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Oprah On How Ex-Prisoner Series 'Released' Tells Stories Of Redemption

The media mogul, who serves as an executive producer on the OWN series, says the new show that follows former inmates as they return home tells stories of redemption.

Oprah Winfrey loves to read, but she spent a year putting off Shaka Senghor’s book Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in An American Prison before she picked up the book based on the author’s life. And when she did, the media mogul was so moved by Senghor's story that she set up a meeting with him, which she calls “one of the best interviews of my life."

While speaking on a panel for the OWN docuseries Released at the Tribeca TV Festival, Winfrey said she asked Senghor, as she does with all of her interview subjects, what his intentions were for that interview. His response was that he “wanted people to know that you weren’t your biggest mistake.” Winfrey and Senghor are both firm believers that “everybody has the ability retell their story and to be redeemed.” And so the concept behind Released was born.

The project follows six individuals that have recently been released from prison and their families. The pilot episode introduces three of the main subjects featured on the series. Each individual was incarcerated for different offenses, but they all share the same experience of living behind bars and trying to stay out of prison once they have been released.

Executive producer Jon Sinclair said that the main intent of Released is to “humanize this issue of mass incarceration of African-Americans in America" and show that there is a human behind the label of an ex-prisoner. When it came to finding former inmates to follow, Sinclair said, “We wanted to pick characters that could bring that story to light.”

Showrunner and executive producer Keayr Braxton said Released is different than any other show about incarceration because it doesn’t focus on what it’s like inside prison, but instead looks “at what happens once people come out," specifically the often-overlooked experience of how people in this situation navigate re-entering the real world. Braxton reflected on how “incredibly powerful” all of the characters release days were. “Those first days out are just roller coasters,” she said.

Winfrey found it incredibly important that Senghor act as a consulting producer on the series, since he experienced the stories told onscreen firsthand. Senghor said watching the release process of the series' subjects “validated a lot of feelings that I had coming home.” In the first episode, which was screened ahead of the panel, one of the former prisoners, Kevin, stares in awe at the selection of candy offered at an airport convenience store. At first he is excited by the large variety in candy, but then becomes overwhelmed because the majority of the food options are new to him. “When you come back to a world that you’ve been gone from for two decades, it’s a very different world,” Senghor said.

Braxton argued that Released goes further than the experiences of six former inmates. “We really do feel like these are family stories and not just the one person that’s coming home,” she said. The series does not shy away from how a loved one's release from prison is a transitional time for all those involved. "Everyone is impacted by the absence, and everyone must readjust," Braxton said.

“I believe redemption is possible for almost everybody,” Winfrey said while discussing the importance of the series. Released intends to go beyond the stereotype of what it means to be a reformed convict and instead show that many people deserve to be forgiven. Senghor added, "I'm a firm believer that most of us have some type of faith, and a cornerstone of faith, to me, is redemption is possible.”

Released premieres Saturday, Sept. 30, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.

This article was originally published on The Hollywood Reporter.

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‘Candyman’ Reboot Pushed Back To Next Summer

The long-awaited reboot of the ‘90s horror flick, Candyman, has been pushed back yet again. The film, written by Jordan Peele and directed by Nia DaCosta, is now expected to arrive on August 27, 2021.

Like many productions delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Candyman remake has been postponed more than once. In September, Universal Pictures removed the film from its calendar. Da Costa later explained that the film was made to view in theaters.

“We wanted the horror and humanity of Candyman to be experience in a collective, a community, so we’re pushing Candyman to next year, to ensure that everyone cans the film in theaters, and share in the experience,” DaCosta tweeted at the time. Her Twitter account has since been deleted.

Described as a “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 original, the reboot stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the supernatural monster lurking within the character Anthony McCoy. The film’s premise finds McCoy (Abdul-Mateen) returning to the now gentrified Chicago area where the legend of Candyman first began.

“I’m really honored to be stepping into those shoes,” Abdul-Mateen said in an interview with Collider.com. “They’re big shoes to fill because, obviously, that’s an iconic character and a story that people relate to. Even people who have not seen it, have ideas about it, or they’ve still been able to interact with it, and that iconography has penetrated their lives. So, it’s an honor to be able to step into that, and to re-tell that story, and to introduce the mythology of Candyman back into the world, in 2020, and to put our own social lens and our own spin on it. I think that’s gonna be a lot of fun, to put that iconography back into the conversation.”

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Daniel Kaluuya Explains Why His Upcoming Live-Action ‘Barney’ Movie Is “Really Needed”

Daniel Kaluuya shared an interesting take on Barney, and the motivation behind his up-coming live-action adaptation of the children’s series. The 31-year-old British actor is producing what will be a sobering interpretation of the lovable purple T-Rex, one that Kaluuya says is “really needed” at the moment.

“Barney taught us, ‘I love you, you love me. Won’t you say you love me too?’ That’s one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn’t true? I thought that was really heartbreaking,” Kaluuya told Entertainment Weekly  in an interview promoting his upcoming film Judas and the Black Messiah. “I have no idea why but it feels like that makes sense. It feels like there’s something unexpected that can be poignant but optimistic. Especially at this time now, I think that’s really, really needed.’’

Mattel Films is co-producing the live-action Barney film alongside Kaluuya’s production company, 59%, and Valparaiso Pictures.

Barney & Friends originally aired on PBS from 1992-2009. The purple dinosaur and his sidekick,  B.J. and Baby Bop, taught legions of young viewers educational messages through songs and dance.

Aside from Barney, Kaluuya opened up to EW about portraying Black Pantry Party member Fred Hampton in Judas and The Black Messiah, co-starring Lakeith Stanfield.

“One of my aspirations was to show how brilliant these people were in every way, and what they were really doing, to show the full picture, away from the narrow narrative that has been portrayed. Show what they were really doing in this time, and how revolutionary their ideas were. It didn't necessarily mean destruction. They were actually about healing and loving and taking care of your community. These activities do not feel like they're associated with the Black Panther party but that's the foundation of it, which is why it spread.”

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Ludacris Announces Netflix Animated Series ‘Karma’s World’ Inspired By His Oldest Daughter

Ludacris has an animated series in the works. Karma’s World, which is inspired by his oldest daughter, Karma Bridges, is in development at Netflix, the rapper announced on Tuesday (Oct. 13).

“I’ve had a lot of accomplishments in my life, but everything that I’ve experienced seems to have led up to this point to where I can leave a legacy for all my daughters,” Luda said in a statement. “Karma’s World is one of those legacies. I hope this series will show kids that there are many ways to overcome difficult situations.

“This show is going to move hip hop culture forward, and show young girls that they have the power to change the world,” he added. “This project has been a long time in the making and I can’t wait to bring Karma’s World to the entire world.”

The series follows 10-year-old Karma Grant, a smart, resilient, and “deeply empathetic” aspiring singer and rapper with “big talent and an even bigger heart.” Karma pours out her deepest feelings and channel her emotions into the music that she hopes will one day change the world. The animated show chronicles how Karma begins to recognize the true power of music, and will tackle issues such as self-esteem, body positivity, friendship, family, and celebrating differences.

Karma’s World has been a decade in the making, Luda revealed in an  Instagram post.


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10 years in the making. THIS IS HOW LEGACIES ARE BUILT! • I’m pleased to announce that I will be joining the @netflixfamily, and bringing my new animated series #KarmasWorld which is inspired by my oldest daughter in partnership with @9storymediagroup and @BrownBagFilms to @netflix for the world to see! • It was important to me to provide a positive @StrongBlackLead to show our youth that there are many ways to overcome difficult situations, and that their dreams no matter how big are possible! I’m looking forward to finally being able to share what I’ve been working on behind the scenes for so many years! Welcome to Karma’s World! Click the link in bio RIGHT NOW!!! • #Ludacris #Netflix #AnimatedSeries

A post shared by @ ludacris on Oct 13, 2020 at 11:03am PDT

Besides creating the series, Luda is also executive producing alongside Vince Commisso, Cathal Gaffney, Darragh O’Connell, Angela C. Santomero, Wendy Harris and Jennie Stacey from 9 Story Media Group.

Karma’s World is a partnership between 9 Story Media and Luda’s production company Karma’s World Entertainment.

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