Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Story Of 'The Scottsboro Boys' At Ahmanson

By Darlene Donloe
Anyone familiar with the notorious story about The Scottsboro Boys, knows it’s nothing to laugh about.

However, The Scottsboro Boys, a production now playing at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles through June 30, has found a way to presents the narrative in an uncomfortable, comical-minstrel show. 

The horrific story of injustice thrust upon nine Black youths in Scottsboro, Ala., circa March 1931, is tragic, unjustified, incredible, surprising, painful, disgusting, unbelievable and frightening.  

The nine, who didn’t know each other, save for two of whom were brothers, all boarded a train looking for work. Then, without provocation, they were pulled from the train, accused of raping two white women and then thrown in jail.  They had several hurried trials, with all-white juries who, of course, convicted and sentenced all but one of them, who was only 13 at the time, to death by electric chair. The boys ranged in age from 13 to 19.
The show reenacts the real-life horror the boys went through after they were simply looking for work at the dawn of the Great Depression.

Here is what reportedly happened: Victoria Price was in serious trouble because her friend, Ruby Bates, was a minor. It's a federal crime to take a minor across state lines for the purpose of prostitution. In order to get out of trouble, Victoria and Ruby said that the Black men had raped them. The white Southern happened to be passengers on the same Memphis-bound train as the boys. Ruby later recanted her story about the rape and told the truth.

It wasn’t until April 2013 that The Scottsboro Boys were officially pardoned by the governor of Alabama.
It’s brave of the writer, producer, director and actors to present such an iconic and complicated part of history in a tongue-n-cheek manner.

The buffoonery and cooning displayed in the show is uncomfortable to watch. One suspects that’s how the show was deliberately designed. In fact, at the recent opening of The Scottsboro Boys it was clear that some of the white audience members were unsure of whether it was appropriate to laugh.

This fast-paced show is inventive and creative, entertaining and disturbing.

The level of racial injustice displayed in America is uncovered. The curtain has been pulled back forcing everyone to look at themselves in the mirror.

John Kander and Fred Ebb (who died in 2004) are best known for musicals like Cabaret and Chicago.  They colored (pun intended) outside of the lines with their The Scottsboro Boys production. With a book by David Thompson, Kander and Ebb have created their most edgy work to date.

Edgy is being kind. There are inappropriate jokes, Cake Walks, shufflin’ and bugged eyes, all planted with the intent to make a point!

Trent Armand Kendall, who plays Mr. Bones and JC Montgomery who plays Mr. Tambo play various over the top roles throughout the show including a slew of wicked white folks in the form of lawyers, the governor of Alabama, sheriffs and more.

The entire cast is exceptional! Joshua Henry, who plays Haywood Patterson, one of the boys who spent 21 years in prison before dying of cancer, has a bold stage presence. He sets the tone with the proclamation: "This time, can we tell the truth?"

Christian Dante White and Gilbert L. Bailey II who play the white female accusers Victoria Price and Ruby Bates respectively are hilarious and engaging.  Hal Linden, the sole white performer, acts as a master of ceremony of sorts.

The show, which had its world premiere at the Vineyard Theatre and closed early on Broadway, is controversial, but it works!  It’s polished, emotive and spins a crafty yarn.

The Scottsboro Boys, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, stars Gilbert L. Bailey II, David Bazemore, Ayanna Berkshire, Shavey Brown, Christopher James Culberson, Joshua Henry, Trent Armand Kendall, Max Kumangai, Hal Linden, JC Montgomery, Justin Prescott, Clinton Roane, Cedric Sanders, Deandre Sevon, Christian Dante White and C. Kelly Wright.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), The Scottsboro Boys gets an E (excellent).

The Scottsboro Boys, Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; 8 p.m., Tues.-Fri., 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun., no performance on Mondays, added 2 p.m. performance on Thurs., June 20 and June 27, no 6:30 p.m. performance on Sun., June 23 and June 30; through June 30; $20-$115; for information: Center Theatre or 213. 972-4400.

'Holding On...Letting Go' Encore Performance


            Fremont Centre Theatre is proud to announce that its production of “Holding On—Letting Go,” which had its World Premiere at the South Pasadena theatre in 2012, has been selected as an official festival entry at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival, which takes place in Winston-Salem, N.C. from July 29 through August 3. Prior to departing for North Carolina, the show will have two encore performances at Fremont Centre Theatre, on Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20 at 8 p.m.
            James Reynolds directs. He is co-artistic director (with wife Lissa Reynolds) of Fremont Centre Theatre. He is best known nationally for his portrayal of Abe Carver on NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” for the past three deacdes.
            Bryan Harnetiaux is the playwright. Previously, his play “National Pastime,” which told the story of Jackie Robinson, was an award-winning hit at Fremont Centre Theatre, running for half a year. It, too, was directed by James Reynolds.
            The cast of “Holding On ---Letting Go” includes (in alphabetical order) Amentha Dymally, Lamar Hughes, Christian Malmin, Iona Morris, Jill Remez and Barry Wiggins.
            Synopsis: Bobby and Lee are a long-married couple. Lee is a hard-driving women’s  basketball coach. Bobby was a basketball coach and, later, an insurance salesman. But now, Bobby is in failing health, even though he is only 51.
            As his physical condition declines further, Bobby finds himself confronted by choices: whether to fight for every breath and explore every conceivable avenue in the hope that things will improve; or whether to make preparations for a graceful exit.
            There are still things left unsaid and undone between Lee and Bobby. These things are suddenly brought into sharp focus, as time may be running out.
            If we are fortunate enough to live long enough, we may all have to contemplate the decisions being faced by Bobby and Lee.
            There are only two more chances to see this show before it leaves for North Carolina.
            The theatre is launching a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to facilitate taking the production to the National Black Theatre Festival.
            “Holding On---Letting Go.” Written by Bryan Harnetiaux. Directed by James Reynolds. Presented by California Performing Arts Center. At Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave. (at El Centro), South Pasadena, CA 91030. Abundant free parking behind theatre. , July 19, 2013 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 20 at 8 p.m. Admission is by donation at
 For more information, go to

Grammys & Ford Recognizes Compton High

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(L-R) Compton High School’s Anthony Ransfer, Music Teacher; Dr. Letitia Badley, Principal; Rodolfo Zendejas, Assistant Principal, Renee Cobb, Pamela Alexander, Ford Motor Company Fund and Joseph Langford, Grammy Foundation.
Compton High School’s Music Program is one of the Top 6 in the Nation for 2013.
They were awarded a GRAMMY Signature Schools Enterprise Award along with a check for $5,500 with the support from Ford Motor Company Fund to the GRAMMY Foundation.

The Enterprise Award category recognizes efforts made by schools that are economically underserved.  The students were also treated to GRAMMY Camp – Basic Training, a GRAMMY in the Schools initiative of the GRAMMY Foundation.  Top music industry professional discussed the realities of the music business and careers in music with the students.

Photo by:  Maury Phillips

The GRAMMY Foundation® was established in 1989 to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture. The Foundation accomplishes this mission through programs and activities that engage the music industry and cultural community as well as the general public. The Foundation works in partnership year-round with its founder, The Recording Academy®, to bring national attention to important issues such as the value and impact of music and arts education and the urgency of preserving our rich cultural heritage. In recognition of the significant role of teachers in shaping their students’ musical experiences, the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy are partnering to present our first Music Educator Award. Open to current U.S. music teachers in K through college, the Music Educator Award will be given out during GRAMMY Week 2014. For more information about our music education programs, please visit For breaking news and exclusive content, please like "GRAMMY in the Schools®" on Facebook at, follow the GRAMMY Foundation on Twitter @GRAMMYFdn at and join us on Instagram @GRAMMYFdn. 

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and community life. For more than 60 years, Ford Motor Company Fund has operated with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through national programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and dealers work on projects each year that better their communities in more than 40 countries. For more information, visit

Karew Records, Entertainment One Music Team Up


(Detroit, MI - May 30, 2013) - Karew Records, the gospel music label owned by Bishop J. Drew Sheard, senior pastor of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God In Christ in Detroit, Michigan, and his wife, gospel legend Karen Clark Sheard, today announced the label's new partnership with Entertainment One Music (eOne Music).

Beginning with a new album to be recorded "live" on September 9, 2013 by four-time GRAMMY® Award-winner Clark Sheard, the label's future recordings will be distributed by eOne Music, based out of Nashville, TN.

Karew's roster includes multiple award-winning recording artists Karen Clark Sheard, Kierra Sheard, The Clark Sisters, and Jonathan Nelson. Sheard's forthcoming album will be recorded in Chicago, IL and produced by the multiple GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Donald Lawrence.

Label General Manager Darrell Thompsonstated, "On behalf of the Sheard Family, we are looking forward to working with the team at eOne to take the Karew brand to even higher levels of success as we have full access to a marketing and promotions staff that has a track record of delivering hits. The family has a relationship with the company's television arm, so it was a natural fit to extend the relationship into the area of music." Assistant General Manager Cynthia Ellis said "After learning that eOne had recently entered into relationships with Warryn Campbell and Donald Lawrence, the decision was easy for management to choose this venerable company."

"We are excited to extend the eOne relationship with the Sheard family beyond television into music as well through this new partnership with Karew Records," said Phil Thornton, Vice President of Marketing and New Business Development at eOne Music, Nashville. "Not only do the Sheards continue to have a great impact in furthering ministry and gospel music, but in their family, in faith and in business, they truly serve as a constant inspiration. It's a blessing for eOne to embark on this partnership with Karew Records, and mark another thrilling venture working with one of gospel's most beloved families, to continue supporting and discovering some of the nation's best gospel music."

Bishop and Clark Sheard, along with their daughter, Kierra, and son, J. Drew II, are the subjects of the hit docu-drama series, The Sheards, which premiered on BET in April and airs Sundays at 8 p.m., ET.

Karew Records will continue to distribute Jonathan Nelson's latest project, Finish Strong, via Motown Gospel (formerly EMI Gospel). Finish Strong was released on April 23 and entered at #1 on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums chart. Additionally, the next music offerings by Kierra Sheard and the Clark Sisters will also be handled by Motown Gospel.

In addition to Nelson's #1 Karew debut album, Finish Strong, the family owned label celebrated a string of successes since its 2009 inception. The multiple GRAMMY® Award-winning Clark Sisters released the first recording on Karew Records (2009) with The Clark Sisters' Family Christmas. Clark Sheard's Karew debut release followed with All in One (2010) and debuted at #3 on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums chart. Clark Sheard also received the Stellar Gospel Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year for All In One along with a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Traditional Gospel Album, and GMA Dove and BET nominations. The label has also released daughter Kierra's, Free album (2011) to rave reviews and a #1 debut on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums charts. She also was named the winner of the 2013 Stellar Award's Albertina Walker Female Vocalist of the Year and received numerous other honors and nominations for the Free project.
Karew Records was founded in 2009 by multiple award-winning gospel legend Karen Clark Sheard and her husband, Bishop J. Drew Sheard. Karew Records is a faith-based label focusing on various forms of gospel, Christian and inspirational music for all nations and generations. Based in Detroit, MI, Karew Records was initially established as a label home for the family's various recording projects. The label roster includes Karen Clark Sheard, Kierra Sheard, The Clark Sisters and the production works of producer, JDrew Sheard II (JDS). In 2012, Karew Records signed renowned worship leader and recording artist Jonathan Nelson. This signing marks the label's first acquisition outside of the family.

Entertainment One Ltd. (LSE:ETO) is a leading international entertainment company that specializes in the acquisition, production and distribution of film and television content. The company's comprehensive network extends around the globe including Canada, the U.S., the UK, Ireland, Spain, Benelux, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Through established Entertainment and Distribution divisions, the company provides extensive expertise in film distribution, television and music production, family programming and merchandising and licensing. Its current rights library is exploited across all media formats and includes more than 35,000 film and television titles, 2,700 hours of television programming and 45,000 music tracks.

As the number one independent music brand in North America, eOne Music brings a specialty focus to nearly every music genre, including Gospel, R&B, contemporary Christian music, Americana and country, classical, rock/metal, and more-discovering new artists and producing top talent. Its award-winning diversity of artists includes those on the R&B label eOne Urban, which counts hit-makers such as Brian McKnight, Faith Evans, Ashanti, Keith Sweat, and Dwele among its roster. eOne's Gospel label includes consistent top-rated and #1 releases among its critically-acclaimed roster of artists who have a profound impact on Gospel. The group includes Gospel icon Dorinda Clark-Cole, Bishop Paul S. Morton, James Fortune, William McDowell and Jessica Reedy, the legendary Gospel Hall of Famer Shirley Caesar and Michelle Williams (of Destiny's Child).

The company's integrated platform encompasses all aspects of the music business including record labels, music publishing, distribution, sales, and digital content services, with a comprehensive music licensing catalog representing virtually every music genre.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

H.O.M.E. Event Highlights Kick Off Of National 'On The Vine' Kidney Research Fundraising Effort


A reception was held recently at H.O.M.E. (House of Music & Entertainment) in Beverly Hills to announce On The Vine, a music, comedy, art and fashion event benefiting breakthrough kidney disease research among African Americans that will take place at Martha's Vineyard this summer.

It was held to highlight the kickoff of the fundraising effort which is designed to help prevent and combat kidney disease among African Americans.
The event was hosted by On the Vine Founder and Executive Producer Dennis Shortt who has partnered with the American Friends of Rambam to bring awareness and raise funds to help eradicate kidney disease.  


"The implications of this research are tremendous and its our privilege to be able to educate people on this," said Michele Segelnick, executive director of the American Friends of Rambam 

The night's entertainment featured Grammy Award winners The Tony Rich Project and Universal Records, Israeli-born violinist Miri Ben-Ari. Lending their support of the event were actress Melinda Williams and singer Howard Hewitt.


A four-day music and entertainment fundraising festival to benefit kidney disease research will be hosted by The American Friends of Rambam and is set to take place Aug. 22-25 on Martha’s Vineyard. It will also honor kidney disease survivor Natalie Cole.

The entertainment lineup for that event includes Kenny "BabyFace" Edmonds, jazz greats Kahil El Zabar, Roy Hardgrove and James Carter, Smokey Robinson, comedian and kidney disease survivor Richard Lewis, violinist Miri Ben-Ari, singer- songwriter Angie Stone and others.


On The Vine will be an annual event benefiting the Rambam Health Care Campus located in Haifa, Israel and will help fund the breakthrough kidney disease research of Professor Karl Skorecki. 

According to reports, the world is approximately five years and $4 million away from the prevention of kidney disease among African Americans.

Statistics show that about 40 million Americans have kidney disease, of whom almost 12 million are Black.  African Americans are more than three times more likely to suffer from kidney disease. While African Americans account for only 14% of the population, they make up 30% of all patients treated for kidney failure. Of the 580,000 Americans on dialysis due to kidney failure, African Americans constitute 187,000 nearly a third.  African American patients often wait up to 10 years before getting a match for a transplant because there are fewer potential donors for Black people.

Breakthrough medical research led by Dr. Karl Skorecki and his team based at Rambam Hospital in Israel, has isolated genetic markers that are linked to contracting kidney disease, as the first step to prevention and cure. 


The American Friends of Rambam is a non-profit foundation that manages the fundraising and
communication efforts for Rambam Hospital. A major fundraising effort is underway to secure these funds in order to get rid of this debilitating disease. It's been estimated that if every African American family with a kidney disease patient donated $1 to this research, the disease could be eradicated.  

Donations can be made on the following website: or via mail, payable to American Friends of Rambam Medical Center to Lea Bernstein, AFORAM, 521 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1731, New York, NY 10175.

For more information, go to

Brian Culbertson's Napa Valley Jazz Getaway Set


Brian Culbertson’s ‘Dreams’ come true.

That’s not only the name of his latest 10 selection CD on Verve, it’s also, literally, how he lives his life.

At an early age Culbertson, now 40, dreamed of becoming a musician, so he made it happen. 

The result? Culbertson, who released his first record, ‘Long Night Out,’ on Mesa/Blue Moon Records in 1994, is now one of the most popular smooth jazz artists working today. His CDs are popular and his tours are well received and attended. Culbertson, the son of jazz band director Jim Culbertson, is a consistent chart-topper with a catalogue that spans 13 solo albums along with hits that he wrote and produced for other marquee artists.

A contemporary jazz/R&B/funk musician, instrumentalist, producer and performer from Decatur, Illinois, Culbertson, who has been married to his wife, Michelle, for 15 years, plays the keyboard, piano, trombone, drums, bass, trumpet, euphonium and percussion.

And, now for the second year he is producing and hosting the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway (June 5-9).

The Napa Valley Jazz Getaway (  is an interactive lifestyle experience at which fans can share their passion for wine and jazz with the musicians while dining, during wine receptions and tastings, at autograph sessions, at a golf tournament at Silverado Resort & Spa, and at casual post-concert hangs at the Westin Verasa Napa. Prior to the June 8th concert, a silent auction and wine reception will be held in support of music education to benefit The GRAMMY Foundation at which many of the winery partners will provide complimentary pourings.

More than 1,200 festival goers from all over the nation are expected to flock to California wine country for concerts at the Napa Valley Opera House and Lincoln Theater while more intimate shows will be held at several wineries including Silver Oak and Chimney Rock. VIPs will be treated to a solo piano performance by Culbertson staged in the wine cave at Miner Family Winery, which was one of the most buzzed about shows at last year’s inaugural event.

Culbertson is the founder and artistic director of the lifestyle event, but he enlisted some of his friends to help him out.  The lineup includes: Grammy winners Take 6, Ray Parker Jr., Norman Brown and Kirk Whalum united with Rick Braun as BWB, funksters Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, saxophonists Eric Darius and Michael Lington, guitarist Nick Colionne, R&B vocalist Selina Albright, keyboardist Cecil Ramirez, party band DW3 and special guest comedian Sinbad.

I recently caught up with Culbertson to talk about all the exciting things happening in his life.

After talking to him, it’s quite evident he is cool with the hang.

DD: What’s your criteria for deciding which jazz festivals you’ll play?

BC: It’s not always up to us. It’s up to festival organizers. There are many factors. How much are they offering? Who else is playing? You can’t do all of them in the same city. They have radius clauses. You can do one main festival in Los Angeles.  I’m doing Jazz Fest West in July.

DD: Lets talk about the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway.

BC: I’m actually the organizer for that show. I’m excited about this year. It’s my second year. We are building. Last year was fantastic. People had a great time. We are four times bigger this year than last year. The demand was so high that we sold out four months in advance. We’re close to selling out this year. People are connecting with this idea. It’s a vacation destination.

DD: Why did you want to produce this show?

BC: I wanted to create one that was unique and different and that’s what I did. A typical jazz fest goes something like this - You show up, there are 10,000 people sitting outside, nine acts come on, they play and then they leave. Mine is not like that whatsoever. Ours is an intimate show in theaters each night. Everyday we have an outdoor party then go to a winery and play in a wine cave. We hang out at night with artists and fans. Friday we play golf. We also have a cigar event at a port winery. It’s just all these different, interesting things. Everybody that comes gets an access card – a two for one tasting.  Come and do some wine tasting. There’s food, wine and golf. We’re doing it Napa lifestyle. It’s not a jazz festival, it’s a lifestyle event. It’s completely unique. No one else is doing anything like it.

DD:  Why did you choose these particular artists to participate in the jazz festival or life event?

BC: I wanted to pick people I’ve worked with a lot who were friends of mine. People who I knew would bring a great show. They are cool with the hang. It’s not about going on stage and leaving.  Some of them will be there for five days. Larry Graham – his show is out of control. I had this idea to call Friday night, ‘Funk Night At The Festival.’ Larry and I work together in bringing back the funk record.  He’s the Jimi Hendrix of the bass.  Sinbad is also in. I knew they were all friends. I wanted to create these synergies.


DD: Lets talk about your CD ‘Dreams’.

BC: What I like is it has a consistent vibe from top to bottom. You are instantly in a mood and a groove. It will take you away. The power of music is so cool. It transports you.  I like conceptual albums.

DD: How do you work?

BC: I will sit down and know the concept. I will start messing with a groove or some chords. I will improvise and put the song together with no melody. I’ll put down some drums and strings and arrange the whole song. Then I’ll pull up a piano and mess around over this music bed I’ve created. Then I put my melodies over the top of the finished grooves.

DD: Who is your audience?

BC: The core jazz fans from all over the country and some internationally.  I’m expecting a great mix of people. If you’re sophisticated, into jazz, wine and good food you will appreciate these kinds of events.

DD: Describe your music.

BC: It’s a mix of jazz, R&B, pop, gospel, funk and its even a twinge of New Age. It’s my music. I’ve carved out a unique sound. Hopefully, when you hear a song of mine you know it’s me. On my instrumental songs you can take the piano off, add a vocal and it’s an R&B song.

DD: Are the best musicians born or taught?

BC: It’s a combination. You’re born with some inherent talents and a drive. I felt that from an early age. Still I needed to study. To master an instrument you need lots and lots of practice.

DD: What’s in your CD player?

BC: I must admit I listen to a lot of classic jazz like Miles [Davis] and Coletrane. I also listen to Herbie [Hancock] and that kind of stuff. Then I’ll listen to a lot of contemporary pop/rock like Coldplay and John Mayer. Then, I also like Erik Satie.  I have to be in a certain mood. In my car I listen to XM radio. I listen to the Heat. I like Rhianna, Beyonce, Tre Songz. I listen to everything.

DD: Do you have other goals outside of music?

BC: I’m never going to stop making my records. I can’t. I will always continue to do that.  I love it too much.
In a way I think expanding into producing like this Napa live event is definitely a departure for me. That’s a different brain right there. I did the website and the artwork. I’m 100% involved. I picked out the t-shirt designs and the glasses that have our logo etched.

DD: Did you ever have a Plan B?

BC: No. Nothing. I knew I wanted to be a musician in high school. Didn’t know I wanted to be a recording artist until my sophomore year in college. I did want to be a producer and songwriter. At that point I was like I’ll be a producer. I thought about doing film scores. I did jingles for several years while in Chicago.

DD: Which jingles?

BC: I did United Airlines in the 90s. Remember the Rhapsody in Blue? It was a new arrangement of that Gershwin piece. We did spots for Gator Aid, Sears and McDonalds.  I was 21.  I did it for five years.

DD: You’re on the road quite a bit. What are your feelings about touring? Most of my touring is more in and out. The most I’ll do is a month straight.
Photo By Daniel Ray

DD: Well, that sounds sexy.

BC: It can be a sexy process if it’s flowing. If I’m in here trying to do something and it’s not working, it can get frustrating. I’ll have a block here and there. When I do, I’m going to lunch or have a drink. I don’t want to belabor the point when it’s not working.

DD: How do you know when you’ve got it?

BC: That’s a good question. It has to be something that’s catchy, something you can sing along with. I like melodies that are simple, but not too simple. People can catch on especially the hook, the main part. I’ll keep tweaking. At some point I say, ‘That’s it.  Don’t touch. I don’t know, but I know.

DD: Do you kick it around with others?

BC: I write by myself. I put the track on loop so it plays over and over and over. I’ll literally play piano over it. I’ll just improvise over the top of it by myself, sometimes with the lights down low.

DD: What are your feelings about pure jazz vs. smooth jazz?

BC: It’s just a label. What is it to you? Some of it is smooth sounding. Are you going to say my hard funk song is smooth jazz? It’s not really jazz either. Some of it is and some of it isn’t. People always want to label. I don’t know. It’s R&B, fun, instrumental music. It takes too long to say. 

DD: Sounds like you don’t let it bother you.

BC: I don’t really care. Some people think smooth jazz is crappy elevator music. I don’t think they’ve heard all there is out there. Yeah, there is crappy music in the genre. There is crappy music in all genres. Give smooth jazz a fair shot.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tika Sumpter Has It All With New OWN Series


Tika Sumpter has one of the juiciest roles on television. You have to have cable to see it. In fact, you have to have the OWN Network.

That’s because the rising beauty is the lead in Tyler Perry’s first primetime drama on the OWN Network, The Haves and The Have Nots.

On the show, which premieres at 9 p.m. (ET/PT), Tues., May 28, Tika plays Candace, a sexy temptress up to no good.

The hour-long drama follows the complicated dynamic between the rich and powerful Cryer family and the hired help who work in their opulent mansion set in Savannah, GA.  From the outside the Cryer’s are the enviable face of success and wealth, but behind closed doors the family is about as dysfunctional as they come.  John Schneider plays Jim Cryer, the family patriarch. He’s a powerful judge whose double life, including affairs puts his family and political ambitions at risk. His wife, Katheryn, played by Renee Lawless, is the ultimate matriarch portraying a loving wife who will do anything for her family.   They have a son named Wyatt, who is a troubled angry jock.  His sister Amanda (Jacyln Betham) is a struggling law student who tries to live up to her parents’ expectations.

Crystal Fox plays the Cryer’s maid, Hanna Young. She has a dutiful song named Benny (Tyler Lepley) and an estranged daughter named Candace.  Eva Tamargo plays a chef named Celine, Angela Robinson plays a family friend named Veronica, Peter Parros plays David Harrington while Gavin Houston plays Jeffery Harrington.

Tyler Perry has made his mark in theater, television and film.  And he’s done it all his way.

His series of Madea movies has made his a multi-millionaire and one of the most prolific filmmakers currently working.  His films have earned half a billion dollars worldwide.

On May 28, he will make television history when two of his original scripted shows, Love They Neighbor and The Haves and The Have Nots, debuts on his friend, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, marking the first two original series on Winfrey’s network.   The Haves and Have Nots, which debuts Tues., May 28, marks Perry’s first primetime drama.  Love Thy Neighbor is a half-hour comedy set at The Love Train Diner, a family run restaurant that serves up laughs.

The Haves and The Have Nots, shot in Atlanta, is created, written, directed and executive produced by Tyler Perry.  The series is produced for OWN by Tyler Perry Studios.

The show debuts at 9 p.m. ET/PT, Tues., May 28.  


I recently spoke to Tika Sumpter at the OWN offices in Los Angeles to talk about the show.  She’s looking fabulous and fierce in black pants, black top, 5” black heels with a bun sitting neatly atop her head.    

Sumpter is a fresh face whose list of credits is steadily increasing. She’s an actress, model and singer best known for her work as Raina Thorpe on Gossip Girl and Layla Williamson on the Daytime Emmy award-winning soap opera One Life to Live, which garnered her a NAACP Image Award nomination. She was also seen as Jenna on the CBS series The Game. Along with her growing television career, Sumpter is enjoying success on the big screen. She was last seen in Sparkle opposite Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks, as well as the films My Man Is a Loser with John Stamos and Being Mary Jane opposite Gabrielle Union. Other film credits include What’s Your Number opposite Anna Faris and Chris Evans, Salt with Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber, Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming, Whisper Me a Lullaby and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Sumpter will next be seen in the film Ride Along starring opposite Kevin Hart, Ice Cube and Laurence Fishburne. She just wrapped production on Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, due out Christmas 2013.

DD: What was the attraction for you to take on a role in The Haves and The Have Nots?

TS: Well, first, I have a job. I’m excited about that. The hardest for Candace was not to judge her. She has so many flaws. I looked at other people’s lives differently ad their decision making processes. Everyone has different life experiences.  It’s fun to play a bad girl. That’s exciting to me.   I did a film with him (Tyler Perry) in December called A Madea’s Christmas. He sent me nine episodes to read. I was in the nail salon and couldn’t stop reading it. I was excited to work with Tyler and Oprah.  

DD: Do you feel a sense of responsibility for the roles you take?

TS: No.  I’m just kidding. I guess you do. Yes. I mean, some people don’t want to take on the role of role model. I have little sisters and some girls and women who walk up to me and don’t always feel they are seen on the screen all the time. In the same breath, people, characters and the choices they make, aren’t always perfect.

DD: Scandal has become a phenomenon.  Your character has an affair. Do you think any of the success of Scandal has anything to do with your character’s traits?

TS: Tyler wrote this plays years ago. He wrote this a while ago. Tyler gave me the script. I hope people love it. She is so far from Olivia Pope. Like, Olivia Pope is on her dream board. This girl comes from such a rough past that it has molded how she makes decisions. Whether you like it or not, it’s who she is.  She may not always have the right words to say. I hope to work with Kerry Washington one day and Shonda Rhimes. I hope people enjoy it and get excited about it. What I love is Kerry busted through the door for other people by leading a show.


DD:  The show feels like a Dallas and Dynasty kind of show. It’s very diverse. Did you watch those shows.

TS:  I didn’t watch Dallas and Dynasty. Dallas is on now.  It reminds me of a Dallas-Revenge type show. We have drama and stakes and slapping. It does remind me of that genre. It’s like a cross between Revenge and Dallas.

DD: She’s trying to be someone she’s not.

TS: She’s not trying to be someone she’s not. She’s just trying to be someone.

DD: When you got into the biz, what did you expect and what did you get?

TS: I was born in Queens, but raised in Long Island. I would go on the LIRR on Fridays to go to open calls and Wilhelmina and get rejected all the time. Some na├»ve part of my brain said they wanted me. Why wouldn’t they want me? Of course, they wanted this girl with the Janet Jackson braid. I know that I want to be on TV. Didn’t know how I’m going to get there.


DD: People either love or hate Tyler Perry. He has naysayers. How would you convince one of the naysayers that they should watch your show?

TS: Here’s the thing. I mean, I get it. If you’re going to read the positive reviews, you have to read the negative reviews. You can feed a thousand children and somebody will say you didn’t feed a thousand and one.  Everything is not for everybody.  And, I feel like this man has literally come from the bottom and provided people with so many jobs. How many people do you know who owns their own studio. He’s just trying to write stories from where he’s come from. The Madea movies are about fun. Get away from your life and laugh. I can’t convince somebody who already doesn’t like him to like him. It’s like trying to convince someone to come to Jesus. You have to have your own come to Jesus moment.   He gives people a chance.

DD: Who do you see watching this show?

TS:  This is a growing network. This isn’t going to be the only drama. There will be more. I think there will be more women of all ages. I see the women being the driving force. Men will tag along. Women will be the purveyors.  It will be just like the big four networks.

DD: Has it sunk in that you’re a part of history?

TS: You just walk in and go to work and be the best you can be. I’ve never thought of it that way. But we are. We’re the first. I hadn’t really thought about it.