Two-time Academy Award-winner Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby” and “Boys Don’t Cry”) is co-hosting a Thanksgiving special with Emmy Award-winner Jane Lynch (“Glee”). “Fox’s Cause for Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular” is the brainchild of TV producer Michael Levitt who granted an exclusive interview to Examiner Dorri Olds earlier this month.
Levitt and Swank co-created and co-produced this charitable event and Levitt was more than happy to dish on what it’s like to work with Swank. They are both feeling immense gratitude this Thanksgiving for this unique opportunity to help homeless dogs.
The dog-loving event was a passion project thought up by Levitt who then reached out to Swank based on her dog-loving reputation. Swank agreed to this noble effort and the two of them made this first of its kind dog-saver a reality.
The star-packed special includes celebs Scarlett Johansson, Fergie, Pink, Betty White, Sharon Osbourne, Kelly Osbourne, Kristen Bell, Paula Abdul, LeAnn Rimes, Miranda Lambert, Kesha, Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O’Connell, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Channing Tatum, Josh Duhamel, Randy Jackson, Cesar Millan and more.
Dorri Olds: What is it like working with Hilary Swank?
Michael Levitt: She’s just awesome. She’s really not someone who just attached her name. She is in it with me and this project would not have been possible if she hadn’t agreed to come aboard. She is a two-time Oscar-winning movie star who actually has two films out now, “Homesman” and “You’re Not You,” so she is really busy and in the middle of promoting them, yet she finds all of the time in the world to help save animals. She walks the walk. This is a woman who just called me from the West L.A. shelter where she personally pulled a dog out of the shelter and saved her. This is a cause that’s very near and dear to her heart. She lives and breathes it.
How did this dog show come about?
The special came about because I am a veteran television producer of live events, awards shows, reality shows, but I also happen to be a very passionate dog rescuer in my personal life. Since 2011, I’ve saved over 500 dogs from shelters. They have been placed in wonderful homes.
As a rescuer we’re saving one at a time but as a television producer I knew there had to be a way to bring my two worlds together and do something on a bigger level that would have a massive impact. So, I came up with this idea. The premise being that we’ve seen the entertainment world come together for Hope for Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, Stand Up For Cancer, well now it’s time for them to rally for man’s best friend.
I knew I needed to attach somebody great to the project to get it sold. I thought of Hilary Swank because she is such a huge dog lover and animal advocate. I reached out to her with my idea. I didn’t know her but I was able to get my project to her and the next thing I knew, we were having breakfast together in Santa Monica. This was a year ago and she loved the idea and we became partners on the project. We developed it together and as a result of that we were able to sell it to Fox. It’s a dream come true.
How did you get all of these stars to come on the show?
It was a combination of Hilary and I reaching out to people that we know. We let people know that this special is really groundbreaking. It’s the first time that a network has ever agreed to devote two hours — or any primetime programming — for animal rescue. There’s a lot on the line. If we’re successful the network will do it every year and we’ll have this incredible platform to create awareness for rescue animals. That was our plea to the celebrity community and why we’re getting all of these great people to join us.
The 2-hour “Fox’s Cause for Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular” airs on Thanksgiving at 8:00 p.m.