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UPFRONT talks to Cocoa Brown, Dionne Farris & GSU’s Rialto Center

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Don’t forget to check out Saturday’s edition of “UPFRONT” Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry. This week I’ll be talking to actress and comedienne Cocoa Brown. She dishes about starring in the OWN’s hit series “For Better or Worse” as well as her non-profit organization “Wigs of Love” and more.

img_3841Leslie Gordon, Executive Director of the Rialto Center for the Arts at GA State stops by with Georgia State Professor of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Studies, Gordon Vernick. Both chat about this year’s new season including their upcoming performances featuring Chucho Valdés & Joe Lovano, The Jazz Masters with Ramsey Lewis, Dianne Reeves and Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Dionne Farris is in the UPFRONT studios to discuss her new Prince inspired album, ‘Revelation.” We also chat about the 20th Anniversary of the movie “Love Jones” and her classic song “Hopeless” which appeared on the movie soundtrack. She also shares an encounter she had with Diana Ross that changed her life.

“UPFRONT” takes an in-depth look at Atlanta’s arts and entertainment scene including TV, film, theater, music and more. Each Saturday, the show features one-on-one interviews with all of the major players and the behind-the-scenes influencers that make Atlanta, the new Hollywood South.

Click here to check out our previous shows!

“UPFRONT” airs at 9 a.m. on Jazz 91.9 WCLK.

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‘For Better or Worse’ star Tasha Smith: “You can’t always believe what you read” (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Let Tasha Smith tell it, “she’s having an outstanding year.” The always fiesty and hilariously funny actress of the úberly popular Tyler Perry series, “For Better or Worse” recently addressed the Atlanta press about her show’s new season (which airs tonight at 9 p.m. on OWN). She also took the time to set the record straight about all of the drama between her and her now ex-husband, Keith Douglas.

If you recall, Douglas reportedly filed a restraining order last fall against Smith citing that the former model had anger management issues along with uncontrollable outbursts. He also accused her of being a lesbian and a heavy drinker. He also claimed that he feared for his life and Smith threatened to kill him on several occasions. Smith also allegedly filed an order against Douglas citing that he too had anger issues and she often feared for her life when he became upset. Despite the numerous claims, Smith says she is doing just fine and that you can’t always believe what you hear or read.

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“You can’t always believe what you read. Ok, but the truth is, I am divorced. That is the truth.” says Smith. “But all the other things…I mean hey…you know…”

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Smith went on to later explain that all of her life’s experiences, whether negative or positive, have helped her creativity and has made her a better actress and teacher for her acting camp, TSaw.

“You guys know about T Saw and that I teach acting and have for a very long time. I always say that your experiences sometimes become a blessing for your creativity. So we can always find ways to utilize the things that we go through in our personal lives and apply them to our art and just have a good time and create. Utilize all of it to be able to lift it into the art so it’s all a blessing.”

Smith also says that she will continue to appear on the #1 television show,”Empire” and will also star on the new season of “Power.”  Check out Smith along with her “For Better or Worse” cast in the trailer below as well as more photos from the press conference:

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Actors posing for camera


 Atlanta press

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 Michael Jai White chatted about not being social media savvy

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“For Better or Worse” actor Aiden Turner talked about transitioning from daytime soaps to prime time TV

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 Edwina Findley chatted about enjoying the social media interaction with fans

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Sneak Peek of Tyler Perry’s ‘Too Darn Hot’ Party w/Mary J. Blige and more (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

After you’ve gotten your “Have and Have Nots” fix for the week, make sure you stick around to watch Tyler Perry’s “Too Darn Hot Party.” The one-hour special airs TONIGHT at 10 p.m. EST on OWN.

The star-studded evening took place at Perry’s home celebrating the success of his historic programming partnership with Oprah Winfrey and to honor the talented and hardworking actors that bring all four of his popular television series to life week after week.

Too Darn Hot Party” offers an exclusive look behind the scenes of Perry’s celebratory affair. From the intense pre-event planning to candid moments with celebrity guest attendees (such as Oprah Winfrey) to a surprise performance by superstar Mary J. Blige, Tyler grants OWN’s cameras unprecedented access to document all of the festivities.

In addition, the special is full of surprises. A “superfan” is stunned by Tika Sumpter (Candace Young on “The Haves and the Have Nots”) with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the party. Also, magic occurs more than once during an after party “jam session” with Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Holliday.

The special also includes fan videos, memorable scenes and interviews with cast members from Tyler’s OWN shows, including “For Better or Worse,” “Love Thy Neighbor,” “The Haves and the Have Nots” and his newest drama, “If Loving You is Wrong,” as well as reflections by other celebrities, including Ava DuVernay, Iyanla Vanzant, Niecy Nash and Loretta Devine.

For a sneak peek (with embed code) of the special, please click on the link below:

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TV BUZZ…Boris & Nicole, Tyler Perry + Phylicia Rashad

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

One of my favorite acting couples is getting a new talk show, Tyler Perry’s expands his relationship with OWN and a Tony Award-winning actress is coming back to prime time. Here is the latest in TV Buzz…

Fox announced recently that acting duo, Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker will be hosting a new talk show on the network scheduled to premiere this July 6. “The Boris and Nicole Show” will feature the couple’s take on current affairs, parenting and marriage.  Also joining in on the conversation will be a host of their celebrity friends and invited guests. The show will test run in New York, Los Angeles and other markets yet to be announced. [Yahoo]

Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network has ordered additional episodes of all four of Tyler Perry’s shows: “The Have and the Have Nots” (23 episodes), “Love Thy Neighbor” (22 episodes), “If Loving You Is Wrong” (22 episodes) and “For Better or Worse” (20 episodes).  “Oprah Winfrey’s partnership with Tyler Perry has been a tremendous success, garnering millions of viewers for OWN and setting ratings records,” network president Erik Logan said in a statement. “Tyler’s original series have quickly become appointment viewing for a passionate audience and OWN is pleased to deliver 87 new episodes.” [Deadline]

Veteran actress and recent BET Honors recipient, Phylicia Rashad, is reportedly coming back to prime time in Ava DuVernay’s CBS drama, “For Justice.”  As previously reported, the series is based on James Patterson’s novel, “The Thomas Berryman Number.”  The new adaptation of the book follows a gay, female FBI agent, who works in the Criminal Section of the Department of Civil Rights Division and is caught between her family’s radical views and her professional family. [TV Line]

Stay tuned…

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Michael Jai White and Laila Ali attend NYC & ATL Premiers of Falcon Rising [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Action star and martial arts expert Michael Jai White and boxing champion Laila Ali hit the red carpet and participated in a moderated audience Q&A session following the premiere of their new film Falcon Rising  in select theaters nationwide.

Jai White and Ali shine in this in-your-face, action-packed thrill ride, which introduces new anti-hero John Chapman and also explores the serious topics of sex trafficking, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and challenges sometimes faced by military war veterans and their families.  Falcon Rising  is now available in living rooms everywhere, including iTunes, DISH network, DIRECTV and In-Demand.

Michael and Laila were joined by a few of their celebrity friends, including Jason Olive, Kent Faulcon, Brad James, Leon Robinson, and Richard Brooks.  Check out photos below from both premieres:


Laila Ali looking fabulous on the red carpet for the NYC Premiere for Falcon Rising

Jodine with Ali

 Laila Ali being interviewed by Jodine Dorce at NYC Premiere

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 Michael Jai White with friends Leon Robinson and Richard Brooks

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Jodine Dorce with Michael Jai White

Michael "Falcon Rising" Screening

 Michael Jai White and Brad James working the red carpet at ATL Premiere of Falcon Rising

"Falcon Rising" Screening

 Michael Jai White during ATL Q&A


Michael Jai White with For Better or Worse  co-stars Jason Olive, Kent Faulcon and Brad James

Photo credits: Frontpage Firm


OWN announces Darlene Love biopic starring Toni Braxton and more!

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey held her annual upfront Thursday at NYC’s Jazz at Lincoln Center.  During her presentation, she thanked her network collaborator Tyler Perry for his “crazy-ass shows” (The Have and the Have Nots, For Better or Worse, and Love Thy Neighbor) which have boost network programming and increased ratings.

Winfrey also announced that Grammy-winning singer, actress and reality-star Toni Braxton has been cast as the lead for OWN’s telepic based on the life of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Darlene Love.  According to Variety, this is the network’s first scripted biopic and is based on Love’s book, My Name is Darlene Love.

The legendary singer is best known for her groundbreaking work with Phil Spector and has performed alongside some of pop and rock’s biggest artists. Her life’s work was chronicled recently in the Oscar-winning documentary, Twenty Feet from Stardom.

“I identified with Darlene when I saw ‘Twenty Feet from Stardom.’ I fell in love,”  Braxton said. “I’m delighted and honored to play her. Her story is my story all over again.”

In addition to the biopic, OWN is kicking off a new season of Oprah’s Masterclass on May 11 with Justin Timberlake. Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer will star in a two-night miniseries, Tulsa.  Perry’s top-rated series, The Haves and the Have Nots  and the upcoming Single Mom’s Club have both received orders for 20-episodes.


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Tyler Perry’s ‘For Better or Worse’ returns to OWN!

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Tyler Perry’s popular comedy series, “For Better or Worse” is back for another round of laughs on OWN.

At the end of last season, Angela (NAACP Image Award nominated actress Tasha Smith) is convinced that her husband, Marcus (Michael Jai White), is having an affair; Richard (Kent Faulcon) and Keisha’s (Kiki Haynes) relationship is on the rocks and Leslie (Crystle Stewart) comes face-to-face with her stalker and is trapped without anyone knowing her whereabouts.  The new season opens with Leslie’s ex-boyfriend, Joseph (Jason Olive), frantically searching for her and fearing her life may be in danger.

Will Joseph save Leslie in time?

I guess we’ll have to find out on Wednesday, April 9 when the new season kicks off with back-to-back episodes beginning at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET.

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‘Marry Me For Christmas’ star Brad James talks ‘Favorite Things’ with RC…

Brad James/Photo Credit: Megan Alodie for

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Versatile television star Brad James is having the time of his life. The ex-marine turned actor has gone from serving his country to serving up laughs as a series regular on Tyler Perry’s comedy series For Better or Worse. You may also remember him as the “Walmart” guy having appeared in several commercials for the retail giant for the past two years.

However, it’s James’ next role in the UP original romantic comedy Marry Me for Christmas that finally features him as a leading man in a prime-time movie. The home-for-the-holiday drama stars James alongside veteran film and television actresses Malinda Williams and Victoria Rowell and airs tonight at 7 p.m. on UP.

As previously reported, Marry Me for Christmas  centers on Marcy (Malinda Williams), a career driven woman who goes home for the holidays and fakes a fiancé for her ailing mother (Victoria Rowell). While home, Marcy is confronted by her old flame, Blair as well as the unexpected lessons in love, trust and family. James plays Marcy’s co-worker and unsuspecting fiancé, Adam.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with James during the Atlanta preview of the film. Since the story takes place during the holiday season, I thought it was apropos to discuss James’ “favorite things” including his must have fashion item, his favorite city and his most beloved musical artist.  Check it out below:

What’s your favorite city?

Atlanta! That’s why I’m here. Las Vegas comes in a close second.


Photo Credit: Atlanta Skyline/

What’s your favorite book?

 Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  I’m really big on financial mental fitness. It really helped shaped the way I see finances.


 Photo Credit: Rich Dad, Poor Dad/

What’s your favorite movie of all time?

(LOL) Coming to America…nuff said!


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Who is that singer that puts you in the mood?

 Marvin Gaye…He’s a classic!


 Photo Credit: Marvin Gaye/

What is your must have fashion item this season?

My Galaxy Gear. It also serves as my watch.


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Who is your favorite actor? Who inspires you on the big screen?

Christian Bale, hands down…

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Here’s a fun one. Who’s your favorite cartoon?

SpongeBob Square Pants…for obvious reasons…


 Photo Credit: SpongeBob Square Pants/

Marry Me For Christmas  airs tonight at 7 p.m. on UP with encores at 9 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and on UPTV’s sister channel, ASPiRE on Sunday, December 15 at 8 p.m.

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Michael Jai White opens up about working with Tasha Smith, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Versatile actor Michael Jai White will have his fingers crossed tonight as his comedy series, For Better or Worse  debuts its 3rd season on a new home network, OWN.  This is a very bold step for the show, and both the network as well as White are hoping that the same success the show achieved with TBS will be the same if not surpassed under O’s watchful eye.

For Better or Worse,  is the last of the Tyler Perry’s projects that he has launched on the OWN network. So far, the marriage has been outstanding with the network achieving its highest numbers this year as a result of this summer’s night time drama, The Have and The Have Nots.  The comedy, Love Thy Neighbor  has also seen its share of success too.

Now the question is will “Marcus” and “Angela” receive the same love from OWNers?

I recently caught up with White, a  professionally trained martial arts champion, who’s enjoyed success on the big and small screen. We discussed a variety of topics including the new season and his relationship with co-star and former girlfriend (yes they dated for real) Tasha Smith. We also chopped it up about the valuable lessons he’s learned from his friend and director Tyler Perry. And finally, why working for Oprah Winfrey is sort of like déjà vu.

Check out the excerpts below:

On his chemistry with co-star Tasha Smith…

What we have is a chemistry that has existed since the time that we dated. The friendship is the most important part of any relationship and we still maintain a very strong one.  It’s a very unique bond that we have and at the end of the day, we really want what’s best for each other. So what people are seeing on screen is real.

On what he has learned from Tyler Perry…

Tyler’s time management skills are extraordinary and his work ethic is amazing. One thing I’ve learned is that I am really not that busy. As soon as I think I am, I could be busier. He told me to go for my dreams and not let grass grow under my feet.

On television roles being better than film roles…

Honestly, television has become better. It’s far better. If I start naming series, like Breaking Bad  or Boardwalk Empire,  there are no movies out there that even come close to these series. There is such an abundance of amazing television series out there. So any movie actor or any actor that wants to do good work is into television. There are more avenues now. You really get to act  [on TV] when movies have become so formulaic. There boring to watch and they’re boring to do. It’s become so corporate that it’s really killing the art form. The only place where they’re taking chances is television and cable.

On working with Oprah Winfrey…

I actually met Oprah several times while I was in college. I also had a chance to do security for her back in the day. She instantly felt like someone I had known all my life. She is just so cool and so generous and she still maintains the same personality now. So to be that guy who escorted/body guarded Oprah so many years ago and now to be working with her is pretty cool from my perspective. It’s really a full circle moment.

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For Better or Worse  airs tonight with double-episodes starting at 9 p.m. on OWN!

RC with Michael Jai White at the 2011 Bronze Lens Film Festival

Photo Credit: and



Written by | Ray Cornelius

Usher is having the BEST WEEK EVER!

The pop-singer just recently completed his New Look Foundation 3rd Annual World Leadership Conference in Atlanta.  The 2012 World Leadership Conference brought kids from around the Globe to Atlanta’s Emory University for three-days of education and empowerment.  The youth were trained in New Look’s four pillars: talent, education, career and service as well as up-close and personal interaction with celebrities, influencers, and newsmakers.

“New Look is about sending the next generation out in the world with the knowledge, experience, and empowerment they need to succeed,” said Usher Raymond IV.  “These kids inspired me every day, and our goal with the World Leadership Conference is to give back a little bit of that inspiration.”

Here are a few highlights from this week’s festivities…

Jim Vella, Pres. of Ford Motor Co. Fund along with

Rebecca Williams, Youth Global Leadership Award Winner and Usher

Former  NFL Player Michael Strahan encouraging  the youth to believe in themselves

and not to question if success was possible but when…

Usher congratulating Rebecca Williams, Youth Global Leadership Award Winner

Kudos to Usher for securing his fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart this week and for being amongst the honorees receiving  a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013.

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Bobbi Kristina gets a role on “For Better or Worse”

“For Better or Worse” will have a new but familiar face appear during its second season.

According to Madame Noir, show creator Tyler Perry has offered Bobbi Kristina a recurring role on the popular sitcom.  The budding actress will play the daughter of one of the hairstylists in the salon of Tasha Smith’s character, Angela.

Smith originated the role of Angela in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married” film.

Apparently Bobbi Kristina has been seen coming in and out of Perry’s Atlanta-based studios along with her “adopted” brother Nick Gordon and her aunt Pat Houston.  Break a leg Bobbi Kristina! Your mama would be proud.

“For Better or Worse” returns to TBS this July!


TP’s For Better or Worse gets 2nd Season on TBS

Congratulations are in order this week for Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse.  

 TBS has order 35 new episodes of the show starring Tasha Smith and Michael Jail White. It is ranked No. 1 among African Americans, earning 2.9M viewers during its premier in November.

TBS executive, Michael Wright says, “Tyler Perry shows have proven to be a popular draw for TBS and Friday Nights.”

Congratulations TP and cast