REVIEW: ‘Brotherly Love’ Fails To Have The Same Impact Of ‘Boyz N The Hood’

Word on the “Black cinema” streets is that Brotherly Love is the new Juice or Boyz N The Hood. Based on the trailer, the homage is clear with its cute homegirls, shady drug dealers and a dollar and a dream prototypes. The elements are there to make Brotherly Love a potential successor. But as much as you’ll want to laud Jamal Hill‘s passion project, it will not be iconic as the films before it. With hopes of a dual fanbase from the Instagram generation and original movie-goers of Menace II Society, the film transpires more as a tribute than a true slice of life as a Black youth in 2015.

MUST READ: #Winning: Karrueche Tran Could Snag An Emmy For ‘The Bay’!

It took almost ten years for Brotherly Love to come to life until Queen Latifah‘s Flavor Unit gave the green light. As the title suggests, it takes place in Philadelphia, but in the Western region which is notoriously more crime and drug-ridden. The focus is on the Taylor family. Their mother (played by Macy Gray, always fantastic in her acting roles) chain smokes home all-day and the eldest child June (Cory Hardrict) is the sole provider and guidance for his teen siblings. Sergio (Eric D. Hill Jr.) is a talented basketball player eying the NBA and baby of the family Jackie (Keke Palmer) is a good girl amongst the fast streets and aspires to be a singer.

Jackie’s presence is a distinct highlight because, while early ’90s Black films definitely had female characters, they weren’t always as fleshed out or as prominent as the men. Some exceptions include Jada Pinkett Smith as Lyric in 1994’s Jason’s Lyric and the leading cast of 1996’s Set It Off. And speaking of that ’94 film, it looks like we’ve found our new Allen Payne. As the Jason to Palmer’s Lyric, Quincy Brown (yes, Diddy’s step-son and Al B. Sure‘s offspring) is Chris Collins in Brotherly Love. And while unaware of his intentions at first with Jackie, the two form a puppy-love bond and Brown is 100% swoon-worthy nearly every time he’s on-screen.

Aside from that teen dream inclusion, the script is formulaic. Like its predecessors, it tries to tackle the issues of brotherhood and loyalty in the Black community. Former events are explained throughout the film and the Taylor siblings experience a whirlwind of achievement, revenge and death. June is determined to make sure his siblings stay on the right path, but he himself behaves as if he’s a lost cause. At his core, he is heartbroken because once their father had passed away, he abandoned his own hoop dreams to become a drug dealer. Hardrict plays his role like it’s his coming-out party (he recently starred in Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper). And there are relics to the characters of Bishop and “Doughboy” famously played by Tupac Shakur and Ice Cube in Juice and Boyz N The Hood.

Generally speaking, the acting is standard in Brotherly Love. There are minor heartfelt moments and one particular twist and shocker that will make any suspense screenwriter nod with approval. There isn’t much to criticize the script for aside from its familiar territory.

What Brotherly Love lacks, however, is that documentary-style sensibility that dominated those 90s classic. Films like Juice and Menace II Society effortlessly connected to the current events of its day and even the local lifestyle and jargon of New York City or South Central L.A. were included as supporting characteristics. John Singleton‘s Boyz N The Hood, an impressively-layered take on Black-on-Black crime and police brutality in South Central, arrived just four months after Rodney King was viciously beaten by four White policemen on an L.A. highway in 1991. Singleton wasn’t merely imitating life in his art. His film further analyzed it. And the timing was remarkable. Brotherly Love barely contributes anything new to the storytelling of inner-city life. To target this movie as the new generation’s Boyz, Juice, or Menace is unfair and places it in a space that’s already been so culturally and significantly defined.

Brotherly Love attempted to be the film of our current time frame of “Black Lives Matters.” But we are still in search or waiting for that one film so honest and unique to the life as a Black girl or boy in the 21st century.

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Lordt, Turn Up The AC! The Official ‘Chocolate City’ Trailer Is Here! [VIDEO]

Chile, while we were already planning to see Chocolate City, in anticipation of its May 22nd release in theaters, this trailer right here got us feeling some kind of way. And the way is definitely hot and excited!

MUST READ: Michael Jai White Apologizes To His Exes In Open Letter: ‘I Believed All Women Were Crazy’

After confirmation and months of leaked photos from the set, the trailer for Chocolate City with its bevy of literally chocolately male stars is looking too right! The cast includes the bodies, we mean faces, pardon us–TALENTS–of Robert Ri’chard, Michael Jai White, Tyson Beckford, Ginuwine and (representing for the ladies) Carmen Electra and our girl Vivica A. Fox.

Written and directed by Jean-Claude La Marre, La Marre wanted to create a “brothas” answer to the successful Magic Mike films that uniquely focused on men turning to stripping to make ends meet, but squarely starred White actors. (But at least Channing Tatum were in them! And Latino actor Adam Rodríguez also made a cameo).

Chocolate City could be the sleeper hit of the spring season! Look for it when it hits cinemas.

And ladies. Be advised to bring an extra ice cold water bottle or two for this one!

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Touré Calls Tyler Perry’s Movies: “Cinematic Malt Liquor”

Mr. Tyler Perry can’t seem to catch a break these days. First Mario Van Peebles took a sideways shot at him (and other Black men wearing dresses in films) at this year’s Urbanworld Film festival and now author Touré has gone for his pearl necklace-adorned jugular.

Touré debated the merits of Perry’s films with Newsone contributor Dr. Boyce Watkins, who argued that the “Madea” franchise has helped put people to work. Touré countered that drug dealers create jobs too, but that doesn’t make them good jobs. Watch their discussion on CNN below.

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2011 Urbanworld Film Festival Recap

Black Hollywood came out in full force at the 15th annual Urbanworld Film Festival.  The opening film Brooklyn Boheme, which documents the rise of  black artistic talent during the 90’s in Fort Greene, was the brainchild of director Diane Paragas and author Nelson George, who witnessed (and was a part of) this late 20th century urban renaissance.  “It was this amazing community that so many artists came out of, who ended up affecting the world.”

Director Spike Lee, comedian Chris Rock, and actor John Boyega (Attack The Block), were in attendance to show support for the film.  Boyega, who was recently cast as  the lead in the the highly anticipated HBO drama “Da Brick” (loosely based on Mike Tyson’s early years), had just spent most of his day undergoing a grueling workout session, in order to prepare for his role as a boxer.  When asked about the media dubbing him the ‘British Denzel Washington’ Boyega replied “I still have a lot of growing to do before I can be a Denzel, but he’s very inspirational.”  Spike Lee, who is directing the pilot episode of “Da Brick”,  immediately cast Boyega after seeing his breakout performance in Attack The Block, called him a “great young actor.”

Chris Rock, who also co-stars in Brooklyn Boheme recalled some of his favorite memories of living in Fort Greene.  “I remember a lot of artists living there like Spike, Halle Berry, Wesley Snipes Mos Def, Erykah Badu—just an interesting time.  It was kind of like living in Detroit during the Motown years.”

The star wattage continued to shine brightly Friday night as director Mario Van Peebles, 50 Cent and Lynn Whitfield were on hand to promote their film “All Things Fall Apart.”  50 hit the red carpet with his own entourage of eye candy, posing for pics with the cast.  Van Peebles originally intended to play the lead role, but after meeting 50 “a bright, affable young brother,” he opted to take up directing reins for the project instead.

Reality star Tami Roman pulled double duty promoting two projects—as an actress in Noel Calloway’s Life, Love, Soul and as a producer in Jerry LaMothe’s film short, The Tombs which follows a young man’s experiences in the New York City central booking jail system.

Spoken word legend Sonia Sanchez was also in attendance to promote her documentary Shake Loose Memories. At the Q&A which took place after, Sanchez gave a call of action to the youth of today, by reminding them of the sacrifices of the generation before.  “We didn’t live our lives just so you could be pretty.”

The HBO dramedy,  “How To Make It In America” screened their second season premiere, followed by a Q&A with author/culture critic Toure and the cast, which included Victor Rasuk and Luiz Guzman.

The film festival closed out Saturday evening with the premieres of Life, Love Soul, Kinyarwanda and Yelling To The Sky. Radio host Egypt Sherrod, who makes her acting debut in Life, Love, Soul confessed she was a bundle of nerves the first day on set.  Luckily her co-star Jamie Hector  calmed her down her with some very simple advice, “Just breathe.”

Victoria Mahoney, director of the coming-of-age feature, Yelling To The Sky was in high spirits, as her project was recently picked up for distribution by MPI Media Group.  Asked how she was able to round up some of the best and brightest young talent (Zoe KravitzGabourey Sidibe, Yolonda Ross, Shareeka Epps) Mahoney replied “with a lot of begging…and persistence!”  As for her advice to up and coming female directors, Mahoney had this to say “Never take no for an answer. If they close the door on you, go through the side window.”

On Sunday, the awards luncheon was hosted by model/actress Liris Crosse and Vibe Magazine’s Datwon Thomas in downtown Tribeca.  There was a true sense of community amongst the directors, actors/actresses, and screenwriters, as past Urbanworld alumnae like Qasim B. (Mooz-lum) and Ava DuVernay (I Will Follow) mingling freely with this year’s new crop of talent.  Jamil Walker Smith, actor and director of “Make A Movie Like Spike” (featured in this year’s festival) eloquently expressed his wish for aspiring black filmmakers: “Hopefully the more personal we make our films, the more universal our stories become.”

The list of winners is as follows:

Best Narrative Feature

MAMITAS

Written and Directed by Nicholas Ozeki; Produced by Adam Renehan, Andrew Daniel Wells

Honorable Mention:

Make a Movie Like Spike (Written and Directed by Jamil Walker Smith)

Restless City (for Cinematography – Bradford Young; Directed by Andrew Dosunmu)
Best Narrative Short

WAKE

Written and Directed by Bree Newsome; Produced by Valerie Champagne, Bree Newsome

Honorable Mention:

Counterfeit (Written and Directed by Geoff Bailey)

The Man in the Glass Case (Written and Directed by Maxwell Addae)
Best Documentary Feature

ZERO PERCENT

Written and Directed by Tom Skousen; Produced by Robert Fernandez, Tom Skousen
Best Documentary Short

LOVE LOCKDOWN

Directed by Nadia Hallgren; Produced by Jamie-James Medina

Honorable Mention:

Common Ground (for cinematography – Eduard Jakaj, Stephen Dwight; Directed by Hollie Fifer)


Best Screenplay

AFTER THE STORM

Written by Cole Wiley

Honorable Mention:

Blackbird (Written by David Polk)

The Divide (Written by Rashmi Singh)
Best Teleplay

WHITEHALL

Written by Dawn M. Green and Aliza Pearl Kennerly
Audience Award

LIFE LOVE SOUL

Written and Directed by Noel Calloway; Produced by Allen J. West, Benny Pough, Dedra N. Tate

Honorable Mention:

Brooklyn Boheme (Directed by Diane Paragas and Nelson George)

Check out more from black films

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Rockmond Dunbar: “There Is No Black Hollywood!”

Rockmond DunbarOne of Black television programming’s crown jewels is the Showtime series, Soul Food. Rockmond Dunbar played the devoted husband and father of three, Kenny Chadway. Despite its success, Soul Food was cancelled after five seasons in 2004. Since the cancellation, Dunbar hasn’t stopped working. He’s turned up on television dramas like The Closer, CSI: Miami, and Prison Break. Tyler Perry gave him a platform to further showcase his acting abilities in The Family That Preys.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Rockmond. What was supposed to be a super brief interview turned into a candid conversation about why he supports the gay community, his distaste for the term, “Black Hollywood,” and what inspires him.

We haven’t seen you in a while. What have you been doing with yourself?

I’m working on Sons of Anarchy. It’s in its fourth season on FX. It’s funny how I got the role. The creator of the show, Kurt Sutter worked with Shawn Ryan on The Shield. Shawn Ryan was the executive producer on The Chicago Code, which I had a small recurring role on. I wanted to audition for the new sheriff on Sons of Anarchy, but I was working on an independent film and couldn’t get to the audition. So Kurt called me and asked to meet with me at his office. He says to me, “I called Shawn Ryan and asked him if  Rockmond Dunbar could do the job of playing the new sheriff. Shawn Ryan told me he f***ing loved you.” So Kurt offered me the role as the new sheriff on the spot and I reported to the set the very next day. All of our episodes have been airing to high numbers. I was supposed to do a ten episode arc, but it looks like I’ll be on there a little longer.

Do people still come up to you and talk to you about Soul Food?

Man, yeah. I get called by my character’s name all the time. People will scream, “Hey, Kenny!” when they see me. I’m not one of those actors who hates to be called by their character’s name. If that’s what you associate to, as a fan of the show, that’s fine. I know my real name. [laughs] That’s a character I never get down on people for calling me.

What inspires you?

You know, there are always really great moments that inspire me. Even if it’s a great moment of my dad saying that he’s not ready to retire. He goes into work and I look at him like, “Dude, you really need to retire.” He’s like, “Look, when I get to work, I feel good. I’m doing something. I’m making six figures. What do you want me to do? Sit home?” That’s a great moment. That inspires me to get up. If this guy, who’s over 70, can get up and do his job with a smile on his face and not want to quit, that inspires me.

A lot of the characters you’ve played have always been strong men. What made you take the role of a sexually confused man in Patrik-Ian Polk‘s film, Punks?

I was offered two roles at the same time. There was one role where I would have to play a struggling actor from Juliard who is working in a restaurant and he has these friends who are all struggling artists. Then, I get offered a role to play a guy who finds himself in love again after a difficult relationship, only it’s with another man. To me, that role was more challenging. I looked at it like, “I’m already an unemployed actor with unemployed actor friends. Let me try this film, Punks.”

To tell you the truth, Patrik-Ian Polk offered a lot of actors that part and nobody wanted to take it because they didn’t want to kiss a man. I’m heterosexual and comfortable in my own skin. I am an actor, first and foremost. I’m so glad I chose to do that film because even now the film stands the test of time. Punks isn’t forgotten like that other film that I didn’t do. Even if that film had Molly Ringwald in it, nobody remembers the name of that movie. People remember Punks thirteen years later.

What were some of the reactions to you playing that character in Punks?

I got a call from E. Lynn Harris and he invited me over to a dinner party. I didn’t know who he was at the time. I asked around and my friends told me I should go to the party because he is an incredible writer. I’m glad I went because it was the best Hollywood meeting I’ve ever had. He sat me down and said, “We love what you did with Punks. We love the movie. We loved how you portrayed the character. We know you’re not gay, but if you continue to do the work you’re doing– by representing the gay community in a positive light–we will always be here to support you.” That was big to me because I’ve never had anybody from Black Hollywood, White Hollywood, Chinese Hollywood, or anyone say that to me. So I will always support the gay community.

What are your feelings on Black Hollywood and White Hollywood not embracing black actors?

There’s a really awkward answer for that. Just recently I posted on Facebook, “There is no Black Hollywood!” After my 25 years of doing research and studying, I cannot find the CEO. I can’t find the president and there are no board members. There isn’t even a public service number I can call to get help as a black producer, actor, director. There is no Black Hollywood and I hate separatism. Let’s just cancel out the term “Black Hollywood.” We should just call them Hollywood actors and watch their films because they’re great, not because they’re black.

Some of my actor friends and I were talking about this and I was the only one who spoke from a place of honest hurt. I was hurt because I’ve played a prolific father of three and a devoted husband on the longest running drama. I’ve played a black heart surgeon on Heartland. I’ve played so many different characters that my career is diverse. But on Soul Food, it was our third NAACP nomination. I was walking the red carpet and a guy waved me over for an interview and asked, “How do you feel about being snubbed for the third year in a row?” I said, “What are you talking about? We’re nominated as a cast.” He said, “Yeah, the cast is nominated, but you are the only one who hasn’t been nominated in an individual acting category.” That question devastated me for years. It burned a little bit. Idris Elba was on the show and he said, “Man, I get nominated by NAACP for playing a drug dealer and you play a father and haven’t been nominated.” Gary Dourdan said the same thing. He thought I was going to get nominated and I didn’t.

So when you talk about White Hollywood accepting us, White Hollywood has accepted me. I have been on a number of shows where I have been the only black character. Sons of Anarchy is in its fourth season and didn’t have a main black character for the first three. You rarely see me in Jet Magazine, Ebony, and Essence. You rarely see me in black publications, but I’m a Goodwill Ambassador with diplomatic status for West Africa. So this whole notion of Black Hollywood existing, I haven’t felt it. Maybe I need to cut a rap album or something. [laughs]

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30 Years After “Diff’rent Strokes” Shavar Ross Reinvents Himself

Most who were around at the time will probably remember Shavar Ross as young Dudley from Diff’rent Strokes in the 1980s. But the veteran actor has featured in several other TV shows and feature films since entering the business roughly 30 years ago; notably parts in popular series like Magnum PI, Designing Women, Amen, Growing Pains, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, Chicago Hope, and a few others. He also played a young Booker T Washington in the 1984 made-for-tv movie Booker, about Washington’s youth in the South at the end of the Civil War and after.

Now 40 years old, Shavar operates his own film and television production company, Tri-Seven Entertainment, under which he not only continues to produce, write and direct his own material, independent of the mainstream studio system, but also serves as a home for a growing family of entertainment websites he created (ShavarRoss.com, ActorGuru.com, GoodLawd.com, and BlackThespian.com), as he transitions from content creation to covering already created content.

Shavar resides in Los Angeles, and has been married since 1992, now with two children.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Shavar about his 30 years in the business, looking back to his early starts, the present at current interests, and ahead to what’s on the horizon. The lengthy revealing interview follows below:

TUD: You’ve been working in the entertainment industry for about 30 years now mostly in TV, as well as a few films – how did you get your start?

SR: Well my parents separated when I was about six. My father eventually headed out to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career, so I’d like to say that he was the “real” actor, lol, and he was quite good. When I was seven years old I got to fly out to California to visit my dad during my school’s Christmas vacation. During my time in L.A., my dad and his friend Lawrence Hilton Jacobs took me to see this play that Kim Fields was starring in and after the play a top children’s talent agent came up to my father and told him that she wanted to represent me. I booked my first commercial shortly after that and ended up staying with my father and working a lot as a child actor.

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TUD: And you now appear to be transitioning out of the uncertainty of the media production space (acting, writing, directing, producing) and into the just as uncertain world of media coverage. What prompted you to move into the online blog site space?

SR: I started blogging back in 2004 to document my experience making my first feature film, Lord Help Us, which hit the national retail market back in 2007. My goal was to transition into directing but it took me nearly three years to get my first film off the ground and I wasn’t too thrilled about that. If you’re a director for the studio system it’s a lot easier but as an independent filmmaker, it’s much tougher. I had a distribution deal before I had a script so that was good, but there was a lot of red tape involved with dealing with agents, unions, actors, producers, people’s egos, etc., [laughs] and I can do without all that. I started blogging in my personal blog around that time as well–August of 2005, actually. I started off on Blogger.com and I found that blogging about my life was a therapeutic and creative experience for me. Eventually I started blogging about some of my celebrity friends because their lives were seemingly more exciting than mine, but more importantly, I really enjoyed writing about others. For me, blogging is like creating “mini movies” and blogs and blog posts are a lot quicker to produce. I get to write, edit, work with video footage and distribute it all in 20 minutes [laughs] Love it.

TUD: Are you maybe pursuing the Nick Denton model with his family of Gawker sites? And can you talk the content of your different sites, your plans for them, whether you plan to add more sites, and how the whole operation is run, given the amount of work that’s involved in running sites like these (speaking from my own experience)?

SR: Yes, I started the idea of creating a blog network last year to see if the concept would be financially viable. I’m a big fan of a lot of the urban blogs out there and started blogging around the same time as popular sites such as Natasha Eubanks of’ theybf.com and Angel Laws of ConcreteLoop.com. However, I was doing it “for fun” and they were treating their blogs as a business. It wasn’t until I read Natasha’s story in Black Enterprise last year that made me become business minded about blogging. I was blogging every day for 5 years and didn’t know that you could make any real money from blogging. So far, I’ve created six blogs and I’m overseeing 4 right now. My blog ShavarRoss.com is an urban and pop culture blog and I blog about my personal life there as well. I started ActorGuru.com in 2008, that’s a site about actors. GoodLawd.com launched last year and we post about “anything that makes you say GoodLawd!” LOL. My latest blog is called BlackThespian.com, it’s two months old and it’s a blog solely about African-American actors in the entertainment business. I write in all the blogs but have recently started outsourcing other bloggers and so far I have a team of about five. Blogging is a lot of work and takes up a lot of time but I have a passion for writing so that’s what keeps me going…and not-to-mention my curiosity of the business model.

TUD: Are you continuing to pursue creative projects, whether originating with your production company, or film and/or TV roles you actively seek, or that are being offered to you?

SR: Well I recently got an agent but things seem a lot slower now that I’m older so I’m not sure what is going on as far as my acting career. I worked a lot up until the time I was 25 and ended up going to Bible school which took me four years to graduate. From there, in 1996, I ended up pastoring a small non-denominational church for actors and those in the entertainment industry for four years. I was somewhat naive getting into it and when I saw a lot of the politics and hypocrisy (not that I’m perfect) in “the church,” I took a lonnng break from the ministry. So trying to get back into acting after all these years has been tough. I just leave it in God’s hands. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of roles available for black actors like it used to and that’s why I like creating new and exciting ventures. It has always been hard for me to wait around to get the call for an audition. As far as independent filmmaking, I’m cautious about that as well. I love filmmaking but we as African-Americans in the entertainment business need our own distribution outlets. In many ways, I’d rather sell my own movies on the street corner than let some corporate distributor take most of my profits. If my films only make two cents, at least it’ll be my two cents, lol. But I’m always open to anything if the deal is a win-win.

TUD: Can you talk about any projects you have currently in the works? Also, with the proliferation of web-based content (web series especially) are you attracted to that space?

SR: I’m very interested in using the internet as a way to distribute new narratives, webisodes and feature films, etc. Everything is still in its early stages and its a very new concept that many are still not grasping because it’s so new. There are urban films that cost 2 to 5 million to make and still don’t have distribution. There are even certain urban films that garnered theatrical distribution and still tanked at the box office. That’s a waste of money. I think we need to focus more on the concept of marketing and distributing our own films..and for less money. You can do this via the Internet.

TUD: You appeared in some of really popular shows in their time, from Diff’rent Strokes to MacGyver, to Magnum, P.I., Amen, Growing Pains, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Family Matters, and you worked alongside some really popular stars during each shows heyday, from Gary Coleman to Kirk Cameron to Will Smith (who’s grown to become maybe the biggest star in Hollywood right now). Any really memorable experiences working on any of those shows, or with cast members?

SR: I’m just thankful that I had the opportunity to work with all of those talented people and I’ve learned a lot indirectly from all of them. I try to keep up with some people who are working actors but everyone is so busy. I remember before actor Derek Luke got started, really cool guy. He used to have to take the bus to work when he was a security guard at Sony Pictures. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t wear religion on his sleeve but I remember giving him a ride home one time–in the car we shouted and spitted out some Bible scriptures and prayed for God to bless his career in a BIG way. And look at him now. That’s inspirational to me. No one can tell me that that man ain’t blessed, and that’s why you never hear no one say anything bad about the guy.

But I have many wonderful memories and experiences and try to blog about it whenever I’m inspired to. I love to document everything I’ve experienced from my acting career and have no regrets about it. And I don’t get upset when people call me by one of my characters’ name from those shows either, [laughs]. If I can somehow remain in the business in front or behind-the-scenes, I would be grateful. I’ve tried many other things but the entertainment business is all I know.

TUD: When you got into the entertainment business, was there a specific plan for you in terms of what kind of career to pursue, or was it just a matter of taking things a project at a time, with no real long-term approach to it?

SR: Well I never really planned to be an actor so there was never really a long-term plan for it. Actually, I’ve always wanted to be an OB/GYN, [laughs]. Y’all stop laugin’. But I think I was in the business too deep for that so it was hard to pursue it. I’m still a sophomore in college after all these years [laughs].

TUD: Was there much support along the way from other folks in the industry of your career? Or more specifically, anyone who really had an impact on your growth as a performer?

SR: I didn’t have a lot of support as an actor in the entertainment business. I became an emancipated minor at age 15 so I’ve been on my own since then. I’ve been married since I was was 21 so my wife has been my best friend and my biggest supporter. She is definitely a Godsend.

TUD: The place where you are currently, is this where you thought you’d be maybe 5 to 10 years ago, and are you content there? If not, what would be the most ideal situation for you right now?

SR: Oh no, I’m definitely not anywhere near where I thought I’d be! However, I am proud that I accomplish the things I set out to do, no matter what it may be, and that is a form of success to me. I did step away from the business for a good while and sacrificed my career to step into the ministry for many years and sometimes I wonder what my acting career would have been like if I continued with it but helping the homeless, praying for the sick, seeing folks’ lives changed for the better means more to me than the success of an acting career. (gulp) Right now, taking care of my wife and kids by any means necessary (without breaking the law, [laughs]) is my main priority. I think every man desires that for their family.

TUD: Projections? In another 5, 10, 20 years, where do you see yourself?

SR: 5 to 10 years from now? I don’t think God is through with me yet. I still believe he has something up his sleeve, I’m just not sure what it is yet. I know he wants the best for all of us even in the midst of our struggles.

TUD: Your own predictions: A snapshot of what you think the entertainment (specifically film, TV) industry might look like in another 10 to 20 years.

SR: Film and TV in 10 to 20 years? Three words: Internet, streaming, virtual. Bonus: cell phones.

TUD: What is your take on the state of African Americans in film and TV. I’m sure you’re privy to all the discussion over the years about how limited our portrayals are both in TV and film, and the lack of African American representation at the premiere awards shows like the Oscars, all the articles that are written annually about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, both in front and behind the camera, etc, etc, etc. As someone who’s been in the business for 30 years, have you noticed any particular shifts where any of those issues is concerned? Would you say opportunities have improved, or still about the same, since we’re still making similar arguments? And lastly, potential solutions to get us to that point in which these discussions no longer exist, or will they always?

SR: You ask some really good questions! (I’m taking notes) I think we have no choice but to learn about new media as filmmakers and people in the entertainment industry. Unless you’re already “in” as a black actor (and even being “in” is nothing concrete nowadays) you must learn new and creative ways to remain in the business. Now is the time to diversify your gifts or learn new crafts. Don’t just stick with one thing. No one is impressed anymore if you wrote a script. Better learn how to make the movie yourself too, or surround yourself around people who do know how. Nowadays you have to gain your respect if you are to be successful. Cameras are cheaper, editing software if available to you. No one is gonna help you until you start helping yourself.

The industry has changed a great deal when it comes to African-American actors. In my opinion, things were better for us back then than now. We have only a handful of our shows on the air and we can thank BET, TV One and a few cable networks for this. Also, black folks need to stick together more in the industry to form strategic alliances. Why is it so hard for us to help each other? There’s nothing wrong with letting the pride go and saying your business or production company needs help. Also, it would be nice to see some of our big stars do more in the urban filmmaking community. I would love to see “Smith” Studios or “Murphy” Studios. There is a difference between a studio and a production company. You have to give credit to people like Tim Reid and Tyler Perry for creating studios. I’m also speaking more in terms of physical places where AA productions can take place. We may not agree with all of Tyler’s productions but black folks (especially in the industry) shouldn’t complain or put our own people down. If you’re not happy with how Tyler runs his studio, then that’s your cue to start working on building your own ‘cause Tyler can’t be the only one, can he? Nope. And that’s the reason why we have The Weinstein Company AND Dreamworks, and others. I would love to speak on this more but I know everyone’s eyes are red, lol. The industry will change when we unite and change our attitudes and approach to the business as a people.

TUD: You’re a family man with 2 kids, which I’m sure influences the choices you make, since you’re not just living for yourself now. Is that accurate to say? And are your kids at all interested in getting into the entertainment business, despite how young they still both are – though one is a teenager already? Is that something you would embrace, or would you steer them away from that life, and into other areas?

SR: I’m not sure I’d want my children in the entertainment business without first getting a good education. From my experience, the acting business is very unpredictable and I wouldn’t wish the lifestyle on anyone unless they have a strong spiritual foundation. Just because you’re on a TV series means nothing. No, you’re on a hot show RIGHT NOW, and in this business you’re only as good as your last job. At least get an education even if it’s to learn how to manage your own money. Either way, I’d be there to guide my kids if it ever happened but I’m not actively trying to get my kids in the entertainment business.

TUD: And lastly, any general thoughts, concerns, comments you’d like to share, whether about yourself, your company, the industry, etc.

SR: Thanks for the opportunity and all the great questions.

And thanks to Shavar for taking the time to answer every single question I asked him, and doing so thoughtfully and openly. As noted in his response, you can find Shavar and all his offerings at ShavarRoss.com, ActorGuru.com, GoodLawd.com, and BlackThespian.com.

Tambay Obenson is Editor of Shadow And Act on the indieWIRE Network at blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact

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Can Black Directors Helm Mainstream Films?

Join us for an all new episode of “Cinema in Noir.”  On this week’s podcast:

–Reviews of  The Devil’s Double and Final Destination 5

–The lastest in casting and film news (Viola Davis, Kim Fields, Hype Williams, Morgan Freeman)

–Actor P.J. Byrne gives us the scoop on his new film Final Destination 5 and Season 5 of BET’s “The Game”

–Directors like John Singleton, Spike Lee, and The Hughes brothers are making the move from “black-themed” to mainstream movies–is the American public comfortable with directors of color helming an all-white cast?

“Cinema in Noir” is hosted by four fellow film writers/critics: Candice Frederick, Kimberly Renee, Rocky Seker, and ReBecca Theodore-Vachon

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Black Hollywood Descends Upon Comic-Con 2011

Hear ye, all fan boys and girls, Comic-Con International 2011 rolls into the San Diego Convention center July 21-July 24th!  If you think Comic-Con is just for pimply faced, virgin teenagers think again–the convention now showcases all things sci-fi and fantasy in television and film.  Included in this year’s line-up are some of the best and brightest in Black Hollywood: Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Ghost Rider:Spirit of Vengeance), Taraji P. Henson (“Person of Interest”) , Malik Yoba (“Alphas”) and Sanaa Lathan (“The Cleveland Show”).

The Urban Daily has compiled a list of the hottest screenings and panels to help you navigate through the Kingdom of Geek-dom.

Thursday July 21st

11:15 A.M.-12:15 P.M.—The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Hall H)

2:00P.M.-3:00P.M. —Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark (Hall H)

6:00P.M.-7:00P.M.—Entertainment Weekly: The Visionaries—Panel with Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Cowboys and Aliens) and Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) they will discuss their inspirations, their current work, and how they strive to put a personal stamp on blockbuster entertainment. Plus: How is new technology changing the way stories are produced and viewed? And what do they think the pop culture universe will look like a decade from now? Moderated by Jeff “Doc” Jensen. (Hall H)

10:00 P.M.–Attack The Block screening

TV

1:45-2:45–Ringer (CW): 1:45-2:45 p.m. (Ballroom 20) Panelists confirmed to participate in the Q&A following a preview of the series include executive producer Pam Veasey, co-executive producers Nicole Snyder and Eric Charmelo. Cast members attending include Sarah Michelle Gellar,Nestor Carbonell, Ioan Gruffudd and Kristofer Polaha.

3:00 P.M.-4:00 P.M. Game of Thrones (HBO): Author George R.R. Martin will moderate the panel with attendees including David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Jason Momoa and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The panel marks the freshman series first time at Comic-Con. (Ballroom 20)

4:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M. Archer (FX): Stars H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, Judy Greer, Amber Nash; Creator/Executive Producer Adam Reed. Screening & Panel, Room: Indigo.

5:00-6:00 P.M. Beavis and Butt-Head (MTV) Mike Judge attending with Johnny Knoxville moderating. Room 6A.

Friday July 22nd

10:15 A.M.-11:15 A.M–“Star Trek: The Captains”–William Shatner will be joined by fellow “Star Trek” captain Avery Brooks (“Deep Space Nine”) and director Kevin Smith (Jay and Silent Bob). Room 6BCF

12:15 P.M.-1:15 P.M. The Raven—(Relativity Media) Edgar Allan Poe joins forces with a young Baltimore detective to hunt down a mad serial killer who’s using Poe’s own works as the basis for a string of brutal murders. Raven stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, Luke Evans, and Alice Eve and is directed by James McTeigue. (Hall H)
12:45 P.M.-1:45 P.M. Legendary Pictures Preproduction Preview

Legendary’s plans, garner sneak peeks at their movies in preproduction, and hear from filmmakers and cast members from the upcoming Pacific Rim, Seventh Son, Paradise Lost, and Mass Effect. Panel participants include Jeff Bridges, Bradley Cooper, Guillermo del Toro, Ben Barnes, Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Alicia Vikander, Alex Proyas, Sergei Bodrov, Travis Beacham, Mark Protosevich, and Casey Hudson. Room 6BCF

1:30 P.M.-2:30 P.M. Sony Screen Gems (Hall H)

Underworld 4–Kate Beckinsale, star of the first two films, returns in her lead role as the vampire warrior Selene, who escapes imprisonment to find that humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species. Appearing in person are Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, Len Wiseman (producer and director of Underworld and Underworld: Evolution), and directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein.

Attack The Block–“Attack the Block”  follows a gang of tough inner-city kids who try to defend their turf against an invasion of savage alien creatures, turning a South London apartment complex into an extraterrestrial warzone. Appearing in person will be director Joe Cornish and producer Edgar Wright. Hall H

2:45 P.M.-3:45 P.M. Fright Night Dreamworks Films Hall H

4:00-6:30 SONY Pictures Hall H

Ghost Rider-Spirit of Vengeance — After blazing a trail around the globe in the worldwide hit Ghost Rider, Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Columbia Pictures’ Ghost Rider-Spirit of Vengeance. Still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter, Blaze is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciaran Hinds). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider again, but it is the only way to protect the boy — and possibly rid himself of his curse forever. Live on stage: directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) and stars Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, and Johnny Whitworth.

The Amazing Spider-Man July 3, 2012. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, and Martin Sheen, as well as Sally Field, and directed by Marc Webb, Appearing in person are producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, director Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Hall H

TV

10:00 A.M.-11:00 A.M. Torchwood: Miracle Day (Starz): John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Bill Pullman, Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins, Lauren Ambrose and Jane Espenson will attend. (Ballroom 20).

11:15 A.M.–The Walking Dead (AMC)

2:00 P.M.-3:00 P.M. Green Lantern: The Animated Series (Cartoon Network)

3:00 P.M.-4:00 P.M.–Eureka (Syfy): Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Neil Grayston, guest star Felicia Day, executive producers Jaime Paglia and Bruce Miller to attend. Moderated by Wil Wheaton at 3 p.m. in Ballroom 20.

3:30 P.M.-4:30 P.M. ThunderCats (Cartoon Network) Room 6A

5:30 P.M.-6:30 P.M. True Blood (HBO): Attendees include Alan Ball, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Kevin Alejandro, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Nelsan Ellis, Joe Manganiello and Deborah Ann Woll. The panel will be the show’s fourth Comic-Con appearance (Ballroom 20).

5:45 P.M. Spartacus: Vengeance (Starz): New Spartacus Liam McIntyre will be introduced alongside fellow panelists Lucy Lawless, Dustin Clare, Manu Bennett, Katrina Law and Steven S. DeKnight. (Room 6BCF)

6:00-7:00 P.M.–Alphas (Syfy): Co-creator Zak Penn and executive producer Ira Steven Behr join David Strathairn, Malik Yoba, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Ryan Cartwright and Laura Mennell will attend. Room 6A at 6 p.m.

Saturday July 23rd

1:00 P.M.-2:00 P.M. Immortals (Relativity Media)

TV

1:00-2:00 P.M. Community (NBC): Pannelists will include Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie,Yvette Nicole BrownKen Jeong and creator Dan Harmon. (Hilton Bayfront, Indigo Room).

2:00-2:35 P.M. Family Guy (Fox): Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Adam West, Mark Hentemann, Steve Callaghan and Kara Vallow will screen a sneak preview of Stewie Goes for a Drive, featuring voice guest star Ryan Reynolds (Ballroom 20).

4:15-5:15 P.M. Grimm (NBC): The pilot episode will be screened, followed by a panel with Jim Kouf, David Greenwalt, David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby, Bitsie Tulloch, Silas Weir Mitchell, Reggie Lee and Sasha Roiz (Room 6A).

5:00-6:00 P.M. Charlie’s Angels (ABC): Set to attend are Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor, Ramon Rodriguez and executive producers Alfred Gough and Miles Milar (Hilton Bayfront, Indigo Room).

6:45 P.M.-7:30 P.M. Person of Interest (CBS): Set to attend are Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson, Jonathan Nolan. Room

Sunday, July 24th

10:00 A.M.-11:00 A.M. Diversity and Fandom 102: How You Can Make a Difference— In the wake of campaigns like Racebending.com’s protests and the rise of safe spaces like Racialicious.com, fans, consumers and creators from underrepresented groups have more outlets for speaking up. This panel explores how those voices can be added to conversations with geeky business interests and fan communities. Director Kevin Tancharoen (Mortal Kombat: Legacy), showrunner/writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The Middleman), author Malinda Lo(Huntress),Arturo Garcia (Racialicious.com), Phil Yu (AngryAsianMan.com) and USC Professor Henry Jenkins (CivicPaths Project) promise a lively discussion, moderated by Racebending.com.Room 24ABC

10:00 A.M.-11:00  A.M. Young Justice Screening and Q&A— Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, Red Arrow, and Superboy — these aren’t your average sidekicks and this isn’t your average cartoon. In a short amount of time, and with just a small number of episodes, fans have embraced this new action-adventure series as Warner Bros. Animation has brought some of their favorite DC heroes to life. Following a special screening, producers Brandon Vietti (Batman: Under the Red Hood) and Greg Weisman (Gargoyles) and members of the creative team will answer your burning questions on what the future holds for “the team.”Young Justice Season 1, Part 1 is available on DVD now. Room 7AB

11:15 A.M.-12:15 P.M. Supernatural Screening and Q&A— For the first time ever, the Supernaturalpanel will be in Hall H! Series stars Jared Padalecki (Friday the 13th [2009]) and Jensen Ackles (My Bloody Valentine 3D) and additional cast members and executive producers present an exclusive sneak peek at footage from the highly anticipated seventh season of this thrill-ride series. Hall H.

1:45 P.M.-2:45 P.M. The Cleveland Show The cast and executive producers offer a look at The Cleveland Show’s not-to-be-missed parody of Die Hard, followed by a discussion with panelists Mike Henry, Sanaa LathanKevin Michael RichardsonReagan Gomez, Rich Appel, and Kara Vallow. Hall H


Top Execs Discuss Future Of Black Film At Sundance Festival

New York– On Sunday, January 23, 2011, AFFRM (African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement) hosted the first of our trio of dinners for black filmmakers and film thinkers at Sundance Film Festival.

These dynamic group conversations on “all things black + indie + film”  shed optimism on the future of Black film, despite the reoccurring struggles Black filmmakers experience.
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