Laurence Fishburne and Larenz Tate have joined forces for a new 10-part podcast called “Bronzeville,” which is set to begin streaming in January, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Written by Josh Olsen, an original screenplay Oscar nominee for 2005’s “A History of Violence,” the series is set in the African-American Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago and follows the lives of players who ruled the numbers games, the illegal lottery that swept through the black community in the 1940s before it was taken over by the mafia.
Tika Sumpter, Lance Reddick, Brittany Snow and Mitch Pileggi are also among the voice cast.
Fishburne’s Cinema Gypsy Productions and Tate’s TateMen Entertainment have partnered with digital audio ad sales company Audio HQ on the project, which is billed as an audio-drama.
Fishburne, Tate and Kc Wayland are directing Bronzeville, with Wayland also serving as producer.
John Legend, an executive producer on WGN America’s successful series “Underground,” is behind yet another project for the network based on a true experience in African American history.
The singer is executive producing a new series based on Black Wall Street, the nickname given to the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the early part of the 20th century, the area was one of the wealthiest and most affluent black communities in the United States.
However, jealous white citizens destroyed much of the neighborhood and killed upwards of 300 black people in a race riot that broke out in 1921.
According to TheWrap, the as-yet-untitled series is in the early stages of development, with Legend producing through his Get Lifted production banner along with Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius and “Southside With You” star Tika Sumpter.
To see a history of Black Wall Street, click below:
It’s not every couple who has a feature film made about their first date. Then again, not every couple is the Obamas.
Southside with You, directed by Richard Tanne and starring Tika Sumpter and newcomer Parker Sawyers, details the Obamas’ multilayered first date (despite Michelle’s insistence that it was, most certainly, not a date) as the couple traverses through Chicago, going to the Chicago Art Institute, the movie theater and finally, an ice cream parlor.
Though the flick doesn’t have a release date yet, it recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where critics gave it two very enthusiastic thumbs up, calling it a classic romance story. Check out some of the outstanding reviews below.
From Variety: “Despite its unassuming modesty of scale, budget and commercial potential, “Southside With You” stands as something unique, even audacious in American independent movies: a fact-based presidential “prequel” that seeks to present two iconic world figures as convincing and relatable romantic leads.”
From The Hollywood Reporter: “The result makes you realize how few realistic and three-dimensional date movies have been made in an era of throbbing hook-up encounters and R-rated horny teen gross-outs.”
From Mashable: “If you’d never heard the name Barack Obama, Southside With You could stand alone as a sweet, mature drama with layers of social and racial issues, family dynamics and, yes — romance.”
From MTV: “It’s hard to distance Barack and Michelle from their historical legacies, but Tanne’s nuanced approach succeeds at making this film about the tempestuous beginning, not the happily ever after.”
Here is one of the first images from Southside With You, a film inspired by the first date of future First Couple Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.
Written by Richard Tanne, who also is making his directorial debut, the feature takes place in summer 1989 in Chicago, where the young associate Obama (Parker Sawyers) woos his colleague Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) in a romantic dramedy about the couple’s early romantic encounters. The eventful day took them from the Chicago Art Institute to a screening of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing to the eventual first kiss, which occurred outside of an ice cream parlor.
Sawyers recently wrapped the Oliver Stone-directed Snowden opposite Joseph Gordon Levitt and will appear in The Autopsy Of Jane Doe along with Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch. Sumpter stars on OWN’s The Haves And The Have Nots and will appear in Universal’s Ride Along 2 with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.
IM Global and State Street Pictures are producing the film, with Tanne and Sumpter as producers alongside Glendon Palmer and Robert Teitel. Tracey Bing is executive producing.
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: