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Tartikoff, Take Two

March 25, 2007|Robin Abcarian

For the last two years, the 24-year-old son of NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol and his wife, actress Susan Saint James, has lived rent-free in the guest apartment above Lilly Tartikoff's large garage.

"I am the ultimate mooch," says Charlie. "I am so aware of how completely ridiculous the situation is." Lilly wouldn't let him pay even if he tried. "He's my godson!" she exclaims.

Charlie, whose family lives in Connecticut, moved in a few months after the plane crash that killed his little brother, Teddy, on Nov. 28, 2004. He left Notre Dame a few credits short of graduation, but given his injuries--a broken back, broken hand, ruptured eye and burns--the university allowed him to finish up from afar.

An aspiring producer with one controversial HBO documentary to his credit, Charlie had intended to stay until he settled into life as a movie underling. "I needed to not be thinking, and there is no better way not to think than to be a production assistant," he says. On the set of "Yours, Mine and Ours," he met his girlfriend, 19-year-old actress Danielle Panabaker, who plays James Woods' daughter on "Shark."

At night, unable to sleep, he began poking through old boxes that Lilly had stored in the garage below him. "I would go downstairs at night and grab one of the boxes and sit in my car and just read," says Charlie. "It was every piece of paper that Brandon had ever written."

Charlie read them all. "It's as if he took the most incredible TV class, Brandon Tartikoff's TV class," says Lilly.

About six months ago, at Charlie's suggestion, he and Lilly revived Brandon's company, H. Beale, named for Howard Beale, the protagonist of Brandon's favorite movie, "Network." They brought in Lilly's friend, writer Wendy Kout, as a partner. Now they are pitching reality shows and comedy pilots.

Charlie's first success was the 2005 documentary, "Ithuteng: Never Stop Learning," shown on HBO. Charlie, who produced, was 19. His younger brother, Willie, then 16, directed the documentary about a Soweto school and its charismatic founder (who is now under fire for allegedly urging her students to make up horrific personal histories). Charlie is also helping Lizzy, Lilly's 12-year-old daughter, an avid cartoonist who recently pitched two animated series to Disney with Charlie at her side.

"It's in their blood," says Lilly. "What can you do?"

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