Black While Funny and Female: Comedic Actresses Speak on Working in Hollywood

(Photos by Kirk McCoy via latimes.com)

by Tre’vell Anderson via latimes.com

Making it in Hollywood is no easy feat, and doing so as a woman is even more difficult. If that woman is black — or Latina or Asian or otherwise nonwhite — the odds just aren’t in her favor. But with the release of “Girls Trip,” four black women — Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish — attempt a takeover of the buddy comedy, possibly the first time black women have led such a picture.

One reason as to why? The number of black women thought to be able to carry a studio-backed film is slim, and there hasn’t been a bona-fide black female comedic superstar since Whoopi Goldberg. We spoke to 18 funny black women about their industry experiences. Below are their thoughts:

Tracee Ellis Ross

“Girlfriends,” “black-ish”

While most probably know Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow on the hit “black-ish,” others see Joan Clayton of “Girlfriends,” the early 2000s show almost no one would argue about rebooting.

While most probably know Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow on the hit “Black-ish,” others see Joan Clayton of “Girlfriends” — the early 2000s show fans would love to see earn the revival or reunion treatment.

Regardless of her career experiences, Ross is just beginning to get her due recognition. In addition to nabbing a Golden Globe earlier this year, she’s earned her second consecutive Emmy nomination. Some might say she has all the makings of a comedic superstar.

But when she takes a moment to ponder other black women who fit the bill she’s forced to think hard.

“Regina Hall … Issa Rae … Jessica Williams,” she said after a moment, “but I shouldn’t have to search to come up with those names. The difficulty is, and I think what happens is, you might see somebody in a role and you’re like, ‘Holy …! She is so funny.’ Then she doesn’t get another opportunity, but she needs those roles because they help you build a career so everybody knows your name and knows what you’re capable of.

“And it’s not just black comedic women. There are, I’m sure, a lot of very funny Asian women and Latina women, and we know some of them, but it’s not because the talent doesn’t exist. The other thing is, the talent exists, but [performers] need the experience to keep getting better and have more depth.”

Ross is encouraged, however, by the likes of Rae.

“I think Issa is a beautiful example of ‘You’re not going to give me any real estate? Fine. I’m going to make it,’” she said. “There is revolution going on.”

How did you settle into comedic acting?

I loved making people laugh when I was younger. It was frowned upon during dinner time but I thought it was hilarious to make my sister laugh. It was often the thing that got me kicked out of class because I was always silly. It was one of the ways my shyness manifested and the way I protected myself and kept people at bay. And I’ve always been a very physical person so when I experience a feeling, I experience it in my entire body.

As I look back, it was a natural progression into the physical comedy and the ways I use my body. In terms of my career, I don’t know that it was a conscious choice that I moved into comedy, but it was an authentic choice. I don’t consider myself funny. I consider myself silly. I just tell the truth and my truth comes out in a way that makes people laugh. My goal isn’t to make people laugh, but I enjoy that exchange.

I think the difficulty for actors of any kind is when you get stuck with what other people assume is who you are. We’re actors and we can do anything.

— Tracee Ellis Ross

Who are some of your comedic inspirations?

I was a Carol Burnett, Lucy [Ball], Lily Tomlin type of girl. They were the three women that etched it in for me. I remember looking back and seeing Goldie Hawn in “Private Benjamin.” I was drawn to all of that growing up. Those were the women that defined freedom and courage [for me]. From there so many funny women like Julia Louis-Dreyfus — I don’t even understand [how she does it].

And then Whoopi Goldberg did the Moms Mabley documentary, and I was so grateful that she did that because it really showed me that Moms Mabley is specifically one of the reasons I can do what I do. She carved something out and did something so consciously that allows me to be a black woman in comedy.

Read more from Ross here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-black-women-comedy-tracee-ellis-ross-20170720-htmlstory.html

Tiffany Haddish

“Girls Trip,” “Keanu,” “The Carmichael Show”

Tiffany Haddish is legitimately having a moment. As a star of “Girls Trip,” opposite industry vets Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall. Based on her performance, and with an upcoming Showtime comedy special, she’s on her way to household-name status.

But what else would you expect from “the last black unicorn?”

How did you get into comedy?

My social worker. [laughs] I was living in South Central L.A. and was being bused to Woodland Hills. I was getting in trouble because I was not sure how to make friends. So I made this imaginary friend up because I thought I was at the Nickelodeon Awards — I had never been around this many white people. I thought I was at the Nickelodeon Awards every day so I thought I needed to be all creative and entertaining because I thought white people lived in TV — my concept of people was really messed up.

I remember going to court and seeing the judge. I thought he was the judge from “People’s Court.” [laughs] By the time I got to 10th grade, it was bothering my social worker that she was getting called to the school every week. I was getting sent to the dean’s office for being racist because I had this bird named Cracker. It was this imaginary bird, and I would be like, “Cracker want a Polly?” And I would take actual crackers and break them up on my shoulder. Kids would laugh and stuff. We’d be taking a test and I would be like, “What’s the answer to number seven Cracker?” And they’d be like, “Go to the dean’s office!”

So my social worker was like, “You have two choices this time. You can go to Laugh Factory Academy Camp or you can go to psychiatric therapy. Which one you want to do this summer?” I was like, “Which one got drugs?” and I went to comedy camp. It was the first time a man ever told me I was beautiful and I didn’t feel like I was going to be hurt in some kind of way. They taught me confidence, communication skills, how to write, how to have stage presence.

Read more from Haddish here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-black-women-comedy-tiffany-haddish-20170720-htmlstory.html
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GBN “Unforgettable” Giveaway: Enter for Chance to Win Free Copy of Warner Bros. “Unforgettable” Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

On Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD July 25th, Unforgettable is a thriller directed by Denise DiNovi and written by Christina Hodson and David Leslie Johnson. The film stars Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, Isabella Rice, and Cheryl Ladd.

What’s it about?

Tessa Connover (Katherine Heigl) is barely coping with the end of her marriage, and learns that her ex-husband David (Geoff Stults) is now happily engaged to Julia (Rosario Dawson). Trying to settle into her new life, Julia believes she has finally met the man of her dreams, the man who can help her forget her troubled past. Soon, Tessa’s jealousy starts to consume her, and she will stop at nothing to turn Julia’s paradise into the ultimate nightmare. Love will not be forgotten.

How can I win the prize?

Simply email us at goodblacknewsgiveaways@yahoo.com and list your name, email and mailing address for your chance to win the Unforgettable Blu-ray/DVD combo Pack. Contestants must be at least 18 years old. One entry per email. The winner will be notified by email. So hurry and enter by July 25th!

Trailer:

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‘Black Panther,’ ‘Black Lightning,’ ‘Luke Cage’ Highlight Rise of Black Superheroes

Image via variety.com

by Daniel Holloway via variety.com

Diversity is on the uptick in comics-inspired TV and film. When “Luke Cage” exec producer Cheo Hodari Coker declared at his show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel last year, “The world is ready for a bulletproof black man,” the crowd erupted in cheers. So did the internet. “Right before I said it, I knew what I was feeling,” Coker later told Variety. “I had said variations of it during the day. It was coming from an emotional place, but I didn’t think it was going to reverberate the way that it did. But I’m glad that it did.”

The “Luke Cage” panel came in July on the heels of widespread protests sparked by the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. When the show premiered in September, it became the first live-action series about a black superhero since 1994’s “MANTIS.” Now it’s getting some company. Next season the CW will premiere “Black Lightning,” based on the DC Comics superhero. And next year Marvel will debut “Black Panther,” the studio’s first feature with a black hero in the lead.

Social, political and business trends have converged to put black superheroes at the centers of burgeoning television and film franchises after years of being relegated to supporting status. Dan Evans, VP of creative affairs at DC Entertainment, cites the emergence of black superheroes on-screen as part of a larger trend in television and film. “There’s so many examples now, from ‘24’ to ‘The Fast and the Furious’ to ‘Creed,’” says Evans, whose office door features an oversize image of Cyborg, the black teen hero who will play a key role in the upcoming “Justice League” movie. “We’ve seen again and again that if you tell a good story with these characters, people will come.”

In superhero comics, the first appeals to underserved minority audiences came with the debuts of Black Panther (1966), Luke Cage (1972), Black Lightning (1977) and others. “These black superheroes emerge parallel to the changes in American race relations in the late 1960s with the emergence of the Black Power movement,” says Adilifu Nama, author of “Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes.” The movement’s push for equality and representation rippled through popular culture. “It wouldn’t be very sensible to think that these demands for diversity would only be in the realm of lunch counters and bus transportation.”

To read full article, go to: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Luke Cage’ Highlight Rise of Black Superheroes | Variety

Oprah Winfrey Network Orders Drama “Love Is_” from “Being Mary Jane” and “Black Lightning” Executive Producers Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil

Mara Brock Akil (l), Salim Akil(r) [photos via Variety.com]

by Daniel Holloway via Variety.com

OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) has given a series order to “Love Is __,” a new drama from Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. The Akils will create and executive produce the series through their company Akil Productions. Mara Brock Akil will serve as show runner. The series, which had previously been in development at ABC as a multi-camera comedy, will be produced in association with Warner Horizon. It is slated to premiere in 2018.

“I’ve dreamed of working with the Akils,” said Oprah Winfrey. “I’ve been a huge fan of their work since first viewing ‘Girlfriends.’ They know just how to hit the cultural nerve to make you think and laugh at the same time.”

“To have a partner that brings the attention to detail and sheer excellence that Oprah has built an empire on is an absolute dream come true for Salim and me,” said Mara Brock Akil. “That, and it’s Oprah! ‘Love Is ___’ is not only a passion project, but is a personal one for us as well. We’re grateful to have her wholehearted support and magic touch behind this story.”

Based on the Akils’ relationship, the series will tell the story of a power couple navigating the landscape of Black Hollywood. Mara Brock Akil is the creator of “Girlfriends” and “Being Mary Jane.” She and husband Salim Akil, director of the film “Jumping the Broom,” co-created “The Game.” The two are executive producers of the CW’s upcoming DC Comics-based superhero series “Black Lightning,” on which Salim Akil serves as showrunner.

Source: Oprah Winfrey Network Orders Drama From Mara Brock and Salim Akil | Variety

Civil Rights Icon Fannie Lou Hamer Biopic to be Scripted by “Remember The Titans” Writer Gregory Allen Howard

Fannie Lou Hamer (photo via powerpacplus.org)

by Mike Fleming Jr. via deadline.com

Remember the Titans scribe Gregory Allen Howard has teamed with Chris Columbus1492 production company to tell the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper with a sixth-grade education who became an important voting-rights advocate and founded the first integrated political party in the South in mid-’60s Mississippi.

Hamer grew up in a family of 20 kids and picked cotton for most of her life. After going to a doctor to have a tumor removed, she discovered she was given a hysterectomy at age 47 by a white doctor, without her consent, because of a movement by the state to sterilize women to reduce the number of poor blacks in Mississippi.

Hamer became a Civil Rights activist, surviving assassination attempts

Gregory Allen Howard (photo via deadline.com)

and a near-fatal beating to get her moment at the Democratic National Convention, where she challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 with her legendary, “Is This America?” speech.

While LBJ hastily called a ruse press conference in the hope of diverting attention away from her speech, Hamer’s powerful words were widely broadcast and reverberated around the world. Howard, who studied Hamer’s accomplishments as a college student, has long been obsessed with bringing her story to the screen. Hamer died in 1977.

To read more, go to: Civil Rights Icon Fannie Lou Hamer Movie; Gregory Allen Howard script | Deadline

MOVIES: Watch 1st Trailer for Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

by Seth Kelley via variety.com

The first footage from Ava DuVernay’s highly-anticipated “A Wrinkle in Time” is finally here. Disney did the honors during its D23 Expo on Saturday.

DuVernay, the director of “Selma” and the documentary “13th,” among other projects, joined “A Wrinkle in Time” in February 2016. The story follows a group of children as they travel through time and visit strange worlds in order to find their missing father. Storm Reid plays the oldest daughter, Meg Murray, in the movie.

The cast includes Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who, and Chris Pine, who all joined the stage to present “Wrinkle” alongside DuVernay and Reid. Zach Galifianakis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw also star, but were not in attendance.

Jennifer Lee, who wrote and co-directed “Frozen” with Chris Buck, is responsible for the film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s book for Disney.

Earlier in the weekend, Winfrey was honored as a Disney Legend. During her acceptance speech, the legendary actress spoke about the studio’s impact on her life. “Disney, ABC 7 let me be me,” she said of her long-running “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“A Wrinkle in Time” is expected to hit theaters March 9, 2018. The teaser can be seen above.

To read full article, go to: http://variety.com/2017/film/news/a-wrinkle-in-time-trailer-disney-ava-duvernay-watch-video-1202496728/

Donald Glover, “Atlanta,” “Blackish” Garner Multiple Nominations for 2017 Primetime Emmys

2017 Emmy nominees Viola Davis, Donald Glover, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The nominees for the 2017 Primetime Emmys were announced this morning, and among them are nods in the Best Comedy Series category for writer/creator/star Donald Glover‘s freshman FX half-hour “Atlanta” as well as writer/creator Kenya Barris‘ veteran ABC show “Black-ish,” which also garnered nods in the Lead Comedy Actor and Actress categories for its stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. Glover also picked up a nod for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Emmy winner Viola Davis was recognized again for her role as Annalise Keating in ABC’s  “How to Get Away With Murder,” and Sterling K. Brown came through in the Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for his work on the popular NBC hit “This is Us.” Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton were acknowledged for their Supporting Roles in “Westworld,” as was Samira Wiley for her work in the original Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Up against Wiley in the same category is her former “Orange Is the New Black” castmate Uzo Aduba.

Additionally, Leslie Jones grabbed a nomination in the Supporting Role in Comedy category for her work on “Saturday Night Live,” and RuPaul Charles got some love in the Host for a Reality/Reality-Competition Program category for his work on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Behind the scenes, Donald Glover earned his third Emmy nomination for “Atlanta” in the directing category, and his fourth, along with his brother Stephen Glover, for Writing for a Comedy Series. Ava DuVernay & Spencer Averick were nominated in the Writing for a Nonfiction Program category for their outstanding work on the Netflix documentary “13th.” The full list of nominees follows below:

Drama Series
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“The Crown” (Netflix)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Stranger Things” (Netflix)
“This Is Us” (NBC)
“Westworld” (HBO)

Comedy Series
“Atlanta” (FX)
“Black-ish” (ABC)
“Master of None” (Netflix)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
“Silicon Valley” (HBO)
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
“Veep” (HBO)

Drama Actress
Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)

Drama Actor
Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)
Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)
Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)
Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”)

Comedy Actor
Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)
Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”)
Zach Galifianakis (“Baskets”)
Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)
William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)

Comedy Actress
Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”)
Tracee Ellis-Ross (“black-ish”)
Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie”)
Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”)
Allison Janney (“Mom”)
Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) Continue reading