All Articles Tagged "lee daniels"

What The New Show Empire Gets Wrong About How “Notoriously Homophobic” The Black Community Is

December 11th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Yesterday, I saw an advance screening of the new Fox television series “Empire,” which was written by Lee Daniels.  I can see the gazillion think pieces that will come up about it already…

I don’t want to give much away about the show, which is scheduled to premiere Wednesday, January 7. But I will say that the pilot episode of the series, which stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson in a family drama that centers around a hip-hop mogul named Lucius Lyon, his felon ex-wife and their three adult sons, will be pretty polarizing and a bit jarring, mainly because of how the series goes about addressing what it is like to be gay within the black community.

Again, I don’t want to spoil the pilot episode for anyone, but I will say that there is a kiss shared between Jamal, who is one of Lyon’s sons, and his live-in boyfriend Michael Sanchez. It happens in the same scene where Jamal explains to Michael why it is unlikely that he would be chosen by his father to run the family business, which is up for grabs. In short: He thinks he would be shut out because he is gay, and hip-hop would never accept a gay hip-hop mogul. Nor would his father, Lucius, who while still present in his son’s life, is pretty homophobic and acts ashamed of Jamal at times. As his Latin lover does his best to reassure him that everything would work out, Jamal shakes his head and says, “the black community is notoriously homophobic.”

At this point is when I groaned because, well, really?

For a split second, I was a bit offended at the generalization of an entire community as being “notorious” in our bigotry towards the LGBTQ community. I’m black. And I live in a black community. While probably not the best ally on the squad, I do my best to not be homophobic – much in the same way that some white people, bred in white supremacy culture, do their best to not be racist. And I know there are others like me and better in their acceptance. So why do the select few homophobes seem to always speak for an entire group of people? Because we are talking about a select few who feel this way about gay people, right?

But then in the next scene, Michael, the Latin lover, pulls his despondent boyfriend Jamal into his arms and they share a kiss, and the mostly black audience I was sharing this screening with simultaneously groan and suck their teeth. After I palmed my face in embarrassment, I started ruminating in my mind about how this must be exactly how some white people feel about their racist uncle Jeb…

As much as I hate to admit it, black folks have no chill when it comes to expressing disdain or even fear towards gay folks. We are brash and unapologetic and always politically incorrect about it all. Some even make and dance to music about it. This outward expression of homophobia and antagonism is why I am not at all surprised at the way in which Daniels, who is gay, has decided to present the topic of homosexuality within the black community on his series.

And if you’ll recall from a previous interview, Daniels spoke very honestly about how he believes this homophobia has manifested itself into a dangerous down-low culture in the community. More specifically, the Precious director spoke on “Larry King Live” (as transcribed by the Huffington Post) about a visit to a health clinic, which mostly serves Black women:

“They [the center] service black women with AIDS. Why? Because black men can’t come out. Why? Because simply you can’t do it. Your family says it, your church says it, your teachers say it, your parents say it, your friends say it, your work says it. So you’re living on this ‘DL’ thing and you’re infecting black women. So it’s killing us. I think that because the black culture and the Hispanic culture have a thing about this.”

At the time of those comments, Daniels received lots of pushback from quite a few people who thought his comments were misinformed as well as inflammatory. However, he is not the only Black gay celebrity to have made those statements. Wanda Sykes once told Piers Morgan that being gay today was way harder than being Black in America. And most recently, Tyler James Williams, star of the recently NAACP Image Award nominated film Dear White People, told the Huffington Post:

“Whether we like to address it or not, the African American community is notoriously homophobic. We have been coming up on this rough side of the mountain, as far as civil rights issues go, but we haven’t necessarily addressed the fact that there is a whole other side to that civil rights coin, which are gay rights.”

He continued on about the lack of progression in LGBTQ characters on-screen:

“I feel like the new stereotypical character[s] are gay characters, where you can’t just have a regular everyday guy who just happens to be gay, just like many people that I know. You don’t automatically need to see and know that [the character is] gay just by his mannerisms. That’s not everybody.”

As annoying as the blanket statements are, I would be disingenuous if I didn’t acknowledge and co-sign the ways in which certain cultural structures make certain folks, including those within the Black LGBTQ community, feel like outsiders. That has to be seriously and intentionally dealt with.

Still, is the centering in on the Black community as “notoriously homophobic” really a fair assessment of the community at large? Also, does it really help to whitewash over the entire “Black” community, which does also include Black people, who are also gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning? For one, there are very few cultural, racial and ethnic groups on this planet who aren’t fighting for rights and respect as LGBTQ people. And those other groups are not just brown folks.

There are videos of white kids being kicked out of the house, disowned and even brutally beaten by homophobic parents. There are tales of killings and suicides of mostly young white kids bullied for being, or just allegedly being, gay. Russia has a horrible human rights record when it comes to LGBTQ issues. Not to mention that the most fierce political opposition to gay rights here in America comes from Republicans.

I am in no way excusing the homophobia in hip-hop, but let’s not forget that some of the biggest consumers (and producers) of its homophobic as well as misogynistic content are white people. You would think that a show about the hip-hop industry would make note of that. And even among predominately white produced film and television shows, there is a fear of homosexuality. What comes instantly to mind is the hilariously yet antagonist “You Know How I Know You’re Gay?” scenes in the film 40 Year Old Virgin, in which two characters trade jabs back and forth about who is more gay. Although it is all wrapped up in innocuous mockery (one of the jabs was that a guy was gay because he made spinach dip and sourdough bread once), the implication here is that “gay” is an insult and the complete opposite of what you are supposed to be.

And this happens a lot on mainstream and predominately white media lots. Whereas black folks are loud, bold and upfront about our fears, white folks are more subtle. Moreover, their fears are normalized into the culture, which presents it as the standard of decency, even if the standard is not all that progressive in itself. But it is Black folks who get called out for being “notoriously homophobic.” The whole narrative reeks of the same sort of Cesare Lombroso-esque cultural maligning, which likes to paint Black folks specifically as both primitive and uncivilized compared to the rest of society.

Not to mention, it’s simply not true. As noted by Gene Demby of NPR,  while Georgetown researcher Greg Lewis has found that is true that “black folks are less likely than white people to believe that homosexuality is ‘not wrong at all ‘(25 percent to 40 percent). He also found that the gap is true even when he controlled for other variables like educational attainment, church attendance and age. Yet blacks have historically been more likely to support nondiscrimination initiatives for gay people.”

I don’t know what it is like for a gay kid to grow up in inhospitable surroundings, but I can imagine that it is not an easy life. I don’t want to lesson that or make it appear insignificant at all. No buts about it. I do hope that Daniels can parlay this part of the storyline into a more nuanced story about Black gay male life specifically. Perhaps, taking a cue from Tyler James Williams, by eventually turning the Jamal character into an “everyday guy that happens to be gay.” In the end, I am not opposed to having conversations about homophobia within the black community, and what can be done to change it, but I just hope that the conversations we do have are fair ones.

Oprah To Play Richard Pryor’s Pimp Grandmother In New Biopic, Alongside Mike Epps

August 27th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Looks like Nick Cannon lost out on that much coveted Richard Pryor role, even after that very unfortunate hair cut.

Instead the role went to fellow comedian Mike Epps. And judging by Epps’ past in the dramatic field (see Sparkle), I would say this is a pretty good choice.

And if you didn’t believe it was official, all you have to do is look at Oprah’s Instagram page for confirmation. A couple of weeks ago, Winfrey posted a picture of herself, director Lee Daniels and the film’s star after one of their first read throughs of the script.

So what role will Oprah play?

She’s going to be a pimp.

If you know anything about Richard Pryor, you know his formative years weren’t exactly…conventional. As a child Pryor was raised in his grandmother’s brothel in Peoria, Illinois where his mother was a prostitute. His mother abandoned him when he was 10 and his grandmother, a notoriously violent, woman raised him.

Richard Pryor’s widow, Jennifer told TMZ, once Oprah got the script she was desperate to play Marie Carter, Pryor’s grandmother because she’s anxious to play a more, meaty and gritty role after her performance in The Butler. 

Damon Dash Sues Lee Daniels For $25 Million

August 14th, 2014 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

In random entertainment news, Former Rock-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash is reportedly suing Lee Daniels—at least that’s what TMZ is reporting.

According to reports, Daniels and Dash entered into an agreement ten years ago where Dash invested in Daniels’ film projects—including “Precious,” “The Woodsman,” “Precious,” “The Paperboy” and “The Butler.” Dash claims that he invested $2 million into Daniels’ “The Woodsman” project, but never received a dime in return.

Daniels “attempt(ed) to deprive (Dash) of the monetary benefits and producer and executive producer credits owed to Mr. Dash as per the parties’ agreements,” the summons said, according to Business Insider.

Damon also argues that he was swindled out of his executive producer and credits on the projects. As a result, asking for no less than $25 million from the director. So far, Lee Daniels’ reps have yet to respond to the allegations.

Brian Banks, Football Player Falsely Accused Of Rape, Working On A Documentary

August 8th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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AP Photo/Long Beach Press-Telegram, Brittany Murray

AP Photo/Long Beach Press-Telegram, Brittany Murray

Most of us remember Brian Banks, the football player who was falsely accused of rape at 16 and spent five years in prison. And even when he was released, he had to register as a sex offender and had trouble finding work.

After his exoneration, at 26, Banks decided to release a documentary describing what his life had been like for the past ten years. And he started a Kickstarter to help raise funds for the project. He ended up earning $47,000.

After two years the film is not complete because it grew far beyond Banks’ own expectations. He shared that initially he thought it would be a small project but as more and more people learned about his story, they wanted to help him. First he was trying out for NFL teams, eventually joining the Atlanta Falcons for training camp. He would go on to play in four games during last year’s NFL season.

And in the meantime, Banks has been touring the country speaking at schools, organizations and events across the country and meeting with politicians and lawmakers bringing awareness to wrongful convictions.

Most recently Banks’ documentary attracted the attention of Michele Farinola, the producer behind the Oscare winning documentary Undefeated. 

And then on top of all that good news, Lee Daniels, director of The Butler and Precious has signed on to direct a scripted feature film based on Banks’ story.

The project is currently looking for screenwriters.

It’ll be interesting to see what Daniels does with the feature film but personally I’m more interested in the documentary.

Check out the video Brian used to solicit funds for his Kickstarter.

“Do You Want To Be A King?” Watch The Trailer For The New Series, “Empire” Starring Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson

May 13th, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Empire II

There are a wealth of new shows coming to TV this fall, and we’re happy to say that quite a few have black leads. One such example is the new drama from FOX called “Empire,” starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.

According to Shadow and Act, the show stars Howard as Lucious Lyon, the head of the record label Empire Entertainment, which is on the verge of an IPO. Aka, big money, big money money money money. Henson is Cookie (yes, Cookie) Lyon, the ex-wife of Lucious who was just released from prison after 17 years for dealing drugs, and drug money she acquired helped Lucious start his label. Of course, she is back and looking to claim what is hers out of his megahit label.

And to cap off the drama, there is beef between Lucious’ sons, Jamal (played by Jurnee Smollett’s brother Jussie), Hakeem (played by Bryshere Y. Gray), and Andre (played by Trai Byers), as they struggle with one another over their father’s empire. And did we mention that Lucious has only three years left to live because of cancer?

Talk about drama. I will say, the first minute or so of the trailer is a bit on the corny side, but as it went on, I saw a lot of potential for the drama. The show is directed by Lee Daniels, and The Butler writer, Danny Strong, is also working on it. Other guest roles include Gabourey Sidibe as Lucious’ assistant, Becky, and Macy Gray as a woman having an affair with Hakeem.

Check out the trailer for yourself and let us know if you think you will give it a chance, and why or why not.

10 Ratings & Box Office Winners To Look Forward To This Year

March 31st, 2014 - By Candace Smith
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With the sounds of birds chirping before dawn and temperatures inching above 50 degrees, warm days and comfortable nights are not the only things to get excited about this spring and summer season. There are a host of television shows and films to salivate over.

As the critics continue to chatter, take a look at the 10 TV shows and movies we think will usher in top ratings and box office success for the rest of this year.

Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “Precious”

March 24th, 2014 - By Deron Dalton
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(photo credit: Lionsgate 2009)

Precious is a thought-provoking, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking independently-funded film that went on to become an Academy-Award winning success!

The movie is about an overweight, dark-skinned African American girl dealing with incest and child and sexual abuse who has to “push” through the abuse, her illiteracy and teen motherhood by attending an alternative school in hopes for her life to head in a new direction. Though most are familiar with these details, having read the novel the film was based on, there are many behind-the-scenes trivia you probably didn’t know happened in order to make this adapted film come to the big screen — Like the name of the film was changed from the novel’s name Push: The Novel to Precious to avoid conflict with the 2008 action film, Push. The novel was also republished as Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.

Read on for more secrets behind the making of Precious.

Taraji P. Henson And Terrence Howard To Star In Fox Hip-Hop Pilot, ‘Empire’

February 27th, 2014 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard have amazing on-screen chemistry. And luckily for us the “Hustle & Flow” duo will be reuniting for a Fox pilot.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series is titled “Empire” and is being put together by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. The drama takes place in the midst of a family-run hip-hop empire. Terrence will be playing Lucious Lyon, who is at the head of a record label. Taraji will be playing Lucious’ ex-wife, Cookie Lyon, an ex-con who has just been released after serving 17 years in prison for dealing drugs to fund Lucious’ then-struggling record label. After being released for good behavior, naturally, Cookie is looking to reclaim what’s hers.

As if all of that isn’t enough, it turns out that Cookie was the driving force behind Lucious’ rise to super stardom and now she’s looking to do the same with the couple’s homosexual son, Jamal, who will be played by Jussie Smollet. This puts Cookie at odds with Lucious, who has rejected and shunned his son since childhood because of his sexuality. Jamal is actually the couple’s middle son of three and is described as “a sensitive soul and musical prodigy who could easily rise to superstardom if he desires.”

This sounds like something I’d totally be interested in seeing. What about you?

Lee Daniels’ New Hip Hop Drama Set To Hit The Small Screen!

January 25th, 2014 - By Drenna Armstrong
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Lee Daniels is a busy man these days and now, he’s about to be focused on his new hop hop drama set to air on Fox.

Empire is described by The Hollywood Reporter as a “family drama set in the world of a hop hop empire.”  I know, that doesn’t tell us much at all but Lee Daniels is well connected and could give us an honest look into the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of the hip hop world. 

Daniels will direct Empire while Danny Strong, who worked with him on The Butler, has agreed to write the script.  The hour long pilot actually had a bidding war going on for it but Fox came out on top as the winner. This will be Daniels’ first time writing for television.

It’ll be interesting to see how the show will pan out. Every now and then, shows tend to fall flat when they try to focus on music, often becoming quite cheesy and unrealistic. Fox has a bit of a better track record sticking with its new shows so hopefully, Daniels and Strong will bring something fresh to the table.

Since we don’t have any further information about the show, it is impossible to start thinking about who will actually star on the show. But if we’re being honest, we know there will have to be a few black actors and actresses on there and that’s almost always a good thing.

No word on when Empire will premiere on Fox.

Are you a big enough fan of Lee Daniels’ work that you’ll check out Empire when it makes its way to the small screen?

“I’ve Already Won”: Oprah Said She’s A Winner When Asked About Oscar Snub

January 20th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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From BlackVoices

Oprah Winfrey says she’s “already won.” And Emma Thompson says she’s at least relieved not to have to put on “another frock and heels.”

Both actresses, snubbed by Oscar this year, are waxing philosophical about the situation, and looking at the bright side.

“Don’t be annoyed,” Winfrey, overlooked in the supporting actress category for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” said of her reaction.

“… I really look at that category and look who is nominated in that category: my friend Julia (Roberts) and June (Squibb), whom I don’t know, but Sally Hawkins and Jennifer (Lawrence) and Lupita (Nyong’o.) I think that’s fantastic. And so I haven’t picked up the acting chops in 15 years. So to be able to be a part of a film that could get that kind of attention, that could earn the kind of audience respect that it has, I’ve been saying all along, ‘I’ve already won. I already won.'”

As for Thompson, passed over for best actress in “Saving Mr. Banks,” she noted: “You just go ‘Oh!’— and then you (say) ‘Ooh, that means I can work in March instead of getting into another frock and heels.'”

Both actresses spoke at the Critics’ Choice Awards on Thursday in Santa Monica.

Read more on Oscar snubs at