Issue 19: Viola Davis
OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
MISSION INCOMPLETE...Okay, so most media outlets are having a good time taking their jabs at Cruise for not bringing home as large a slice of bacon. Whatever, but our concern is this: After all that hype, it seems Kayne West's MI:III soundtrack addition fell way short of expectations. Where is the hip hop re-mix of the original theme song, which could be blasting all over radio now to help push box office? Disappointing.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK?...We had to ask: What's up with London lately? First they arrest (then ban) rapper/actor Snoop for allegedly disturbing the peace--and as they claim, causing a near riot--at the airport. Now, just days ago, fellow hip hop thespian DMX was arrested for not buckling his seatbeat and then backtalking the flight attendants on an American Airlines NY-London flight. Both had their arrests dismissed with cautions. What with that and rumored reports of the city's crack down on events highlighting the UK's latest form of hip hop, Grime; can we get a blimely break. Well relief may be just around the corner. Hip Hop Royalty will come together to host the world’s first UK Hip-Hop Summit (UHHS) in July. The city of London will host the five-day hip-hop extravaganza that will see some of the biggest names from the UK and U.S. hip-hop industry come together to empower and inspire youths in Britain to perceive the world around and create their own solutions to obstacles in the path of a better future. Celebrities confirmed for the Summit, which is endorsed by Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Network, include hip-hop heavyweights Ice T and Afrika Bambaataa among many others. From July 2-July 14, several UHHS related music night events will be held in venues across London to celebrate the various forms of the hip-hop genre. We will bring you updates on this historical event as they occur. But to add insult to injury, on Thursday Halle Berry had to call out a British disc jockey after he did something she preceived to be racist. During the middle of an interview with the "X-Men" cast, Radio One's Chris Moyles, who is white, impersonated what he said was "A big, fat, black guy." Immediately, Berry said to him, "Are we having a racist moment here?" The interview continued, but Moyles later complaind that Berry was "ratty," in other words ticked off.
THE CW LINEUP...Well, "Girlfriends," "All Of Us," and "Everybody Hates Chris" survived the CW lineup announcements. But "Eve," "Half and Half," and "One on One" didn't. In fact, all the Black shows will air on a two-hour bloc on Sunday night. What's up with that?!
O POSTPONED...These days who would you rather see, Oprah Winfrey or President Bush? Well, regardless the President preempted the talk show diva's ABC special "Legend's Weekend." Now ya gonna have to tune in on May 22 to see Oprah & Co. and take the suggestion posted on O's website: "Put your Legends Lemon Drop Martinis on ice for one more week, my friends." Thank goodness we have Oprah to tell us what to drink, when to drink it, what to watch, what to read and who to admire. How did we ever get along before?
A ROCK & A HARD PLACE...Chris Rock has finalized the deal to replace Charles Stone as the director of Fox Searchlight's I Think I Love My Wife, which begins shooting this month in New York. Rock will also star in the flick, which was inspired by the1972 French comedy Chloe in the Afternoon. The film centers on Richard Cooper (Rock), who is happily married to Brenda (Gina Torres) until his old love (Kerry Washington) reenters the picture. Rock wrote the script with longtime collaborator Louis C.K.
WILD IN THE '30s...It's been idle for a while, but according to Billboard, the Outkast movie Idlewild is back on track and expected to be released August 25, three days the soundtrack drops. Set in the 1930s and written and directed by Bryan Barber, the flick centers around the music and business of running a speakeasy. Terrence Howard, Faizon Love, Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, Patti LaBelle, Macy Gray, and Fishbone's Angelo Moore all appear in the film.
PAY-PER-VIEW PRANKS...Believe it or not, O.J. Simpson pulls a prank, reported "Inside Edition," involving the infamous white Bronco--for his new pay-per-view candid-camera program "Juiced." In the stunt Simpson pretends to sell the Bronco at a used car lot and tells a possible buyer that the truck was "good for me--it helped me get away." Of course, this all has caused some controversy. That's just one practical "joke"; others include Simpson dressed like an Elvis impersonator. According to the show's producers, Simpson was not paid for the project, which will be available this month on pay-per-view then later on DVD. Guilty or innocent, we know the powers that be will have a field day with this one.
HOLY ROLL...It's been one deal after another for Bishop TD Jakes, who is due to be a keynote speaker at the mega praise event "One In Worship" (www.oneinworship.com) happening June 2-3 in Greensboro, NC. Following his recent film deal, he has signed on with Premiere Radio Networks to host a 60-second feature, “A Power Moment with T.D. Jakes.” It will debut May 15 on more than 50 stations, it will air twice daily between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. We're sure 10 % of all earnings will be tithed.
MARK CURRY UPDATE...Our friends at The Humor Mill newsletter tell us Mark Curry is now recuperating at home following a freak accident that resulted in him receiving second - and third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body, including his face. Want to send well wishes to Curry? Contact his reps at Marleah Leslie and Associates PR, 323/966-4669.
OPEN CALL...Know any actors looking for a gig? Well we just got a casting call from leading hip hop promotion company Double M Entertainment (www.doublement.com) for a rather unique little straight-to-DVD flick called, My Son, the Painter. A coming-of-age story, it is being pumped as Boys N the Hood meets A Christmas Carol. Sounds like a hard-knock life tale with a happy ending. The filmmakers are seeking black and Latin actors/actresses--from three years old to in their fifties. Interested? Send those head shots, resumes, and/or reels to email@example.com.
BATTLE ENSUES OVER "KATIE COURIC" CLAUSE
Ever wonder how much Katie Couric makes? Well, the federal proposal is looking to force publicly traded media companies to reveal the salaries of top earning non-executives, such as news anchors and stars. A battle has ensued. CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co., and Viacom Inc. have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to drop the proposal, which has been dubbed the "Katie Couric" clause. The companies are reportedly saying that the salary structure for high-paid talent is too complex and irrelevant to shareholders and the revelations might scare away high-profile individuals who prefer to keep their financial terms private. The SEC expects to unveil a final version the executive compensation disclosure measure by early September.
IN DEMAND BUT DEMANDING MORE: ACTRESS VIOLA DAVIS
While many black actresses find themselves without a gig, Viola Davis has been in the rare position of being in demand. In fact, these days it's hard to keep up with her credits.
And Davis is ready to ride this wave as long as it lasts. A Tony Award-winning stage actress, Davis was fresh from promoting her new film The Architect, opposite Anthony La Paglia, which addresses racial and social issues at the TriBeCa Film Festival before heading down to New Orleans to film the new Lifetime movie Life Is Not A Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story. In the TV bio pic, Davis, 41, plays Barrino's mother. Davis will so start shooting a film called Disturbia with Shia LeBouf, Carrie Ann Moss, and David Morse in the next month. And she has a part in the much-anticipated Oliver Stone 9-11 project.
There's also Emmy buzz about her May Sweeps episode on "Without A Trace." And ABC just announced it has picked up a pilot she stars in called "The Traveler," an action-packed drama just added to the midseason fall lineup. Clearly one of the industry's newest "It" girls, Davis portrayed as 50 Cent's mom in Jim Sheridan's Get Rich or Die Trying. In 2003 alone, Davis appeared in Todd Hayne's Far From Heaven opposite Julianne Moore, Solaris, and in Denzel Washington's Antoine Fisher, which garnered her an Independent Spirit Award nomination). Syriana marked her fourth exciting collaboration with the film's executive producer Steven Soderbergh--he also directed her in Out of Sight, Solaris, and Traffic. And try and name a hot show she hasn't guest starred on---"Law & Order:SVU," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "CSI," "The Practice," "NYPD Blues," among others.
Still, busy as she may be Davis still see a need for change in Hollywood. "If there is a call out for a black actor, you know it's going to be for a judge, a lawyer, a cop, a mom," says Davis. "White males are still the main box office draw and until that changes and Hollywood starts reflecting the multicultural society we live in, blacks, Asias, Latinos are going to be left out of certain roles--such as family situations, romantic situations." Unless more realistic roles are made for black women, there is going to be a stunted presentation of our lives.
And the change, says Davis, doesn't only have to come from mainstream Hollywood. Urban Hollywood needs to take up the challenge as well. "I know it's a Catch 22. That African-American filmmakers can't get the go-ahead to do certain films, but if we don't cover the countless stories that still need to be told, who will," says the Julliard School-trained actress. "And in many of our African-American films, if you're an actress over a certain age you're left out. As an African-American woman you're not going to get the leads, love scenes, And when S. Epatha Merkerson got up and accepted her Emmy for Lackawanna Blues she said, 'I am 53 years old and this is the first ever lead role I have played.' And this is an actress who has been in the business probably more than 30 years."
But don't get this hard-working-actress wrong. She sees a marked increase in work on TV--though not in film--for black women. "It is much better on television," she says. "There are more roles, more sophisticated roles--and I am counting soap operas as well." And positions are opening up not just with roles but behind the camera as well, and Davis plans to count herself in the mix. She says she'd like to produce some of the very films she's yearning to act in right now. "I like to be in the control position and I think as a producer you are."
Hollywood: Viola Davis is ready for her closeup.
Questions, comments, news, kudos? Hit us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really enjoy your "up-to-minute" blog. However, this time around ya'll got it wrong by indicating that Danny Glover, Oprah, etc. "... But none seem to take such visible platforms as their white counterparts. Why does it seem we always have to be "saved" by mainstream "heroes."
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Many of our black actors have campaigned tirelessly and endlessly in front and behind the scenes to call attention to the plight of our African brother and sisters. The media tends to ignore their efforts. Yet, their white counterparts go on a safari, make a movie in Africa--then the media headlines them across every paper showing concern for the local economy, politics, health crisis, etc. Please spare me.
Don't misunderstand. I am for any publicity that sheds light on what is going in Africa. But, please give credit to those that have been in the trenches for the long haul.
Development Executive (for Danny Glover)
Hi Karen B.
First off, we're glad you are enjoying The A-List --we aim to please!
Hey, we all know that mainstream celebrities can use the media as their playground and we are definitely feeling you on that point.
Since that is the case, how about if we challenge actors of color to be more creative in seeking attention to bring to light the problems that plague certain parts of Africa. We've already addressed the lack of Black media outlets during our Tribeca Film Fest log so we would encourage not only support but further creation of such print and television avenues by some deep-pocketed folks in Hollywood. It would also serve their interests as well as create fairer reporting. Thereare also alternative methods of getting their messages across. For example, what Matt Damon has done with "One" in a personalized email marketing approach (which works whether there is media support of not).
But keep in mind in our last issue we simply asked where Black celebrities were, not that they were nonexistent. These are complex responsibilities (which have always challenged us as Blacks, and that's okay) to each other, between notables and media, and notables and general market. Thus, we call people simply to be aware, make changes and perhaps go around traditional methods when need be, to help create more media outlets and support those already out there--like The A-List-- so as not to be overshadowed.
Gabriel Union, former BET chairman Bob Johnson, music composer Elvin Ross, TV exec Evelyn Mims, and L.A. bigwig Imara Canady supportin' at the Ludacris Foundation’s annual fundraiser at the Georgia Depot in Atlanta. Special thanks to Kim Hutchens for looking out for The A-List.
People are still talking about the gala produced by Kenneth R. Reynolds for the Black AIDS Institute at the home of Dr. Dennis Holmes in Silver Lake, CA. Among those spotted were Paris Barclay, Anna Maria Horseford, CCH Pounder, John Witherspoon, Jimmy Jean-Louis, and celebrity fitness trainer Lanre Idewu enjoyin' an evening of entertainment supplied by Cynda Williams, Mo Daniels, Tanya Hart, Yvette Cason, and Dwight Tribble.
Thanks as always to contributor Gil Robertson IV but #1 to us.