Robert Townsend Talks 'Diary Of A Single Mom', How The Web Is Changing TV & Raptors v. Actors

Director Robert Townsend is on a roll. His webseries, Diary of a Single Mom is proving to be a runaway internet hit. The drama, now in it’s third season and which stars Monica CalhounLeonDiahann Carroll and Billy Dee Williams has  sparked such a buzz that it will soon be headed to cable TV as a possible new series. We checked in with Townsend to find out what attracted him to the award-winning webseries and how the internet is changing television. And, The Five Heartbeats director weighed in the ongoing, very controversial singer/rapper turned actor debate. —Ronke Idowu Reeves


VIBE: As a male director Tyler Perry faced some heat for directing a woman’s story, For Colored Girls this year. Did you feel similar pressures being at the helm of this woman’s story?

Cheryl L. West is the writer of Diary and she has such as strong point of view, I just listen. Cheryl and I had worked together on a movie I directed for Showtime called Holiday Heart [Alfrie Woodard got nominated for a Golden Globe for the starring role.] My job as a director is kind of easy because if you got really great actors, a well-written script I can just stay out of the way, have fun and let the actors act.  But coming from a single parent household there’s a lot of my mother in the lead character in Diary, Ocean [played by Monica Calhoun] and there are a lot of things that as a kid I grew up around. 


Diary of Single Mom won the Best Indie Soap 2009 Award. So would you describe it as a straight drama series or a soap opera?

I look at Diary as a drama. But I guess when you have stuff with real life drama people say, 'Oh it’s a soap.' But I never looked at it like that. When we won the soap award for best soap series all I knew was that people were responding.


The immediacy of web feedback must be different for you as a film director.

 When I create movies or television shows I would never get feedback unless I would walk down the street and someone would come up to me and say, ‘The Five Heartbeats really touched my heart man!’ Now with the internet you read comments that say, 'I’m sitting here crying or will Ocean win?' And the comments come from such a genuine beautiful place it’s like, 'Wow we’re getting feedback.' The only complaint so far is that  it’s too short.  We’re telling a story in 14 or 16 minutes—the length of each episode [laughs.] I was reading the feedback and folks were saying, ‘It’s too short Mr. Townsend it’s really got to be 30 minutes’ [laughs.]


DSM Cast


Was it difficult landing an all-star cast for a web-series? Because the format is still so experimental?

I just reached out to different people. We have a mentor character whose played by Richard Roundtree, we had an uncle character with diabetes and that’s Billy Dee Williams. Even though the web is experimental on a lot of levels everybody that I asked said, ‘Because it’s you Robert, yes.’ And it made me feel really good. This season we have Diahann Carroll  who plays a no-nonsense therapist who helps to counsel Ocean's son. But who really ends up challenging Ocean (Calhoun).


It’s unfortunate that our veteran actors don’t work as much as older white actors like Betty White.

Richard Roundtree and Billy Dee Williams were talking to me about this the other day. They were telling me how they don’t get meaty roles [as older actors in the industry]— they get throwaway roles. From my childhood Billy Dee Williams, Richard Roundtree, Diahann Carroll they all gave so much— they are my heroes. I’m like, 'Let’s give them something to really do, if we’re going to bring them out the house.' Overall our icons, our legends don’t get honored the way others treat theirs— which is a shame.  And they are not treated the way they should be. So this [show] is probably some the best work they’ve been able to do in years.


What about the talks that DSM will be headed to basic cable soon?

We’re in contract negotiations with TV One right now to do a one-hour special in January. And I feel really good because I really want the world to see this baby. The world is seeing the baby now online, but I think it could be a good fit for TV One because it’s the right demo, it’s got stars, it’s well written— I think we’ve done a great job. I’m proud of this show. The one-hour special to just see how the audience responds to and if there’s interest [enough to be a series.] But they want to move forward.


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Beyonce, Billy Porter, Cynthia Erivo And Eddie Murphy Snag Golden Globes 2020 Nominations

The nominees for the 77th Annual Golden Globes have been announced. Harriet actress Cynthia Erivo has been nominated for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama." Comedy legend Eddie Murphy snagged a "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy" nomination for his role in Dolemite is My Name. Hustlers star Jennifer Lopez has also been nominated for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture."

Entertainer and entrepreneur Beyoncé joins Erivo in the "Best Original Song - Motion Picture" category as their "Spirit" (The Lion King) and "Stand Up" (Harriet) singles go head to head. Speaking of The Lion King, the live-action film has also been nominated for the "Best Motion Picture - Animated" category. Billy Porter has been added to the "Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama" ballot for his award-winning role in FX's Pose.

As for the networks and platforms with the most nominations, Netflix came out on top with a total of 17 nominations, HBO snagged 15 nods and Sony Pictures Releasing has taken home 8 nominations. You can see the full list of nominees here. Among the major snubs are Ava Duvernay's award-winning film When The See Us and HBO's hit series Watchmen starring Regina King.

Hosted by Ricky Gervais, the 2020 Golden Globes ceremony is set to take place at the Beverly Hilton on Sunday, January 5 and air at 8 pm EST on NBC.

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(L-R) Cast of Upn's 'Moesha'—William Allen Young, Yvette Wilson, Shar Jackson, Ray J, Brandy, Marcus T. Paulk, Lamont Bentley, And Sheryl Lee Ralph—celebrate the 100th episode of the comedy series.
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A 'Moesha' Reboot Is On The Way

Moesha is returning to television as a reboot.

Former castmates Brandy Norwood and William Adam Young joined Sheryl Lee Ralph at her 29th Annual DIVA Foundation event over the weekend (Dec. 1) to confirm the rumor of the '90s sitcom's return to the small screen.

“We would like to know, would you like to do a ‘Moesha’ reboot?” asked Lee alongside Young. Brandy responded with a smile, “Yeah, absolutely. I’m here for it. I'm here to solidify that we’re gonna bring Moesha back.”

Moesha aired on UPN—once known as the home network for other popular black sitcoms like Girlfriends, Everybody Hates Chris, All of Us and One on One—from 1996 until 2001. During its 6-season run, the series followed a middle-class black family through the lens of an ambitious and ever-learning Moesha Mitchell, a teenager going through what many teenagers go through while living in South Central Los Angeles. The comedy-drama series was also known for its musical guests which included Big Pun, Dru Hill, Mary J. Blige, Silk, Soul 4 Real, and Xscape.

No word on what the reboot will be called, whether production has begun or if other former castmates Countess Vaughn, Marcus T. Paulk, Shar Jackson or Fredro Starr will be involved.

Unforgettable Fact: Moesha worked at VIBE Magazine as a gofer at the beginning of Season 5.

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Questlove To Direct 'Black Woodstock' Documentary On Legendary Harlem Music Festival

Questlove will make his directorial debut with an upcoming documentary about a legendary black music festival, Variety reports. Black Woodstock, chronicles the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which featured performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight and The Pips, B.B. King, The Staples Singers, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Moms Mabley, and more.

The weekly summer music festival, aimed at promoting black unity and pride, was attended by over 300,000 people and went down every Sunday for two months in the summer of 1969. Members of the Black Panther Party provided security for the festival after the NYPD refused the job.

A concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Black Woodstock was held at Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park earlier this year. The documentary will include dozens of hours of never-before-seen footage shot 50 years ago by director Hal Tulchin, who died in 2017.

“I am truly excited to help bring the passion, the story and the music of the Harlem Cultural Festival to audiences around the world,” Questlove said in a statement. “The performances are extraordinary. I was stunned when I saw the lost footage for the first time. It’s incredible to look at 50 years of history that’s never been told, and I’m eager and humbled to tell that story.”

David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent will produce the film along with RadicalMedia, the company behind the Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? Joshua L. Pearson, who edited the Simone documentary, has also signed on for Black Woodstock, as well as music supervisor Randall Poster. Executive producers include Beth Hubbard, Vulcan Productions, Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures.

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