Category: Entertainment

“Black-ish” and “Grown-ish” Producer Kenya Barris Signs $100 Million Netflix Deal

Kenya Barris (photo via deadline.com)

by Daniel Holloway via Variety.com

Kenya Barris has become the newest big-ticket addition to Netflix’s lineup of television producers.

The “Black-ish” creator has signed a three-year overall deal with the streaming service that will see him produce series exclusively for Netflix. According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, the deal, which carries an option for an additional two years, is valued at roughly $100 million — putting Barris in the same ballpark as recent Netflix recruits Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.

Barris’ departure from ABC Studios, where he was under an overall deal, became official last month. But according to insiders, his release from his ABC deal had been secured several months ago, and the basics of his new Netflix agreement had also been in place for some time.

Barris’ relationship with ABC began to show signs of strain in March when Variety reported that the network had indefinitely shelved an episode of “Black-ish” that he wrote and directed, titled “Please, Baby, Please,” which touched on current events, including controversy over athletes kneeling during performances of the national anthem. Barris told Variety at the time, “Given our creative differences, neither ABC nor I were happy with the direction of the episode and mutually agreed not to air it.”

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Disney-owned ABC’s concerns were related to comments that characters made in the episode about President Donald Trump, not to the football storyline.

A month later, reports surfaced that Barris was being courted by Netflix for an overall deal. But his ability to pursue a Netflix deal was complicated by the renewal of his ABC agreement that he signed last year, and which ran through 2021. Barris had to secure an exit from ABC before moving to Netflix.

With his departure from ABC Studios last month, Barris stepped away from his post as co-showrunner of “Black-ish,” but will continue to serve as executive producer. Barris also has “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish” at Disney cable channel Freeform, where he will continue to be an EP.

“Black-ish” has been a rarity among broadcast comedies in recent years — drawing solid ratings and robust critical praise, particularly for episodes addressing complex social issues. It also, when it premiered in 2014, was the first broadcast comedy in years to feature an African-American family. It has been nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards over its run, and this year received its third Emmy nomination for outstanding comedy series. It received a Peabody Award in 2016, and a Golden Globe Award in 2017 for actress Tracee Ellis Ross.

“Kenya Barris is one of our great modern storytellers,” said Cindy Holland, vice president, original content at Netflix. “Kenya uses his voice to make audiences more aware of the world around them, while simultaneously making them laugh. His honesty, comedic brilliance and singular point of view, combined with the creative freedom he will enjoy at Netflix, promises to create powerful new stories for all our members around the world.”

Barris added, “When my agents reached out to me about this little garage start-up called Netflix, I wasn’t sure what to think. But after I talked to Ted and Cindy, I started to believe that maybe this mom-and-pop shop with only 130 million subscribers might just be something… so I decided to take a swing… a leap of faith if you will, and take a chance with the new kids on the block.”

With his new agreement, Barris joins the ranks of television’s highest paid creators. In the last year, Netflix has signed Rhimes and Murphy to nine-figure deals as it continues to grow its original-programming volume in an increasingly robust challenge to the traditional pay-TV business. The streaming service last month revealed an initial programming slate from Rhimes that includes eight new series projects.

Read more: https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/kenya-barris-100-million-netflix-deal-1202907726/

R.I.P. Artistic Genius and Musical Legend Aretha Franklin, 76, Forever the Queen of Soul

(photo via arethafranklin.net)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to nytimes.com, American singer, pianist, and composer Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit surrounded by family and loved ones at the age of 76. The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her four sons, Ted White Jr., Kecalf Cunningham, Clarence Franklin, and Edward Franklin.

Franklin, who began her unparalleled music career singing at her father Rev. C.L. Franklin‘s New Bethel Baptist Church, became an international superstar and chart-topper in the 1960s with such classic songs as “Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You,” “Chain of Fools,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Respect,” and again in the 1980 and 1990s with “Jump To It,” “Freeway of Love,” “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” and “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won 18 competitive Grammys across multiple decades, was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Aretha was also involved in civil rights activism and philanthropy during her lifetime. Franklin, who Elle Magazine noted had it written into her contract in the 1960s that she would never perform for a segregated audience, was glad that the song “Respect” became linked to feminist and civil-rights movements. She added that the line “you know I’ve got it” has a direct feminist theme. “As women, we do have it,” Franklin said. “We have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society.”

According to Vanity Fair, though Franklin didn’t participate in civil disobedience herself, she lent very public support to at least one person who did. In 1970, famous feminist activist, scholar, and a then-avowed member of the Communist Party Angela Davis was arrested at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in Midtown Manhattan and incarcerated for 16 months for what were found to be wrongful kidnapping and murder charges. Jet magazine reported that Franklin was ready to cover Davis’s bond, “whether it was $100,000 or $250,000.” Davis was released on bail and cleared of her charges in 1972.

Locally, Aretha donated meals and hotel rooms to Flint residents at the onset of the city’s water crisis, last year she was honored with the dedication of Aretha Franklin Way in Detroit, and worked to renew and revitalize her hometown with projects and concerts.

To read more about Franklin’s life and music, coverage from the Detroit Free Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. To witness a touch of her genius, click below:

Pharrell Williams Announces Yellow Ball Gala, Talks Protecting Artists & Taking a ‘People’s Stance’ on Federal Arts Funding

Artwork by Daniel Arsham, a member of the American Express Platinum Collective.
Courtesy Photo: Artwork by Daniel Arsham, a member of the American Express Platinum Collective.

by  via billboard.com

Since becoming the creative director for American Express Platinum in December 2016, Pharrell Williams has worked closely with the financial services company to bring awareness to the importance of arts education and advocacy. Nearly two years later, the “Happy” singer is taking his efforts one step further with the inaugural Yellow Ball gala.

The event will take place on Monday, Sept. 10 at the Brooklyn Museum and will benefit the Young Audiences Arts for Learning, the nation’s largest arts-in-education network. The Yellow Ball title was chosen by Pharrell himself, as the color has many meanings — and ties in with the purpose of the event.

“Pharrell views the color and event as helping to shine a light on the need for arts education and its ability to pave the way for a brighter future,” Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer of American Express, says. Pharrell adds, “That’s what this is about — bringing light to this cause.”

The Yellow Ball will feature musical performances, including a special set from Missy Elliott. Along with music, the event will also include multi-room art experiences from American Express Platinum Collective member Daniel Arsham, and a multi-course dinner experience by American Express Global Dining Collection Chef Dominique Crenn.

Ahead of the announcement, Billboard chatted with Pharrell about his latest initiative, his thoughts on today’s young generation of artists, and why the arts (and the color yellow) are so important for all ages.

When you were named creative director of AmEx Platinum, what were your goals and where does the yellow ball kind of fit into all of that?

My goals were to work with a company that I felt like had the means to make a difference, but just maybe needed a nudging, or maybe needed some direction. But then when I started working with them and got an education on all the things that they’ve done — from the Tribeca Film Festival to the sales program they have for small businesses on Saturdays — I realized that they had been doing this the entire time. When we talked about doing the Yellow Ball and I told them I wanted it to be about arts and education, they didn’t blink. What I wanted to do with them was just going to be just yet another great thing that they do in the world.

Why did you decide on the name the Yellow Ball, and what does the color yellow mean to you?

Not to get all esoteric, but yellow is like the color of the solar plexus. Yellow is the color for creativity, yellow is the color for curiosity. Art is largely diminishing throughout the curriculum throughout this country, and we need to protect the creative mind.

Everything around you right now versus everything you’re using, it’s just not organic, it was someone’s epiphany. That’s creativity, that needs to be protected. If we don’t have that, I don’t know what kind of future we have. We have to protect the artist community at all costs, across all artistic disciplines.

Why do you think it’s so important for people to be exposed to the arts and learn from it at a young age?

On a more paramount level, everyone is a creative. Everyone that makes a move or does anything in life is a co-creator, but the ones who actually create things that we use and things that we need, that needs to be protected. There is a future that will have corporations that will have more say. You see all the things happening with lobbyists now, you just can never doubt that. In the artistic community, it’s the educational portion of it is eroding, what kind of future is that for us? So we need to talk to all the corporations that we can — that care — now.

Did the controversy surrounding the funding cuts for the NEA change the course of action for you in your involvement with AmEx platinum in any way?

A lot of decisions that are being made are having a domino effect on programs like the [NEA]. And while we might not like that, the powers that be are the powers that be, but we are still the people and we can do things to help the people with the resources that we have access to. That’s literally all we’re doing, there’s no political stance, it’s more of a people’s stance.

Has becoming a father had an impact on the way you think about how art can affect lives?

I want all children to have access to that kind of creative growth, access and support. All kids, not just my own. There’s a lot of variables in a situation as to why something falls apart, but there’s only one scenario where it holds together, and that’s when all the variables are there. The environment, the family, the school, the system — there’s so many things. We just want to do what we can to balance the odds so that as many kids as we can afford, or help and assist in whatever ways, get this access and support.

What do you think the younger generation of today’s musical artists are bringing to the table?

I love what they do and how they express themselves. It’s like these amazing pockets of lyrics or melodies that feel good to them. The music just takes on a direction of its own, it’s not so formatted. I love that this generation is just grabbing the instruments and using them in whatever way feels good to them. That’s just like a sign of how the times have changed.

It’s kind of like the fourth time that I’ve seen music and the spirit of it change — like drastically change. It’s been amazing to see it. You see certain things that feel familiar, then you see things that you’ve never seen or thought of in your entire life. As a musician I can feel connected to it.

Source: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8469193/pharrell-williams-interview-yellow-ball-gala-art-education

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga to Star in Adaptation of Nella Larsen’s Harlem Renaissance Era Novel ‘Passing’

The Hollywood Reporter recently reported that Ruth Negga (“Loving”) and Tessa Thompson(“Sorry to Bother You”) will star in a film adaptation of Nella Larsen’s novel “Passing.”

Larsen’s novel explores the practice of passing as a race different from one’s own. “Passing” focuses on childhood friends, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, who reconnect in adulthood. Kendry passes as White, but longs for connection with Redfield and her life in Harlem’s Black community. The friends’ obsession with one another pushes their lives together in ways that prove risky for both women.

The critical acclaim that “Passing” earned after its 1929 publication cemented Larson’s legacy among the most celebrated authors of the Harlem Renaissance.

Thompson, who is of Afro-Panamanian and Mexican descent, and Negga, the daughter of an Ethiopian man and Irish woman, will portray the pair at the center of the story. Rebecca Hall, a British actress of partial Black ancestry, will direct.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/tessa-thompson-ruth-negga-star-passing-adaptation

Spike Lee Gets Rights to Use Unreleased Prince Song in New Film, ‘BlacKkKlansman’

Director Spike Lee attends the after party for the New York premiere of ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) and Prince speaks onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

by Kia Morgan-Smith via thegrio.com

While Spike Lee’s upcoming BlacKkKlansman movie has already received critical acclaim ahead of its August 10th release, viewers are in for a treat at the end of the movie when a Prince song plays; something the award-winning director believes was meant to be.

Lee spoke to Rolling Stone about the Prince cover of the Negro spiritual Mary Don’t You Weep” that plays at the end of the movie. Lee said that the song was perhaps a divine sign from the deceased singer.

“I knew that I needed an end-credits song. I’ve become very close with Troy Carter, one of the executives at Spotify [and a Prince estate advisor],” said Lee. “So, I invited Troy to a private screening. And after, he said, ‘Spike, I got the song.’ And that was ‘Mary Don’t You Weep,’ which had been recorded on cassette in the mid-Eighties.”

“Prince wanted me to have that song, I don’t care what nobody says. My brother Prince wanted me to have that song, for this film,” he says emphatically.

“There’s no other explanation to me. This cassette is in the back of the vaults. In Paisley Park. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it’s discovered? Nah-ah. That ain’t an accident.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, during the world premiere of BlacKkKlansman at the  Cannes film festival, the audience broke out in applause about a half-dozen times during the movie. And they were so moved by the end of the film, that they clapped for four minutes during the credits and then stood up for a six-minute standing ovation.

Making this feature even more timely and culturally significant is the fact that Lee has decided to release it on August 10th, the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville, Va., white nationalist rally. Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington, portrays the movie’s lead character, Ron Stallworth. The movie is based on a true story.

Here’s part of his Rolling Stone interview.

On Jordan Peele’s initial BlacKkKlansman script and what was missing:

“They acquired Ron Stallworth’s book and felt it needed more flava. And that’s what I brought. I was grateful for the opportunity because I had never heard of Stallworth. I didn’t know his story. People say, “That is too unbelievable to be true.” And that’s what makes it such a great story.”

On deciding to include footage from the Charlottesville riots:

“We started shooting in September. When Charlottesville happened, I knew that was going to be the ending. I first needed to ask Ms. Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, for permission. This is someone whose daughter has been murdered in an American act of terrorism — homegrown, apple-pie, hot-dog, baseball, cotton-candy Americana. Mrs. Bro no longer has a daughter because an American terrorist drove that car down that crowded street. And even people who know that thing is coming, when they see it, it’s like, very quiet.”

On if he saw any of Denzel Washington in John David Washington:

“John David is amazing in this movie. That phrase ‘the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree’ — there’s a reason people say that. He is Denzel Washington’s first son. That’s a big, big burden. But he’s also his own man. I have a history with him. His first film was Malcolm X. At the end of the movie, when the kids say, “My name is Malcolm X!” He’s one of the kids. He was about six years old.”

Source: https://thegrio.com/2018/08/06/spike-lee-nabs-unreleased-prince-song-for-new-movie-blackkklansman/

OPINION: Why I’m Here For the Badass Black Women of San Diego Comic-Con 2018

by Maeve Richardson

As GBN’s resident biracial, millennial nerd, I place a lot of importance on diversity at Comic Con and in the entertainment industry.

Pop culture has the power to influence how people see the world around them, and, thankfully, there are people in the entertainment industry who understand this and work to make content that showcases the positive aspects of diversity and uniqueness.

A prime example of this content is Steven Universe, an out-of-this-world show that isn’t afraid to show just how diverse this planet really is.

On the surface, Steven Universe is a cartoon about a boy trying to save the world. But on a deeper level it’s a show about love and friendship, and a show that teaches kids lessons about healthy relationships, anxiety, and how important it is to be true to yourself. Estelle, who plays Garnet (the fierce leader of the Crystal gems and fusion of LGBTQ+ couple Ruby and Sapphire), killed it at the Superheroes of Body Positivity Panel this Comic Con.

Estelle, along with the rest of the Crewniverse (people who work on Steven Universe) recently participated in Dove’s Self Esteem Project. Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe and Estelle joined Dove on the Panel to talk about body positivity and open up about their own experiences with body image. “My body works, it’s gorgeous. It gets me from point A to point B. If someone, doesn’t like my body, that’s too bad,” Estelle explained.

Another show featured at Comic-Con was Black Lightning, a badass superhero show that celebrates Black Americans. Series co-creator Mara Brock Akil took the stage to express that “celebrating our culture is important to remind us that we are also a part of the fabric of American culture. Tracking our history and our path is important.”

Amandla Stenberg (photo by Gage Skidmore)

Then there are the women of the Women Who Kick Ass Panel. Amandla Stenberg, who I’ve been a fan of since their portrayal of Rue in The Hunger Games, said “The topic of ‘strong female roles’ is tricky. There’s an awareness I have. I create representation because of the accessibility I have. When it comes to roles there is a give and take time. We continue to sacrifice in order to see the representation we want.” I will definitely be purchasing a ticket for their new movie The Darkest Minds.

And of course, there’s Regina King, who will be starring in HBO’s new Watchmen series. “There weren’t many like me kicking ass. I was a Lynda Carter fan. Even though Wonder Woman was wearing a skimpy outfit, she had ownership and confidence that exuded female strength,” Regina King explained about her own experiences with superheroes.

For me, cartoons and superheroes have shaped core aspects of my personality and morality, so it means a lot to me to see so many badass women of color involved in so many amazing projects share their experiences.

Rihanna Becomes 1st Black Woman to Land Cover of British Vogue’s September Issue

photos via eveningstandard.com

by Andrea Park via cbsnews.com

Rihanna made history by becoming the first black woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue‘s September issue. Like the publication’s U.S. edition, the September issue is the most prestigious edition of the fashion magazine.

Rihanna shared her cover photo on Instagram. She’s wearing a hot pink Prada dress, Savage x Fenty gloves, a flower headdress and thin, drawn-on eyebrows a la Marlene Dietrich. The “Wild Thoughts” singer also posted photos from inside the issue, in which she dons different oversized floral headpieces.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, styled the cover and photo shoot, and Nick Knight served as photographer. Enninful wrote in his editor’s letter that he knew he wanted the singer on the cover for the magazine’s September issue.

“I always knew it had to be Rihanna,” he wrote. “A fearless music-industry icon and businesswoman, when it comes to that potent mix of fashion and celebrity, nobody does it quite like her. No matter how haute the styling goes, or experimental the mood, you never lose her in the imagery. She is always Rihanna. There’s a lesson for us all in that. Whichever way you choose to dress the new season, take a leaf out of her book and be yourself.”

Enninful wrote that the two talked about diversity and Rihanna’s life as a diva for the accompanying profile.

British Vogue’s September issue hits newsstands today.

Source: https://www-cbsnews-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/rihanna-becomes-first-black-woman-to-cover-british-vogues-september-issue/

Filmmaker Rick Famuyiwa Set to Produce Disney Live-Action Fairytale About an African Princess, Titled “Sadé”

Producer/Director Rick Famuyiwa (photo via geeksofcolor.co)

by  via geeksofcolor.co

Shuri may have new company as a Disney princess with Disney having acquired a live-action fairytale film pitch.

Titled Sadé, the live-action fairytale is about an African Princess and is based on an original concept by Ola Shokunbi and Lindsey Reed Palmer, with Rick Famuyiwa attached  to the project as a producer. Famuyiwa is known for his directorial work such as Our Family Wedding, Confirmation and Dope.

The film is set to tell the story of a:

“…young African girl named Sadé who, when her kingdom is threatened by a mysterious evil force, accepts her newly discovered magical warrior powers to protect herself and her people.With the help of the kingdom’s prince, Sadé embarks on an adventure that will allow her to embrace what makes her special and save the kingdom.”

Disney introduced its first black princess in 2009 with the animated film The Princess and The Frog. Voiced by Anika Noni Rose, the film set in New Orleans explored voodoo, love, and culture through magic and music.

Sadé is to be written by Shokunbi and Palmer, with Scott Falconer set to executive produce the project. A director and cast are yet to be announced.

Source: https://geeksofcolor.co/2018/07/30/rick-famuyiwa-set-to-produce-disney-live-action-fairytale-about-an-african-princess-titled-sade/

Beyoncé Hires Tyler Mitchell, 23, to Shoot Her September 2018 Vogue Cover, 1st Black Photographer in Magazine’s 126-Year History

Tyler Mitchell (photo via crybabyzine.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to huffingtonpost.com, musical icon Beyoncé received unprecedented control over the cover of the upcoming September issue of Vogue magazine, and in turn hired Tyler Mitchell, 23, to be her photographer. Mitchell will become the first black photographer to shoot a cover in the publication’s 126-year history.

Vogue, according to two sources who are familiar with the agreement between Vogue and Beyoncé, is contractually obligated to give Beyoncé full control over the cover, the photos of her inside the magazine and the captions, which she has written herself and are in long-form. Beyoncé is also not granting Vogue a sit-down interview for the September 2018 issue, as is typical of its cover subjects.

Mitchell, a New York University graduate from Atlanta, quickly became a recognized name in the art world through his work in Cuba and his featured work on Instagram.

The New York Times’ “Up Next” series featured Mitchell in December.  Huffingtonpost.com writes that 23-year-old first gained attention in 2015 with his self-published book of photos, El Paquete, which focused on Cuban skate culture and architecture. Mitchell captured the book’s 108 photos while in Cuba for six weeks as part of a documentary photography program, according to the Times.

Mitchell also photographed Parkland shooting survivors including Sarah Chadwick, Nza-Ari Khepra, Emma Gonzalez and Jaclyn Corin for Teen Vogue’s piece on the #NeverAgain gun control movement.

“I depict black people and people of color in a really real and pure way,” Mitchell told The New York Times in December. “There is an honest gaze to my photos.”

Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Limited Series About Madam C.J. Walker Lands at Netflix

Octavia Spencer/LeBron James (photo via variety.com)

by Debra Birnbaum via Variety.com

It’s official: Octavia Spencer and LeBron James’ limited series about entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker has landed at Netflix. The streaming outlet made the announcement at its Television Critics Assn. press tour session Sunday.

The project is executive produced by Spencer and James. Spencer will star in the eight-episode series, which is based on the book “On Our Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, who will also serve as a consultant.

The series will recount the untold story of how Walker, a black hair care pioneer and mogul, overcame hostile turn-of-the-century America, epic rivalries, tumultuous marriages and some trifling family to become America’s first black, self-made female millionaire.

Walker, the daughter of slaves, was orphaned at age seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. She spent two decades laboring as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a week. Everything changed, though, following Walker’s discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women. By the time she died in 1919, she had built a beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women.

“Black Nativity” directory Kasi Lemmons will direct the pilot and also executive produce, and Nicole Asher will write. Janine Sherman Barrois and Elle Johnson will also serve as executive producers, along with SpringHill’s Maverick Carter, and Zero Gravity’s Mark Holder and Christine Holder.

The Holders optioned the book from Bundles in early 2016, and Spencer pursued the part aggressively once she learned of it. With the Oscar winner attached, William Morris Endeavor Agency pitched the series to James as his production company’s entryway into prestige TV.

“It’s so exciting for all of us to keep building SpringHill, see it mature, and continue to find its voice. We are really focused on growing with authenticity and substance,” Carter said. “For us, this is totally about great stories and great partners. Partnering with Octavia to tell the story of Madam C.J. Walker is the ideal first project for SpringHill to take an important step into scripted drama.”

Source: https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/octavia-spencer-lebron-james-madam-cj-walker-netflix-limited-series-1202889368/

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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