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My dearest and most delightful reader, ‘tis I, Lady Welpington of The Root, back with another roundup of Black entertainment happenings that I’m sure you’ll be most pleased to hear about. As we are by now well aware, the giant machine we all know as Hollywood doesn’t always invest in TV and film starring folks who look like us, and when they do, the word just doesn’t get out the way I should like it to. Due to that fact, I will try my hardest, dear reader, to keep you not only informed but intrigued about these upcoming shows and films, in the hopes that you will tune in when the appropriate time comes. This week, we have a handful of news from The House of Deadline, Variety Manor, and The Royal Hollywood Reporter. And I hear that there has also been some buzz about the ton of royal reboots and renewals.
So without further ado, let us make haste to the roundup. First things first: Let’s get things started with our Dazzling Diamonds of the Show. This is where we find our ladies of the telly and cinema who have secured new deals and new roles in upcoming series and films.
Dazzling Diamonds of the Show: Naomie Harris
Moonlight star Naomie Harris will be joining dashing diamond Chiwetel Ejiofor for a new Showtime series, The Man Who Fell From Earth. Per Variety Manor, the show, created by Lady Jenny Lumet (screenwriter for Star Trek: Discovery and creator of this season’s Clarice, in addition to being granddaughter of Dame Lena Horne), is based on the 1963 Walter Tevis novel and 1976 Nicolas Roeg film of the same name, the latter of which starred legendary artist David Bowie. In this made-for-TV adaptation, The Man Who Fell From Earth takes a look at “a new alien character (Ejiofor) who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution and must confront his own past to determine our future. Harris will play Justin Falls, a brilliant scientist and engineer who must conquer her own demons in the race to save two worlds.”
Production is scheduled to begin in London this spring will premiere some time in 2022.
The House of Deadline reports that Sherri Shepherd will be returning to ABC for a brand-new, multi-camera comedy pilot from writer and executive producer Regina Hicks. Viola Davis, her partner and husband Julius Tennon and Larry Wilmore have all been tapped to executive produce, with Shepherd producing as well.
Per a release provided to The Root, Black Don’t Crack is set to follow “three former sorority sisters who lost touch after college reunite during a pivotal point in their lives. They realize sometimes it’s okay to crack and when you do, no one will be there for you like your friends. Shepherd will play Angela Wright, a native New Yorker somewhere between 45 and death, but it’s hard to tell because ‘black don’t crack.’ She’s a single mom who put aside her musical dreams to raise her son after her husband died. She’s been holding it down alone for years, taking care of her family instead of herself. When she is confronted with a personal crisis, she reunites with her sorority sisters to recapture the passion, ambition and sisterhood of their college glory days.”
As of now, there is no word on a potential premiere date but when we know, dear reader, so will you.
Raven’s Home star and former The View co-host Raven Symoné has been tapped to host a new, one-hour pilot from HGTV, What Not to Design.
The House of Deadline revealed that the show, a design spinoff of What Not to Wear, will see Raven and her team of experts, designer Nina Ferrer from HGTV’s Design Star and craftsman James Worsham as they “lead a style intervention to overhaul home design disasters. From homes with outdated, over-the-top decor to ones with out-of-control memorabilia collections, the houses—and the owners—are in for a major change. Raven-Symoné and her team will meet with homeowners and will survey what items to keep, toss and sell online to maximize the budget before the rooms are given complete makeovers.”
“Style mistakes are not confined to clothing,” Raven-Symoné explained in a statement. “Bad design prevents people from living well and truly enjoying their homes. We’re going to give families a clean slate and show them how to style their new space and apply the ‘to-do’ and ‘not-to-do’ list to the rest of the house.”
Maya Rudolph will stepping into her billionaire bag for an upcoming series on Apple TV+. Per The House of Deadline, the untitled half-hour comedy will see Rudolph in the role of “Molly,” a woman whose picture-perfect life gets flipped upside down when her husband decides to leave her with nothing but 87 billion dollars. Gasp! Though there’s very little we know about when we can expect to see this show, I should like to think that both hilarity and lewks will be served once it airs. Additionally, if you can’t wait and would like to get your Maya Rudolph fix in early—be sure to catch this weekend’s Saturday Night Live, airing March 27 at 11:30p.m. ET.
Kaci Walfall x Ava DuVernay’s Naomi
Back in February, we told you the CW had finally given a pilot order to the upcoming DC Comics series Naomi, written and executive produced by Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship. Now it seems like they’ve finally found their star.
Per a press release sent to The Root, Kaci Walfall has been tapped to play Naomi—“an effortlessly cool and confident high school student who is the adopted daughter of doting parents. Popular with all the kids in her military town, Naomi is unafraid to embrace her AP-student, comic book-loving nerdiness. After a supernatural event leads to the discovery of her powers within, Naomi pursues her hidden destiny.” ARRAY Networks and Warner Bros. Television will produce the series.
Additionally, Variety Manor reports that the CW has also tapped Erica Watson to direct the reboot of The 4400, which tells the story of “4400 overlooked, undervalued, or otherwise marginalized people who vanished without a trace over the last hundred years are all returned in an instant, having not aged a day and with no memory of what happened to them. As the government races to analyze the potential threat and contain the story, the 4400 themselves must grapple with the fact that they’ve been returned with a few…upgrades, and the increasing likelihood that they were all brought back now for a specific reason.”
There is still no word yet on a potential premiere date.
Janine Sherman Barrios
According to a press release sent to The Root, acclaimed writer, producer and Claws showrunner Janine Sherman Barrios will be bringing a brand new series to the OWN Network soon: The Kings of Napa. The series, created and executive produced by Barrios comes under her exclusive multi-year overall deal with Warner Bros. Television. Love Is__ producer Michelle Listenbee Brown has also been tapped to executive produce as well.
Per official synopsis, “The Kings of Napa is focused on a gorgeous and picturesque Napa Valley, California, vineyard owned by the Kings, an aspirational African American family whose wealth and status lands them on the pages of design magazines and society pages. The wine business h as brought the family success and acclaim, but following the patriarch’s sudden exit from the company, his three children must grapple for the reigns to the kingdom — to their own power, wealth and legacy.”
Academy Award-winning director and dashing diamond Matthew A. Cherry has been tapped to direct the first two episodes.
Tiffany Haddish will be getting her acting and producing on in an upcoming feature adaptation for Netflix. Titled Mystery Girl, Haddish will produce under her She Ready Productions banner and will take on the lead role as “Trine.”
Per The House of Deadline, Mystery Girl will follow Trine “who, living off the grid in Los Angeles as a street psychic, has no memory of who she is or where she came from but is guided by an omniscient voice in her head that knows everyone’s business and everyone’s darkest secrets. When a down on his luck LAPD officer, Cooper, seeks out Trine in hopes that she’ll help him crack a case, the two are framed for murder and must work together to clear their names and solve the ultimate mystery: the one behind Mystery Girl herself.”
Haddish recently won her second Grammy just last week, taking home the award for Best Comedy Album for Black Mitzvah.
Insecure writer Syreeta Singleton has landed an overall deal with HBO and HBO Max, The House of Deadline confirms. Under this one-year agreement, she’ll be developing all new projects and showrunning the upcoming comedy series Rap Sh*t, created by Issa Rae and executive produced by The City Girls’ Yung Miami and JT. Rap Sh*t, which has already been given an eight-episode order from the network, will tell the story of “two estranged high school friends from Miami who reunite to form a rap group.”
Casting is currently underway with production slated to begin summer 2021.
Munirah Safiyah Jones x The Mound
The Oprah Winfrey Network is developing its first animated comedy series with the help of creator Munirah Safiyah Jones, I, Lady Welpington of The Root, have learned. Per a press release, The Mound will be centered around “the Orange Mound neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee in the 1980s—the first Black neighborhood in American history built by and for Black people. It will follows the lives of Duke and Naomi Wiley-King as they balance marriage, family, and careers with the more pressing community issues of salon gossip, bougie aunties, suspect potato salad, and aerobicized colonizers.”
“The Mound is about community. It’s about showing up, despite personal or interpersonal issues, for the good of the whole even when your neighbor keeps blocking your driveway.” Jones said in a statement. “This show is for the men and women who built Orange Mound from the ground up and who deserve a joyful, relatable, hilarious portrayal of the community they love.”
Jones and HARPO Films will executive produce.
Bukky Bakray, who’s currently up for the Leading Actress Award at this year’s BAFTAs, is set to star in a new drama from BBC One and Netflix titled You Don’t Know Me. As told via Variety Manor, the series is an adaptation of Imran Mahmood’s bestselling novel and will be written by Tom Edge, with filming already underway. You Don’t Know Me tells the tale of “a young man named Hero who, with overwhelming evidence against him, stands accused of murder. At his trial, Hero tells an extraordinary story about the woman he loves and how he risked everything to save her. Hero swears he is innocent, but can we believe him?”
Bakray will take on the role of “Bless,” Hero’s younger sister, who is “a guiding force for her older brother and believes fiercely in his innocence.”
Dashing Diamonds of the Show: Forest Whitaker
Variety Manor has revealed that Godfather of Harlem star Forest Whitaker will be starring alongside Tom Hardy for a new Netflix crime feature, Havoc. In the Gareth Evans-produced film, viewers will follow along as a “bruised detective fights his way through a criminal underworld to rescue a politician’s son after a drug deal gone wrong all while unraveling a deep web of corruption and conspiracy that ensnares his entire city.” There’s no word on whether Whitaker will be assuming the role of the detective or maybe a corrupt politician—but if his role as Bumpy Johnson is any indication, we’re sure to be in for a treat.
It seems media mogul Tyler Perry has found his stars for an upcoming project on Netflix. Titled A Jazzman’s Blues, this story has reportedly been over 20 years in the making, The House of Deadline tells us. The feature will see Joshua Boone and Solea Pfeiffer in arguably their most notable roles to date, both having previous acting credits in projects like Seven Seconds and Scandal, respectively. Told from 1937-1987, A Jazzman’s Blues follows “an investigation into an unsolved murder unveiling a story full of forbidden love, deceit and a secret that has been held for 40 years.”
The film is set to begin filming mostly at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta and will be coming Netflix later this year.
One Night in Miami’s Kingsley Ben-Adir will be bringing his “revolutionary” acting skills to a new project for Disney+ soon—Marvel’s Secret Invasion. The series follows Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Skrull Talos, who we first met in Captain Marvel, as they face off against a group of shape-shifting Skrulls who have been infiltrating Earth for years. According to The House of Deadline, Ben-Adir has been cast as the villainous lead but as we all know, Marvel likes to keep hush-hush about these things. But don’t fret dear reader, if there’s any person who can uncover the truth, it is I.
Kingsley Ben-Adir is currently nominated for the EE Rising Star Award at this year’s BAFTA.
Damon Wayans Jr.
If there’s any family deserving of comedy royalty status, it’s the Wayans family. From the legendary In Living Color to their various subsequent shows that hold their place in pop culture in their own right, nobody does funny quite like the Wayans. This is why this author is delighted to share news from The House of Deadline that Damon Wayans Jr. (son of In Living Color and My Wife & Kids’ Damon Wayans) has landed the lead role in a new pilot for TBS. Titled Kill the Orange-Faced Bear, the comedy is will follow “Hank” on his epic quest to exact revenge against the bear that ate his girlfriend during a camping trip. We’ll be taken along for the ride both from Hank and the bear’s POV, who’s now just trying to move on from the incident.
Filming is set to begin some time in May in Portland, OR.
Psych actor Dulé Hill has secured the leading role in the upcoming reboot of the ABC classic The Wonder Years, Variety Manor reports. Hill will star as “family patriarch Bill Williams. He’s a music professor by day and a funk musician by night–described by his adult son Dean as ‘the baddest guy I knew.’ Almost always calm and composed, his favorite words are ‘be cool.’ Bill wants his family and their Black, middle class neighborhood to remain self-sufficient and he puts his money where his mouth is.”
Also, keeping the energy of Wonder Years narration—Don Cheadle has been cast as “Adult Dean.” Per a press release sent to The Root, Cheadle will be “featured via narration as he reflects back on his younger self growing up in 1968, Adult Dean is our present-day Dean, who also happens to be a new grandfather.” The Wonder Years reboot will tell the tale of how a Black family in late 1960s Montgomery, Ala. made sure it was the wonder years for them, as well.
Variety Manor divulged that the upcoming live-action Disney feature about the life and family of Milwaukee Bucks player Giannis Atentekumpo has found three of its lead actors. Titled Greek Freak, newcomer Uche Agada will star as the NBA great with Yetide Badaki set to star as Antetokounmpo’s mother Vera and Dayo Okeniyi as his father Charles. Walt Disney Studios is developing the film with plans for it to go straight to Disney + once completed. Arash Amel has been tapped to pen the script with Akin Omotoso set to direct. Antetokounmpo will executive produce, while Bernie Goldmann will produce. Production is expected to begin later this year in both Greece and the U.S.
Per a press release sent to The Root, Showtime has announced a series order for the new hourlong drama Shaka: King of The Zulu Nation, executive produced and directed by Antoine Fuqua. The series will be produced by CBS Studios and Propagate and was created and written by Olu Odebunmi and Tolu Awosika. Inspired by true events, Shaka will center around “Zulu Empire chief Shaka and his unlikely rise to power, uniting multiple tribes across vast stretches of Africa in the early 19th century to transform his power into legend, on par with history’s most seminal figures. In ferocious battles that test the body and soul, in alliances that test the bonds of love and friendship, a complex sociological system plays out that renders the human cost front and center, for the victors as well as the vanquished, all in an effort to carve out a semblance of identity, fulfillment and ultimately, survival.”
Speaking on the importance of bringing a story like this to life, Fuqua explained:
“This project offers a gateway to our past that is so critical to our global history and yet so often marginalized. Through SHAKA: KING OF THE ZULU NATION, we hope to bring this saga to life, all the tears, sweat and blood, all the joy and sorrow, all the intimacy and intensity and humanity. In short, we’re going to rock the world with this one.”
David E. Talbert and Lyn Sisson Talbert
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey creator David E. Talbert and his wife and partner Lyn have secured a first-look deal with Netflix, The House of Deadline revealed. This will allow their production banner Golden Alchemy to write, direct and produce movies exclusively for the streaming platform.
“David and Lyn are a one-of-a-kind filmmaking team with an eye for entertaining and a vision for inclusive storytelling,” Netflix Film head Scott Stuber explained. “With Jingle Jangle, they created an instant holiday classic and welcomed us into their family and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have them join ours.”
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is currently up for several NAACP Image Awards, including Outstanding Motion Picture and Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture.
Royal Returns and Reboots
Only three episodes into season 4, The House of Deadline reports that the Damson Idris-led series Snowfall has been early renewed for season 5 by FX. The ‘80s crime drama follows Franklin Saint (Idris), an ambitious crack dealer who goes from small town pusher to heavy-hitter in a short amount of time. This season sees Saint and his crew dive deep into the increasing demand for crack cocaine in their neighborhood, the addicting allure of success and power, and startling realizations of the amount of damage the drug is doing to the people and the places they love.
You catch Snowfall every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET.
RRR: Red Table Talk
Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and Willow Smith will all be coming back to the red table at the end of this month. Variety Manor reports the Facebook Watch series will premiere March 31 at 12 p.m.ET and every week after that. Garnering a reputation for its honest, raw and /entangling/ intriguing conversations, Red Table Talk has become the number-one original series on the social network, with host Jada Pinkett Smith taking home the award for Outstanding Host in a Talk or News/Information (Series or Special) at this year’s NAACP Image Awards.
“Thank you to @naacp @naacpimageawards for our win last night,” said Jada in a video online. “And thank you to all our Red Table Talk Soldiers who consistently walk the journey with us. We are deeply grateful. All belongs to the Highest Power and The Most Divine Love ... ALWAYS”
RRR: Nick Cannon’s Wild’n Out
It’s been quite a wild ride for Nick Cannon’s Wild’n Out, but there is finally some good news, dear reader. As told per The House of Deadline, the show is set to return with all new episodes on VH1 beginning April 6. The second half of season 15 will feature guests such as Fat Boyz SSE, Trinidad James, Lost Boyz, the cast of Black Ink Crew: Compton, Cuban Doll, Juvenile, Headkrack, Da Brat, Ambjaay, MC Lyte, Rapsody, FABO, 24kGolden, Big Tigger, OMB Peezy, Tyla Yaweh, Young Joc, Peter & Corey Gunz, Queen Najia and Donnell Rawlings. Let’s hope Lord Cannon’s turban decides to stay at home.
RRR: The Amber Ruffin Show
The Amber Ruffin Show has been picked up through September, The House of Deadline reports. This extends the Peacock-hosted show to 19-episodes, making it a full year of shows since it’s original September 2020 debut.
“Amber Ruffin’s unique brand of comedy and effervescent personality allow her to shine on Peacock week after week,” Executive Vice President, Late Night Programming, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming Katie Hockmeyer said. “Each episode raises the bar with a variety of sketch material that is both culturally relevant and hilarious. We are so fortunate to have Amber at the forefront as Peacock paves the way for late-night in the streaming space.”
RRR: OWN’s Love & Marriage Huntsville, Black Love, Family or Fiancé, Ready to Love, and Put A Ring On It
Per a press release sent to The Root, we’ve learned that the Oprah Winfrey Network has ordered more than 90 new episodic hours of five popular Friday and Saturday night unscripted series: Love & Marriage: Huntsville, Black Love, Family or Fiancé, Ready to Love, and Put A Ring On It. Additionally, the network has also ordered a new unscripted series, Young & Gospel, also set to premiere in the Friday and Saturday night roster. The show will follow “the lives of four young gospel artists as they pursue their dreams and live life on their own terms while staying true to their faith and their families.” Those artists include Koryn Hawthorne, Bri Babineaux, Jekalyn Carr and Christian rapper Wande. Adam Reed, Adam Freeman, Jordana Hochman, Phil Thornton and Jen McClure-Metz are executive producers.
The current shows’ synopses, per press release:
“Ready to Love” (Season 3 premieres Friday, April 2 at 9p.m.ETRecord-breaking Hollywood producer Will Packer’s popular dating series hosted by Tommy Miles returns with an all-new cast in Houston exploring the real-life dating interactions of sexy, successful and grown Black men and women who are each looking for lasting love and an authentic relationship. “Ready to Love’s” most recent cycle helped make OWN #1 on Friday nights for African American viewers. The series is produced by Will Packer Media and Lighthearted Entertainment.“Black Love” (Season 5 premieres Spring 2021)“Black Love,” created by husband-and-wife filmmakers Codie and Tommy Oliver continues to present real, honest, emotional, and transparent love stories of Black love from some of the most successful people in business and entertainment, as well as everyday couples. The new season will feature Chance & Tabitha Brown, R&B singer Kenny Lattimore & Judge Faith Jenkins, Grammy winner Ledisi & husband Ron Young, among others! The series is produced by Confluential Films.“Put a Ring On It” (Season 2 premieres Summer 2021)Will Packer’s newest unscripted relationship series “Put A Ring On It” returns with all-new episodes featuring three longtime couples/ /who embark on the ultimate relationship test. With help from master relationship coach Dr. Nicole LaBeach, the couples are pushed outside their comfort zones to confront the question they’ve been too afraid to ask: why haven’t they walked down the aisle? While the couples work to confront their deepest fears, they are also given the chance to look outside their current relationships by dating other people. Will they decide it’s time to go their separate ways, or is it finally time to put a ring on it? The series is produced by Will Packer Media and Lighthearted Entertainment.“Family or Fiancé” (Season 2 premieres Summer 2021)Hosted by relationship expert Tracy McMillan, “Family or Fiancé” follows engaged couples who bring their disapproving families together for three days under one roof. In this high-stakes social experiment, the couples and extended families participate in activities designed to strengthen their bonds, unpack their differences, and show some very complicated relationships in a whole new light. In the end, the families’ concerns may make the couples reconsider their unions, or revelations might cause any concerns to fall away. “Family or Fiancé” is from Bunim/Murray Productions.“Love & Marriage: Huntsville” (Season 3 premieres Summer 2021)“Love & Marriage: Huntsville” follows the lives of three successful and powerful couples in the thriving city of Huntsville, Alabama. The series features longtime friends Melody and Martell Holt, Marsau and LaTisha Scott and Maurice and Kimmi Scott, whose goals are to put Huntsville on the map, but reality sets in as they struggle with the highs and lows of balancing friendships, marriage and business. “Love & Marriage: Huntsville,” which recently premiered its second season, is currently Saturday night’s #1 original cable series for women and the #1 series across broadcast and cable for African American viewers. The series is produced by Kingdom Reign Entertainment and ITV America.
RRR: A Black Lady Sketch Show
HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show is returning for its second season—only this time, on two platforms: HBO and HBO Max.
Executive produced by Robin Thede and Issa Rae, The Royal Hollywood Reporter announced that season two will see featured guests such as Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union, Jesse Williams, Miguel, Skai Jackson, Laz Alonso, Omarion, Kim Wayans, Ayesha Curry, Lance Gross and Wunmi Mosaku. Laci Mosely and Skye Townsend have been tapped to join, as well.
“I am THRILLED to welcome two spectacular members to our A Black Lady Sketch Show family: @divalaci & @skyetownsend!,” Thede captioned in a post to Instagram. “And of course @ashnb1 & @gabrielle_dennis are back! Cousin @quintab couldn’t do this go round due to scheduling but we ❤️ her 4ever! See u 4/23 on @HBO @hbomax #ABLSS”