Tag Archives: Nicole Ari Parker

Telling Our Own Stories, Black People

Khalil Kain

Khalil Kain, late of the brilliant television show Girlfriends, has a fascinating interview on Ebony.com promoting his new role in the classic 1970s Negro Ensemble Company play, The Great MacDaddy.

I was struck most by this exchange:

EBONY: How do you feel about Black theater and Black film right now? Do you feel like it’s growing?

KK: What African-American film? What African-American theater? I just watched Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway and Daphne Rubin-Vega, Nicole Ari Parker, Wood Harris, these are people that I know personally, ripped it, it was all good. I love the production, but it’s still Tennessee Williams. It’s still not ours.  So now, as opposed to Blackface, it’s Black folks up there doing White work. And I love the opportunity to kind of do a classic piece like that, but at the same time there is a whole bunch of stuff that we already have. Can we do some of that? Paul Carter Harrison is the man. He’s one of those old heads that we have to tap into, because he has so much knowledge. That’s one of the reasons I took the job; the chance to sit next to the man and get up in his head for a little bit and see what I can take away. That’s how it use to go down. We use to learn from our elders, and we don’t do that anymore. I think it’s a huge mistake.

EBONY: Why do you think everybody should go see The Great MacDaddy?

KK: The play is hugely relevant and its part of African-American history. I don’t want to even get into culture because, really, what is our culture as African-Americans? This young man I met in the street, probably in his late 20s, asked me, “So you’re doing plays? Why you doing plays?” And I’m like, “You need to come check it out.” He’s like, “Why would I go?” And I was like, “To get some culture up in you! What does culture mean to you?” He was like, “Culture is annoying.” I was like, “Wow, how do you define where you come from?” He was like, “I know who I am.” I didn’t want to ask. I was just like, “alright bro.” That’s where we’re at now.

I think what Kain is getting at here is really quite remarkable because I don’t feel like we hear enough Black artists articulating forthrightly – Paul Carter Harrison is the man – that to do our own shit is valuable in and of itself. And that we lose something when we don’t. Continue reading

My 11 Favorite Television Characters of All Time

The folks over at AfterElton.com are doing a really fun rundown of their favorite television characters of all time (no Kanye).

So I figured, why not make my own list? So I did.

Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading

Can a Brotha Get Some Extras?

Have y’all noticed that for black television shows, the production companies skimp on the extras?

 

874~Soul-Food-Posters

 

It seems to me that with shows like The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Soul Food, which are watershed productions for African-Americans in terms of casting, writing, directing and story, that the production companies might want to let the creative minds behind the shows talk about how they were produced.

Even shows that didn’t last very long like Arrested Development give you tons of extras.

But not for black shows.

I noticed this when I was watching Girlfriends on DVD, which is probably one of the best black shows ever produced and has more extras about the show’s conception and production than any other black show. On the Season 3 set, there is a special that talks about shooting the two-part finale, which was Toni’s wedding to Todd.

I was struck by how much Mara Brock Akil had really thought out the direction of that season of Girlfriends. How detailed her vision of each of the girls is.  How the show speaks to her thoughts and feelings as a black woman.  How she truly wanted to push the boundaries of comedy by embracing more and more dramatic elements.

After watching this piece, I became aware that Girlfriends is the only black show on DVD that gives its producers a platform on the DVD to talk about the creative process in a way we see all up and through white productions.  It was interesting to hear about the original vision of the show (Joan was originally dark-skinned and Lynn was supposed to just be a black girl who could pass, not biracial) and how it was developed.

It only makes watching the show that much richer.

We just don’t get this kind of treatment en masse and it’s kind of annoying. I suspect that Girlfriends gets better treatment because it’s a relatively newer show and because Kelsey Grammar is fine with the expense.

But for shows like The Cosby Show, and A Different World, what you get are pre-packaged retrospectives that ran on TV years ago. These are more about the shows’ impact on America – which is very important — but don’t talk in any real detail about production.  There are no behind the scenes, no outtakes, no commentaries. Almost nothing.

Soul Food fairs worse.  All four seasons have been released and there is not a single extra to be found.  As the longest running black drama ever on television, it deserved more than just the episodes.

It would just be nice to know how Soul Food became a television show. I’d kill to see screen tests for Rockmond and Nicole Ari Parker, who both dominated the show with fine dramatic acting every episode.  I’d like outtakes. I’d like to know how shows were scripted.  Where was the show shot?  How the hell did Darrin Hensen get cast as Lem?

I think it’d be great to listen to Tempest and Keshia reflect on all them Rudy/Vanessa fights.  Or Malcolm reminiscing about shooting the ear piercing episode.  Can Lisa talk about her wardrobe? Outtakes.  Something.

How do Marisa and Lisa feel about that first season of A Different World?  Where is Charnele Brown (Kim) and Ajai Sanders (Gina)?

How did they cast Living Single?

These are the kinds of things that might entice black folks (and others) to plop down the dolo for black television on DVD.  It’s also just interesting.

Most black shows were tentpole productions that defined a generation and built networks.  It’d be interesting to hear how they got made.

For seminal shows like The Cosby Show and A Different World, we don’t even get the broadcast versions, but versions trimmed for syndication.

I’d be willing to bet that the production companies would say that they can’t justify the expense because they can’t guarantee that black folks will plop down the $40 for a season of Living Single or Martin.  And I don’t think they’d be wrong.  It just seems shortsighted.

So as usual, it becomes a vicious cyle.  Companies sell inferior product.  Black folks don’t buy it.  Companies continue to sell inferior product because black folks don’t buy enough to justify production expense.

It sucks.