Paranormal investigator Mary Ann Winkowski is about to have a spirited Hollywood encounter. The North Royalton resident is leaving for Tinseltown, where she'll be meeting the actress starring in a new CBS series based on Winkowski's ghostly experiences.
Jennifer Love Hewitt is playing Melinda Gordon, the character inspired by Winkowski. With celebrity medium James Van Praagh on board as an executive producer, "Ghost Whisperer" will premiere in September, inheriting the 8-9 p.m. Friday time slot from the canceled "Joan of Arcadia."
"I am embarrassed to say that I really wasn't sure who Jennifer Love Hewitt was," Winkowski said during a telephone interview. "Then, when I saw a picture of her, I thought, Gosh, she's really pretty.' This is where television takes over. Cut my age and size in half, and maybe you have Jennifer Love Hewitt."
Hewitt, 26, is best known for her 1995-99 stint as Sarah Reeves on Fox's "Party of Five" and for the 1997 horror film "I Know What You Did Last Summer." She had the title role in ABC's "Audrey Hepburn," and her other movies include "Garfield," "The Tuxedo" and "Heartbreakers."
"I finally saw the pilot episode, and she's very good in this," Winkowski said of Hewitt's work as the "Ghost Whisperer." "There are a couple of things that wouldn't happen in Mary Ann's world, but welcome to Hollywood, honey. So far, I like what I'm seeing. I'm particularly glad they didn't do anything hokey."
One of several supernatural series announced for the fall by the broadcast networks, "Ghost Whisperer" is being given its prime-time voice by veteran writer-producer John Gray ("Helter Skelter"). Melinda Gordon is a young newlywed with the ability to communicate with Earthbound spirits. She uses her gifts to pass along messages and vital information to the living.
"I think people are looking and looking for answers right now," Winkowski said. "They're searching, and that's why this kind of thing is so popular right now."
Also in the cast of "Ghost Whisperer" are Aisha Tyler ("C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation") and David Conrad.
"I only met with John Gray, and that was for about three hours," Winkowski said. "But he must have really been paying attention, because a lot of what we talked about showed up in the pilot. And Jennifer Love Hewitt's expressions capture a lot of the looks I give. She's got that down perfectly."
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