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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.

Thank You PLAYBILL!

PHOTO CREDIT: RAYCORNELIUS.COM

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Aretha Franklin Biopic is looking for a ‘young’ Aretha

Does your daughter, niece or little cousin have the pipes like a young Aretha Franklin? Well she may be in luck. The casting directors for the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic RESPECT are looking for a young darling to star opposite Jennifer Hudson.

According the website, the production is looking for an African American girl to play a charismatic child prodigy. The young actress will be playing between the ages of 10 to 14 and must sing well (a soaring gospel soprano to be exact). Playing the piano is plus but not a requirement.

As previously reported, RESPECT will follow the Queen of Soul from her humble beginnings as a singer in her father’s church to becoming one of the greatest voices of the 20th Century. RESPECT is being written by former Nashville creator Callie Khouri and is being directed by Liesl Tommy. Click here for audition information and good luck.

RESPECT debuts on August 14, 2020.

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Watch ‘CATS’ Trailer featuring Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba and Jason Derulo (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Universal has released the official trailer for the film adaptation of the iconic Broadway musical CATS. It stars Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift and Idris Elba.

CATS tells the story of a cat tribe called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as “the Jellicle choice” and decide which of them will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.  The show was composed by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber and is the fourth-longest-running musical in Broadway’s history.

Other famous famous faces behind those cat whiskers include Ian McKellenJames CordenJudi Dench and Jason Derulo.

Look for CATS to hit the big screen on December 20, 2019.

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UPDATE: Aretha Franklin’s biopic ‘Respect’ to debut August 14, 2020

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

S&A is reporting that the highly anticipated Aretha Franklin biopic RESPECT is set to debut on August 14, 2020. As previously reported, the film will follow the “Queen of Soul” from her humble beginnings as a singer in her father’s church to becoming one of the greatest voices of the 20th Century.

Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson will star as Franklin and was selected by her before she passed away. RESPECT is being written by former Nashville creator Callie Khouri and is being directed by Liesl Tommy.

“The story of Aretha Franklin’s journey from child prodigy in Detroit to international supernova is rife with struggle and triumph, making her life one of the great American stories of all time,” Tommy said in a statement in January. “As a filmmaker there is no greater gift than to be able to bring this transcendent chronicle of a woman’s fight for self-realization to visual life with the enormous talents of the soulful Jennifer Hudson, Callie Khouri, and our incredible producers.”

RC will keep you posted as this project continues to develop.

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Jennifer Hudson to star as ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin in biopic

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

CONGRATS to Grammy winning singer and Oscar winning actress Jennifer Hudson! She will be starring as the Queen of Soul—Aretha Franklin—in a forthcoming biopic.

According to DEADLINE, legendary music executive Clive Davis announced the big news during his highly anticipated Pre-Grammy Party last night in New York City. It came after Hudson performed two of Franklin’s biggest hit records “Think” and “Respect.” Hudson was reportedly hand-picked by Franklin to star as her in the film.

The project is currently being acquired and financed by MGM (WOW! that’s major) and will be produced by Straight Outta Compton‘s Scott Bernstein with music production from Harvey Mason Jr., who worked with Hudson on the 2006 smash hit “Dreamgirls.”

This announcement has been in the works for a number of years now. In 2012, we reported that J-Hud said that she would play the music legend “someday.” It was also reported that Ms. Franklin had a wish list of stars for the project including Nia Long as her older sister Erma, Kerry Washington as her younger sister Carolyn, Blair Underwood as her brother Cecil and Denzel Washington as her beloved father, Rev. Cecil Franklin and Terrence Howard as her neighbor and buddy, Smokey Robinson.

Acquiring this role will also allow Hudson “carte blanche” with Franklin’s catalogue of hits. This access would afford her opportunities to re-record these songs and use them in future concert and tours. I would liken that to what Diana Ross was able to do with Billie Holiday songs from “Lady Sings the Blues.” Man, I can’t wait for this one.

RC will keep you posted as this one continues to develop.

Photo Credit: VOGUE.com

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RC Exclusive - Music

Win 2 Tickets to ‘Hairspray Live!’ Atlanta Viewing Party

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Join me this Wednesday December 7th at 6:30 p.m. for the Official NBC Viewing Party for “Hairspray Live!”  The exclusive Atlanta event will take place at Actor’s Express and will feature food, fun and of course the live telecast of the show beginning at 8 p.m. EST.

Simply copy and paste the image below to your INSTAGRAM page and tag me: RayCornelius and your name will be placed in a drawing to win 2 tickets. The contest end on Wednesday, December 7 at 9:00 a.m. #GoodLuck

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In “Hairspray Live!” teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When against all odds Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”

“Hairspray Live!” features an all-star cast including Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Ephraim Sykes, Shahadi Wright Joseph and exciting newcomer Maddie Baillio.  The show is directed by Atlanta’s own—Kenny Leon.

Listen to what Leon told me during our “UPFRONT” Interview about “Hairspray Live!” and click here for more details about the viewing party!

https://youtu.be/7S0rGGs3v1k

Photo Credits: PEOPLE and Facebook/True Colors Theatre Company

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Ty Hunter & Raquel Smith host 2nd ‘Let’s Talk ATL’ Event [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Celebrated fashion stylists Ty Hunter and Raquel Smith hosted a 2nd “Let’s Talk” Networking Event over the weekend in Atlanta, GA. The intimate gathering took place at The Bailey Agency and featured the dynamic duo, who became overnight sensations as stylists for music and film superstar—Beyoncé. Their first Atlanta engagement, which took place in September, was such a huge success that they decided to come back and host another one.

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“Let’s Talk” is an opportunity for aspiring fashion stylists, designers, bloggers, writers and models to come together for inspiration, motivation and fellowship. During the three hour event Ty and Raquel revealed how they got started in the fashion industry, how they were able to establish themselves as reputable stylists and how they ultimately started working for Beyoncé. The also talked about their future business goals and personal endeavors. Following their discussion was a lively Q&A session where the audience was able to ask them about their careers, fashion styling techniques and brand building strategies.

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In addition to Ty and Raquel, attendees were also able to hear from three of their industry friends and how they broke into the business. That session included two makeup artists as well as noted celebrity hairstylist and wigmaster, Terrence Davison. He is best known for creating cutting edge looks for Trina, Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Hudson and Nicki Minaj. He is also the recent winner of the “Bronner Bros. Hair Battle” that aired last month on BET/Centric.

Atlanta celebrities in attendance included “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta” starlet Ariane Davis as well as Keshia Knight-Pulliam.

Check out more photos below from the event!

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Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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Recap

Meet the Cast of NBC’s ‘HAIRSPRAY LIVE!’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Check out this new behind-the-scenes video featuring the all-star cast of NBC’s “Hairspray Live!” The highly anticipated musical presentation airs on December 7 at 8 p.m. EST.

90-6As previously reported, “Hairspray Live!” features Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Ephraim Sykes, Shahadi Wright Joseph and exciting newcomer Maddie Baillio. There will also be special appearances by Sean Hayes, Andrea Martin and Rosie O’Donnell.

In “Hairspray Live!,” teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When against all odds Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”

“Hairspray Live!” will be directed by the legendary Alex Rudzinski alongside Tony-winning director Kenny Leon, who told me during our UPFRONT interview that viewers are in for a real treat. The show is executive produced by while Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

https://youtu.be/BiGWcnqWQc8

Photo Credits: NBC.com

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‘UPFRONT’ talks to Issa Rae, Joshua Rashaad McFadden & Kenny Leon (AUDIO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out today’s UPFRONT which featured Tony winning-director Kenny Leon, rising photographer and artist Joshua Rashaad McFadden and Issa Rae, star of HBO’s new comedy series, “Insecure.”

img_0405I was blessed to catch Mr. Leon before he headed to Los Angeles to direct NBC’s new live studio production of “Hairspray” with Jennifer Hudson. During the interview, he revealed that the Grammy-winning “Dreamgirl” is going to surprise her fans and provide the viewing audience with a performance we’ve never seen before. He also talked about his late friend actor Bill Nunn and rejoiced at Denzel Washington‘s take on the August Wilson classic “Fences,” which debuts on Christmas Day.

img_1386Joshua Rashaad McFadden talked about his new photography exhibition, “Come to Selfhood,” which explores Black male images, fatherhood, masculinity and what it means to be a Black man in 2016. During our conversation, he revealed that the project was inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin and his own coming-of-age at 25.

The multi-talented Issa Rae is starring in the new HBO comedy series “Insecure.”  The show airs tomorrow night at 10:30 p.m. and follows an African American woman who is trying to balance her career, friends and love life. The show is loosely based on Rae’s own experiences and on her hugely popular web series, “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.”  Click here to listen to the entire 34-minute show!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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RC Exclusive - Ent

‘Hairspray Live’ adds Ephraim Sykes and Shahadi Wright Joseph

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Congrats to Ephraim Sykes and Shahadi Wright Joseph!  The two have been added to the all-star cast of NBC’s highly anticipated production of “Hairspray Live!” Sykes and Joseph will play Seaweed J. Stubbs and Little Inez, respectively.

The pair will join the previously announced lineup of superstars including Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton and exciting newcomer Maddie Baillio. There will also be special appearances by Sean Hayes, Andrea Martin and Rosie O’Donnell.

Seaweed J. Stubbs is a hip and kind-hearted dancer who befriends Tracy in detention and teaches her some new moves. He is also the son of Motormouth Maybelle (Hudson) who falls in love with Tracy’s best friend, Penny (Grande).

Little Inez is Seaweed’s younger sister, who tries to audition for “The Corny Collins Show” but is at first turned away because she is African-American.

Sykes has been a member of the “Hamilton” company ever since the musical sensation, which recently won 11 Tony Awards, opened on Broadway in August 2015. Prior to his role in “Hamilton,” Sykes appeared in four other Broadway musicals — “Motown the Musical,” “Newsies,” “Memphis” and “The Little Mermaid.”

Wright Joseph is an American singer, actor and dancer who at age 9 made history as the youngest actor to play Young Nala in Disney’s Broadway production of “The Lion King.” In fall 2015 Wright Jones joined the original Broadway cast of “School of Rock,” playing the role of Madison and understudied the role of Tomika.

In “Hairspray Live!,” teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When against all odds Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”

Acclaimed live television director Alex Rudzinski will join Tony-winning director Kenny Leon. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron serve as executive producers of “Hairspray Live!”

Stay tuned…

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RC Exclusive - Music

Triple Threat Victor Jackson drops debut EP ‘Three Decades’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Congratulations to singer, dance choreographer and reality star Victor Jackson. He recently dropped his debut EP Three Decades. The R&B, gospel and soul music project features the songs “Layover,” “Legend” and “Best Thing” and were all written by Jackson.

He also teamed up with some of the music industry’s up-and-coming producers on the EP including The Gigabots, Kori James, Brandon A. Thomas and Anthem.

You may remember Jackson as Kandi Burruss‘ fierce choreographer on her short-lived Bravo reality series, “The Kandi Factory.” He’s also appeared on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Braxton Family Values.” Some of his other celebrity clients include Grammy winning-singer and Oscar winning-actress Jennifer Hudson, BET Award winner August Alsina and award winning-hip hop star Iggy Azalea.

Check out the full track list below for Three Decades and click here to listen:

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1. Bus of Love
produced by The Gigabots

2. Layover
produced by Brandon A. Thomas

3. Legend
produced by Anthem

4. Ready
produced by Kori James

5. Best Thing
produced by The Gigabots

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RC Exclusive - Music

Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Common, Taraji P. Henson, Maxwell and more appear in “23 Ways You…” (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Common, Taraji P. Henson, Maxwell, Kevin Hart, Jennifer Hudson, Rihanna, Lenny Kravitz and Chris Rock are just a few of the A-List celebrities who have lent their voices to a new video titled, “23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black In America.”

It was released earlier this week and features the 23 entertainers and the various reasons why African-American men and women have been violently killed by police officers in America over the last few years. It’s based on a list of the same name that was compiled and published by journalist Jamilah King.

“I decided to compile a list of all the seemingly mundane interactions with police that have led to high-profile black deaths. I did this to prove a point: There is a tax on black life in America, and we are better than this,” says King.

Check out her list and the video below: 

1. Selling CDs outside of a supermarket.

2. Selling cigarettes outside of a corner store.

3. Walking home with a friend.

4. Missing a front license plate.

5. Wearing a hoodie.

6. Riding a commuter train.

7. Holding a fake gun in a park in Ohio.

8. Holding a fake gun in a Walmart in Ohio.

9. Holding a fake gun in Virginia.

10. Holding a fake gun in Washington, D.C.

11. Calling for help after a car accident.

12. Driving with a broken brake light.

13. Attending a Bible study class.

14. Failing to signal a lane change.

15. Walking away from police.

16. Walking toward police.

17. Running to the bathroom in your apartment.

18. Walking up the stairwell of your apartment building.

19. Sitting in your car before your bachelor party.

20. Holding your wallet.

21. Making eye contact.

22. Attending a birthday party.

23. Laughing.

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RC Exclusive - Music

Ciara and Russell Wilson tie the knot!

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Congratulations goes to pop music star Ciara and NFL player Russell Wilson! The two got married Wednesday at Peckfordton Castle in Cheshire, England. The singer posted the above photo of her with her new husband and the caption: “We are the The Wilsons!”

According to ENews!, the happy couple were surrounded by close friends and family members when they jumped the broom. The blushing bride also wore a custom Roberto Cavalli dress, designed exclusively by the label’s creative director, Peter Dundas.

Special guests included one of Ciara’s besties, Jennifer Hudson, who looked radiant in a peach colored Christian Siriono dress with Josephine Baker styled fingerwaves.

Ciara and Russell started dating in April of 2015!

Stay tuned…

Photo Credit: Instagram/Ciara

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RC Exclusive - Music

YAY! Jennifer Hudson to star in NBC’s ‘Hairspray Live’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Congratulations to multi-award winner singer, actress, and Broadway star Jennifer Hudson. She along with the legendary Tony Award-winning actor Harvey Fierstein will headline NBC’s holiday production of “Hairspray Live”. The musical is a follow up to the network’s phenomenal success of “The Wiz Live!”

“We are beyond thrilled with this incredibly talented duo of stars for ‘Hairspray Live!,’” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. “Harvey Fierstein created the role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway in an indelible Tony-winning performance that demanded to be memorialized on film, and we’re happy he wanted to step into her shoes one last, unforgettable time. We’re also so grateful that the incomparable Jennifer Hudson will play Motormouth Maybelle and we know her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ will literally stop the show.”

Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Hairspray Live!” takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When, against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna Turnblad, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”

Kenny Leon is back on as this year’s director along with Alex Rudzinski.

Check out Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle below in the 2007 movie version singing the show stopping number, “I Know Where I’ve Been.”

NBC’s “Hairspray Live” airs Dec. 7th!

Photo Credit: Facebook/Jennifer Hudson