Monday, December 28, 2015

Why John Boyega As Finn Is One Of The Best New Characters In Star Wars

For the Love of FN-2187: Why John Boyega as Finn is One of the Best New Characters in Star Wars
by Jamal Igle, The Nerds of Color
December 23, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a juggernaut. Critically acclaimed and the current holder of the title of “biggest film opening of all time.” It’s an engaging film that engrosses the viewer and harkens back to the early days of franchise. As it is with all things pop culture, particularly in the age of internet piety, the film also has its detractors. The complaints range across the spectrum but one of the most pointed complaints have been towards Finn, the character portrayed by British actor John Boyega. Two writers whom I’m good friends with — Hannibal Tabu and Joe Illidge — have both written pieces complaining about the character for similar reasons, calling him inept, and even neutered. (Linked at the bottom of this article)

I love you guys, you know I do, but I couldn’t disagree with you more. Now this is going to be a rather spoiler filled piece, so if you haven’t seen the movie, now’s your time to hit the eject button and go look at Buzzfeed.

Hannibal in particular said: “You literally were good for nothing. Failed janitor, sent to fight. Failed fighter, ran away … why exactly? What prompted your crisis of conscience? Script doesn’t care, so why should I?”

Finn — or as we’re introduced to him in the opening scene of the film by his identification number FN-2187 — was raised to be a Stormtrooper. During a village raid on the desert planet of Jakku, Finn has a crisis of conscience and refuses to fire on a group of captured prisoners. Deciding that he had to leave The First Order but needing a pilot, he decides to free captured resistance fighter Poe Dameron. There’s an instant rapport between the two as they make their escape and Poe gives him his new moniker while they’re escaping.

Finn is a character without an identity when we first meet him. One of the many faceless drones amongst The First Order, Finn is the first Stormtrooper we ever see remove his helmet in any of the films. We’re witnessing a birth in a way. All he wants to do is get away from the people who have oppressed him, as far as possible and never return. He’s never known a life outside of being a Stormtrooper, the mission on Jakku possibly being the first time he’s seen actual combat. What he saw shocked him so much, it shook his programming and for the first time, he saw things for what they truly were. That was the first step into a larger world, to coin an appropriate phrase.

Many of the complaints about Finn seem to stem from people who were disappointed that he seemed to be useless in their eyes. Much of it, I suspect is based on the speculation leading up to his role in the overall narrative. We’d seen so many images before the movie hit theaters of Finn wielding Anakin Skywalker’s original blue lightsaber, there was a natural assumption that he would turn out to be the spiritual successor to Luke Skywalker. However, we didn’t get that since that role was to go to Daisy Ridgley’s Rey. No, with Finn we got the successor to another popular Star Wars icon, Han Solo.

Like Han, Finn is our everyman. He is the entry point hero we follow through the story. Like Han, Finn is normal. He’s not royalty, nor a superpowered force wielder. In fact, until being handed a lightsaber by Maz Kanata, he’d never even seen one outside of Kylo Ren’s. He’s a guy, trying to escape his past, who keeps being drawn back to doing the right thing. He fights his fears to save Poe, then later Rey.

People forget that Han Solo spent the majority of both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back trying to leave the Rebellion. Han wasn’t a hero, he didn’t want to go on the Death Star to rescue Leia until the promise of a reward was placed in front of him. He was ready to leave before the Battle of Yavin but came back because he knew it was the right thing to do. In spite of that, he fell into the role of leader, not out of duty, but love. Love for Leia and Luke, yet even in the beginning of Empire, he was still planning on leaving since the bounty on his head was so high there was nowhere for him to hide. Han wasn’t a particularly great shot, or an expert pilot. He had the fastest ship, only by default. He wasn’t naturally brave, and was captured by the Empire, frozen in carbonite, and mounted on Jabba’s wall. The thing that made Han popular was his everyman quality. He was the one character in the original trilogy who was the skeptic. He didn’t believe in The Force, calling it simple tricks and nonsense. Like Finn, Han fought his instinct to run to do the right thing.

As we get to know Finn, we discover who he was. He was a nameless drone who worked in sanitation. Funny, charismatic in his way and much to his surprise, brave. What makes Finn work for me as a character is that in spite of the fact that he’s not the Super-Negro a lot of potential viewers were hoping for; instead, Finn ends up being the hero. When Rey is down, he steps forward, lightsaber in hand to take on Kylo Ren. The Resistance is only able to take down Starkiller Base because Finn knows his way around, providing them with the critical information to not only get past their shields but to destroy the reactor.

There’s a quote that I like: “Being brave doesn’t mean you are not scared. It means you are scared but you do what has to be done anyways.”

That is what makes Finn work for me. It helps that John Boyega is, like Harrison Ford before him, incredibly engaging and affable in the role. I look forward to seeing his character grow over the series, to embrace his role in the story no matter how it shakes out.

Not every black hero has to be Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57, kicking everyone’s ass with a quip and a smile. Sometimes it’s good to see an unsure man becoming something more than he was. Sometimes it’s good to see the hero stumble, fall, and then get up again.

Hannibal Tabu article
Joe Illidge article 

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Honorary Oscar Recipient Spike Lee Also a Frequent Critic of the Academy [VIDEO]

Spike Lee and wife Tonia Lewis-Lee  Credit: Alexandra Wyman/Invision/AP
The iconic filmmaker has had a rocky relationship with the Academy: it kick-started his career 32 years ago with a Student Academy Award but it's also snubbed many of his films and those of other black filmmakers, prompting him to declare that Oscars "don't matter."

By Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter
August 27, 2015 
Spike Lee, probably the most famous black filmmaker in the history of American cinema and long an outspoken critic of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will be presented with an honorary Oscar at the Academy's seventh Governors Awards on Nov. 14, the organization announced Thursday. At 58, Lee is the youngest male tapped for an honorary Oscar — which historically has been something of a lifetime achievement award — since one went to 46-year-old Planet of the Apes makeup artist John Chambers in 1969.
Now the question is: what will he say when accepting the honor? 
Lee's long and complicated relationship with the Academy dates back 32 years. In 1983, he won a Student Academy Award for Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, his NYU thesis film, which helped to put him on the map. Just a few years later, his films She's Gotta Have It (1986), which premiered at Cannes and won the best first feature Indie Spirit Award, and School Daze (1988) made him a major player on the indie scene. And then came Do the Right Thing.
The 1989 dramedy, which chronicles simmering racial tensions that eventually boil over on a block in Brooklyn, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May — and, despite a rapturous reception, ended up receiving not a single prize, to the shock of many and the vocal displeasure of Lee. When it opened in the U.S. in June, it sparked nationwide debate, discussion and further awards buzz. (The Los Angeles Film Critics chose the film as its best picture and Lee as its best director.)
But when Oscar nominations were announced a few months later, Lee again was left disappointed: the only acknowledgement of Do the Right Thing came in the categories of best supporting actor (Danny Aiello) and best original screenplay (for Lee). Adding insult to injury, the film that landed the most nominations — and ultimately won best picture — was Driving Miss Daisy, a film directed by a white man about a servile black man catering to a bigoted white woman.
In 2011, Lee, still stung by that experience, told Charlie Rose, "In 1989, Do the Right Thing was not even nominated [for best picture]. What film won best picture in 1989? Driving Miss motherf—ing Daisy! That’s why [Oscars] don’t matter. Because 20 years later, who’s watching Driving Miss Daisy?” He addedin 2015, "Are they going to choose a film where you have the relatively passive black servant, or are they going to choose a film with a menacing 'Radio Raheem'? A lot of times, people are going to vote for what they're comfortable with, and anything that's threatening to them they won't."
Lee's frustrations with the Academy undoubtedly were compounded by the recognition — or lack thereof — that his subsequent "Spike Lee Joints" have received from the organization. Mo' Better Blues (1990),Jungle Fever (1991), Malcolm X (1992) and 25th Hour (2002) all premiered at major international film festivals and were up for or received honors from other major awards groups, but only Malcolm Xreceived any acknowledgement from the Academy: a best actor nom for Denzel Washington, plus a best costume design nom, ultimately losing both.
Meanwhile, Lee himself has been a contender only one other time: 4 Little Girls (1997), his film about the young victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, was nominated for best documentary feature, losing to The Long Way Home, a film about the birth of Israel that was produced by RabbiMarvin Hier and Richard Trank. Lee attended the ceremony but said afterward, "I didn't have a chance. I knew that. Against a rabbi? Put the Jewish vote in the academy against the one or two black members and what do you think?"
In 2014, Lee, by now the artistic director of the graduate film program at NYU, and the Academy, under new management that had a stated goal of increasing the diversity of its membership, seemed to reach a detente. That spring, he returned to the Oscars hoping to see 12 Years a Slave become the first film directed by a black man to win best picture — and it did. ("I was very happy for Steve McQueen," he said later. "I wanted to be there because I knew it was going to be historic.") And that summer, the same Academy that had once turned a cold shoulder towards Do the Right Thing celebrated its 25th anniversary with bicoastal screenings and Q&As with key people associated with the film, including Lee.
But when, in January of this year, Selma, a critically-acclaimed biopic about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was denied Oscar noms for best director (Ava DuVernay could have become the first black woman ever nominated) and best actor (David Oyelowo was widely expected to make the cut but neither he nor any other black people actually did), it clearly reopened some old wounds for Lee. Hours after the announcement, he vented"If I saw Ava today I'd say, 'You know what? F--- 'em.'"
He continued, "Anyone who thinks this year was gonna be like last year is retarded. There were a lot of black folks up there with 12 Years a Slave, Steve,Lupita [Nyong'o], Pharrell [Williams]. It's in cycles of every 10 years. Once every 10 years or so I get calls from journalists about how people are finally accepting black films. Before last year, it was the year [2002] with Halle Berry, Denzel and Sidney Poitier. It's a 10-year cycle. So I don't start doing backflips when it happens."
"The Academy is trying to be more diverse," he added. "[Academy president] Cheryl [Boone Isaacs] is trying to open it up and have more diversity amongst the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But with Selma, it's not the first time it's happened, and every time it does I say, 'You can't go to awards like the Oscars... for validation. The validation is if your work still stands 25 years later.'"
Now the question is: what will Lee have to say on the one night in his life on which he is guaranteed to receive an Oscar?
WATCH Spike Lee's Oscar speech below along with his superstar introduction.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

TWEETS from 2012: Great Acting Advice From Director F. Gary Gray

Blog Post #21
I'm assuming that because of the breakout hit his latest film Straight Outta Compton has become this post on another blog of mine has been getting hits so I'm reposting it here.
"After its record-breaking debut last weekend, Straight Outta Compton once again topped the box office, bringing in an estimated $26.8 million and handily beating this weekend’s three other new releases. 
The N.W.A. biopic opened to an enormous $60.2 million last weekend, and 10 days after its release, Compton has already grossed more than $111 million domestically." Entertainment Weekly,  August 23 2015
As a filmmaker myself I thought his advice was on point! Check out his great tweets below.

On June 22, 2012 Director F. Gary Gray (pictured above) took to Twitter and gave some great acting advice. A lot of stuff I agree with. In case you don't know he directed the films Set It Off, The Italian Job (2003), The Negotiator and Friday.

You can see what he said below.

F. Gary Gray @ IMDb

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Everything you need to know about Marvel’s Black Panther

BLAIR MARNELL, SuperheroHype
AUG 07, 2015

Marvel Studios’ next film, Captain America: Civil War, is getting a lot of press for the pending conflict between Captain America and Iron Man, the introduction of Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more than enough superheroes to fill out an Avengers movie. That film will also serve as the live-action debut of Chadwick Boseman (pictured above right) as Black Panther, one of the very first black superheroes in comics!

The official announcement of Black Panther
Left to Right Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman and Chris Evans

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created Black Panther in 1966 during their epic run on Fantastic Four. Black Panther a.k.a. T’Challa was like no other superhero before him. He was the king of a technologically-advanced African nation known as Wakanda. And Black Panther was nobody’s sidekick. One of the reasons that Marvel Studios retains the rights to Black Panther is that he became a solo hero outside of the Fantastic Four franchise, and he was also a member of the Avengers in the early years of that comic.

Writer Don McGregor was the first to chronicle Black Panther’s solo adventures, and his innovative run was followed by Jack Kirby, Peter B. Gillis, Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin [Yes the director of House Party and Boomerang starring Eddie Murphy-Dankwa Brooks], Jonathan Maberry, and David Liss along with many different comic artists. Marvel has also signaled that a new Black Panther ongoing comic book series will be released next fall following the conclusion of the Secret Wars crossover event.

While Black Panther hasn’t made many appearances outside of Marvel’s comic book universe, Marvel Studios clearly thinks that Black Panther could be one of its next film franchises. In 2018, Boseman will star in the Black Panther movie, and it’s a pretty safe bet that he will also show up in the two-part Avengers: Infinity War. Along the way, you can expect to see a whole lot of Black Panther merchandise and collectibles as Marvel paves the way for its next superstar.

SuperHeroHype’s Origins and Evolutions is taking a look back at Black Panther’s long history in comics and a glimpse at his upcoming cinematic adventures via a great slide show. CLICK the graphic below to go their page. (The slide show is at the bottom of the article)

You can see ALL the articles about Black Panther at SuperheroHype HERE

The Black Panther solo film is set to bow on  February 16, 2018

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GREAT PROFILE of Cyborg (comics) via @THR by GRAEME MCMILLAN, The Hollywood ReporterJULY 22, 2015 5:16pm PT A quick...
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Monday, June 29, 2015

2011 Interview with John Boyega

Capone comes correct with ATTACK THE BLOCK's John Boyega (aka Moses)!!!

by Capone, Aint It Cool News

Published at: July 27, 2011, 11:04 a.m. CST 

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

Like most of the kids in writer-director Joe Cornish's ATTACK THE BLOCK, the leader known as Moses can approximate the behaviors of an adult thug, but there are all-too-frequent reminders that he is nothing more than a 15-year-old kid, living under terrible circumstances in a system designed to either ignore him as a developing human being or pay him special attention as a potential criminal because he's poor and black.

The actor who plays Moses is the now-19-year-old John Boyega, and he has an intensity to him that I think will serve him well as a growing actor. If you've seen the film, you'll not likely forget his portrayal of Moses; if you haven't, you don't know what you're missing. But the film opens this Friday, so you have a chance to find out.

The night before our interview, I moderated a Q&A with Boyega and Cornish, and a woman in the audience compared Boyega to a young Denzel Washington, both in terms of his looks and abilities. Boyega confessed it wasn't the first time the comparison had been made and rightfully so. I found John to be extremely forthcoming and clear about his love of acting and intent on sticking with it. That's good news for all of us. I can also tell you that this interview took place just days before Cornish, Boyega, and ATTACK THE BLOCK executive producer Edgar Wright took the Hall H stage at Comic-Con, and John was extremely excited about hitting San Diego. Please enjoy John Boyega…

Capone: Good to see you again. Forgive me if we cover some of the same ground we covered last night.

John Boyega: Yeah, no problem.

Capone: But yeah, there are some bare essential things I want to make sure we get on the record, because I don’t like to bring the recorder to the Q&A. I want you guys to feel like you can say whatever you want.

JB: Cool, cool.

Capone: First of all, can I ask how old you are?

JB: I’m 19.

Capone: Okay, so when you made the film you were fairly close in age to Moses.

JB: Yeah, I was 17 and I turned 18 on set.

Capone: So what got you interested in acting? How long have you been doing it?

JB: It’s been a God-given thing since birth, something that has always been in me. So, when I went to primary school, I just started acting and I just thought I really enjoyed it. So from there, one thing led to another, and I find myself here talking to you in America. [Laughs] That’s a shorter version of what happened, but you get the gist.

Capone: So what sort of act were you doing before you were spotted in that play by the casting director?

JB: I was in youth drama groups. I trained at Identity Drama School, which is a drama school back home and primarily they have an agency that's part of IAG [Identity Agency Group]. So, I was training there twice a week and I was just doing like local youth events and performing for people at charities and performing little plays in church on Sunday and all of those kinds of things.

Capone: Was the play that you were spotted in something a little more professional, or was that more along the lines of what you were doing?

JB: That was my first job at the Tricycle Theatre. That was my first job as an actor, and I got it through my agent. I did two auditions for the part, but I was only on stage for 10 minutes. So Joe came in with Nina Gold, the producer, and watched me in that and wanted me to audition for this sci-fi film.

Capone: Did they give you a script or just give you some pages? How did that go?

JB: Do you know what? The first time I heard about it was on one of those free casting websites, you know like Star Now?

Capone: I don’t know about that one, but I know what you are talking about.

JB: If you go online as an actor, you search for open auditions, and they explained that it’s an alien invasion set in South London. I thought it was going to be incredibly crap, but, “You know what? For the education, let me go up for it.” I didn’t get a professional audition, but then my agent called me and said, “Hey, we got an audition for ATTACK THE BLOCK.” I was like “Oh? Okay. I had thought about that, yeah let’s do it.” But then after my first audition, I got the script and I absolutely fell in love with it. I think it was absolutely amazing. I read it like three times in a row that night just to see what kind of stuff the character I could possibly play, what kind of stuff he did. That was really fun for me.

Capone: When you read the script did you know you were trying out for Moses or did you think you were coming in for one of the kids.

JB: At first it was Youth #1, Youth #2, and then it changed from Youth #1 to “Moses,” and then at the end me and Franz Drameh, who plays Dennis, we were both going up for Moses. So, we knew that we were going up for Moses or whatever, but we slowly kind of dispersed into our own individual characters based on our auditions.

Capone: So what were some of the things that you added to Moses for your audition?

JB: I created Moses from scratch. I created him from scratch. I thought him up and I brought him to life. I didn’t get much in terms of the material of the in-depth feeling The dialogue was straightforward that he was strong, he was silent, but that’s not enough. There’s a whole story going on there, so it was something I had to create and I had to do it from scratch. It was a long, long process during the audition process then straight to rehearsal process and still finding new things while we were filming, you know? I did quite a lot on that one.

Capone: You mentioned last night and I still find it incredibly great that you chose to do this, that you pulled elements from some of the characters from "The Wire." At what point did that happen in the process, and what things did you pull specifically?

JB: When I had the first audition and I had the callback, I got notes on my first audition, and the notes were that I played it a bit too over the top. And the reason why I did it, I did it so angry and in your face kind of raw acting. I didn’t like that, because we’ve never had an urban film--and you can quote me on this--we've never had an urban film which has ideally stripped the characters of their shielded arrogant mentality. We have never had “humans,” do you know what I mean? Which doesn’t always work in every single movie. Sometimes you need that kind of guard up. Sometimes it helps a narrative, but we’ve never had a hard, urban black and white youth in south London and then stripping them of their guard. We have never had that.

So for me ideally it was about creating a character that I could relate to, creating a character that the audience, once they watched him were like, “Wow, we know someone like that,” especially people who live in south London. So at the Tricycle, because I was only on stage for like 10 minutes or so, I would go backstage and just watch "The Wire." When I got my callback, I was like “Those characters in a way kind of remind me of what they try to do with this Moses character.” So when I watched season four…I watched from season one to season four really psyched up, and I was like “Okay, well I’m going to stay on season four for a bit. I want to look at Omar. I want to look at Marlo." Marlo especially, his performance was incredible, he just tells the stories through his eyes. He doesn’t have much lines. That to me was what Moses needed, so I got to watch that and kind of educate myself about that one.

Capone: Some of my favorite scenes in the movie are where we see the kids in the beginning and they're masked; they could be 10 years older and we wouldn’t know. But when we start to see them act like kids, especially when they are on the phone with their families, that is something I have never seen before and that really reminds you “These are just kids.” For American audiences can you just sort of talk about that living situation? What did you learn from making this movie about living in that situation that maybe Americans might not quite get a grasp on?

JB: You know what? I think it’s very much the same [as America]. I think it’s a human story. It's easy to forget that when you see little young boys in the area you don’t know as an American, I think we could all relate to it, and the fact that sometimes as humans we are faced with circumstances that we don’t quite like, and we react based on those circumstances which is what these characters are doing. All they have ever been given is broken families, free time to do nothing, no money, and no motivation. So they kind of live with that circumstance and that’s what that kind of circumstances produces; it produces rogue criminals. You have free time on your hands to do anything, you have no motivation whatsoever, a broken family, those things are a couple of the elements that lead towards that kind vague personality that doesn’t really quite get life and wants to be away from other people.

That’s all it is and I believe that as human beings if we are face with certain circumstances it’s easy to say, “They're bad kids.” But you face it yourself, you have no family, you have free time, you have no education, you’re going to do some bad stuff. It’s just a part of understanding. That’s what I learned, because I’ve watched the news before and I’ve heard things about people doing certain bad things and I’m just like, “Man, why the hell did they do that? They are bad people…” Even though what they did do is bad, I don’t know the story, all I’m hearing is from news reporters. I don’t know the real story, so it’s not to me to judge, its not to me to put out a statement like “They are this” or “They are that.”

Capone: It’s rare that Moses utters more than one sentence at a time, but he does have this monologue toward the end that really speaks volumes about his though process. Was that a tough one to get a grasp on for you, just to get the tone right on that speech?

JB: The first thing to do about that speech was to understand it, and I think morally I don’t agree with how Moses thinks. I don’t agree with that or what he does in the film. Some of the things he does are totally wrong, but as an actor when you are approaching a role, and the character might do something that you don’t agree with, you are there to portray him, so you have to understand the reasons why he is doing it. It made me understand him with “Why is he saying this?”

And ideally, why he's saying it is because of the lack of trust between young people of his caliber, his energy, to the police and people like his parents and not having that kind of adult representation in his life with someone to keep him in check. That’s where that speech came from, that speech of someone not being educated as to how it really works, but just trusting in some sort of dream, some little fairy tale thinking that “the government has done this,” and that’s all he can hold on to. That’s it, that’s confirmed and that means filling that in your head and then your mouth just runs with it. Do you know what I mean?

Capone: Yeah, and you said you had to do a lot of takes on that speech too.

JB: Yeah we needed a lot of takes on that one, because we had to get everyone silent. It was a big speech to perform, but it was really still; I didn’t do much with it in terms of facial expressions or whatever, I just thought, “I’ve got my head down, just say it.” Moses is not someone to go all Shakespeare on your ass, you know? He would just say it and release it, and I think that would affect the audience more. This guy is just saying it softly.

Capone: It’s interesting, because it reveals that in his mind he is not just fighting aliens, he is fighting the government, he’s fighting the police, like he is fighting everything that has ever fought against him up to that point.

JB: I think in a way Moses also wants redemption anyway. I think if he had the choice he wouldn’t have done what he had done, and so this thing about the whole “no feds” and how he doesn’t want any police involved. Not only is it a code in terms of snitching to the police and stuff, but I think personally for Moses it’s a form of him trying to say, “I can be good. I’m not totally lost in this,” because he does have a sense of self. He doesn’t know what he is doing at a particular time. He’s a decision character, when he makes a decision he knows he’s making that decision and he knows the reason as to why and what he has to do. So I think in his mind he’s kind of like “I know, but no feds. Let me try to handle this the way we handle it.” But all of that “This is the block” kind of thing is just a cover up to a little boy trying to prove himself.

Capone: And they are the first line of defense against anything in this neighborhood, so in a lot of ways this is their role as well.

JB: Yeah, it’s their responsibility.

Capone: And he takes that on, like in some way that’s an adult decision on his part. Obviously, the film is very funny a lot of times and Moses can deliver a line and just depending on the context it can be very funny too. Was it cool jumping back and forth between the humor and the terror?

JB: Yeah it was really good fun. I think what Joe said about the humor and terror is that the terror was so in your face and so there that the comedy of that was kind of a form of release. So it was good that that worked and we caught that when we were on set filming and it was amazing to jump from aliens and, “Those are the aliens, lets go out and go get them” a kind of serious social commentary…

Capone: Did you ever discuss with Joe the idea of even if the aliens had not been a part of this, this still would have been a really interesting story just about these kids and discovering what’s behind the guys that mugged this woman at the beginning? There’s enough meat on the bones of their characters that you could have just made a movie abut them.

JB: I hadn’t actually thought about that, but that’s interesting.

Capone: The aliens could have just been replaced by the police or by another gang or something like that.

JB: That’s the thing: we didn’t want to make a violent kind of cliché, in-your-face, humans-against-humans film. To let the audience go on a journey with the characters after that mugging, you had to put something up against them that you wouldn’t totally agree with. Some people say, “I’m on the side of the aliens.”

Capone: Really? People say that?

JB: Yeah, even my aunt was like, “You robbed a woman at the beginning of the film? I’m the side of the aliens.” But you put something then against something like that and then you end up getting a lot of good out of these kids, and the aliens kind of strip the kids of all of their “I’m hard. I'm down.” It strips them of that and just makes them human beings that care for each other.

Capone: And they get scared too.

JB: Yeah, they get scared. Moses cries. It’s a big journey.

Capone: The moment in the film where the group of kids is once again in the same place with this woman that they have mugged earlier in the film, that’s a really tough scene to watch, because we are all identifying with what it would be like in her situation and “Why would she want to help these guys?” Tell me about the dynamic of that scene, because its sort of played for laughs, because the kids don’t quite get why she’s acting that way, but tell me about that reactive moment where you are on the side of needing help and you're relying on your victim to help you out.

JB: I think they had never seen aliens before, it’s easy to forget the sci-fi element when it comes to this film, but we have to remember there are aliens in it, and they have just seen an alien crash through a door and gash into their friend’s leg. And they see this woman by the door and they're like “You know what? Let’s go into that flat and just put him down,” and obviously they find out that Sam’s a nurse. I think Moses is feeling a lot of guilt and that’s being shown through him trying to be cool and trying to be rude, “This is the block, we handle things our own way…” He is trying to be cool. He’s trying to be rude, but ideally what he is saying is “I shouldn’t have robbed you, how awkward it is looking at you, I’m kind of whack…”

Capone: Somebody says something like “We didn’t know you lived here,” like that makes a difference. It does make a difference to them.

JB: Moses actually said, “We didn’t know you lived in the block,” and then she says “What? So if I didn’t live in the block it would have been okay?” While we were filming that scene, when she said that line, I was like “Shit, that’s true, isn’t it?” “Yeah, sorry about that.” If Moses was really talky, he would have said something like “Sorry about that, but no that’s not what I meant…”

[Both Laugh]

Capone: So do you have any concept of what its going to be like for you next week at Comic-Con? Have you really thought about it?

JB: I haven’t thought about it, but I’ve heard a lot of people saying that…I was like to Joe and to my manager, “Oh yeah I want to buy some stuff, get some action figures, get some comic books or whatever,” and they’re just like, “You’re not going to be able to get from one place to the other, John.” I’m thinking “Why?” “There are loads of people there, so it’s really crowded and there’s a lot of people in costumes.” I’m just going to do a Simon Pegg and put a mask on.

Capone: That’s what a lot of people do.

JB: I’m not famous, though. I’m a normal kid. I’m sure I could walk through there.

Capone: You probably will get recognized though by some people, but you wouldn’t get mobbed like those guys would.

JB: No, I wouldn’t get mobbed, I think I’m cool.

Capone: If you do that walk through before your panel, then you will be all right, after the panel I can’t make any promises. I’m talking more about just the crowds in Hall H. Edgar can fill a house, and he’s going to be therem and that’s 6,500 people, which I’m guessing is probably the biggest audience you have been in front of so far. Is that a little scary or is it kind of exciting?

JB: It probably will be a bit scary, I don’t want to trip up on any words, but I’m sure it will be fine, because I’ll have Edgar and Joe there, so any questions that I don’t answer I’ll just look to them, “You two handle it.”

Capone: What was Edgar’s role in this? What guidance did he provide the production?

JB: Well Edgar Wright was executive producer on the film, and him and Joe go way back, they are really close friends, and Edgar kind of advised Joe about how it works when you're making his first film. It was from the same makers of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, so what better way to have Edgar Wright kind of guide the movie in terms of where Joe wanted to take it and advising Joe how to do that to the best of his ability. At the same time with Joe not copying Edgar’s flow or copying Edgar’s material, but kind of collaborating and Edgar working for Joe to see where he wanted to take it and to work for him in the best way possible to see that this film is shown in a different light than SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, but still bring in that kind of big-talk energy, still bring in that comedy-horror British film.

Capone: And borrowing in small amounts from other films that they grew up liking.

JB: Yeah, Edgar Wright and Joe are really professionals; they write together when it comes to films, they know it all, so what better collaboration?

Capone: What films did Joe give you to watch to get the idea of the tone that this movie was going to take?

JB: He gave us ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. He gave us THE GOONIES. He gave us THE WARRIORS. We watched the first PREDATOR at a special screening. He actually did a cut of different films to show where he wanted to go.

Capone: Of like individual scenes?

JB: We went to that private cinema in central London and we watched an ATTACK THE BLOCK trailer, but it wasn’t ATTACK THE BLOCK, it was like clips of these other films like OVER THE EDGE and PREDATOR and KIDULTHOOD, which is a British film back in London. He fused them all together to try to show the urban side and then the alien side and he made a little trailer before we watched the first PREDATOR. That to me I was thinking, “Wow, this is going to be amazing! This is not your cliché hoodie gangster film, this is for the nerds, man.” It’s such an interesting concept and that to me, him giving us the film packs and that screening, was amazing.

Capone: Tell me about just working with these creatures, because you indicated yesterday that they were in the room most of the time. I'm guessing the script probably didn’t give you a real good idea of what they were going to look like.

JB: We saw concept art. We saw different artwork and some test shoots with the alien suits in terms of their color and moving in between those bars trying to get them to camouflage. We saw that, and then copy and pasting multiple aliens moving by a lift, which is what they filmed earlier, so seeing them for the time was really weird. I remember Terry Notary was there with his two other guys. You know the water bottles with the cap on, but the straw through the cap? They were just sipping on their water with their claws and then they turn around “Hey, how are you doing? I’m Terry.” I was just like “Wow, hey how are you doing?”

[Both Laugh]

JB: Yeah our first encounter was pretty weird, but once he got on all fours and got into character it was pretty scary. Once the camera started rolling, Terry would be fast; he would be on your heels and he didn’t care. He was just like, “I’m going to bite your ass off, John. You are going to get it.”

Capone: Now those glowing teeth, was that real? Was that practical or something that was added?

JB: The teeth were super lit up on set, but I know there were a lot of things I probably still don’t know about that went into these aliens. I think its amazing sometimes when I’m watching it and I’m like “Wait a minute, I’m in this film, how come I don’t know how they did that?”

Capone: I love that they have like multiple rows of teeth, that its not just one row, there are like three or four in their mouth.

JB: Yeah, which makes it all the more scarier.

Capone: I think I read somewhere that you had shot another film since this one.

JB: Yeah, a film called JUNKHEARTS, back in London alongside Eddie Marsan.

Capone: Oh really? I love that guy.

JB: He’s an amazing guy. I shot like two weeks after ATTACK THE BLOCK. I only had like two weeks then I shot it. I’ve got a small part in that and LAW AND ORDER: UK which is a new "Law & Order: UK".

Capone: They do play those here now. I think they are behind a little. But you're in the most recent season?

JB: Yeah, the season coming out next year, that’s my episode, and I have a big part in that, but I’m based in LA now and I’m looking at a couple of…

Capone: So you have already made that move then to come over here?

JB: I’m just settling in now, but I still fly between the two, but there is where I’m at.

Capone: So have you already started working on your American accent then for the roles here?

JB: [With an American accent] Yeah, I’ve been working on it for a year now, so it’s been a while.

[Both Laugh]

Capone: Alright, thank you so much. It was really great to meet you, maybe I’ll see you next week in San Diego.

JB: Enjoy Comic-Con tomorrow. You're lucky. I wish I was at Comic Con and it was empty.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Taraji P. Henson Gets Candid: ABFF 2015

ABFF 2015: Taraji P. Henson Gets Candid on Fear, Having a Baby in College, Hollywood Struggles, Career Goals, Oscar, 'Empire' + More

By Aramide A Tinubu | Shadow and Act
June 15, 2015 

Taraji P. Henson has been well known and loved in the Black community since her portrayal of Yvette, in John Singleton’s "Baby Boy" (2001). However, it was the unprecedented success of Fox’s hip-drama "Empire" that made her a household name around the world. This past weekend, at the 19th Annual American Black Film Festival. ABFF’s 2015 Ambassador Taraji P. Henson sat down with Gayle King to talk about her long running career, dating, raising her son and what she wants most of all.  Here are some of the highlights, and Shadow and Act attended.
Here are some highlights from the conversation:

On going From Electrical Engineering to Acting
- What had happened was I auditioned for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the tenth grade, and I didn’t get accepted.  My best friend did, isn’t that horrible? I took it to heart. I thought that meant I could not act, so I stopped acting. When it was time to go to college I knew I had to go to school, so I just said electrical engineering because it sounded like I could make a lot of money.  But, I was terrible at math. Acting was still in me, but I was just afraid.

On Fear
- When I was at A&T I had to pass the fine arts building to get to my English Class. One day, I walked passed and they had an audition for a play and I was like 'I’m gonna do it.' And I got my monologue, and I remember standing on that stage and the only thing I kept hearing in my head was ‘No’. I was nervous and my hands were shaking, it was horrible. And they said, we’ll put up on the bulletin board the next day who gets the call back. I was so riddled with fear that I never went back to see if I got the call back.

On Growing Up
- I grew up in the hood and I wasn’t the coolest. I was an artist. I was a little quirky and to the left. I dressed a little crazy. But you know, I would set trends I would do kooky things like wear clips in the front of my hair and next thing you know, Peaches and them got clips in the front of their hair.

On Having A Baby In College
- Having a baby is not a disease; that’s a blessing. I get off on people saying, ‘You can’t’. I’m like OK, now I have to prove it.  So I showed all the naysayers, when I walked across that stage and collected my diploma with my son on my hip.  So many girls got pregnant in college and dropped out, I didn’t want to be that statistic. I wanted to show girls that just because you got pregnant in college, does not mean you have to stop. If anything, having my son motivated me to go to California and pursue my dreams, because if I didn’t, what am I teaching him?

On Coming to Hollywood
- I came to Hollywood in 1996, and people said, 'you’re too old and you got a baby.' And to that I said, 'Watch me work.' I moved to California with my son, seven hundred dollars and Jesus.

On Dating
- I wanted my son to respect women, and the only way I could get him to do that is if he respected me. He wasn’t going to do that if I was dating this one and dating that one.  And people ask me all the time, ‘Why are you single?’ and I'm like, ‘Y’all know what’s going on out here. Stop looking at me like it’s my fault.’ So, there are several reasons why I couldn’t date like that; for one, I’m a celebrity. If you get caught holding hands with your friend, then that’s who you’re dating, or you're pregnant. You know, my son didn’t choose this; I did. So, I was very particular about protecting him and making life as normal as possible.  I’m not going to have a man just to say that I have a man.  You want someone who is going to challenge you to be your better self. You don’t want someone who is just going to sit back and let you run the show.  

On Raising Her Son
- I had to be good cop, bad cop, mom, and dad. I had to do it all.

On Her Son’s Thoughts On Her Career Success
- He’s just proud. That’s my best friend, so I’ve talked to him throughout the years about what I wanted to do in my career. I would always say, I don’t just want to be a "Black actress.” God gave me this talent; I want to touch as many people in the world that I can.

On Career Struggles
- After 'Baby Boy,' I was intuitive enough to know that Tyrese’s career would take off before mine.  People were like, 'you know John Singleton makes superstars.' And something deep down inside me was like, 'that’s not going to happen.' I felt it.  And the first thing Tyrese booked I think was 'Fast & Furious,' and I was just like, you see?  It’s a man made world. I’m the trained actress and look.  It just made me stay grounded, and not get ahead of myself while recognizing it for what it was. I knew it was going to take some time, but that was ok.  I just did not want to be bitter. I knew so many actors who let this industry dictate who they are and they become bitter. I wasn’t going to do that.  I said, ‘I’m going keep my grace and I’m going to keep my wits about me, and one day, they will come around.’ So I prayed to God and asked for longevity.  I saw that I was going to have to make a lane for myself. You have to remember, when Halle Berry hit the scene, there was no lane for her either.  So I asked for longevity, but I also asked to do the kind of work that people would talk about long after I was gone. I was very clear.

On the Oscar Nomination Affecting Her Career
- It didn’t actually. The first call I got the day after, was from Tyler Perry to offer me the number one position. It was the lead in 'I Can Do Bad All By Myself' (2009). It was the first call with a real quote. It was the first time in my career that I’d seen real money. Interestingly enough, people railed me for doing that movie after the nomination. And I was like well, Scorsese didn’t call, I have to work with people who call. I was very offended about that. That man gave me a quote, no one else in Hollywood did.  And then right after that, 'Karate Kid' (2010) came, and they offered me a quote. Jada [Pinkett-Smith] was going to do it, but she was doing her show ['Hawthorne'] so she asked them to call me.  And they paid me my quote, so I’m a millionaire. Those two films - 'I Can Do Bad All By Myself' and 'Karate Kid' - made me a millionaire. After Karate Kid, there was nothing again. But, what kept me sane was I never compared myself to others. Well, it creeps up, but then you stop yourself.  I was like, 'I know I have a voice. I know that my time is going to come.  I just have to be patient and stay focused on the work that I am doing.'

On Money
- I’m not greedy because I feel like if I keep doing the work. God’s got me. So I’m clear on that. I think people who are filthy rich aren’t the happiest people. Biggie said it best, ‘mo money, mo problems’. Money is not my driving force; awards don’t get me to do jobs. If I’m not passionate then I won’t do it.

The One Thing Taraji Wants For Her Career
- A franchise movie! I want a franchise movie that is huge overseas. They are going to really take me seriously when I can open a movie overseas. It’s really going to boil down to that. Movies can do well domestically and they’re like ‘Ok, whatever.’ People always try to say that ‘Black Movies don’t do well overseas;’ but whose tried to do it? You can’t go see a movie that isn’t there to see.  You’re telling me that a Black movie won’t sell overseas but, are you over there trying to sell it?  I know that I have fans overseas because of social media.

On Empire
- As humans, the first thing that we do is judge, and when I picked the script up, I just wasn’t interested. I was done with TV; I felt trapped in a little box. I was doing a play in Pasadena. LA is not a theater driven town, but I didn’t care if no one came to see the show, I did it for me. That show sold out every night. I was the lead and I challenged myself. I’ve never played a lead in a play, and my name was never above the marquee; so I did that.  So I was immersed in that play when my manager called with the script for 'Empire.'  And it scared me; it scared the life out of me.  But when the fear arises, that means there is a challenge. That means I have to do it because I’m not going to let fear win. And I thought, if Fox handles this right, if this is the proper cast then this will change the game because of the way we deal about the subject matter. Nobody talks about depression; everyone knows about the homophobia in the Black community. We don’t need to talk about that. But let’s talk about depression. Raising a black son, I know for a fact that most African American men struggle with some form of depression, and we don’t talk about it. I’m telling you its real.

On Cookie Lyon
- Cookie is a lot. She can be a stereotype. But I saw who she was, and I was like, 'this woman is a powerhouse. I’ve never seen anything like her on TV.' I said, 'this could go one or two ways; they could either really love her, or they can hate her.' I mean, she beats her son with a broom; she calls her son a faggot. Cookie tells you the truth at all times. I get a lot of Cookie from my dad actually. My dad - may he rest in peace - He was just a lot.  He would make up names for people. He was just crazy and different and eccentric. But you know Cookie is my hero. She says and does the things that I wish I had the guts to say and do. She’s uncompromising.

Advice For Young People Who Want to Break Into the Industry

My advice to you is to stop thinking [about being] in front of the camera. My advice to you is to start thinking about heading studios. You need to start thinking as decision makers, the people who make opportunities. 

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

John Singleton Speaks in Baltimore

Ebony, May 27, 2015

Acclaimed director John Singleton might have spent the Memorial Day holiday anywhere in the world: on set of his upcoming FX television project Snowfall, or perhaps just chilling on a yacht. But the Oscar nominee opted to spend part of his weekend in Baltimore, engaging with young people in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death.

Singleton was the special guest at a workshop aimed at giving high school and college students advice on breaking into Hollywood. The event was co-hosted by Q. Jacobs, a Baltimore-born actress, producer and director now based in Los Angeles.

The forum—which drew dozens of youngsters on a Saturday morning—was held in the auditorium of Frederick Douglass High School, a historic, predominately Black school that received national attention after some of its students took part in a youth uprising that occurred just hours after Freddie Gray’s funeral.

The 25-year-old died on April 19 after being arrested a week earlier and sustaining spinal injuries. Six officers have been indicted on various charges in connection with his death, which has been ruled a homicide. Prior to the officers being charged, there were weeks of peaceful protests in the city; however, the situation later exploded when teens and police clashed at a local mall across the street from Douglass High.

John Singleton, whose films such as Boyz n the HoodPoetic Justice and Baby Boy explore the implications of inner-city violence, said he came to town to help be part of solutions as Baltimore seeks to rebuild. “I’m trying to encourage change, which comes from within,” he remarked.

Students in attendance hailed from Douglass High and several other Baltimore high schools, as well as Morgan State and Howard Universities. They received straight talk and industry tips on everything from creating proper headshots to joining the Screen Actors Guild.

Singleton, the first African-American and youngest person ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, also spoke about the importance of Black filmmakers and creative professionals making art that addresses the community.

“I try to make movies for us,” said Singleton, who’s helped ignite the acting careers of Taraji P. Henson, Tyrese Gibson, Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr. “If other people get it, great. But it’s about what’s special to us.”

Besides movies that range from the drama Rosewood to action flicks like Shaft and 2 Fast 2 Furious, Singleton has been busy with new projects of late. He recently directed episodes of the Fox hit show Empire and is currently directing a new FX drama called Snowfall, that will address the crack cocaine epidemic.

Singleton will also serve as executive producer for Q. Jacobs’s original play, The Come-Up Girl, which focuses on the lives of women who attach themselves to men for financial gain. The play will open in Baltimore and tour various cities before wrapping up in Los Angeles. Jacobs hopes to do casting calls in June, and discover actors and crewmembers in her hometown.

“Baltimore has been associated with negativity,” says Jacobs. “But we have so much talent. We’re hustlers, grinders. We can compete and be the best.”

Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, citing their dedication to the empowerment of city youth, gave Singleton and Jacobs certificates of recognition. After their talk, they took numerous questions from the audience and posed for photos with students backstage.

Diondre “Grim” Jackson, a recent graduate of Douglass High, performed a dramatic recitation for Singleton, garnering enthusiastic applause. The young Baltimorean says the workshop was educational and inspired him to reach for his dreams. “I’m hoping that maybe I can go Hollywood and make it big,” he says.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Where Are They Now ?!: The Cast Of Making The Band 2

I was a huge fan of this series and loved to see the hijinks. The group Da Band only released one album and was disbanded shortly thereafter.

Below is a brief rundown of the series from Wikipedia and after that is an August 2014 update of where they are now including pics and links to all of their social media accounts.

The second iteration of Making the Band started on October 19, 2002, and aired for three seasons on MTV, finishing on April 29, 2004. It centered around the musical group Da Band formed by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs.

Season 1
In 2002, a new talent search had begun, this time by P. Diddy. Diddy sought to find the best rappers and singers from which to assemble a new hip-hop group. After weeks of selection and training P. Diddy chose the members of the band (Sara Stokes, Dylan Dilinjah, Frederick (Freddy P) Watson, Rodney (Chopper) Hill, Lloyd (Ness) Mathis & Lynese (Babs) Wiley) on the first season of Making The Band 2. Orlando (OG) Goodman, Walter (Hammin) Anderson, Kimberley (Mysterious) Bert, Belinda (Pocahantas) Carter, Damone Coleman, Jamie Huy, Yazmin Mendez, Jonessa Monique, Mina Monroe, Allah Ricks & Jamirah Turner did not make the cut.

Season 2
For several weeks, the contestants were subject to difficult tasks, including walking from Midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn to purchase cheesecake for Diddy and aspiring rapper Ness' battle with Harlem MC Jae Millz. The finalists named themselves Da Band.

Their debut album, Too Hot for TV, was released in September 2003. Their first single was "Bad Boy This, Bad Boy That," and their second was "Tonight." The album was certified gold selling 600,000 copies.

Season 3
Da Band effectively ended its career at the end of the third season of the show, when P. Diddy dissolved the group during the season finale. However, he still wanted to work with Babs and Ness, calling them hip hop's next "Bonnie and Clyde," though nothing yet has been released from either of them. Diddy also kept Chopper, now known as Young City, with the label, who was signed with Bad Boy South. Sara Stokes, Frederick and Dylan John were the remaining three members of Da Band to be dropped completely from Bad Boy.
August 2014 the site Hip Hop Wired published updates on Da Band including where they are now with pics and links to all of their social media accounts. Click their logo below to check it out.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

'Empire' supercut: Cookie's Best Lines [VIDEO]

From USA Today March 5, 2015, a short video of Cookie Lyon's (Taraji P. Henson) best lines on the television show Empire.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

'Empire' is a HIT and I Love It!

Blog Post #20
Cast of Empire
The latest ratings news as of this publishing. “From The Hollywood Reporter, February 19, 2015 "Empire's continued ratings growth should be getting boring at this point — but somehow, it's not. Fox's midseason champ rose yet again in its seventh episode, setting another high bar for its live-plus-same-day showing.

The latest high has Empire passing the lofty 5.0 rating and averaging a 5.1 rating among adults 18-49. That's up up three-tenths of a point from the previous high last week, and it could easily still go up even more in final returns this afternoon. Viewership was also up a solid million to 12.94 million viewers.

Empire nearly doubled the demo haul of lead-in American Idol, steady with a 2.7 rating with adults 18-49 and something of a footnote in Fox's easy win for the night."

The Empire ratings have been called “unprecedented” because that’s just what they are! They are breaking decades old records—every week! I call it a “The Cosby Show Level Ratings Event”. When The Cosby Show came on it “shook up the world” and quickly rose to become the number one show on television.

I’ve been a fan of Empire since day one, but some of my black friends stopped watching it. Basically they think it’s “coonery” and shows black people in a bad light. I do not share that opinion and as you can tell by many of my posts on this very blog, like Magic Negro and other posts across other social media, that I’m very cognizant of African American images in the media. I not only think the depictions are fine, I’m enjoying every minute of it!

Below Ernest Owens wrote a great piece and crystallized my thoughts on the matter. After his piece I posted two links to other articles on Empire’s success that I posted on the ‘Nother Brother Entertainment Facebook page.

Dear Empire Critics, Stop Hating. You Just Don't Get It.

Ernest Owens, Huffington Post
February 5, 2015

Dear Empire critics,
In a society that is currently more observant of media and entertainment pitfalls than ever before, sometimes we are too quick to judge. The speedy jolt of a tweet to pass prejudgment, or the too-full-of-assumptions Facebook essay to sound off on a quick observation, continues to reflect a culture that misinforms more quickly than it educates.

To all those who quickly critiqued Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lee Daniels' groundbreaking prime-time drama Empire as nothing more than another television show that is "failing black people": Take several seats and look carefully.

Your misplaced condemnation proves not only that you are showcasing total personal bias but that you are also out of touch.

Critics who pan this show are typically divided into two spheres: They're either advocates of making black television a respectability-politics showcase or they want to improperly use critical race theory.

The former wants programs that showcase blacks in a "proper" light, living behind nice picket fences with both parents in the household and all the children getting along just fine and no "ratchetry" to be found among this well-educated faith-based unit. Basically, these narrow-minded critics secretly desire to recreate The Cosby Show in any way possible, because it makes them feel acceptable under the white perception of a fantasied middle-class black family that ignores the socioeconomic disparity of their peers in America.
The latter also wants to police black imagery. They try to apply very strategic and scholarly approaches to every single aspect of the show. If there are gay black men in the episode, they are quick to misconstrue the inclusion and rather inappropriately cite all the times mainstream programs "emasculated the black man." If they see that a black woman is ever upset or violent, they are quick to act as though the media is in a conspiracy to depict the "angry black woman" trope at every opportunity. They ignore the context of a plot and setting and apply everything they see to their academic prerogative.

What both of these types of critics have failed to realize is that Daniels is a black gay man who is getting the chance to artistically produce his imagination and expression of society for network television to see. This show is not intended to garner white people's approval of our existence -- and if you have been keeping up with the headlines, you should know that your respectability won't save you. It's a prime-time drama for entertainment and reflection, people, not a political editorial or a public-policy initiative. Daniels is a creator who should be given a right to fully explore his cinematic talent without being constrained by the narrow social confines of "making black people look good."

If you are looking carefully at what I and the increasingly impressive millions of viewers are watching every Wednesday night, you will see a multidimensional cast of black characters who all meaningfully contribute to the plot. You will see various depictions of wealth and success, levels of education, shades and body images of black women, sexuality and acceptance, music and style -- a unique and inclusive look at what issues and discussions we are having in 2015.

The show is relevant and bold enough to be presented on network television and tell a tale that doesn't revolve around a white observance. Where else can you find that on television? While Blackish tries to show a black family adjusting in white suburbia, Empire owns the place. While Olivia Pope is chasing after a white president, Empire has their black CEO talking to President Barack Obama. While How to Get Away With Murder (which I am a die-hard fan of as well) has a black leading actress, she still has to put up with the racial confines of her self-identity and vulnerability. Empire has black women who are motivated, complex and self-driven while not having to take into consideration what white people think.

Empire is our Dallas. It transports us into a reality where we can see ourselves as one of the characters on the show. Whether snobby or reckless, gay or straight, dark or mocha, disabled or not, there is more to be seen from just the story line alone. It is one thing to criticize "reality" television that runs the risk of trying to depict black life disproportionately in one light as opposed to a scripted drama led by a black filmmaker who is guiding the plot.

For those critics who argue for diversity in prime-time in one breath but are then quick to tear down a black program that hasn't even made it to its second season, check your reasoning. If we are to demand more diverse programs, we have to also respect the nuance in them as well.

No, every show can't be a black family sitcom or an investigative crime spoof. If we are to actually recognize all aspects of black life, we need to recognize that there should be room for the highly educated as well as the working-class. There have to be shows that have heteronormative relationship dynamics but also gay, interracial ones as well. We need to accept that black programs are not reflections of just our own personal and social views but those of the many multitudes of the diaspora.

Empire is a phenomenal step toward encouraging us to see more levels and faces of the black experience than ever before, and we should be celebrating that alone. If that type of subject matter does not appeal to your taste, then respectfully agree to disagree. But just like the many white-dominated prime-time programs that I see on a regular basis that I don't prefer, you don't see me on a campaign to denounce their existence. Let's give our black filmmakers and actors more respect and understanding than that.

The skill set from your high level of inspection and critiquing of this show would be best applied to the various loopholes in wealth disparity in this country or possible discriminatory laws that have yet to reach the Senate floor, not on an evening program that has not even completed its first season. Do better with your educated efforts and theories analytically.

Here's to hopefully seeing you as part of the high ratings on Wednesday nights.