Category Archives: Cable Television

Why Black Biopics Reign at Lifetime

From such global icons as Whitney Houston to lesser-known civil rights activists like Lori Jackson, the network is leading the industry in spotlighting the stories of Black women

When the idea of making a biopic about Mahalia Jackson first came up, about half the members of Lifetime’s Original Movies group hadn’t heard of the gospel legend and civil rights leader — which, for that team, was a selling point.

“ We had been talking about women who have historically made impacts that no one talks about,” says head of movies Tanya Lopez of the group’s brainstorming sessions. It was programming manager Mekita Faiye who suggested Jackson, and though her pitch was met with unfamiliarity, it wasn’t dismissed. “Everyone loses when we don’t take the time to understand others’ unique experiences, especially when it’s due to economic, ethnic or even religious differences,” says Faiye, one of six people of color (including Lopez) on the 11-person LOM team. “Fortunately, Lifetime creates a culture of openness and compassion while making a concerted effort to value everyone’s voice in the room.”

So when Lopez had lunch with Robin Roberts (who has a production deal with the network) and the Good Morning America anchor mentioned Jackson as a subject of interest, the soil was already fertile for its latest biopic, Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, which stars Tony nominee Danielle Brooks and premiered April 3.

Mahalia is Lifetime’s third biopic of 2021, all of which focus on Black women (Salt-N-Pepa bowed Jan. 23, followed by Wendy Williams: The Movie a week later). In all, 22 of the network’s 68 biopics since 1993 have centered the lives of Black women. That’s nearly a third — far above the demographic’s 3.7 percent share of lead or co-lead characters among theatrically released films (according to a study released in March by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and USC, which examined the 100 highest-grossing films each year from 2009 to 2019). In an era in which inclusion can be received as a begrudging mandate, LOM’s development process reveals a blueprint for a more organic path.

To hear Lopez tell it, Lifetime has come by its track record somewhat incidentally. “Our biggest victories are telling stories of women and things that people don’t know about,” she says of choosing subjects. And since Black history has long been minimized or excluded from textbooks and news involving Black communities left off the front page, those stories provide a rich vein for Lifetime to mine, from 1999’s Dangerous Evidence — the story of efforts by civil rights activist Lori Jackson (Lynn Whitfield) to exonerate a Black Marine falsely convicted of rape — to last year’s The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel.

While Lifetime has given the biopic treatment to plenty of universal household names, like Whitney Houston, Simone Biles and Meghan Markle, The Clark Sisters is an example of a decision to commit resources to figures beloved within the Black community but not as well known outside it. Once again, it was a Black executive, LOM manager Mychael Chinn, who surfaced the name. And, once again, though non-Black teammates didn’t recognize the gospel group, they didn’t discard the idea as “niche.”

“When we all did our due diligence, we were almost ashamed we didn’t know who the Clark Sisters were, and that has to do with everybody’s education,” Lopez says. “It’s definitely a cultural and racial divide.”

Lifetime’s forays into bridging that divide haven’t hurt its critical or commercial prospects. The network’s 2006 Fantasia Barrino biopic is its second-highest-rated original film of all time, behind 2004’s biopic of Jessica Savitch and just ahead of the network’s 2012 Steel Magnolias remake, starring Queen Latifah and Phylicia Rashad alongside Alfre Woodard, who earned Emmy and SAG nods for her performance. L opez says the themes in these projects — the female friendship dynamics in Salt-N-Pepa, the heroism of a school employee who talks down a would-be shooter in 2018’s Faith Under Fire (starring Toni Braxton) — are compelling to any female audience. “These are the stories we’re interested in telling, no matter the background,” she says, turning again to Mahalia Jackson. “She’s a huge name in the civil rights movement, but a certain portion of our audience only knows of Martin Luther King, because he’s the one the white media and history focused on. So when we look at iconic figures, what’s the story of the woman standing next to the person the light is shining on?

‘Monster’ Trailer: Netflix’s Walter Dean Myers Adaptation Has All-Star Cast Led By Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Netflix has dropped the first trailer for Monster, a film adapted from the classic Walter Dean Myers novel of the same name. The film first premiered way back in January 2018 and had an extended festival run, a name change (it was once known as All Rise) and a prior acquisition announcement by Entertainment Studios.

The stacked cast is led by Kelvin Harrison Jr., before his star-making turns in Waves and Luce. It also features Jennifer Hudson, Jeffrey Wright, a pre-When They See Us Jharrel Jerome, a pre-BlacKkKlansman John David Washington, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson, Nas and A$AP Rocky.

Directed and written by acclaimed music video director Anthony Mandler, the screenplay is from Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version, Colen C. Wiley and Janece Shaffer.

The logline: Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) a seventeen-year-old honor student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. The film follows his dramatic journey from a smart, likeable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. 

Harrison, an in-demand star on the indie and festival circuit, told Shadow And Act back in 2018 that Steve was one of the hardest characters he’s had to play. “Steve in Monster is probably the hardest to play, because I was learning so much about myself growing up,” he said.“It’s hard to look back on your life at 17 and how you may have been. Steve comes from this privileged home and has a lot of opportunity. Then things happened, and he thought he was an anomaly in a world where black boys are incarcerated or killed because of the way they look. The hardest part is just really digging deep in yourself and coming into your own realities and then separating from the character so you can tell their stories truthfully.”

BRON Studios, ToniK Productions and Get Lifted Film Co. are the movies’ producers, in association with Charlevoix, Red Crown and Creative Wealth Media. Tonya Lewis Lee, Nikki Silver, Aaron L. Gilbert, Mike Jackson, and Edward Tyler Nahem produced the film.

John Legend, Ty Stiklorius, Dan Crown, Yoni Liebling, Wright and Jones are executive producers, alongside Brenda Gilbert, Steven Thibault, Brad Feinstein, Joseph F. Ingrassia, Ali Jazayeri, David Gendron, Linnea Roberts, Jason Cloth, and Richard McConnell.

Watch the trailer below:

Mahalia Jackson: 5 Things To Know About The Gospel Legend At The Center Of Lifetime Movie

Lifetime continues its streak of biopics with Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, which premieres April 3 at 8 p.m. ET. Orange Is The New Black alum Danielle Brooks stars as Mahalia Jackson, who is one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history. The film, executive produced by Robin Roberts, chronicles Mahalia’s rise to fame and her impact on the music industry and the civil rights movement.

Mahalia lived an incredible life and had so many memorable moments. Decades after her death, her legacy remains more vibrant than ever. Get to know Mahalia before the Lifetime movie airs.

The Young Actors Of ‘When They See Us’ On Becoming The Exonerated Five Of The Central Park Jogger Case

As When They See Us, the limited series on The Central Park Jogger case from Ava DuVernay, bows on Netflix this week, the world will come to learn the true story about what happened that night and how the case impacted the young men that were wrongly accused of the crime. For the young actors who stepped into the shoes of the five, it was a daunting task, but something they were fully prepared for and exceeded at, which is something you’ll realize almost instantly once they appear on the screen.

Shadow And Act sat down with Asante Blackk (Kevin Richardson), Jharrel Jerome (Korey Wise), Ethan Herisse (Yusef Salaam), Caleel Harris (Antron McCray) and Marquis Rodriguez (Raymond Santana) ahead of the series premiere at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

As a New York City native, getting into the role wasn’t that hard for Jerome, who holds the distinction of being the only actor that portrays both the teen and adult versions of his character. The young actor got his start in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and, if all is right in the world, he’s poised for a breakout awards season and a potential Emmy win for When They See Us. “I’m from the Bronx, so I’ve been kind of doing research my whole life in a way — understanding you have to talk polite to the police, understanding that you have to stay away from the park at night, stay out of the streets at night.  It was kind of this subconscious feeling of I kind of understand the intensity and the fear of the project, but it took watching the documentary a couple of times, they gave us transcripts, they gave us the actual documents, I got to watch Korey’s entire confession over and over. Ava opened up this world for us to get us into their minds.” Rodriguez, who has been cast in the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel pilot, agreed and added, “We had so much source material that was unbelievably helpful.”

For Blackk, a series standout as Richardson, he has one thing in particular that he wants viewers unfamiliar with the case to take away. “Humanity, for the most part,” he said. “These guys were painted as everything but human in 1989, painted as a wolfpack, as criminals. And just to take that step back and realize that these guys are human, they have entire lives outside of just this horrible one part of their life. They are real people, they have goals, dreams and aspirations. [I’d want them] to just see that in these men.” 

With this material that hit so close to home, the young men all agreed that the story and content stayed with them long after the cameras were off and filming was over. Harris, who starred in the new Goosebumps film, as well as Hulu’s Castle Rock last year, explained that feeling. “Even still, those scenes..they stay a part of you. They never really leave you. When you truly put yourself in that situation, it’s hard to get out of it. It sticks with you and it just marinates. It really never leaves you. It stays a part of your soul, really,” he said. Herisse added, “After doing the verdict scene, I went back to my room and my dad was with me on set. He could see that I was clearly shaken up, and he was like, ‘It’s OK, the scene’s over,’ and I was like, ‘No, it’s not OK, it’s not over. This is still happening.”

Jerome added, “No matter what, we’re still people of color, so we leave set looking around, almost a little more scared now. That naivety that I had before the project is gone. I’m no longer naive to the brutality of a police officer or justice system. You kind of go around and you want to take this project as a lesson for you.”

“It’s one thing to have empathy for a story, but we were steeping in it for so long…that does something different to you,” Rodriguez said.

When They See Us is now streaming on Netflix.  

‘When They See Us’: Teaser, First Images Unveiled For Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Limited Series On Central Park Five

Unveiling a name change for the limited series, Netflix has dropped the first teaser for When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s scripted, four-part project on The Central Park Five. The release coincides with the 30th anniversary of the incident.

In a statement, Netflix says in part: “The media dubbed the men The Central Park Five and they were forever linked to that name.  The new title aims to break them free from that moniker. This is a story told from the perspective of the five men. It is important to everyone involved in the project to give these men an opportunity to tell their story and the series should have a title that represents their story.”

“In 1989, five Black and brown teen boys were wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit and branded The Central Park Five, a moniker that has followed them since that time. In 2019, our series gives the five men a platform to finally raise their voices and tell their full stories. In doing so, Korey, Antron, Raymond, Kevin and Yusef also tell the story of many young people of color unjustly ensnared in the criminal justice system. We wanted to reflect this perspective in our title, embracing the humanity of the men and not their politicized moniker,” says DuVernay.

The official description of the series: Based on a true story that gripped the country, When They See Us will chronicle the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. The four-part limited series will focus on the five teenagers from Harlem — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. Beginning in the spring of 1989, when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, the series will span 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.

Portraying the young versions of the five are Jharrel Jerome, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Asante Blackk and Marquis Rodriguez.  Jerome will also play the adult version of his character, alongside Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Jovan Adepo and Justin Cunningham as the others.

Felicity Huffman and Vera Farmiga will play members of the prosecution team, while Michael K. Williams, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Storm Reid and Marsha Stephanie Blake play family members of the accused. Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, Omar J. Dorsey and Adepero Oduye also have roles.

The series was created by Ava DuVernay, who also co-wrote and directed the four parts. Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media, Oprah Winfrey from Harpo Films and Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh and Robert De Niro from Tribeca Productions will executive produce the limited series alongside DuVernay through her banner, Forward Movement. DuVernay, Attica Locke, Robin Swicord and Michael Starrburry also serve as writers on the limited series.

Watch the teaser and check out the images below:

Here’s Why Issa Rae Said Her Mom Couldn’t Watch ‘Insecure’ At One Point

On the promo trail for the Season 3 premiere of Insecure, which hits HBO this Sunday evening, Issa Rae appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

During the interview she talked about how it took her mom a while to watch the show and she even referred to it as porn!

“It’s taking her some getting used to,” said Rae.

“I want to tell her that’s how I got here (laughs). The fourth episode of our second season was a bit racy, and she texted me and said ‘You’re basically making porn. I don’t know if this is HBO doing this or if this is you, but I can’t watch this anymore. I was like ‘Mom, if you don’t like this episode, you definitely shouldn’t watch episode six.

Her mom didn’t but they watched a future episode as family later.

“We watched the second to last episode at their house as a family and she went upstairs. I was genuinely hurt…but just last month she caved and decided to watch the episodes and said it wasn’t too much and she loves it…now she likes the show!”

‘Pose’ Shows The Importance Of Accurate Casting While Scarlett Johansson Drops Out Of ‘Rub & Tug’

Screenshot_2018-07-13 'Pose' Shows The Importance Of Accurate Casting While Scarlett Johansson Drops Out Of 'Rub Tug'(1)Scarlett Johansson has dropped out Rub & Tug vacating the role of the role of kingpin Dante “Tex” Gill. Johansson’s involvement in the role was controversial because Gill, a real-life figure, was a transgender man, whereas Johansson is a cisgender woman.

Johansson had taken a huge amount of online criticism for initially taking the role, and things only got worse when Bustle reported that Johansson said in a statement from a representative, “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” Also, the film would have reteamed her with Rupert Sanders, who helmed Johansson’s other controversial film, the Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, in which she plays the Major, who was originally Japanese character Major Motoko Kusanagi in the manga and anime adaptations. In this new statement, given to Out.com, Johansson states how she’s learned more about the lack of sensitivity held in her initial comments about her involvement in the film.

“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project,” she states. “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity continues.”

Johansson also brings up a GLAAD statistic that LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40 percent in 2017 with no representation for trans characters in a major studio film.

“While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation bout diversity and representation in film. I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly.”  While Johansson might credit her debacle as advancing the conversation, Rub & Tug is only part of the larger conversation. FX’s Pose created by Ryan Murphy and renewed for a second season has made history each week thanks to its cast of transgender women of color, MJ Rodriguez, Dominque Jackson, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar, and Angelica Ross. The show also has trans women behind the scenes, including Janet Mock, who recently made history as the first trans woman of color to write and direct a television show, musician Our Lady J, and dancer/choreographer Leoimy Maldonado.

Not only does Pose show that the talent is out there waiting to be discovered, but it also shows how, when people are allowed to be in charge of their own stories, an authenticity is added that only heightens the film or television show, making it better than it could have ever been if cast otherwise. Pose has great writing and great style, but it wouldn’t be what it is if it didn’t have the authentic voices of the women behind the scenes and in front of the camera, women who have lived through similar struggles as their characters.

In terms of Rub & Tug, Johansson wouldn’t have had any struggle to pull from; instead, she would have been using what is a reality for many people as an actor’s choice in the hopes of gaining recognition during awards season. If anyone should be getting recognized, it should be a trans actor who gets cast as Gill, a colorful and interesting figure in modern American history.

SOURCE:https://shadowandact.com/pose-shows-the-importance-of-accurate-casting-while-scarlett-johansson-drops-out-of-rub-tug

How Smart TVs in Millions of U.S. Homes Track More Than What’s On Tonight

The growing concern over online data and user privacy has been focused on tech giants like Facebook and devices like smartphones. But people’s data is also increasingly being vacuumed right out of their living rooms via their televisions, sometimes without their knowledge.

In recent years, data companies have harnessed new technology to immediately identify what people are watching on internet-connected TVs, then using that information to send targeted advertisements to other devices in their homes. Marketers, forever hungry to get their products in front of the people most likely to buy them, have eagerly embraced such practices. But the companies watching what people watch have also faced scrutiny from regulators and privacy advocates over how transparent they are being with users.

Samba TV is one of the bigger companies that track viewer information to make personalized show recommendations. The company said it collected viewing data from 13.5 million smart TVs in the United States, and it has raised $40 million in venture funding from investors including Time Warner , the cable operator Liberty Global and the billionaire Mark Cuban.

Samba TV has struck deals with roughly a dozen TV brands — including Sony, Sharp, TCL and Philips — to place its software on certain sets. When people set up their TVs, a screen urges them to enable a service called Samba Interactive TV, saying it recommends shows and provides special offers “by cleverly recognizing onscreen content.” But the screen, which contains the enable button, does not detail how much information Samba TV collects to make those recommendations.

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Power’s Omari Hardwick Goes Sneaker Shopping With Complex

Actor Omari Hardwick of “Power” goes Sneaker Shopping with Complex’s Joe La Puma at Stadium Goods in New York City and talks about why the Air Jordan III means so much to him, 50 Cent’s personal style, and looking up to Michael Jordan. Subscribe to Complex on YouTube: https://goo.gl/43ac5w  COMPLEX is a community of creators and curators, armed with the Internet, committed to surfacing and sharing the voices and conversations that define our new America. Our videos exemplify convergence culture, exploring topics that include music, sneakers, style, sports and pop culture through original shows and Complex News segments. Featuring your favorite celebrities, authoritative commentary, and a unique voice, our videos make culture pop.