Tag Archives: ABC

A new drama inspired by the musical legacy of Selena Quintanilla coming to ABC

ABC Studios, Campanario Entertainment and SB Projects have secured a development deal to bring a drama inspired by the musical legacy of Selena Quintanilla to television!

The drama, written by Miguel Nolla (Scandal), has the support of the Quintanilla family and ABC has given the development project a put pilot commitment. Nolla will act as co-executive producer.

The currently untitled series will focus on a pop star who finds herself starting all over again in her home state of Texas.

The series focuses on Alex Guerra, a chart-topping, award winning pop star who has been estranged from her family for 5 years.  She tries to pick up the pieces when a crisis forces her to return home. Alex finds herself back in Texas, juggling a love triangle, the demands of her career and the dark secrets of the family that she now desperately wants to win back.

“We are excited to come on board as producers on an ABC music driven, Latino family drama that celebrates Selena’s musical legacy with a lead character whose music and career is inspired by Selena,” said Suzette Quintanilla Arriaga.

SB Projects founder Scooter Braun also expressed his excitement about the upcoming series.

“We are thrilled to team up with Campanario and ABC Studios and highlight the complexities and family dynamics of a Latin pop superstar coming to grips with the reality of her influence especially in today’s social climate,” he said. “More importantly, we are proud to be collaborators on an incredibly timely show that focuses on a strong Latino family and represents the many Americans who we know will enjoy this series alongside us.”

“This project gives us all an opportunity to showcase a successful, aspirational Latino family in a way that is not currently represented on television,” said Jaime Davila, president of Campanario Entertainment. “Sergio, Rico and I are looking forward to creating with the team an original music-driven drama with authentic characters as multifaceted as our own families.”

Sergio Aguero, Jaime Davila, and Rico Martinez of Campanario Entertainment and Scooter Braun, Scott Manson, and James Shin of SB Projects will serve as non-writing executive producers. Simran A. Singh, and Selena Quintanilla family members Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., and Suzette Quintanilla Arriaga, will join the project as producers.

More about Campanario Entertainment and SB Projects: 

Campanario Entertainment is a North American media company that develops and produces broad appeal scripted and unscripted content driven by Latinos and Latinas in front of and behind the camera. Co-founded by Jaime Davila, former development executive at Bravo, and Jaime Davila Sr., former Televisa COO and Univision President and Chairman, Campanario Entertainment strongly supports original voices as well as adapts proven IP for both the U.S. and international television markets. Current productions include unique intellectual properties and adaptations such as FOX’s “Red Band Society,” “Bandolero” with Kenny Ortega (“High School Musical,” “Descendants”), and “Laugh Factory en Español.” Their first project, “Camelia la Texana,” premiered on Telemundo in the US and on Netflix in Mexico, and set a new standard in content and visual quality for Spanish-language programming. For more information, visit Campanario.com.

SB Projects is a diversified entertainment and media company with ventures integrating music, film, television, technology and philanthropy. Guided by the vision of founder Scott “Scooter” Braun (one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People In the World), SB Projects combines creativity, the ability to engage global audiences, and an understanding of “what’s next” to deliver innovative ideas as a leading architect of popular culture. For more information please visit, www.scooterbraun.com.

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Middle-Eastern American superheroes are coming to ABC! 3 things you need to know

ABC is making its mark as the premiere network for new, inventive, and inclusive family comedies. We’ve had The Real O’Neals, Fresh Off the Boat, black-ish, and now we’re getting a family comedy about Middle Eastern superheroes!

The untitled project, currently going by the name Super Challenged Heroes or SCH for short, has a lot of creative power behind it. Thanks to Deadline, here are three big facts you need to know about this history-making show.

1. The show is created by Larry Wilmore and Bassem Youssef: These two guys have some serious credentials with family fun, comedy, and biting commentary. Wilmore is behind The Bernie Mac Show and wrote for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and black-ish. He also hosted his own late-night politically-charged show, The Larry Wilmore Show from 2015-2016. Wilmore is also the author of I’d Rather We Got Casinos: And Other Black Thoughts.

Youssef is known as the Jon Stewart of Egypt, hosting satirical news show Al-Bernameg from 2011 to 2014. He’s also the author of Revolution for Dummies and Laughing Through the Arab Spring. He was named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 most influential people in the world” in 2013 and he’s also a physician, specializing in cardiothoracic surgery and lung transplantation. He used that medical knowledge to take care of those wounded in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution.

2. The show challenges our stereotype of the archetypal American hero: According to Deadline, the project “is an action-adventure fantasy show that asks the question: what is it like to be a hero in a world that treats you like a villain?”. The show follows the Sharif family, which is led by two superhero parents “at a time when it’s illegal to be a superhero, so they are forced to save the world in secret.” The show will act as an allegory for the issues immigrant families face “when it comes to fitting into a society that many times treats you like the enemy.”

“At its heart, it is a family show about assimilation and the difficulties and the problems and conflicts with assimilation,” said Wilmore. “There are so many issues immigrant families face becoming Americans.” Wilmore said that combining the real-life issues facing immigrant families with fantasy-adventure provides an “interesting” way to approach a family show.

3. The show is loosely inspired by Disney-Pixar’s The Incredibles: Wilmore said he had an idea of doing a superhero show for a while, and got a boost of energy from signing his overall deal with ABC Studios. The studio has encouraged its writer-producers to use existing Disney properties, so Wilmore felt there was something he could explore with the world of The Incredibles. In the end, he wasn’t able to use The Incredibles property, but he still kept the germ of the idea of a world with outlawed superheroes which later evolved into this current project. After watching Tickling Giants, a documentary about Youssef by Sara Taksler (who just so happens to be friends with Wilmore), Wilmore decided partnering with Youssef would be a great idea.

“To have ABC challenge the narrative and stereotypes that have long stuck to people in my region is something spectacular to say the least,” said Youssef, calling the show “unprecedented.”

“To have only terrorist roles available for us one day, then get to play superheroes the next, is groundbreaking. I am grateful to work with Larry Wilmore, one of the most talented writers and producers in the market.”

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“Once Upon a Time” angles for black women’s viewership with upcoming season

If you’re like me, you probably zoned out on Once Upon a Time sometime between the second and third season, around the time when likeable Sheriff Graham/The Huntsman (played by Fifty Shades of Grey actor Jamie Dornan) was killed and when Cinderella’s fairy godmother was unceremoniously killed by combustion at the beginning of an episode (to this day, that still makes me mad).

This lovely fairy gets killed by Rumpelstiltskin for no reason!

After skipping out on the show, you might have still kept up with the goings-on through other folks’ recaps. While there were some cool moments, such as Mulan, played by Jamie Chung, being written as a bisexual warrior who was in love with Sleeping Beauty, a portrayal of Lancelot being played by Sinqua Walls, and the inclusion of Jafar, played by Naveen Andrews (in a very cheesy fashion, mind you), there was tons of awful stuff, such as the dire treatment of characters of color in general. As Stacy Whitman, founder and publisher of Lee & Low Books imprint Tu Books, wrote about the series:

“…I’m highly disappointed with how the show handles its characters of color. Have you noticed how many of them die or get locked away to be forgotten compared to other characters? Sidney (who disappeared to star on Revolution, never to be mentioned again); Tamara, Neal’s fiancée who was trying to sabotage magic and kidnapped Henry (who could as easily have decided to be good and joined up with their team, but no, just got killed off; granted, so did her white partner in crime); Lancelot, who is dead before we ever meet him.”

In the end, you realized you only stayed as interested as you did because of the only truly compelling character in the main cast—Rumplestilskin, played by Robert Carlyle, maybe one of the few actors of the main cast who understood how to play his role with equal parts cheeky camp and believable, emotionally-resonating seriousness.

However, with much of the original cast gone, either because they got tired of playing the characters or wanted to go on to different projects, is Once Upon a Time trying to capitalize on a demographic it misused and drove away by taking the story in a much blacker direction? Enter the new phase of Once Upon a Time, in which Henry, now a grown man, is besieged by a young kid much like how he ambushed Emma in the pilot. Henry has to now figure out how he could be a young girl’s father, even though he has absolutely no recollection of being a father to anyone.

First, let’s talk about the little girl. Lucy (Alison Fernandez) is supposed to be the daughter of Henry and Jacinda/Cinderella (Dania Ramirez). This Cinderella is different than the Cinderella I was writing about above—that Cinderella looked very much like the one we know from the Disney movie.

That leads to the next point: this will the second time we have seen Cinderella portrayed by a woman of color since Brandy’s turn as the character in 1998’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella for The Wonderful World of Disney. It also seems like Ramirez’s dress has more nods towards Brandy’s dress than the Disney cartoon character’s dress, which is interesting.

Compare that to the first Cinderella’s dress shown in that awful episode of Once Upon a Time, which has more nods to the cartoon character’s dress:


(Quite possibly, this was one of the worst episodes of OUAT ever, but it had some of the best costume/hair design ever…go figure.)

If they are making Ramirez’s Cinderella more like Brandy’s version, then maybe there could be something said about how the storyline is focusing on Henry being this kid’s dad instead of the storyline functioning as one that still required the use of Cinderella’s Prince Charming, who would be played by an Asian actor to correspond to the actor who played the Prince opposite Brandy, Paolo Montalban. However, the season isn’t out yet, so maybe there are some surprises in store. I’m always an optimist.

Brandy and Paolo Montalban in 1997’s “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”.

Cinderella’s stepmom Lady Tremaine is played by Gabrielle Anwar, probably best known for her role in USA’s Burn Notice. Anwar herself has Austrian Jewish and Indian heritage, adding to the amount of representation happening in this upcoming season.

Third big surprise—Princess Tiana is going to be a part of this season! Mekia Cox will be playing the character, and Robin Givens will play her mom Eudora. According to Shadow and Act via EW, Eudora won’t be a working-class woman, as she was in The Princess and the Frog, but “a loving mother to Tiana and benevolent noblewoman. Formerly wealthy, now facing financial disaster, she handles the transition with grace and inner moral strength.”

Mekia Cox as Princess Tiana

Once again, there’s a lack of a POC prince mentioned as part of the cast. Just like how Brandy’s Cinderella found love with Montalban’s Prince Charming, Tiana married Prince Naveen, a…vaguely beige dude. I say “vaguely beige” because we have no idea where Maldonia is, but we are led to assume that Maldonia’s not full of Anglo-Saxon people. Technically, if you looked at behind-the-scenes stuff, Disney artists fixated on Maldonia being somewhere in the Mediterranean, while Naveen’s name suggests that the culture and people of Maldonia are South Asian and/or Middle Eastern at the very least. I won’t get into my personal dissertation about why I both love Naveen (I mean, come on—he’s a hot guy and he’s a bad boy turned good) and have some problems with how Disney bent over backwards to not use this opportunity to create their first black prince ever, but suffice it to say, Tiana’s currently missing her Naveen, and this would be a great time to cast an actor of color—maybe an upcoming actor of color who needs that big break—in this role.

Who’s gonna play this guy in OUAT? Will Naveen even be in OUAT??

Another thing to look for this year—a prominent LGBTQ storyline. From the TV Guide video (below), I’m assuming it’s going to be a lesbian-centric storyline, but regardless, Co-EP Edward Kitsis has confirmed that the storyline is, indeed, happening. Will it be treated better than Mulan’s storyline? We’ll have to wait and see.

So that’s what we can expect this go-round in…the fictional area of Hyperion Heights, Seattle (that’s right—we’re not in Storybrooke anymore). Is the OUAT team being shrewd and capitalizing on the current wave of representation hitting Hollywood? Time will tell—if we see any of these WOC killed off or illegitmate reasons or if they’re treated haphazardly, then we’ll better understand the cut of this season’s jib. Until then, I can only say I’ll tune in to see if this season will draw me in just like the very first season of OUAT did.

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Review: “Still Star-Crossed” is fun, needs to find its mojo to be even better

Lashana Lynch as Rosaline. (ABC/Manu Trillo)

Synopsis (IMDB): A period drama that picks up where the famous story of Romeo and Juliet leaves off, charting the treachery, palace intrigue, and ill-fated romances of the Montagues and Capulets in the wake of the young lovers’ tragic fate. Based on the book by Melinda Taub.

My thoughts: Okay, so first things first, I like the bare bones this show has to offer. There’s a good story here and, seeing how apparently well-loved the YA novel it’s based on is, it has all of the elements there for the adapting. Basically, it should be a slam-dunk. “Should” being the operative word.

I’m going to start with the positives. I’ve talked about how people of color should be in more historical fiction, from books to TV to movies. The big draw Still Star-Crossed has for me is that its a show filled with people of color in Shakespeare’s classic story, Romeo and Juliet. Lashana Lynch stars as our heroine Rosaline Capulet, who lives with her sister Livia (Ebonee Noel) in the home of their uncle Lord Silvestro Capulet (Anthony Head) and hateful aunt Lady Guiliana Capulet (Zuleikha Robinson). In an effort to end the violence that only increased after the elopement and deaths of Romeo (Lucien Laviscount) and Juliet (Clara Rugaard), Prince Escalus (Sterling Sulieman) proclaims that Rosaline should marry her blood enemy, Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs), the son of Lord Damiano Montague (the scene-chewing Grant Bowler, who seems to know and embrace the type of campy show he’s in).

Sterling Sulieman (ABC/Manu Trillo)

Lynch, Noel, Laviscount, Sulieman, and Medalion Rahimi as Prince Escalus’ sister Princess Isabella cement the series as one that will frequently showcase various POC in roles they rarely get in Hollywood. On that level alone, Still Star-Crossed is important. We as an audience need to see more men and women of other ethnicities in roles like this to help erase the “history is white” narrative we’ve learned throughout our lives. History is not only full of white folks; it’s full of all kinds of people, making their marks in the world.

If I had to compare Still Star-Crossed to anything other than the costume BBC drama it’s analogous for, it’d be the 1997 Cinderella adaptation. I, like many black girls, loved it because a black girl finally got to be the princess for once. But I also liked it because there were so many different people playing roles they wouldn’t ordinarily get. Anyone could literally be anything, from the royal family to a random townsperson. That was cool.

Of course, one of the biggest complaints people had about that adaptation is “How are these people related to each other?” Again, this could be seen as a positive–I’m sure Cinderella spoke to many adopted kids or kids in blended families in which there were racial differences. The same goes for Still Star-Crossed; there are families in which race isn’t defining factor, and that means a lot in the conversation about how media can better portray families with a mix of racial backgrounds.

However, even though I am putting my weight behind this show, I am hoping that it gets its act together, speaking bluntly. Like I said, there are a lot of fun historical fiction tropes that would be right at home on a “traditional” historical fiction show like the critically-lauded (but actually spottily-written) Downton Abbey. However, just like how I came down on Downton Abbey for its infuriatingly precious treatment of Lady Mary and it’s stagnant dialogue (i.e. how many times did characters in love say, “Shut up and kiss me”? AARRGGHH!!!), I have to throw the book at Still Star-Crossed for is choppy script and even choppier transitions.

Medalion Rahimi (ABC/Manu Trillo)

I feel like as a pilot, Still Star-Crossed suffers from severe Pilot-itis. What I mean is that it wants to impress so badly that it falters on basic pacing and even basic characterization. Escalus and Rosaline love each other, because….why? What kind of characterization does Isabella have? What’s her motivation? How did Livia escape the melee at the funeral? These things are important to the story, but they’re glossed over.

I don’t know where the book drops us in the story since I haven’t read (I didn’t even know about it until this show came out). But from where I’m sitting, it seem that it would have made a lot more sense to just start Still Star-Crossed at the moment Romeo and Juliet die. For the most part, we already know the story of Romeo and Juliet, or at least, we know the important parts–two kids die of dueling families because their love is forbidden. Since we know they’re dead at the end of the Shakespearean story, why not just start at the moment of the funeral? Then we’d have more time to spend with Escalus and Isabella, understand more of their motivations and Escalus’ background with Rosaline, have quick flashbacks to the roles Benvolio and Rosaline played in Romeo and Juliet’s elopement, etc. etc. Also, maybe the will-they-won’t-they romance-ish thing the show’s trying to set up with Rosaline and Benvolio could have more grounding? IDK, but those are my thoughts.

At the very least, it’d be great if the show decided AGAINST those weird transitions. The zooming into the town square during the ball, the zoom towards the palace, the awkward high angles over the city, etc.–I get that the show is trying to give us scope, but it would seem Still Star-Crossed is trying to do BBC-style presentation with a small ABC budget (not to small, mind you, since this was shot in Spain). However, just because there’s a small budget doesn’t mean that BBC-style presentation can’t happen. Even though shows like Father Brown and Call the Midwife are considered “prestige shows” by American standards, it’s not like they have lavish The Hollow Crown budgets. Yet, they still give viewers a sense of escape and production value. Still Star-Crossed has enough production value inherent in its story, filming locations, and costuming/set design without trying too hard. Adding what seem like CGI transitions make the show look more like a TV movie rather than a high production value TV show.

Lucien Laviscount (ABC/Manu Trillo)

Hopefully, the show will even out these problems and tell a much smoother story as the show goes on. Still Star-Crossed is a show that definitely deserves to be told in this way, and it definitely deserves its shot to get the story right. With Shonda Rhimes’ clout at ABC, hopefully this means ABC will give Still Star-Crossed the time it needs to shake off its rough edges.

The critics weigh in on ABC’s “When We Rise”

Did you check out ABC’s new miniseries When We Rise? I’m going to have my official review on the site by the end of this week, but until then, let’s take a look at what the critics said.

First, a quick synopsis, courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes:

The LGBT civil-rights movement is chronicled from its turbulent infancy to the present through the experiences of a diverse family of LGBT men and women.

It sounds promising, and something that’s much needed. It’s also a project the actors and crew are very proud of. Just read some of what Rafael de la Fuente, of Empire fame, had to say about his part in the show. (Also check out my exclusive interview with him here!)

Since TV shows are now given the Rotten Tomatoes rating, I went over to the site to see how well the show fared, and turns out…it’s fresh!

The show was given an 81 percent rating, with the general consensus being this:

When We Rise works as a well-meaning outreach project with a decent cast, even if the script’s ambitious reach slightly exceeds its grasp.

Now, I know I haven’t actually watched the show yet, but the commercials alone seemed like there were going to be some elements that seemed more suited to either a more fleshed-out show or an actual movie (something to get the taste of Stonewall out of our mouths). But let’s see what some folks who have watched it had to say about it.

“As a television drama, it often plays like a high-minded, dutiful educational video. But at its best moments, it’s also a timely statement that identity is not just an abstraction but a matter of family, livelihood, life and death.” —James Poniewozik, New York Times

“When We Rise’s timid and narrow idea of what counts as progress doesn’t do justice to all the bravery, imagination, and hard work that went into making that progress a reality.”—Inkoo Kang, MTV

“When We Rise is the most impactful LGBT-centric series since HBO’s “Angels in America” more than a decade ago. Sure, it’s a small playing field, but a notable one given the challenges of today.”—Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times

“The miniseries is meant to be a Roots for the LGBT community. Unfortunately, much of it is about as enjoyable as civics class on a Saturday afternoon.”—Mark A. Perigard, Boston Herald

(Interestingly enough, Inkoo Kang compared When We Rise to a show shooting wildly for the importance of Roots as well.)

“Important television, but also wildly, maddeningly uneven TV, too.” —Verne Gay, Newsday

The reviews are mostly positive, and yet they are still all over the board. What did you think about When We Rise? Give your opinions below!

Fall TV: Analyzing the Odds of 5 of the 2016-2017 Shows

We have a lot of shows coming our way, and a lot of racially-diverse shows at that. I thought it would be cool to take a gander at some of the shows I’m interested in this fall season and guess at what their chances are at garnering a second season. I know these shows haven’t even premiered yet. But we’ve already seen the trailers for the fall season, right? We already have our opinions anyway. So let me start off the opinion-giving by providing my thoughts.

(I must say that even though there are racially-diverse shows this fall-winter season, the shows featured in this particular list showcase shows featuring black leads.)

Luke Cage (Netflix)

I dare say that it’s already a given that Netflix and Marvel’s Luke Cage will be a smash hit. Mike Colter, who will be playing the title character, has already amassed a cult following from playing the character on Netflix’s second Marvel endeavor, Jessica Jones. And, let’s not discount Marvel’s wide and powerful reach; nowadays, almost everything Marvel touches turns to gold. So chances are Luke Cage will be here for a long time.

Lethal Weapon (FOX)

I will be honest; this show seems to have whiffs of Rush Hour all over it. Not the film, mind you, but the CBS TV adaptation of Rush Hour. That show had the diversity quota going for it; just like in the film, the buddy-cop duo was comprised of a black man and an Asian man (with Vine star Justin Hires and British actor Jon Foo taking reins of the Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan roles). But the writing was just too terrible and lackluster for the two leads to carry it. Let’s be clear; just because a show has a diverse cast doesn’t mean it’ll automatically succeed. The writing still has to be good.

Lethal Weapon seems like we could be going down another Rush Hour path. Not only does it look like it’ll be potentially unfunny, but just how relevant is Lethal Weapon these days? A similar question was posed about the Rush Hour TV series; the story is so of its time that it doesn’t resonate with younger TV viewers. But we’ll see how Lethal Weapon does; it is starring Damon Wayans, so the show does have that going for it.

Still Starcrossed (ABC)

First of all, Still Starcrossed is a Shonda Rhimes show. So you can assume success is already in the bag. But secondly, and most importantly, it’s a show that many people, particularly women of color, have been wanting since the dawn of television; a period show featuring people of color who aren’t slaves. Instead, Still Starcrossed, which takes place after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, showcases a rich, affluent black family in Verona, Italy, who are just as powerful and viable as any other family. That alone will attract viewers who are excited to see a different and much-needed portrayal of the black family in ancient times. Look for several seasons of Still Starcrossed.

24: Legacy (FOX)

As well as the original 24 did, what with it being steeped in post 9/11 paranoia, 24: Legacy will probably do just as well, since politics has gotten even worse since 9/11. However, the fact that politics have become more divisive and stereotype-laden makes me question whether it’s even responsible to bring any iteration of 24 back. As popular as 24 was with its audience, it also was plagued by stereotypes of Middle Eastern Muslims as terrorists. What makes 24: Legacy even more troubling is that there’s the distinct possibility that these same terrorist stereotypes will be juxtaposed against the new hero, Eric Carter (played by Corey Hawkins). If there is an uplifting of one marginalized group at the expense of another marginalized group, then the entire exercise of the show is a problem. Regardless, 24: Legacy would still garner a sizable audience, so it could remain for another season or two.

Pitch (FOX)

Pitch will be a game-changer when it premieres. The show, about a young woman who becomes the first woman signed to a Major League Baseball team, will advance the cause of women in sports by showing that women can play any sport they want to, with the same passion and ability as men. The show has also cast Kylie Bunbury as the lead, which is fantastic; if this show were made just a few years ago, a woman like Bunbury wouldn’t even be considered.

I’m intrigued to see what Pitch will do once it premieres. If it plays its cards right, it could last for a while. It could become the Empire of baseball shows, I think.

What do you think of these shows? Give me your opinions in the comments section below!

Rafael de la Fuente Joins ABC’s 2017 Miniseries “When We Rise”

You might recall that sometime in 2015, I interviewed Empire’s own Rafael de la Fuente for JUST ADD COLOR. Now, a year later, I’m excited to say that de la Fuente is going to be on a brand new project coming to ABC, When We Rise.

When We Rise, coming to the network in 2017, will be directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will HuntingMilk) and Dee Rees (Pariah, Bessie) and written by Dustin Lance Black (Milk, Pedro, J. Edgar). For those who hated the film Stonewall (and with good reason), When We Rise could be your saving grace, since it’s focusing on the American gay rights movement after the Stonewall Riots. De la Fuente will play Ricardo, who is described as “a character who ends up in a long-term relationship with Cleve [Guy Pearce]”. Mary Louise Parker is also a part of the project; other cast members will be announced in the coming months.

“I’m excited to take on the role of Ricardo in this very important mini-series,” said de la Fuente in a statement. “I’m excited to work opposite Guy Pearce, and work with Dustin, Gus and Dee. This team will bring the story of the gay rights movement to life, showing the courage, compassion, diversity, fear and most important, love, of this movement and era. The stories within this series will undoubtedly resonate today in all communities, not just the LGBT community.”
What do you think about When We Rise? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

4 Reasons Why black-ish’s Tackling of Police Brutality Was Amazing

black-ish killed the game Wednesday night! The show opened eyes, ears, hearts, and minds with its bottle episode “Hope,” in which the Johnsons sat and watched yet another case involving the death of an unarmed black man. There were several unexpected moments, including the introduction of the good-looking prosecutor and the continued acting career of Don Lemon.  But there were other reasons why the episode was a standout, and why it’ll go down in the history books as one of the most important episodes of the show’s short run.

1. black-ish tackled police brutality in an even-handed way

giphy (26)

What was important for black-ish to do was to give all viewpoints on the police brutality issue. Not all black people, and frankly, not all people in general, hold the same views about police brutality, and the characters on black-ish give each viewpoint merit. Dre, Ruby and Pops believe that all police are bad (despite Dre’s constantly nagging the police whenever he heard a noise outside his house) and that the system is rigged against them. Rainbow believed that there was some injustice, but the system still worked on the whole. Junior took to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book to educate himself on the world and, like a lot of young adults, feels compelled to go protest. Zoey seems like she’s constantly zoned out on her phone, but she actually is affected, probably more affected than anyone else; she, like a lot of young people, feel lost. Jack and Diane simply want to know what’s going on and why.

What’s fascinating to me is that there wasn’t any “right” or “wrong” way to feel. What happened was that everyone was expressing their viewpoints because of their personal worldviews and upbringings. Dre grew up in a neighborhood that was rampant with police for good and bad reasons, and that upbringing shaped his worldview of the police. Rainbow grew up in a commune, and her level of trust is reflective of that. Ruby and Pops come from an era that’s different even from Dre’s upbringing. The kids have grown up in a kinder world than the one Dre grew up in, and because of Dre and Rainbow’s economic and social status, they have been shielded from a lot. Their lack of experience played out with the kids feeling a sense of hopelessness and an urge to put their feet to the pavement and march. Everyone’s opinions were equally acknowledged and challenged, and everyone came out with the consensus to work together to deal with the situation at hand.

2. The episode didn’t hold back on the humor.

This wasn’t an ordinary “Special Episode” of a show, even though it was a very special episode. Black-ish did what it always does, which is discuss real world issues, but it also didn’t forget to bring the jokes. I laughed the hardest when Junior didn’t agree with Dre on some of his police brutality stats, and Dre mutters how he wants to see Junior in the back of a cop car for disagreeing with him. When you type it out, it sounds horrific, but when you hear Anthony Anderson say the words in the same manner we’ve said stuff when someone decides to eviscerate our points, it’s hilarious.

Also hilarious: The show touched on how everyone went through a Malcolm X phase during the late ’80s and early ’90s, including Dre. Every episode of A Different World looked like Dre’s “I’m blackety black” look. Compare:

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Let’s not forget Pops being a Bobcat, in his former life, not a Black Panther. “Still part of the radical cat family!”

3. Anthony Anderson gives the performance of his career, black-ish or otherwise.

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To be fair, black-ish has had some amazing moments, moments that go under the radar because it’s usually encased in Dre’s voiceover. But black-ish is always laying down the law when it comes to how the other half lived (and is still living). The discussion about swimming and the quick jab at colorism during the Season 1 finale are just two that stick out in my mind. Anderson’s moment in Wednesday’s black-ish episode, though, was one that I know will reverberate in people’s consciousness for a long time.

His statement about his pride and fear for Barack Obama as the first black U.S. President is something I’m sure a lot of people can identify with. I identified with it immediately, since my family and I were also afraid Obama would get assassinated when he got out of the car dubbed “the Beast.” Those minutes of him and Michelle walking down the street, waving happily to people, were some of the most tense moments of my life. Anderson’s tension came through in that scene, as well as his sadness and profound anger at how America consistently tries to keep black Americans back. (Just remember the beginning scene of the second act when Dre’s voice over and file footage showcase the deaths of civil rights heroes and those who wanted to make a difference, and then think back to Dre’s tear-filled eyes as he recounted what should have been one of the happiest days of his life.)

Kudos to you, Anderson; you’ve earned yourself another Image Award. Emmys: you better give Anderson a nom, if not an award next year.

4. blackish shows that the family that protests together, stays together

BLACK-ISH - "Hope" - When the kids ask some tough questions in the midst of a highly publicized court case involving alleged police brutality and an African-American teenager, Dre and Bow are conflicted on how best to field them. Dre, along with Pops and Ruby, feel the kids need to know what kind of world they're living in, while Bow would like to give them a more hopeful view about life. When the verdict is announced, the family handles the news in different ways while watching the community react, on "black-ish," WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24 (9:31-10:00 p.m. EST) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Patrick Wymore) MILES BROWN, JENIFER LEWIS, MARSAI MARTIN
BLACK-ISH – “Hope” – When the kids ask some tough questions in the midst of a highly publicized court case involving alleged police brutality and an African-American teenager, Dre and Bow are conflicted on how best to field them. Dre, along with Pops and Ruby, feel the kids need to know what kind of world they’re living in, while Bow would like to give them a more hopeful view about life. When the verdict is announced, the family handles the news in different ways while watching the community react, on “black-ish,” WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24 (9:31-10:00 p.m. EST) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Patrick Wymore)

What I loved a lot about the episode is that, in an effort to show their solidarity and to make their displeasure known, they decide to join the protest as a family unit. That message is so heartening to me, because it shows that no matter how powerless you feel (like how Zoey felt), you can still make a difference in your own way. By voicing your concerns, marching, protesting (by traditional or non-traditional means), you are changing society for the better. It also shows that if each person or each family decided to make a difference, no matter how small, imagine how much (and how quickly) society would change.

What did you think of this very important black-ish episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Diversity Alert: “Star Wars: Episode VIII”, Ava DuVernay, “Roots” and “Underground” TV Trailers+ More

There’s a couple of big ticket items to discuss! Topping the list is Star Wars: Episode VIII, Ava DuVernay’s projects, and some trailers from Roots and Underground.

Star Wars: Episode VIII

The biggest news of this week is the beginning of filming for Star Wars: Episode VIII! John Boyega, who just won a Rising Star BAFTA the night before filming, tweeted out this declaration Monday.


Other big news surrounding Episode VIII is the additional casting. Coming to the already diverse cast list are Benecio Del Toro, Laura Dern and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran, who has worked with Sarah Hyland in XOXO and has various TV credits, including TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything and NBC’s About a Boy.  

Star Wars released this official production announcement, which is also marks the start of the Star Wars hype machine once again. 

Ava DuVernay’s film and TV projects

Ava DuVernay is doing major things right now! First, she’s working with Oprah on the OWN adaptation of Queen Sugar. The first table read happened Sunday, and DuVernay chronicled it on Twitter:

Also, DuVernay is in contention to direct two films: the film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (a very creepy book, if you ask me), and Intelligent Life, a sci-fi thriller potentially starring Lupita Nyong’o. The latter film is what’s exciting me the most, since black women in sci-fi is still a revolutionary thing to see (Nyong’o also’s got her sci-fi scorecard filled up thanks to Star Wars, but even in that, she’s simply voicing a character, not appearing as herself on screen, something a lot of viewers took issue with). But all of this directorial news is encouraging, given the #OscarsSoWhite climate we’re in. DuVernay’s upcoming jobs are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to Hollywood fixing its diversity-behind-the-camera problems, but her opportunities do show that 1) Hollywood can act responsibly when it feels like it; it’s ineffectiveness is just mostly due to laziness and status-quo thinking over anything and 2) that the talent of people of color (in this case, women of color) can and will be recognized, despite the fractured systems that were created to keep them out and on the sidelines.

Roots and Underground

The trailers for History’s Roots remake and WGN’s upcoming slave series Underground have left me impressed, and I’m sure you’ll be just as impressed by them as well. Below are the trailers as well as the Underground first look. On a shallow note: Kunta Kinte’s turbans are my favorite things ever. Roots premieres Memorial Day; Underground premieres March 9.

(Read about my EW Community articles about the original Roots and the upcoming Underground here and here!)

The Danish Girl

If you loved The Danish Girl, it’s coming to DVD/Blu-ray March 1. If you want to rewatch it even earlier than that, the digital download will be available Feb. 16.

Here are the pertinent deets via Universal Pictures’ press release:

With love comes the courage to be yourself in The Danish Girl, coming to Digital HD onFebruary 16, 2016, and Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on March 1, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, the remarkable love story is “a cinematic landmark,” according to Variety’s Peter Debruge. The Danish Girl on Blu-rayand DVD comes with an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette about the making of the film. The Focus Features release is nominated for four Academy Awards® including Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander), Best Costume Design (Paco Delgado), and Best Production Design (Production Designer, Eve Stewart; Set Decorator, Michael Standish).

Academy Award® winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Academy Award® nominee Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) star for Academy Award®-winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech and Les Misérables). In the 1920s, a strong and loving marriage evolves as Gerda Wegener (Vikander) supports Lili Elbe (Redmayne) during her journey as a transgender woman. Through the other, each of them finds the courage to be who they are at heart. “Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander are sensational!” declares Access Hollywood’s Scott Mantz, while Debruge of Variety raves, “Redmayne gives the greatest performance of his career.”

Also starring Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), Sebastian Koch (Homeland), Amber Heard (Zombieland), and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd), The Danish Girl is a moving and sensitive portrait that Lou Lumenick of The New York Post calls “a remarkable and timely story.”


  • The Making of The Danish Girl – Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Tom Hooper, and others on the filmmaking team share some of the creative processes that enhanced the beauty of the movie.

Want to read more about diverse entertainment? Read the February issue of COLOR BLOCK Magazine!

Casting News:

Zhang Ziyi to Star in ‘East/West’ Comedy for Universal

American Gods Author Neil Gaiman on Why Casting The 100s Ricky Whittle as Shadow Is So Vital 

Idris Elba in Talks for the Lead in The Mountain Between Us

John Ridley’s ABC Pilot ‘Presence’ Casts Marcus Anderson

Archie Panjabi to Star in ABC Anthology Drama ‘The Jury’

Other News:

How a Bruce Lee Origin Tale Is Taking Flight With Chinese Money and Abundant Diplomacy

Sundance Fights Tide With Films Like ‘The Birth of a Nation’

The Magicians’ Arjun Gupta on Hollywood Diversity and Penny’s Portrayal in the 4th Episode

What do you think of these stories? Give your comments below!