Riding Shotgun: 'The Streets' Brings New Eyes To The Gangs Of New York City's Chinatown

Through a series of online episodes, 'The Streets' aims to tell the real stories of Chinatown gangs in the Big  Apple.  

VIBE recently spent an afternoon with rising actor Richie Ng, one of the stars of the new online drama series, The Streets. He acts, yes, but he isn't your average, run-of-the-mill thespian. As a teen, he spent the majority of his adolescence behind bars, and has never set foot in an acting school. These might sound like roadblocks to most, but the charismatic New Yorker has never let anything stand in the way of his dreams.

Richie is a presence wherever he goes.

He can't really help it, but when he steps into a room, everyone takes notice. The upcoming actor doesn't even need to open his mouth to catch the attention of overs. There's an aura that follows him, and it does all the talking for him when need be. So when I left him waiting in his Beamer for more than five minutes on Saturday (Sept 26), I don't know why, but I felt like I did something wrong.

"Were you waiting long?, I asked as I analyzed the Merlot colored leather interior of his car. "Yeah," he replies sternly before mashing the gas for Chinatown. He's one of the most compelling characters starring in The Streets, which actually features former gang members from New York City's fabled Chinatown.

When you really break it down, there are actually three Chinatowns in the Big Apple. For most, it's just the one located next to Little Italy in downtown Manhattan. However, two other thriving Chinese communities exist in Sunset Park, Brooklyn -- and largest of them all in Flushing, Queens. The Streets combines similar stories from each place told by people who actually lived the Asian gang life -- so often misinterpreted in Hollywood movies.

We have about an hour to eat at the hustling and bustling Manhattan Dim Sum restaurant, Golden Unicorn. In the lobby, over a dozen groups waiting for their number to be called so they can be seated at a table in the main dining hall walk around impatiently. "I'm not about that life, not in Chinatown at least," Richie says with a laugh as he zooms past a group of suits and straight into the elevator. They look puzzled, but Richie is hungry and we're pressed for time.

"One hand washes the other but it takes two to wash the face," Richie quips as I notice him stuffing cash into the hands of the servers who took care of us. Thirty minutes later and full of Chinese dumplings, we're now speeding across the Brooklyn Bridge into Bushwick. Old Kid Productions, the producers of The Streets, have arranged a private screening of episode 1 at the IMAGE Gallery. When we get there, a majority of the cast and crew are already waiting for us. Of course when Richie walks up, the place starts to light up.

The first episode starts with a pretty heavy scene. We see one of the main characters, Benny Chung, as a child. But this isn't an ordinary situation for a young boy. Tied up in a chair is his biological father, who has been severely beaten. Several older Chinese gangsters are surrounding him as they instruct young Benny to shoot his own dad -- under the pretense that he is nothing but evil. As the dialogue continues, the boy is left with no choice but to obey his new family's orders.

Cut to the present day where we see Benny as a twenty-something-year-old, trying to live a normal life. It appears as if he's trying to put the crime life behind him to provide his younger brother with a opportunities that he missed out on. Benny has a normal office job now, and has to deal with being put into the stereotypical Asian work-horse role at the company. But as we'll see, leaving the lifestyle and breaking a blood oath doesn't come easy.

Five minutes into the first episode, and we finally see Richie's character on the screen. I also know this immediately because I can see the huge grin on his face from the corner of my eye. His character appears face-to-face with Benny in a local Chinatown park -- both parties have their crews with them and things are heated. Benny is apart of the American-born-Chinese thugs and Richie is with the F.O.B.s -- the Chinese born clique. And, both parties feel they deserve to call the shots around here.

After squabbling and arguing back and forth, there's nearly a shootout, but it's quickly diffused when Richie finds out the hard way that the younger A.B.C. crew (American Born Chinese) won't back down as easily as expected. As the debut episode comes to an end, we find out that there's about to be Big Trouble In Little Chinatown. Will Richie make it? Does Benny kill him?

Watch the inaugural episode below and stay tuned for more from season 1 at Old Kid's official Youtube channel.

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Don Cheadle as Mo in 'Black Monday,' Episode 4 ("295")
Erin Simkin/SHOWTIME

'Black Monday' Recap: Mo Feels The Weight Of Playing God

Another week, another dive into Black Monday. In this week's episode, “295,” Mo tries to salvage his plan to get the Georgina company’s shares after Blair and Tiffany Georgina’s surprise breakup in the previous episode threw a wrench in that plan. By the end of this week’s episode, Mo gets what he wants but it doesn’t go as planned. Don Cheadle told VIBE that Black Monday was “ a good way,” and this episode shows just that, starting with Mo’s God complex.

Stop Trying To Be God

You need a certain cocktail of self-aggrandization and delusions of grandeur to walk around with a God complex. Mo has that cocktail coursing through his veins. The entire episode revolves around Mo’s attempt to control the actions of humans by placing them in certain situations he is sure will yield his desired results. Only someone blinded by their obsession with being right wouldn’t see having to fix a “foolproof” plan makes him a fool.

The writing expertly showed that when you play God your creation is your reflection, especially in the tense scene at Mo’s dining room table with Blair and Dawn. He turned Blair into a cocaine-addicted party animal to show him how empty life is without having someone you love. Then, in one scene, Dawn exposed how all Mo did was build Blair in his image without realizing that part of his plan was to inadvertently show Blair just how miserable Mo really lives.

Even ostensibly innocuous details carry a huge emotional weight thanks to Black Monday’s writing and Cheadle’s consistently engaging performance. The writers literally had Mo on the outside looking in at forces out of his control at the end of the episode when he’s looking into the bar. It’s at this climactic moment of the show that Mo realizes his own mortality by getting what he wants but missing out on what he knows he needs.

It’s also at this moment that the show’s most boring lead character grew into someone worth watching.

Blair Is Here

For the first three episodes, Blair was as interesting as paint on the wall; always in front of your face but in the back of your mind. Before a single character utters a word in this episode, Blair is chain-smoking cigarettes, snorting coke and dressed like a Saturday Night Fever extra. He died “for a song and a half” and was electroshocked back to life, all in the first minute of the new episode. Blair has finally joined the Black Monday party and the show is better for it.

Mo molding Blair into his image allowed Blair to tap into a new level of confidence.  Blair’s exchange with Dawn about the implicit racism and sexism in 1980s films like Teen Wolf was rewind-worthy hilarious and ends with Blair remarking, “My favorite line from the movie is, ‘I’m not a f*g, I’m a werewolf. Oh, Michael J,” easily one of the funniest 1980s critiques on a show full of them.

The episode also entangled Blair in the show’s first love triangle, ensuring that Blair’s character growth is probably not done. With Blair now being compelling, following Dawn and Keith’s character-defining performances in the previous episode, Black Monday has set up its four most accomplished actors to be able to carry entire story arcs without relying on each other. But, the Black Monday world got bigger than those four in this week’s episode.

The Wall Street Mythology

There’s not enough time in a 30-minute episode to flesh out every character’s backstory and fully formed personality. The most surprisingly funny part of episode “295” was the story arc of Jammer Group traders Keith and Yassir (Yassir Lester) trying to stop Wayne (Horatio Sanz) from completing a “The LaGuardia Spread”. The arc showed that Black Monday has an ingenious way of speeding up character development: mythologize Wall Street.

On Black Monday, “The LaGuardia Spread” is when a trader takes a huge position on a stock, goes to LaGuardia Airport and waits to see if they made a huge profit or debilitating loss. If you guess right, you come home. If you guess wrong, “you don’t come home ever. You get on a plane and you f**king disappear,” according to a frantic Keith. Wayne was nothing more than a bumbling joke punchline of a trader before this episode. In only a few minutes of screentime we find out Wayne slept with his wife’s sister, has some weird dislike for The Howard Stern Show’s weekly guest Jackie Martling, and is so money hungry that he’d be giddy at the news of a mad cows disease epidemic and it’s positive effect on his “LaGuardia Spread” trade.

A similar result happened before on Black Monday. In the series premiere, the Lehman twins (Ken Marino) laid out the Georgina Play, the foundation of Mo’s plans to get all the shares from the Georgina company from Blair after he marries Tiffany. That Wall Street myth led to their grandfather setting himself on fire. That myth also showed that at any moment any person you see on screen become valuable because of what they about know how this fictionalized world works. As long as Black Monday continues to use the inherent absurdity of Wall Street as a machine for character development, this show could begin entering the conversation for one of the best ensemble casts on television.

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Actor Kel Mitchell and actor Kenan Thompson attend the 50th Annual Writers Guild of America Awards on February 21, 1998 at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd/WireImage)

Kenan Thompson Says Kel Mitchell Will Appear In Revamped 'All That' Series

Pretty much everyone who was a fan of 90s Nickelodeon staple All That was thrilled to hear Kenan Thompson's role of executive producer in the revamped series. Now more great news has arrived as the comedian shared that Kel Michell will also return to the sketch comedy show.

Speaking with Page Six at the Writers Guild Awards Sunday (Feb. 16), Thompson shared his hopes to bridge the gap between the original cast and new members.

“Whoever’s down to [come to] do it, we would love to have them in my opinion,” Thompson said. “I know Kel [Mitchell’s] coming back, and I remember working close [sic] with Josh Server as well. I think all the old cast members should come support the new cast members. That’s just how it should go.”

Before their spinoff Kenan and Kel, the two were golden on All That with skits joint skits like Good Burger and solo characters Pierre Escargot and Repairman.

So far, things seemed to be going Thompson's way. Former All That alum  Danny Tamberelli also told Page Six he was thrilled to hear about the revival.

“I think it’s awesome!” Tamberelli said."All That was a show that reached out to so many kids from all different backgrounds and brought them all together through laughter.”

Tamberelli was apart of seasons four through six and was also one of the main character's on Nick's other enjoyable series, Pete and Pete.

Check out some memorable skits from All That below.

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Alberto E. Rodriguez

Jussie Smollett's Attorneys Deny Actor Paid $3,500 To Orchestrate Attack

Sources close to the Jussie Smollett investigation have spoken with several media outlets and allege new evidence shows the Empire actor may have orchestrated the attack, and even paid men $3,500 to go through with it.

The two men who are brothers were arrested Wednesday and released Friday (Feb. 15) without charges. Both men are cooperating fully with Chicago police, and authorities found records they purchased a rope at a local hardware store, which was used during the attack.

Smollett's attorneys, Todd S. Pugh, and Victor P. Henderson, quickly denied the claim made by authorities.

"As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," the statement read. "He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."

On Jan. 29, Smollett was leaving a Subway fast-food restaurant when the actor alleges to have been attacked by two men who beat him, poured bleach on him and tried to hang a rope around his neck. The 35-year-old entertainer, who identifies as gay, said one of the men shouted "This is MAGA country" as well as other racial and homophobic slurs.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said one of the men appeared on Empire and have past affiliation with Smollett.

During his interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Thursday (Feb. 14), Smollett expressed frustration about not being believed. Sunday morning (Feb. 17) the hashtag 'JussieSmollettHoax' trended on Twitter. The Internet was split with many offering a digital "I told you so" due to the reports, while others, particularly members of the black LGBTQ community, questioning why many were quick to believe the word of law enforcement.

Us straight men waiting on the LGBT community to apologize after Jussie lied

— Flickens McCray (@Mickens__) February 17, 2019

No idea what actually happened w/ Jussie Smollett. But do know that 4 years ago, Chicago PD spent 13 months justifying Laquan McDonald’s murder before releasing dashcam video showing he was walking away before being shot at 16x by an officer. Why are we just accepting their word?

— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) February 17, 2019

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