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Peter Chernin's latest role: cartoon character

COMPANY TOWN

Peter Chernin, News Corp.'s departing president, voices an animated version of himself in an episode of 'Family Guy' that was recorded last year and aired Sunday. Could this be a career option?

March 26, 2009|Yvonne Villarreal

In this topsy-turvy financial climate, developing new work skills is almost essential.

Now, departing News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin can add "animated character" to his resume after lending his voice to Fox's "Family Guy."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, March 27, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
"Family Guy": An article in Thursday's Business section about News Corp. president Peter Chernin appearing on an episode of Fox's "Family Guy" misspelled the last name of the show's lead animated character, Peter Griffin, as Griffith.

In the episode, which aired Sunday, Chernin played himself as he heard a show pitch from the rotund and often boisterous Peter Griffith (voiced by creator Seth MacFarlane). As News Corp.'s No. 2 executive, Chernin has overseen the company's Fox TV and movie studio.

"We thought, rather than trying to find a uniqueness to who Peter [Griffith] would pitch to, why don't we see if Chernin is available?" David Goodman, one of the show's executive producers, recalled Wednesday. "And he was happy to do it . . . though he had a slight discomfort when he had to sign a SAG contract." (Chernin is a frequent target of Hollywood's talent unions for his involvement on behalf of the studios' labor contracts.)

Because of the long lead time required for an animated series, Chernin recorded his scene last year, soon after the Writers Guild of America strike ended -- and well before he surprised Hollywood by announcing last month that he would not be signing a new contract when the current one expires in June.

"We had no idea he was leaving when we thought of including him," Goodman said. "We're sorry to see him go. He was a real champion of the show."

In the scene lasting 2 minutes and 23 seconds, Chernin is quick to note that he's taking the meeting only because Griffith's wife, Lois, is a reporter for the news division. But Griffith is too busy pitching "Handi-Quaks," a show about a trio of handicapped ducks, as the next "Simpsons" to pay attention to Chernin's brush-off.

Chernin wasn't breaking new ground in doing voice work for one of the company's animated series. Media mogul and News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch -- Chernin's boss for the time being -- made a guest appearance in a 1999 episode of "The Simpsons," a show that has taken several swipes at the Fox network's owner in its 20 years.

When Chernin leaves his News Corp. post, he will begin a lucrative six-year film and television production deal with 20th Century Fox.

But if that doesn't work out?

"He's probably been bitten by the acting bug after his appearance," Goodman joked. "I bet he'll appear on all the Fox shows. That may be the real reason why he's leaving. If I were an agent, I'd be trying to sign him."

A Fox spokeswoman said Chernin was unavailable to comment.

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yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

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