The immortal James Brown said it best: “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing, open up the door and I’ll get it myself.”
And that’s what Black talent in front of and behind the camera are saying and doing. Mainstream Hollywood wisely recognizes that Black talent is their new “field of dreams … if we build it, they will come.”
Case in point, all eyes were on Fox’s “Empire” second season premiere last week, asking the question will it continue to be a hit? Will the viewing audience return? Not only did the audience return, but Fox was hit with another big surprise. “Rosewood” starring Morris
Chestnut also premiered in the number one spot at 8 p.m., followed by “Empire” taking the number one spot at 9 p.m. The new drama beat out all network programming in those time frames. Simply put, “Empire” and “Rosewood” dominated the competition.
The television landscape is changing, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because there is money to be made. Hollywood movers and shakers are beginning to admit that Blacks have a universal appeal, and when given the opportunity, we demonstrate a certain kind of flair when it comes to telling our own stories.
The tremendous success of Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland Productions—”Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” and the walloping success of “Empire” has mainstream Hollywood jumping at everything Black that they think could be a potential hit on their networks. If they’re not careful, TV may go the way of professional football, and basketball …we may eventually take over.
Everyday new deals are being announced under the helm of Black production companies, and Black performers. Here is a brief sampling of what’s happening in Hollywood right now.
Fox 2000 is ready for another serving of “Soul Food.” According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR) the studio is planning a sequel called “More Soul Food” based on the 1997 ensemble film.
George Tillman Jr., (“Power,” “Barbershop,”) who wrote and directed the original, is writing the new script with Nathan Skulnik. Tillman’s State Street Pictures will produce along with Tracey and Babyface Edmonds.
Rapper and singer Nicki Minaj will exec produce and appear in an original series, which will begin shooting in Queens this winter. ABC Family has picked up the comedy, the channel announced recently. The half-hour, single-camera comedy is based on the immigration sagas of Minaj’s family from Trinidad in the early 1990s. The untitled series will center on her childhood in Queens with her vibrant family and how her evolution led to her eventual rise to international fame.
Starz is expanding its relationship with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. The premium cable network has signed the “Power” producer to a two-year exclusive overall deal. Under the pact, Jackson and his G Unit Film and Television banner will develop new projects for the cable channel as well as continue to exec produce “Power.”
ABC is reteaming with Shondaland for another medical drama. The untitled drama centers on a U.S. Army Medevac team whose job is to save lives while risking their own. They operate out of an oddly Americanized base camp in Baghdad, circa 2004, where they get on each other’s nerves, sleep with the wrong people, navigate “office” politics and party like there’s no tomorrow.
And did you know the iconic mini-series “Roots” is being remade by A&E?
THR recently reported that for the four-night, eight-hour miniseries event, A&E Studios has lined up an all-star cast led by Academy Award winners Forest Whitaker and Anna Paquin along with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anika Noni Rose, Derek Luke and Chad L.
Coleman. They join previously announced Laurence Fishburne, who is set to play Alex Haley, author of the novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” and newcomers Malachi Kirby (as Kunta Kinte) and Rege-Jean Page (as Chicken George). The latter two were discovered during a global search that spanned 15 locations, including Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa.
Production is already underway in New Orleans, and will move to South Africa later this month. The studio is said to be spending lavishly on the series, a reboot of the 1977 original, which will air across multiple A&E networks.
Blacks in Hollywood are indeed beginning to exercise their muscle in this world of fantasy, fiction and factual storytelling. The television and film industry is a rollercoaster ride no doubt, but if Blacks in front of and behind the camera keep delivering at the level they are doing now, we will have ‘staying’ power needed.
Gail Choice can be reached at email@example.com.