Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Story of Barack and Michelle Opens August 26


Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers

Inspired by Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU recounts the eventful summer day in 1989 when a young law firm associate named Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) tried to woo lawyer Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) during a daylong date that took them from the Art Institute of Chicago to a screening of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing to the site of their first kiss outside of an ice cream parlor. 


Directed and written by Richard Tanne
Executive produced by John Legend
Starring : Tika Sumpter, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Parker Sawyers, Jerod Haynes

Photo credit: Matt Dinerstein, Courtesy of Miramax and Roadside Attractions

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

'Captain America: Civil War' Opens May 6 2016

Cast of Captain America: Civil War

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in twocamps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire  for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability. Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” opens in U.S. theaters on May 6, 2016.

(l-r) Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.

When the government sets up a governing body to oversee the Avengers, the team splinters into two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in twocamps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire  for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.  

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Frank Grillo and Martin Freeman, with William Hurt and Daniel Brühl.

Anthony & Joe Russo are directing with Kevin Feige producing. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee are the executive producers. The screenplay is by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” opens in U.S. theaters on May 6, 2016.

Captain America: Civil War, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman with William Hurt and Daniel Brühl

Twitter:  @CaptainAmerica
Instagram: @Marvel
Genre: Action-Adventure
Rating: PG-13

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

LA Film Festival Unveils 2016 Competition Lineup

42 World Premieres chosen for U.S. Fiction, Documentary, 
World Fiction, LA Muse, and Nightfall Competitions

LOS ANGELES (April 26, 2016)— Today the LA Film Festival, produced by Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that also produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, unveiled the official U.S. Fiction, Documentary, World Fiction, Nightfall and LA Muse sections. The 2016 LA Film Festival will screen a diverse slate of feature films, shorts and web series, along with programs such as the Filmmaker Retreat, Coffee Talks and Master Classes. The Festival runs June 1-9, 2016 at the ArcLight Cinemas. 

“Our Programming team, led by Roya Rastegar and Jennifer Cochis, killed it,” said Festival Director, Stephanie Allain. “The competition lineup of 42 world premieres echoes Film Independent’s mission to celebrate diversity and showcases a multitude of innovative, fresh voices. We can’t wait to share these films with audiences and industry alike, and, following years which saw films like Meet the PatelsCode Black, Nightingale, The Drew, Out of My Hand and French Dirty acquired out of the Festival, are confident that 2016 will mark our best Festival yet.”

"Discovering storytellers is our raison d’être,” said Roya Rastegar, Director of Programming. “We invest a great deal to learn about filmmaking communities across the globe. We look for films with conviction in perspective, style and voice.”

"Curating films for LA audiences is so special because Angelenos have a uniquely homegrown love of cinema," added Creative Director, Jennifer Cochis. "It's with true film lovers in mind that we program: from political theater to musical theater, we're highlighting storytelling in all its forms."

The 2016 LA Film Festival, which will have its headquarters at the ArcLight Culver City, announces a diverse slate of 56 feature films, 58 short films and 13 short episodic works representing 28 countries. Previously announced, the Opening Night Film is the World Premiere of Ricardo De Montreuil’s Lowriders, sponsored by Jaeger-LeCoultre. This year’s Guest Director is Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) and Ava DuVernay (Selma, Middle of Nowhere) and Array Releasing will receive the Spirit of Independence Award. More special screenings and programs will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Festival’s five competitions feature 42 World Premieres. Across the five feature competition categories, 43% of the films are directed by women and 38% of the films are directed by people of color.

This year, LA Film Festival Director Stephanie Allain is joined by Creative Director Jennifer Cochis, Director of Programming Roya Rastegar and Managing Director Ralph Rivera. Film Independent Curator Elvis Mitchell continues to oversee signature programs and LACMA events.

Passes are currently on sale to Film Independent Members and the general public. In addition to access to screenings and events (even after they sell out), Festival passes provide access to networking receptions and the Festival Lounge, where pass holders interact with Festival filmmakers and professionals in the film community. General admission tickets to individual films go on sale to Film Independent Members beginning Thursday, May 5 and to the general public beginning Tuesday, May 10. Contact the Ticket Office for passes, tickets and event information by calling 866.FILM.FEST (866.345.6337) or visit

US Fiction Competition (12)
Original voices with distinct visions from emerging and established American independent filmmakers.

11:55dir. Ari Issler, Ben Snyder, USA, World Premiere
72 Hoursdir. Raafi Rivero, USA, World Premiere
Blood Stripe, dir. Remy Auberjonois, USA, World Premiere
Chee and Tdir. Tanuj Chopra, USA, World Premiere
Destined, dir. Qasim Basir, USA, World Premiere
Dreamstatesdir. Anisia Uzeyman, USA, World Premiere
GREEN / is / GOLD, dir. Ryon Baxter, USA, World Premiere
My First Kiss and the People Involved, dir. Luigi Campi, USA, World Premiere
Paint it Black, dir. Amber Tamblyn, USA, World Premiere
Tracktowndir. Jeremy Teicher, Alexi Pappas, USA, World Premiere
The View from Talldir. Erica Weiss, Caitlin Parrish, USA, World Premiere
Woven, dir. Salome Mulugeta, Nagwa IbrahimUSA, World Premiere

Documentary Competition (12) Sponsored by Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television.
Compelling, character-driven non-fiction films from the U.S. and around the world.

Company Towndir. Natalie Kottke, Erica Sardarian, USA, World Premiere
Denial, dir. Derek Hallquist, USA, World Premiere
Dr. Feelgood, dir. Eve Marson, USA, World Premiere
Dying Laughing, dir. Lloyd Stanton, Paul Toogood, USA/UK, World Premiere
The House on Coco Roaddir. Damani Baker, Grenada/USA, World Premiere
Jacksondir. Maisie Crow, USA, World Premiere
The Last Golddir. Brian T. Brown, Germany/USA, World Premiere
Looking at the Stars, dir. Alexandre Peralta, Brazil/Nicaragua/USA, World Premiere
Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, dir. Deborah Riley Draper, USA, World Premiere
Out of Iraq, dir.  Eva Orner, Chris McKim, Canada/Iraq/Lebanon/USA, World Premiere
Political Animals, dir. Jonah Markowitz, Tracy Wares, USA, World Premiere
They Call us Monsters, dir. Ben Lear, USA, World Premiere

World Fiction Competition (6)
Unique fiction films from around the world from emerging and established filmmakers, especially curated for LA audiences.

Heis (chronicles)dir. Anaïs Volpé, France, World Premiere
Like Cotton Twinesdir. Leila Djansi, Ghana/USA, World Premiere
London Towndir. Derrick Borte, UK, World Premiere
Lupe Under the Sundir. Rodrigo Reyes, Mexico/USA, World Premiere
A Moving Image, dir. Shola Amoo, UK, World Premiere
Play the Devil, dir. Maria Govan, Trinidad/Bahamas/USA, World Premiere

LA Muse (6)
Fiction and documentary films that capture the spirit of L.A.

Actors of Sound, dir. Lalo Molina, Argentina/Finland/Germany/India/Ireland/USA, World Premiere
Girl Flu.dir. Dorie Barton, USA, World Premiere
Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story, dir. Eric "Ptah" Herbert, USA, World Premiere
Namour, dir. Heidi Saman, USA, World Premiere
No Light and No Land Anywheredir. Amber Sealey, USA, World Premiere
Sensitivity Training, dir. Melissa Finell, USA, World Premiere

Nightfall (6)
From the bizarre to the horrifying, these are films to watch after dark.

Abattoir, dir. Darren Lynn BousmanUSA, World Premiere 
Beyond the Gates, dir. Jackson Stewart, USA, World Premiere
Don’t Hang Up, dir. Alexis Wajsbrot, Damien Macé, UK, World Premiere
Mercydir. Chris Sparling, USA, World Premiere 
Officer Downe, dir. M. Shawn Crahan, USA, World Premiere
Villisca, dir. Tony Valenzuela, USA, World Premiere

Short Films (58): From over 2,500 submissions, the short films selected represent 15 countries and 64% are directed by women. Short films are shown before features and as part of seven short film programs. Shorts will compete for juried prizes for fiction and documentary shorts, as well as an Audience Award for Best Short Film.

Future Filmmakers Showcase: High School Shorts (33)The LA Film Festival’s Future Filmmaker Showcase brings to the big screen the best films made by budding young filmmakers from across the country and the globe. In this diverse slate of films, incredibly accomplished high school students will present wild comedies, moving dramas, mesmerizing animation, introspective experimental films and everything in between. Program sponsored by Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television and Time Warner Foundation.

Episodes: Indie Series from the Web (13)
A showcase of independently crafted web series, celebrating rising creators whose work and subjects are innovative and unfiltered.

20 Seconds to Live, dir. Ben Rock, USA
Brothers, dir. Emmett Jack Lundberg, USA
Caring, dir. Maggie Kiley, USA
Fridays, dir. Anna Kerrigan, USA
The Ghost and the Negro, dir. Sylvester Folks, USA
Her Story, dir. Sydney Freeland, USA
Instababy, dir. Rosie Haber, USA
Literally So Busy, dir. Jerad Sloan, USA
Little Things, dir. Lex Halaby, Mila Shah, USA
Outside Comedy: Beth Stelling, dir. Thomas Wood, USA
Quirky Female Protagonist, dir. Yulin Kuang, USA
Shangri-LA, dir. Drew Rosas, USA
Time Out with Yes Please!, dir. Kholi Hicks, USA

Online & Social Media: Find us on Facebook at and Twitter @LAFilmFestival. Official event hashtag: #LAFilmFestival.

Monday, April 25, 2016

WGN America Renews 'Underground' Series


“Underground” 2016 Primetime Emmy Campaign Kicks Off 

Full-Season Marathon to Air Before the Finale, Wednesday, May 11

Los Angeles, April 25, 2016 – WGN America’s Underground Railroad thriller “Underground, among the most widely praised series of the year and the network's most-watched original program ever, has been renewed for a second season, it was announced today by Matt Cherniss, President and General Manager, WGN America and Tribune Studios.  The breakout hit series, created by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, draws 3 million Total Viewers on Wednesday nights season-to-date in Live + 7 delivery, lifting an average of +131% in time-shifted viewing among Adults 25-54, and is the #6 highest-rated scripted series premiere of any cable drama this season.  “Underground” was the #1 original scripted series on cable last Wednesday night across all key demos in Live + 3 ratings.

“With enormous pride we are announcing a second season of ‘Underground,’ a series that has resonated with so many passionate fans across the country,” said Cherniss.  “We are deeply proud of the work that the talented cast, crew and production team have done to bring this story to life, led by our gifted creators Misha Green and Joe Pokaski and our partners at Sony Pictures Television.  It is an honor to have ‘Underground’ on our air and we look forward to how the story will unfold in what is sure to be a stellar sophomore season.” 

Executive-produced by Misha GreenJoe PokaskiJohn LegendAkiva GoldsmanTory TunnellJoby HaroldMike JacksonTy Stiklorius and Anthony Hemingway, “Underground” follows a courageous group of American heroes who attempt a daring flight to freedom in the greatest escape in history.  Produced by Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios, the 10-episode second season order is set to begin production this summer for a 2017 debut.

"When we came together to create 'Underground,' we had one mandate, and that was to be bold.  To evoke the spirit of the American heroes who bent the arc of history," said Green and Pokaski. "To our extraordinary cast and crew who gave blood, sweat and tears to breathe life into this story, thank you for being bold with us.  To our supportive partners at WGN America, Sony Pictures Television, Weed Road, Safehouse and Get Lifted, thank you for being bold with us.  And to all the 'Underground' fans who tune in every week, tweet and spread the word, thank you for being bold with us.  We are beyond thrilled to have the honor and privilege to continue this journey."

John Legend said, "‘Underground’ isn't just a television show.  It's a movement.  It is storytelling at its finest, and the brilliant work that Misha, Joe and our cast have done to infuse Underground with the kind of passion that’s made it part of the zeitgeist is incredible.  This show does so much more than entertain, it inspires us to reflect on our past and learn from those mistakes to make a brighter future for our children.  Thanks to everyone at WGN America, Sony Pictures Television and my Get Lifted partners Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius for putting their hearts and souls into ‘Underground.’  We look forward to a spectacular season two."  

"We’re tremendously proud of this series, from Misha and Joe’s powerful and unflinching storytelling, to John Legend’s heart-pounding soundtrack and creative contributions to the breakout performances of our gifted cast," said Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, Presidents of Programming and Production, Sony Pictures Television. "It’s been gratifying to see the audience for 'Underground' grow each week, and we are looking forward to continuing our partnership with WGN America to bring viewers more of these thrilling stories of courage, pain and heroism."

“Underground” is outpacing WGN America’s 2015-2016 primetime average by +508% in Total Viewers, +864% among Adults 25-54 and +1005% among Adults 18-49 in Live +7 viewing.

The celebrated cast of “Underground” includes Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Rosalee, Aldis Hodge as Noah, Christopher Meloni as August Pullman, Alano Miller as Cato, Jessica de Gouw as Elizabeth Hawkes, Marc Blucas as John Hawkes, Adina Porter as Pearly Mae, Mykelti Williamson as Moses, Amirah Vann as Ernestine, Johnny Ray Gill as Sam, Chris Chalk as William Still, Reed Diamond as Tom Macon, Theodus Crane as Zeke, James Lafferty as U.S. Marshall Kyle Risdin, Renwick Scott as Henry and Jussie Smollett as Josey.

WGN America has kicked off its For Your Consideration Emmy campaign for “Underground," which includes print, online, social media and out-of-home ads, as well as on-air promotion and a dedicated screening room for Academy of Television Arts and Sciences members to view the series' full first season across multiple devices.  The network is also providing DVD screeners of “Underground” to the Academy’s entire 18,000+ membership body, and recently hosted a special screening event for members.  

“Underground,” which was screened at the White House in February, boasts a large and loyal fan base that live tweets the series each week, along with the cast and creative team, making “Underground” the #1 most social cable drama on Wednesday nights.  The series trended worldwide last week, on the same day the U.S. Department of the Treasury made its historic announcement that abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman, who led many enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad, will appear on the face of the $20 bill, a decision lauded on social media by the cast and creators.    

“Underground” has broadly garnered raves, including this small sampling of recent press:

  • “gifted ensemble and propulsive momentum” –Time Magazine
  • “dramatically compelling” – The Wall Street Journal
  •  “‘Underground’ tells a story we have not seen, a story we need to see.” – Los Angeles Times
  • “‘Underground’ is overdue — and right on time…a thunderous TV drama” – The Washington Post
  • “a harrowing and compelling series that will make you feel uncomfortable, amazed, and ultimately inspired " – Deadline Hollywood
  • “One of the most entertaining and powerful examples of the Golden Age of TV” – Paste Magazine
  •  “‘Underground’ is the most powerful show on TV.” – Ebony
  • “smash hit” – 

In the newest episode of "Underground," entitled “Grave,” airing Wednesday, April 27 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, the Macon 7’s perilous escape route to freedom takes them to Kentucky where they are met with suspicion by the local authorities.  The finale will air Wednesday, May 11, preceded by an all-day “Underground” marathon for fans to binge-watch the entire 10-episode first season, beginning at 1:00 p.m. 

Set in a desperate and dangerous time, WGN America’s “Underground” tells the story of revolutionaries of the Underground Railroad who use their ingenuity, will and power to attempt the greatest escape in history despite the dire consequences that awaited them on the other side.  The provocative and compelling series focuses on a group of courageous men and women who band together for the fight of their lives—for their families, their future and their freedom.

The season two order for "Underground" comes on the heels of WGN America renewing "Outsiders," another hit series in its growing stable of high-quality original programming.  The network's popular original series "Salem" returns for a third season Halloween week. 

Cedric The Entertainer Joins Lineup For 'Johnny Guitar Watson Heart For Music Celebration'

(Los Angeles, CA) -- Johnny Guitar Watson, one of the music industries most beloved guitarist was silenced by a massive heart attack in Yokohama, Japan on May 17, 1996 while in the middle of one of his GRAMMY nominated songs “Superman Lover”.   Now it’s time to celebrate his legacy after 20 years, the 1st Annual Johnny Guitar Watson Heart for Music Foundation Celebration will be held on May 17, 2016 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles at 8 PM

Cedric The Entertainer

The star-studded celebration will be co-hosted by Phil Morris (Love That Girl) and Kiki Shepard (Live at the Apollo), directed by Iona Morris, written by David Ritz, and Musical Direction by Gemi Taylor. Special guest appearances include; Cedric the Entertainer and Marla Gibbs. Musical performances by Lenny Williams, Barbara Morrison, Doyle Bramhill II, YoYo and her crew, Crystal/Penni, Martin Kimbers (Color Me Bad) and his son Ashley, and many other great performers.

The Red Carpet Event Begins At 7pm and Show Time at 8pm, with a VIP Reception immediately following the event, featuring an exhibit of artifacts belonging to the late Great Johnny Guitar Watson.

Watson’s daughter, actress, writer, producer Virginia Watson said, “After 20 years, I decided that the time had come to take the legacy of my father and find a way to help people in his name and keep his legacy alive, so The Johnny Guitar Watson Heart For Music Foundation came to be.”

Johnny Guitar Watson was A Musicians Musician, A Mentor, Teacher, Trend Setter, and an Innovator in Rock & Roll, R & B, Jazz, Funk, and Rap! He made his mark in these genres with unforgettable style. Even after his passing his music is still reaching the masses through samples, covers and sync uses.  His latest collaboration is with Kanye West on his new CD The Life of Pablo

Johnny Guitar Watson

Johnny had forged many relationships and collaborations with the greats. His work with Frank Zappa and Eric Clapton changed all their lives and set the groundwork for an everlasting friendship.  "My father was holding frank's hand when he passed and all Frank asked for in his coffin were strings from one of my father's guitars and his Zappa briefcase”, stated his daughter, Virginia Watson.  "Thank God for the rappers of the world like Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, Kanye West, Redman, Method Man, Dr. Dre, Naughty By Nature, Digital Underground and Kendrick Lamar just to name a few who proudly sampled his iconic music."

The mission of the JGW Heart for Music Foundation (501c3) is to raise money to acquire musical instruments to put into the hands of our inner city youth, who show promise and focus in real music and then pair them with industry professionals who will mentor them to their musical destination. Our goal is to raise $50,000 to help facilitate music studies through after school programs like ARC, LAUSD and Non-Profit after school programs such as YoYo’s School Of Hip Hop.

It is the dream of the Watson children to establish this foundation in honor of their father and to give back to the community something special in the arts that will inspire and support inner city youth and help to keep real music alive! For additional information visit:

About Johnny Guitar Watson
John Watson, Jr. (February 3, 1935 – May 17, 1996) professionally Johnny "Guitar" Watson was an American bluessoul, and funkmusician and singer-songwriter. A flamboyant showman and electric guitarist in the style of T-Bone Walker, Watson recorded throughout the 1950s and 1960s with some success. His creative reinvention in the 1970s with disco and funk overtones, saw Watson have hits with "Ain't That a Bitch", "I Need It" and "Superman Lover". His successful recording career spanned forty years, with his highest chart appearance being the 1977 song "A Real Mother For Ya".  

Hudson and Fierstein Join NBC's 'Hairspray Live!

Jennifer Hudson

Harvey Fierstein

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — April 25, 2016 — Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson and multiple Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein will headline the cast of NBC’s “Hairspray Live!,” the network’s next live Broadway musical holiday event following the phenomenal success of “The Wiz Live!”  
Also joining the creative team will be acclaimed television director Alex Rudzinski, who received extraordinary reviews for his television direction of “Grease Live!” Rudzinski was also the TV director for “Dancing With the Stars” from 2005-14.
“We are beyond thrilled with this incredibly talented duo of stars for ‘Hairspray Live!,’” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. “Harvey Fierstein created the role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway in an indelible Tony-winning performance that demanded to be memorialized on film, and we’re happy he wanted to step into her shoes one last, unforgettable time. We’re also so grateful that the incomparable Jennifer Hudson will play Motormouth Maybelle and we know her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ will literally stop the show.” 
Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Hairspray Live!” takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When, against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna Turnblad, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”
Harvey Fierstein, who is also writing the teleplay, will play Edna Turnblad, a role he created and won a Tony Award for in the stage version of “Hairspray.” The quintessential Edna, Fierstein portrayed the character for the show’s first two years of its seven-year run at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway. 
As an actor, he is a member of an elite group who have won Tonys as Best Actor in a Musical (“Hairspray”) and Best Actor in a Play (for his own “Torch Song Trilogy”). As a writer, Fierstein won Tonys for “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Torch Song Trilogy,” and received three more Tony nominations for writing “Kinky Boots,” ”Newsies” and ”Casa Valentina.” His adaptation of “Funny Girl” is currently running, along with “Kinky Boots,” in London.
Hudson, who will play Motormouth Maybelle, is currently completing a triumphant run in the acclaimed revival of "The Color Purple" — performing the role of Shug Avery in her Broadway debut. She won an Oscar and Golden Globe in 2007 for her iconic performance as Effie White in the hit film “Dreamgirls.” Her sensational rendition of the song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” was greeted with instant acclaim by film critics and moviegoers alike and made Hudson the person to beat as best supporting actress for the Academy Awards.
Hudson’s incredible vocal talents were first recognized with her appearance on the third season of “American Idol” in 2004, where she impressed both the show’s judges and a national TV audience. Soon after, she released her first album, “Jennifer Hudson,” which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 Chart and sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. through the first six weeks. The album was nominated for four Grammys and won for best R&B album.

Hudson continued on the bigscreen following “Dreamgirls” and has since co-starred in such films as “Sex and the City,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and Spike Lee’s latest film, “Chi-Raq.” Her TV credits include NBC’s “Smash,” Fox’s “Empire” and HBO’s newest telepic, “Confirmation.”
“Hairspray Live!” reunites Hudson with executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who worked with her previously on NBC’s “Smash” and the 85th and 87th Oscar telecasts, which they also produced.
Television director Alex Rudzinski will join stage director Kenny Leon (“The Wiz Live!”). Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the upcoming “A Few Good Men Live!”) serve as executive producers of “Hairspray Live!” Harvey Fierstein will provide a new teleplay and Jerry Mitchell (“Kinky Boots,” “On Your Feet”) will serve as choreographer for the live production with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Smash” and Broadway’s upcoming “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”). 
“Hairspray Live!” will air Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and will originate from Los Angeles.
“Hairspray Live!” is produced by Universal Television.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

R&B Legend Eddie Levert To Play Maverick's Flat

Eddie Levert

By Darlene Donloe

Eddie Levert has been in the music game for several decades, but he still has that thing.  You know that thing. That thing that has fans clamoring to get near him. That thing that happens when he takes the stage and begins to make women swoon and make men wish they had just a fraction of his magnetism. That thing that makes his fans buy CDs and tickets to his and The O’Jays concerts to hear that gravelly, sensuous voice that has made him an enviable, veteran performer. Yes, Eddie Levert has that thing!

He doesn’t sing, but he can sang!

When it comes to filling lyrics with as much emotion as they can hold, no one does it better than Eddie Levert.

The lead singer of the legendary R&B group, The O’Jays, Levert, who hasn’t slowed down one bit, is currently in Los Angeles for some solo performances in support of his new solo project called Did I May You Go Ooh!.   The first single off the CD is Let It Go, a song he wrote with his son, Gerald, who died in 2006.

He’s been holding on to the song – waiting for the right time to release it because, to him, it’s just that special.

O’Jays fans have no reason to worry.  Levert has not left the group. He is just spreading his wings and showcasing the vocal prowess that has made him a music industry favorite.

This weekend he’s in Los Angeles to perform Saturday, April 22, at KJLH’s 16th Annual Women’s Health Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center and to play at the famous Maverick’s Flat on Sunday in support of his latest CD.

He looks really dapper today in a green room at the Los Angeles Convention Center – awaiting his appearance at the KJLH Women’s Health Expo.  There is only a hint of aging in his salt and pepper beard.  His face is still smooth and tight and there is still a twinkle in his eyes.  He’s nattily dressed in beige slacks, a white shirt and camel sports coat. He’s fully present when he greets his fans. He looks everyone in the eye, gives firm handshakes and long, genuine hugs.

I talked to Eddie Levert about his career, his new CD and his upcoming show.

DD: Your thoughts on  the death of Prince.

EL: It was so bizarre. Hearing about him and the plane stop in Moline, immediately when I heard that for some reason that feeling of dread came over me. When they got back home, what I don’t understand about it is – you make a stop 48 minutes from your destination. What happened when you got home? You didn’t call a doctor or go to hospital? He ended up alone. How did that happen? All these people you pay and you’re at home alone?  Prince had an emergency stop. If I’m feeling like that I’m going to contact my doctor. Someone of this magnitude, the doctor is going to come to the house. When he passed, he was alone. Where are all these people that you’re paying? Where are they when you are in dire straits?

The O'Jays

DD: Did you know Prince?

EL: I didn’t know him that well. Only met him once. We (The O’Jays) were on tour with Patti Labelle and we were in Atlanta. I had my grandkids with me. When they saw him they were in awe. He was a little guy. I don’t think he came to see The O’Jays. I don’t think his focus was to see The O’Jays. He came to see Patti. We were headlining the show. He showed up before we went on. My grandkids were like, ‘Grandfather would you ask him if we can get an autograph.’  Well, I know he’s a Gemini. I’m a Gemini. I understand how we get when we’re in a crowd. We have all this other stuff going on. When I came up to him, I acknowledged who he was. He acknowledged who I was.  I said, ‘My grandkids are excited and would like to get an autograph. He looked at me and said, ‘I would rather not.’ I think he was in that zone. I get in that zone, too. When I’m focused on what I’m doing. I don’t see nobody. I understood that, but my grandkids didn’t understand.

DD: This year has been tough regarding artists passing away.

EL: You always have to make time for yourselves. You’re subject to everything everybody else is subject to including death and taxes and illnesses. Death doesn’t care who you are.  When I heard about Prince I didn’t know him well, but I shed a tear.   I’ve lost so many friends this year – Natalie (Cole), Leon Haywood, Maurice White and more.  I’ll wake up one day and there will be another one gone. It makes me start looking over my shoulder. Where am I in this scheme of things? What do I do to solidify what I am and who I am. I don’t want people to misunderstand why I do what I do. The reason I’m doing this is to send a message that we’re all in this thing together.  If we don’t try to help one – we’ll all be lost.

DD: Why do you continue to make music?

EL: I’m not the second coming for music. I don’t put myself on a pedestal. I do this because I enjoy this.  I do it because I have something to say to the people - whether you’re red, black or brown.  That’s why you make songs like Love Train, Backstabbers and Family Reunion. You are trying to convey a message to the people.

Gerald Levert

DD: I heard you talk about your son, Gerald Levert on KJLH.

EL: When Gerald passed away, he had a house full of people at his mansion. A gang of people including nephews and bodyguards and still, all of those people being there, he died alone. No one was there to hear his last gasp or see him struggle. All they heard was a thump and then they went to the door and he didn’t answer. They   let it go.

DD: Lets talk about your solo project that you’re releasing.  Why these songs?

EL:  So my first CD was really on a whim because I was listening to the radio and listening to all these kids doing their new music. I said let me go in the studio.  I called the CD The Last Man Standing. I thought to myself, let me show these kids I can go into the studio and show them how I can cut a whole album with just a rhythm track. No horns and no string section. Just me and some background singers and I can make something good happen.   

Eddie Levert

DD: Tell me about “I Let Go,” the last song you wrote with Gerald.

EL:  The reason we wrote that song is because he was going to marry a young lady and for some reason or another the relationship turned bad. She went one way and he went another. He never got over that.  We were sitting in a studio one night and I was starting work on a CD. It was this song. I didn’t put it on my first CD, I saved it for this one. It was close to me. It was a treasure. I was saving it. I hoarded it. I hoarded this song. It explains that relationship and how he had to know it was not going to work out or come back to him.  I helped him write it because I’m old enough to understand that. That’s why we called it, I Let Go.

DD: So, it was a rude awakening?

EL: The music business has changed so much. I didn’t realize that it’s hard to get them to play your songs on the radio. I didn’t realize you have to have a certain quality of control before they would even give you a listen to. When I came up all you had to do was sing and play it and you got a hit record. I decided I had to redeem myself.  This CD is sort of redemption for taking the business so lightly.  For Ego-ing. That’s what I call it. I was ego trippin’ like that and not putting my best foot forward.  This is the CD that I call the redemption of Eddie Levert.

DD: What do you think of today’s music? 

EL: They need to go a little bit deeper. The only people doing meaningful things. are some of the rappers. They are saying something. The radio isn’t playing anybody of my era who was doing music that was good.   Today these kids, the only thing that is really selling and what they think is great is ‘slap it up and twist it around and let me have sex with it.’ It’s all sexual. There is nothing that says, what do we do, how do we remedy the world?  How do we help to save out people. They don’t even talk about everyday life.

DD: Name some artists you like today.

EL: I really like R Kelly. Beyonce, I love her.  I love Jennifer Hudson. I love Fantasia, I love Ledisi. I love Chrisette Michele and I love Jazmine Sullivan. They are all women.  I like Eric Benet. I like Tyrese. But the girls are doing it. Where are the guys? The girls are kicking ass. They are doing it. They are beating the guys.

DD: What can fans expect from you at Maverick’s Flat?

EL: You’re going to hear a few songs from new CD and some songs by the O’Jays. I’m going to do some stuff with Gerald. I just came up with this. I’m not going to do Prince songs. I did a song called Last Man Standing. I’m going to dedicate that song and that song called, Already Missing You to all of my friends – people that I’ve known and who have passed on.

DD: Did I Make You Go Ooh! is the name of your CD.  Tell me about it.

EL:  It’s a sexual thing. When you listen to the whole thing you’ll see I just wanted to do some great music.  When you listen to the whole thing, I want you to say, ‘Oooh, that was good.’ That’s why I call it, Did I Make You Go Ooh!.

DD: If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be?

EL: I think I would go to the heart of it and change the way they program radio. Radio should be more diverse than it is. Don’t just have rap and R&B. We’re going to have pop and rock n roll. When I came up radio played everything and everybody from Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard and The Beatles. We heard everybody. They played a variety of music. You had a lot of things to pick from.

DD: How do you measure your success and the success of a CD?

EL: It used to be if you sold 500,000 copies you got a gold record. If you sold a million, you had a platinum record. Now, if you sell 50,000 copies you’re doing good. If you sell 100,000 copies, you’re doing excellent. If you go anywhere over that, you’re over the top. The level of success has dropped instead of going higher.

Maverick’s Flat Presents The Legend Eddie Levert, 4225 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles; 7 p.m., Sun., April 24; $25-$40;