still from BET's American Soul episode 103
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'American Soul' Episode 3 Recap: Don the Father, Don the Son

This week’s episode, directed by Robert Townsend, is about things lost.

American Soul's third episode three opens as the major characters confront various types of loss in their worlds. The Clarke family lays Joseph to rest, accompanied by Babyface’s spare, a capella rendition of “What’s Going On” (Babyface is the music supervisor for American Soul). Tessa digs under her bed to pull out an old dance photo and stare at it longingly. Don is still chasing large bookings like Marvin Gaye - and still hitting a wall - when Delores calls to tell him their oldest son is missing.

The Clarke siblings are processing their grief in different ways. Because of his father’s death, Kendall is now head of household, so his draft is waived. He’s saddled with guilt, “The only reason I’m not in Vietnam right now is because dad died. What do I do with that?” and thinks he needs to get into responsible adult mode (as though he weren’t already a father…but we digress). Simone’s wants to honor her father through her music, and while Kendall and JT want to cancel a gig the group has scheduled, she thinks Joseph would want them to move forward. She sneaks out to perform alone and almost falters during a song dedicated to her dad until JT steps in to join her and save the performance. While Kendall grapples with the idea of becoming the man of the house, Brienne (Kelly Price) actively steps into the role and handles small things that were her husband’s domain; namely, a leaky faucet announcing Joseph’s permanent absence with every drip.

JT is still facing struggles at every turn. We have yet to see this poor boy walk into his apartment without some drama in progress. His mama’s about to burn the house down by leaving a pot on the stove. The CRIPS are about to get him railroaded into an attempted murder charge - mind you, he didn’t even get his rent money out of the heist! And people keep talking to him any kind of way. Even Simone takes shots at him about his dad not being around. His own girlfriend, SMH. They make up after JT joins her to perform, and as they’re cozying up in his blue Chevy Nova to share the most romantic moment two teenagers can share in a car, the cops are issuing an all-points bulletin for that exact make and model and getting names of accomplices. Let’s keep JT lifted in prayer.

We get the first hints of Tessa’s (Iantha Richardson) backstory as she chastises the sassy and ambitious Soul Train dancer Flo for inappropriate conduct with Rufus Thomas (Bobby Brown) before and during the show's taping. “I know you’re reaching for something bigger, but it’s not guys like Rufus who pay the price when everything goes wrong.” She gives the dancer advice she perhaps wishes someone had given her, “I know you. I was you. You’re talented, but you’ve got to start making (better decisions).”  (Spoiler alert: the advice lands on deaf ears.) There’s a great scene intercut between Simone’s performance and Tessa dancing alone in the dim Soul Train studio. For the first time since we’ve met her, she’s unguarded and joyful. We anticipate a Svengali story to emerge soon, explaining her failed professional dance career.

Don’s missing son, Tony, shows up on the set of Soul Train just as Don is preparing to catch a flight back to Chicago to find him. This season's first two episodes gave insight into Don’s struggles as a husband, now we learn about his struggles as a father. Throughout the episode, flashbacks to Don’s “lessons” from his tough, abusive father are juxtaposed against his interactions with young Tony. Don struggles to balance the emotional distance and unflinching firmness he was taught – making Tony work “like a man,” when he shows up at the studio, telling him he thinks he’s grown, commanding respect through fear – with the pure love and yearning he sees in his son.

Tony just wants to be with him, whatever that takes. Don wants to break generational cycles, he wants to be a better man and father than his father was – the last flashback is of Don as a young man beating his dad in a fight and declaring his independence – but softness is a challenge for him. When Tony gets back to Chicago, he plays out a version of “Why he don’t want me, Uncle Phil?” with his mother Deloris (Perri Camper), who assures him that his Daddy loves him “so strong that it’ll break the world in two, and whatever he’s done wrong is small when you hold it against that.” (Grown Tony Cornelius, by the way, is the Executive Producer of American Soul.)

What this episode got right: Robert Barisford Brown aka Bobby Brown as Rufus Thomas just made us so incredibly happy, because Bobby was basically playing a future version of himself. Thomas pulling Flo on stage to dance – and Don being mad about it – is based on Soul Train dancer Damita Jo Freeman jumping on stage to dance with singer Joe Tex – and Don being mad about it.

What it could have done without: About three of the flashbacks to Don and his father. We got the point after the first couple of scenes.

What we absolutely don’t believe: That high-class escorts were just sauntering into the studio or Don’s office while the show was taping, with him running a tight ship. Don’s from Chicago, Chicago – you ain’t walking up on him unannounced and unexpectedly.

What we don’t understand: Why we saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken ad, kept hearing talk about ad dollars and accounts, but there’s been no mention of Afro Sheen or Ultra Sheen.

American Soul is still more heavy-handed in some places than we’d prefer; still a little too on-the-nose with dialogue in places. But it’s an acceptable price for an otherwise strong show. The live performances are great – Katlyn Nichol’s voice is amazing - and we're loving the celebrity guests. We're very curious to see Michelle Williams as Diana Ross next week. We did miss Gerald Aims and his antics in this episode, though. Hopefully, he’s back with some new one-liners in episode four.

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Is Expected To Make $64 Million Opening Weekend

Thanks to Us, Jordan Peele has another blockbuster on his hands. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the highly-anticipated horror flick starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, is expected to have a $64 million opening weekend at the domestic box office.

Peele’s sophomore horror film earned an impressive $7.4 million on Thursday (March 21) night previews, and is forecasted to take in about $27 million from Friday sales. The film is also on pace to knock Captain Marvel out of the No. 1 spot at the box office.

Once final numbers are tallied, Us will likely snatch the third-best opening weekend record for an R-rated horror film behind It, which brought in a whopping $123.4 million, followed by Halloween’s $76.2 million opening weekend last year.

Aside from rave reviews and a genius promo run that included simultaneous screenings in major media markets, Us earned a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film, set in the mid-1980s centers around a family of four who set off on a vacation that finds them confronting some familiar faces.

Peele recently spoke to VIBE about casting Duke (our April 2019 cover star) in the role of patriarch, Gabe Wilson. “I have to have somebody voice what the audience was saying,” he said. “In the case of Get Out, it’s Rod, like, ‘How have you not left yet?’ [In Us], Winston is largely that voice. There’s one moment where Lupita [Nyong’o] takes a step into the unknown, where black people [will think], ‘I don’t know.’ But to have Winston say, ‘Aaaand she left. Your mother just walked out of the car.’ That’s all we need.”

Duke also opened up about the intricacies of his character. “His function isn’t to see through the veil. His function is to tell the absolute truth how he sees it,” explained the 32-year-old actor. “He’s sometimes there to say the things that other people don’t want to say, but he’s also there to make fun of things to keep it from not getting too heavy, even though it’s real. That was my job. [Peele] respected that. I like to lean into functions. If I’m going to be your antagonist, I’m gonna really push you. If I’m gonna be your clown, funny guy, I’m gonna do that.”

Click here to read VIBE’s April 2019 cover story.

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Eunetta T. Boone, TV Producer, Writer And ‘One On One’ Creator, Dead At 63

Eunetta T. Boone, veteran television producer and writer, creator of sitcoms One on One and Cuts, and showrunner of Raven’s Home, died Wednesday (March 20), Deadline reports.

Boone died of an apparent hear attack in her home. She was 63.

Boone’s long list of writing, production and story-editing credits include Living Single, My Wife and Kids, The Hughleys, The Parent ‘Hood, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Lush Life, the latter of which co-starred Fresh Prince actress Karyn Parsons. Boone also taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and wrote the film Who Is Doris Payne? about the infamous elderly jewel thief.

Last November, Boone signed on as showrunner and executive producer of the Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven spinoff, Raven’s Home. Production on the sitcom has been shut down for the rest of the week in wake of Boone's death. Series star Raven Symone posted a tribute to Boone on Instagram Thursday (March 21).

“My heart is heavy following the loss, of RH EP, Eunetta Boone,” she wrote. “Eunetta was a pioneer and an inspiration to everyone she met. She was a masterful story teller, an empathetic leader, and a beacon of light to so many. Sending love and my deepest sympathies to Eunetta’s family and friends and all who knew and loved her. She will be missed. Thanks for everything Eunetta.”

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My heart is heavy following the loss, of RH EP, Eunetta Boone. Eunetta was a pioneer and an inspiration to everyone she met. She was a masterful story teller, an empathetic leader, and a beacon of light to so many. Sending love and my deepest sympathies to Eunetta’s family and friends and all who knew and loved her. She will be missed. Thanks for everything Eunetta.

A post shared by Raven-Symoné (@ravensymone) on Mar 21, 2019 at 2:41pm PDT

The Disney Channel released a statement praising Boone for her storytelling and leadership. “She did so well what she enjoyed most — mentoring creative talent,” the network said in a statement, per The Wrap. “Eunetta will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by everyone who knew her. All of us at Disney Channel grieve her passing and send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.”

Boone earned a journalism degree from the University of Maryland, and a Masters from Columba University. She began her career as a sports writer in Baltimore, and became the first black women to cover sports in the city, as well as one of a few black women sports writers in the nation to work for a major outlet.

See more dedications to Boone below and watch the video above for some of her writing tips.

Eunetta Boone. One of our vets. You have seen her work on television comedies from “My Wife and Kids” and “The Hughleys” to “One on One” and “Living Single.” She worked as a screenwriting instructor at UCLA Extension in between gigs. Rest well, sweet lady. Thanks for the laughs. pic.twitter.com/741tpIL4a5

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 21, 2019

She was a few of the black female showrunners during the 80’s & 90’s..once The UPN network shut down it was hard to get a show on the air..#RIP & thanks for your creativity.. Eunetta T. Boone Dies: ‘One On One’ Creator, ‘Raven’s Home’ Showrunner https://t.co/6zTGyEmJGR

— Loni Love (@LoniLove) March 21, 2019

Eunetta was a pioneer in the entertainment industry. https://t.co/YakqIdOkV5

— Shaun Robinson (@shaunrobinson) March 21, 2019

RIP Eunetta T. Boone. pic.twitter.com/yjo1BP3Jfh

— The Black List (@theblcklst) March 21, 2019

My cousin Eunetta T. Boone created the shows "One on One" and "Cuts" and was the first person to welcome me to LA and showed me Hollywood! She was such a good person and genuine soul. Smh. #RIPEunetta

— DJ Steph Floss (@djstephfloss) March 21, 2019

I'm very sad to learn about the passing of Eunetta Boone. When @JohnDBeckTV and I were on our very first writing staff (The Hughleys), Eunetta went out of her way to teach us how to behave in room. I don't think she would call herself a mentor, but I will.

— Ron Hart (@Scatter) March 21, 2019

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‘American Soul’ Episode 8 Recap: The Crossroads

Tessa is back, and not only do we finally get the tea on her backstory, but it’s also a full tea party.

Still focused on reclaiming her dance career before she’s too old, Tessa prepares for an audition and comes face to face with her former best friend and former fiancé—the very people who drove her away from dance years ago. We learn that she didn’t just lose her dance career, she lost an entire life—including a baby. And then, she met Patrick. Over the course of the episode, Tessa has long overdue conversations with Prescott, her former fiancé, and Evelyn (Nikeva Stapleton), her former friend. Even though Evelyn played Tessa back in the day, she drops some gems and asks her if she’s really moving forward, or trying to hold on to what was. Tessa ponders the question and, in response, delivers a final audition routine she created during her old dance life in Germany, updated with moves influenced by the Soul Train Gang—a reflection of her new life. After finally having an honest, vulnerable conversation with Patrick, it seems Tessa is ready to genuinely move forward, whatever that may mean.

JT’s brothers in the Continuous Revolution in Progress offer him a chance to “prove (his) worth,” after Detective Lorraine set him up to look like a snitch (which we still don’t understand). Of course, that means participating in another illegal endeavor. We really don’t like Reggie, nor can we understand why JT feels such a staunch loyalty to him, but peer pressure—and thinly veiled threats—are real.

When JT gets “home,” he faces another course-altering decision. After finding a random street character holding his little sister while his mom is in a mid-drug nod, JT finally makes the difficult call to have her committed. We’d be relieved and excited about what this means for him and his little sister if he hadn’t just become more deeply entangled with Reggie and the CRIPS.

The Clarke siblings are ready to assert their independence. Kendall is taking his John Denver albums and moving out (with Flo? Already?); Simone is bucking up to her mom about JT (Simone, your mama might be right on this one); and Encore gets a surprise half-off deal at the studio to record their demo. We owe JT—who we realize is not a real person—an apology for assuming he was going to lose the studio money. He had it in his sock. Smart man. But holding the money might be the only role JT plays in Encore’s recording. While the Clarke siblings are stanning over Lionel Richie and getting ready to go in the booth, JT is at the hospital with his mom. We have a feeling his path will only take him further away from both Kendall and Simone for the last two episodes of the season.

Brianne comes face-to-face with the old life and dream she buried out of necessity for the life she chose to have with Joseph. At the beginning of the season, Joseph mentioned Brianne’s former singing career to Simone, and Simone was shocked even as her mother deflected. But she clearly never let it go—seeing a reminder of her singing days sends Brianne into a rage. Not because something terrible happened (that we know of, yet), but because she’s still so hurt over sacrificing such a big piece of herself. When Nate asks her if she wants to cut the visit to San Diego and her brother’s nightclub short, she says she needs to do something first. Is Brianne going to let the music back in?

Don already made one choice: Soul Train over his family. Now, he faces a fight for the show to survive against Dick Clark’s Soul Show, which airs on ABC, one of Don’s essential syndication partners. The next decision is whether to trust the protest and boycott methods suggested by his friend Conrad Johnson (Todd Anthony Manaigo) or take a more ruthless route with Gerald. Frustrated when the civil course doesn’t seem to be working quickly enough, Don lets Gerald off the leash to execute an alternate plan. But when he realizes Gerald’s tactic—placing plants at the Soul Show protest to start a fight—Don’s bothered. Especially when Conrad’s method ends up yielding results. Don will always be in conflict because he’s rarely comfortable with his decisions. When he operates in the straight and narrow, he feels like he’s being taken advantage of; when he plays dirty, he worries about his public image. When Don tries to detach himself from Gerald’s antics, Gerald checks him. He’s already peeped Don’s struggle between being the respectable negro and being a street dude when the situation requires. “It ain’t like you didn’t know, you just chose not to.”

Don’s hot-and-heavy relationship with Ilsa has fizzled out, Tessa’s quit, Brooks doesn’t see the big deal about a competitive show, and Gerald’s idea of being supportive is sketchy at best, highly illegal at worst. Don has presumably slayed the Hollywood dragons that tried to take him down and should feel victorious. Soul Train is a hit, is officially greenlit for a second season, and is still his. But Don’s realizing he doesn’t have true, close allies around him (Clarence Avant once said of Cornelius in real life that you could fit all his friends in a phone booth, and still have room). Delores is not only ignoring his phone calls—more phone calls than we’ve seen him make the entire season—she’s busy with plans that involve separate bank accounts. Don calls his wife one more time to plead for their marriage on the brand new answering machine he bought her. As he hangs up and the episode closes, he collapses—an early glimpse of the brain trauma that plagued him for the remainder of this life.

What the episode got right: Conrad “CJ” Johnson represents young Jesse Jackson, who partnered with the “Godfather of Black Music,” Clarence Avant, in successfully pressuring ABC to take Clark’s Soul Unlimited off the air.

What we could have done without: The scene with Gladys and Don in the lounge. While it was great to see Kelly Rowland reprise her role as Gladys Knight, and we recognize that she’s supposed to serve as some kind of conscious/guide/good luck charm/something for Don, that conversation didn’t move the plot forward in any real way.

What we absolutely don’t believe: That a black mother in the 1970s—the old school black mama prototype—let somebody call her daughter an “uppity b**ch,” then let the same daughter get in her face and slam doors in her house without some hands flying, somebody getting cursed out, or that door coming off the hinges.

What we don’t understand: The relationship between Brianne and Private Nate Barker. He’s fine and all, but what’s his purpose? Maybe there’s more to come in the next episodes.

We’re excited to learn more about Brianne Clarke in the next episode; she’s been an underutilized character so far. There’s a lot to cover, still, in the remaining two shows of the season: Is Simone going to pursue a career in NY? Is JT going to get his foolish self arrested or worse? Is Kendall going to end up with another baby he can’t support? (We feel like Flo has more sense than that, thankfully). Is Brianne going to get it poppin’ with Nate? Is Don going to somehow end up on Gerald’s bad side? We do know Don is getting a divorce, we just don’t know when. Let’s see what happens next.

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