All Articles Tagged "Queen Latifah"

Queen Latifah To Star In Lee Daniels Pilot

December 8th, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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“Empire” is only in its second season and Lee Daniels is already plotting on his next music-themed project. According to Deadline, Daniels is creating another Fox pilot and Queen Latifah recently signed on for the starring role. Up-and-comers Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny and Brittnay O’Grady, have also been cast in the project.

The drama series, which is co-written and directed by Lee, will follow the journeys of “three young women who form a girl group with hopes of making it big in the music industry, and the choices with which they’re faced along the way.” Queen will be playing the role of Carlotta, an Atlanta beauty salon owner with musical talents of her own who becomes somewhat of a surrogate mother to the trio—even though she’s not really in support of their musical dreams.

As previously reported, transgender actress Amiyah Scott has also been cast in the series; however, details surrounding her character have not been revealed.

Vulture is reporting that the 20th Century Fox-produced pilot is set to begin filming next month.

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“It’s A Part Of Who I Am, It’s A Part Of Why I Am”: “The Wiz Live” Cast Share What The Story Means To Them

December 1st, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: NBC

Source: NBC

Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more invested in “The Wiz Live,” we had an opportunity to speak with the cast members about their experience rehearsing for this live, televised event on Thursday, December 3. We interviewed some of the biggest names in entertainment and they had a lot to say about this project. But more than anything, the cast members kept reiterating how important The Wiz, both the play and the feature film, were to not only themselves but to the African American community as a whole.

Check out some of the thoughts, memories and passion shared by both the on-stage talent as well as the folks behind the curtain.

Source: NBC

Source: NBC

Stephanie Mills, Auntie Em

I knew of Shanice (who plays Dorothy) before they actually cast her because Kenny and I were having a talk and he said, ‘There’s this girl and I know she’s Dorothy, I know she’s Dorothy.’

I’ve given her love. I told her you can’t–I don’t want you to try to do what I did. She’s her Dorothy, the 2015 Dorothy. It’s her. I did my part 40 years ago.

It’s emotional because I see myself in her. I see the innocence, how young I was doing it and how afraid I was at that time. It brings back all those memories.

Executive producer, Craig Zadan: I don’t think we had any pressure. We took it on because we love it and we thought it would make a great show for us to do. What we were surprised at was the amount of people who called us. I would say this was the first time in our lives that very prominent African American artists, actors, directors, producers called us to say ‘Do you know how important this is to the community? Don’t blow it.’ And we realized at that moment that there’s a reverence for this material. We didn’t take it on for the reverence. We took it on because we loved it. But then you realize that there is that added responsibility of making sure that it’s done correctly. And we’ve done it correctly. We hope. We hope when you all see that you feel it’s done correctly too.

MN: Was there a moment when you felt like ‘ok, this is right’?

Executive producer, Neil Meron: Yeah. At the table read when it was all the talent in one room and we heard how much they collectively felt the same way about the material and what we were about to do. It felt good.

(Photo by: Paul Gilmore/NBC)

(Photo by: Paul Gilmore/NBC)

Amber Riley, Addaperle (Good Witch of the North)

I don’t know how old I was but I remember watching [The Wiz] and rewinding it over and over again. And I remember trying to do “Ease on Down The Road.” I remember the music, I specifically remember the music.

Before even hearing what names were going to be a part of [this production], I wanted to be a part of it anyway. I didn’t really care who was going to be in it. You know, this is iconic. The fact that my mom has seen it and that was her first Broadway show and then I saw it in the movie and now my niece is four is going to be able to watch it. Anything that can withstand generations has to be amazing. There’s something special about it and I really wanted to be a part of that.

Bet You Didn’t Know: Celebs Who Own Production Companies

November 23rd, 2015 - By Nneka Samuel
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Splash News

We all know about Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Shondaland and the empires belonging to Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, but did you know the following stars have production companies?

Nicki Minaj Set To Receive VH1’s “Big In 2015” Honor From Someone Who Paved The Way

November 14th, 2015 - By Ashley Monaé
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It’s safe to say that Nicki Minaj has been dominating 2015 — sans pink wig.

From her chart-topping third studio album The Pinkprint to an extensive world tour to giving the world the Beyonce collab we’ve all been waiting for, Ms. Onika Maraj is out here putting numbers on the score board for female emcees.

Now, VH1 is giving the Head Barb in charge a proper send off for her unmatched work ethic, as she will receive their “Big In 2015” honor. And of course, for someone as popular and groundbreaking as Nicki, they had to make sure the award presentation was a special one. So, they’ve secured Queen Latifah to present the “Anaconda” rapper with the forthcoming telecast ceremony.

Just two years ago, at the start of Latifah’s daytime talk show, she invited Minaj to appear as a guest. The two talked rapping, guys and much more, but it was Latifah’s assurance that Minaj was on her way to Billboard success that stroke a chord. “You’re one of the top five in the business period,” she said to Minaj. Fast forward to now, Latifah’s sentiments still hold true.

VH1’s “Big In 2015” will air on the network on Dec. 7 at 9 p.m.

We Need More Khadijah James And Joan Claytons When It Comes To Black Women On Television

September 15th, 2015 - By Alexandra Olivier
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If it weren’t for endless reruns of Law & Order Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds and everything on Food Network, I would probably get rid of my television all together.

Simply put, there is nothing on the tube. To be specific, there isn’t enough variety in the stories being told. Particularly the ones about and, sadly, made by Black women.

The original programming I see with a Black woman lead character focuses so much on her love life that we forget these women have lives outside of the men they’re dating, dodging and being dogged by. From Mary Jane Paul leaving Andre only to have the next stage of her storyline revolve around her ex, David, to Scandal focusing more on Olivia’s relationship with Fitz than her work with her consulting firm, it’s all about love. Everything else about a character’s life that is also of importance has to take a backseat, and frankly, I’m frustrated with this narrow focus.

And please don’t tell me that reality television is our new normalized reality. If we’re not watching every Black woman’s struggle boil down to the hands of a man (hence the word “Love” and “Wives” in all the program titles), we are squabbling with other women. But we are not shadows of the opposite sex. The opposite sex does not consume the ways in which we conduct our lives or our relationships with other women. Or at least they shouldn’t.

There are no sitcoms or late-night shows to binge-watch that showcase Black women in the real. Our daily life. For instance, pursuing businesses – and not striking another female contender down while doing so. Balancing healthy relationships with friends and family first, and dealing with the quirks and problems with everyday life–and then the men who provide us with intimacy and sometimes heartbreak after the fact.

There are no Girlfriends, just frenemies using each other until the water runs dry. I don’t see women facing loss and having the unwavering support of true friends. Women who are a shoulder, filling up your glass and still affirming your beauty and purpose as you sit there with a tear-stained cheek, runny mascara and all. All of our encounters aren’t catty. And that’s the problem: there is no variety to offer a semblance of balance. Yes, there is attitude and shade, but do not forget the support and love. Yes, characters should have relationship issues, but does that have to be the breadth of every episode? Where’s the variation? Where’s the depth?

I loosely base the pursuit of my writing career on Khadijah James. I wanted to write and eventually start my own magazine just like her. In my head, my friends and I would be the modern-day “Living Single” – quirks and all. On that classic sitcom, a woman owned her own business, and though James (played by Queen Latifah) didn’t have a man by her side a majority of the time, her life was full. Amazing friends and experiences provided her with the comprehensive story she needed and that we needed to see. Bringing a man (i.e. Scooter) into her life didn’t become the center of her storyline, but a side story that provided her with a healthy partnership.

If it’s more and more of the same, TV can keep their dime-a-dozen Stevie J and Joseline spinoffs and their lovelorn Black women characters. I’m holding out hope in the meantime that Issa Rae’s upcoming HBO series, Insecure, will fill a void, and that her characters will have more to talk about and deal with than the same old woes.

Until then, mindless reruns and missing Elliot Stabler will have to suffice.

Queen Latifah Speaks To Variety On Speculation About Her Sexuality

August 19th, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Queen Latifah’s cover of Variety is absolutely beautiful. Inside of the August 2015 issue, the actress addressed her versatility, the cancellation of “The Queen Latifah Show” and speculation about her sexuality. Peep some highlights from her interview below.

On refusing to remain in one lane:

“I felt like if I couldn’t say I was the best rapper — male or female — I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket. So it was always about trying to expand from the beginning, be it musically, business-wise, or other opportunities.”

On her transition to acting:

“(Musicians) are hustlers in lots of ways. We have to perform and express different personas for different records,” she says. “So selling it to the camera is a natural progression.”

On paying staff members out of her pocket after the cancellation of “The Queen Latifah Show:”

“I don’t know how that got out. Look, I was appreciative of how hard everybody worked, and felt we should be proud of what we did. It was bad timing, holidays were coming, and we wanted to make sure everyone would be OK through the New Year.”

On the speculation that playing an openly bisexual Bessie Smith may have caused:

“I know what I’m doing in my private life, and I know what I’m not, and I know me. And people who are not privy to that don’t know; they don’t know what they think they know. This is Bessie’s story. It has nothing to do with my life.”

Read her full interview here.

Queen Latifah

Robert Maxwell for Variety

Find Out Who Will Be Playing Dorothy In “The Wiz Live!”

August 5th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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We’ve been waiting for a while to discover who NBC would cast in the leading role of their production of “The Wiz Live!” The network announced that they were looking for a new fresh face and this morning on the “Today” show, they revealed it.

Shanice Williams, an 18-year-old New Jersey native, was selected from hundreds of applicants who auditioned across the U.S. for the iconic role.

Williams brings five years of musical training, including dance and piano to the role. Before she was offered this game-changing opportunity, Williams starred in several, local productions including West Side Story, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, 42nd Street, Seussical and Pippin. 

Williams will star alongside the original Dorothy on Broadway, Stephanie Mills, who will play Auntie Em in this tv production. As we reported earlier Queen Latifah will play “The Wiz” and Mary J. Blige will play Evilene, the Wicked Witch of the West.

And NBC also announced that David Alan Grier will take on the role of the Cowardly Lion.

Kenny Leon, the man behind The Mountaintop, Stick Fly, A Raisin in the Sun and Lifetime’s remake of Steel Magnolias, will serve as the director.

The live production is set to air on December 3, on NBC.

You can check out Shanice’s skills in the video below.

Queen Latifah And Mary J Blige Are Coming To “The Wiz” Find Out Who They’ll Play

July 28th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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We’ve been telling you for months about NBC’s production of the Broadway classic, “The Wiz.” Now, as the December air date nears, we’ve got some casting information to share with you.

According to Varietyone of the upcoming show’s executive producers Craig Zadan, made the announcement today. Latifah will play the role of the mysterious and powerful wizard in the Emerald City.

And Mary J. Blige will play Eveillene better known as the Wicked Witch of the West, who rules over the Winkies and Winged Monkeys.

As for Dorothy, NBC is still holding a nationwide search to find a new, fresh-faced talent.

Latifah and Blige join Stephanie Mills, the former Dorothy, who will play Auntie Em in this version.

The show will premiere on December 3 and later, a Cirque du Soleil stage version of the production will air on Broadway.

Queen Latifah To Star In T.D. Jakes Film “Miracles From Heaven”

June 22nd, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Queen Latifah


T.D. Jakes, DeVon Franklin, and Joe Roth are back in the lab.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the movie-making trio is in pre-production for a new film starring Queen Latifah and Jennifer Garner titled, Miracles From Heaven.

Based on the memoir bearing the same name, which is authored by Christy Beam, Miracles From Heaven tells the story of Beam’s daughter Annabel Beam’s miraculous healing after being diagnosed with an incurable, life-threatening digestive disorder.

Garner has been cast to play the role of the Beam. Latifah will be playing a Boston waitress, who steps into Beam and her daughter’s life as somewhat of an earthly angel. She builds a relationship with the girl as she and her mother visit the Boston Children’s Hospital. A brief synopsis of the book reads:

In a remarkable true story of faith and blessings, a mother tells of her sickly young daughter, how she survived a dangerous accident, her visit to Heaven, and the inexplicable disappearance of the symptoms of her chronic disease.

Annabel Beam spent most of her childhood in and out of hospitals with a rare and incurable digestive disorder that prevented her from ever living a normal, healthy life. One sunny day when she was able to go outside and play with her sisters, she fell three stories headfirst inside an old, hollowed-out tree, a fall that may well have caused death or paralysis. Implausibly, she survived without a scratch. While unconscious inside the tree, with rescue workers struggling to get to her, she visited heaven. After being released from the hospital, she defied science and was inexplicably cured of her chronic ailment.

The adaptation was penned by Randy Brown. It will be directed by Patricia Riggen. Roth, Franklin and Jakes joined forces for a similar film project last year, Heaven Is For Real, which earned more than $100 million worldwide.

“She Was Radical” Director Dee Rees Talks Bessie Smith And The New HBO Film

May 15th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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We’ve been talking about this movie for months now. And tomorrow, you’ll finally be able to watch the story of legendary Blues singer Bessie Smith unfold. As someone who’s seen the film, I can tell you you’re in for a treat. Not only is it visually impeccable, the story and the performances are rich.

In anticipation of the television premiere of Bessie, we spoke to screenwriter and director for the project, Dee Rees, about how she approached the writing and directing of this piece and why it was so important for her to tell Bessie Smith’s story.

Though Rees is generations removed from the era when Bessie Smith toured and  performed.  She still had access.

“Bessie is someone who I kind of grew up with,” Rees said.

My grandmother played her records, my mom played her. There’s this album that they had called One Mo Time, that was recorded from a 1979 a Black Vaudeville kind of sendup. And so that was something I remembered as a kid. So I was always curious about her life. She was a woman from Tennessee, a Black woman, a queer woman from Tennessee, who wasn’t afraid to be who she was.”

So when the she was approached with the opportunity to tell her story back in 2012, Rees said she “really wanted to get behind her eyes and see her worldview.”

But the process of obtaining information to do so wasn’t an easy one. Bessie Smith was born in the late 1800’s and government records at that time, particularly for Black people, weren’t always accurate, if they were kept at all.



Because she was born so long ago–even her birthdate, there’s no consensus–so the first thing I did was go to the public library and pull every book that I could find. And also there’s a book called “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism” by Angela Davis which is really, really great. It really conceptualizes Bessie. So I relied on that as my main text. I just did research. Even with the census records, there are three birth dates. Everything about this woman is in the gray area. 

And while there wasn’t an abundance of information, Rees wanted to make sure the information she noted and eventually included in the film came from the primary source.

“I was careful to try to reconstruct her persona based on her voice versus what other people said about her,” Rees said. “So I would go to song lyrics, the songs that she herself wrote, not the songs others wrote for her and try to understand her personality, what she was interested in, what she was worried about. Because I think that the best way to know an artist is through their work. I started through her art to understand what was in her psyche.”

What she found and what was very prevalent in the movie was that Bessie Smith was very socially conscious and particularly concerned about the plight of Black people in this country. It was evidenced in Smith’s song lyrics.

“After a huge flood, she wrote one of her biggest hits, “Backwater Blues”. And she wrote that about the people who had been displaced. She was concerned the social ills of the time. She has a line that wasn’t in her recorded performance but one of her lines was “All my life I been making it, all my life White folks been taking it.” She was politically conscious. You know the Blues was an early form of social protest. She was very much interested in women’s empowerment even though her lyrics are misconstrued or over simplistically interpreted as misogynistic or encouraging domestic violence, by saying these things, she was creating a forum for women to be able to discuss these things. For her to be creating her art and putting forth the image she wanted to put forth, she was radical.”

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

In addition to her art, Bessie Smith was also herself when it came to her romantic life. She was in her prime at the turn of the century and during the “Roaring Twenties,” when living fast, loud and loose was something like the norm. Bessie Smith, as well as her mentor Ma Rainey, were very open with their sexualities. And while other historical accounts may gloss over this fact or speak about it briefly, it was important to Rees that Smith’s sexuality play a prevalent role in the story.

“Look how much she contributed. To suppress it would not make any sense. We wanted to talk about it in a real way and not in a scandalized way. That’s who she was. She was bisexual in a very matter of fact way.” 

And for those who might not have known her personally, she put her sexuality in her lyrics too. In her 1930’s song, “The Boy in the Boat,” Smith says, “When you see two women walking hand in hand, just look ‘em over and try to understand: They’ll go to those parties—have the lights down low—only those parties where women can go.”  

But Bessie’s music was more than just an expression of sexuality, it was an expression of the times. And, in many ways, her music, and Blues music in general, with its penchant for boldly telling the truth about Black life, was able to penetrate mainstream consciousness. The commercial success of her albums and eventually the radio play she received, introduced Black music and subsequently Black issues to White audiences. Black music would eventually include the songs of the Civil Rights Movement, used not only to unite and inspire the Black community but to inform Whites.

That’s what Rees wants audiences to take away from the film. The Black community owes a great debt to artists like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Their willingness to speak and sing candidly about being Black and female, opened doors.

Rees said, “These women’s work laid the foundation for the Civil Right’s Movement.” She wants audiences to note and respect the significance of their artistry but also show that Bessie Smith, who was the highest Black entertainer of her day, didn’t have to sacrifice who she was to make money or make a difference.

You can watch Bessie tomorrow, May 16 on HBO at 8 pm.