Nicole Ari Parker has landed a role in A Meyers Christmas, Universal’s comedy starring Danny Glover and Gabrielle Union. It revolves around an estranged family that is brought together for the holidays for the first time since the mother’s death. Parker will play Sonya, the loving wife of Jackson and mother of his two kids. Mo’Nique, Kimberly Eliseand Jessie T. Usher co-star in the pic, which is set to open November 11, 2016.
David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim) wrote and will direct A Meyers Christmas, which is produced by Will Packer and his Universal-based Will Packer Productions. Talbert also is executive producing alongside Lyn Sisson-Talbert, James F. Lopez, Union and Jeff Morrone. SVP Production Kristin Lowe and Creative Executive Chloe Yellin will oversee A Meyers Christmas for the studio.
Parker recurs as Katt on Fox’s freshman drama Rosewood starring Morris Chestnut and co-hosted the daytime summer talk show The Boris & Nicole Show.
For some reason, a decent portion of today’s entertainment news is all about Bessie Smith. Which is a great thing, because the under-appreciated “Empress of the Blues” has deserved her due in the media as well as American musical history for well over half a century. Thanks to Queen Latifah, who committed to bringing Bessie’s story to life after 22 years in development, HBO will air the biopic “Bessie”, written and directed by Dee Rees (“Pariah”), on May 16. The movie also stars Khandi Alexander, Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps and Academy Award winner Monique as Ma Rainey.
Not only did Good Black News have the great fortune to be part of today’s HuffPost Live interview with “Bessie” director Rees (which you can watch by clicking the link above or right here), HBO also announced its launch of a special two-city event series in New York this week honoring the legacy of the blues-jazz singer called “Bessie’s 81 Theater Tour.”
The event, which will coincide with the New York and Los Angeles premieres of the biopic starring Queen Latifah, will feature a workshop lead by Grammy Award-winning producer Bryan Michael Cox and singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe. The workshop will be offered to local artists in an effort to mimic the creative music process once used by Smith and her peers.
“In today’s music, I believe the constant utilization of live instrumentation is missing,” Cox said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. “Whenever that element is injected into popular music in this era, the song usually becomes a hit. One great example of this is Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk.’”
In addition to the artist workshop, the two-city promotional tour will also feature a music showcase comprised of a series of performances from local artists. It will conclude with a private dinner for native influencers and a surprise performance by an “A-list artist.”
“When thinking about how we wanted to build buzz about the film, we wanted to do something that was completely unique and immersive,” Lucinda Martinez, SVP of HBO Multicultural Marketing said in a press release for the event.
“We’re confident that this event series properly honors the legacy of Bessie Smith by showcasing aspiring songwriters and producers. We want to raise awareness for the film, create connections and offer these young creatives a platform to share their craft.”
The “Bessie’s 81 Theater Tour” will conclude in Los Angeles next month leading up to the May 16 premiere of “Bessie” on HBO.
In the meantime, if you want a Bessie Smith fix before then, we suggest checking out her only appearance on film performing her iconic “St. Louis Blues” below:
Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO Films drama “Bessie,” which is directed by Dee Rees, from a screenplay written by Rees, Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois.
With a story by Rees and Horton Foote, the film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s.
HBO has announced its movie will debut on Saturday, May 16 at 8PM.
The cast includes Michael Kenneth Williams as Bessie’s husband, Jack; Khandi Alexander as Bessie’s older sister, Viola; Mike Epps as Richard, a bootlegger and romantic interest; Tika Sumpter as Lucille, a performer and romantic interest; Tory Kittles as Bessie’s older brother, Clarence; Oliver Platt as famed photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten; Bryan Greenberg as renowned record producer and music critic John Hammond; with Charles S. Dutton as Ma Rainey’s husband, William “Pa” Rainey; and Mo’Nique as blues legend Ma Rainey.
The film will offer an intimate look at the determined woman whose immense talent and love for music took her from anonymity in the rough-and-tumble world of vaudeville to the 1920s blues scene and international fame, capturing her professional highs and personal lows, and ultimate legend.
Described by HBO as a labor of love for the filmmakers, “Bessie” has been 22 years in the making. The first draft was written by playwright Horton Foote. Queen Latifah was approached by producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck to take on the role of Bessie when she was just launching her acting career. She eventually came on board as an executive producer, along with producing partner Shakim Compere.
Director Dee Rees caught HBO’s attention with the buzz around her award-winning film, “Pariah.”
Says Latifah, “I have been excited about this project since the very beginning. When HBO got involved, we were thrilled and we worked together to make something that would capture Bessie’s life honestly and respectfully.”
Watch the telepic’s first full-length trailer below:
In her first screen starring turn since the ferocious portrayal as an abusive mother in 2009′s Precious won her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Mo’Nique has joined Isaiah Washington in the Patrik-Ian Polk-directed Blackbird, an adaptation of the novel by Larry Duplechan. Washington took the lead in this indie last fall off his starring role as the DC sniper in Blue Caprice earned him a Gotham Award nomination. The film just shot in Hattiesburg, MS.
Mo’Nique is also executive producer with her husband, Sidney Hicks, through Hicks Media. Newcomer Julian Walker plays the star singer in the church choir who feels like a misfit in his high school and struggles with his sexual awakening and the realization he is gay, something that doesn’t land well in a religiously conservative small Mississippi town. This coincides with his younger sister going missing and his parents splitting up. Mo’Nique plays another character who’s not going to win mother of the year awards: the youth’s heartbroken mom, who blames her son’s lifestyle revelation for his sister going missing. Washington plays his supportive father trying his best to help his son’s transition to manhood.
“Blackbird is a film about the choices people are forced to make as they struggle to figure out how to be themselves,” Hicks said. “And why should just being who you are be a struggle? Since Mo’Nique won the Oscar, we have received a flood of scripts, but nothing captured our attention until Isaiah — who we have a high level of respect for — sent us Blackbird. We became instant fans of Patrik-Ian Polk and knew we had to get behind this important film.”
Polk is producing through Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions, Keith Brown through Kbiz Entertainment, Washington through his Coalhouse Productions, and Carol Ann Shine. Terrell Tilford, Gary L. Gray, Kevin Allesee, Torrey Laamar, Nikki Jane and D. Woods round out the cast. Worldwide sales for the film are being handled by Hicks Media and attorney Ricky Anderson of Anderson & Smith.
This week, Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique took the stage with other dynamic women to talk to Spelman College’s students about obesity and its health-related issues. The event, “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Conversations With Wise Women,” is part of Spelman’s push to better the health of its Black women on campus.
Mo’Nique talked about how for years she embraced her large size, believing it was an act of resistance against a culture that tells women that skinnier is better and fat shames those who don’t fit into that mold. She also talked about how Black women are encouraged to be thick in our community. But on stage, she told the crowd that her husband made her realize the reality — she weighed too much. The Washington Post wrote:
When her husband asked her weight, she told him, “proudly, as sexy as I could, ‘262 pounds.’” When her husband responded, “That’s too much,” Mo’Nique was dumbstruck. Until he added, “I want you for a lifetime.”
No loved one had ever told her, “That’s too much weight.” Deeply moved, Mo’Nique reflected on all she secretly carried that was “too much”: too much depression, too much anger, too much shifting the “poison” of her rage onto others. Her “best advice” to Spelman students: Shush the “fraudulent” inner voice that suggests you settle for less. “Will yourself to win.”
Since that day, Mo’Nique embarked on a fitness journey and lost a total of 70 pounds with the help of regular workouts with her trainer, cutting out junk food and eating healthier. And these are exactly the types of messages that Spelman wants for its students to hear.
Comedian Sherri Shepherd, co-host of The View, says type 2 diabetes could have killed her, but instead it saved her life.
“If I didn’t have diabetes, I would probably be at the International House of Pancakes eating a stack of pancakes with butter and syrup,” says Shepherd, 46. “I would probably be 250 pounds. I would not be going to the doctor. I probably wouldn’t be married to my husband, Lamar Sally. I wouldn’t be healthy for my son, Jeffrey.”
At 5-foot-1, she now weighs 157 pounds, down from 197 pounds several years ago. Once she was taking three medications for diabetes, but now that she’s eating healthier, exercising regularly and keeping her blood sugar in the right range, the doctor has taken her off all medications for the disease.
Shepherd details her struggles with diabetes and the changes she made in her life in her new book, Plan D: How to Lose Weight and Beat Diabetes (Even If You Don’t Have It), written with Billie Fitzpatrick.
Almost 26 million U.S. adults and children have diabetes, in which the body does not make enough of the hormone insulin, or doesn’t use it properly. Insulin helps glucose (sugar) get into cells, where it is used for energy. If there’s an insulin problem, sugar builds up in the blood, damaging nerves and blood vessels. There are two major forms: type 1 and type 2. In adults, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include thirst, hunger, tiredness, blurry vision, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, healing problems and frequent urination. The disease may lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot and leg amputations and blindness.
Shepherd has a family history of type 2 diabetes — both of her sisters have it and her mother died at age 41 from complications of the disease.
Shepherd says she was in denial after she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. “That said to me I’m not diabetic so I can eat the way I want” including barbecue, mac and cheese, pasta, pancakes and waffles, she says.
But then in 2007, she was formally diagnosed. At the time, she says, she had no energy, had numbness in her feet, had blurred vision, was thirsty all the time and had to go to the bathroom frequently. Her blood sugar was way too high.
She says her doctor was blunt. “She said, ‘Sherri, you love wearing those shoes, don’t you?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do’. She said, ‘You won’t be wearing them with your foot cut off, because if you keep eating the way you are eating, that’s where you’re headed.’ “
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims, with Jessye Norman, at right, at City Center. (Photo: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times)
On Wednesday evening Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater settled into City Center for its annual season with a nod to the past and a look to the future. Amid the din of shrill greetings — this was a gala, after all — Samuel Lee Roberts worked his way across the stage, jabbing the tips of his toes into the floor until his knees buckled and his spine contorted inelegantly. It was an arresting and, for Ailey, an unusual sight, yet few grasped that “Minus 16,” by the Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, had even begun.
This introduction requires a dancer to perform an improvised solo rooted in Gaga, a method of training that focuses more on sensation than technique. In “Minus 16,” based on excerpts from Mr. Naharin’s past works and a welcome addition to last season’s repertory, dancers trade their customary expressions of joy or sorrow for impassive stares.