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90s TV and film icon John Witherspoon dies #RIP (VIDEO)

Beloved actor, comedian and 90s film icon John Witherspoon died Tuesday (October 29) at his home. He was 77- years-old.

The family released an official statement to DEADLINE and asked for a “moment in privacy.”

“It is with deepest sorrow that we can confirm our beloved husband and father, John Witherspoon, one of the hardest working men in show business, died today at his home in Sherman Oaks at the age of 77,” Witherspoon’s family said in a statement to Deadline. “He is survived by his wife Angela, and his sons JD, Alexander, and a large family. We are all in shock, please give us a minute for a moment in privacy and we will celebrate his life and his work together. John used to say ‘I’m no big deal’, but he was huge deal to us.”

Witherspoon is perhaps best known for his outlandish father and father-figure characters in such classic black films as Hollywood Shuffle, Friday, Next Friday and Friday After Next. He also appeared as “Pops” in the hugely popular WB series The Wayans Bros., alongside Marlon and Shawn Wayans.

I’m sad. Broken. Hurt.. yet extremely grateful to God that i got to spend 5 years of my life working with one of the funniest sweetest wisest humblest loving man @johnnywitherspoon you were my tv dad and my mentor and my friend,” said Marlon on social media. “I miss you already. Something don’t feel right. This is heavy on my heart. Anyone that knows me knows how much i love pops. You have a strong wife and great kids. What an amazing family. Your boys damn near grew up on the #WayansBros set they’ll always be like my little brothers and sons. i will pass on all the jewels that you bestowed on to us. Thank you God for the many many many laughs that we shared on and off the set. You got “all the keys 🔑 “ and i know you got one to heaven’s gate. Anytime i want to laugh or to see you I’m gonna put on a episode of wayans bros and laugh until i cry. I miss already…. hope your dancing in heaven with ugly white shoes on. “Pops pops sugar pops”. #ripjohnwitherspoon #mysecondpops

Check out Witherspoon below in one of my favorite films—Boomerang—featuring Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence and David Alan Grier. I used to work at movie theater (Park 11 Theaters) when this film came out in 1992 and would always take my breaks at this point in the film so I could laugh out loud with the audience.

Thank you Mr. Witherspoon for a lifetime of laughter. #BANGBANGBANG


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Mary J. Blige, Marlon Wayans, Titus Burgess and more added to ‘Respect’

More big names have been added to the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect starring Oscar winning actress and music icon Jennifer Hudson.

Tony Award winning actress and Broadway diva Audra McDonald (she was actually in the running to play Aretha) will be playing Aretha’s mother along with ATL’s own Saycon Sengbloh as Aretha’s eldest sister Erma, Hailey Kilgore as her sister Carolyn and Oscar winner Forest Whitaker as her father—Rev. C.L. Franklin.

Grammy Award winning singer and Oscar nominated actress Mary J. Blige will be playing jazz and blues singer Dinah Washington while Heather Headley will portray Gospel music legend Clara Ward.

Other additions include Marlon Wayans as Ted White, Marc Maron as Jerry Wexler, Tituss Burgess as Reverend Dr. James Cleveland and Skye Dakato Turner as the young Aretha.

Respect is being directed by Liesl Tommy and is being filmed here in Atlanta, GA. The movie is expected to arrive in theaters on August 14, 2020.



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Farewell to TV and Film Legend Diahann Carroll (VIDEO)

When I found out on Friday afternoon that screen legend and all-around-diva extraordinaire Diahann Carroll had transitioned, it literally took my breath away. Much like the passing of the queen of soul Aretha Franklin, I have never lived in a world without Ms. Carroll’s presence. She’s always been on television or in some movie or singing on somebody’s stage. I cringed at the thought that I would never see her talent again. It’s an uneasy feeling that I’ve slowly grown accustomed to since so many of my older idols and icons are fading away. God knows y’all are gonna have to hospitalize me when Miss Ross goes on to glory. (wall slides)

I was first introduced to Ms. Carroll as a little boy while watching Dynasty with my mother back in the 1980s. Like so many television viewers back then, mama was a fan of all of the night time soap operas like Dallas, Falcon Crest and Knots Landing. But it was something about Dynasty that had mama hooked. I will never forget the way she sat up in her bed and screamed to the top of lungs (while shaking her pink sponge rollers neatly pinned underneath her scarf) when she realized MISS DIAHANN CARROLL was playing the sassy, snooty and bougie ‘Dominique Deveraux.’ Her entrance coupled with that “dragging the floor” white fur and that “Oh No She Didn’t” wig was a sight to behold.

Ms. Carroll had already made history as the first African American actress to star in her own television series with Julie in 1968. She had achieved the ultimate recognition as a Oscar nominee for her performance in Claudine. Now she was blazing yet another trail as the first black “bitch” on prime time TV and explained her sheer desire to do so in this throwback 1984 video below:

“I wanted to be the first black ‘bitch’ on television!” ~ Diahann Carroll, circa 1984

Needless to say, I was hooked on Dynasty too just like my mama. It was rare for me to see a black female character of her caliber on television with so much power and influence. She was also just as “bejeweled and bedazzled” as her white co-stars and I found pride in every minute of it. I also loved the way she werked the nerves of Joan Collins character ‘Alexis Colby’ (their shade will live forever in social media memes). More than that, her character really set the tone for other “black and bougie” girls to follow including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘s ‘Hillary Banks’ and ‘Whitley Gilbert’ of A Different World. It was no surprise to me that Ms. Carroll would star as Whitley’s aristocratic mother ‘Marion Gilbert’ on the show.

RIP Ms. Carroll and THANK YOU for opening doors and paving roads for so many of us creatives to follow.

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Jamie Foxx, John Legend and more salute Motown in ‘Hitsville’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Some of the biggest names in entertainment are coming together to salute Detroit’s Motown label in a new Showtime documentary titled Hitsville: The Making of Motown. It airs on Saturday, August 24 at 9 p.m.

The remarkable story of Motown Records is told through new and exclusive interviews with the label’s visionary founder, Berry Gordy, and many of its superstar artists and creative figures, as well as rare performances and behind-the-scenes footage unearthed from Motown’s vaults and Gordy’s personal archives.

The film includes commentary from living legends—Smokey Robinson and original ‘Supreme’ Mary Wilson. It also features Jamie Foxx, John Legend, Dr. Dre and iconic Motown songwriter Valerie Simpson of (Ashford & Simpson).

Watch below:

Who is your favorite Motown artist?

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André De Shields wins First Tony Award for ‘Hadestown’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Congratulations goes out to legendary Broadway star André De Shields. The veteran actor of stage and television won his very first Tony Award last night in the “Best Performance By An Actor in a Featured Role – Musical” category for his work in Hadestown.

De Shields stars as Hermes in the exciting new musical that explores Orpheus’ journey to the underworld to rescue his fiancée Eurydice.

De Shields was up against two other African American actors—Jeremy Pope and Ephraim Sykes from The Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud. The 73-year-old Baltimore native is also best known for his iconic performances in The Full Monty, Ain’t Misbehavin with the late Nell Carter and The Wiz with Stephanie Mills.

Watch his acceptance speech below where he gives the secret to his success and longevity.

  1. Surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming.
  2. Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.
  3. The top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. De Shields in 2009 when he was performing here in Atlanta during the Alliance Theatre’s production of A Life In The Theatre. He is everything you think he is and lots more.

Photo Credit: YouTube

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Phylicia Rashad, Pearl Cleage and more honored at ‘Applauds Awards Brunch’ [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Bravo to Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon and his True Colors Theatre Company. They recently honored some of the biggest names in the arts, culture and entertainment as part of their annual Applauds Awards Brunch.

Ray Cornelius with honorees – Camille Russell Love and Pearl Cleage

The spring fundraising event is the culmination of the company’s 16th anniversary and a celebration of their year long accomplishments. The awards ceremony was attended by a good number of the company’s high profile supporters ranging from arts and cultural enthusiasts to corporate leaders and philanthropic giants.

Ray Cornelius with Kenny Leon

The afternoon took place at the swanky InterContinental Hotel in the Buckhead district of Atlanta and featured awards presentations to the innovative Georgia Justice Project; beloved author and playwright Pearl Cleage; global powerhouse Warner Media (formerly Turner); Atlanta Cultural Affairs Executive Director Camille R. Love; and Tony Award-Winning actress of stage, television and screen Phylicia Rashad. Each honoree received an award that is based on the pillars of the True Colors Theatre Company: Boldness, Laughter, Abundance and Respect. Ms. Rashad received the coveted Jane Bishop National Theatre Award, that is named after the company’s late co-founder Jane Bishop.

Kenny Leon and Jamil Jude honoring Pearl Cleage

The event also served as the official installation of Jamil Jude as the Company’s new Artistic Director along with riveting performances from the winner and runner-up of this year’s August Wilson Monologue Competition.

Make sure you tune into this weekend’s edition of UPFRONT for more coverage as well as my YouTube channel Ray Cornelius TV. It will include personal stories from honorees and an encouraging word from Kenny.

See more photos below courtesy of TakeOne Photography by Marvin Striggles:

Ray Cornelius with True Colors Board Member Renee Palmer
True Colors Director of Education Nikki Toombs
Honoree Camille R. Love receiving her award
Honoree Phylicia Rashad receiving her Award

Famed Director John Singleton dies at 51 (AUDIO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Boyz n the Hood director and 90s urban film pioneer John Singleton has died at the age of 51.

He passed away today after his family took him off life support following a stroke he had on April 17. He was on a flight back to the U.S. from Costa Rica when he experienced weakness in his legs and was admitted into a hospital. It was originally reported that he suffered a “mild” stroke. However, his family would later release a statement that he indeed suffered a “massive” one and that he was also in a coma.

UPFRONT interviewing John Singleton and “Snowfall” star Damson Idris

Singleton made history in 1992 at the age of 24 when he became the youngest person to be nominated for the “Best Director” Oscar and the first African American. He would later go on to direct other classic black films such as Poetic Justice featuring Tupac and Janet Jackson, Higher Learning with Ice Cube and Tyra Banks as well as Baby Boy with Tyrese and Taraji P. Henson, Rosewood and Shaft featuring Samuel L. Jackson.

In addition to film, Singleton also directed projects for television including Fox’s Empire, BET’s Rebel and the hugely popular FX series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson and Snowfall.

John Singleton at the New Orleans premiere of “Snowfall”

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Singleton during a promotional tour of American Crime Story at Morehouse College in 2016 and at the 2017 Essence Festival where he was promoting Snowfall with the series star Damson Idris. (Click here to listen at beginning at 18:24)

Check out what Boyz n the Hood star Morris Chestnut had to say about working with Mr. Singleton during a recent interview on TV One’s popular DL Hughley Show:

Photo Credits:

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New Poster for ‘The Best of Enemies’ feat. Taraji P. Henson (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Check out the new poster for the upcoming civil rights drama The Best of Enemies featuring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell.

As previously reported, the film focuses on the unlikely friendship between outspoken Black activist Ann Atwater and Ku Klux Klan member Claiborne Paul Ellis, during the turbulent 1960s in Durham, North Carolina.

Atwater was a maid who became a social activist while Ellis was a laborer who began attending city meetings to speak on behalf of the poor white working class.

The two were put on a committee overseeing the desegregation of schools where, after heated battles and much to their surprise, they discovered common ground: They both cared about the economical and educational well-being of their kids.

The film’s script is based on the book Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson.

Rounding out the cast is Anne HecheWes BentleyBruce McGillNick Searcy,John Gallagher Jr., Nadej K. Bailey and Babou Ceesay. Robin Bissell served as the film’s director.

Photo Credits:  Instagram/TheBestofEnemies

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Happy New Year from

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Happy Sunday Everyone and Welcome to 2019!

I was a little apprehensive about posting this but felt that I needed to bring all of my readers and supporters up to speed about my website and what’s been happening. I know I haven’t been as consistent with posting stories and updating the site but it’s all been for a good reason. is growing by leaps and bounds. This tiny little brand that I started in 2012 will be celebrating seven years this February 6, 2019. With that said, so much has been happening with me professionally and personally. As you know, I took my love for “arts and entertainment” to a radio platform and created UPFRONT Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry in August of 2016. The 30-minute program airs every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on Atlanta’s Jazz Station – WCLK 91.9. Since that time, I have been covering and hosting a number of high profile engagements all around the country.

In the fall of 2016, I was invited by my media buddy Ice Cream Conversations to travel to New Orleans  for the premiere of the film Deep Water Horizon. I would later return to the crescent city in the summer of 2017 for the Essence Festival. In March of 2018, I was invited with other U.S. media influencers to attend a tour of the famed NBC studios in Hollywood, CA where we interviewed the casts of Marlon, World of Dance and the writers of the award winning series This Is Us. Later on that month, I was invited to attend the New York City Premiere of Tyler Perry’s Acrimony and in June in attended the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in South Beach Miami where I conducted Black Carpet interviews for ASPIRE TV’s In the Loop. I closed out 2018 by hosting Facebook Live Interviews during the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, the largest film festival presented by a college or university.

In addition to hosting the radio show, I also began producing television programs in 2018 for CAU-TV including a Trumpet Awards Red Carpet Special, a SCAD aTVfest Special, a Living Single 25th Anniversary Special and a SuperFly Red Carpet Special. I was also invited to host and moderate the BronzeLens Film Festival’s Sunday Brunch with the Brothersand moderated a post performance conversation with the cast of Kenny Leon’s True Colors production of Colman Domingo’s DOT.

In addition to my professional advancements, my personal responsibilities also expanded as I took on the role of a caregiver for my mother. I moved her, my sister and my niece from my hometown of Orlando, FL to Atlanta, GA. In other words, I HAVE BEEN VERY, VERY, VERY BUSY. That is why there have been a lot of lapse in postings and updating the site. RC (as I like to call it) is solely operated by me and me only.

As we step into a new year, it is my hope and prayer that you would continue to support the brand and be patient with me. I am looking to refresh the site and format and really make this more interactive for you as readers. This will also become the home base for all of my media entities – print, radio, YouTube and hosting gigs. I am also producing some TV-Film-Web-based series! Yes, Ray Cornelius is currently working on a few film and TV projects. The more I interview actors, writers and directors, the more I realize the content is KING and I have a few stories in me that I’d like to share.

In closing, I wish each and every one of you all the very best this 2019 and let’s continue to grow together. THANK YOU for being patient and I look to forward to bringing you more of the best in “positive” arts and entertainment news, content and happenings.

Much Love,

Ray Cornelius

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Quincy Jones gets Hands and Feet Immortalized at Chinese Theatre [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Music icon Quincy Jones made history Tuesday (November 27) by becoming the first composer to have his hands and feet enshrined at the world famous TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

The 85-year-old legend was joined by his daughter Rashida Jones and a few of his close friends—Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Usher.

“Man…THIS is what you call family!! I can’t believe they all got up so early for me! ((:0))…Anyway, today was TRULY a special day, because I had the incredible honor of becoming the 1st composer to have his or her hand & footprints enshrined at The Chinese Theatre,” said Jones on his Instagram page.

Jones will be recognized for his illustrious career next Sunday, December 9 during a BET program titled Q85: A Musical Celebration for Quincy Jones. The all-star salute will feature performances from Stevie Wonder, Brian McKnight, Meghan Trainor, John Legend, Patti Austin, Gloria Estefan, Charlie Wilson, Ledisi, Gregory Porter, Gladys Knight, and others. It is also hosted by media maven and close friend—Oprah Winfrey.

Jones is also the subject a new documentary titled QUINCY,   which chronicles his rise to fame as a musical genius, composer, producer, arranger, record label manager and pop culture icon.

Q85: A Musical Celebration for Quincy Jones airs 12/9 at 8 p.m. on BET.

Photo Credits: Instagram/Quincy Jones

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Watch Trailer for ‘Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

HBO has released the trailer for Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland. It airs on Monday, December 3 at 10 p.m. EST.  Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland explores the death of Sandra Bland, a politically active 28-year-old African American who, after being arrested for a traffic violation, was found dead in her jail cell.

In 2015, Sandra was arrested for a traffic violation in a small Texas town. Three days later, She was found hanging from a noose in her jail cell. Though ruled a suicide, her death sparked allegations of racially-motivated police murder and Sandra became a poster child for activists nationwide, leaving millions to question, “What really happened to Sandra Bland?”

Ten days after Sandra’s death, filmmakers, Kate Davis and David Heilbroner began working closely with the family’s legal team, tracking the two-year battle between Sandra’s aggrieved family and Texas authorities. With disturbing, never-before-told details about the case, the film is punctuated by Sandra’s own passionate and moving commentary.

Approximately 30 “Sandy Speaks” video blogs, which Sandra created herself, allowed the filmmakers to get to know Sandra Bland in a deeply personal way. Via these videos, Sandy herself emerges as a central voice in Say Her Name — an empowered, enlightened woman of color whose sharp, humorous, charismatic remarks address subjects from educating kids about black history to police brutality to the importance of natural hair.

Say Her Name takes viewers deep inside a story that galvanized activists across the country.

Watch Below and tell us what you think…

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Regina Belle talks ‘UNSUNG,’ Music and More! (AUDIO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Grammy Award-winning songstress Regina Belle is the subject of Sunday night’s new episode of TV One’s UNSUNG. The accomplished singer-songwriter and overall music diva opens up about her greatest accomplishments as well as some hurdles that could have totally altered her life and career. However, Belle was able to move past her obstacles and continues to mesmerize audiences today with her undeniable talent and showmanship.

I interviewed her earlier this week for the “Black Music Month” segment of UPFRONT and had way too much fun. She took me down memory lane as she revealed the backstories to some of her most beloved songs: “All I Want is Forever,” “A Whole New World,” “If I Could” and her remake of the Phyllis Hyman classic, “You Know How to Love Me.”

Check out our full conversation below:

UNSUNG featuring Regina Belle airs Sunday night at 9 p.m. on TV One.

Photo Credits:

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Watch Official Trailer for ‘WHITNEY’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Miramax and Roadside Attractions have released the official trailer for the upcoming documentary WHITNEY. It arrives in theaters on July 6.

Whitney Houston broke more music industry records than any other female singer in history. With over 200 million album sales worldwide, she was the only artist to chart seven consecutive U.S. No. 1 singles. She also starred in several blockbuster movies before her brilliant career gave way to erratic behavior, scandals and death at age 48. The documentary feature Whitney is an intimate, unflinching portrait of Houston and her family that probes beyond familiar tabloid headlines and sheds new light on the spellbinding trajectory of Houston’s life. Using never-before-seen archival footage, exclusive demo recordings, rare performances, audio archives and original interviews with the people who knew her best, Oscar®-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald unravels the mystery behind “The Voice,” who thrilled millions even as she struggled to make peace with her own troubled past.

WHITNEY features commentary from her mother Cissy Houston, her Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner, music executive Clive Davis and former husband Bobby Brown.

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WABE 90.1’s Rose Scott hosts ‘We As A People’ Service for MLK [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out photos from Tuesday night’s We As A People ceremony presented by my sister in media Rose Scott and Atlanta’s NPR station WABE 90.1. The event took place at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights and yours truly was there to capture the sights and sounds of evening.

We As A People was part of Scott’s four-month long examination of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was the culminating event for ATL 68, which recognized the 50th Anniversary of King’s assassination and put a spotlight on individuals and organizations who are preserving Dr. King’s mission.

The honorees included the Honorable Leah Ward Sears (former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Goergia), Chelsea Jackson (Emory University Rhodes Scholar and Co-Founder of Atlanta Black Student United), Elisabeth and Afemo Omilami (Actors and Activists), Kim Bearden (The Ron Clark Academy), Dr. Tobe Johnson (iconic Morehouse College Professor), Kelli and C.J. Stewart (Founders of L.E.A.D Atlanta), Jonathan Rapping and Ilham Askia (Gideon’s Promise), Jim Wehner (Carver Neighborhood Market), Dr. Judith Wold (Healthcare Provider for Migrant Workers), Dr. Heval Kelli (cardiologist and advocate), Greg Smith (HIV/AIDS advocate) and K. Rashid Nuri (Founder of Truly Living Well). 

“Honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is extremely important to us. Rose Scott, and the “Closer Look,” team have worked hard to identify leaders in our local community that exemplify the characteristics of Dr. King. We highlight the work of these individuals to demonstrate the continued impact of Dr. King’s mission here in the city of Atlanta,” said Wonya Lucas, President and CEO of Public Broadcasting Atlanta.

Awards were given out throughout the ceremony by Scott and Lucas along with WABE’s Lois Reitzes of the arts and entertainment show City Lights. In addition, attendees were also treated to a powerful keynote address from Dr. Catherine Meeks, Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. She encouraged everyone to revisit Dr. King’s iconic “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” Soul music vocalist Rhonda Thomas closed out the evening with a beautiful rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” featuring guitarist Andre Avelino.

Rose Scott is the host of WABE’s Closer Look, a newsmagazine featuring the key stories of the day that are relevant to the Atlanta community. It features a mix of local national and international stories and interviews and provides an interactive space to share ideas and dig deeper into issues.

Check out more photos from We As A People below:


Honorable Leah Ward Sears

Chelsea Jackson

Dr. Tobe Johnson

Kim Bearden

Elisabeth + Afemo Omilami

Dr. Judith Wold

Kelli Stewart

Jim Wehner

Jonathan Rapping + Ilham Askia

Greg Smith

Friend accepting on behalf of K. Rashid Nuri 

Dr. Heval Kelli 

Rhonda Thomas + Andre Avelino

Rose Scott + Wonya Lucas + WABE staff

WABE’s Lois Reitzes

Rose Scott + Rhonda Thomas 

Photo Credits: