Ellis Haizlip broke the talk show and public television color barrier when he introduced “SOUL!,” the weekly program he hosted during the late ’60s and early ’70s, to PBS. Now, a half decade after the show debuted, his niece Melissa Haizlip (“Crossing Jordan”) revisits his legacy with the documentary “Mr. SOUL!” Deadline anticipated the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival by unveiling the trailer (above) on April 4.
“There exists, as far as I know, no TV program that deals with my culture so completely, so freely, so beautifully,” the senior Haizlip remarked in archival footage from the trailer. To drive that point home, the trailer incorporates clips of performances from now-renowned Black artists as varied as Maya Angelou, Donny Hathaway and Alvin Ailey. Haizlip also conducted interviews on the show with Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and other activists and thought leaders.
Interviewees like Kathleen Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez and Harry Belafonte spoke to the importance of this show, which centered Black culture at a time when the U.S. was waging full-scale war on Black activism. “This is serious business, our lives were at stake!” Cleaver emphasized in the trailer.
PBS/Thirteen noted that Ellis Haizlip fought both on and off camera. He intentionally staffed his production team with Black crew members and publicly criticized the government-created Corporation for Public Broadcasting for pulling funding. “Worse than racism, I see this as the beginning of a systematic plan to remove Black programs from public television,” he told Jet magazine after the show’s cancellation in 1973.
“Mr. SOUL!” debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22.
Recently, Good Black News was invited to cover the launch of “One Strange Rock,” a ten-part space/science series on the National Geographic Channel that premieres Monday, 3/26, and is hosted and narrated by Will Smith. It is director Darren Aronofsky‘s (“Black Swan,” “mother!,” “Requiem For a Dream”) first foray into television, and the series is produced by Jane Root through her production company Nutopia. It is a cinematic look at Earth from a variety of perspectives – from space, from the sea, from the desert – and across all continents.
From the episodes I’ve seen, “One Strange Rock” is a gorgeous, meditative, eye-opening look at our planet, and Smith is a welcome, friendly guide along the journey to get to know Earth and all its ecosystems in ways we haven’t seen or previously considered. But what honestly got me excited about “One Strange Rock” was the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female to travel into space (and one of my personal she-ros) to speak with her about her participation in “One Strange Rock,” as well as her other current projects (100 Year Starship and Look Up).
As I start to record the interview (this is moments after I fangirl and tell Dr. Jemison I dressed up as her one Halloween, entered a costume contest and won a 25-dollar gift card to Virgin Records), I state into my Voice Memo app the date, time, and that I’m about to interview Dr. Mae Jemison, she charmingly interrupts.
Mae Jemison: How about if we do it in Star Date Time? 2018.01.13, right?
Good Black News: Way better! That’s a Trekkie for you! I appreciate that, thank you, Dr. Jemison. Well, first I want to ask you about your involvement in “One Strange Rock.” Why, of all the different entities out there covering space, space travel, space exploration, did you want to lend your voice to this project?
MJ: So “One Strange Rock” is the story of the extraordinary journey of Earth. It’s about our home planet and how we went from this collection of rock and gases to something that supports life and an incredible diversity of life, and I wanted to be a part of that. When people think about space, so frequently they think about it just as the stars and the pictures and images and the rockets. But actually, space allows us to see our world that we live on. Space allows us to understand that when we look up at the stars, we’re actually made of the stuff of stars. Right? Inside of us is the heart of an old star. Doesn’t that make you feel like you belong to this universe and that you’re supposed to be here?
Absolutely. So is your hope with this particular project that more people will get that understanding that there isn’t a separation?
MJ: “One Strange Rock” does this incredible thing – it takes us from the smallest microbe, or to how oxygen is generated in small bubbles, all the way to the vistas of continents or being able to see our atmosphere, and connects it together. And so for me, one of the things we need to understand at some point in time – we’ve got to figure this out – is that we’re Earthlings and that we’re connected to this planet. So when I went into space, one of the things that happened to me is that I had an affirmation of something that I always believed. You know when people say, “Save the Earth”? They’re mistaken – the Earth will be here. The difference is, can we act in such a way that it continues to support our life form? You see, what “One Strange Rock” shows is how integrated life is on this planet and we as humans are part of that life. If we go to another world – just go to the space station – we have to carry some of the Earth with us. We have to carry that environment with us because this is where we evolved, this is where we developed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t leave – obviously I want to leave -I want to go and explore other places. But it’s the recognition that there are a… unique series of coincidences, events and everything that led us to this day, to humans, to me sitting talking to you. And they started billions of years ago.
So with all of that, you talk in the first episode about the “Overview Effect” – about seeing the planet and essentially what you just communicated to me. How do you get people who don’t have the opportunity to go into space to understand that boundaries and countries and all of these things that we do as human beings to identify in all these different ways is a way of looking at Earth that isn’t going to help foster the survival of our species?
MJ: So I want to make one thing clear – I know a lot of astronauts talk about the “Overview Effect” – that everything belongs right here on this planet – for me when I went into space… I knew damn well that water crosses from one country to another, that our sky is over different countries and weather affects everyone. What “One Strange Rock” does is help people to understand and feel that. So I can maybe mumble words and give you statistics and stuff, but it’s not the same thing as having that emotional connection. What I’m so proud about with “One Strange Rock” is that it takes images from lots of different countries, from African countries, from South American countries – it goes down underneath the Earth and goes up to the top. And all those things help us to see this planet and the imagery from people, to animals, to… desolate locations. And so, it’s not so much again about mumbling the words, or even saying the words very clearly, it’s about allowing people to see and be there with you. And not just from space, because we get down to the detail. We see kids playing, we see folks who’ve been collecting salt for generations from one location. All of those things are important for us to understand our connectedness to this world. And it’s not about preaching and it’s not about how fast the Space Station is orbiting the Earth or any of that kind of stuff – it’s that vantage point.Continue reading “Pioneering Astronaut Mae Jemison Offers Insight and Forward Thinking to New National Geographic Channel Series “One Strange Rock””→
Producer/director Deon Taylor and his Hidden Empire Film Group have launched a new shingle, Dark Circus, that will produce film and television content aimed towards urban audiences, with a focus on the comedy and horror genres.
The first project set up under the banner is a Snoop Dogg-produced horror anthology series, The Thrill. It centers on a mysterious hotel, The Last Stop Inn, situated on a lonely stretch of foreboding highway, where the unlucky guests who check in each week struggle to understand the supernatural events that unfold during their stay.
The first feature release under the new label will be The House Next Door, the previously announced sequel to Meet the Blacks. Taylor directed the comedy that stars Mike Epps and Katt Williams.
“We have the resources and market expertise to deliver branded content with a unique voice — one that speaks to an urban audience,” said Taylor. “I won’t say that this market is underserved, as there are a great deal of films still finding their way to the marketplace. However, our intention is to raise the bar with Dark Circus and create an enduring brand. Partnering with Snoop on this first anthology series will have us coming out of the gates strong, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Taylor — who directed and produced the upcoming Paula Patton-starrer Traffik and is attached to direct the police drama .38 — runs Hidden Empire with partners Roxanne Avent and Robert F. Smith.
Adding another pillar to his growing TV and film portfolio, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios has reached a deal to acquire cable’s Weather Channel in a transaction valued at about $300 million.
Entertainment Studios is buying the Weather Group, parent company of the cabler and the Local Now streaming service, from Comcast and private equity giants Blackstone and Bain. That group purchased Weather Channel for $3.5 billion in July 2008. The digital operations of Weather Channel were acquired in 2015 by IBM in a deal pegged at around $2 billion.
“The Weather Channel is one of the most trusted and extremely important cable networks, with information vitally important to the safety and protection of our lives,” said Allen, who is chairman-CEO of Entertainment Studios. “We welcome the Weather Channel, which has been seen in American households for nearly four decades, to our cable television networks division. The acquisition of the Weather Channel is strategic, as we begin our process of investing billions of dollars over the next five years to acquire some of the best media assets around the world.”
The Weather Channel, which made its on-air bow in 1982, is one of cable’s most well-known brands but its linear prospects have been challenged by the ubiquitous availability of weather-related data via digital sources. Nonetheless it’s a big step for Allen’s company, which already operates eight linear TV channels including Pets.TV, Comedy.TV and Cars.TV that target niche audiences. Weather Channel will be the most widely distributed outlet in Allen’s portfolio.
“We are excited to join Entertainment Studios, and we are especially proud to be part of one of the largest emerging global media companies,” said Dave Shull, CEO of Weather Channel. “Byron Allen’s purchase of our innovative and forward-thinking organization will increase the value we bring to our viewers, distributors, and advertisers.”
Allen’s Entertainment Studios has also been moving aggressively in the independent film arena in recent years with the launch of Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures. Last year the fledgling distributor saw respectable box office returns last year from the thriller “47 Meters Down” and the Western “Hostiles.” Allen Group is the sole owner of Entertainment Studios.
The last year has been a whirlwind for actress/writer/producer/creator Lena Waithe. After making history by being the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series (for the Netflix hit Master of None,) creating the new Showtime hit series The Chiand co-starring in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film Ready Player One. Waithe is living her best life and now she can add Vanity Fair cover girl to the list.
You might as well get used to seeing and hearing about Lena Waithe for years to come, as the young Hollywood power player is breaking down boundaries and providing top-tier work with each project. As she covers the April 2018 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, Waithe gets candid about her career, her future and being a queer POC.
Excerpts from Lena Waithe x Vanity Fair interview:
[On how life has changed since her Emmy win]: “How has the Emmy changed me? It got me all these meetings that I go in and say I’m too busy to work with you—you should have hollered at me. You can take my call when I call you about this black queer writer over here who’s got a dope pilot, or this person over here who’s got really cool ideas, or this actress who’s really amazing but nobody’s seen her.”
[On being a black writer in Hollywood]: “The hardest thing about being a black writer in this town is having to pitch your black story to white execs,” she says. “Also, most of the time when we go into rooms to pitch, there’s one token black executive that sometimes can be a friend and sometimes can be a foe. I wonder if they think it makes me more comfortable, if that makes me think that they’re a woke network or studio because they’ve got that one black exec. It feels patronizing. I’m not against a black exec. I want there to be more of them.”
[On being a black gay woman in Hollywood]: “Being black and gay, having dreadlocks, having a certain kind of swag, and dressing the way I do,” she explains, she is sometimes told by certain well-meaning admirers or fashion wannabes, “ ‘That’s dope, you’re cool.’ I don’t feel validated by that. . . . I don’t want to be White. I don’t want to be straight. I don’t want to blend in. . . . I try to wear queer designers who happen to be brown and makin’ shit.”
In addition to her other projects, Waithe also just got the greenlight for her TBS series Twentieswhich is loosely based on her early years in Los Angeles and tells the stories of three black women making their way in Hollywood.
Emmy winner Lena Waithe‘s “The Chi” has been renewed for a second season at Showtime, the premium cabler announced Tuesday.
The renewal comes after the series has aired just four episodes of its 10 episode first season. In addition, Ayanna Floyd Davis has signed on for Season 2 as executive producer and showrunner. Davis, who wrote the third episode of the series, has written for and produced shows such as “Empire,” “Hannibal,” and “Private Practice.”
Produced entirely in Chicago, “The Chi” is a coming-of-age story centering on a group of residents who become linked by coincidence but bonded by the need for connection and redemption on the city’s South Side. The series was created and executive produced by actor/writer Waithe.
The ensemble cast for Season 1 includes Jason Mitchel, Jacob Latimore, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Alex Hibbert, Yolonda Ross, Armando Riesco, and Tiffany Boone.
Tiffany Haddish has signed a first-look deal with HBO.
The two-year pact with Haddish and her She Ready production company comes on the heels of a breakout year for the comic, who won a New York Film Critics Circle best supporting actress award for her performance in 2017’s “Girls Trip.” Her book “The Last Black Unicorn,” released last month by Gallery Books, was named a New York Times best seller. Her new stand-up special “Tiffany Haddish: She Ready!” premiered on Showtime last year, and Haddish recently announced 2018 dates for her new stand-up tour.
Haddish will next star opposite Tracy Morgan in TBS’ “The Last OG,” which premieres in April on TBS. She will also star alongside Kevin Hart in Universal’s feature film “Night School,” set to premiere in September.
Among her other upcoming projects are starring roles in New Line’s “The Kitchen” and Universal’s “The Temp,” with Haddish set to serve as executive producer on the latter film. The comic also has “Limited Partners” in development at Paramount, and is set to star in and serve as an exec producer on the project. She recently wrapped production on “The Oath” alongside Ike Barinholtz.
Tiffany Haddish’s love for Groupon is sending her to the Super Bowl. The Girls Tripactress went viral last summer, when she told Jimmy Kimmel a story about taking co-star Jada Pinkett-Smith and husband Will Smith on a Groupon swamp tour while filming in New Orleans (watch below).
The hilarious re-telling, which included the revelation that the Smiths had no idea what Groupon was, apparently spread quickly through the ranks of the discount e-commerce site. The company decided that they wanted to work with the actress and offered her a role as spokesperson. Now, she’ll be featured in a series of ads for the company, including its first Super Bowl commercial in seven years, which will air during the fourth quarter of the game.
According to Groupon’s head of marketing for North America, Jon Wild, when the company looked into Haddish, they not only found that the actress is a bonafide fan of its service, but that she is actually in the top 1% of most frequent purchasers. “She knows our product better than a lot of Groupon employees,” Wild said. “She could name what she’d done, the experience she had and how much she’d saved.”
That expertise not only landed Haddish the spokesperson gig, but also effectively made her an honorary employee. Groupon has also given Haddish her own section of the site, given her access to the employee app, and “put some Groupon bucks in her account.”
The winners of the 49th NAACP Image Awards were announced last night during the live broadcast from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium which aired on TV One. The two-hour live special was hosted by Anthony Anderson and opened with a powerful moment in support of #TIMESUP featuring Angela Robinson, Kerry Washington, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Laverne Cox, Lena Waithe and Tracee Ellis Ross.
Ava DuVernay was honored as the NAACP Entertainer of the Year. NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell presented the NAACP Chairman’s Award to William Lucy, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson presented the NAACP President’s Award to Danny Glover and several members of the Memphis Sanitation “I Am A Man” Workers were also in attendance – they were presented with the NAACP Vanguard Award earlier in the week during a press conference at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.
Gap Band leader Charlie Wilson was honored with the Music Makes a Difference honor which is bestowed upon an individual within the recording industry who has achieved worthwhile success and inspiration for civic engagement, criminal justice, education, economic opportunity, or criminal justice.
“Girls Trip” triumphed as the winner in the Outstanding Motion Picture category, and picked up a second award for its breakout star Tiffany Haddish in the Supporting Actress category.
Jordan Peele‘s horror opus “Get Out” received three awards, including Best Actor honors for lead Daniel Kaluuya, and Best Director and Best Writing wins for Peele. “Black-ish” took home the award for best television series, while host Anderson won Best Actor, Tracee Ellis Ross repeated as Best Actress and Marsai Martin won for Best Supporting Actress in a TV series.
In recording, Bruno Mars took home awards for Outstanding Male Artist, Outstanding Music Video/Visual Album and Outstanding Song – Traditional for “That’s What I Like.” Kendrick Lamar owned the Outstanding Album, Outstanding Song – Contemporary and Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration categories (the latter with Rihanna).
The winners of the 49th NAACP Image Awards in the non-televised categories were announced during a gala dinner celebration that took place Sunday, January 14, 2018, at the Pasadena Conference Center – the event was hosted by The Real’sAdrienne Houghton, Loni Love, Jeannie Mai and Tamera Mowry-Housley.
The NAACP Image Awards is the premiere multicultural awards show. It celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film, and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors.
Other stuff happened at the 75th Annual Golden Globes tonight, sure, and we are definitely proud of Sterling K. Brown for that Best Actor TV Drama win for “This is Us.”
But what REALLY happened was Oprah. And THAT SPEECH. I could write more about what you’re about to watch, go on about how inspirational, erudite, and phenomenal Oprah and her message is, but really… JUST WATCH. This is The Video You Need To See.