Two with Vicksburg ties land roles in TV series|[04/19/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jason Dottley and Katherine Bailess have been friends for as long as they can remember.

Dottley, the son of the late John Albert Dottley and the grandson of Nina and Kayo Dottley, spent a lot of time visiting family here in Vicksburg throughout his childhood. Though he technically grew up in the Jackson area, Dottley’s Vicksburg roots run deep — so deep, in fact, he prefers to call it home.

When he visited, Bailess — the daughter of Natalie and Bobby Bailess, who live up the street from his grandparents — was a constant companion.

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“He was my first boyfriend,” Bailess said, seconding Dottley’s memories of their early, short-lived romance.

And, now, nearly 1,800 miles from Vicksburg, the two, both Los Angeles residents riding the waves of stardom, are as close as ever. Not only do they get together in L.A. regularly, but they also share the bill on a new television show, scheduled to premiere this summer.

“Sordid Lives,” a series inspired by Hollywood producer, director and writer Del Shores’ play and movie of the same name, is a show about the trials and tribulations of a small-town Texas family. Dottley, who starred in the stage version a couple of years ago, plays Ty Williamson, a conservative member of the wacky Southern family. Though Dottley never shares a scene with Bailess, he was happy for the opportunity to share at least some of the spotlight with his childhood friend, whom he now calls his “partner in crime.”

“At least we get to be in a TV show together,” he said.

Bailess plays Nurse Waring, a character created for her by Shores, who actually named the character after the maiden name of Bailess’ mother, the former Natalie Waring.

“Del Shores has been to Vicksburg, and he was so mesmerized by everything,” she said.

Bailess, who is no stranger to television with recurring roles in the WB’s “One Tree Hill” and “Gilmore Girls,” as well as “NCIS” and “The Loop,” said she and Dottley have wanted to do a project together since they both ended up in Hollywood.

“It was a dream come true for both of us,” Bailess said.

While Dottley used his one-way ticket to L.A. in 2000, Bailess didn’t arrive there until three years later. She, after graduating from St. Aloysius High School in 1998, moved to New York City, where she received a scholarship and studied dance and musical theater at Marymount Manhattan College. Before leaving Vicksburg, Bailess — for about seven years — was a dancer in the Miss Mississippi Pageant. In fact, it was that experience that helped Bailess set her sights on Broadway.

“That’s what gave me the performing bug,” she said.

She had no aspirations to be an actress until someone mentioned she should try soap operas. Two years of acting classes and one audition later, she was hooked.

Bailess’ big screen debut came in 2003 when she landed a lead role in “From Justin to Kelly.”

Acting and dancing aren’t the only crafts the hometown star is touting. She has also recorded seven country songs at Sound Kitchen in Nashville and is shopping around for labels, she said. Earlier this year, she was home to film a music video for one of the songs.

Now, in addition to her blossoming music career, she’s looking forward to the premiere of “Sordid Lives.”

“I think it will be a hit. It’s already a cult hit,” she said. “It’s such an original idea.”

The show, which also stars Rue McClanahan, Olivia Newton-John, Leslie Jordan and Caroline Rhea, will be on LOGO, a new network started by the creators of MTV. The network presents alternative programming and can be seen locally on DirecTV’s Channel 272. Even though the show will not spend its first season on a major network, it will still reach 26 million homes and promises to be the biggest show the network has seen in its 2 1/2 years, Dottley said.

“I feel like it’s going to get renewed. It’s the perfect setup,” he said. “We’re going to be the king of the network — opposed to a show that’s holding on by the skin of its teeth.”

Although “Sordid Lives” is Shores’ complete creation, he has also had significant marks on the television industry, including his involvement with “Family Ties,” “Dharma and Greg,” “Touched By an Angel” and “Queer as Folk.”

In two months, Shores wrote the pilot and 10 episodes for his most recent show, which filmed in Shreveport this winter.

“He wrote every word, directed and produced it,” Dottley said of his partner.

Being part of what he calls “a wacky industry” is something to which Dottley, who has also produced and written since being in L.A., feels he is drawn — though it wasn’t always the case.

“One of my very first acting teachers made us all (tell about) where we thought we’d be successful within acting,” he said. “I thought I’ll end up anywhere but television. I never expected this at all.”

And, though he is rubbing elbows with stars, Dottley — who proudly admits his obsession with Madonna — is still star-struck.

“I used to watch ‘Grease’ on repeat at my house. And, all of a sudden, I look up and I’m starring in a TV show with Sandy,” he said of “Sordid Lives” co-star Newton-John.

Dottley likes being on the other side of fame, too, though. He and Bailess are often caught out on the town by paparazzi, who follow them to lunch hot-spots, stores and the beach. Bailess said Dottley eats up the attention, which she finds “hilarious.”

“I don’t really think about the paparazzi. Jason loves it. He’s a ham,” she said.

On TV”Sordid Lives: The Series” will premiere July 23 on DirecTV’s LOGO, Channel 272. For information, visit