According to Variety.com, Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor Viola Davis and her producer husband Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions has just signed an exclusive first-look feature production deal with Amazon Studios, putting the streaming service in business with one of the most acclaimed and honored thespians of the modern day.
JuVee Productions signed an overall deal with ABC in early 2016, for television development and production. But Davis has been working with Amazon as a producer on the upcoming movie comedy “Troupe Zero,” which co-stars Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan. The film will be released in 2019.
“Amazon Studios is passionate about building a home for both new and established filmmakers of all backgrounds, who share the same vision in telling incredible and engaging human stories,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “Viola and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions brings distinctive, fresh voices and high-quality content to our customers in both theaters and on Prime Video.”
Davis continues to headline the ABC hit “How to Get Away With Murder” and is starring in movies like this fall’s “Widows.”
According to vanityfair.com, legendary actor Cicely Tyson is finally getting an Oscar. The 93-year-old, who was nominated for an Academy Award once before in 1973 for her performance in Sounder, has been announced as one of the recipients of this year’s Honorary Oscars. She’ll be recognized alongside publicist Marvin Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin. In addition, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will be given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. The Governors Awards will take place on November 18.
“Choosing the honorees for its awards each year is the happiest of all the Board of Governors’ work,” Academy President John Bailey said in a statement. “And this year, its selection of five iconic artists was made with universal acclaim by the Academy’s 54 spirited governors.”
Tyson, the sole performer among the honorees, has been working in film and television since her career kicked off over six decades ago in 1957, quickly breaking boundaries with performances in projects such as The River Niger, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But A Sandwich, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Help, the acclaimed miniseries Roots, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman—a TV movie that would go on to inspire an aspiring thespian named Viola Davis. Davis and Tyson would later work together on How to Get Away with Murder. The awards Tyson has won already run the gamut: a Tony, multiple Emmys, and even a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Like the rest of her fellow awardees, this will be the first Oscar for Tyson.
Tyson was last seen publicly at the funeral of Aretha Franklin, where she performed a spoken wordadaptation of the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem “When Malindy Sings” called “When Aretha Sings.” To see it, click below:
The nominees for the 2017 Primetime Emmys were announced this morning, and among them are nods in the Best Comedy Series category for writer/creator/star Donald Glover‘s freshman FX half-hour “Atlanta” as well as writer/creator Kenya Barris‘ veteran ABC show “Black-ish,” which also garnered nods in the Lead Comedy Actor and Actress categories for its stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. Glover also picked up a nod for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Emmy winner Viola Davis was recognized again for her role as Annalise Keating in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” and Sterling K. Brown came through in the Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for his work on the popular NBC hit “This is Us.” Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton were acknowledged for their Supporting Roles in “Westworld,” as was Samira Wiley for her work in the original Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Up against Wiley in the same category is her former “Orange Is the New Black” castmate Uzo Aduba.
Additionally, Leslie Jones grabbed a nomination in the Supporting Role in Comedy category for her work on “Saturday Night Live,” and RuPaul Charles got some love in the Host for a Reality/Reality-Competition Program category for his work on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Behind the scenes, Donald Glover earned his third Emmy nomination for “Atlanta” in the directing category, and his fourth, along with his brother Stephen Glover, for Writing for a Comedy Series. Ava DuVernay & Spencer Averick were nominated in the Writing for a Nonfiction Program category for their outstanding work on the Netflix documentary “13th.” The full list of nominees follows below:
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“The Crown” (Netflix)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Stranger Things” (Netflix)
“This Is Us” (NBC)
Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)
Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)
Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)
Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)
Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”)
Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)
Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”)
Zach Galifianakis (“Baskets”)
Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)
William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)
Shonda Rhimes is best known as the creator, head writer, and executive producer of three hit ABC television series—Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder—under her ShondaLand production company banner.
The queen of Thursday night and creative force behind some of television’s most popular shows will offer a writing for television course on the MasterClass online platform. For the first time, Rhimes will give students an intimate, instructional look into how to write a script, pitch a pilot, and run a writer’s room. The class will include over five hours of lessons, along with exclusive access to the Grey’s Anatomy story bible, scripts of Scandal, and much more. Pre-enrollment is now available at the MasterClass website. You can also view the MasterClass’ official trailer.
Rhimes on Being an “F.O.D.”
Rhimes made history as the first African American woman to create and executively produce a top-10 network series, with the hit primetime show Grey’s Anatomy. The TV powerhouse also is one of ABC’s top-earning executive producers.
In the past, Rimes has mentioned that she has had to work four times as hard as her peers, while also addressing the pressure of being an African American, female, showrunner—or what she calls an “F.O.D.”: First Only Different. In her book, The Year of Yes, Rhimes writes, “When you are an F.O.D., you are saddled with that burden of extra responsibility, whether you want it or not.” She felt the pressure when she dodged reporters’ questions about diversity or race. “You can’t be raised black in America and not know,” she writes. “This wasn’t just my shot. It was ours.”
Viola Davis is expanding her work behind-the-camera, as she’s put a new comedy series into development with ABC, the network behind her show “How To Get Away With Murder.”
Davis will executive produce the single-cam, half-hour comedy “The Zipcoders” for ABC through her production company JuVee Productions.
Hailing from “Barbershop” screenwriter Marshall Todd, “The Zipcoders,” set in 1968, is about a divorced mother of three who moves her family to the East Side of Austin, Texas, soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in an effort to be closer to her estranged sister. Once there, to the utter bewilderment of friends, family and the community at large, her teenage son forms a rock ‘n’ roll band with his group of friends who aspire to be like The Beatles.
“Zipcoders” is an original idea, which gained traction at JuVee, due to the “humorously iconic” image of a group of African-American teenagers with feathered hair and bell bottoms in the middle of the deep South. Todd became attached to the project, after he did research on the late 1960’s in America and found parallels to the issues our country is dealing with today — politically, racially and musically. He then pitched the family comedy to ABC Studios and the network.
“This project gives me the opportunity to tell a story that, while specific to the African-American experience, doesn’t travel in the usual tropes,” said Todd, who will serve as co-exec producer on the series, in addition to writing. “As a parent, I was inspired to tell a story from the dual perspective of parents and children in a world where the rules are constantly changing. Music has always been a passion of mine and to be able to use it to inform this particular narrative was a provocative challenge. I have found in Viola and the squad at JuVee the perfect co-conspirators dedicated to telling the types of stories that entertain while contributing to the larger cultural conversation.”
ABC is staying in business with Shonda Rhimes. The mega-producer has landed yet another series at the network, with “Still Star-Crossed” being handed a series order for the 2016-2017 season. Plus, Shondaland’s newest show, “The Catch,” has been renewed for Season 2.
“Still Star-Crossed” is a departure for Shondaland, as it marks the first period drama from a company that’s known for “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How To Get Away with Murder.”
Based on Melinda Taub’s book of the same name, “Still Star-Crossed” picks up where the famous story of Romeo and Juliet ends, charting the treachery, palace intrigue and ill-fated romances of the Montagues and Capulets in the wake of the young lovers’ tragic fate.
The cast includes Wade Briggs as Benvolio Montague, Anthony Head as Lord Silvestro Capulet, Zuleikha Robinson as Lady Guiliana Capulet, Lashana Lynch as Rosaline, Ebonee Noel as Livia, Sterling Sulieman as Prince Escalus, Medalion Rahimi as Princess Isabella, Grant Bowler as Damiano Montague, Susan Wooldrigde as Nurse, Torrance Coombs as Paris and Dan Hildebrand as Friar Lawrence.
“Scandal” and “Grey’s” alum Heather Mitchell is writer and executive producer. Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Michael Goldstein and pilot director Michael Offer are also executive producing the ABC Studios project.
TNT is now developing Conviction, a legal drama inspired by the life of Kym Worthy, the chief prosecutor of Wayne County, MI, known as the toughest woman in Detroit.
How To Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis is executive producing the project with Debra Martin Chase (Sparkle). Empire co-executive producer Ayanna Floyd is writing the script and executive producing. The project was originally developed at ABC during the 2014-2015 season with another writer. ABC has a legal drama pilot Conviction this season, which is unrelated to this project.
Worthy became the second African-American to serve as a county prosecutor in Michigan when she was appointed chief prosecutor of Wayne County in 2004. She is known for a number of high-profile cases, like filing charges against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and her campaign to clear a massive backlog of 11,000 unprocessed rape test kits in Detroit.
Davis and and her producing partner Julius Tennon executive produce through their JuVee Productions, Martin Chase through her Martin Chase Prods. Both companies have deals with ABC Studios, which originally developed the project when it was at ABC but is not actively involved in the TNT version. Also executive producing are Floyd as well as Kim Swann and Leah Keith who brought Worthy’s story to Hollywood. Worthy is a consultant.
New ABC president Channing Dungey, who replaces exiting Paul Lee (making her the first African American to not only head ABC, but a major TV network) is already making her presence felt a mere 2 weeks into the job, announcing today the early renewals of a handful of ABC series.
Of note, “Scandal” will return for a 6th season (recall the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, said that she knows exactly how and when it will end, adding that it would be a 6 or 7 season series, at most. So can we assume that “Scandal” is near its end, now that it’s been renewed for a 6th season?); Also “How to Get Away With Murder” has been renewed for a 3rd season; and “Black-ish” will get a 3rd season.
Also renewed are: “Agents of SHIELD,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Modern Family,” “Quantico,” “The Goldbergs,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Shark Tank,” and “The Bachelor.”
No announcement on the fate of John Ridley‘s critically-acclaimed anthology series “American Crime,” unfortunately. Although it’s still early, so I wouldn’t count it out yet.
Ridley is working on another series for the network. In December, ABC gave an early pilot order to a new crime drama from Ridley titled “Presence,” with the 2016/2017 season eyed for a premiere – assuming it goes to series eventually.
Television history and black history has crossed paths today.
Channing Dungey, executive VP of drama at ABC, was today named entertainment president of ABC, replacing Paul Lee, who was removed after a reported power struggle with Disney/ABC Television President Ben Sherwood, according to reports.
Dungey is now the first African-American woman to lead a major broadcast network. The ABC veteran, known by industry insiders as the Shonda Rhimes’ whisperer, will now report directly to Sherwood.
“Channing is a gifted leader and a proven magnet for top creative talent, with an impressive record of developing compelling, breakthrough programming that resonates with viewers,” said Sherwood. “We thank Paul for his many accomplishments at ABC and his devotion to the ABC brand, and we wish him continued success in the future.”
Dungey, a UCLA grad who’s been with the network since 2009 (and Disney since 2004), is credited with developing many of ABC’s successful dramas, including “Scandal,” “Quantico,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and “American Crime,” according to Variety.
Said Dungey, “I’m thrilled and humbled that Ben has entrusted me with this tremendous opportunity. And I am truly grateful to Paul for being a valued mentor and friend. I’ve had the great honor of working alongside the talented team at ABC for many years and look forward to starting this exciting new chapter with them.”
Dungey began her career as a development assistant at 20th Century Fox-based Davis Entertainment, and did stints at other companies including Steamroller Productions and Warner Bros.
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.”