LeBron James and John Legend are two men in the entertainment space who are continuously working on major new endeavors. The I Promise School founder and newly-minted EGOT, respectively, are putting their talents together to bring a fan favorite to the TV screen. According to Deadline, James and Legend will be working with writer Wendy Calhoun for a women-led CW adaptation of the biographical film, Lean on Me.
The potential series—which will bear the same name as 1989 original—follows Amarie Baldwin, a young black principal in Akron, Ohio, with hopes of resuscitating a struggling urban school. Naturally, as she overcomes daily hurdles within the walls of her workplace, she is also facing challenges at home on the love life and family front. Baldwin is subbing in for beloved lead Lean on Me character Mr. Clark, who was famously played by Morgan Freeman.
According to Variety.com, Chris Rock has signed with Netflix for two new stand-up comedy specials. The two-special-deal is reported to be worth $40 million. Amazon, Hulu and HBO — where Rock has a long history, starting with his late-night series “The Chris Rock Show” — were also bidding for the specials.
The Netflix specials mark Rock’s return to stand-up after an eight-year hiatus – his last being 2008’s “Kill the Messenger,” which aired on HBO. Most recently, the comedian hosted the Oscars in January of this year.
“Chris Rock is a beloved actor and director, and his remarkable stand-up makes him comic royalty. There is no one like him, and Netflix offers the global platform and creative freedom that will serve as a perfect home for someone with his incredible talent,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer.
Rock commented, “I’m very excited to be working with Ted and Lisa and all the good people at Netflix. I can’t wait to get back on stage.”
Aside from the 2016 Oscars, Rock recently had a guest-starring role on Fox’s “Empire”, and directed HBO’s comedy special “Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo.” Some of this Emmy and Grammy winner’s most notable credits include “The Chris Rock Show,” his scripted sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris,” which he created and narrated, “Saturday Night Live” from 1989 to 1993. On the film side, he starred in “CB4”, “Grown Ups,” Top Five,”, “I Think I Love My Wife,” “Down To Earth” and the “Madagascar” franchise.
For the past two seasons on “Empire,” Timbaland has been the man behind the music — now, he’s going to be making his own musical. The producer has struck a deal with Leftfield Pictures to develop his upcoming album “Opera Noir” (w/t) into a musical.
“Opera Noir” will be a scripted hip-hop musical based on and scored by his upcoming autobiographical and final album of the same title. The plan is to shop it to networks as an event special in a variety of potential formats, from a standalone special (given the recent success of Fox’s “Grease Live!”) to a limited series.
“I couldn’t have found a better partner than Leftfield Pictures and David George for ‘Opera Noir,’” said Timbaland (aka Tim Mosley). “They understand my vision for this project, which I’ve had for years, and I’m confident they will help bring this to life for everyone to see.”
“Opera Noir” will follow a young musician’s rise to the top and hardships along the way, including struggles with poverty, substance abuse and crime.
“Tim’s unbelievable candor about his experiences and difficult past help illustrate one of the most epic success stories in the industry,” said David George, CEO of Leftfield Entertainment. “We’re fortunate to be part of the ‘grand finale’ of an artist whose innovative and inspiring musical contributions have helped shape the business and will influence artists for years to come.”
Sons of Anarchy writer/producer Charles Murray has signed an overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV, whose cable division Fox 21 TV Studios produced the gritty FX drama series. Under the pact, he will serve as executive producer and showrunner onStar, 20th TV’s upcoming drama created by Lee Daniels and Tom Donaghy, which was recently picked up to series by Fox for next season. Additionally, Murray will be developing his own projects for the studio.
Murray is coming off stints as executive producer on the first season of Netflix’s next Marvel series, Luke Cage and as one of the writers on A+E Networks’ upcoming Roots remake. He served as a writer/co-executive producer on the final two seasons of Sons of Anarchy, and also worked on CBS’ Criminal Minds, ABC’s Castle,NBC’s Third Watch as well as the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Fox is jumping into the 2016-2017 television season, ordering “24: Legacy” and “Star” to series. The network has greenlit the “24” spinoff with a 12-episode order. “Star,” which hails from “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels, landed a 13-episode order.
Corey Hawkins will topline the rebooted “24” in a completely new role, as the series is without Kiefer Sutherland — and Jack Bauer — this time around. However, Sutherland will serve as an exec producer on “Legacy,” marking his first time being listed as an EP on “24,” There are no plans for him to reprise his role as Jack Bauer at this time.
The new series will retain the original show’s format of real-time storytelling with split screens and like the original, will represent one hour of an eventful day in each episode. The series revolves around a military hero’s (Hawkins) return to the U.S. and the trouble that follows him back — compelling him to ask CTU for help in saving his life, and stopping what potentially could be one of the largest-scale terror attacks on American soil. Miranda Otto (“Homeland”) and Jimmy Smits (“Sons of Anarchy”) star alongside Hawkins.
Bouncing off of the successful “Empire” music-filled formula, “Star” — which is not in any way an “Empire” spinoff — follows three talented singers who navigate the cut-throat music business on their road to success. Newcomers Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny and Brittany O’Grady star as the young singers, alongside Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt. Announced on Wednesday, Lenny Kravitz will guest star. “Star,” co-created by Daniels and Tom Donaghy, will feature original music and stunning musical fantasy sequences.
Move over, Barbie and Ken — Cookie and Lucious Lyon need some space on toy store shelves. Fans of Fox’s hit Empire will soon be able to purchase a line of collector dolls inspired by Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard’s beloved characters, doll maker Tonner-One World announced Thursday.
Although images of the actual dolls are not yet available, the announcement was accompanied by sketches capturing Cookie and Lucious’ signature looks. Clad in a leopard mini-dress and oversized fur coat, Cookie is seen putting one heel in front of the other, no doubt ready to fling one of them across the room should she feel the need. Meanwhile, Lucious exudes cool confidence in a vibrant purple suit paired with a light turtleneck. Continue reading “Taraji P. Henson & Terrence Howard are Getting Their Own “Empire” Dolls”→
CHICAGO — When Jussie Smollett and Jurnee Smollett-Bell were growing up, bouncing with their parents and four siblings between New York and Los Angeles, as the kids pursued careers in modeling, acting and music, their downtime was just another chance for performance and togetherness.
“Creating was something that we just were expected to do,” Mr. Smollett said, in a joint interview with his sister here, where he tapes the Fox series “Empire.” Seated next to him in a downtown restaurant, she was nodding in agreement. “And I don’t remember a time not wanting to do that.”
The members of the Smollett clan have made good on their childhood promise. Mr. Smollett, 32, is a singer and a breakout star of the hit drama “Empire,” in which he plays Jamal, the most talented member of the Lyon hip-hop dynasty.
Ms. Smollett-Bell, 29, who made her mark as an actress by the age of 10, with the 1997 film “Eve’s Bayou,” is one of the leads in “Underground,” a new WGN America show about a group of slaves who try to escape from their Georgia plantation; her brother guest-stars.
Though it’s their first project together in 20 years, it’s clear that the more creative freedom they have, the more their tastes will converge.
The Smolletts have also been outspoken politically and, since their school years, devoted to causes like H.I.V./AIDS prevention and ending apartheid. They were raised in the orbit of the Black Panthers and, lately, have lent their voices to the Black Lives Matter movement. Their trajectory, from child stars to successful adults, is born of their family and its history of activism.
“Their sense of justice is very strong, and it permeates everything that they do,” said Alfre Woodard, who has known Jussie and Jurnee since they were children; they worked with her at the nonprofit Artists for a New South Africa. “They’re like a model sibling unit. They look out for each other, all the time. And they all reach across and say, ‘O.K., I got my foot in this door; here, grab my hand, we’re going in together.’”
Raised on a diet of classic films (they’ll gladly quote the 1945 version of “Mildred Pierce”), Jussie and Jurnee still count their mother, Janet Smollett, as their only acting coach. An African-American from New Orleans, Ms. Smollett met their father, Joel Smollett Sr., a Russian-Polish Jew, in the Bay Area, where they campaigned for civil rights. “My mom was in the movement with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, and one of her first mentors was Julian Bond,” Mr. Smollett said of the Black Panther founders and the civil rights leader. “To this day, Angela Davis is one of her dearest friends. We’ve spent Mother’s Day with Angela.”
Jussie Smollett will host the eighth season of the public television show AfroPoP: The Ultimate Exchange.The star of the hit FOX TV showEmpirewill emcee the popular show about contemporary art, life and culture across the African Diaspora as it premieres on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 18, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT onWORLD Channel.
Smollett will also be seen in the new WGN thriller Undergroundin 2016. The acclaimed entertainer is also involved in numerous humanitarian pursuits, sitting on the boards of the Black AIDS Institute, Artists for a New South Africa and the RuJohn Foundation.
Previous hosts of AfroPoP include Idris Elba, Anika Noni Rose, Wyatt Cenac, Gabourey Sidibe, Anthony Mackie and Yaya DaCosta.
“AfroPoP’s engaging, real-life tales add to the collection of rich Black stories that audiences are clamoring for and I wanted to be a part of bringing them to national attention,” said Smollett.
Empire fans, rejoice! The hit Fox series has been renewed for a third season. Currently, countless fans are going through withdrawal because of the winter hiatus, so hopefully this news will put smiles on their faces.
Although the ratings of the second season declined, it seems as though the Fox network still has faith in the show. Of course, the renewal news comes on the heels of Taraji P. Henson’s win at the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series—Drama.
Empire continues its second season on Wednesday, March 30, on Fox.
Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson are in Elle Magazine’s “Women in TV” issue, and they aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to talking about how media has warped our images of women, especially women of color.
Davis said that television and media has warped our perception of female sexuality, saying that TV “lies about women.”
“If you are anywhere above a size 2, you’re not having sex,” Davis said. “You don’t have sexual thoughts. You may not even have a vagina. And if you’re of a certain age, you’re off the table.”
Henson said that it is hard for black characters to be taken seriously, and that perception is something she has had to fight when she plays the character of Cookie Lyon on Empire.
“It was very important to me that she not be sassy and neck-rollin’ and eye-bulgin’ and attitude all the time,” said Henson. “Everything she does is coming from a place of fighting for her family. That’s why she’s not a caricature.”