According to Deadline.com, Queen Latifah and Jill Scott have signed on to the Lifetime TV movie about the Flint Water crisis.
Latifah will executive produce the project, reuniting with “The Wiz Live” and “Steel Magnolias” producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “Steel Magnolias” was the network’s third-most-watched original telecast ever. Latifah will also portray a resident of Flint fighting to expose the poisoning of the community.
The script is inspired by the Time magazine cover story, “The Toxic Tap,” which “follows the story of three women from Flint who sought justice following the wrongdoing committed against the residents of the city who were unknowingly drinking and using lead-laden water. Their actions inspired a national movement for safe drinking…”
JuVee Productions – the integrated film, television and digital production company created by Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, is embarking on an effort to raise $250,000,000 in a global expansion plan for the development, production and distribution of diverse and inclusive film and digital content.
The fund will be used to develop, finance, produce and distribute a slate of multiple feature films and branded digital content that will see the relatively young production company expand its footprint globally. “The shift in storytelling should be inclusive and we aim to make it a reality,” says Julius Tennon in a press statement.
Launched in 2012 by Davis and Tennon, JuVee Productions is a Los Angeles-based artist driven production company that develops and produces independent film, television, theater, and digital content across all platforms. JuVee Productions aims to become the go-to creative hub where the next generation of filmmakers and artists have the space to craft dynamic stories spanning the broad spectrum of humanity.
The company’s most recent project is the courtroom drama “Custody” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, and aired on the Lifetime network last week. The short film “Night Shift” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year and continues to tour the film festival circuit.
Upcoming the production company has the film adaptation of “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” which Davis is starring in; a biopic on Barbara Jordan (the first Southern African American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives), also with Davis starring; and a TV period series set up at ABC titled “The Zipcoders,” set in 1968, about a group of black teenagers form a rock ‘n’ roll band who aspire to be like The Beatles; and there’s also Davis’ Harriet Tubman film with HBO.
The premiere of A+E Networks’ four-night Roots reboot logged 5.3 million viewers across History, A&E and Lifetime on Memorial Day. The first installment, which aired simultaneously on the three networks, also got repeated two more times over the course of the evening, to cume a total of 8.5M viewers.
The original mini-series “Roots” was about history, and it was history itself. Airing on ABC in January 1977, this generational saga of slavery was a kind of answer song to the 1976 Bicentennial celebration of the (white, often slave-owning) founding fathers. It reopened the books and wrote slaves and their descendants into the national narrative.
But as an event, it was also a chapter in that story. It shaped and was shaped by the racial consciousness of its era. It was a prime-time national reckoning for more than 100 million viewers. As a television drama, it was excellent. But as a television broadcast, it was epochal.
The four-night, eight-hour remake of “Roots,” beginning Memorial Day on History, A&E and Lifetime, is largely the same story, compressed in some places and expanded in others, with a lavish production and strong performances. It is every bit as worthy of attention and conversation. But it is also landing, inevitably, in a very different time.
Viewers who watched “Roots” four decades ago have since lived with racial narratives of moving forward and stepping back. They’ve seen America’s first black president elected and a presidential candidate hesitate to disavow the Ku Klux Klan.
So in timing and spirit, this is a Black Lives Matter “Roots,” optimistic in focusing on its characters’ strength, sober in recognizing that we may never stop needing reminders of whose lives matter.
The first new episode, much of it shot in South Africa, looks stunning, another sign of the cultural times. Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby, in the role made famous by LeVar Burton) is now not a humble villager but the scion of an important clan, and his home — Juffure, in Gambia — a prosperous settlement. Kunta is captured by a rival family and sold into slavery to a Virginian (James Purefoy), by way of a harrowing Middle Passage.
Mr. Kirby’s Kunta is a more regal and immediately defiant character than Mr. Burton’s. But his tragedy is the same: He rebels but fails and is beaten into accepting his slave name, Toby. The name — the loss of identity — is as much a weapon as the whip. As the overseer who beats him puts it: “You can’t buy a slave. You have to make a slave.”
Kunta stops running, but he preserves his traditions, including the practice of presenting a newborn baby to the night sky with the words, “Behold, the only thing that is greater than you.”
That theme of belonging to something larger, of the ancestral family as a character in itself, is essential to “Roots.” Although Alex Haley fictionalized the events of his novel on which the mini-series is based, his story offered black Americans what slavery was machine-tooled to erase: places, dates, names, memories. And that focus keeps the ugliness — the racial slurs, the gruesome violence — from rendering this series without hope. A person may live and die in this system, but a people can survive it.
Still, the individual stories remain heartbreaking, even in small moments, as when the slave musician Fiddler (a soulful Forest Whitaker) recognizes a Mandinka tune he overhears Kunta singing. He’s moved — and, it seems, a little frightened by what the recognition stirs in him. As much as he’s worked to efface his heritage as a survival strategy, it lingers, a few notes haunting the outskirts of his memory.
Kunta’s daughter, Kizzy (E’myri Lee Crutchfield as a child, Anika Noni Rose as an adult), is teased with the possibility of a better life; she grows up friends with the master’s daughter and learns to read. But she’s sold to Tom Lea (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a struggling farmer who rapes and impregnates her. Rape — there are several assaults in this series — is another weapon against identity, another way you make a slave. Ms. Rose burns with Kizzy’s determination to hang on to her sense of self.
Cassandra Freeman (Inside Man, Single Ladies), Tracie Thoms (Cold Case, Rent), Pauletta Washington (Wilma), Daniel Bellomy, Nic Few (Major Crimes, The Exes), and Demarius Mack (Real Husbands Of Hollywood) have been cast in Lifetime original movie with the working title of The Real MVP: The Wanda Pratt Story, based on the life of NBA star Kevin Durant’s mom. Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere’s Flavor Unit are executive producers. Production is currently underway in Vancouver on the film, which will bow on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 8, on Lifetime. A&E Studios is producing.
The film tells the true story of Pratt, a single mom who struggled and sacrificed to raise her two sons, Tony and Kevin. When he was named 2014’s NBA Most Valuable Player, Kevin Durant dedicated his speech to Wanda, naming her “the real MVP” for all of her sacrifices that allowed him to pursue his dreams. It was a moving moment (see it by clicking here).
Pratt and Shelby Stone (Bessie) also executive produce the movie, and Gina Ford and Brynee Baylor are co-executive producers.
Freeman stars as Wanda, Thoms as her best friend and confidante, and Washington will play her mother Barbara. The adult Kevin and Tony will be played by Bellomy and Few, respectively, and Mack plays young Tony. The film is directed by Nelson George (Life Support, A Ballerina’s Tale) and written by Yolonda Lawrence (Witches Of East End) and Ligiah Villalobos (Ed).
Queen Latifah and Jermaine Dupri are on the hunt for the next big hip hop sound in the industry.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the duo is putting in work on a new unscripted series called The Rap Game. The eight-episode series will follow five aspiring young artists navigating the vast Atlanta hip hop scene and mentored by some of the greatest names in the game.
Dupri, who acts as producer on the show, has tapped the likes of Usher, Ludacris, Da Brat, T.I. and Silento to help guide the pupils each week, showing them how to better hone their crafts.
The goal for the young hopefuls is to secure a record contract with So So Def.
Haley is the author of the novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” an American family origin story based around the life of Kunta Kinte. The “Roots” remake will be an original, contemporary production, incorporating material from Haley’s novel, as well as carefully researched new scholarship of the time.
“Roots” will be simulcast on A&E, History and Lifetime in 2016.
The Emmy-winning actor currently appears on NBC’s drama “Hannibal” and ABC’s half-hour comedy “Black-ish,” on which he also serves as executive producer. On the big screen, Fishburne will next be seen in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
“Roots” is described as a historical portrait of American slavery recounting the journey of one family’s will to survive, endure and ultimately carry on their legacy despite enormous hardship and inhumanity. Spanning multiple generations, the lineage begins with young Kunta Kinte who is captured in his homeland in Gambia and transported in brutal conditions to colonial America where he’s sold into slavery. Throughout the series, the family continues to face adversity while bearing witness and contributing to notable events in U.S. history — including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings and eventual emancipation.
Will Packer, Marc Toberoff, Marc Wolper, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal serve as executive producers. LeVar Burton and Korin Huggins are co-executive producers. Konner, Rosenthal, Alison McDonald, and Charles Murray are writing.
“Roots” is returning to TV next year as a big-ticket event series production to air across History, A&E Network and Lifetime next year.
Producer Will Packer and LeVar Burton, an original “Roots” cast member, are shepherding the project with Mark Wolper, son of the original producer of the 1977 ABC miniseries, David L. Wolper.
Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Alison McDonald and Charles Murray are on board to write the new rendition of the saga of Kunta Kinte, which follows his capture in Africa as a young man through his enslavement in colonial America. “Roots” is based on Alex Haley’s landmark novel of the same name.
“My career began with ‘Roots’ and I am proud to be a part of this new adaptation,” said Burton. “There is a huge audience of contemporary young Americans who do not know the story of ‘Roots’ or its importance. I believe now is the right time to tell this story so that we can all be reminded of its impact on our culture and identity.”
The original eight-part miniseries was a sleeper megahit for ABC that aired over consecutive nights in January 1977. There’s no word yet on how many hours the new “Roots” will run.
A&E Networks execs said producers will work closely with historians and other experts to incorporate new information about the historical period uncovered since the original book and mini were released.
“Kunta Kinte began telling his story over 200 years ago and that story went through his family lineage, to Alex Haley, to my father, and now the mantle rests with me,” said Wolper. “Like Kunta Kinte fought to tell his story over and over again, so must we.”
Said Packer: “The opportunity to present one of America’s most powerful stories to a generation that hasn’t seen it is tremendously exciting. Contemporary society needs this story and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Jill Scott,Regina Hall and Eve will be on a race to the alter for their upcoming Lifetime movie.
The network announced this week that it will be producing a romantic comedy aimed at black women titled With This Ring, Shadow And Act reports. The story centers on three girlfriends that make a pact to get married within a year after another one of their friends ties the knot!
With all of the biopics that Lifetime will be rolling out, we’re shocked they still know how to make anything else. There’s no word on who will play the bride just yet, but we’re interested to see who takes on the role.
Gabrielle Union has been attached to the project, but she probably won’t be appearing on screen. She’s signed on as an executive producer for With This Ring alongside Tracey Edmonds and Sheila Ducksworth.
Production for With This Ring, which is being directed by Nzingha Stewart, is slated to begin next month.
Angela Bassettwill make her directorial debut with a Lifetime Original Movie based on the life of Whitney Houston, Lifetime announced Thursday.
Scheduled for a 2015 world premiere under the working title of “Whitney Houston,” the film chronicles the headline-making relationship between the iconic singer, actress, producer and model, and singer-songwriter Bobby Brown — from the time they first met at the very height of their celebrity, to their courtship and tumultuous marriage.
“I have such regard for both Whitney’s and Bobby’s amazing talents and accomplishments; and I feel a responsibility in the telling of their story,” said Bassett in a statement. “Their humanity and bond fascinates us all. I’m beyond excited to have this opportunity to go behind the camera and into their world.”
Produced by The Sanitsky Company, “Whitney Houston” will be executive produced by Larry Sanitsky. Shem Bitterman wrote the film’s script.
Bassett and Lifetime previously collaborated on last year’s original movie “Betty & Coretta.” Starring Bassett and Mary J. Blige, the Humanitas Prize finalist told the dual real-life stories of Coretta Scott King (Bassett) and Dr. Betty Shabazz (Blige), wives of Dr. Martin Luther King (Malik Yoba) and Malcolm X (Lindsay Owen Pierre), who formed an unbreakable life-long bond after their husbands’ tragic assassinations.