John Legend will star in the title role in NBC’s live staging of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” set for Easter Sunday.
“We’re all overjoyed to have world-class musical artist and producer John Legend starring as Jesus,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment. “This score demands a singer with an amazing range and an actor with great depth, and there isn’t anyone better to bring this story to a new audience. His casting is also groundbreaking as the traditional image of Christ will be seen in a new way.”
Legend is a multi-hyphenate musician, songwriter, actor and producer who has become active in television as a thesp and producer. He’s a 10-time Grammy winner and an Oscar winner for his work on the song “Glory” from the 2014 drama “Selma.” He won a Tony Award earlier this year as a producer of “Jitney,” the August Wilson revival.
“I’m thrilled to join the cast of this production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,’” Legend said. “It’s such a powerful, meaningful musical and I’m humbled to be part of this performance. We’ve already formed an incredible team, and, as we finish casting, I’m certain we will put together some of the greatest talents around to do this work justice.”
NBC announced in May that its latest live musical will bow on April 1. Rocker Alice Cooper has been cast as King Herrod.
“Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” is based on the 1971 Broadway musical revolving around the last week of Jesus’ life.
by Nellie Andreeva (with Mike Fleming) via deadline.com
A century and a half after slavery was abolished in the U.S., the wounds left by one of the darkest periods in American history are far from healed, as evidenced by the controversy surrounding the recent announcement of HBO’s upcoming drama series Confederate, from Game Of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, which explores an alternate timeline of seceded southern states where slavery is legal and has evolved into a modern institution.
Another alternate history drama series, which has been in the works at Amazon for over a year, also paints a reality where southern states have left the Union but takes a very different approach. Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man) and Peabody-Award winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder.
It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States.
The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.
The Packer/McGruder project was announced back in early February, but at the time, it was untitled, and the producers would not divulge any details about the storyline beyond it revolving around an alternate universe in the vein of Amazon’s flagship The Man in the High Castle. It was HBO’s announcement of Confederate this month that prompted the Black America team to reveal the project’s premise.
“It felt this was the appropriate time to make sure that audiences and the creative community knew that there was a project that preexisted and we are pretty far down the road with it,” Packer told Deadline. Black America, which Packer said is in “very, very active development” with McGruder “off and writing,” originated at Amazon Studios. The service’s head of content Roy Price called Packer more than a year ago while the producer was on the set of his latest box office hit, Girls Trip.
Price soon reached out to McGruder with whom Packer had briefly worked in the past on Think Like A Man and had been looking to team up again. “Being a fan of Aaron, I thought he definitely had the right tone, the right voice, the right wit to handle a project like this,” Packer said. “Aaron and I sat together and talked about what a huge opportunity and responsibility it would be to do this project and do it right.” As for the tone of the hourlong series, it’s “a drama, but it wouldn’t be Aaron McGruder without traces of his trademark sardonic wit,” Packer said.
Black America creates the kind of utopia that has been on the minds of generations of black Americans for whom the series may have a sense of wish-fulfillment. “It was something that was personally intriguing for me as a black American,” Packer said. “You would be hard pressed to find many black Americans who have not thought about the concept of reparation, what would happen if reparations were actually given. As a content creator, the fact that that is something that has been discussed thoroughly throughout various demographics of people in this country but yet never been explored to my knowledge in any real way in long-form content, I thought it was a tremendous opportunity to delve into the story, to do it right.” Continue reading ““Straight Outta Compton” Executive Producer Will Packer and “Boondocks” Creator Aaron McGruder Reveal Alt-History Drama “Black America” in the Works at Amazon”→
LOS ANGELES — “The Wizard of Watts,” a coming animated television musical, was conceived two years ago as a big, fat gob of raucous entertainment wrapped around a nugget of racial commentary.
Then, with the musical’s animation already far underway, Ferguson, Mo., became a flash point, starting a national debate about race, overzealous policing and the need for officers to wear body cameras. Then came the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” and the broader protest against police brutality.
Suddenly, “The Wizard of Watts,” with its devastated black neighborhoods and army of pigs, took on greater weight. How the musical will be received by viewers at a racially charged cultural moment is anyone’s guess. But when it arrives on Cartoon Network’s after-hours Adult Swim block on Saturday, “The Wizard of Watts” will at the very least become one of those eerie instances of art accidentally mirroring life.
The primary villain in the Magical Land of Oz-Watts, where the story takes place, is a vicious pig clad in riot gear. Water does not neutralize this Oz villain; instead this baddie gets melted with a camcorder. “Oh, no! Not an irrefutable visual record of my illegal actions!” the anthropomorphized pig wails as he turns to mush at the musical’s climax.
Even Carl Jones, the director of “The Wizard of Watts” and one of its writers, was surprised at hitting such a cultural bull’s-eye.
“I take pride in tackling things with my gloves off, but animation takes such a long time to produce that you usually don’t end up being all that current,” he said.
Mr. Jones had noticed on social media how African-Americans were increasingly using cellphone cameras as “protection from police, like as a weapon,” he said.
“Nobody was talking about it and so I decided we had to take it on,” he said.