2018 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Oscars Luncheon - Red Carpet
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Amandla Stenberg Talks Walking Away From 'Shuri' Character In 'Black Panther'

The actor turned away from the role out of social duty because she didn’t think that a biracial woman would fit into the milieu.

The Black Panther cast is still leaving some aftershock. It’s not very often, even in films with black leads, that the major characters are all portrayed by dark-skinned actors. The film, before ever having been released, set off conversations about representation not only for black people in general but for those of a darker complexion.

For Black Panther, the three leading women (Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira) were not in competition with one another at any point. The angry, dark-skinned trope was not welcome. And their roles all fit them like gloves; they were nothing short of tailor-made.

Wright’s portrayal of 18-year-old Princess Shuri resonated particularly well. The British actor intently made Shuri fun. "I watched YouTube videos of real African princesses: they're normal girls who happen to be royalty, and I wanted to hijack that idea and make her really fun," the actress told Essence recently. The 24-year-old tossed hyper-regality for a blase approach to royalty. But there wasn’t a single moment when viewers could imagine another actress in her shoes.

Despite that, there was another actress in the running for the Shuri role: 19-year-old Amandla Stenberg, who told CBC Arts at the TIFF Next Wave Festival that she took a step away from the biggest movie of the year. Rejecting that opportunity doesn’t seem right but there’s more.

Stenberg is not unqualified. She’s best known for her role in the 2012 film adaptation of The Hunger Games, for which she received a Teen Choice Award and has been recognized for her roles in other movies. But she didn’t think Black Panther was right for her.

Stenberg, every bit as much an activist as she is an actress, turned away from the role out of social duty. She didn’t think that a biracial woman would fit into the milieu, it being a fictional space where colonization never made it. And she wouldn’t pass, without question, for a woman who’s solely African in East Africa.

“One of the most challenging things for me to do was to walk away from Black Panther. I got really, really close and they were like, 'Do you want to continue fighting for this?’ And I was like, ‘This isn’t right.' These are all dark-skin actors playing Africans and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a biracial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I’m the same color as everyone else in the movie,” she told CBC.

It wasn’t easy for Stenberg but her consciousness was well-received. Her character may have inspired unanswerable questions or even required an additional storyline.

“That was really challenging, to make that decision, but I have no regrets. I recognize 100 percent that there are spaces that I should not take up, and when I do take up a space, it’s because I’ve thought really, really critically about it and I’ve consulted people I really trust and it feels right,” she continued.

The opportunities allotted to biracial women are also quite limited. And there's even less space in the realm of activism. Biracial women are often asked not to attempt absorption of black pain and to step away from critiquing black issues, though Stenberg does it all. While the decision was tough, she made it without regret, considering its effect on a larger scale.

Stenberg already has another big project. She's set to appear in the August release of The Darkest Minds and in The Hate U Give, a film adaptation of the book by the same name.

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The Game Reboot Lands At Paramount+ Streaming Service

A revival of the BET’s The Game is officially in development under the ViacomCBS digital subscription streaming service Paramount+, which was originally branded as CBS All Access.

The series reboot was announced on Tuesday (Sept. 15), along with a list of original and rebooted shows headed for the streaming outlet which includes a limited series chronicling the making of The Godfather, a new edition of VH1’s Behind the Music, and the true crime docuseries, The Real Criminal Minds. The programming will join CBS All Access’ list of more than 20,000 episodes and movies across BET, MTV, CBS, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, and more.

Although no details have been released about The Game revival, the series will fall under BET’s Paramount+ programming from CBS Television Studios and Garment Productions. It’s unclear if any of the show's original cast members like, Tia Mowry, Pooch Hall, and Wendy Raquel Robinson, will be involved in the new installment.

The hit sports series was created by Mara Brock Akil, as a spinoff of her other hit sitcom, Girlfriends. Akil recently inked an overall deal with Netflix to develop new projects for the streamer. The company also acquired the rights to Girlfriends, Sister, Sister, Moesha, and The Parkers.

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50 Cent Developing Starz Series About Beef With The Game

Add a couple more credits to 50 Cent’s long list of TV projects. The rapper-turned-TV-producer inked a deal to develop two new series for Starz, one of which will explore his feud with The Game, the cable network announced on Monday (Sept. 14).

The seasonal anthology series tentatively titled, Moment in Time: The Massacre, chronicles “true stories in which iconic hip hop moments collided with the sensational and sometimes criminal events behind the scenes.” Season one focuses on the beef between Fif and Game that “led to an all-street war, pitting G-Unit against music impresario Jimmy Henchman.”

Henchman, The Game’s former manager, is currently serving life for the murder-for-hire of a G-Unit affiliate. Moment in Time will be written and executive produced by Abdul William, who penned The Bobby Brown Story, The New Edition Story, Lottery Ticket, and Lifetime’s forthcoming Salt-N-Pepa mini series.

Inspired by the life of sports agent and attorney Nicole Lynn, who serves as executive producer, the second series follows a Black female sports agent’s rise up the ranks in the male dominated industry of sports agents. Tash Grey will produce the series and pen the script. Grey’s notable credits include the Power spinoff Raising Kanan, Snowfall, P-Valley, and the true-crime drama, Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.

Both series will be executive produced by 50 Cent and his G-Unit Film & Television imprint.

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Netflix Acquires ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Starring Zendaya, John David Washington

Netflix has acquired the rights to the film Malcolm & Marie staring Zendaya and John David Washington in a $30 million deal during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The streaming giant beat out HBO, Amazon, Searchlight, Apple and MGM among others in a bidding war over the film, Deadline reports.

Shot on 35mm black and white film, Malcolm & Marie, tells the story of a filmmaker (portrayed by Washington) who returns home with his girlfriend after a celebrating the premiere of his latest movie. Things take a turn as revelations about the couple’s relationship rise to the surface, changing the mood of the evening.

Malcolm & Marie pic.twitter.com/99RWzgLFbD

— Zendaya (@Zendaya) July 8, 2020

Malcolm & Marie was written, directed and produced by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, who penned the script in less than a week. Aside from starring in the romantic drama, Zendaya and Washington serve as executive producers on the project.

“I am so grateful to this cast and crew, many of whom are my ‘Euphoria’ family, for coming together during such uncertain times,” Levinson said in a statement. “We felt privileged to be able to make this film together and we did so with a lot of love. We are all thrilled that it has ended up with Netflix which is unparalleled in allowing filmmakers the freedom to tell their stories that reach audiences all over the world.”

The film was shot amid the COVID-19 pandemic at a quarantine location in California in mid-June. Over the course of the two week shoot, heavy precautions were taken to ensure the health and safety of the cast and crew including social distancing, increased sanitary measures, and daily temperature checks.

Netflix’s acquisition of Malcolm & Marie follows an onslaught of TIFF films scooped up by  the company, with Halle Berry’s Bruised among the lot. The film marks Berry’s directorial debut and was sold to Netflix for a reported $20 million.

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