Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer has been named 2017’s Woman of the Year by Harvard University‘s Hasty Pudding student theatrical group. The Oscar winner and Hidden Figures actress will be honored — and roasted — Jan. 26 at the organization’s first-ever live-streamed ceremony.
The group stated in a release that they are “proud to honor an actress whose depth of talent has captivated audiences with her comedic wit and her graceful portrayals of the underrepresented.”
The Woman of the Year honor is given to performers who have made lasting contributions to entertainment. Established in 1951, the Woman of the Year has been given to Meryl Streep, Katharine Hepburn, Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Anne Hathaway, Claire Danes, Helen Mirren, Amy Poehler and Kerry Washington.
It seems as if last year’s #OscarsSoWhite backlash has had a marked effect on this year’s pool of projects and talent considered and honored as the 2017 awards season gets underway.
The 2017 Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning, and nominees of color were found in the majority of film and television categories. Indie film sensation “Moonlight”not only garnered a nod for Best Motion Picture, Drama, but also for directing and screenwriting by Barry Jenkins, in the Best Actress category for Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali was recognized in the supporting actor category.
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis were honored for their performances in “Fences”, Ruth Negga was nominated for her leading role in “Loving,” and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer grabbed a nomination for her supporting role in the upcoming space race drama “Hidden Figures.” Additionally, Pharrell Williams is in the running for Best Original Score — Motion Picture, for his work on the music for “Hidden Figures.”
2017 Golden Globe nominees Donald Glover, Pharrell and Riz (photo via billboard.com)
On the television side, Donald Glover‘s “Atlanta” received nods in two categories; Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy. Anthony Anderson provides some competition for Glover in the acting category, and “Black-ish” is nominated for Best Comedy Television Series as well. Tracee Ellis Ross gained a nod in the Lead Comedy Actress category, as did “Insecure” star Issa Rae.
In limited series, actress Thandie Newton was nominated for Westworld, and Kerry Washington‘s portrayal of Anita Hill in “Confirmation” was also acknowledged. Emmy winner Courtney B. Vance gained a nod for his work as Johnny Cochran in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”and the series was nominated in the Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television category alongside Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley’s “American Crime.”
ABC is developing a new drama with one of the networks most trusted stars, Kerry Washington. The “Scandal” star is on board to executive produce “Patrol,” a workplace drama about four female LAPD officers who attended the police academy together five years ago and are forced to reconnect after a high-stakes, traumatic secret returns to haunt them.
Washington is producing the potential series by way of her recently-launched production shingle Simpson Street. The actress has been expanding her behind-the-camera work lately. Simpson Street came fresh out of the gate with HBO’s “Confirmation,” in which Washington starred as Anita Hill, marking the company’s first project.
Chitra Elizabeth Sampath, who served as a writer/producer on the first season of ABC’s “Secrets and Lies,” wrote the “Patrol” script and will serve as a co-executive producer. Along with Washington, executive producers are Groundswell Productions’ Michael London and Janice Williams, plus Washington’s Simpson Street producing partner Sharla Sumpter Bridgett.
On the heels of announcing its overall pact with “Scandal” lead Kerry Washington, ABC is similarly vying more hits from Viola Davis — this time, with the Emmy winner stepping behind the camera. The “How To Get Away with Murder” star’s production company JuVee Productions has entered into an overall deal with ABC Studios and ABC Signature Studios.
Under the new pact, JuVee Productions — which Davis founded with her husband, Julius Tennon — will develop new projects for broadcast, cable, streaming services and digital platforms.
Additionally, JuVee has also hired Bravo’s Andrew Wang to serve as the company’s head of television development and production. At Bravo, Wang was vice president of scripted television development and production and was responsible for the cabler’s first scripted series, comedy “Odd Mom Out,” drama “Girlfriends Guide to Divorce” and the upcoming dark comedy “My So-Called Wife.” He was at Bravo for four years.
“We started JuVee because we wanted to see narratives that reflected our multi-ethnic and multifaceted culture,” Davis commented. “We wanted to be a part of classic storytelling, and we didn’t want to wait.”
ABC is building on their relationship with one of their biggest stars, as “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington has signed an overall deal with ABC Studios and ABC Signature Studios.
Under the new pact, Washington will be expanding her behind-the-camera work, developing broadcast, cable and digital projects exclusively for ABC Studios and ABC Signature, which specializes in cable and digital content.
Washington has entered into the deal by way of her recently launched production company Simpson Street. The shingle debuted its first project earlier this month with HBO’s film “Confirmation” in which Washington starred as Anita Hill. ABC Signature was also behind the TV movie, which received positive reviews.
As part of the deal, first reported by Deadline, Sharla Sumpton Bridgett (“Coach Carter”) has been brought on as a development executive and producing partner at Simpson Street.
John Legend‘s career transcends his success as an artist. Over the past decade, he’s established several philanthropic and social justice organizations where he uses his influence to make a difference in the lives of others.
The “Glory” singer will be presented with the NAACP President’s Award at this year’s NAACP Image Awards.
“His contributions to music and artistic creativity have been recognized by peers and fans worldwide, and he is greatly admired for his humanitarian efforts” said Cornell William Brooks,President and CEO, NAACP.
“Legend remains a true inspiration through his philanthropic work and I am truly proud to honor his altruistic efforts both domestically and internationally by bestowing upon him this year’s NAACP President’s Award” added Brooks.
Previous honorees include Kerry Washington,President Bill Clinton, Soledad O’Brien, Muhammad Ali and most recently, Spike Lee.
In 2007, Legend established “The Show Me Campaign” with the mission of providing students with a quality education as well as end the school-to-prison pipeline. Similarly, he recently launched, #FREEAMERICA, a multi-year culture change campaign focused on ending mass incarceration.
The nine-time Grammy award winner, Golden Globe and Oscar winner also has a successful production company, Get Lifted Film Co. that strives to provide TV and film content that’s inclusive and inspirational.
Legend, 37 and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, 30, are expecting their first child this summer.
Watch Legend accept the coveted honor when the NAACP Image Awards air live on TV One Friday, February 5th at 9pm.
On TV talk shows, the host introduces a guest, then music plays while the guest emerges from backstage. On podcasts, the etiquette is still being worked out. The host often launches into an introduction while the guest sits quietly in the same sound booth. A couple of years ago, the co-hosts of a podcast called “Alias Smith and LeRoi” began this way, speaking about their guest, the comedian Leslie Jones, as if she were not there.
“This is gonna be kind of a hot one,” Ali LeRoi said.
“I’ve been waiting to sit her ass down for a minute,” Owen Smith said. “One of the funniest women in the game.”
“Funniest comedian in the game,” Jones interrupted. “Not just woman. I hate that shit.” End of introduction.
Comedians are combatants: they “kill,” they “bomb,” they “destroy.” Such bluster can mask insecurity, and Jones had good reason to feel defensive. She was forty-six, and had been a standup comedian for more than a quarter century; her peers respected her, but that respect rarely translated into high-paying gigs. “I remember some nights where I was, like, ‘All right, this comedy shit just ain’t working out,’ ” she told me recently. “And not just when I was twenty-five. Like, when I was forty-five.” She was a woman in a field dominated by men, and an African-American in an industry that remained disturbingly segregated.
Although she had opened for Katt Williams and Dave Chappelle, acted in movies alongside Ice Cube and Martin Lawrence, recorded a standup special for Showtime, and made several appearances on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and BET’s “ComicView,” she worried that the gatekeepers of mainstream comedy—bookers for the “Tonight Show,” casting directors of big-budget films—had never heard her name. “Every black comedian in the country knew what I could do,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean everyone else is paying attention.” Chris Rock, who met Jones when they were both road comics in the late eighties, told me, “Black women have the hardest gig in show business. You hear Jennifer Lawrence complaining about getting paid less because she’s a woman—if she was black, she’d really have something to complain about.”
Jones spent much of her career performing in what she calls “shitty chitlin-circuit-ass rooms, where you’re just hoping the promoter pays you.” She told me that, around 2010, “I stopped only doing black clubs. I stopped doing what I call ‘nigger nights’—the Chocolate Sundays, the Mo’ Better Mondays. I knew how to relate to that audience, and I was winning where I was, but I wasn’t moving forward.” She lived in Los Angeles at the time, and she began asking for spots at the Comedy Store, where David Letterman and Robin Williams got their starts. A comedian named Erik Marino, who befriended her there, said, “She felt very strongly that she was being pigeonholed as a black comic—a BET comic.”
For a while, Jones performed at the Store at odd hours. Then, she said, “I went to the booker and I threw the race card at him. ‘Why you won’t let me go up at ten on a Friday? ’Cause I’m black?’ ” The booker gave her a prime-time slot. “She destroyed, obviously,” Marino said. “Bookers are the ones who care about black rooms versus white rooms. To us comedians, it’s, like, if you know what you’re doing and you can connect with an audience, they’re gonna laugh.”
Rock saw Jones perform at the Store in 2012. After her set, he told her, “You were always funny, but you’re at a new level now.”
“You’re right,” she responded. “But I’m not gonna really make it unless someone like you puts me on.” Rock took out his iPhone and added her name to a list labelled “Funny people.”