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

Larry Wilmore and Bassem Youssef to Develop Middle Eastern Superhero Comedy at ABC

Bassem Youssef and Larry Wilmore (photos via variety.com)

by Joe Otterson via variety.com

ABC is developing a comedy about a Middle Eastern family with superpowers from Larry Wilmore and Bassem Youssef. The untitled series centers on the Sharif family, an ordinary Middle Eastern American family with two superhero parents at a time when it’s illegal to be a superhero, so they are forced to save the world in secret. The show will highlight some of the issues that immigrant families face when it comes to fitting into a society that at many times treats you like the enemy.

Wilmore and Youssef will serve as writers and executive producers on the single camera series. ABC Studios will produce. “To have ABC challenge the narrative and stereotypes that have long stuck to people in my region is something spectacular to say the least,” said Youssef. “To have only terrorist roles available for us one day, then get to play superheroes the next, is ground breaking. I am grateful to work with, Larry Wilmore, one of the most talented writers and producers in the market. SCH is unprecedented, culture-defining, and entertaining for the whole family.”

The sale of the project marks Wilmore’s first solo project under his overall deal with ABC Studios. He also serves as an executive producer on “Insecure” and “Black-ish.” Youssef is a writer and comedian who has made numerous appearances on “The Daily Show” as a commentator and also appeared on Wilmore’s former Comedy Central series, “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.” 

“I’m beyond thrilled to have the chance to put a family like this on television,” Wilmore said. “Plus, I’ve always wanted to do a show about superheroes and to work with a real life superhero in Bassem is a double bonus.”

Source: ABC Developing Middle Eastern Superhero Comedy From Bassem Youssef, Larry Wilmore – Variety

Diana Ross to Receive Lifetime Achievement Honor at American Music Awards 

Diana Ross (photo via eurweb.com)

via eurweb.com

Diana Ross will be given a Lifetime Achievement honor at the 45th annual American Music Awards, and also perform during the broadcast, which airs Nov. 19 on ABC from Los Angeles’ Microsoft  Theater. Ross has history with the AMAs, having attended her first ceremony in 1974 and serving as host in 1986 and 1987. She has seven AMA wins under her belt and has performed many times on the show, which is produced by Dick Clark Productions.

“I have endless memories of all the years that I have appeared on the American Music Awards,” Ross said in a Wednesday release about honor. “It started with Dick Clark and The Caravan of Stars and American Bandstand. It was Dick Clark who said, ‘Music is the soundtrack of our lives.’ So true. I am so excited to be receiving this honorable award.”

The American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement, given to those who’ve had significant contributions to the music industry, has previously honored Sting, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan and Prince. Nominations for the 2017 AMAs were announced last week, with Bruno Mars leading with eight and followed by Ed Sheeran, The Chainsmokers, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd, each with five.

To read more, go to: Diana Ross to Receive Lifetime Achievement Honor at American Music Awards | EURweb

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

UPDATE: Hurricane Harvey Telethon on Sept. 12 to Include Beyoncé, Oprah, Kelly Rowland, Michael Strahan and More

Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, and Oprah Winfrey (photo via oprah.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to Variety.com, the telethon announced last Thursday on Instagram by Jamie Foxx will now also include appearances by Beyoncé, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Barbra Streisand, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey, among others, that on Sept. 12 will raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief.

“Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Harvey Relief” will air live at 8 p.m. ET across ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and basic cable channel CMT. Country superstar George Strait will appear on the telecast in concert from the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, Texas. The telecast will originate from the Universal Studios lot, Times Square and Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

Money raised from the event will be distributed to a range of charities aiding recovery efforts in Houston, which was devastated last week by the storm and widespread flooding left in Harvey’s wake. The organizations include the United Way of Greater Houston, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Feeding Texas and the Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Harvey Relief.

The death toll from Harvey has hit 63, according to CBS News. Tens of thousands of people in the southeast Texas region have been displaced from homes that were damaged or destroyed after days of torrential rain and winds.

Other celebrities set to appear in live or taped segments include Karlie Kloss, Rob Lowe, Matthew McConaughey, Dennis Quaid, Adam Sandler, Ryan Seacrest, and Blake Shelton.

“Hand in Hand” was the brainchild of music manager and producer Scooter Braun’s SB Projects. Braun and Allison Kaye will serve as executive producers along with Den of Thieves’ Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager and Houston-based rapper Bernard ‘Bun B’ Freeman.

‘Black-ish’ Spinoff ‘College-ish’ Starring Yara Shahidi Lands at Freeform

Yara Shahidi (photo via variety.com)

by Elizabeth Wagmeister via Variety.com

Freeform has greenly the “Black-ish’” college-set spinoff series, starring Yara Shahidi. The spinoff is titled “College-ish” and will center around Shahidi’s character Zoey Johnson, as she heads off to college and quickly discovers that not everything goes her way once she leaves the nest.

The show is set to debut with a 13-episode season in early 2018. “College-ish” is described as a contemporary take on the current issues facing both students and administrators in the world of higher education. Deon Cole will co-star with Shahidi, reprising his “Black-ish” role of Charlie, who moonlights as an adjunct marketing professor.

The rest of the core cast will be new characters and actors, not seen in the flagship series, both in the administration and student body who all reflect the complex and hilarious points of views on college campuses.

The spinoff was developed at ABC, which airs “Black-ish,” and aired as a planted pilot this spring. After ABC passed on the project, its sister network Freeform scooped it up. Insiders say the series was too young for ABC, which made it a perfect fit for the young-skewing cable network.

To read more, go to: ‘Black-ish’ Spinoff ‘College-ish’ With Yara Shahidi Lands at Freeform | Variety

John Singleton-Produced Documentary “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later” to Air April 18 on A&E Network 

Director John Singleton (photo via Variety.com)

article by Cynthia Littleton via variety.com

A&E Network will mark the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots next month with a two-hour documentary from filmmaker John Singleton. “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later,” set to debut April 18, tells the story of the civil unrest that shook the nation from the perspective of those who lived through a week of upheaval following a jury’s acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers charged in the 1991 beating of African-American motorist Rodney King.

King’s arrest and savage treatment at the hands of veteran LAPD officers was caught on videotape by a local resident who gave the incendiary footage to KTLA-TV Los Angeles. KTLA’s coverage and airing of the nine-minute recording depicting cops kicking and beating King with batons while he was lying on the ground set off a firestorm of outrage and protest over the LAPD’s treatment of minorities.

The incident coincided with the dawn of the 24/7 news cycle fueled by the growth of cable news and the spread of home video recording technology.Singleton, a native of Los Angeles, was fresh out of USC film school and had just launched his career as a movie director with 1991’s Oscar-nominated “Boyz n the Hood” when the riots erupted on April 29, 1992, the day acquittals of the four officers were handed down by a nearly all-white jury.

Five days of violence and unrest left at least 55 people dead, more than 2,000 injured and inflicted more than $1 billion in property damage.“I believe the 1992 L.A. uprising has never truly been given a voice until now,” Singleton said. “We’ve attempted to chronicle the untold stories and unique perspectives of people whose lives were profoundly affected by this event. As a native Los Angeleno I know the actions of that three-day event didn’t just appear out of thin air. The city was a powder keg boiling at the seams for many years under police brutality and economic hardship of people of color.”

Among those featured in the documentary are actor-activist Edward James Olmos, police officers, rioters, bystanders caught in the crossfire and reporters who covered the upheaval. “L.A. Burning” hails from Entertainment One and Creature Films. The doc is directed by One9 and Erik Parker.

“L.A. Burning” is one of several TV productions in the works to mark the anniversary of the violence that shook Los Angeles and the world. Filmmaker John Ridley is behind the two-hour ABC special “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992,” set to air April 28.  On April 18, Showtime will air the documentary “Burn Mother—–r Burn!,” examining the history of racial tensions and rioting in Los Angeles.

To read full article, go to: A&E Network Sets Los Angeles Riots ‘25 Years Later’ Documentary From John Singleton (EXCLUSIVE) | Variety