I hope Aldis has had a wonderful birthday!
I hope Aldis has had a wonderful birthday!
EBONY – Molding and defining the African-American image on screen has been a complex task; particularly in the ever-changing entertainment space. In the midst of unimaginable racial injustice and unequal treatment, Sir Sidney Poitier demanded excellence not just from himself but from an industry that had historically cast Black and brown faces aside. With a career stretching over 70 years, Sir Poitier’s character, grace and profound integrity have helped mold the Black movie star, setting the blueprint for all of the men and women that would grace the screens and stages after him.
It was not simply Sir Poitier’s iconic roles in Porgy and Bess and The Defiant Ones that would thrust him into the spotlight. His commanding presence made him one of the biggest box-office draws in the 1960s with a plethora of films including, A Raisin in the Sun, Paris Blues, To Sir, with Love, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and In the Heat of the Night. Before Sir Poitier, the leading Black male was something of a myth. There certainly weren’t any Black male sex symbols before the Academy Award winner stepped on the scene, taking only roles that garnered a sense of dignity and class.
In celebration of Sir Poitier’s extensive career and legacy, Lexus and ICON MANN™ have teamed up to #SaluteALegend. The legendary Louis Gossett Jr., prolific filmmaker John Singleton and critically acclaimed actors, Aldis Hodge and Terrence Howard among others have joined the campaign in celebration of Sir Poitier’s 90th year. “We owe everything that we’re doing now, and will do, to the career that he has had,” Singleton said of the foundation Poitier has laid.
ET – Underground tackles a very serious subject, but sometimes the actors have to let loose!
ET has an exclusive sneak peek at the show’s season two gag reel, giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making the Civil War drama — forgotten lines, laughter and all!
I think these must have been done at Sundance since he’s wearing the same hooded sweater as he is in some of those pics. Thanks to Carol for these.
EW – Following two years of sharp criticism and back-to-back ceremonies with an all-white slate of acting nominees, the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts & Sciences has taken some big steps in 2017 toward including more women and people of color in the Oscars’ selection process. Last week, a record 774 new members from 57 countries around the world were asked to join the organization’s ranks. Of that group, 39 percent are women, and if all accept their invitation, the total number of female participants overall will jump from 27 percent to 28 percent; under similar circumstances, the freshman class of 2017 could also see the number of racial minorities in the 8,427-strong institution rise from 11 percent to 13 percent.
As the Academy heads into what could be its most inclusive annual cycle to date, EW chatted with nine new members about AMPAS’ ongoing push for racial and gender equality: actors Priyanka Chopra, Phylicia Rashad, Rinko Kikuchi, Aldis Hodge, Sanaa Lathan, Terry Crews, Colman Domingo, and Anna Deavere Smith, and Colombian filmmaker Patricia Cardoso — all of whom accepted their invitations. Read on to find out what they feel still needs to change about the Academy, the dangers of Oscar campaigning, how they think AMPAS has evolved in a post-#OscarsSoWhite arena, why Moonlight‘s historic best picture victory signals a changing of the guard, what the future holds for women in the Academy, and the potential impact their fellow invitees will have on 2018 Oscar voting (spoiler alert: Get Out and Wonder Woman should probably be on your early predictions list in multiple categories).
On the Academy’s evolving identity regarding racial and gender inclusion
ALDIS HODGE (Straight Outta Compton): The Academy has more power and influence than it really understands. Sometimes it sets the tone for how we’re received, culturally, all over the world. Even if they don’t understand the movies or the language, people pay attention to the Oscars all over the world. It looks like an example to follow when the Academy is saying, Hey look, this is not okay, and we have an entire population that isn’t being represented… The #OscarsSoWhite controversy opened their eyes to what was really going on. It wasn’t a targeted effort against women and people of color, but it was a naïve and neglected effort… When you say “diversity,” the term has been denigrated over the years, because it has been used as a crutch… you get into these executive offices and people say, Oh, we have this project, wait a minute guys, we need diversity, let’s choose a black actor for this, let’s choose a Hispanic actor for this, instead of saying, That’s not diverse, that’s just normal. That’s what makes up America… Diversity is giving people of color another label… that’s giving people of different gender and sexual preferences another label, another box that separates us from the majority.
The Academy woke up to their negligence and said, Look at all these gems we’ve been missing… That’s a systemic issue in the industry. In fact, I read a script the other day and I said no, I can’t do it because it was supposedly addressing police brutality, but the black character was written so very stereotypically. The police were written so sympathetically, where you didn’t feel they were doing anything wrong. Right now, this is a cultural issue where people are going off… I couldn’t even finish the script. I told them no… I couldn’t even take the meeting. We have a responsibility to represent the times well. There are a lot of people who have not experienced the reality that some other cultures have, so they’re going to continue to speak a different way… as an Academy that represents artists and the world, you do have to do the work, and right now the Academy is trying to do the work. So as long as they do the work, we’ll be able to do our work.
On the Academy’s responsibility to gender and racial representation
HODGE: If the Academy is going to be the hub of prestige for skills and the fine-tuning of your craft, we need all artists represented, so we need the Oscars to be the leader and the example in that way. They have a responsibility, as does every studio. You don’t just have one particular type of audience watching your work, shows, or films. That’s not to say every single project has to be wildly inclusive, because not every subject matter allows for that. Diversity, at its root, means different, right? Inclusion means including that which is already there. So for me, to include women and include cultures and people of different colors, that’s not diversity because it’s not different. This country is not built on one culture alone. We all make up this industry. If you look at the crews, the crews alone are so intermixed culturally, and these people, the crews, are the blood, sweat, and tears of the set… so when you think about who really contributes to keeping this machine going, you have a massive responsibility to represent these people.
TV INSIDER: My Favorite Midseason Characters
This was a tough choice. I cherish Grace and Frankie, the endearing title characters of the Netflix comedy adroitly played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, who with charm, humor and sincerity defy stereotypes of older women, their ambitions and friendships. In the end, however, it’s the population of Underground, the cruelly prematurely terminated drama series that ran on WGN America for two seasons that affected me deeply. The brilliantly acted show about the waning days of American slavery and the Underground Railroad that helped the enslaves escape to freedom, created real, relatable human beings whose well-being, passionate viewers (myself included) deeply cared about.
Most of the major characters had been—or were still enslaved—at the end of Season 2. A few were famous like the former slave turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman (masterfully portrayed by Aisha Hinds), most were not. Few were saintly, fewer monsters. Most were black, a few were white. Among the standouts: the determined and heroic escapee Rosalee (Journee Smollett-Bell) and her resourceful and tragic mother Ernestine (Amirah Van) and brave and sometimes foolhardy lover Noah (Aldis Hodge). I can’t fail to mention, the luminous Daniel (Bokeem Woodbine) blinded by his “owners,” for teaching slaves to read. Among the so-called “contraband’s” allies: the white abolitionist Elizabeth (Jessica De Gouw) moral growth impressed. But there was humanity to be found in the show’s villains as well: the collaborator Cato (Alano Miller)—whose rise, fall, and plotted rise again, never failed to fascinate—and the poor, downtrodden farmer August Pullman (Christopher Meloni) who turned slave catcher for both money and status.
I can only hope that another network will give these indelible characters life again. —Ileane Rudolph, Senior Writer
ET – John Legend isn’t giving up on Underground.
The 38-year-old singer, who serves as an executive producer on the Civil War drama about the Underground Railroad, broke his silence Tuesday after WGN America canceled the series after two seasons.
In the second season, Legend appeared as abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
“Content wins,” Legend tweeted. “We’re not reliant on a particular network to make great content. We’re so proud of our show and the audience that supported!”
“Feel free to drop some hints to the networks/streaming services you want to pick up #Underground,” he continued. “Show them who will be watching!”
ASSIGNMENT X – In Season 2 of WGN America’s UNDERGROUND, which concludes Wednesday, May 10, things have gotten even more dangerous for the main characters. Escaped slave Rosalee, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, is now working in the Underground Railroad with Harriet Tubman, played by Aisha Hinds, to help other slaves flee to freedom. Meanwhile, Noah, played by Aldis Hodge, who changed his own plans to help Rosalee, has spent time in prison and nearly been executed, all of which has a major effect on him.
Hodge and Smollett-Bell sit down to talk about their characters in UNDERGROUND’s second season, as well as what the show has to say to contemporary America.
ASSIGNMENT X: What would you say are the big differences in attitude for Noah and Rosalee in Season 2 from Season 1?
ALDIS HODGE: I would say for Noah, he has the same goal, different intention. It’s still freedom, but his idea of freedom is Rosalee, it’s no longer just being out of bondage, it’s Rosalee. So you’re going to see all these months of being cooped up in a prison cell [laughs] ferment through his actions and his choices. But he learns, he explores different situations. He’s put in situations emotionally that he never expected to be in. So we’re going to see his evolution over time with how he comes to understand life, because for him, life is very different in terms of trying to escape again, trying to understand what Rosalee means in terms of family and his overall goal of freedom.
JURNEE SMOLLETT-BELL: I think at the end of Season 1, it really dawned upon Rosalee that freedom ain’t free, and that when she says to Noah, “We’re not free until we’re all free” – we lost everyone. We lost the Macon Seven comrades, I lost my mother and brother, found out my oldest brother was lynched, and then I end up losing Noah. So when we meet Rosalee at the beginning of Season 2, she’s trying to put the pieces back together. And she’s been on the run with Harriet, being trained on how to navigate this complex [underground railroad] network.