26: UK ACTOR EAMONN WALKER
WE'RE WEB WORTHY
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CUTTING DEEP...When rapper-turned-actor Sticky Fingaz debuted on June 28 as lead for the FX TV version of Blade, he made FX history--pulling in a record 2.5 million viewers, the highest premiere in the network's history for an original series! Proving the latest combo of hip hop and sci-fi is finger-lickin' good.
BEAUCOUP BET...Speaking of ratings, this year's BET Awards telecast from last week drew its largest audience ever, according to Nielsen Media Research. Among African-Americans, the program now stands as the Number 1 cable telecast of all time with a 31.94 rating in black households. The telecast pulled in about 6.6 million viewers. Glad to know someone was watching Fantasia and Jamie Foxx make out on stage.
WHIP APPEAL...Jumping off during the BET telecast, was the first of a series of Ford USA commericals featuring The Bama Boyz. Yep. Once again, Madison Avenue has turned to hip hop to hype and hawk. And no wonder, the relationship between hip hop and branding just keep getting stronger as sales get pumped up. Matthew Knowles (Beyonce's dad) sealed this deal that features not only his group, The Bama Boyz, but also his Music World producer Troy Taylor. The 30-second spot commercial is for Ford's "Bold Moves" campaign promoting its new line of vehicles. In the first spot--in case you didn't see it--The Bama Boyz' track is bumpin' in the background in a club scene with Funkmaster Flex behind the 1's and 2's and Troy's track later plays in a street scene.
IT'S A BLOND THING...When asked by the Toronto Star newspaper recently about who she'd like to play her in the upcoming biopic, Etta James said that initially Queen Latifah was asked but passed. And "I thought very hard about that girl that was married to the Big boy...Faith Evans...when I see her now I always smile and feel real good about her." No details yet, but rumor has it that Evans may just be opting in. At least she won't have to change her hair color. We'll keep you posted.
TUNING OUT...Industry headz are whispering about the recent MediaWeek item reporting that Mary Catherine Sneed, Radio One's long-time Chief Operating Officer, is leaving the the black media giant after eight years. While the standard "to pursue other interests" reason was cited, many are speculating as to Sneed's sudden departure. More drama as the executive musical chairs continues.
BROADWAY'S LIGHTS DIM...Revered theater director and the first black director on Broadway, Lloyd Richards, died last Thursday—on his birthday—at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, leaving behind a legacy that included the original 1959 production of A Raisin In The Sun, as well as six of playwright August Wilson's plays--Ma Rainey 's Black Bottom (1984), Fences (1987), which earned him a Tony Wards; Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1988); The Piano Lesson (1990); Two Trains Running, and Seven Guitars (1996). He also directed several of the South African playwright Athol Fugard's dramas on Broadway including A Lesson From Aloes (1980), Master Harold...and the boys (1982), and Blood Knot (1985).
EMMY BROADBAND NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED
According to the Associated Press, the Web sites for The New York Times and The Washington Post have the most nominations for the first-ever Emmy Award for broadband news and documentary programming. For news and documentaries Web coverage, NYTimes.com garnered three nods, including columnist Nicholas D. Kristof's multimedia presentation on atrocities in Sudan. Meanwhile, WashingtonPost.com landed two nominations in this group--for a Web documentary on corruption, poverty, and history in Azerbaijan; and four videos on Hurricane Katrina and its human toll. Also among the nominees were MTV News segments on the Oct. 8, 2005, earthquake in South Asia, as shown on Overdrive.com; and National Geographic's own webcasts on Katrina, which were shown on Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.com. The award will be presented by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on Sept. 25 in New York.
BRITISH INVASION: UK ACTOR EAMONN WALKER READIES FOR NEW BRUCKHEIMER SERIES--AND U.S. NETWORK TV FAME
Eamonn Walker turned up on the radar for many in the U.S. during his stint on HBO's gritty prison drama "Oz" as Kareem Said for which he won a CableACE Award. But to folks in his home base of London, Walker was already an established star.
The 36-year-old actor has been in countless productions--films, theatre, TV. But now, Walker is gearing up to become an even more internationally known star. He was just signed to star in a new Jerry Bruckheimer (Black Hawk Down, Remember the Titans, Bad Boys II) TV action-drama series for FOX called "Justice." "I was actually shooting [an episode of "ER" with Noah Wyle] in South Africa when I got the call about the series," says Walker from the English home he shares with his wife and three teenage children. "I told them [Bruckheimer's people] to send the script on over. I read it and loved it."
Most people would have just opted in when they heard the name Bruckheimer, but not Walker. Big names don't impress him. "I am totally script driven. If I read the script and something inside me clicks, then I will take on the role," explains Walker. "This one intrigued me because of the forensic nature of the series. I find it fascinating." "Justice" (image, right) takes a look at how high-profile cases are tried in the media, and Walker co-stars with Victor Garber, Rebecca Mader, and Kerr Smith as a "dream team" of lawyers who join forces to tackle controversial trials using forensic science to help prove their cases. Walker plays Luther Gaines, an attorney famous in the African-American community who is "well-connected, politically motivated, and in possession of an uncanny ability to take a step back and assess the merits of a case from both the prosecution's and the defence's perspectives," according to the show's press material. Shades of Johnnie Cochran? Perhaps.
Besides giving Walker the opportunity to work again for an American audience, "Justice" will bring the UK-based actor to L.A. "I've been able to travel the world and work [as an actor]," says Walker of his frequent moves. And getting around, has also given him a global view of the industry, one which he says is changing for black actors, all be it slowly. 'When I was filming in South Africa," recalls Walker. "I was surprised that the production crew would still be all white...There has been a progression [worldwide] for blacks in the film business, though now at fast as I would like to see it. But it is happening, especially in Hollywood."
The way Walker came to acting was roundabout. He was actually set for a career as a social worker. But during this time, the dance enthusiast decided to try out for--and landed a spot with--a local dance troupe. Eventually, Walker focused more on acting and it was a perfect fit. He landed stage work, then TV roles, eventually getting a regular slot on the BBC sitcom "In Sickness and in Health" (1985-1987). His film debut came with Young Soul Rebels in 1991. Other roles--both film and TV-in the U.K. followed. Then "Oz" brought Walker to the U.S. in 1997. He also landed on Homicide: The Movie, the 2000 TV movie. Next, he was featured in Once in the Life, which was written, produced and directed by, and co-starred Laurence Fishburne. And in 2005 Walker starred in Lord of War with Nicholas Cage. Walker, a true Shakespearean actor, shared the Broadway stage last summer with Denzel Washington in a production of Julius Caesar. "It was an experience that will stay with me always," recalls Walker. "Shakespeare is like that; It lingers with you." Walker, who has also played Othello, enjoys new twists on Shakespeare. "I don't believe in purists," he explains. "If you can bring a new idea to Shakespeare, then I am all for it--just DON'T change the words."
Walker, in fact, goes behind and beyond the words. He seems to approach acting almost like a surgeon. He takes very seriously the roles he plays and the impact they can have on someone's life. He examines script and character for ways to bring their true meaning to life. "I respect what I do," says Walker. "I don't take it lightly. You can say one phrase and have it change someone's life, in not just the words but the way you say it. I had a woman come up to me with tears welling in her eyes explaining how one of my roles had touched her. When this can happen, how can you take [acting] for granted? It's serious and I respect it." It is this reverence for the craft that helps dictate the roles Walker ultimately takes. "I can not do something just for entertainment's sake. Other people can; I just cannot. I am just not good at connecting to these types of roles," he explains. "There has to be more to it than just entertainment [for me]."
One thing's for sure, American audiences will be happy campers with Walker back on their small screen.