black monday regina hall don cheadle episode 2
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'Black Monday' Gets Back To Black And Dawn Shines Brighter: Episode 2 Recap

In episode "364," Mo’s disrespect pushes her to quit, moments before his investment firm takes on a problem only she can solve.

We’ll gladly say it: Black Monday’s series premiere episode wasn’t nearly Black enough.

The 34-minute episode was conspicuously devoid of almost any acknowledgment that two of the show leads are black in a historically non-inclusive industry, but that all changes in episode two. In episode "364," Maurice "Mo" Monroe (Don Cheadle)’s disrespect pushes Dawn (Regina Hall) to quit, moments before his investment firm takes on a problem only she can solve, all while he’s being shadowed by a white filmmaker aiming to do a biopic on “a black man trying to break into the white boy’s club” known as Wall Street.

Within the first minute, Mo educates the filmmaker on Black people’s colloquial use of the word “bad,” asks that the star of his biopic not be whitewashed, and lets the filmmaker know a Black man breaking into anything, even metaphorically, is nothing he wants to be associated with. Blackness is still more or less a punchline for jokes rather than a talking point for deeper discussion, but it yields some of the funniest moments. Though the scene lasts for about 45 seconds, Dawn is followed (and addressed with stereotypical Black slang) by white employees in a high-end clothing store and becomes one of the funniest sequences of the entire episode. She derisively asking a white woman who mistakes her for an employee of the store if “you see a name tag on my titty” before death glaring her into submission is so scintillating, it should be the opening sequence of every episode.

Black Monday’s somewhat nonchalant approach to race could be due to it being set in the 1980s. The mere acknowledgment of the characters’ blackness through racial prejudice while not letting it derail their everyday lives adds authenticity to the 1980s aesthetic of Black Monday as the decade was a time that saw Black executives rise in the ranks on Wall Street. In the mid-1980s, Wardell R. Lazard founded WR Lazard Securities Corporation, one of the earliest minority-owned firms, and expressly stated the firm’s “aim is to be a highly professional firm that just happens to be minority-owned.''

Black Monday may never dive deep into blackness in order to free its characters to grow in ways not confined by race. The results have been excellent, so far.

The Dynamic Duo

The premiere episode only gave us glimpses of what the second episode revealed to be the fulcrum of Black Monday’s narrative momentum: Dawn and Mo. The second episode lets the star players shine with most of their scenes being together or referencing the other. The intraoffice chess match Dawn and Mo engage in wavered between romantic comedy and the meticulousness of a procedural drama. Cheadle and Hall turned two characters walking in and out of an office into a masterclass of emotional command, comedic timing, and solid script writing.

Interestingly, episode two shows how Dawn and Mo’s chemistry is more than an incubator for a reignited romance as the premiere episode intimated. It’s through Dawn that we get to peek through the cracks of Mo’s vulgar and volatile protective shell housing the narcissist that refers to “needing” someone as the “N-word.” She inspires Mo to admit to the filmmaker he’s a “tortured hero” since he can’t say he needs Dawn, yet acts as if he does.

In the end, it’s Dawn who shines the brightest in the episode, after being given extra screen time compared to the premiere episode. The second episode did a better job of pacing than the premiere, but still faced issues that, if they persist, could prevent the show from reaching its full potential.

Growing Pains

Black Monday has a bit of a time issue. Both of the first two episodes clock in at under 35 minutes, with episode two clocking in at just over 29 minutes. The first two episodes often feel as if the show doesn’t have enough time to give important aspects of the narrative enough time. Mo’s self-reflection only appears near the tail end of the first two episodes, instead of meticulously woven into the episode’s primary story. That’s fine for now, but this manner of rolling out a character’s emotional depth after an episode of being the opposite could quickly look like a cheap way to add a redemptive quality to the objectively obscene things Black Monday gets away with.

Then again, Mo jokingly saying, “So, while Nancy Reagan was telling everyone AIDS was no big whoop, I bet long on condoms because I knew that sh*t had legs” may be the type of humor to keep us watching faithfully every week.

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Jussie Smollett attends the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 60th Anniversary Opening Night Gala Benefit at New York City Center on November 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

'Empire' Camp Says Jussie Smollett Never Complained About Salary

The accusations made towards Jussie Smollett in the alleged staged assault has those close to the actor-musician scratching their heads–including his Empire family.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter Thursday (Feb. 21), sources close Empire were surprised to hear a salary increase was the motive behind the actor's reported staged attack in January. The Illinois state prosecutor stated in a press conference Smollett paid two brothers to orchestrate a homophobic racist attack in an effort to get his star rising and his pockets heavier. But those close to the Empire set believe that can't be the case since as he was most recently paid $125,000 per episode.

"I don't think it's true that he was unhappy with what he was being paid," the source told THR. "His representatives never once called and there was no effort to renegotiate. He's never expressed any dissatisfaction."

Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, Smollett's base pay was in the $40,000 to $50,000 region but after setting record-breaking ratings in the first season, the main characters received a big increase with Smollett receiving $125,000 per episode and esteemed actors Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard moving from $110,000-$120,000 per-episode to the  $225,000-$250,000 range. Aside from season one, there are 18 episodes from season two to season five.

The actor has officially been cut from the last two episodes of the fifth season to avoid "disruption on set."

"While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out, a statement from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer reads. "We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season."

Smollett has also maintained his innocence throughout the entire case. Alternative motives have pointed to a boost to his music career but the actor also seemed to be pleased with that as well.

Speaking to VIBE just after the release of his debut album Sum of My Music, the actor was pleased with his journey outside of Empire.

"Here’s the thing, I’m not ashamed of Empire songs. I wrote a lot of them," he said. Empire's soundtrack was a hit with fans as it climbed to the top of the Billboard charts in 2015.  "I’m proud of the work I’ve done with Empire. I just can’t be only Empire, that’s not all I am."

His project moved 7,000 units and views on his YouTube channel views have been modest with "Catch Your Eye" feature Swizz Beatz reaching 620,000 views and audio of "F.U.W." reaching 1.1 million spins. His most popular song on Spotify isn't an Empire-related track, it's "Ha Ha (I Love You)" from Sum of My Music.

As the case might to go trial, one can only hope the full truth will be revealed.

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Big Boi To Play Motown Founder Berry Gordy In DeBarge Biopic

Big Boi has reportedly been cast as Motown's legendary founder Berry Gordy in the upcoming biopic about Bobby DeBarge. The rapper confirmed the news on Instagram on Thursday (Feb. 21).

"Just finished playing Berry Gordy in the Debarge movie. Coming Soon," Big Boi announced on Instagram. The photo showed an acting chair with his name and Gordy's printed on the backrest.

Bobby DeBarge was the lead singer of R&B group Switch, an act signed to Gordy’s Motown Records imprint Gordy Records. Known for his  impressive falsetto, DeBarge quickly shot up to stardom during the late 70s. He later co-produced for his siblings' band, also named DeBarge, before joining the group himself.

Amidst his success in music, he struggled with substance abuse and legal issues. He died in Aug. 1995 of AIDS complications at the age of 39.

The Bobby DeBarge Story is slated to premiere on TV One sometime this year.

 

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Just finished playing Berry Gordy in the “ Debarge “ movie @swirlfilmsig 🎬🎥🔥 coming Soon ! 🆙

A post shared by Big Boi (@bigboi) on Feb 21, 2019 at 8:21pm PST

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Welcome To The Jam: 'Space Jam 2' Gets 2021 Release Date

It looks like we've got a real jam going down, and it will all happen in a few short years. According to Springhill Entertainment's Twitter page, the official release date for Space Jam 2 will be on July 16, 2021.

The follow-up to the 1996 Looney Tunes-heavy film starring Michael Jordan will star LeBron James this time around. Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler will produce it, and Terence Nance is directing, which were revealed in summer 2018 with a pretty cute promotional photo.

Filming will reportedly begin this summer, and we're certain we'll find out more high-profile cast members within the next year. James' production partner discussed the possibility of Michael Jordan appearing in the second film, but only time will tell.

"Michael Jordan is Michael F**kin' Jordan," said Maverick Carter. "It doesn't matter [if James] calls him, he's gonna do whatever the hell he wants, which he has earned that right to do."

The first film features basketball stars Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Larry Bird and more, and features a pretty memorable cameo by Bill Murray. Danny DeVito voices Swackhammer, the owner of outer space theme park Moron Mountain. He and his tiny group of aliens steal the talent of NBA players to win a basketball game against the Looney Tunes, which could determine the cartoons' fate.

July 16, 2021 🎥🏀🥕 #SaveTheDate pic.twitter.com/qV1Tnxuksd

— SpringHill Ent. (@SpringHillEnt) February 22, 2019

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