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How ‘P-Valley’ And ‘The Chi’ Tapped Into Much-Needed Conversations About Abortion On TV

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“P-Valley” showrunner Katori Hall knew she wanted to write an episode centered on restrictive abortion laws in Mississippi since the series’ first season. The writers’ room began crafting the story in late 2020, after Mississippi officials urged the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments on a state law to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“Our show centers the Black, Southern female experience, and it’s a socially and religiously conservative space,” Hall said. “We knew that having stories that really explored Black women having agency over their bodies and access to reproductive rights was eventually going to be something that, as a series, is very true to life and uses fiction in order to tell the truth. It felt like our responsibility to do so.”

Fortunately, the Starz network was very supportive of the abortion narrative she wrote in Season 2, Episode 7 of “P-Valley,” Hall said. In the episode, the writers examine what it means for a teenage Black girl in Mississippi to seek reproductive care.

Terricka, 15, confides in Mercedes, informing her that she’s pregnant. Mercedes (Brandee Evans) takes Terricka (A’zaria Carter) to a clinic to evaluate all of her options, learning that she’s 14 weeks along — right at the point where she must decide if she will terminate the pregnancy. When she was a teen, Mercedes was forced to give birth to baby Terricka and eventually was forced to relinquish custody. In this episode, audiences see Mercedes step back into the motherhood role in her own way while ensuring that generational mistakes are not repeated.

“P-Valley” showrunner Katori Hall (left), along with writers Nina Stiefel and Ian Olympio, talked to HuffPost about how the series examines the battle over reproductive rights in Mississippi.

Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: Diane Zhao/David Derwin/Christian Zajicek

“Her desire to be a mother has fueled her through both seasons. And so this was a really great opportunity for us to dive into her backstory. It was just a really important part of her arc toward self-actualization,” said writer and producer Ian Olympio. ”As a writers room, we all came together and talked about how to make the episode take shape. They spend a lot of time in the car, so what are the conversations going to be like? What is Mercedes’ stance on this? What decision is Terricka going to make?”

Ultimately, Terricka terminates the pregnancy. However, that was not without extensive conversations between her and Mercedes, from everything about the lack of open sex education to debunking lies about the side effects of abortion. Hall, who has seen the effect of teen pregnancy in her family, wanted to communicate how all of these things — sex education, teen pregnancy, high school retention and attrition rates — are interconneted, especially in a state such as Mississippi.

Mercedes (right, played by Brandee Evans) accompanies her daughter Terricka to get an ultrasound at the abortion clinic on "P-Valley."
Mercedes (right, played by Brandee Evans) accompanies her daughter Terricka to get an ultrasound at the abortion clinic on “P-Valley.”

“We went back and forth a lot in the room about how Mercedes would react to this,” said story editor and writer Nina Stiefel. “We did not have a cut-and-dried conversation about it. We wanted to show that complexity through our characters.”

In the episode, as Terricka walks into the abortion clinic, she’s met with abortion protesters. People yelling and holding signs that say things such as “Black life matters in and outside of the womb” and “Black babies matter” were blocking the entryway. There, Mercedes tells her that these people don’t care about the baby once it’s born. Hall said that was one of the most powerful lines of the episode.

“Policymakers and people who make the laws pick the things that they want to focus on, pick the thing that is advantageous to them instead of really looking holistically at this issue,” Hall said. “If a young Black woman has access to an abortion, it’s pro-life for her in that it allows her to be able to grasp her dreams. It allows her to increase her economic and educational opportunities. People don’t think about the lives of Black people once they seem like a threat.”

“We went back and forth a lot in the room about how Mercedes would react to this. We did not have a cut-and-dried conversation about it. We wanted to show that complexity through our characters," said Nina Stiefel.
“We went back and forth a lot in the room about how Mercedes would react to this. We did not have a cut-and-dried conversation about it. We wanted to show that complexity through our characters,” said Nina Stiefel.

The stigma associated with abortion seeps directly into all facets of American popular culture. Consequently, abortion procedures are rarely seen onscreen.

A collaborative research group at the University of California, San Francisco, called Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) created an Abortion Onscreen Database “listing of all film and television depictions available to viewers in the United States in which a character obtains an abortion, or discloses having one in the past.” Launched almost a decade ago by sociologist Gretchen Sisson, the database is updated monthly. Upon filtering for abortion-related storylines in U.S. film and television shows, there are 422 results to date.

Of those 422, only 45 — a mere 10.66% — stories have featured Black characters, with even fewer portraying them actively receiving an abortion, according to a report from ANSIRH. The earliest depiction of abortion on screen was in “Where Are My Children?” a racist 1916 anti-abortion film. However, the first narrative featuring a Black character appeared over 70 years later, in 1988, when a Black cop on “21 Jump Street” discloses a past abortion.

Though art is said to imitate life, Black characters are grossly underrepresented in these on-screen narratives in comparison to real-life data; in 2019, 38% of patients seeking abortions in the U.S. were Black women. The depictions of us prior to the downfall of Roe v. Wade were few and far between, but as audiences begin to navigate a post-Roe world, entertainment has a responsibility to catch up, TV experts and reproductive rights activists say.

“People can change their various minds and decide on pregnancies based on specific situations at the time. Each pregnancy decision is an individual decision," said We Testify founder Renee Bracey Sherman (right), shown here with and her mother at a May 8 abortion rights rally at the Supreme Court.
“People can change their various minds and decide on pregnancies based on specific situations at the time. Each pregnancy decision is an individual decision,” said We Testify founder Renee Bracey Sherman (right), shown here with and her mother at a May 8 abortion rights rally at the Supreme Court.

Reproductive justice activist Renee Bracey Sherman is the founder and executive director of We Testify, a “home and a creative space to explore all of the power and possibilities that abortion storytellers can imagine.” Bracey Sherman, who also co-authored ANSIRH’s 2019 report on the nuances of race-specific abortion portrayals, said that the tropes imposed upon Black characters further complicate and stigmatize the realities of abortion. In the instances that Black characters are seeking abortions, they’re often upwardly mobile, career-oriented Black women, citing examples such as Mary Jane Paul from “Being Mary Jane” and Olivia Pope from “Scandal.”

“That’s sort of an archetype of women on television in general. Then it’s even tighter when it comes to depicting Black folks. The truth is television doesn’t really depict a whole lot of stories about low-income people at the centerfold,” Bracey Sherman said. “I think ‘P-Valley’ is one of those shows that is depicting their lives and the complexity of their lives as the whole show.”

“With a lot of characters who have abortions, a lot of them are teenagers having abortions. Then the others are Claire from ‘House of Cards’ or Dr. Cristina Yang from ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ where they’re so career-driven and they can’t be bothered to have a kid,” she added.

“It falls into this general trope of what women want in general, about who has abortions and who doesn’t. [Often setting up the trope that] the cold, callous bitch couldn’t possibly have kids or be motherly.”

Bracey Sherman said when she got her abortion at age 19, she didn’t feel represented in the abortion narratives on TV and film. She noted Lil’ Kim talking about abortion as one of the first instances she recalled in popular culture, along with Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” On television, she felt represented watching Kerry Washington depict Olivia Pope undergoing the procedure in Season 5 of “Scandal.”

“It was one of the few times that a character was just like, I am having an abortion,” said Bracey Sherman. “And it’s not because I can’t afford a child or I need to finish school. All those reasons are extremely valid reasons, but so is I just don’t want to have a child. Being unapologetic about [not wanting] to be pregnant and wanting to have an abortion. There wasn’t a lot of this reason, that reason — and that was huge!”

Bracey Sherman applauded how the HBO series “Insecure” depicted the various reasons to seek an abortion. On “Insecure,” Condola (Christina Elmore) became pregnant with Lawrence’s baby, effectively thwarting his ability to further his relationship with Issa.

In Season 4, Episode 10, Condola tells him that “it was not the right time” to have a baby when she was pregnant in her past marriage, alluding to an abortion, but she wanted to keep this baby because she was ready. On the other hand, Kelly (Natasha Rothwell) frivolously mentioned among the girls that she had an abortion, but at the end of the series, she donned a baby bump saying, “I don’t want just any nigga’s kids. I want this nigga’s kids.”

“People can change their various minds and decide on pregnancies based on specific situations at the time,” Bracey Sherman said. “Each pregnancy decision is an individual decision. That’s what I thought was really great about the way ‘Insecure’ did it in that they had multiple characters who had abortions, but slyly without doing like the ‘abortion episode.’”

In the final season of the hit HBO series "Insecure," Condola (Cristina Elmore) and Lawrence (Jay Ellis) are tasked with co-parenting after she decided not to terminate the unplanned pregnancy.
In the final season of the hit HBO series “Insecure,” Condola (Cristina Elmore) and Lawrence (Jay Ellis) are tasked with co-parenting after she decided not to terminate the unplanned pregnancy.

Merie Weismiller Wallace/HBO

In Season 5, Episode 5, of “Girlfriends,” bougie real-estate mogul Toni Childs (Jill Marie Jones) finds out she’s pregnant, although her flailing marriage with debt-burdened doctor Todd Garrett (Jason Pace) is on the rocks. Though she independently could support a child, Toni wants an abortion because she has no intention of being a single mother. Her friend group, which consists of a single mother, an adoptee and a hopeless romantic, immediately chastises her. Some claim it would have been in character for Toni to get an abortion because she was historically a narcissistic character.

But here’s the problem with that line of thinking: It assumes that since a woman of her socioeconomic status is capable of providing a decent life to a child, her personal desires, fears and concerns should be relegated to the background.

On shows featuring Black adolescents, there is rarely discussion regarding their options when a partner becomes pregnant. The expecting parents are presumed to keep the child and the child is assumed to be a “good thing” regardless of the circumstance. Though representations of teen parents are integral to broader conversations, such as dismal graduation rates, sex education, financial responsibility and assistance from extended family, television often leaves little to no room for such nuance.

In Season 2 of the CW’s high school football drama “All American,” quarterback Jordan Baker (Michael Evans Behling) thinks he’s the father of Ivy League hopeful tennis star Simone Hicks’ (Geffri Maya) unborn child. She reveals she’s pregnant in Episode 5; by Episode 6, Jordan accompanies Hicks to the ultrasound appointment — after his parents drop him off, of course. By Episode 8, the couple have committed to building a crib for the baby, with no discussion about Simone’s options. Adoption is discussed later in Season 3, as it becomes a vehicle for the spinoff “All American: Homecoming.”

Played by Geffri Maya and Michael Evans Behling, Simone Hicks and Jordan Baker decide to navigate her unplanned pregnancy together as a high school couple.
Played by Geffri Maya and Michael Evans Behling, Simone Hicks and Jordan Baker decide to navigate her unplanned pregnancy together as a high school couple.

Similarly, in Season 5, Episode 5, of Lena Waithe’s “The Chi,” high school student Jemma St. John reveals to her boyfriend, Jake, that she’s pregnant. Though he assures her that he’ll work as many jobs as necessary for their family to survive, Jemma says, “I don’t want to be taken care of. I want to live. I’m still trying to figure out who I am.”

At a college fair, Jemma has a change of heart, consulting her friend Maisha. She shares that she had a dream imagining a “really nice” life with Jake as a parent and felt bad about disappointing him if she were to terminate the pregnancy. Her father, Chicago politician Marcus St. John, sits both of them down, urging them to think long and hard about what raising a child entails.

When these real-life situations occur in a collegiate campus context, the stakes differ. “First Kill” showrunner Felicia D. Henderson is the co-creator of BET’s “The Quad,” a short-lived one-hour drama starring Anika Noni Rose as Dr. Eva Fletcher, the newly elected president of the fictional historically Black college Georgia A&M University (GAMU). The series aired for two seasons beginning in 2017.

The Quad” also features aspiring musician and freshman Cedric Hobbs (Peyton Alex Smith), who left Chicago for a new beginning in Atlanta. In Season 2, Hobbs impregnated his ex-girlfriend Bronwyn (Katlynn Simone), and prior to the finale, she reveals it to him. In the final episode, audiences see Bronwyn in the abortion clinic with Cedric’s mother, who has talked her into getting the procedure. Cedric pleads with his on-again, off-again girlfriend not to, claiming, “God brought us to this point for some reason,” and an argument ensues. The show ends on a cliffhanger.

"First Kill" showrunner Felicia D. Henderson is co-creator of "The Quad," a one-hour drama on BET about life at a fictional historically Black college, Georgia A&M University (GAMU).
“First Kill” showrunner Felicia D. Henderson is co-creator of “The Quad,” a one-hour drama on BET about life at a fictional historically Black college, Georgia A&M University (GAMU).

Illustration: HuffPost; Photo: Diane Zhao

Although the writers had hoped for more seasons of “The Quad” to flesh out the story, Henderson said inserting an abortion plotline at the end of Season 2 felt most appropriate for Cedric and Bronwyn’s relationship arc. Henderson felt inspired by a pastor and his wife she met while working on “The Quad” who became parents while enrolled at Morehouse College and Spelman College.

“When the baby was born, they were still living in the dorms because they learned that there actually weren’t any rules against having babies in the dorms,” Henderson said. “Out of that became rules about such a thing. They fought back to keep the baby on campus with them, and their friends pitched in. That’s where it came to me: What happens when you come from two families that have high expectations of you and you’re on the road that they would have you on? Then find yourself pregnant?”

The premature cancellation of “The Quad” robbed audiences of that exploration.

Henderson said that because it was the end of Season 2 of “The Quad,” the writers room was able to “get away with a lot.” However, she recalled that BET had a vested interest in what direction she would take Bronwyn’s narrative. Henderson said she believes the network was hoping Bronwyn would end up keeping the baby.

Though Cedric’s mother was staunchly pro-abortion, which some might say is “unsupportive,” Henderson noted that she wanted his life to be “unencumbered by financial responsibility.” That, in and of itself, determines the quality of both the child’s and parents’ life.

Henderson hopes she created compelling, thought-provoking storytelling by featuring Bronwyn’s journey.

“It’s something that I have always believed that we must depict in film and television,” Henderson said. “I also believe in trying to depict multiple sides of the story. With ‘The Quad,’ that is why I wanted to tell Cedric’s story, his mom’s story and the woman who’s actually pregnant because they all have a story to tell. How do you tell all of those stories without sitting in judgment of any of them?”

The award-winning showrunner also noted that in her 2000s Showtime drama “Soul Food,” Bird (Malinda Williams) opted for an abortion in Season 4 after deciding it was too soon to have another child. Henderson said it was difficult to get that story on TV, considering sympathies are limited for married, stable people such as Bird who opt for abortions.

“It always says our societal norms are more important or take the lead over everything else,” said Henderson. “In front of an individual woman’s desires, in front of an individual woman’s thinking about her life and what she wants it to be.”

“With a lot of characters who have abortions, a lot of them are teenagers having abortions. Then the others are Claire from ‘House of Cards’ or Dr. Cristina Yang from ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ where they’re so career-driven and they can’t be bothered to have a kid. It falls into this general trope of what women want in general, about who has abortions and who doesn’t.”

– Renee Bracey Sherman, founder of We Testify

Stephanie Herold, a researcher at ANSIRH, said that the majority of characters in such onscreen stories tend to be white, young, wealthy or upper middle-class, and not parenting at the time of their abortion; yet, in reality, most people seeking abortions are women of color who have a child or children and cannot afford to take on another baby. Though the latter encounters barriers in access to care, that is not depicted.

“We don’t see how the way you experience health care is really shaped by race, class, gender and sex. We really see on TV this kind of flattening of the reasons and the complex realities behind why people have abortions,” said Herold. “Even when we do have Black characters or Latina characters, their class or their race doesn’t really come up when it comes to their abortion. The way that their abortions are portrayed is often separated from their Blackness.”

Herald said ANSIRH’s 2019 study found that “Black characters often obtain abortions while wrestling with and reinforcing racial stereotypes,” such as the “Jezebel” and “welfare queen.”

Coco Conners (Antoinette Robertson) of “Dear White People” was fervently trying to distance herself from “Colandrea” — her real name, which evoked a cringey smile when her light-skinned, biracial roommate told her it was “such a pretty name” — and climb the social ladder. She once said that she came to the Ivy League school Winchester “to take everything the world denied my mother and dared to deny me.” In Season 2, Episode 4, of “Dear White People,” Coco imagines what her future life would be like with or without the baby. Ultimately, she opts for an abortion.

Antoinette Robertson starred as the social-climbing, ambitious Ivy League student Coco Conners in "Dear White People."
Antoinette Robertson starred as the social-climbing, ambitious Ivy League student Coco Conners in “Dear White People.”

In “Being Mary Jane,” Mary Jane was trying to ascend the ranks in her career while also grappling with being the most financially stable among her siblings and in her family. While her younger brother B.J. was still living the aspirational, unstable bachelor life in Atlanta, her older brother Patrick was a recovering addict with two grandchildren mothered by Pauletta’s dropout niece, Niecey. To Mary Jane, she did not want to be another burden to her father and felt compelled to fill the respectable roles as she provided for everyone else.

Both Henderson and Hall agree that a lack of women leading writers rooms contributes to the disparities in how Black characters are portrayed in abortion narratives and that writers have a responsibility to address such topics with nuance. Bracey Sherman said discussing both the finer and broader details regarding reproductive care, such as how one is able to fund their abortion and access procedural explanations, in the actual storylines is paramount.

There are still more strides to be made with respect to how abortion is depicted onscreen, from showcasing more disabled Black characters seeking abortion, such as Chaunte in “New Amsterdam,” to transgender and nonbinary characters terminating pregnancies. Herold said she’d like to see more diverse depictions of abortion narratives, from the characters’ identities to having more than one character who has received an abortion to even normalizing the prospect of a possible workplace comedy in a clinic.

“What I would really love to see is to have screenwriters take on self-managed abortion and medication abortion as things that are very safe medically but really risky legally,” Herold said. “Have characters who order their pills online and have a friend support them, but actually show what the legal repercussions of that can be, like if you end up in a hospital because you’re worried about bleeding. Then the doctor reports it to the cops — what happens then? That’s something that’s happening every day here already.





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Adele Reveals The ‘Worst Moment’ Of Her Career Happened This Year

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The cover star didn’t mince words when talking about the original iteration of the show, which was supposed to begin in January and end in April 2022.

Adele famously canceled the entire production just one day before the shows were set to begin ― meaning some audience members were already in Vegas.

“I was so excited about those shows. It was devastating,” the “Hello” singer explained.

But, “there was just no soul in it,” she told Elle. “The stage setup wasn’t right. It was very disconnected from me and my band, and it lacked intimacy. And maybe I tried too hard to give it those things in such a controlled environment.”

Adele said that “the first couple of months was really, really hard” post-cancellation, as she “was embarrassed.”

“But it actually made my confidence in myself grow, because it was a very brave thing to do,” she continued. “And I don’t think many people would have done what I did. I’m very proud of myself for standing by my artistic needs.”

The singer has previously defended her decision to cancel the shows, despite enduring “brutal” backlash.

“I definitely felt everyone’s disappointment and I was devastated and I was frightened about letting them down,” Adele told BBC Radio 4’s “Desert Island Discs” in July. “I thought I could pull it together and make it work and I couldn’t, and I stand by that decision.”

And to her fans’ delight, the entertainer recently announced her residency would resume on Nov. 18 and run until March 25, 2023.





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John Oliver Exposes Tragic Consequence Of America’s Most ‘Mind-Blowing F**k-Up’

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John Oliver said Afghanistan wasn’t doing well under U.S. occupation ― yet the situation got even worse when American troops left and the Taliban took over one year ago.

“Our exit was the foreign policy equivalent of putting a cake in the oven, and then 40 minutes later taking out a live rat dressed as Hitler,” he said. “It’s not just a fuck-up. It’s a mind-blowing fuck-up that’ll take years to fully comprehend.”

The Taliban has struggled to provide even basic services to the citizenry. One expert told PBS the Taliban was designed to fight ― not rule.

“A militant insurgency group is pretty low on the list of people that you’d want leading a government,” he said. “Right around the Hell’s Angels, the Manson family and Ron DeSantis.”

Under the Taliban, Afghans are finding it difficult or impossible to get food or healthcare, and girls past the age of 11 have been banned from school.

The Taliban at one point claimed they needed more time to create and approve a school uniform for girls before they could be allowed to return to class.

“Which is clearly total bullshit,” Oliver said. “Besides, for an organization so concerned with virtue and purity, taking months to brainstorm a schoolgirl uniform you like is objectively the single perviest thing you can do.”

See more from Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight”:





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‘Another World’ Soap Star Robyn Griggs Dies At 49

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Robyn Griggs, an actor who starred in the soap operas “Another World” and “One Life to Live,” has died. She was 49.

“Hi everyone, With a heavy heart, I am saddened to announce Robyn’s passing,” the statement began. “However, she is no longer suffering and would want us to remember that and the good memories.”

“I will never forget how open she was to telling her story, and accepting of me helping her tell it. She wanted to help people and spread the word of her story to do it. I was honored to do so. RIP my friend, I love you and smile when I think of you.”

Griggs was open on social media about her battle with cervical cancer. In a July update, she said she would undergo chemotherapy for four new tumors, two on her liver, one on an abdominal muscle, and one on a lymph node.

A GoFundMe page raising money for her medical bills said she had gone to the doctor for a pap smear in 2020 and learned that she had stage 4 endocervical adenocarcinoma.

Griggs played Stephanie Hobart on “One Life to Liveand Maggie Cory on “Another World” in the 1990s. As a child, she appeared on Nickelodeon’s “Rated K.”

She also appeared in several films, including “Severe Injuries,” “Dead Clowns” and “Hellweek.”





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Will Smith And Jada Pinkett Smith Step Out Together For First Time Since Oscars Slap

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Months after slapping Chris Rock on the Oscars stage, Will Smith is slowly stepping back into public life ― this time with wife Jada Pinkett Smith by his side.

The couple put on a united front in their first public outing together since the infamous awards ceremony in March, enjoying a lunch date over the weekend.

The stars were photographed outside Nobu Malibu in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, as they walked back to their car.

In a video obtained by TMZ, the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” alum can be seen leaving the popular celebrity eatery first, with Pinkett Smith trailing behind and appearing to hold on to his belt loop.

The “Red Table Talk” host kept to herself, but Smith chose to acknowledge onlookers, throwing a wave and even a peace sign their way.

The outing came weeks after Smith broke his monthslong silence to formally apologize once again to Rock for walking onto the Oscars stage and slapping him. The incident took place after the comedian made a joke about the shaved head of Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia.

Jada Pinkett Smith (left) and Will Smith attend the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. This weekend, the two had their first public outing together since the March awards ceremony, during which Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock.

Daniele Venturelli via Getty Images

“I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment,” Smith said at the start of the nearly six-minute video released last month.

“I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk, and when he is he will reach out,” he continued. “So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”

Shutting down speculation that Pinkett Smith had a role to play in the debacle, the actor clarified that his wife didn’t tell him “to do something.”

“No. It’s like … I made a choice on my own from my own experiences, from my history with Chris,” he asserted. “Jada had nothing to do with it.”

Rock has stayed relatively tight-lipped about the altercation, but Pinkett Smith has publicly addressed the incident, calling for the two men to reconcile.

“My deepest hope is that these two intelligent, capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out and reconcile,” she said during an episode of her “Red Table Talk” show. “The state of the world today? We need them both, and we all actually need one another more than ever.”

After the slap, Smith went on to win the Best Actor statuette for his performance in “King Richard,” though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has since banned him from attending its official events, including the awards ceremony, for the next decade.

But he could still be nominated for an award at the ceremony, and his upcoming film “Emancipation” is already generating some buzz.

Based on a true story, the film follows a runaway slave, played by Smith, who flees a Louisiana plantation and journeys north where he ultimately joins the Union Army. The Apple TV+ film, which is helmed by “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua, doesn’t currently have a release date, but is expected to arrive sometime in 2023.





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Denise Dowse, ‘Insecure’ And ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ Actor, Dies At 64

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Denise Dowse, a veteran television and film performer who’s best known for her roles in “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Insecure,” has died after being hospitalized with meningitis. She was 64.

Dowse’s death was announced Saturday on her Instagram account by sister Tracey Dowse, who celebrated her late sibling as “the most amazing sister, a consummate, illustrious actress, mentor and director.”

“I want to take this moment to thank our friends and family for all of the love and prayers,” the post read. “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform everyone that my sister, Denise Dowse has gone forward to meet our family in eternal life.”

“She was my very best friend and final family member,” Dowse’s sister continued. “Denise loved all of you. I know that she is watching over us with all the love she has.”

Dowse was hospitalized in a coma in early August with her sister revealing at the time that her condition was “brought on by a virulent form of meningitis.”

“Her doctors do not know when she will come out of the coma as it was not medically induced,” Tracey explained, sharing that her sister is a “vibrant actor and director” and “should have many years ahead of her.”

With over 120 film and television credits to her name, Dowse has steadily appeared on screen since 1989, becoming a regular guest star on some of the most popular series of the next two decades, including “Seinfeld,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Charmed,” “Sister, Sister,” “Moesha,” “Full House,” “Murphy Brown,” “Chicago Hope,” “Girlfriends” and “ER.”

But her recurring role as Vice Principal Mrs. Teasley on Fox’s “Beverly Hills, 90210,” in which she appeared in 24 episodes over the show’s 10-season run, was perhaps her most beloved.

Dowse was memorialized in a touching tribute from Ian Ziering, her former co-star on the ’90s teen soap, after the news of her death broke.

“Throughout all my years working on Beverly Hills 90210, my scenes with Denise will always be remembered with the utmost in respect for her talent, and fondness for the loving soul she was,” he wrote. “Some of my heartiest off camera laughs were between she and I hammering out the the discipline her Mrs. Teasley would dish out to my Steve Sanders.”

More recently, Dowse made recurring appearances on series like “Snowfall,” “The Resident” and “Imposters.” Her most recognizable role as of late was in the final three seasons of Issa Rae’s acclaimed HBO comedy “Insecure” as Dr. Rhonda Pine, the therapist to Yvonne Orji’s character Molly.

In a tweet on Sunday, Orji said it was “truly a delight and pleasure” to work with Dowse on the series, which ended its run last year.

“She embodied the strength and wisdom in real life that her character #DrRhonda shared with Molly,” she wrote. “You will truly be missed and so fondly remembered. May your soul forever Rest In Perfect Peace.”

In addition to her television work, Dowse also appeared in a handful of films over her career, including “Ray,” “Bio-Dome,” “Starship Troopers,” “A Civil Action,” “Coach Carter” and “The Call.”

Dowse made her directorial debut with the upcoming biopic “Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story” about the titular legendary gospel singer.

The film, which stars Ledisi, Columbus Short, Corbin Bleu, Janet Hubert and Wendy Raquel Robinson, served as the opening-night selection for the 30th Pan African Film and Arts Festival in April.

Dowse walked the red carpet at the premiere in her final public appearance.

Denise Dowse attends the 2022 Pan African Film and Arts Festival on April 19 in Los Angeles.

Maury Phillips via Getty Images





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‘P-Valley’ Star Nicco Annan Wants Others Who Look Like Him To Truly Be Celebrated

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You feel Nicco Annan’s presence immediately when he walks in a room. Between his 6-foot-2 height, vibrant fashions and melodic baritone, his energy is dominating. But not so dominating that it engulfs. Instead, his energy is as warm and generous as it is regal and captivating. Similar to Uncle Clifford, the beloved house mother he portrays on “P-Valley,” Annan feels like home.

That’s no surprise. For two seasons strong, the Detroit-born actor has invited TV viewers down to The Pynk, a legacied stripper joint in the fictional Chucalissa, Mississippi, where you can get a lap dance, lemon pepper wings extra wet and a brush with seduction in one fell swoop — but only if you follow Cliff’s rules. With her flashy fashions, unique prowess, country twang and grandmother-like phrases that make you chuckle and think at the same time, it’s hard not to feel Uncle Clifford. Really feel her. And you’d be hard pressed to find another character like her in TV history.

Annan, 33, has been playing the role of the nonbinary HBIC for about the past decade, since he was cast in Katori Hall’s “Pussy Valley,” the play from which the television show was created. The play ran only in Minneapolis.

The actor, who worked closely with Hall in molding Uncle Clifford, knows that this character represents the intersection of so many people’s real everyday life experiences. Annan breathed life into Cliff. That’s why the breakout character has been able to keep viewers enraptured in all her glory.

Season 2 finds Uncle Clifford at risk of losing The Pynk, yet again, while navigating the weight of a world plagued by COVID-19. She’s taking care of everyone — her grandmother, her dancers, her club’s legacy — but has neglected taking care of her heart as she fights the honest, raw love she shares with a rising local rapper half her age, Lil Murda. Her story is about vulnerability, trials, triumphs and community care. Her story is about learning to choose love, despite what the world believes a Black nonbinary person should experience. She represents humanity.

The key ingredient to Annan harnessing Uncle Clifford’s power? “Intimacy,” Annan said.

Nicco Annan said the “P-Valley” role of Uncle Clifford “literally was the thing that kind of woke me up.”

When Annan auditioned in 2009, Hall invited him to read for the part of Uncle Clifford in her apartment. She was originally only in one out of the two scenes in the five-page script. The description of Uncle Clifford — in combination with the dialogue between dancers Mercedes, Mississippi and Gidget — energized him.

“It literally was the thing that kind of woke me up,” Annan said in reference to Uncle Clifford. “What is this character? Because normally when you would read a character breakdown, it’ll say, ‘Black, male.’ Or it’ll say, ‘30s, male.’ Or, ‘Black, gay, flamboyant.’ And it didn’t say that.”

He recalled one of the best notes he’d ever gotten from Hall in portraying Cliff. “Dare to bore me,” she told Annan. It allowed him to “breathe and just be.”

“I think that Katori created the character to be all the things,” Annan said. “It resonates with me when plus-size or full-figured women and full-figured men that are straight, that are gay, that are nonbinary, and everybody kind of identifies with her in a way. That’s a gag for me, for real. I’m like, oh, this is why the SlimFast didn’t work for you when you were a kid. This is why it took time for me to even be comfortable in my body and to be able to walk in that light, to stand in that sun; it’s an honor.”

“Growing up, I didn’t see myself, but I knew that there was something else inside me as an actor, as a person,” says Nicco Annan, who grew up in Detroit.
“Growing up, I didn’t see myself, but I knew that there was something else inside me as an actor, as a person,” says Nicco Annan, who grew up in Detroit.

The world Annan grew up in didn’t want him or any other young, Black gay kids from the Midwest to see characters like Uncle Clifford on screen. He knew he wanted more out of life than to be the heir of his family-owned carwash. He was teased for having dark skin and Ghanaian roots and being heavyset.

“Growing up, I didn’t see myself, but I knew that there was something else inside me as an actor, as a person,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been through this fire because I’ve been trusted with a testimony. That’s really how I feel because there are people who look like me, people who come from the Midwest, there are people in this whole LGBTQ+ spectrum that have not had a level of visibility.”

He visited Ghana, his dad’s home country, for the first time when he was 10. He was reluctant to take the long plane ride, especially after a classmate told him he’d be sleeping with animals. But that trip to Ghana helped illuminate some things about Annan that the U.S. wanted to hide from him. That trip helped him embrace his dark skin, full lips and gap in his front teeth — “Back home, having a gap is distinguished. That means that God smiled on you.”

He sat in the chief’s throne on a floor made of pure gold. It was a gradual process, but Annan, whose first name translates to “first-born son of a prince,” began to come into himself.

“To have that kind of experience as a child, even being teased and all that stuff prior to, it changed for me. I was like, ‘Oh, you’re worth something. And everyone just doesn’t know. Everyone just doesn’t know.’”

As Annan’s dance and choreography career merged with an interest in acting, he met agents, executives and others along the way who didn’t recognize his true worth. They’d tell him he had to lose weight in order to make it on TV. But with nods from legends like poet Maya Angelou and dancer George Faison, Annan knew he was destined for more.

That’s why the slow ascension of his success as Uncle Clifford means so much to him. With it, he’s been able to create a framework that’s allowed his TV dreams to come true. It also led to roles on “This Is Us” and “All American,” and choreography work on “All American: Homecoming.”

He also acknowledges that characters like Uncle Clifford only recently began to have the space to exist on TV. GLAAD’s 2022 “Where We Are on TV” report found that 11.9% of all characters on prime-time TV are of the LGBTQ community, a record high.

While filming Season 1 of “P-Valley,” Annan recalled, a nonbinary production assistant thanked him for the work he was doing on the show. When Annan told them he was just doing his job, the PA told him they were dressed in all black for the job but normally they dress like Uncle Clifford. They told Annan, “If I had seen a character on TV like Uncle Clifford when I was younger, I wouldn’t have tried to take my life.”

Annan said he was “stuck.” He said, “Because, my God, what a pressure, but also what a gift, what a gift. It has taught me that, Nicco Annan, you have a place.”

Nicco Annan says he wants more people who look like him to feel celebrated in Hollywood.
Nicco Annan says he wants more people who look like him to feel celebrated in Hollywood.

Embodying this role has done a lot for Annan, reminding himself of the space that is rightfully his in this industry as well.

“If this had happened in 2009, when we first started the project, it would be a very different experience. I don’t think that the world was ready,” Annan said. “I think that the world is in a place where we can see women for who they truly are. We can see Black bodies, we can see full bodies in a space that are not overly sexualized. There’s a level of artistry, there’s a level of appreciation for the sheen, for the stretch marks, for the tiger stripes and the sun rays.”

Annan has TV and film plans on the horizon. He hopes, more than anything, that more people who look like him experience true celebration in Hollywood, and not just in the form of awards and accolades.

“There will never be another Nicco Annan. I’m not trying to be anyone else. There are many people that have gone before me that I stand on their shoulders, and I love for all of us to be able to have time and shine. It’s really dope to be around, especially on a pop culture kind of show, and bringing this level of artistry and integrity to the characters. I always want to tell gritty, hard, beautiful, complex stories because in there is light. In there is fun, and there is joy. That is what this experience of life is truly all about.”





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Michelle Branch Arrested On Domestic Assault Charge Following Split News

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Singer-songwriter Michelle Branch was arrested Thursday morning and charged with domestic assault amid news that she was splitting from her husband, musician Patrick Carney.

Police were called to the couple’s home at 2:08 on Thursday morning, where Branch admitted to police that she and Carney were having marital problems, according to documents obtained by HuffPost and confirmation from Nashville police.

Branch told police she slapped her husband in the face “one to two times,” which Carney confirmed in a separate interview with officers. Police noted that “he did not have visible injuries.”

The “Everywhere” singer was taken into custody without incident, with bond set at $1,000. She is set to appear in court on Nov. 7.

HuffPost has reached out to representatives for both Branch and Carney.

Branch accused her husband, the drummer for the Black Keys, of cheating in a since-deleted tweet on Thursday and later released an emotional statement announcing the pair’s split.

“To say that I am totally devastated doesn’t even come close to describing how I feel for myself and for my family,” Branch said in a statement provided to multiple outlets.

“The rug has been completely pulled from underneath me and now I must figure out how to move forward,” she added. “With such small children, I ask for privacy and kindness.”

The couple married in 2019 and have two children together: 4-year-old Rhys James Carney and 6-month-old Willie Jacquet Carney.





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