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Miss Lawrence added to Lee Daniels’ ‘The United States Vs. Billie Holiday’ (VIDEO)

Photo Credit: Lee Daniels/Instagram

Lee Daniels is adding more star power to his upcoming film The United States Vs. Billie Holiday. Snowfall actor Melvin Gregg and Miss Lawrence formerly of STAR have been added to film which features Grammy-nominated singer Andra Day as the jazz and music icon.

According to DEADLINE, The United States Vs. Billie Holiday follows Holiday’s career as she was targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. It will explore Holiday’s struggles with addiction, fame and heartbreaking love. Gregg will play Joe Guy, a famed trumpet player in Billie’s band, and one of her lovers, who is battling drug addiction at the height of Holiday’s reign. Miss Lawrence will portray Miss Freddy, Billie’s stylist.

The film also stars Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund, Natasha Lyonne, and Evan Ross, whose mother Diana Ross earned an Oscar-nomination for her portrayal of Ms. Holiday in the Motown classic film Lady Sings the Blues.

Check out Andra Day’s performance of the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit” below:

PHOTO CREDITS: Lee Danies and RayCornelius.com

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UPDATE: Lee Daniels + Karin Gist to redevelop Fox Drama ‘Our Kind of People’

Former STAR showrunner Karin Gist is teaming up with Lee Daniels again for a new FOX drama based on Lawrence Otis Graham‘s book Our Kind of People.

In 2017, we reported that FOX was working with Empire produce Wendy Calhoun on a scripted series about “a multi-generational family dynasty from Chicago whose dark secrets threaten to rip it apart.”

Now Gist and Daniels are redeveloping the project with a new storyline:

Single mom Angela Vaughn risks it all and moves her family to Martha’s Vineyard with hopes of taking her natural hair care line to the next level by infiltrating the African American elite in Oak Bluffs.  But she soon discovers a secret about her past that just might change her position and shake up her life and this influential community forever.

Gist is serving as the writer and executive producer along with Daniels.

Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class focuses on the Black bourgeoisie and their obsession with race, class and culture. Graham interviewed several high-profile families from Washington D.C., New York, New Orleans and Atlanta as well as members of prominent organizations like The Links, Jack and Jill of America + Black Greek-lettered organizations like the Alphas, AKA’s and Delta’s. He also discusses the infamous Brown Paper Bag and Straight Hair Ruler tests.

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

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Lee Daniels to produce new Teddy Pendergrass Biopic starring Tyrese Gibson (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Tyrese Gibson and Lee Daniels are teaming up for a new biopic on platinum selling R&B superstar—Teddy Pendergrass.

According to S&A, Daniels will produce the Warner Bros. project and Gibson will portray the crooner, who was the first African-American entertainer to have five consecutive platinum albums. He was also known as the “black Elvis.”

“I am honored to take this journey… this is the role that I feel I was born to play,” Gibson said. “Teddy Pendergrass embraced me and before he passed put the responsibility on my shoulders to tell his story. Being here in this time and in this space and moment with Lee Daniels, Donald De Line, Little Marvin and Warner Bros is an answered prayer. Teddy, I just hope we make you, your wife and family proud… Here we go!!”

Teddy Pendergrass was one of the biggest music stars of the 1970s. He started out as the lead singer for the Philadelphia based-group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. He went on to solo success in the mid 70s and ruled the charts with such sexy tunes as “Come Go With Me,” Close the Door,” “Turn Off the Lights,” “Love T.K.O,” and my personal favorite “When Somebody Loves You Back.” He was also known for his “women only” concerts and was one of the first male celebrities to have a fashion line for women and an endorsement deal with Schlitz Malt Liquor.

In 1982, Pendergrass was involved in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He passed away from colon cancer at age 59.

I highly, highly recommend watching Showtime’s recent documentary about Pendergrass titled If You Don’t Know Me.

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

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com and The Northern Echo

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Watch KeKe Palmer in Lee Daniels’ ‘PIMP’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

KeKe Palmer leads an all-star cast in Lee Daniels‘ new drama PIMP.

Born into the Pimp Game, a struggling female Pimp, Wednesday (Palmer), hustles for a chance at a better life. When her girlfriend, Nikki (Haley Ramm), hits the streets to change their luck, Wednesday’s game starts to rise and so do her stable of girls. On her epic journey of survival of the fittest, Wednesday comes face to face with a male Pimp (Edi Gathegi) who plays a much more dangerous game. In a ferocious battle for street power Wednesday fights to survive, risking her dream of ever getting out.

PIMP also stars Aunjanue Ellis, Vanessa Morgan, Mike E. Winfield and DMX.

Watch the trailer below and tell us what you think…

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Lee Daniels wants to direct Andra Day in a Billie Holiday biopic?

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

VARIETY is reporting that Lee Daniels would like to direct a new film about beloved jazz icon Billie Holiday and wants singer Andra Day as his leading lady.

The creator of Empire and STAR is reportedly in talks to direct a project titled—Billie—and wants to pair the “Rise Up” vocalist with Get Out star and Atlanta actor Lakeith Stanfield.

Daniels would team up with Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Top Dog/Underdog) as the writer along with Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum as producers.

Music legend Diana Ross portrayed Holiday in the iconic 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues along with Billy Dee Williams. Her performance earned her critical acclaim as an actress along with an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award.

Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald portrayed the singer on Broadway and for HBO in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.

Day performed her version of Holiday’s classic “Strange Fruit” last year during the Global Citizen Festival.

While I do have a lot of questions about this project, I am more than confident that Day would pour her heart and soul into this role and of course the music. She received a standing ovation recently following her performance of “I Put a Spell on You” during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction of Nina Simone. She could very well be that singer who introduces Ms. Holiday to a new generation of fans.

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

In the meantime, check out Ms. Ross’ performance of Holiday’s classic, “My Man.”

Photo Credit: RayCornelius.com

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Alfre Woodard to play Taraji P. Henson’s mother on ‘Empire’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Award winning actress Alfre Woodard has been tapped to play Taraji P. Henson‘s mother in the popular Fox series, EMPIRE. Henson posted the exciting news on her Instagram page on Friday evening featuring a photo of her with Woodard.

“Meet #Cookie ‘s momma!!!! Wooooohooooo I Love working with this woman!!!! Who remembers the movie Queen #AlfreWoodard first played my mother in?!?! 💋💋💋 #Repost @empirefox,” said Henson.

Henson hinted a few years ago that she wanted Motown singing legend Diana Ross to play her mother and Ross’ Lady Sings the Blues/Mahogany co-star Billy Dee Williams to play her father.

This is the second time Henson and Woodard have played mother and daughter. The two appeared together in Tyler Perry’s The Family that Preys.

EMPIRE returns to Fox on March 28.

Stay tuned…

Photo Credit: Instagram/Taraji P. Henson

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First Look at Nicole Ari Parker on Fox’s ‘EMPIRE’ [PHOTO]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Lee Daniels‘ is adding more star power to his Fox series “EMPIRE.” Award-winning TV, film and stage actress Nicole Ari Parker will have a recurring role opposite Forest Whitaker.

According to BF, Parker will star as Giselle Barker, the fabulous ex-wife of Eddie Barker, played by Whitaker. She will debut during Wednesday night’s mid-season finale, “Slave to Memory.”

Season 4 has seen Lucious (Terrence Howard) battling to regain his physical and mental faculties after the explosion and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) with her own challenges, revisiting her traumatic 17 years in prison in a series of flashbacks. With Lucious coming back, Eddie is concluding his tenure at Empire but when one never knows if he can easily let go of the power he just received.

Parker most recently starred in TV One’s original movie, “Downsized” as well as ABC’s “Time After Time.” Look for her to also appear in the upcoming film “Headshop” starring Evan Ross, Loretta Devine, Deon Cole, Marla Gibbs, Kimberly Elise and Michael Jai White.

Photo Credits: Fox

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Empire’s Grace Byers applauds her husband Trai Byers for explosive episode (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

“Empire” starlet Grace Byers congratulated her husband and co-star Trai Byers on social media this week for acting his ass off in this week’s emotional episode.  Like many of you, I was in disbelief when it was revealed that Byer’s character—Andre—and his relationship with Teyonah Parris‘ character—Pamela Rose—was a figment of his imagination and never existed at all. It was a definitely plot twist I never saw coming and had me completely captivated and devastated at the same time. It’s just one of the many scenes Lee Daniels has used on the popular series to bring about the awareness of mental illness in the Black community.

Lee or Trai deserve an Emmy or Golden Globe Award this season for that amazing performance/episode.  Check out “The Reconstruction of Pamela Rose” below and don’t forget to tune into “Empire” this Wednesday at 8 p.m. on FOX.

Photo Credits: Instagram/Trai Byers and LadyGraceByers

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Patti LaBelle releases Holiday CD + Performing at MACY’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

GRAMMY® Award-winner Patti LaBelle will be spreading some holiday cheer during Thursday morning’s highly anticipated MACY’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The music legend is scheduled to perform songs from her new Christmas album, Patti LaBelle and Friends – Home for the Holidays. It drops this Friday, November 24.

Patti LaBelle and Friends – Home for the Holidays showcases Miss Patti along with some amazing collaborators like Vivian Green (“My Favorite Things”), Ruben Studdard (“Let It Snow”), Tamela Mann (“Jesus King!”) and piano virtuoso, Jamar Jones (“Brazilian Sleigh Bells”).  In addition to the album, Miss Patti’s popular cooking show, “Patti LaBelle’s Place,” will premiere its second season on the Cooking Channel beginning Sunday, November 26.

She will also have a recurring role on Lee Daniels‘ Fox series “Star” as Queen Latifah’s mother, Christine. Look for her and Brandy Norwood this spring.

Check out the track list below for Patti LaBelle and Friends:

  1. My Favorite Things – Jamar Jones featuring Vivian Green
  2. Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day – Patti LaBelle
  3. Presence With Me – Ruben Studdard
  4. Maybe Next Year – Vivian Green
  5. Mary Did You Know? – Patti LaBelle
  6. Let It Snow – Ruben Studdard
  7. Brazilian Sleigh Bells – Jamar Jones
  8. The Christmas Song – Vivian Green
  9. O What A Night – Jamar Jones
  10.  Christmas Time Is Here – Jamar Jones, Patti LaBelle & Friends
  11. Grown Up Christmas List – Patti LaBelle
  12.  Jesus King! – Patti LaBelle and Tamela Mann
  13.  Avé Maria – Ruben Studdard
  14. Brahms Lullaby – Patti LaBelle
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Patti LaBelle and Brandy added to Lee Daniels’ ‘STAR’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Lee Daniels is adding more big names to his FOX series “STAR.” Music legend Patti LaBelle and 90s music icon Brandy will both have recurring roles on the show and will be introduced in the second half of season two when it returns in 2018.

According to S&A, Miss LaBelle will play Carlotta Brown’s (Queen Latifah) tough but loving mother, Christine while Brandy will play her young sister, Cassie.

This season has already featured a number of other big names singer/actors including KeKe Palmer, Evan Ross, Luke James and Elijah Kelley.

“STAR” follows three determined young singers who will risk it all to become musical superstars and is based on the 80s Broadway musical, “Dreamgirls.” Their journey takes place in Atlanta, GA where they find themselves navigating through the city’s cut-throat music industry. The “STAR” trio includes Jude DeMorestBrittany O’Grady and Ryan Destiny.

Supporting the ladies in their pursuit of fame is Amiyah Scott, Luke James and Quincy Brown. The series also features Benjamin Bratt, Miss Lawrence and Michael Michele. Can’t wait to see what these two divas bring to the show!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com
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Keith Powers, Ryan Destiny and Luke James @Clark Atlanta University [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Actors from “The New Edition Story” and Lee Daniels‘ “Star” dropped by Clark Atlanta University Thursday afternoon to speak to a classroom of aspiring theater students. The intimate conversation was presented by Farrinheit411 and was part of CAU’s weeklong Homecoming activities.

Keith Powers, Ryan Destiny and Luke James were greeting by high-pitched screams and a thunderous applause as they entered the Mass Media Arts Black Box Theater. The triple threat performers talked candidly about their roles, their time on set and in between projects and their newfound fame.

Powers and James both appeared in this year’s highly anticipated BET biopic about iconic R&B supergroup New Edition. They both talked about meeting each other on set and how quickly they formed a fraternal bond with the rest of the cast members. Powers portrayed Ronnie DeVoe while James starred as Johnny Gill.

Destiny is one of the three main actresses on Lee Daniels’ hit Fox series “Star.” The show, which is now in its second season, features her along with Jude Demorest and Brittany O’Grady as a trio of singers trying to make it in Atlanta’s cutthroat music industry. Destiny plays Alexandra “Alex” Crane, a wealthy 19-year-old singer-songwriter who grew up in the shadows of her famous rock star father played by Lenny Kravitz and her prime & proper mother played by supermodel—Naomi Campbell.

In addition to the students asking questions, they also shared with the actors their personal aspirations and how attending an HBCU (Historal Black College and University) has brought them closer to their goals and dreams.

Check out a few more pics below:

Ryan Destiny and Keith Powers 

Keith Powers talking to the students about starring in “The New Edition Story”

Keith Powers began his career as a model

Ryan Destiny

Luke James 

Luke James and Keith Powers 

CAU students sharing their experience at an HBCU

Keith Powers, Ryan Destiny, Farrinheit411, Eric Little and Luke James 

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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Lee Daniels working on new series about Black women journalists

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Award-winning producer and director Lee Daniels is working on a new series about journalism. According to the ESSENCE podcast “Yes, Girl!,” Daniels want to shed some light on the world of media from a black woman’s perspective.

“I’m so misunderstood and it drives me batshit,” he told ESSENCE. “So let me just take a moment to flip the table. It’s [the series] about black journalism, women in journalism.”

No word yet on who may star in the show or the show’s synopsis as Daniels remained silent on those details.  RC will keep you posted as this story continues to develop.

Who would you like to see in a Lee Daniels’ drama?

Photo Credit: Xboxonezon.com

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Viola Davis, Common, Omari Hardwick & Lee Daniels to present during ‘BET’s ABFF Honors’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

BET has announced that Oscar nominated “Fences” star Viola Davis will be in good company as a presenter during the “American Black Film Festival Honors.” She will be joined by award winning-director Lee Daniels, Oscar winning-hip hop star Common and beloved actors Morris Chestnut and Omari Hardwick during tonight’s taping of the show. Also scheduled to appear are singers Maxwell and Dionne Farris, who I imagine will be performing songs from the “Love Jones” soundtrack since the film turns 20-years-old this year (Yes, it’s been 20 years!)

As previously reported, the “BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors” is being taped in Los Angeles and will celebrate Black culture by honoring individuals, movies and television shows that have had a significant impact on American entertainment.

This year’s honorees include two-time Oscar winning actor and screen icon Denzel Washington with the “Hollywood Legacy Award;” writer, producer and actress Issa Rae with the “Rising Star Award,” film director and producer F. Gary Gray with the “Excellence in the Arts Award” and actor and singer, Terrence Howard with the “Excellence in the Arts Award.”

The show is hosted by actress and director Regina Hall and will include other appearances by Jay Ellis (Insecure, The Game), Kofi Siriboe (Queen Sugar), Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse, Straight Outta Compton) and Kylie Bunbury (Pitch).

“BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors” is executive produced by ABFF Ventures founder Jeff Friday, Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones for de Passe Jones Entertainment, Jesse Collins for Jesse Collins Entertainment, and Connie Orlando, Stephen G. Hill and Debra Lee for BET Networks.

“BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors” airs on BET and Centric on Wednesday, February 22nd at 8:00PM ET.

Photo Credit: ABFFHonors.com

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AAFCA recognizes Sidney Poitier, ‘Moonlight,’ Lee Daniels & more! [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) held it’s 8th Annual AAFCA Awards Ceremony recently in Los Angeles and the event was nothing short of spectacular. A number of 2016’s top films were honored including “Moonlight,” “Fences,” “Loving,” and “Hidden Figures.” TV series like OWN’s “Queen Sugar” and FX’s “Atlanta” were also recognized as Top programs.

This year’s awards ceremony took place at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood, CA and was attended by a number of the honorees including Janelle Monáe (Breakout Performance, “Moonlight” “Hidden Fences”), Barry Jenkins (Best Director, “Moonlight”) and Lee Daniels (Cinema Vanguard Award). Screen legend Sidney Poitier was also recognized for the 50th Anniversary of his groundbreaking film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

A list of who’s who in film and television were also present including Nischelle Turner, John Singleton, Sanaa Lathan, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jovan Adepo, Joe Morton, Tommy DavidsonAnna Marie HorsfordDemetrius Shipp Jr., Laz Alonso, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Eva Marcille, Rhyon Nicole, Marcus Scribner, Kendrick Sampson, Neil Brown Jr., Lou Diamond Phillips, Karen Sharpe and Kat Kramer.

“Queen Sugar” cast members Dawn Lyen-Gardner, Timon Kyle Durrett, Omar J. Dorsey, Tina Lifford and Dondre Whitfield were also present to pick up their “Best TV Show Award” along with the cast of “Underground” Alano Miller, Aisha Hinds and show creator Misha Green.

“Our members had a plethora of outstanding movies, documentaries and TV shows to choose from this year,” says AAFCA Co-founder Shawn Edwards. “It was an exceptional year in terms of the quantity and quality of films about the black experience. And while this by no means solves the diversity issue in the film industry it was definitely refreshing to have such a wide-range of exceptional work to choose from to honor and celebrate with our approval.”

“2016 provided our membership with many great films to choose from,” says AAFCA President and Co-founder, Gil Robertson. “Every movie and TV show on our Top 10 Lists could have easily been number one. The number of incredible performances by black actors and actresses added to a very competitive field of performances and represents a step towards inclusion that our membership warmly embraces. We look forward to what 2017 has in store.”

See more pictures and a full list of winners below:

Lee Daniels 

Janelle Monáe

Barry Jenkins 

See the full list of winners below:

FILM
BEST PICTURE : MOONLIGHT – (A24)
BEST DIRECTOR: BARRY JENKINS, MOONLIGHT – (A24)
BEST ACTOR: DENZEL WASHINGTON, FENCES– (Paramount)
BEST ACTRESS: RUTH NEGA, LOVING – (Focus Features)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: MAHERSHALA ALI, MOONLIGHT – (A24)
BEST ENSEMBLE: THE Cast of HIDDEN FIGURES (20TH Century Fox)
BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE 2017 – Janelle Monae for MOONLIGHT AND HIDDEN FIGURES
BEST INDEPENEDENT FILM: “MOONLIGHT” (A24)
BEST ANIMATION FILM; ZOOTOPIA (Disney)
BEST SONG – “VICTORY” from HIDDEN FIGURES (20th Century Fox)
BEST DOCUMENTARY – 13 (Netflix)
BEST FOREIGN FILM – TANNA (Lightyear Entertainment)
BEST SCREENPLAY – AUGUST WILSON, FENCES – (Paramount)

TV
BEST TV SHOW (Drama) – QUEEN SUGAR – OWN
BEST TV SHOW (Comedy) – ATLANTA – FX
BEST TV SHOW (CABLE/NEW MEDIA – UNDERGROUND – WGN America
BEST TV SHOW (Special/Limited Series) – LEMONADE – HBO

AAFCA Top Ten Films of 2016 are as follows in order of distinction:

1.      MOONLIGHT – A24
2.     FENCES – Paramount
3.     HIDDEN FIGURES – 20th Century Fox
4.     LION – The Weinstein Company
5.     LALA LAND – Lionsgate
6.     BIRTH OF A NATION – Fox Searchlight
7.     LOVING – Focus Features
8.     MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Amazon Studios / Roadside Attractions
9.     HELL OR HIGH WATER – CBS Films
10.  QUEEN OF KATWE – Disney

AAFCA Top Ten TV shows of 2016 are as follows in order of distinction:

1.      QUEEN SUGAR – OWN
2.     UNDERGROUND – WGN America
3.     ATLANTA – FX
4.     INSECURE – HBO
5.     LUKE CAGE – NETFLIX
6.     THIS IS US – NBC
7.     BLACKISH – ABC
8.     THE GET DOWN – NETFLIX
9.     WESTWORLD – HBO
10.  SURVIVOR’S REMORSE – STARZ

Photo Credits: AAFCA