Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Nico Santos Talks About His Role On 'Superstore'

Nico Santos as Mateo on NBC's Superstore

 By Darlene Donloe

Nico Santos plays the hilarious Mateo on the NBC workplace comedy Superstore, which airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m.

The show, which originally aired November 30, 2015, is about a motley crew of employees at a supersized megastore.

The show stars America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Mark McKinney, Lauren Ash, Colton Dunn, Nichole Bloom, Kaliko Kauahi and Santos.

Santos is in a good mood. He’s anxious to talk about the role he has inhabited for the last four years. Immediately likable with a tattooed smile on his face, the first time you meet Santos, it’s like meeting a new friend. He draws you in with warmth, charm and pleasant personality.

Nico Santos
I recently caught up with Santos at an NBC/Universal event to talk about his role on Superstore.

DD: Tell me how you first got the role.

NS: The role of Mateo was a straight Latino guy. He was a family man and intimidating. He’s a tough guy at work.  When I first came on board, none of the characters on the show had specific ethnicities except Mateo. When I looked at the sides at the audition I said to myself ‘this is someone I know.’

DD:  Since you felt you knew who Mateo was from the beginning, did you work closely with the writers to develop him and give him a voice?  Are you able to improvise or adlib?

NS:  We are allowed to improvise.  When we film we do a fun run and we can do whatever we want.  When scripts come in, if there is something there that we don't think the character would do, we’re able to say so.  Sometimes there are jokes that need fine-tuning. We tweak stuff then.  It’s an open process. It’s not like that on most sites. Five seasons in and we know the character inside and out.

DD:  What is the best part of playing Mateo?

NS: That he is extremely honest.

DD:  What is the worst part?

NS:  That he’s extremely honest.

DD:  When the show first started, did you think you would get to season five?

NS: I did not think we would get to five seasons.  I honestly had no clue. Before Superstore, I had only booked a few other restaurants. Yes, restaurants. I was a host at Terrine, and at LACMA restaurants making $10 an hour. I had a lot to learn about the business. Booking the pilot was interesting.  After the series got a back nine – then we got to season two, it was incredible.  I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m so fortunate to have a steady job, but the feeling can go away.

DD:  When you first realized you were on a hit show, what was your first indulgence?

NS:  I bought a Cartier watch. I worked at Neiman Marcus about 15 years ago. I had seen the watch. I thought to myself, ‘I am never in a million years going to make enough money to buy that watch.’  It felt amazing. I was hemming and hawing about that being a lot of money for a singular thing. Wearing it reminds me of the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get here.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Lyric Ross Is Making Her Way on 'This Is Us'

Lyric Ross is Dasia on 'This Is Us'
Looking every bit the television star, and well beyond her 16 years, Lyric Ross is growing into both herself and her role in the hit NBC drama, This Is Us.

Starring as the once-troubled character, Dasia, Ross’ role has expanded from a two or three episode guest star role to a permanent cast member where her storyline has become fully developed.  Up next for her is an animated Netflix film.

Today Ross is dressed in a black, sparkly top, black leather skirt, with her hair up.  Although she is 16, her maturity makes her look much older. 

I recently caught up with the young thespian from Chicago at an NBC luncheon to talk about her role in the show and acting in general.

DD: When you got the call to do This Is Us – what did they tell you about your character?

LR: My agency told me there was a guest star role on This Is Us. I hadn’t heard about the show. I thought to myself, it’s another audition for another role. They said I should really go out for it.  They sent me some audition sides and I did a monologue.  I also sent a self-tape but I didn’t hear anything for two weeks and then I heard about a countrywide search for the character. I did the audition again. About two weeks after that I heard they loved me. They then flew me to Los Angeles for a weekend. Three days later, I got the part.

DD: What do you like/dislike about your character?

I like that Dasia won’t take any mess. She’s very observant about everything going on around her. What I’m not cool with is how she kind of builds all of this rage up in her until she explodes on everybody. I can understand how everything can build up, but that’s not the way to handle that.

She’s a closed in person. I’m closed in some time. It takes me a while to open up to people, especially when I don't know them.

DD: Why did you want to be an actress? 

LR: I’ve been wanting to act since I could remember. My mom put me with an agency when I was seven-years-old. I had my first project at eight. I did a photoshoot for Jet magazine. I did a Dawn and Cascade ad. I loved it so much. I did not want to go to sleep or miss anything.

DD: What did you expect when you got into entertainment?

LR: I just expected to do what I love. I didn't want anything else. I didn’t know about all the press and pictures and stuff or that it came with acting.  I really just wanted to be on film. It wasn't about fame. I didn't really want all the attention to be on me. Now that it has happened, I’m much better than I was before. It’s still different. It’s an industry that is weird at times. I’m handling it pretty smoothly. I’m making sure that I’m always observant.  

Lyric Ross 

DD:  Is the show challenging for you?

LR: The show is a challenge in a good way, especially with the love interest.  I love where they are going with this. I like how they are bringing her a boyfriend.

DD: Was it supposed to be a couple episodes run, or were you always going to become part of the family?

LR: All I knew at first, was the character was to be on for two or three episodes. In my mind, I wanted to knock it out of the park. I tried my best. When they saw the character, they wanted it to go further. At the end of season two, I get a call saying they want me to be a series regular. It was crazy. I was just like, thank you, Jesus. None of this would have happened without Him.

DD: What would you like to see happen with Dasia?

LR: I don’t know.  The character is stretching me as an actress.

The cast of 'This Is Us'

DD: What is it like working with the cast?

LR: Working with the cast – they are amazing. I already feel like more than a guest artist. They made me feel part of the family, that says a lot. A lot of actors wouldn't do that for you. It felt good to be part of a cast like that.

DD: What would people be surprised to know about you?

LR: I am very camera shy. Every time people want to take pictures of me, I am camera shy. But that’s ok. I’m so excited. I’ve only just begun.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Bad Boys For Life Set To Hit Theaters January 17

January 17, 2020 

The Bad Boys Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are back together for one last ride in the highly anticipated Bad Boys for Life.

Directed By:
Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah

Written by: 
Joe Carnahan and Chris Bremner

Produced by: 
Jerry Bruckheimer
Will Smith
Doug Belgrad

Executive Producers:
Barry Waldman
Chad Oman
Mike Stenson

Will Smith
Martin Lawrence
Vanessa Hudgens
Alexander Ludwig
Charles Melton
Paola Nunez
Kate Del Castillo
Nicky Jam
and Joe Pantoliano

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Opens In U.S. Theaters December 20

Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams join forces once again to take viewers on an epic journey to a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the riveting conclusion of the seminal Skywalker saga, where new legends will be born and the final battle for freedom is yet to come.

The film stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams and Michelle Rejwan. Callum Greene, Tommy Gormley, and Jason McGatlin serve as executive producers. The screenplay was written by Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams and the story is by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow and J.J. Abrams & Chris Terrio, based on characters created by George Lucas. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in U.S. theaters on December 20.

Antebellum Thriller To Hit Theaters April 24, 2020

ANTEBELLUM is a terrifying thriller from the producer of the acclaimed films GET OUT and US, and groundbreaking directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz (Bush+Renz) - an exciting
new voice in filmmaking. Starring Janelle Monįe, Marque Richardson II, Eric Lang, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, Tongayi Chirisa, Gabourey Sidibe, Rob Aramayo, Lily Cowles, and Jena

Successful author Veronica Henley (Janelle Monaģe) finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality and must uncover the mind-bending mystery before it’s too late.

Cast: Janelle Monįe, Marque Richardson II, Eric Lang, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, Tongayi Chirisa, Gabourey Sidibe, Rob Aramayo, Lily Cowles, and Jena Malone

Written and Directed by Gerard Bush & Christopher Renz     
Produced by: Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz, Raymond Mansfield, Sean McKittrick, Zev Foreman, Lezlie Wills          
ANTEBELLUM hits theatres on April 24, 2020!

It was a dark and stormy night at Geffen Playhouse

Andy Garcia

By Darlene Donloe

Andy Garcia leads a stellar cast in the Geffen Playhouse world premiere adaptation of Key Largo currently playing through Dec. 1, 2019.

This latest incarnation of Maxwell Anderson’s Broadway hit that became the iconic 1948 noir film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall is full and satisfying in many ways, but also feels leaden.

The story begins in 1946 when Frank McCloud (Danny Pino), a disillusioned World War II vet travels to a hotel in Key Largo because he wants to pay respects to the widow of one of his fallen comrades.

Although there are several seedy characters inhabiting the hotel, McCloud is told that it’s closed. That's fine with him because he only plans to stay there for about an hour.

While there he meets Mr. D’Alcala (Tony Plana) the hotel’s owner, an amiable guy who happens to be blind but can see better than a sighted person. It’s his fallen son that McCloud came to Key Largo to pay respects to. D’Alcala’s daughter Nora D’Alcala (Rose McIver) is also there. She helps him around the hotel.

The seedy characters, led by Johnny Rocco (Andy Garcia), happen to be mobsters who are there to conduct an illegal transaction.  Rocco also has a battered and disrespected tart named Gaye Dawn (Joely Fisher) along for the ride. His henchmen include Curly (Louis Mustillo) and Toots (Stephen Borello).  Rounding out the ensemble is a sheriff (Richard Riehle) on the take and a drug dealer (Bradley Snedeker).

As tough as Rocco would like everyone to believe, every time some thunder crackles – he jumps.  When he reaches his limit, he begins to shoot his gun into the air as if to challenge the storm with a shootout.

Although McCloud wants to leave, he can’t because there is a hurricane barreling down on Key Largo, stranding him in the hotel. He has some issues he needs to deal with, which is why his personality is always just moments from blowing.

Key Largo is the setting for Rocco’s drug deal.  While waiting for it to go down, he waxes lyrical about how tough and satisfying it is to be a drug boss.

The direction works, the acting is OK, but the scenic design nearly steals the show with its expansive shuttered lobby.  The sound design is also impressive and effective, although the sound of the buoy’s clang is a bit annoying.  

Garcia’s performance holds this show together.  There are some delicious moments in the show. Joely Fisher shines as she leaves herself on the stage – as does Plana who delivers an authentic blind portrayal.

Some of Tony Award-winner Doug Hughes’ scenes drag, but overall he delivers a good night of theater. The show isn’t much different from the classic Key Largo movie, which means it’s a winner!  Hughes makes good use of the stage – using every inch.

Key Largo stars Andy Garcia as Johnny Rocco,
Stephen Borrello as Toots, Joely Fisher as Gaye DawnRose McIver as Nora D’Alcala, Louis Mustillo as CurlyTony Plana as Mr. D’Alcala, Danny Pino as Frank McCloudRichard Riehle as Sherrif Gash and Bradley Snedeker as Ziggy

Original music is composed by 10-time GRAMMY Award winner and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Arturo Sandoval.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable) O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Key Largo gets an O (oh, yeah).

Key Largo, Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10866 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles; Tues., 8 p.m.; Sat, 3 and 8 p.m. and Sun. 2 and 7 p.m.; $30 – $145; 310.208.5454 or www.geffenplayhouse.org. Fees may apply.
Rush tickets for each day’s performance are made available to the general public 30 minutes before showtime at the box office. $35 general/$15 student.

Monday, November 18, 2019

New Trailer Released For 'Spies in Disguise'

Check out the new trailer for "Spies in Disguise," Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios' animated spy comedy-adventure starring Will Smith and Tom Holland and the new single, "Then There Were Two," written and performed by Mark Ronson and Anderson. Paak. The album, "Mark Ronson Presents the Music of "Spies in Disguise," will be available via Zelig Records/RCA Records December 13.

Twentieth Century Fox presents a Blue Sky Studios production, "Spies in Disguise," an animated spy comedy-adventure set in the slick, high-octane, globe-trotting world of international espionage. Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is...not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo is forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise-transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic...pigeon. 

Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. "Spies in Disguise" is directed by Troy Quane and Nick Bruno from a screenplay by Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor and a screen story by Cindy Davis inspired by the animated short film "Pigeon Impossible" by Lucas Martell. 

The film stars Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled, and Masi Oka. "Spies in Disguise" is produced by Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, and Michael J. Travers, p.g.a., with Chris Wedge and Kori Adelson serving as executive producers.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ryan Reynolds Stars In New Film 6 Underground

What's the best part of being dead?

It isn't escaping your boss, your ex, or even erasing your criminal record.

The best part about being dead...is the freedom.

The freedom to fight the injustice and evil that lurk in our world without anyone or anything to slow you down or tell you “no.”

6 Underground introduces a new kind of action hero. Six individuals from all around the globe, each the very best at what they do, have been chosen not only for their skill but for a unique desire to delete their pasts to change the future. The team is brought together by an enigmatic leader (Ryan Reynolds), whose sole mission in life is to ensure that, while he and his fellow operatives will never be remembered, their actions damn sure will.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Actor Ben Affleck Knows 'The Way Back'

Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) once had a life filled with promise. In high school, he was a basketball phenom with a full university scholarship, when suddenly, for reasons unknown, he walked away from the game, forfeiting his future. Now years later, Jack is spiraling down, triggered by an unspeakable loss, and drowning in the alcoholism that cost him his marriage and any hope for a better life. 

When he is asked to coach the basketball team at his alma mater, which has fallen far since his glory days, he reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself. As the boys start to come together as a team and win, Jack may have finally found a reason to confront the demons that have derailed him. But will it be enough to fill the void, heal the deep wounds of his past, and set him on the road to redemption? 

Academy Award winner Ben Affleck (“Argo,” “The Accountant”) stars in “The Way Back,” directed by Gavin O’Connor (“The Accountant,” “Warrior”). 

Gordon Gray, Jennifer Todd, Gavin O’Connor, and Ravi Mehta produced the film, written by Brad Ingelsby. Robert J. Dohrmann, Brad Ingelsby, Kevin McCormick, Mark Ciardi, Aaron L. Gilbert, Jason Cloth, Kaitlyn Taaffe Cronholm, and Madison Ainley served as executive producers. 

“The Way Back” also stars Al Madrigal (“Night School”), Michaela Watkins (TV’s “Casual”), Janina Gavankar (TV’s “True Blood”) and Glynn Turman (“Bumblebee”). 

O’Connor’s behind-the-scenes creative team included director of photography Eduard Grau, production designer Keith P. Cunningham, editor David Rosenbloom, and costume designer Cindy Evans. The music is by composer Rob Simonsen. 

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in Association with BRON Creative, a Jennifer Todd Pictures/Mayhem Pictures/Film Tribe Production, a Gavin O’Connor Film, “The Way Back.” 

Slated for release on March 6, 2020, the film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures. Rated R for “language including some sexual references.” 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

2nd Annual #BlackMuslimGirlFly Film Festival Set

Featuring a Special Performance by International Hip Hop Artist Sa-Roc and More TBA

Writer, director, producer and founder of Audaz Entertainment, LLC & #BlackMuslimGirlFly, Nia Malika Dixon announces the 2ndAnnual #BlackMuslimGirlFly Film Festival “Our Stories. Our Way”, hosted by Alia Sharrief, Founder of Hijabi Chronicles. The event will be held Sunday, December 15, 2019 at the Regency West Theater located at 3339 W. 43rdStreet, Los Angeles, CA  90008. (Leimert Park) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available now at https://filmfreeway.com/BMGFlyFest.

The festival was created to raise awareness for the growing numbers of skilled and talented Black Muslim Women in entertainment. BMFF2019 will also honor accomplished filmmaker and founder of Women of Color Unite (WOCU) and the JTC List, Cheryl L.Bedford. Bedford will receive the Harmon-Dixon Trailblazer Award, named after Dixon’s mother and grandfather who are both trailblazers in their respective fields. Bedford will receive the award for her huge contributions in raising awareness, breaking the glass ceiling, and providing work and opportunities for Women of Color in the entertainment industry. 

The festival will showcase short films, experimental projects, and webisodes written, directed, produced by and/or featuring Black Muslims behind and in front of the camera. There will be a total of 5 film projects featured throughout the day, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

"As a story lover, I did not see movies, television or any content that told stories from my perspective. As a storyteller, my perspective being Black in America and a Muslim woman are just as compelling and entertaining as anything else on screens out there. We are an audience that deserves to be heard. We deserve to see our stories told, and what better way to share our culture than on the big screen,” says Nia Malika Dixon.

The much-anticipated event will start at 9am with an intimate breakfast chat with Black Muslim filmmaker Malikah A. Shabazz, at Harun Café, located at 4336 Degnan Blvd, Los Angeles,  just steps away from the main event.

Guests will have the opportunity to view short films, and listen in on a panel discussion and Q&A, featuring comedian/actor and founder of Halalywood, Omar Regan, and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of MuslimARC, (Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative), Margari Hill. There will also be a live performance by well known, internationally recognized, DC-based, conscious rapper “Sa-Roc” The MC. Over the years Sa-Roc the Goddess MC performed alongside the likes of Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, and Atmosphere, and she is one of few MC’s to perform regularly as a featured artist with The Roots. Her single, “Forever” quickly racked up more than 400k streams on Spotify and over 1M views on YouTube. Her song “I Am Her,” is the official anthem of BMFF2019. Sa-Roc also appeared William Feagins Jr.’s film, The Possibility Of Her, a feature-length documentary that highlights 12 women of color who are actively involved in non-traditional careers or passions, echoing many of the same obstacles overcome by Sa-Roc in her own career.

Born and raised to be a Black, Muslim woman in Baltimore, Nia has been a writer since the day her mother first put a pencil in her hand. Although writing has been Nia’s passion, her mother’s emphasis on education led Nia to become a schoolteacher. She taught children for more than 20 years and raised her own two children along the way, including a son with Autism. However, Nia’s passion for storytelling cannot be quenched. She made the bold move to Los Angeles in 2005, to pursue the dream of reaching global audiences with her writing.

Since her arrival to Los Angeles, Nia studied directing under the tutelage of famed director Lilyan Chauvin, until the time of Lilyan’s death in 2008. Her first award, and her first short film, “Temporary Loss of Power,” was an audience favorite at the Baltimore Women’s Film Festival in 2007. Shortly thereafter, Nia began studying acting with Tony Award-winning actor and teacher, Kent Klineman. She is currently mentored by director Catherine Hardwicke, (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown and Twilight) and has also completed several writing assignments for Morgan Freeman at his production company, Revelations Entertainment.

For the past fifteen years, Nia Malika Dixon has evolved from learning, by working on other filmmakers' sets, (having worked in almost every position, from P.A. on an indie comedy, to 2nd AD on Ryan Coogler's thesis film, “Fig") to launching her own independent film production company. Writing, directing, and producing projects for herself, and for others, via her production company, Audaz Entertainment, Inc. Nia has won several awards, including Best Urban Web Series and Best TV/Web Series in several festivals, for “The Trap Web Series,” (aka Chrysalis the web series,) and recognition for her screenplays, including “Vengeful,” an original pilot for a police detective drama, starring a Black woman; the first since 1974's “Get Christie Love.” Nia currently has a short film, “Shattered Lenses,” touring festivals, and she is in preproduction on her next film, a supernatural thriller.