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Maggie Gyllenhaal Plays A Sex Worker In HBO's 'The Deuce' Not A Prostitute

The Academy-Award nominee along with cast mate Gary Carr discuss the humanity behind HBO's new show 'The Deuce'

In HBO's new series The Deuce, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays seasoned sex worker Eileen “Candy” Merrell who on any night may end up on her knees, her back or both with a plethora of Johns willing to pay $10 for the room and $30 for the service.

Set in 1971 during Time Square's more deplorable days before the chain restaurants and family friendliness, Candy walks the streets independent of a pimp to act as her employer or protector. "No one's making money off my p***y" but me," Candy proclaims. Yet despite Gyllenhaal exposing herself physically and emotionally on screen, the 39-year-old actress keeps her private life close to the chest.

"I keep my heart out of the press," the Academy-Award nominated actress said adamantly at the start of the interview.

Gyllenhaal along with cast mate Gary Carr (Downton Abby) who plays the charming yet ruthless pimp CiCi discussed the humanity of the character they bring to life. Both also made sure to refer to the job women perform in this occupation as sex workers and not prostitutes.

"Well, I got told off by some sex workers online. They were like 'please call us by what we would like to be called.' Fair enough." Gyllenhaal recalls of doing research for the role. "I just didn't know. They were saying we're not prostituted people. We're sex workers, this is our job."

Dubbed the deuce for the slang used to denote 42nd Street, the men and women who call the strip "their office" are a cast of characters driven by the power of the almighty dollar. Carr says CiCi-who's first introduced to viewers after picking up Lori, his newest girl, inside the Port Authority-walks the line between caring for his women and protecting his investment, even if it means doing so violently.

"You have to remember with these guys, everything is about economy and business and making money. You have to make money, that's number one," the 31-year-old British actor said. "He definitely cares for Lori and he cares for Ashley as well and all of his girls. I don't want to make him sound...but if someone's going to hurt them or do something to them, it's going to be him. I know, it sounds crazy."

While Simon and Pelecanos who created The Wire bring to life that moment in American culture where sex becomes transactional on a domestic scale, Gyllenhaal and Carr are steadfast their characters are more than just one-trick ponies.

"I think what's unusual maybe about the way the sex workers are portrayed in this piece, and the pimps too,  is that usually you just get to see on TV and film a prostitute working. Annie Sprinkle, who was once a sex worker and she still does really interesting pornography, I spoke to her and she said that a street walker in 1971 would probably sleep with eight to 10 men a night. That's an experience that I think is difficult for many women to imagine, but if you get to see someone who's job that is also as a mother, as a sister, as a lover as a thinker and as an artist then all of sudden you have all these ways into understanding this person and you can see that element as their work," Gyllenhaal explained.

Sex workers may be the breadwinner in the situation, but it's historically been pimps who receive the glory and are considers owners of cool for their ability to manipulate and manage multiple women. Yet despite how pop culture has depicted these men, Carr says The Deuce doesn't exalt their tactic, but in fact shows how multifaceted they are.

"What I think is really great, especially when it comes to sex workers, we're humanizing them as people and they're whole experience," Carr said. "With pimps, I don't think they're glorified in this series at all and they're not perfect. What I like about it is that we see human sides, we see they're emotion, sensitivity or even fear."

Carr knows it's a long shot, but says hopefully The Deuce will allows viewers to see sex workers as human beings performing a in-demand service.

"That's the most important thing for me in life. I care about people and human beings. I feel like we've been given an opportunity here to bring that to the screen and to have other people view that as well. If we could show other people, people and humanize them and their experience, that's a really great thing. Hopefully some kind of love or compassion could be born from that and then some kind of understanding, and hopefully after that some kind of progression," Carr said.

The Deuce debuts on HBO Sunday, Sept 10 

 

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Jamie Foxx Recalls Convincing Idris Elba To Decline 'Django Unchained' Role

Jamie Foxx is a determined man. During a recent talk at the Toronto International Film Festival alongside Michael B. Jordan, Foxx revealed he did everything in his power to land the role of Django in Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 Django Unchained. When he received word that Idris Elba was one of the actors considered for the role, he made it a point to tell him he should look the other way.

According to Foxx, his management informed him that he wasn’t on the short list of actors that were considered for the film. At the time, Elba had all eyes on him. When Foxx randomly bumped into Elba, he brought up the topic of Django Unchained and told him he was too good looking for the character

"Your beautiful black a** riding up on a horse, there’s going to be some problems for everyone," he said.

Ultimately, the decision was made to nix Elba from the role because Tarantino thought it wouldn’t make sense to cast a British actor for an American story.

"Yeah, Idris is British and this is an American story," Tarantino told The Sun. "I think a problem with a lot of movies that deal with this issue is they cast British actors to play the Southerners and it goes a long way to distancing the movie. They put on their gargoyle masks and they do their accents and you are not telling an American story anymore."

In a 2012 interview with VIBE, Kerry Washington discussed the turbulent history Foxx helped bring to life about slavery in the film. “This is not a doc. This is a Quentin Tarantino film," Washington said. "But I remember there was this one moment in the script where Jamie's character was put in an awful crazy medieval metal mask. I said, ‘'That's some sick thing Quentin thought up.'"

“And when I went to the production office to meet about my wardrobe, I saw into the research office,” she continued. “Twenty photos of real masks like that. It made me sad. I realized as much as my degrees and everything I've read on slave narratives [should have informed me], I didn't even know that they wore masks like that, that people did that to us. It took a Tarantino movie for me to know that that's not some crazy thing out of his imagination. That's how it went down.”

Foxx and Jordan star in Just Mercy, a film about civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) who's on a quest to release an inmate on death row. The movie debuts on Dec. 25.

This is about all of us. Based on a true story, #JustMercy arrives in theaters this December. pic.twitter.com/sx9OpmIMJU

— Just Mercy (@JustMercyFilm) September 4, 2019

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Ashton Sanders (L) plays Rza and Siddiq Saunderson (R) plays Ghostface Killah in Hulu's 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga.'
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'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' Episode 4 Recap: Dwellin’ In The Past And Flashbacks

As evidenced by the title, this week’s episode of Wu-Tang: An American Saga is centered around Dennis/Ghostface (Siddiq Saunderson). Episode 4 builds on the narrative from one of Ghost’s signature songs, “All That I Got Is You,” the tale of his home life, his relationship with his mom, and how it made him the man he is; and then adds the love story of a young Dennis and Shurrie (Zolee Griggs).

Whether you’re a die-hard Wu fan and know the rappers’ backstories, or you’re just a casual fan who sang along to Mary J. Blige as the clan’s designated storyteller painted the picture of growing up in a crowded Stapleton Houses apartment on “All That I Got…,” you probably know that Ghostface had two brothers with muscular dystrophy (his only siblings for the sake of the series), and a mother with issues - including alcohol addiction. If you saw the Wu-Tang docuseries Of Mics and Men, you also know that as the eldest, he was the man of the house before he was even a teenager. In this week’s episode, we get a closer look at how the pressures of caring for two brothers with disabilities - one who’s nonverbal, plus a mom fighting with the bottle, drove Dennis to be such a go-hard. He’s always dead serious about the business because he has no choice. Bobby/Rza lives in a house - with a basement - has a working, engaged mom, routine, order and stability. Meanwhile, at one point, Dennis is down to the last box of oatmeal in the crib.

The episode follows Dennis and Shurrie back and forth between an undetermined “THEN” that could be one or two years in the past, and “NOW.” The “THEN” is peppered with heavy foreshadowing, starting with a studious and focused Shurrie telling another girl on the bus she’s destined to end up with a locked-up baby daddy before getting distracted by Dennis while trying to study at the house. When Divine gets home, he tells Dennis that he and drug dealer Power (Marcus Callender) are no longer working together and appoints Dennis as his No. 2 man.

In the “NOW,” Dennis wonders out loud if Shurrie should be with someone more suited to a college-bound student...and if they should tell Bobby and Divine about their relationship. Her response? No, and “You crazy?”

Mama Linda (Erika Alexander) visits Divine (with her cream Dooney & Burke bag. Big shout out to costume designer Marci Rodgers; she is killing it.) and convinces him to take a plea deal for the sake of the entire family. Now, Dennis and Bobby have to get serious about coming back from losing all their inventory and cash in the stash house fire. This is no longer a case of holding things down for a minute until Divine comes back; this is a long-term situation. It’s on them. And Christmas is coming.

While cutting through Manhattan’s Battery Park on his way to a job interview, Bobby has the realization that he and Dennis could move weight to all the financial cats there. There’s no heavy police presence and no competing factions. Shotgun’s coworker Erika hooks them up with some rolls of film to sell on the streets for cash (we’re guessing in exchange for a weed connect once they get the product). They get their dough, get a skimpy bag of product, cut it with some tea leaves (figuring the target consumer won’t know the difference), and they’re in business.

At home, Dennis is trying to keep things together as his mom is falling apart. He takes his brothers to the neighborhood babysitter Ms. Gloria (there was always a neighborhood babysitter yelling at kids to “get out of the street” and stuffing money in her bra. Amen), cleans up the house, and even adds some holiday cheer. He gives his mom space for a little pampering, complete with a box of Calgon; something it’s obvious she doesn’t get often. His obvious pride in being able to help her out and give her some joy is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

In another “THEN” flashback, Dennis is itching to get at Power, but Divine orders him to stand down, insisting there’s no beef between the two - just business. The series opened with Power ordering a hit on Dennis and he was later behind the fire at the stash house, so we know there’s more backstory coming to fill in the gap between time periods. Dennis promises he won’t touch Power and robs his parents’ business instead. In the process, he realizes that Power is a college graduate who grew up in a stable family - most importantly, with a father. This stays with him. Meanwhile, while he’s working with Divine, he and Shurrie are building a romance through furtive glances and little moments of tenderness, like Dennis scraping his plate instead of just dropping it in the sink for Shurrie to wash like her brothers. Acts of Service is apparently Dennis’ love language.

In another “NOW” scene, Ms. Linda’s street-savvy, hair-styling, fly girl sister Laurie (Diane Howard) surprises the family with a visit and blesses us with some outstanding lines. Can we form an actual Undependable Ni**a Association of America to officially keep a rating scale? Life would be easier.

Anyway, Aunt Laurie clocks the vibes between Shurrie and Dennis immediately. Later, when Shurrie answers a desperate emergency call from Dennis, Laurie cautions, “Go take care of your man, just make you take care of yourself, too. Alright?”

Working hand-to-hands in Battery Park, Rza takes a moment to sit with the chess elder (Anthony Chilsolm), and complain about the Five Percenters loud and incessant “teaching” messing with his focus (we feel you, Bobby, we feel you). Some of the future Wu members are already Five Percenters (Ason, Allah Justice, Sha), but the elder plants the seed for Bobby’s conversion when he translates the Islamic sect’s message to chess terms: “The world will tell the Black man he’s a pawn, a white man he’s king. But those gentlemen over there, they tell you that you’re the player and that you move the pieces. That you’re a God.” We can see the transformation of thought happening in Bobby’s mind. The convo immediately transitions to Bobby, Dennis, Ason and Gary/Allah Justice watching Shaolin vs Wu Tang for the umpteenth time. But now, Bobby is actually listening to the Shaolin monk’s dialogue (he’s woke!). He hops up, inspired, and starts working on what sounds like an early version of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” Ason jumps on, Bobby talks about arrangements to make it a crew cut, and Dennis decides to break out, “As long as my gun clap, I ain’t gotta rap.”

When Dennis gets home, he discovers that his mom had another Calgon night - and threw in a bottle of booze. He finds her passed out, half-submerged in the tub. He calls Shurrie, the one person he knows he can trust his brothers with while he goes to the hospital. When he finally gets home the next morning, he’s at his breaking point, “I got all of this (material stuff), and I still got nothing.” Shurrie insists that he has her, and Dennis scoffs. As much as he loves his brothers, the idea of having kids with disabilities, and possibly driving another woman to his mother’s fate, is terrifying. Shurrie is bright - folks have been talking about her books and reading the whole episode - and is about to graduate and head to college. Her aunt even called it “parole,” a way out of a life of cooking, washing dishes, and looking after her younger brother while her mom works double shifts. Dennis can’t see a typical domestic future is in his cards, “You think we gonna get married and have kids?!... I thought you was the smart one.” (Spoiler alert: They get married and have kids.). He storms out and finds himself back at Power’s parents’ store. He ends up in a discussion with Power’s dad - unaware that he’s talking to the person who robbed him - about fatherhood. The same way something clicked in Bobby’s mind in Battery Park, we see a change of heart and mind - and perhaps determination? - show up in Dennis.

--

What The Episode Got Right: Let’s just assume fashion is going to always be an answer here, so we’ll skip that. We still think the scenes between Bobby and the old chess playing sage are a bit too down the middle, but the elder’s breakdown of the Five Percenters’ message explains the appeal of the movement to young black men in the early ‘90s, and how the Five Percent Nation’s influence on Wu-Tang is vital to Wu’s story. Also, to answer a question we posed in the last recap: Yes, Ghostface and Rza’s sister (her real-life name is Sophia) were really in a relationship.

What The Episode Got Wrong: Nobody from the boroughs says “Manhattan” like Bobby did when talking to the chess player. It’s “the city.” (We understand that was for you non-New York viewers, but still.)

What We Could Do Without: About three of the references of Shurrie being smart and focused. We got it.

What We Absolutely Don’t Believe: That Shurrie just walked off the bus after that back and forth and that was the end of it. Ol’ girl would have ended up in a fight on the bus after that line. Shurrie actually might have gotten jumped.

What We’d Like To See More Of: Is Aunt Laurie hanging around? Because she’d be good for some good ol’ grown foolishness that we don’t get from Mama Linda.

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'Girlfriends' Cast To Reunite On 'Black-ish'

We have not seen the dynamic, powerful and ever-so black women of Girlfriends on the television screen in more than a decade. Thanks to the ABC comedy series black-ish, Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White, and Jill Marie Jones will reunite on an upcoming episode.

"Girlfriends ran for eight years and was important to so many people. Being able to merge the worlds of black-ish and Girlfriends was surreal for me—and so much fun," Ross told Entertainment Weekly. 

On Tuesday (Oct. 8), the episode titled "Feminisn't" will circle the conversations of modern-day feminism after Bow (played by Ross) learns that Diane (played by Marsai Martin) and Ruby (played by Jenifer Lewis) don't believe in feminism. Bow then decides to invite her girlfriends into the mix.

Ross posted on her Twitter Thursday (Sept. 12), with the surprise news.

Surprise!!! My giiiiifriends are guest starring on an episode of @blackishabc this season! #blackish @RealPersiaWhite @therealgolden47 @MsJillMJones https://t.co/Capmlsc9SC pic.twitter.com/4J4Y3iASlC

— Tracee Ellis Ross (@TraceeEllisRoss) September 12, 2019

"These are women I grew up with and love deeply and it was easy to tap back into the magic of our chemistry and how much we love each other. It was giggles on top of giggles on top of giggles," Ross said.

Girlfriends aired on UPN with a six-season run before concluding the series on The CW in 2008. Season 6 of black-ish premieres on Tuesday (Sept. 24) at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC. 

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