Phil Gurin and I have been executive producing the show for six years. We have a great time every time.
Byron Phillips and I producing the show from the floor. We’ve been doing the show together for seven years!
Mitch Marchand and Jon Macks write the show. Amazing talents and great guys.
The biggest stars of television…
…and movies are all in house!
Backstage with Michael B. Jordan
Byron and I talking with Vin Diesel right before he presents Outstanding Motion Picture…which turned out to be Black Panther, of course!
Jay Z after winning the President’s Award. With NAACP president Derrick Johnson and Sen. Kamala Harris, who is a presidential candidate herself!
Oh, what a night! Attending the NAACP Image Awards
By MICHAEL TWYMAN
Miles Brown plays Jack Johnson on the ABC show “Black-ish.” (Photo/Michael Twyman)
Tamera Mowry-Housley and Trevor Jackson on stage at the 50th annual NAACP Image Awards. (Photo/Michael Twyman)
One of the special privileges of serving on the NAACP Foundation Board and member of the Image Awards Selection Committee is being a VIP guest at the annual show. The 50th NAACP Image Awards held its signature event celebrating Black excellence in arts and entertainment for the very first time at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre — the venue for the annual Academy Awards. The aesthetic beauty and charm of the theater is breathtaking when experienced in-person, and it is even more transformed and electrifying when filled with Black Hollywood’s finest and some of the most illustrious African American leaders of our time.
Not likely there’s any other occasion whereby I’d be seated in the row with journalist icons Roland Martin, April Ryan and Ed Gordon, and get to chat with Iyanla Vanzant, shake hands with Winston Duke, or hug Lynn Whitfield and tell her how spectacular she is on “Greenleaf.”
Much of the evening punctuated the role Black women play as mothers, grandmothers, activists, actors and trailblazers. Here are some examples: Image Awards host Anthony Anderson welcomed his mother on stage to give his acceptance speech for the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series Award. Tracee Ellis Ross gave a tearful tribute to her famed mother, Diana Ross, for marking a 75th birthday milestone and being the single-most inspiration to her career as she received another Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for “Black-ish.”
And, hip-hop mogul Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z won and shared very touching remembrances of his childhood in Brooklyn when accepting the NAACP President’s Award. He dedicated the award to his grandmother Hattie White. She raised seven kids in a walk-up apartment while earning $20 a week. He grew up in that same household, and through the love and tenacity demonstrated by her and the other women in his life he quickly learned it was nothing he could not accomplish.
Whereas there is nothing quite like the awards show itself, equally enjoyable was the pre-show dinner with master of ceremonies Loni Love, Tamera Mowry-Housley and Adrienne Houghton from “The Real.” Here, you’re really able to rub shoulders with dignitaries and engage in meaningful conversations. Nothing quite like meeting and speaking with producer Robert Townsend, TV One founder Cathy Hughes, sports commentator Stephen A. Smith within a span of 10 minutes during the dinner event. It was also very cool to fist-bump Indy homeboy Trevor Jackson, who was there serving as an award presenter. Another treat was Donna Brazile cracking jokes and keeping us in stitches during our rides on the coach shuttle to and from the event.
To cap things off, an A-list after-party was held at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard and hosted by Doug E. Fresh, with Teddy Riley and Blackstreet and Kool Moe Dee performing poolside. Regina Hall, Chadwick Boseman, Issa Rae, Omari Hardwick and Kofi Siriboe made their rounds at the event — all extremely gracious and unassuming in their demeanor and interactions with guests. What’s especially nice to see are young actors like Marcus Scribner and Marsai Martin being there with their families having a good time and mingling with all the more seasoned entertainers and high-profile political figures.
Of course it wouldn’t have
been Hollywood if there wasn’t the random sighting of celebrities not attending
the NAACP festivities. Such was the case when returning late to my hotel from
the after party. Chillin’ just a few feet away from me in the lobby bar was
none other than Jack Nicholson kicked back and sipping a martini … just as at
ease as if he were in his own living room and clearly admiring all the Black
“art” on full display!
Mark Marvel’s 80th anniversary with this celebration of ’70s Doctor Strange and Captain America!
BY BEN MORSE
Each week, the Best of the Decade column honors Marvel’s 80th anniversary by spotlighting a single issue from the House of Ideas beloved by the best in the business!
Before he was counted among the elite in the entertainment business, Reginald Hudlin would go to great lengths when it came to acquiring Marvel comics in the 1970s.
“By the time I was in middle school, I was buying comics pretty regularly,” Hudlin says. “The drug store near our house that sold comics on a spinner rack had closed down, but I was taking the bus home from a middle school in St. Louis, which mean I was in downtown, where the only place you could buy comics were these storefronts that sold comics in the front but sold [adult magazines] in the back behind a curtain! I don’t think my parents knew that’s where I was shopping. But we were kids that were only interested in the comics.”
Years later, Hudlin would go on to write a landmark run on BLACK PANTHER from 2005 to 2008, putting his adolescence scouring town for comics to good use. And, as he recalls, he wasn’t the only one. “Jim Lee, also from St. Louis, told me he was shopping at the same shady stores as a kid,” he adds. “This was before the era of dedicated comic book shops.”
In honor of Marvel’s 80th, we got Hudlin’s invaluable insight on what makes the ’70s special—from the return of a King to Doctor Strange confronting his ultimate challenge…
Marvel.com: What are you first memories of reading Marvel comics?
Reginald Hudlin: My older brothers were very serious comic collectors. I remember them coming home with the original runs of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men—everything. They had complete runs from the first issue. So I grew up reading comics voraciously.
Finally I was old enough to buy my own books. My mom gave me enough money to buy one book. I bought a Monkees comic because I liked the TV show. My brothers were disgusted with me “wasting” money on a book like that. I could have bought one more book they couldn’t afford, but I stuck with my choice.
But I quickly transitioned into [Super Hero] books, including Marvel.
Marvel.com: What sets Marvel comics of the 1970s apart from other eras?
Hudlin: I define ’70s Marvel as post Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. My impression [was] that Stan wasn’t writing monthly books anymore, he was now more management. And Kirby had left for DC. So the next generation of creative talent stepped up and took the line in a new direction, while continuing the Marvel tradition of reflecting the cultural trends of the era. Luke Cage had the Blaxploitation vibe. Shang-Chi and Iron Fist reflected the popularity of kung fu movies. Captain America’s SECRET EMPIRE[and] NOMAD storylines reflected the Watergate crisis.
Also, characters finally started being based in other cities besides New York. Daredevil moved to San Francisco. Son of Satan was set in St. Louis!
Marvel.com: In your mind, who were the most important and memorable characters in the evolution of black Super Heroes in 1970s Marvel?
Hudlin: You are talking about Luke Cage, Storm, Blade, and Misty Knight—I had the four of them team up with Black Panther and Monica Rambeau in one of my BLACK PANTHER story arcs, but there’s more to be done with them individually and as a group. What I like about them is that they are all very different personalities and none of their backgrounds are alike, reflecting the diversity of black experiences in the real world.
Marvel.com: What titles stood out to you as favorites from that decade?
Marvel.com: What specifically makes them stand out?
Hudlin: The Silver Dagger story featured a great villain with a smart plan. The hero tries to stop him and fails at every turn. The villain succeeds at his goal, but the conflict is resolved without a big final fight. A really smartly told tale.
Madbomb is Kirby once again predicting the future with perfect accuracy. America’s elites decide to overthrow democracy and return to a monarchy. The method of achieving this is the Madbomb, which drives people crazy and they attack each other, allowing the wealthy and powerful to take total control.
I don’t like making “best movie” lists, because there are so many great movies, and so many great movies I don’t get to see…but here are a bunch of movies worth seeing.
1. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
This is exactly like reading a great annual or event mini series in comics. It took ten years and eighteen movies the make it plausible and it pays off beautifully.
2. BLACK PANTHER 1. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Given how many horrible drafts of this movie have existed over the decades, the fact that a movie this true to the comic exists is a miracle. The fact that it’s the biggest superhero movie of all time is a wake up call to the movie industry.
4. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE
Artistic breakthrough in animation and great depiction of a black superhero.
Adam McKay has evolved into this generation’s Oliver Stone, who covers recent political history with wit and style.
6. KING IN THE WILDERNESS
So many films try to make MLK a relatable human, but this is the first one to succeed at it. A must see.
7. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
I like Mission Impossible movies, and this was the best one. It’s hard for number 6 of any franchise to the best one.
8. AMAZING GRACE
It’s great to have Aretha, at her peak, back with us for two hours, performing one of her greatest triumphs.
9. A STAR IS BORN
I haven’t seen the other versions, but this one is perfect. Great performances, great dialogue, great look….just great.
10. CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Fresh cast, fresh setting, fresh culture to explore, and so much fun!
Runner ups: SORRY TO BOTHER YOU; READY PLAYER ONE; HOW COULD YOU EVER FORGIVE ME; THREE IDENTITAL STRANGERS; ANNIHALATION; BIRD BOX; DEADPOOL 2, THE FIRST PURGE, A QUIET PLACE.
The legacy of Eddie Murphy’s 1992 hit Boomerang is almost ridiculously impressive: It featured a breakthrough performance by a young Halle Berry; it was the only top 20 movie that year with a predominantly black cast; and the triple-platinum soundtrack helped launch the career of then-unknown singer Toni Braxton.
For his first romantic comedy role ever, Murphy chose an up-and-coming director named Reginald Hudlin, whose 1990 breakout hit House Party earned over 10 times its $2.5 million budget at the box office. The comedian sent Hudlin a script about a playboy ad executive named Marcus (Murphy), who gets his heart broken by a man-eater named Jacqueline (Robin Givens) before falling for no-nonsense artist Angela (Berry). “I immediately responded to it because I love that kind of romantic comedy. I am always interested in taking black characters in genres that we are not typically seen in. In the same way that House Party was me looking at American Graffiti and Risky Business and going, ‘Hey, we should make a movie like that!’, Boomerang was me looking at all my favorite romantic comedies and going, ‘Hey, we should have a movie like that!’”
With Murphy attached, says Hudlin, Paramount Pictures put Boomerang on the fast track. “It was like, ‘Here is the release date — do whatever it takes to make sure this movie is in theaters on this date,’” he recalls. Though one particularly ignorant studio exec was skeptical — “They said, ‘I don’t know how you’re going to make this work. I mean, Eddie Murphy in a romantic comedy? He’s got that broad nose and big lips’” — Boomerang went on to earn $70 million at the U.S. box office and became a rom-com classic. For EW’s special rom-com issue, Hudlin looked back on the making of Boomerang, including working with the comedy all-star cast (including David Allan Grier, John Witherspoon, and Martin Lawrence) and, of course, the mushroom suit with the matching belt.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: One of Marcus’ quirks is that he can’t date a woman if she has unattractive feet. In the beginning of the movie he hooks up with a beautiful woman named Christine, played by Lela Rochon, and Marcus is horrified to see that her feet are… unfortunate. So I have a very important question: Were those really Lela Rochon’s feet?
REGINALD HUDLIN: No. Lela Rochon has beautiful feet. We had our crack makeup department apply corns and all kind of terrible stuff on her feet. We did not have a foot model — we just jacked her foot up for the shot.
We must talk about Grace Jones, who is brilliant in the film. Was the part of Strangé written with her in mind?
That was totally written for Grace Jones. We had to get Grace Jones, there was no Plan B. On set was she was fun and she took it all very seriously, right? In the scene in the boardroom and they show her the model of what the bottle of perfume is going to look like – we were just doing a half-speed rehearsal. I was like, “Look, you pick up the bottle, you hate it, you toss it down, and you go off on everybody.” Grace is not big on half-speed, so she took the bottle and she slammed it and it ricocheted across the room. I was like, “Grace, we only have two of those!”
In the boardroom, she would flip her hair and the hair would land in Eddie’s face, and then Eddie would pick the hair out of his teeth. I remember Halle being completely unable to hold it together. I would look over and Halle had tears coming out of her eyes because she wanted to laugh so hard — Halle was just like, “Please, please stop!”
Strangé’s entrance, when she bursts out of the crate on a chariot pulled by shirtless man-slaves — what was that like to film?
Well originally, we had talked about her coming in with panthers on leashes. And they were like, “Well Reggie, you’re in a room with a couple of hundred extras, and if any woman in that room is on her period, those panthers will rip themselves loose and tear them to shreds.” I said, “So not panthers… We’ll go with people.” I just thought ok, her with these beefcake enslaved men felt right. That seemed to be the statement we needed to make.
Probably my ultimate Grace Jones moment was when Grace and Eartha Kitt [who played cosmetics company matriarch Lady Eloise] met on set. Eartha Kit goes to Grace [in Eartha Kit growl], “You’re doing me, but you’re doing it wrong!” And she started correcting her purr. “It’s like this, Arrrrr, arrrr, arrrr!” It’s like, Oh my God you’re right — they are the same persona, but different eras.
One of the funniest moments in the movie is when John Witherspoon’s character arrives to Thanksgiving dinner wearing a coordinated mushroom-print ensemble, and Marcus is fascinated by it.
Everything about that is a great memory. First of all, my costume designer Francine Tanchuck, who is really a brilliant costume designer, she would always show me [several] options for every character. So with that one she had this blue leisure suit for Johnny Witherspoon, and the mushroom suit, with the mushroom lining for the inside of the jacket and the [matching] belt. I said, “This is a false choice… There’s only one way to go — we have to rock the mushroom outfit.” She laughed like, “Yes, of course.” So that was not scripted, that was just wardrobe delivering one of the greatest of all movie outfits.
So if they hadn’t given you the mushroom suit option we wouldn’t have had that amazing scene?
You would not have seen that scene. We’re there, Eddie sees the suit, and we say, “Action!” And we do like three takes. And then we turn around David Allen Grier responding to their conversation, just so we can have cutaways. It was magnificent. The two days of shooting the Thanksgiving sequence were probably the funniest two days of my life. By the time I finished shooting on Friday and I went home, I had a headache — and I realized I had a headache because I was laughing so hard, I had oxygen deprivation [laughs].
Eddie and John just came up with that interaction on the spot?
Yes. It’s like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, that’s what you saw… You have the funniest people in the world. If there was a day where it was Eddie and David and Martin? David and Martin would stand together, and they would just be doing something funny, so you would notice the crew gathering around them because they just wanted to eavesdrop on whatever comedic brilliance they were doing. And then when Johnny Witherspoon and Bebe Drake joined the group, it was like now this is literally too much funny. This is a completely unbearable amount of funny.
I remember when we were shooting [the Thanksgiving scene], somehow we started joking about the idea of David Allen Grier’s parents having sex in the bathroom in the middle of dinner. We just started talking about that idea on Friday, and I thought about it all weekend. I would just lay in bed laughing about the prospect of that idea. So Monday morning, I’m running on set trying to find Eddie to tell him, we have to shoot that scene, and when I find Eddie, he’s running to me to say, “We have to shoot that scene!” I’m like, “Yes! Yes!” We had both been obsessing over it all weekend.
Later in that scene, Marcus and Angela watch an episode of Star Trek, and Marcus calls Captain Kirk “the coolest white man on the planet.” Was it always in the script that he was a Star Trek fan?
I’m a Star Trek fan, and it happened to be owned by Paramount, so we knew we could get the clip. Eddie just free-styled on it beautifully… Spock Jenkins! [laughs] It’s so good.
In 1992, you didn’t see a lot of movies (or TV shows for that matter) about black professionals.
For Eddie, it was a chance to be his whole self. The personas of [48 Hours’] Reggie Hammond and [Beverly Hills Cop’s] Axel Foley are great characters, but people just kept wanting him to do the same thing over and over again. So [with Boomerang] he could finally be more who he was as a person… It was very deliberate, for example, that he’s styled almost exclusively in Theirry Mugler suits… Usually a black professional in [movies or TV], either you are smart but corny, or cool but in the ‘hood. But there’s all these cool people who work in these jobs, whether they work in an ad agency or on Wall Street. I was one of those people, I knew all those people. It was like, let’s just show the world we live in.
Eddie never wears a tie in the course of the film. He looks totally professional but he’s totally cool — so much of that was making that statement and showing more than one kind of black guy. We felt like with David’s character and with Martin’s character, we really got to show, “Here is the corny guy, here is the cool guy from the ‘hood, and here is the alpha. But you know what? They’re all friends.”
The movie doesn’t pretend that racism doesn’t exist — like when Marcus and his friends get tailed in a clothing store by an anxious white clerk — but it’s not something the characters obsess about.
It doesn’t define their lives. There is a whole sub-genre of cinema which is all about black people being oppressed by white people, and there are good and bad movies in that category — and that should exist. But there’s a whole other world of people who don’t sit around talking about that all the time. We wanted to tell stories that hadn’t been told yet. And for black audiences, they were like, “Oh my god, this is crazy — this is my actual life, and I’ve never seen that [on screen] before!”