“Girls Trip” Star Tiffany Haddish Sets Two Movies With New Line and Universal

Tiffany Haddish (via vanity fair.com)

by Justin Kroll via Variety.com

After making history as the first black female stand-up comedian to host “Saturday Night Live,” Tiffany Haddish is looking to continue to stay busy by landing lead roles in New Line’s “The Kitchen” and Universal’s “The Temp.”

Haddish is in talks to join the ensemble of “The Kitchen,” which is the directorial debut for “Straight Outta Compton” screenwriter Andrea Berloff, who is also writing the script. The film is based on the comic book series by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle for Vertigo from DC Entertainment. The series has gained a cult following since debuting in 2014 to critical acclaim. The Irish mafia story is set in Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y., in the 1970s. When the FBI comes in and does a sweep of the mob, several men are arrested. Their wives end up taking over and running the business much more viciously than the men ever did.

“The Temp,” which is set to be produced by Will Packer, who also produced the hit comedy “Girls Trip” featuring Haddish’s breakout performance.

Universal acquired the original pitch for “The Temp” from Dana Fox, who will also write the female-driven comedy. Fox will produce alongside Packer who will produce through his Universal-based Will Packer Productions. Will Packer Productions’ James Lopez will also produce and Haddish will serve as executive producer.

Haddish’s other upcoming projects include starring alongside Tracy Morgan in TBS’ “The Last OG,” which will be released in 2018; she recently wrapped production on Universal’s “Night School” opposite Kevin Hart. She also has “Limited Partners” in development with Paramount, which she will star in and serve as an executive producer on the project as well.

Outside of her film and TV projects, she is also set to release her book “The Last Black Unicorn,” which comes out Dec. 5, and just announced 2018 dates for her new stand-up tour “She Ready.”

To read full article, go to: http://variety.com/2017/film/news/tiffany-haddish-girls-trip-new-line-universal-1202614732/

Vanessa Morrison Named Head of Fox Family in Animation Division Overhaul

Fox Family President Vanessa Morrison (CREDIT: COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY FOX)

by Brent Lang via Variety.com

Vanessa Morrison, longtime head of Twentieth Century Fox Film’s animation division, is moving into a new role at the studio. She has been named president of Fox Family, a newly-created division that will develop films aimed at younger moviegoers and their parents. They include both animated films and films with live action elements. Her appointment is effective immediately, and she will report to Chair Proman and CEO Stacey Snider and Vice Chairman Emma Watts.

Fox said it will announce a replacement for Morrison in the coming days. The move comes as Snider is shaking up Fox’s animation arm with the goal of releasing at least one animated film a year. Snider recently signed a multi-year production deal with Locksmith Animation. The goal is to augment the films that Blue Sky, the makers of the “Ice Age” series, creates for Fox. The studio owns Blue Sky.

Snider believes that animated releases are an increasingly popular genre and that Fox needs to be a bigger player in the space. There’s certainly a lot of competition. Disney continues to dominate the market thanks to its Pixar division, Warner Bros. and Sony have upped their number of family releases, and Universal’s parent company Comcast made the decision in 2016 to shell out $3.8 billion to buy DreamWorks Animation.

In addition to her movie work, Morrison will also oversee the studio’s family animated television business. That division makes holiday television specials based on existing film properties. Fox is also making film features based on its small-screen efforts, such as a “Bob’s Burgers” film. Morrison will oversee those productions, as well. “Vanessa has for many years championed the studio’s efforts to take a more wholistic approach to the family entertainment space, and this new role will empower her to execute on that goal,” Snider and Watts said in a joint statement. “We are thrilled to have her leading this initiative, and as this segment in the marketplace continues to grow, the creation of this new division will strengthen our footprint as we look to create the best possible films for families across our entire company.”

Morrison has headed up Fox Animation since 2007. In addition to the “Ice Age” franchise, Morrison oversaw the production of the likes of the “Rio” films, “Peanuts,” and “Book of Life.” She also worked on “Ferdinand,” Fox’s next animated release, which hits theaters in November.

Source: Vanessa Morrison Named Head of Fox Family in Animation Division Overhaul – Variety

R.I.P. Robert Guillaume, 89, Emmy-Award Winning Actor and Star of “Benson”

Robert Guillaume (CREDIT: AP)

Richard Natale via variety.com

Emmy Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume, best known as the title character in the TV sitcom “Benson,” died Tuesday. He was 89.

His wife Donna Brown Guillaume told the Associated Press he died at their Los Angeles home of complications of prostate cancer. Guillaume often played acerbic, dry-witted, but ultimately lovable characters like the butler Benson Du Bois, which he created on the 1977 series “Soap,” before his character was spun off in 1979. Guillaume won Emmys both for “Soap” (as supporting actor) and “Benson” (as lead actor).

He was also known as the the voice of Rafiki in “The Lion King,” for which he also won a Grammy for a spoken word recording. “Benson” ran on ABC for seven years until 1986. The show brought Guillaume an Emmy in 1985 for lead actor in a comedy. In the late ’90s he took on the role of Isaac Jaffe, executive producer of a cable sports show on the ABC sitcom “Sports Night,” and continued to perform even after being felled by a stroke.

Guillaume also possessed a powerful, mellifluous voice, which he used most notably to play the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” onstage. After suffering through a period of unemployment during the ’70s, he was cast in an all-black revival of “Guys and Dolls” as Nathan Detroit, which debuted on Broadway in 1977 and secured him a Tony nomination. He also guested during this period on sitcoms such as “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” “Sanford and Son” and “The Jeffersons,” which led to the supporting role of Benson in “Soap.”

He tried another sitcom in 1989, “The Robert Guillaume Show,” playing a marriage counselor. The series lasted four months before ABC pulled the plug. He returned to singing in 1990 in the Los Angeles production of “Phantom of the Opera” and on Broadway in the lead role of “Cyrano — The Musical” for four months beginning in November 1993. He also performed regularly in concert.

Guillaume was featured in films such as “Meteor Man,” “First Kid” and “Spy Hard.” On television he appeared in the HBO family series “Happily Ever After” and TV movies and miniseries including “Children of the Dust,” “Run for the Dream” and “Pandora’s Clock.” He appeared in Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” in 2003, and then made more frequent bigscreen appearances later in the decade, appearing in the Christian film “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” in 2008; in the thriller “Columbus Circle,” starring Selma Blair, in 2010; and in the small musical dramedy “Satin” in 2011.

Robert Peter Williams was born in St. Louis, Mo., changing his name only after he decided on a career in acting. After completing his schooling he joined the Army in 1945 and was discharged 15 months later. He took on a number of menial jobs while studying nights at St. Louis U. He originally intended to study business but became interested in singing and transferred to Washington U. to study voice and theater. His performance at the 1957 Aspen Music Festival led to an apprenticeship at the Karamu Performing Arts Theater in Cleveland, where he appeared in operas and musical comedies.

After moving to New York, he made his Broadway debut in a 1960 revival of “Finian’s Rainbow” and found regular employment in the chorus of shows like “Fly, Blackbird,” “Golden Boy” and “Porgy and Bess.” In 1972 he took on the title role in the musical “Purlie” and also appeared in the revue “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”He is survived by his second wife, TV producer Donna Brown Guillaume; one son (another died in 1990); and three daughters.

Source: Robert Guillaume, Star of ‘Benson,’ Dies at 89 – Variety

Jordan Peele and ABC President Channing Dungey to Be Honored by African American Film Critics Association

Filmmaker Jordan Peele (l), ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey (r) [photo credit: Getty Images via hollywoodreporter.com]

by Arlene Washington via hollywoodreporter.com

The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) has named Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele and ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey among the recipients of its special achievement honors.

Alcon Entertainment’s co-CEOs Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove and Los Angeles Film Festival president Claudia Puig will also be recognized at AAFCA’s special achievement luncheon in 2018, which along with its annual awards ceremony will be a “Celebration of Women in Cinema.” The success of female-helmed films this year, from big-budget features including Patty JenkinsWonder Woman to Dee Rees‘ anticipated Mudbound (which recently screened at New York Film Festival), has inspired AAFCA — the largest group of black film critics — to proclaim 2017 the “Year of the Woman in Cinema.”

The organization stated that with films including The Zookeeper’s Wife, A United Kingdom, Detroit and The Beguiled, “women are rightfully being recognized for their long overdue equity in potential for quality, successful filmmaking.” “There is no argument that women have made a bold step forward this year in Hollywood,” says AAFCA president Gil Robertson, who co-founded the organization in 2003 with Shawn Edwards. “The evidence demonstrated during the past year speaks for itself both in terms of box office and critical recognition by women, and we predict that there will be continued momentum going forward. We are also pleased that African American women are a part of this progress and are taking advantage of increased opportunities to make their cinematic imprint.”

The organization also said that future projects, including Ava DuVernay‘s A Wrinkle in Time in March 2018, show that women and African American directors are heading toward a normalcy in getting more big-screen opportunities. “Women wrote, produced and directed some of the year’s most compelling, provocative and culturally relevant movies,” adds Edwards. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that women have a permanent place at the table with equal representation.”

In addition to the AAFCA special achievement luncheon on Feb. 3 in Marina del Rey, Calif., the organization’s annual awards program will take place on Feb. 7 at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood.

Source: Jordan Peele, ABC’s Channing Dungey to Be Feted by AAFCA | Hollywood Reporter

FEATURE: ‘Girls Trip’ Star Tiffany Haddish’s Remarkable Rise

Comedian and actor Tiffany Haddish (photo via theatlantic.com)

by Michael P. Jeffries via theatlantic.com

When comedian Tiffany Haddish was 9, her stepfather tampered with the brakes on her mother’s car, hoping to kill his partner and her four children. Rather than going out with her mom that day, Haddish asked to stay home and look after her younger siblings—sparing her from the horrific accident that left her mother mentally impaired. As the oldest child, Haddish did what she could to help for three years, from tying her mother’s shoes to paying bills, but eventually Haddish and her siblings were placed in foster care.

Haddish used the trauma and tragedy of her upbringing to ignite what is now a blazing comedy career. As a child, the Girls Trip star was teased for being a foster kid, but Haddish has also talked about maintaining a strong sense of self worth in her recent Showtime standup special, She Ready!: From the Hood to Hollywood. “The state of California paid so much money to make sure I don’t die ‘cause they knew I was gonna be special,” Haddish tells her audience. “They knew it. They was like, ‘This one right here, she gonna be a unicorn.’ And they was right. I’m the last black unicorn, bitch!”

Haddish’s ascent in recent years—debuting on NBC’s The Carmichael Show in 2015 and appearing in the 2016 action comedy Keanu and the summer hit Girls Trip—is a testament to her talent and resilience. But her story also offers insight into what it takes for a black woman in comedy to become successful today. Haddish’s rise points to where systemic roadblocks still lie for performers of color, particularly women, when they first enter the business—and how some barriers to entry may be falling as comedy enters a new golden age, with fewer gatekeepers and more platforms for artists to reach their fans.

Even though Girls Trip has a black director and writers, Haddish faced questions about her low profile. Her agent initially told her that studio executives were looking for someone with a bigger name to play her character, Dina. Haddish told her agent to tell them, “I’ve had a name since 1979. Okay? I was born with a name.” In the end, her rare comedic gifts won out, and reviews of Girls Trip regularly singled Haddish out for praise. Continue reading

Jada Pinkett Smith to Receive Icon Award at 2017 HBCU Power Awards

Jada Pinkett Smith (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

via blackamericaweb.com

The HBCU Power Awards has announced that actress, singer-songwriter, director, and philanthropist Jada Pinkett Smith will receive the “Icon Award” on the evening of excellence on Friday, October 20, 7PM at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Smith began her acting career as the feisty “Lena” from the 80s sitcom “A Different World,” a show that brought HBCU life to tv screens across the country 30 years ago. Since then, Smith has curated a successful career in film and music while giving back to the community through the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation.

Actor/choreographer Derek “Fonzworth Bentley” Watkins (Morehouse c/o ’96) supermodel Jessica White and actor/comedian Deon Cole will co-host the show. Co-founded by Watkins along with event producer Jash’d Kambui Belcher (Morehouse c/o ’99) and Wall Street executive Roderick Hardamon (Morehouse c/o ’98), the HBCU Power Awards honors the achievements and accomplishments of HBCU alumni and supporters who are making innovative and leading-­edge achievements in business, sports, philanthropy, media, music, technology, TV, film, politics, civil service and fashion.

“We created the HBCU Power Awards to serve as a platform to celebrate black excellence and to highlight the importance of HBCUs in our communities,” says Belcher. “Our honorees embody the spirit of success and commitment to community that HBCUs have instilled in students for decades.”Adds Watkins: “In a time when the existence of our HBCUs is being threatened, the Power Awards is a shining reminder of the genius and innovation that black colleges generate every year.”

Sponsors of the 2017 HBCU Power Awards include Morehouse College, the Atlanta Hawks, Radio One, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Experience Grands Rapids and the Lowman Group/ dba the Athletes Foot.

Ticket prices start at $20 and are available at HBCUPowerAwards.com.

To read more, go to: Jada Pinkett Smith To Be Honored At HBCU Power Awards | Black America Web

John Legend and Jesse Williams Team for “With Drawn Arms” Documentary Film on 1968 Olympic Protest

Tommie Smith and John Carlos protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics (photo via vibe.com)

by Latifah Muhammad via vibe.com

John Legend and Jesse Williams are working on a documentary that will look at the 1968 Black Power salute seen around the world. More than four decades before Colin Kaepernick took a knee in silent protest of police brutality and racial injustice, Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a statement with raised fists during the Summer Olympic games in Mexico City.

The documentary, With Drawn Arms, is executive produced by Williams and Legend, along with the Grammy and Oscar winning singer’s partners from his Get Lifted Film Co., Deadline reports. Smith is the focus of the documentary. The former sprinter and NFL wide received took home the gold medal at the 1968 games after completing the 200-meter dash, while Carlos earned the bronze medal. Both men were suspended for raising their fists during the medal ceremony, stripped of their credentials, and given 48 hours to leave Olympic Village.

With Drawn Arms is currently in production in Los Angeles and is co-directed by Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi, who is the father of Black-ish actress Yara Shahidi, and worked as one of Prince’s personal photographers. “Tommie Smith is more than an iconic poster or risky act of defiance that inspires people the world over,” Williams said in a statement noting that Smith is a “living man, whose incredible journey is worthy of examination.” He added, “I couldn’t be more excited to join forces with this team of filmmakers, to share his reality and challenge our notions of heroism in the process.”

To read more, go to: John Legend, Jesse Williams Team For Film On Olympic Protest