“When you hit a roadblock in this business, you can give up, but I learned a lot and made relationships through those attempts. I decided, if I was willing to invest my money to gamble on a project I didn’t own, why not spend that money on something I could control?”
— Bryan Barber, Director of “Idlewild,” courtesy of Shadow and Act.
Last Tuesday I caught two episodes of the new orignial BET series Reed Between The Lines. It looks pretty promising from what I’ve seen so far.
First, I like the emphasis on black love and the fact that Alex and Carla Reed (portrayed by Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Tracee Ellis Ross), are a married couple with a blended family. Sadly, there really aren’t too many images of African-American family life on television and I definitely applaud BET for giving us something other than mindless rap videos and sitcoms from 2002.
This show does have some remnants of The Cosbys in it, even beyond the fact that Malcolm Jamal-Warner is linked to both. The fact that Alex and Carla Reed represent a well educated black middle class couple (both hold jobs that would require a Master’s degree) is powerful indeed. He is a stay at home NYU professor and she a therapist who somehow manage to make time for each other while juggling three kids and everything else that comes between. Too often we rarely see successful black married couples on television, but this show at least attempts to portray something sorely lacking in today’s television landscape.
In the show’s second episode that premiered last week, it threw me for a bit of a loop, and I’m sure it did many viewers as well. The episode entitled, “Let’s Talk About Daddy’s Little Girl,” started with Carla and Alex’s daughter Alexis, being dropped home by a white camp counselor who said she didn’t get along well with the other kids. He even went so far to use the term ‘scary’ to describe their daughter. Naturally, I thought, “this dude just messed up bigtime.” As one would expect, Alex and Carla looked visibly upset and the familiar story pattern would be the white counselor showing some insensitivity toward their daughter based solely on her race. Only in this case, it was Alex and Carla who proved to be wrong with their own daughter. As they and the viewers would find out, Alexis’ bad behavior toward the other kids was not so much a result of her being unfairly picked out, as it was her being spoiled by her family and expecting people to wait on her hand and foot. In essence, the episode teaches that just because something may appear insensitive or mildly racist at first, that isn’t always the case and we have to be sure to look at all angles of a situation before jumping to conclusions.
Reed Between The Lines looks promising and I look forward to seeing how the shows and series progresses. The fact that Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Tracee Ross are both wearing their producer hats on this project shows that they have a vested interest in the types of characters, themes and story-lines that play out through the season. I’m definitely looking forward to this show.
It appears even the most prominent of black actors and actresses have a hard time getting recognized for their roles in TV and film. Such was the case last month for Taraji P. Henson of the new CBS show Person of Interest, who took her beef to Facebook and let the world know what was up:
“WOW!!!! TV Guide is NOT including me on the cover with my cast memebers……..I am the female lead of a 3 member cast and I’m not included on the cover!!!!!! Do you see the shit I have to deal with in this business…..I cram to understand!!!!”
We cram to understand too, Taraji. The fact that Taraji P. Henson has not been prominently featured in the ad campaign for this show is puzzling indeed. Clearly it can’t be her credentials. Afterall, Ms. Henson has been nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy. Also, as she notes, she is the lead female actress in a show that revolves around three people. Let’s take a look at some of the posters for Person of Interest.
Now while Taraji does appear in one of the posters, it’s worth noting that the middle poster is the one CBS chose to promote the most. Here are two versions of the trailer. The 1 minute trailer and the 30 second trailer that was shortened for TV purposes:
In the first trailer we get a ‘blink and you might miss her” glance at Taraji and in the second and shorter trailer Taraji is nowhere to be found. People of color being left out of promos is nothing knew, but the fact that it continues to happen -and to an Academy Award nominated actresses no less- is just a damn shame. I’ll have more on this topic in a future post.
A lil’ music break with a classic video.
46 years ago this month, the world said goodbye to Dorothy Dandridge.
Dorothy Dandridge is a name that is too often forgotten when it comes to women in the early days of Hollywood. Everyone has heard of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and the like. Well, Dandridge was every bit the onscreen presence these women were, but as a black actress in the 40s and 50s it was hard to get noticed and even harder to find consistent work. Hell, truth be told it’s still hard for women of color to find steady work in Hollywood and get recognized (see Taraji P. Henson).
What makes Dandridge so compelling is the fact that she wasn’t just an actress, but a singer as well. She was what you would call an all around entertainer. Perhaps best known for her work as Carmen in the movie ‘Carmen Jones,’ Dandridge was electrifying on screen and would even garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 1954. She didn’t win, but maybe more importantly, she proved she belonged.
Sadly, ‘Carmen Jones’ proved to be the high point of Dorothy’s career as she would spend the next decade with diminishing roles and increasingly high personal debt. The fact that she was even able to get prominent roles in Hollywood films could be seen as an accomplishment in itself considering the rampant racial discrimination of her era. Dandridge’s career might best be described in the last line of her biography on her IMDB page: “Had she been born 20 years later, Dorothy Dandridge would no doubt be one of the most well-known actresses in film history.”
To everyone who might see this and read this, I say thank you. I’m Warin. I’m a guy into film and specifically interested in how people of color are perceived through film and media in general. This blog will have a little of everything in it. Movie reviews, current events, flashback ground breakers, and what’s going on today. Let’s get educated together.