnered applause several times, the event was soured by a feeling of betrayal. It remains to be seen if “Yellowstone” can round up viewers’ good graces again — or if it will ride off and leave them in the dust.

Bailey Bujnosek, Senior Staff Writer


“The Mandalorian”

This year’s start to PaleyFest kicked off with Season 3 of “The Mandalorian,” and I had the privilege of going to an episode screening and attending the red carpet. Attending the red carpet was probably one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. I mean, I was going to interview people who made a show I have been obsessed with since I was 17 years old. I got to see many familiar faces who worked on the show, including Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, and I even had the pleasure of talking with Katee Sackhoff, who plays Bo-Katan Kryze. 

In my conversation with Sackhoff, I asked her, “How does it feel to have such a significant role in Season 3?” to which she responded: “It’s amazing! You know, this is a character that was such a small part of ‘Clone Wars,’ ‘Rebels,’ and the second season of ‘The Mandalorian.’ For her to be so important to the story moving forward is something that’s really important to me.” My interaction with Sackhoff was brief, but her enthusiasm and kindness were evident. Her smile was apparent throughout every interview I saw her in; it was a genuine, contagious kind of joy, like she does truly love how far her character has come. 

After my interaction with Sackhoff, the screening of the episode was about to start. The crowd and I made our way to the Dolby Theater for a screening of “Chapter 21: The Pirate.” Though I was disappointed to see an episode that had already aired, the feeling quickly faded when I realized I was surrounded by a fanbase that so evidently loves the show. I was reminded of the joys of going to the theater. When characters appeared on screen, applause and cheers could be heard from every corner of the room — claps sounded when the enemy took fatal blows from the Mandalorians. My personal favorite moment was when Mando (Pedro Pascal) said “This is the way,” and the audience repeated the phrase as if they were part of the creed themselves. 

Once the show ended, the Q&A segment started. The panel included Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Pedro Pascal, and Katee Sackhoff. An interviewer was on stage along with the actors and producers, leading the conversation about the show. Much was talked about, but the main theme was the panel’s love for Star Wars. Everyone on the panel had something to say about the franchise’s impact on their childhood or the meaning it held in their lives. That to me is what makes the show so special: the passion that goes into these episodes. 

Though I have mixed feelings about the new season of “The Mandalorian,” the PaleyFest experience itself was fantastic. To attend an event of a show that means so much to me, and to be surrounded by others in the theater that felt the same way, was a once in a lifetime experience and reminded me of what made Star Wars so great: the community. Also, I was 20 feet away from Pedro Pascal at one point, so I can die happy now.

Lea Vazquez, Senior Staff Writer


“Abbott Elementary”

“We don’t get to choose when we get honored” 


When this quote was said during the screening of the newest “Abbott Elementary” episode, I could sense that this resonated deeply with the audience. Within the context of the episode it makes a lot of sense, but this is especially true in education. 

PaleyFest brought together the amazing cast of the hit network comedy “Abbott Elementary” for a special screening of the newest episode, a Q&A panel, and a special cast announcement. “Abbott Elementary” has had a tremendous amount of success since its debut in 2021, with the cast earning multiple nominations during the past awards season, which yielded wins for Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Tyler James Williams. When asked about their accomplishments, Williams and Ralph both commented on how the magnitude of the moment got to them. When Ralph won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, she sang “Endangered Species” by Dianne Reeves during her speech; Ralph said she centered herself using song due to the shock of her win. There is no way to know what will become a hit and what will not; however, while filming the pilot, Williams said he and Ralph shared a moment where they looked at each other and knew they had something special. 

Janelle James shared how “Abbott Elementary” was life-changing for her. Having a background as a comedian, James brings a lot of herself to her character Ava, even going as far as to say there is 50% of Ava within her. Chris Perfetti spoke about his character, Jacob Hill and his “brilliant completes,” explaining how Jacob is always at odds with his environment and how his quirks are what make his character whole. Lisa Ann Walters talked at length about how great it is that the writers began to peel back the layers of the characters in Season 2 and made sure they were not two-dimensional, especially for her character Melissa Schemmenti, who gets to show more of her vulnerable side. 

The cast talked about upcoming episodes, the future of Janine and Gregory’s love story, whether we’ll ever know Mr. Johnson’s real name, and later revealed a major casting announcement, but they also brought awareness to an underappreciated group: teachers. Teachers are one of the most important parts of our society, yet they are one of the most overlooked professions. The show gives a comical, yet realistic, look into what teachers endure; Brunson experienced this through her mom who was a public school teacher in Philadelphia.

“Abbott Elementary” is able to bring authenticity to the public school system with its diverse group of writers and the talented and bright child actors who play the students. The cast commented on how the younger kids really see the actors as teachers, Walters even correcting their prop worksheets. The show touches the hearts of many, but especially those of teachers. One audience member who revealed herself to be a teacher became emotional while telling the cast that the show is very accurate to what she does and that she believed janitors were the real heroes because they are the ones to console teachers while they are in distress. The one week in May for Teachers’ Appreciation Week is not enough time to truly appreciate everything teachers do for us, because much like the quote from the beginning, they do not get to choose when they get honored.

Kamiah Johnson, A&E Co-Assistant Editor


Images courtesy of Michael Bulbenko and Brian To for PaleyFest