All Articles Tagged "lee daniels"
Ava DuVernay’s third feature film, Selma, nominated for Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards (and won for Best Original Song), is a cinematic masterpiece. Starring British actor David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr., the performances in Selma leap off the screen and beautifully embody the spirit, impact and importance of the Civil Rights movement. And to think Selma was almost never made.
At least three other directors were attached to the film prior to Ava DuVernay, and Selma had been in limbo for years, even with Oyelowo attached to star. But it took Black women to bring the project to fruition – Ava, who not only directed but rewrote the script, and Oprah Winfrey, who produced and acted in the film. But let me not give away all of the secrets here. Read on to learn more exciting behind the scenes details about Selma.
It’s hard not to think of Selma as an Ava DuVernay film, but prior to her attachment, Lee Daniels was set to direct it. But he left the project to work on The Butler. Daniels wasn’t the first director involved with the project, however. Multiple directors were attached but clearly, Ava was the chosen one who made it all come together.
He’s very much into television these days as both Empire and the upcoming Star suggest, but three years ago, writer and director Lee Daniels released his fourth film as director, The Butler. It is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, a Virginia native turned Washington, D.C. transplant who served in the White House as a butler for more than three decades. The film was a favorite among critics and filmgoers alike. Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker starred as Cecil Gaines, a married father and White House butler who experiences a total of eight presidencies, up close and personal. The civil rights movement, wars, riots, presidential history – Gaines had a front-row seat for every major political or social event. But that’s not all you need to know about the movie or its characters. Here are some secrets behind the making of Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
— Empire (@EmpireFOX) July 10, 2016
By now, fans of the hit Fox show Empire have heard the good news: diva extraordinaire Mariah Carey will guest star in the third and upcoming season. Carey will play a famed singer named Kitty. With a name like that, we’re sure she’ll give Cookie Lyon a run for her money. But Carey isn’t the only celebrity Empire fans can look forward to seeing on screen this season. Taye Diggs, French Montana, Kid Cudi and Birdman are all expected to appear, in addition to the main players we’ve all grown to know and love – Lucious, Cookie, Jamal, Hakeem and Andre Lyon. Television’s first scripted Hip-Hop family. Season 3 premieres on September 21, but until then, check out some secrets behind the making of Empire.
Whether you’ve heard of her name before or not, you’ll be familiar with the work of Effie Brown soon.
The seasoned indie producer of Dear White People and HBO’s Project Greenlight, has joined Lee Daniels‘ production company, Lee Daniels Entertainment (LDE), according to The Hollywood Reporter. Brown will serve as executive VP of production and development for TV and Film.
“I’m extremely excited. In my opinion, Lee Daniels is a cultural icon,” she told THR. “I’m really happy to be here because part of Lee Daniels’ brand is that he does value diversity in front of as well as behind the camera.”
Apparently, Daniels and Brown began their working relationship on the set of Fox’s untitled pilot centered on a girl group with big hopes of making it in the grueling music industry, which will also star Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt. This will be Brown’s first series as executive producer under Lee Daniels Entertainment.
“We’re elated to have Effie on board for this new chapter of LDE,” Daniels told THR. “What she brings to the table in terms of creativity and tenacity is unrivaled and we cannot imagine anyone better for this position.”
Congratulations to Brown! It’s definitely great to see more women of color taking the executive producer role in television and film.
Amiyah Scott is definitely on the come-up. The transgender model gained Internet fame due to her striking good looks and most people’s inability to believe she was born a man. Now it looks like she’ll be able to add actress to her list of accomplishments, and we mean it foreal this time.
TMZ says Scott has just been tapped by Lee Daniels to star in an Empire spinoff which we didn’t even know was happening. The premise of the potential series is a prequel that will look at the backstory of the show’s most popular character, Cookie Lyon. And while Scott won’t be playing the title character, she has reportedly been chosen to play one of the singers in an all-girl group after reading for the part back in August.
While that’s all the details we have on this spinoff that appears to be in its beginning stages, given the success of the hit Fox show we can already guess this is a better gig than fighting with a bunch of grown women as a member of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, which Scott was rumored to have been joining this past season. We’re very curious how this all will play out.
Tonight, we temporarily bid farewell to the hood soap opera, Empire, as it ends its historic run for 2015 with what promises to be a winter finale full of lies, a possible pregnancy revelation, maybe even another kidnapping or a probable untimely death. You never know what to expect with the series.
And that could be why, in its second season, the show has garnered a reputation for being all over the place.
When Jussie Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon on the show, spoke on that backlash, he said he could understand why some might have fallen off of the bandwagon.
“They have something to compare it to now. But this isn’t a show about happy endings. It’s messy and wild and emotional and complicated and f–ked up but it’s worth the ride. It will pay off. Don’t stop watching.”
When Empire came on the scene in January, nobody could have foreseen the impact that the Lyon dynasty would have on television. With a cast led by the magnetic Taraji P. Henson and the spellbinding Terrence Howard, Empire quickly took television audiences by storm. Each week, the Lee Daniels-created show upped the ante with plot twists, musical guests, and murder, and each week the ratings rose and rose. Much to the surprise (and low-key dismay) of network executives and naysayers who could not believe that a show with a Black cast and a less than polished and pristine plot could attract so much attention. The show was renewed for Season 2 almost immediately after it aired and by the time its 10-episode run concluded in mid-March, the Empire effect was in full force. Network heads were scrambling to find their Empire, a.k.a., a show featuring Black leads, that would hopefully procure major ratings.
And that’s why I will be a loyal viewer of Empire until the show takes its final breath. It’s hard to guess where they can go from here, but that’s what comes with doing a soap opera of any kind. Every week you have to out drama yourself to keep the viewers on their toes.
No matter how ridiculous the storyline, no matter if the season returns with Lucious having an evil twin or Cookie becoming the mayor of Philly with Usher serving as her chief of staff, the show has my allegiance. Because of Empire and its success, this fall, over 73 TV pilots were featuring or co-starring Black performers. This is unheard of in the new millennium. Writers of color were given opportunities to pitch projects, and TV writing and directing staffs featured more people of color than ever before. Empire was a game changer.
While Empire’s Season 2 ratings have not been anywhere near as stellar as they were earlier in the year, as of last week, the show is still bringing in 11 million viewers a week, which is still pretty big as far as Fox is concerned. Though the guest star situation has been laughably terrible this time around (Rosie O’Donnell, Chris Rock, and Ludacris took all the suspension out of my belief), and the storylines have been hurried (seriously, Hakeem was kidnapped and safely returned within like 20 minutes), I still love the fact that I can tune in and watch Black people of all moralities, shapes, sizes, and colors do their thing. I mean, I damn near applauded when they gave Gabourey Sidibe a love scene. That was a powerful, bold statement that needed to be made, and Empire had the guts to show the world that people of all sizes and colors get love too.
The Black TV revolution is upon us, and I, for one, am rejoicing. Not since the late ‘90s when Black faces could be seen on every channel, have we experienced such a beautiful barrage of people of color entertaining us on TV. I turn on the tube, and I see people who look and talk like me on almost every channel (side-eye to CBS) and it makes me beam with pride. So, despite the rollercoaster ride their shows can sometimes take us on, I salute Lee Daniels, Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris, and all the other showrunners leading the way and advancing diversity on TV. For better or worse, through the dramatic ebbs and flows of the series, Empire will always have a viewer in me.
I am always thrilled when shows with Black casts are produced on major television networks. Without hesitation, I will support by watching at least the first couple of episodes. If I can stomach the program, I will commit to watching it regularly. I felt this type of loyalty last year when FOX announced the newest addition to its lineup in Empire.
Season 1 monopolized the Zeitgeist. The world could not get enough of the evening soap opera. I personally enjoyed the ’70s, Blaxploitation film look of it all, paired with the original music and pop culture antics. And I loved the character development provided in flashback sequences. Every story needs a villain like Lucious (Terrence Howard), and a tell-it-like-it-is bada– like Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). The show touched on topics many others weren’t touching, including homophobia, religion, and mental illness. I was ecstatic that Empire had gained such a vast following and that Wednesdays seemed to be bridging the racial divide, even if only for an hour, as the viewing audience has been just as much White as it is Black.
That is why it pains me to say now, five episodes into Season 2, that the show has lost its “it” factor to me. There are many reasons why but let me start at the source with the show’s creator, Lee Daniels. He’s produced and directed great (and often controversial) films like Monster’s Ball, Precious and, of course, The Butler. But since the success of Empire, Daniels has been seen and heard more frequently in the media. Whether he’s speaking out on why Mo’Nique’s career didn’t take off after her Oscar win for Precious or appearing on talk shows to talk about the success of his hit program, Daniels has proven that he is not just a behind-the-camera guy. He comes alive with a very blunt opinion in front of the camera as well.
One particular interview that left me perplexed was The Hollywood Reporter‘s Drama Showrunner Emmy Roundtable. Daniel’s sat around the table, the only Black writer amongst writers of other popular and critically-acclaimed shows. I was proud to see him in that setting representing an almost silenced group of people–the Black screenwriter. When the topic of diversity in television came up, Daniels professed that “Nothing is more beautiful now than to go into the writers room of Empire. I don’t know what gives me more pleasure, watching my story unfold, or going in and watching the room full of Black people talking for me.” Daniels went on to say, “I hate white people writing for me. It’s so offensive.” Yet as I watch Season 2 and refer to Daniels’s roundtable sentiments, I am left perplexed because it’s the writing that is causing the show to lose its luster.
Episode 1 of Season 2 started with a stunt double Cookie dressed in a gorilla suit, descending from the sky in a cage. Once her cage reached the stage where a concert for Lucious was taking place, she ripped the suit off and protested, “How much longer are they going to treat us like animals?” This imagery, I’m assuming, was meant to attack the prison industrial complex and the disproportionate number of Black men and women in prison. But someone must’ve missed the memo that ape images are coon caricatures and the scene further perpetuated the Blacks-as-animals stereotype.
And then there are the petty moments. Specifically the moments when shade was thrown at 50 Cent and Donnie McClurkin. On the one hand, 50 Cent has publicly dissed Empire on social media for being similar to his hit show Power. However, Donnie McClurkin was simply dragged into unsolicited cattiness over his stance on homosexuality. During his cameo appearance on Empire, Lawrence Washington, known to the world as Miss Lawrence of Real Housewives of Atlanta and Fashion Queens, laid on top of a piano and said Donnie McClurkin would be attending an LGBTQ awards show. Gabourey Sidibe’s character responded by shouting “Shondo!” and throwing her hands in the air as if she were in church. The whole thing was unnecessary and came across as a desperate ploy for laughs.
Another thing about the show is that it has become about more and more about cameos. Celebs come to crash and burn. Al Sharpton, Marisa Tomei, Ludacris, Kelly Rowland, Ne-Yo, Sean Cross, Swizz Beatz, Don Lemon, Andre Leon Tally and Chris Rock are just a few who have all come and gone so fast it leaves you wondering, “Was that…?”
It’s all too much and too soon, taking attention and emphasis away from the core characters.
Lastly, at the height of the Black social justice movement, Empire writers made an attempt to address the #IfIDieInPoliceCustody hashtag that came about after the death of Sandra Bland while in police custody. As the FBI was investigating the family record label and the entire Lyons family, Cookie was arrested outside of Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem’s (Bryshere Gray) video shoot. Before being driven away, Cookie yells out of the police car window, “Is anybody videotaping this? If I die in police custody, I did not commit suicide!” And from there, it was impossible to tell whether Cookie’s character was trying to remind people of a serious issue, or just making light of a serious situation.
There are so many ways to touch on topics prevalent in Black culture today without being catty, insulting, insensitive and perpetuating stereotypes. Empire could start by not jam-packing one episode with too many themes and give the writing a chance to really delve into these issues. Not just gloss over them for quick laughs and shock factor.
The cast of Empire is great. The acting is wonderful, and the new talent that is emerging through the show is refreshing. But the writing is the issue for me. It is my hope that Empire’s success continues as this body of work has every right to exist in this place and time. But I hope such success won’t make the show’s storytellers lazy. The pressure is on, and I am holding my fellow Black writers to a standard that I know they can meet.
I really have no idea why menfolks like Dr. Boyce Watkins object so harshly to Lee Daniels’ smash hit television show “Empire”?
Actually I do: it’s about the women and the gays. It’s always about the women and the gays…
That is certainly the theme in Watkins’ latest essay entitled, Why I refuse to support the coonery of the show, “Empire.”
I use “latest” as a relative term here considering this was originally posted in March of this year. Still this link, along with similar sentiments about the show, have been making the rounds again in lieu of the Empire’s second season premiere. As such I thought it best to address some of the “finer” points in the essay.
“When the Fox Network released the new show, “Empire,” I was concerned about what I might see on screen. Fox is not known for producing the most favorable images of black people, so I figured this show wouldn’t be any different. For some reason, black dysfunctionality makes for great television, and there is a long line of white guys getting rich off of our willingness to celebrate all that makes us miserable.
If you do some research, you might notice some of the same things I’ve seen in this ghetto-fied hood drama: Pimps, hoes, thugs, gangsters, emasculated black men, and all kinds of other kinds of stereotypical coonery that many of us have grown tired of seeing portrayed on-screen. Lee Daniels is apparently the man responsible for this televised monstrosity, and I wonder if a day will ever come that the majority of us will refuse to support directors who pimp their people to help bigots like Rupert Murdoch get rich from modern day minstrel shows.”
I am not going to bore you with the rest of the essay, but rest assured it is filled with the same ugly vitriol you would find in most essays and social media rants about the effeminate men and Black women.
And to be clear: Watkins may try to hide it inside a need and desire for more favorable images of black people” as a whole, but this is an attack on Black women too.
In fact, Watkins has made a habit (some would say a career) railing against programming created for the entertainment of Black women. “Scandal” is one. Reality television is another. And now “Empire” which, according to this article in Vulture Magazine, is the ratings share “equivalent of a Super Bowl” among African-American women between 35 and 49 years old.
Without saying it directly, Watkins, as usual, lays the onus of both the destruction and the repair of the community falls on the shoulders – or in this case, the eyeballs – of Black women. After all, it is our entertainment and viewing habits, which are allegedly hurting our image. And it is our support of “Empire” that is allegedly helping evil media mogul Rupert Murdoch get wealthier.
And if us Black Queens [eyeroll] would stop watching these frivolous programs that do nothing but distract us from raising children and making sandwiches for our men (that’s why they are emasculated), our men would be free to get jobs, stay out of prison and get down to the business of nation building.
But let’s suppose it’s all true. Let’s imagine for a moment that “Empire” is nothing more than a high-tech minstrel show, bankrolled by FOX with an agenda to turn all Black men into the gays and Black women into weave-wearing, White-men screwing NeNe Leakeses. My question is when will menfolks like Watkins lead by example?
What I mean is why are there never any essays connecting the dots between Murdoch’s evil plans to harm the Black community and FOX Sports?
Besides reality shows and “Empire,” there is no other more problematic image of Black people on television than what has come out of the NFL. I’m talking sexual assaults and domestic violence. I’m talking the financial castigation of Black men through exploitive contracts and poor ownership opportunities. And I’m talking head traumas, broken backs and other permanent physical damage to the players themselves.
Murdoch gets paid handsomely off of that oppression too. In fact, his Fox Sports networks are gaining ground on ESPN in terms of ratings, including in Black households. Taking a stand against the “coonery” by boycotting Murdoch’s sport networks and broadcast of NFL games would be the ultimate opportunity for the brothers to flex that invigorated-brand of masculinity, which they are always claiming is being snatched away from them by Black women, effeminate Black men and The Man.
And yet there aren’t any scathing essays imploring the menfolks to empower themselves through a boycott of the upcoming Washington Redskins vs. Atlanta Falcon or the New England Patriots vs Dallas Cowboys games on FOX Sports. To be fair, Watkins, in 2008, did call for a boycott of NCAA basketball season, some of which might have aired on FOX Sports. But that was solely about getting college athletes paid. And he made no mention of how our support of March Madness contributed to FOX or Murdoch.
I guess he was cool with us lining Murdoch’s pockets back then. Just like how it was cool when we all went to go see X-men, Planet of the Apes, Alien vs Predator, Fantastic Four, and other action films produced by FOX. You know because Murdoch owns a lot of shat including the film studios, production and distribution companies and television stations in which great deal of our entertainment comes from?
Nope. Watkins, and others brothers who charge others with the task of fixing the Black community’s image, rarely seek empowerment through self-control and personal accountability. Instead, these fellas mostly seek validation of themselves through the policing of what the we women can say, do or even enjoy.
What’s most interesting in Watkins’ angst over “Empire’s” alleged role in bankrolling Murdoch’s empire is that Watkins himself has been a guest quite a few times on FOX programming. Talk about contributing to one’s own demise. But I guess that was different, huh?
Let me hip y’all to some game. Church folks love “Empire.” Now, the show might have lost some followers once Lucious started calling himself God; (Not after he shot Bunkie in the eye though.), but with 16 million views last night, many among them, were church folks.
And they noticed that there was a Donnie McClurkin reference. “Fashion Queens” star Miss Lawrence appeared on the show. Lying on top of a piano, in a sequin blazer he hyped Becky’s life by mentioning that Donnie McClurkin would be attending an LGBTQ award show.
In case you missed it, there’s a clip from the moment on Instagram.
It’s interesting to say the least. Lee Daniels is an openly gay man and Donnie McClurkin is a reformed homosexual. It was clearly a dig.
McClurkin didn’t take too kindly to the reference and issued this press release.
“There’s no explanation or understandable reason for the actions people take under the guise of entertainment. When did the art of creative writing resort to penning scripts for shock value and controversy? During the premiere of FOX Television’s hit show, Empire, the writers targeted gospel artist Donnie McClurkin.
There are several ways one can respond to this new form of bullying and the pastor, singer songwriter took to Twitter to share his comments:
“It was brought to my attention via social media that my name was included in a “back-handed” manner during a scene in the FOX show, Empire. What might have been meant for evil, God uses for good! Despite the scripting used by @leedanielsent it has helped bring attention to the gospel of Jesus Christ that I sing and preach, an empowering moment! To my brothers and sisters, thank you for your support, encouragement & love! No negativity towards @leedanielsent let’s show the love of Jesus,” says McClurkin.
“Let this experience be a reminder that as loving Christians we’re called to share the good news of Christ and be examples of God’s love on the earth.”
I have to be honest, at first I was thinking that Donnie was doing too much. I thought, as a public figure who has been very vocal about his own deliverance from homosexuality and his disagreement with the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage, this is kind of par for the course, what you sign up for.
But then I stumbled across this article titled “No Longer A Victim.”
In it, McClurkin explains that his first sexual experience was rape, at the age of eight-years-old, at the hands of his Uncle. And then at 13, that same Uncle’s son molested him. And when McClurkin found the Lord, instead of the men in the church helping him heal from the abuse, they exploited his confusion and introduced him to a secret, homosexual lifestyle.
McClurkin says it wasn’t until years later, with help from God, he began to finally heal from the hurt of being raped, molested and abused at the hands of men in the church.
You should certainly read the piece in its entirety, as it is very illuminating.
McClurkin has been through some very, traumatic life events that only God could help him come through.
I don’t agree that homosexuality is a sin. And as such, I don’t agree with his stance on marriage between two, consenting adults, who happen to share the same gender. But I can understand how he internalized his rape, molestation, abuse and exploitation as painful, dirty and not of God. Those experiences were all those things. He wasn’t given the opportunity to explore his sexuality appropriately or healthily. And He does not want to be considered a homosexual man. As a Christian, he believes that God has delivered him from that. As a human it is his right to define himself as he sees fit, whether people like or understand it.
However we interpret the events of McClurkin’s life and his subsequent sexuality, his story didn’t deserve to be used as some sort of punchline on a network television dramedy.
Lee Daniels has to be one of the best bosses ever. Even when you’re dead wrong he’ll defend you against the public “backlash.”
And while Terrence Howard might appreciate his support, it’s gotten Lee into a bit of trouble.
Last week, after Howard admitted to beating several women in a Rolling Stone interview, people began discussing the issue. There have been allegations about his abuse of women for years but hearing Howard himself describe the horrific incidents disturbed quite a few people.
In his own interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lee Daniels expressed the sympathy he felt for Terrence Howard. He said that because Howard is Black is he being unfairly demonized in the public eye.
“That poor boy,” Daniels said. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f*ck*n’ demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
Well, Sean Penn, like Howard has been accused of not being able to keep his hands to himself either. But Penn has never admitted it and took issue with Daniels referencing his name in all of this.
He’s suing Daniels for $10 million for defamation of character.
According to TMZ, in his lawsuit he wrote, Daniels’ comments were “reckless and malicious” and Sean has “falsely for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks.”
Penn was caught on video attacking paparazzi and was prosecuted for it. But there is no hard proof when it comes to his abuse of women. There have been numerous reports that he allegedly beat Madonna in the late ’80’s with a baseball bat and tied her to a chair for nine hours and beat her. Many publications report that he was charged and convicted. But Madonna never pressed charges and TMZ reports that he was never charged.
The lawsuit continues:
“Daniels’ defense of Howard (and his improper invocation of two of the greatest actors and humanitarians of our time, Brando and Penn, in doing so) is apparently part of a misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show “Empire.”
Whew chile! The White folks are mad, honey.
I have to be honest, I’m giving every last person involved in this story a severe side eye and offering them a seat in the time out chair, located in the nearest corner.
Lee’s defense of Howard was just wrong. I don’t see how he’s being demonized any more than any one else who admitted to beating a woman. In fact, he’s not being demonized at all. People are just asking him questions. And perhaps that, in and of itself, is the take away from all of this foolishness. Howard has admitted to beating several women, yet he still has a job on a hit television show, he recently presented an award at the Emmys, no one’s taken anything away from him. He’s good. So I really don’t understand why Lee was so crunk.
Are Black men and White men often punished differently for the same offense? Yes. But most times if that offense is against a woman, whether its physical or sexual abuse, and not caught on camera (i.e. Chris Brown and Ray Rice) then the men involved, whether they’re White or Black, get to walk away scott free. And I really wish that instead of Daniels taking this as an opportunity to turn and point the finger at society, he expressed some type of desire to get Howard help for what is clearly a habitual problem.
Instead, he referenced White men who did it, as if White people doing it makes it alright. No, it doesn’t. His comments just further seem to perpetuate the sick and twisted behavior of holding ourselves up to some kind of White standard. White is not inherently right. We cannot look to Whiteness as any type of standard of morality. We’ll be lost. If any man, of any color, is beating a woman that man deserves to be punished for it. Period.
Sean Penn and his lawyers are also out of their minds. Listen, I don’t know for certain whether Sean Penn beats women or not, but if these types of allegations keep finding you, there’s a good chance that at least one of them is not completely fabricated.
But what tickled me was the contempt in the lawsuit’s wording. “Two of the greatest actors and humanitarians of our time” and “part of a misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show “Empire.”
You mad that Black ass “Empire” show continues to breaks records and barriers?
Penn’s lawyers are guilty of doing the same thing Lee did by lifting up these White, male actors as some sort of pinnacle of morality. That hyperbole is on fleek. Even if Brando and Penn are as great of men as Penn’s lawyers make them out to be, they are still flawed people, privy to making mistakes just like any other human being. They seem to assert that Daniels’ words are unfounded when they just aren’t. For all of his talent and activism, particularly in the Civil Rights Movement, Marlon Brando, the man, was very troubled. And based on the fact that there are accounts from law enforcement and many others about Penn’s graphic and morbid abuse of Madonna, I’m sure he’s not perfect either, though there might not be official legal charges to prove it.
The point is, instead of trying to determine who’s better or who was punished more, it would be nice for men, bosses, friends, families and society too to hold all abusers accountable for their actions and stop trying to look for a way to point the finger at someone else.