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Idris Elba, Aldis Hodge Salute Black Men in Hollywood at Icon Mann Dinner

VARIETY – As Hollywood prepares to celebrate its biggest night in film, some of the industry’s biggest names in black entertainment — including Idris Elba, Michael Ealy, Boris Kodjoe, Anthony Hemingway, Stephen Hill, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Evan Ross, Leon Bridges and Carl Weathers — packed Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel on Friday to kick off the fourth annual Icon Mann event.


Actors, journalists and Hollywood executives lined the 12th floor Starlight Ballroom — talking, laughing and exchanging handshakes as music played in the background.


The event, which culminates in an exclusive Power 50 dinner, celebrates black men in entertainment and provides a community that fosters support.


“It’s about creating the space for black men to have great fellowship of like-minded consciousness and to come together and talk about how they want to improve the world around them,” said Tamara Houston, founder and CEO of Icon Mann.


As a talent manager and producer, Houston said her first goal was to start with entertainers, because of the wealth of influence they carry.


“If we can get those men on a similar thought pattern of connectivity, we’re going to get more diversity in stories, we’re going to get more diversity in character, and what happens when you do that is you start to change a consciousness, and then we are part of the inclusion.”


Honoree Richard Roundtree, who rose to fame for his portrayal in “Shaft,” sparked Houston’s creation of Icon Mann after she heard him say at an Essence Festival that he had never been in a room filled with the fellowship of black people in the industry.


“Given what we’re going through politically and with the Academy Awards, this is an important evening for us to come together and celebrate each other,” Roundtree said. “We are as important as any other man walking, and to not be acknowledged for the successes that we have had is an injustice.”

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Slavery Drama ‘Underground’ to Screen at White House


New series heads to Washington as part of Black History Month


THE WRAP – WGN America’s new Underground Railroad drama “Underground” will screen at the White House as part of Black History Month, the network announced Friday.


The pilot episode of the show will be be screened on Feb. 22 as part of the White House Office of Public Engagement’s Black History Month event, “These Hallowed Grounds,” highlighting landmarks and monuments around the country significant to the African American community, including stops on the Underground Railroad.


Prior to the screening, there will be panel discussions with the “Underground” cast and creative team, including executive producer John Legend, creators and executive producers Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, executive producer Akiva Goldsman and director and executive producer Anthony Hemingway.


Stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge, Christopher Meloni, Alano Miller, Jessica de Gouw and Amirah Vann will also be in attendance. The panel event will be live streamed beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.

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On The Set Of “Underground” + Aldis Hodge Opens Up About Difficult Scenes

HIP HOLLYWOOD – The new WGN America show Underground is a dramatic thriller following the lives of slaves in Georgia plotting to run to freedom. HipHollywood exclusively hit the set of the highly anticipated show to see first-hand the plantation they were shooting on and to talk to the show’s star Aldis Hodge and creator, Misha Green.


Aldis plays Noah, the ring-leader among his fellow slaves and the one who orchestrates the escape to freedom. The role was one that not only intrigued Hodge, but also challenged him as an actor. Going into a scene where he has to beg “massa” for his life and is subsequently beat, Aldis says it was the most difficult scenes he’s ever had to portray. “That was a hard day because it was my first day. And I knew when I read the script that was going to be my hardest, hardest challenge to really go there because I’m not good with submitting to defamation and submitting to humiliation and being made to feel lesser than.”


In addition to Aldis, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Alano Miller, Christopher Meloni and more also bring stellar performances to the small screen as part of the underground cast. Be sure to check back to HipHollywood to see more of our Underground coverage and watch the show when it premieres March 9th on WGN America.
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Sorry, Not Sorry: Watch 29 Celebs Perform Justin Bieber Hit


ROLLING STONE – Vanity Fair pulled together 29 celebrities while at Sundance Film Festival to perform a dramatic rendition of Justin Bieber’s hit “Sorry.” The clip was inspired by W Magazine’s video of celebrities dramatically reciting Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”


“Is it too late to say I’m sorry that I don’t know the song ‘I’m Sorry’ by Justin Bieber?” an emotional-looking Jon Hamm says at the beginning of the clip. From there, stars like John Legend, John Krasinski, Chelsea Handler and Nick Jonas all take turns adding their own histrionic spin to the track. At the end, Judd Apatow goes for loud and dramatic, yelling the lines of the song before walking off the set.


Bieber will perform at the Grammys on Monday with Jack Ü. In March, he’ll embark on a massive world tour in support of his 2015 album Purpose. The singer debuted the single “Sorry” last October a few weeks prior to the release of Purpose. Skrillex and Blood Pop co-produced the tropical, moombahton-infused track.

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Jurnee Smollett-Bell & Aldis Hodge Get Dirty: Trip To The Set Of “Underground”


GLOBALGRIND – It may turn out to be the most interesting time of my life. I was just offered a guest spot on MTV2’s Uncommon Sense on the same day I was scheduled to visit the set of one of the most interesting shows coming to television, Underground, a program about a group of runaway slaves being filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


There was no way in hell I was going to cancel anything; I was determined to make it work. Because in a world filled with so much racial tension, I had to see how this TV series based on the slave narratives in the Library of Congress was being made.


I pushed my flight back, did MTV, and finished with exactly 60 minutes to get from the middle of Times Square to JFK airport in rush hour traffic. By the time I got to the airport, there were exactly 10 minutes to get through the terminal to TSA and then to the gate. Needless to say, I missed my original flight. But luckily, I caught another and arrived in Baton Rouge by the morning. It all worked out.



Continue reading Jurnee Smollett-Bell & Aldis Hodge Get Dirty: Trip To The Set Of “Underground”

Filed in Article Underground

WGN Has a New Show About Slavery, and I Don’t Know If I’m Ready


THE MARY SUE – WGN America is launching a new dramatic series in January 2016 called Underground, whose storyline is centered around a group of slaves, their daring escape from a plantation, and the abolitionists who help them.


Yep. I had the same reaction when I saw the press release.


To be honest, I feared that this would be, at best, 12 Years a Slave “the miniseries,” or at worst, a historically distorted narrative like Mississippi Burning. However, then I saw that John Legend’s company, Get Lifted, had signed on as the executive producers, and WGN had tapped Misha Green (Spartacus, Sons of Anarchy, Heroes) and Joe Pokaski (Daredevil, Heroes, CSI) to pen the script. Add to that an amazing cast featuring several actors whose work I enjoy, such as Aldis Hodge (from one of my favorite shows, Leverage), Jurnee Smollet-Bell (Friday Night Lights, The Great Debaters), and Christopher Meloni (Law and Order: SVU), and I decided that I must learn more about this show.


Underground’s plot is actually being promoted less like a slave narrative and more like an adventure of survival. (Less Roots, more The Defiant Ones.) When I heard that the cast would all be going to New York Comic Con, I jumped at the chance to interview some of them and ask them the one question that had been on my mind since the premise of the show was revealed:


“What was your reaction when your agent called and told you that you had just landed a starring role on a brand new show … about slavery?”

Aldis Hodge (Noah):

I thought that we had seen this narrative before, but when I read the script, that changed everything, because I realized they told an honest story we’d never seen before. They were talking about people’s strength; they told the strength of these people as opposed to the weaknesses, the victimization of it. We got to see heroes. We got to be proud of these people. We got to see how smart and intelligent they were, and we got to see where the foundation of that came from. I like to speak to everybody, and this is a show that does that. Even though we’re talking about black culture, you realize these are Americans; regardless of what they look like or what their color is, they’re all Americans.


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2016 Oscars Nominations: Snubs and Surprises

E! ONLINE – Say what?!?!


Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, directors Guillermo Del Toro and Ang Lee and actor John Krasinski announced the nominations for the 2016 Oscars Thursday morning, and while justice was served for some, others were completely snubbed. In additions to the snubs there were also plenty of surprises that caught us off guard, so this year’s Oscars will probably be full of even more shocking moments (with the help of host Chris Rock, of course).


Let’s talk about how “See You Again,” the song from Furious 7 performed by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, didn’t earn a nomination for Best Song. That’s right, Paul Walker’s tribute didn’t get a nod. Instead, “Earned It” by The Weekend from Fifty Shades of Grey made the cut as well as Golden Globe-winning “Writing’s on the Wall” by Sam Smith from Spectre, which sort of went without saying. But “Earned It” over “See You Again”?! We’d understand “Love Me Like You Do,” but “Earned It” seems a little out of left field. Continuing in the song category, we’re still surprised about Lady Gaga. Yes, it was awesome to watch her win the Golden Globe, but it’s still slightly jaw-dropping how she can go from slightly out there performer to a potential EGOT winner in a year.


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Design and creativity trends you can expect to see in 2016

CREATIVE CONNECTION – The start of the year is always a time for setting new goals and modifying old ones. Since pretty much all I do, both work and play, has to do with design and creativity, I’ve decided to modify my goals and learn more. I believe the key to personal growth is to gain experience and learning from people you admire and who inspire you.


This is why I wanted to do a bit of a research regarding the design and creative scene and find out what the trends are going to be in 2016. I asked seven creative persons from different places around the world what they think. Here’s what they came back with:


Aldis Hodge – Los Angeles, USA

Watchmaker, actor

The budding design trends for the past few years have been compartmentalism (grouping as many gadgets and assets as possible into one thing), remote A.I. communications (replacing real human interaction with digital communication via apps, texting, social media, etc.) and green tech (electric cars, self efficient gadgets). I think trends tend to be cyclical though, so while these will remain, they will however constantly evolve.


I hope green tech will continue to grow. Hopefully A.I. communications will begin to fade because it’s very important to unplug and reconnect in a humane way. I hope our next generation (who already seems addicted to phones and laptops) finds a balance between the two worlds. And as for compartmentalism, I feel like it will continue to persist just because of the curious nature of humanity.


As a watchmaker of fine haute horology (strictly old school mechanical, not digital) my first priority is to make the best working machine with the most awesome design possible. Most of the time I have to force myself to simplify my work because I’m always challenging myself to add more complications. But in my heart I know, I’ll never stop. It’s the curse of an inventor: How much new cool tech can I add and still make it look effortless?

Filed in Article Underground

WGN America’s “Underground” Timely, Relevant PREVIEWS


MONSTERS AND CRITICSI think the story of the Underground Railroad is just so exciting and thrilling and hasn’t been told, and it is one it was the first integrated civil rights movement in America, and I think that that’s the important thing to really highlight again today.- Misha Green


“Underground” follows a group of courageous men and women who use their ingenuity, power, and perseverance to attempt the greatest escape in history and break free, despite the dire consequences that awaited them on the other side.


At Winter tour TCA (Television Critics’ Association) the WGN panel included the “Underground” creative team, executive producer, Akiva Goldsman; creators, writers, and executive producers, Joe Pokaski, and Misha Green; executive producer, John Legend; executive producer, Mike Jackson; and executive producer and director, Anthony Hemmingway.


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‘Underground’ TCA Panel Decries Trivialization Of Slavery In Political Discourse

DEADLINE – Producers of WGN America‘s upcoming pre-Civil War drama Underground blasted the trivialization of slavery by those who use the horrific history as a metaphor for everything from Obamacare to gun control. “We’ve seen a lot of hyperbolic comparison,” said exec producer Akiva Goldsman at a TCA panel today. “Everything is ‘slavery’, everything is ‘the Holocaust.’ These words have specific meaning. It’s the corruption of words that begins the corruption of ideas. That is terrifying,”


Underground follows a group of slaves who escape from a Georgia plantation, traveling 600 miles to freedom and aided along the way by a secret abolitionist couple running a station along the Underground Railroad. The slaves are tracked by a group tasked with bringing them back dead or alive.


The era of the Underground Railroad, Goldsman said, “is a period of time in our history which has somehow become obscured by shadow. It’s not taught, we don’t learn it…it’s the vanishing of our past, and therefore the whole wonderful notion we are doomed to repeat it becomes ever more likely.”


Underground, he added quickly, is “not teaching history here, but this is the truth of where we come from.” Goldsman said the series is designed to be both entertainment and “edifying.”


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