Tag Archives: black excellence


“Dreaming Whilst Black”: A Dark Comedy Tackling Everyday Microaggressions

Dreaming Whilst Black is a thought-provoking, dark comedy that delves into the world of microaggressions people encounter both in the workplace and in their everyday lives. Let’s face it, when confronted with discrimination and racist comments, one coping mechanism is to respond with humor while thinking “are you serious?”. This is precisely what Dreaming Whilst Black accomplishes, and its international success (including a BAFTA win) is a testament to its hilarious approach.

Taji Mag had the opportunity to discuss the show’s achievements and its creative process with key figures such as director Koby Adom, producer Nicola A. Gregory, and executive producer Dhanny Joshi. Here’s what they had to share.

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): Can you provide insights into the initial pitch for this series and the subsequent reactions it received?

Dhanny Joshi (DJ): I could probably speak to the pitch. We pitched it to the BBC, and so this is something that you’ve not had on your screens before. This is a perspective that has never been shown on British television. And if you don’t have it on your screens, it’s a travesty if you don’t say yes. Fortunately, they listened. We were just, we were very persistent with it. The web series was incredible, so we didn’t have that much of a hard job to do. You put Adjani Salmon in the room with anyone, they will fall in love with him. We charmed and did the work, and then the two married up together, and we got the series. 

DDF: Nicola, did you want to add to that?  

Nicola A. Gregory (NG): Well, I wasn’t part of the pitch. But in terms of the response and kind of following the show, it has been incredible. The reception has been great.

It is definitely a story that hasn’t been seen on screen or what we cover, which is all completely relatable… from following your dreams to just the everyday life as a creative and the microaggressions that we encounter along the way.

DDF: Koby, can you describe the shooting process for this series? It appears each character’s action is important to advancement of the storyline. Can you give us a little detail about it? 

Koby Adom: I think, the writing did a lot of the work, which I really appreciate on any job. Do you know what I mean? Where the story’s really been figured out, because the story is king in what we do. I think it’s like knowing who the characters are, what their goals are, what their obstacles are, what the dilemma is, all of that stuff is already figured out. So then we just come on board and visualize that.

We work with the actors. We know what kind of ideas to give as far as goals in each scene, action verbs. Also allowing them to improv ’cause they’re such a stable foundation. Like this is so solid now, we can do takes where you could just throw certain things in there.

Let’s make this nice and authentic, which I attribute to the brilliant casting, by the way. Heather Basten leading that charge was just brilliant. The casting director just sort of gave us this pool of actors who understood the role already.

Adjani Salmon as Kwabena

So now we’re really just having fun. And as far as the camera work goes, it wasn’t about flamboyant camera work that takes all the attention. I think the script does that, and I think the camera work has to serve that. I think it’s something that I was meant to do, which is just to serve the story. I’m a big storyteller. That’s the thing about me. If you ever see a flipping camera, like back flipping and doing all kinds of stuff, it means something. It has to be earned. So, I think it was really, really interesting.

That’s just me and the rest of the directors. We are all aligned on really understanding what the message and the ethos and the depth of what this piece is and applying our craft to it.

DDF: Did you face any challenges while shooting the film?

There are challenges on every shoot, my friend. But this project was fun. Let’s just put it that way. Do you know what I mean?  I like getting my hands dirty and rolling my sleeves up anyway. Who wants smooth sailing? That shit is boring. 

I think you get so much more out of finding solutions to problems. You get so much more out of overcoming adversity in the final product. So I think for me it was a challenging shoot, definitely, but we made it work. We stuck together. We’re a great team. We had our ups and our downs, but that’s what you should be able to have in safe spaces. This is exactly what it was. You know, we just all feel very connected and we are all connected to the story.

I think that’s the beauty of this project. Everybody on it is saying amongst each other “Hey, guess what? We’ve been through this. So what’s the point of arguing?” You know, I mean, we get it done. 

DDF: I’ll bring up one scene where the lead character, Kwabena, is talking to his boss and pretty much every picture in the background means something or gives a description of the character. And I was just like, ”I hope Koby did that intentionally because it really does help interpret the situation”. 

KA: That’s in reference to episode one. That was Sebastian Thiel who directed that episode. So he should get his flowers. All of us had an eye on the whole script to make sure we pull out the necessary bits. You know, to add the nuggets.

NG: Yeah. I’d like to echo that as well. I’m glad that you noticed things in the background and that everything about this show is intentional from the artwork, to the background, to our costume design. Even the neck pendants and necklaces, there are some Easter eggs in there.

I don’t wanna give too much away, but Jody-Simone Howe, our costume designer, did a really good job. Even the slogans on shirts or on baseball caps, everywhere there is a message that kind of gives away what is going to happen in the scene or what our intention is. So from production design to costume, there are messages everywhere.

Left to right:Rachel Adedej as Funmi and Demmy Lapido as Maurice

DDF: Okay. This is a question for all three of you guys. Do you believe humor can be a powerful tool for discussing complex social themes and if so, how?

KA: I think it’s perfect. That’s when you get away with it because you’re just actually just having a laugh. But then guess what? The funny part is the truth. So it’s kind of like when you finish laughing and then the dust settles, you’re like “Ah, you got me there. I probably shouldn’t have laughed… Is that the way I come across?”. But even that’s accountability as well. Like how do we deal with these situations? Do you get what I mean? It’s not just about pointing fingers. This is an exploration of what to do in those situations.

Me personally, I brand myself as quite a bold person. So if I’m in half of those situations, I just walk off. The first bit would be what I’d actually do. But again, just sort of appreciate the situation. Again, it’s very universal. 

NG: I think it’s important that you sort of balance between the comedy and the drama. I guess it’s almost like a constant debate with the writers. There’s always the question of “Okay, this is what we wanna say?” “But how do we make it funny?” Because at times, in these matters, you can really lean into the drama, but we’re commissioned to make a comedy here. So there would be instances where we would try to undercut serious moments with unrelated jokes to lighten up the scene, but without minimizing the issues at hand and what we’re trying to discuss. And I think that’s what this show, Dreaming Whilst Black, does brilliantly in terms of balancing the serious matters.

NG: Have you watched the entire series? 

DDF: Yes, I watched up to episode six. 

NG: Yeah. There’s only six episodes. We wish we had more. Without giving too much away, in episode four (which is mainly about the couple, Maurice and Funmi), we’re touching on themes around fatherhood and Black maternity healthcare, which are quite universally serious.

Even our exec said, “Okay, this is a very serious storyline and a very serious episode”. Yeah. We had to sit and figure out (mainly Johnny and Ali) where can we put funny in here? Which is where the family (over conversations and responses while waiting in the hospital room with Funmi) comes in and other elements sort of really break the tension as it were.

(Alexander Owen), Vicky (Meghan Treadway), Kwabena (Adjani Salmon), Director (Graeme Hughes), Jamie (Tom Stourton) Photographer: Anup Bhatt

DDF: The show won a BAFTA award! Congratulations. How do you think the US audience will react to the series?

KA: I think they’ll laugh it up. I think it’s a very original presentation and I think when you keep it real, it is hard to deny. It’s like you don’t know why, but this feels true.

I think that’s what makes people consume the content. And I think this would be one of those first British offerings that build a bridge where it’s like, “Hey guys, we’re actually going through the same thing. Let’s laugh together and figure out the solution together. This is not us against each other”. I think Dreaming Whilst Black is honestly one of the most crystal clear representations of Black British culture you’ll get to date. Don’t get me wrong, there’s Top Boy, Chewing Gum, and other representations that have been sort of authentic. But this series is very unapologetic and it is very much, “I’m not mincing my words, this is the issue, but we’re gonna laugh at it”. I think that it would be consumed around the whole world, to be honest with you. I think that’s probably why it’s been sold in so many territories.

DJ:  I think so as well. It’s the everyday man and woman. It’s just real people with real-life experiences that will travel. Other shows, which are all great, in some cases are not so relatable to the everyday person who’s got the nine-to-five mundane job.

Right. But, with this show, it’s just relatable. People, especially people of color, will relate to the microaggressions. They’ll relate to workspace experiences as a minority, for example. Some people may even relate to the microaggressions and be like, “Oh shit, I’ve done that. Oh, didn’t realize that could be perceived in a certain way”.

So I think there’s something there for everyone. Still, I think fundamentally it’s about someone pursuing this dream, whether that’s Kwebs or whether that’s Amy navigating her passion and how she navigates in the workspace as well. I think there’s something there for everyone.

So we are excited about how it’s gonna be received over there (in the U.S.).

KA: I was gonna say, I feel like there’s also the successful Black woman, Vanessa, which I think is another master stroke. It’s not some poor woman who’s trying to eat a lobster and flaming on and ordering champagne like that’s normal.

Those girls exist if you know what I mean. So showing their sort of flamboyance and their grandeur, I think, was brilliant. Do you know what I’m saying to you? There are very successful Black women in other industries who have the money to spend at high-end restaurants and buy designer clothes and stuff.

NG: So I think, honestly, this is everything in which I know is testament in America as well. So I think there’s just everything in there. So many points of connection. Yeah, I think it’s really about being able to highlight and embrace our shared experiences. I think sometimes, when you’re across the pond, you think that life in Britain is very different, but I think it’s very relatable, and it’s shared experiences across the board.

Dani Moseley as Amy, Adjani Salmon as Kwabena and Babirye Bukilwa as Vanessa

Dreaming Whilst Black in Conclusion

As this series is relatable not only to the Black experience but also to those who are in the minority, the beauty of it all lies in its ability to bring people together through laughter. Dreaming Whilst Black is more than just a comedy; it’s a social commentary piece that explores the challenges of navigating not only the workplace and career, but life in general.

The series excels at taking vulnerable and degrading moments in life and using humor to shed light on these trials and tribulations. Every character in the series is relatable, and the depiction of family and culture resonates with most of us. Throughout it all, we see themes of love, family, and caring. My favorite and most emotional episode, episode 4 titled “The Birth”, explores masculinity, concerns of Black maternity in the healthcare system, and unpacking childhood trauma that affects us as adults. 

My personal favorite character is Amy; her unwavering pursuit of her goals is admirable, and her morals are constantly put to the test, much like Kwebs. However, it’s her facial expressions and reactions to the absurdity happening around her that truly shine and her ability to bring joy out of Kwebs (which I have more thoughts about that I would love to discuss at a later date).

Dreaming Whilst Black is beautifully shot, and every aspect of the series contributes to its storyline. While I don’t like to make comparisons between series and movies too often, I can’t help but draw a parallel to the relatability that Insecure had with its audience. This is why I believe Dreaming Whilst Black will have a long hull in the world of entertainment worldwide.


Crafting Love, Truth, and Vulnerability: Nijla Mu’min’s Journey in Directing “Swagger”

Nijla Mu’min

In the realm of filmmaking and screenwriting, the journey from spectator to creator is often ignited by moments of cinematic magic. For Nijla Mu’min, the spark was ignited by the emotionally charged narrative of Malcolm X, viewed as a child at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater. This early encounter with storytelling’s transformative power left a mark, a prelude to Mu’min’s dedication to creating narratives that illuminate the complexity of the human experience. From those humble beginnings to her recent directorial venture into the compelling world of Swagger, Mu’min’s artistic trajectory is a testament to the enduring allure of love, truth, and vulnerability. Mu’min gives Taji Mag an exploration of her creative process for Swagger and her thoughts about the current writers’ and actors’ strike. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): When did you fall in love with filmmaking and screenwriting? 

Nijla Mu’min (NM): I fell in love with filmmaking, maybe more indirectly, when I saw Malcolm X as a kid. My father took me to this theater in Oakland called Grand Lake Theater, and I was just immersed in that story. I grew up Muslim also, so it had an importance to me and I saw how the audience was really responding to the movie emotionally. I just knew at that point “I wanna have that impact on people”. Then later in life, when I was at UC Berkeley, I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. I was immersed in poetry, film, and photography, I wanted to take it a step further. So I started making my own short films, short documentaries, and I wanted to highlight the interior lives of Black women and Black girls, giving us a space just to be ourselves. And that’s really what became my life mission when I was a college student. 

DDF: So how did you get involved with directing season two, episode six of Swagger

NM: So, Swagger came about after my feature film Jinn, which is a coming-of-age story about a Black Muslim teenage girl discovering life and love. The showrunner of Swagger, Reggie Rock Bythewood, saw my film, Jinn, and he really loved it and asked me to be a part of the show. And from there, I just grew to love the show. It was like a family. I learned so much, and I love basketball, but I’m not a basketball player. I was in the room with lots of former basketball players and athletes. I wrote and directed an episode for season one (episode 6, “All on the Line). For season two, I directed the “Jace +Crystal” episode, and it was such a beautiful experience.

Quvenzhané Wallis and Isaiah Hill in “Swagger.”Photos Courtesy of Apple TV+

DDF: What was your approach to the “Jace +Crystal” episode?

NM: I knew going in that this was the love episode, and I am a lover. I love directing love, romance, and relationships. That is, I think if I had a brand, a lot of my work would be about relationships and about falling in love or family members loving each other. So I really came in with that passion. When I got the script, it was so beautifully written by Steve DiUbaldo and Autumn Joy Jimerson. I studied the script, and I just found all of the moments where I could insert my voice. I also developed a relationship with the actors. 

This episode had a lot of intimacy and romance. So building trust between myself, Quvenzhané, and Isaiah was really important. We had an intimacy coordinator, and we really talked about the scenes. I was there for them throughout the process and building off their chemistry.

They have a very natural, exciting chemistry. So I said, “Okay, I want to work to really just build their chemistry and use everything that they have as actors to our advantage, which is what we did. I think it really came out beautifully. The shots we did were all about complimenting this relationship that had grown over the course of the two seasons.

DDF: How could you balance out the flashbacks and the current events in this episode? 

NM: I really looked at this episode with the theme of vulnerability. And I said what it means to be vulnerable and to stand in your truth. Those themes are carried out in every scene because when the main character, Jace, has his teammates stand in their truth and say, “I’m not going to apologize, and I’m gonna be vulnerable. No matter what happens to me, I’m standing in my truth.” And even the relationship between Jace and Crystal was about this theme of “This is my truth. I love you, and I will show a side of myself that I may not show.”

And I think that is what helped me gel together everything. The whole episode was about truth, vulnerability, and love. Even in the scene with Tanya and Emery going back and forth, she’s like, “I’m going to stand in my truth”. And he’s also coming from what he knows. I thought it was important to really keep reminding myself this is what we’re trying to do. It was about Black women and girls feeling seen. You see a young Black woman named V who feels invisible and needs to talk to someone, so she goes to Tanya. So it was just a lot of that, speaking your truth into power and being vulnerable to love.

Orlando Jones and Christina Jackson in “Swagger.” Photos Courtesy of Apple TV+

DDF: What parallels can you make between what’s going on with the strike and the episode “Jace +Crystal” that you directed?

NM: I think we could, as people, see the love, truth, and vulnerability of humanity more instead of trying to see people as commodities, which I think is an issue with the strike right now.

It’s like seeing writers in their craft as just some content you can quickly buy and not fairly compensate as a human being. I just think we need more humanity in this industry. We need to love and understand that these are people with lives and families that really are trying to survive here. It’s not a game. So I think that’s what this episode also encourages people to do. Like the relationship between Jace and Crystal, it’s a lifelong bond. Even the scene with them at the end, that’s a life journey they’ve been on. I didn’t want to cheapen it in any way.

Like I wanted to really show the power of love, so I think if we get more of that in our industry where we care about the well-being of others, our lives would be better.

In a world where industry dynamics can sometimes overshadow the human element, Mu’min’s episode serves as a poignant reminder of the humanity that underscores every creation. Just as Jace and Crystal embark on a lifelong bond, Mu’min invites us all to forge a deeper connection with the stories, struggles, and triumphs that shape our world. 

Watch Swagger on AppleTV+ and Jinn on Tubi.


Ali Siddiq Bares It All in  ‘Domino Effect 2: Loss’… His Most Personal Comedy Special Yet

Photo by David Wright

When Ali Siddiq took the stage for his latest comedy special, Domino Effect 2: Loss, he was prepared to not only slay audiences with his unique comedy style, the Houston-based comedian wanted to open up to his audience in a way he never had before. Domino Effect 2 takes on intimate and personal tales from Siddiq’s past, presenting a side of the comedian whom audiences most likely have never seen. In an exclusive interview with Taji Mag, Siddiq sat down to discuss the creation of Domino Effect 2, the personal significance it holds for him, and how he hopes the special will help viewers deal with a topic he dives into for 90 minutes…loss. Read on to discover more about one of the most candid comedy specials of the year.

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What inspired you to make this special, Domino Effect 2?

Ali Siddiq (AS): So many people were hitting me up, saying that they needed to hear the rest of the story from my previous set. So I decided to go back in and do from 16 yrs old to 19 yrs old. To give people a more vivid picture of how things were going in my life at that time.

DDF: How did you prepare fot this special? I’m interested to know because, in my opinion, you are a good storyteller who happens to be funny. 

AS: Yeah, that’s what I say. I’m just a guy that just happens to be funny. What I do in my process is pick a particular period in my life, whatever year that may be, and start to go through the stories and events that happened to me within that year, then start crafting it together. What happened significantly at 16, and what happened significantly at 17? And I just keep going down through the years. I choose what’s the most significant, pertinent information that I could share with an audience of people. This is Domino Effect 2, [called Lost]. And we spelled it two different ways because of what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the effects of losing things and then losing yourself in the course of losing those things.

DDF: Is there a joke or jokes that you cut from this special that you wish weren’t cut? 

AS: A joke I wish I would’ve done but didn’t? I know a lot of people gonna think that I worked on this [special] a long time, but that wasn’t the case. I did it in two takes and I only ran the show maybe twice prior to doing it. I wrote it down first without actually performing it. It’s one thing that I continue to keep doing because once I do a special, I don’t do the material on stage. Because the stage show and a special are two different things. The only story that I wish I would’ve done (if I would’ve ran the special later) was the story about my father and meeting 42 women in the first year of living with him. That story is way more vivid than I had in this special. It’s a lot more. So that’s something that I still do or that I will do in the clubs. That story is maybe an hour and 45 minutes more, which would’ve added to the special due to more context to the story. That was my only regret. 

Photo by David Wright

DDF: You are able to talk about your experiences being locked up. How are you able to openly talk to people about this sensitive topic in your comedy sets?

AS: I do mostly true stories that are connected to me. So it’s easy for some people to talk about themselves, you know, and that’s what makes it  easy for me… I’m just telling my stories. I haven’t really got into the in-depth stories. Now I’m gonna be a little more transparent in Domino Effect 3 and 4 than I did in Domino Effect 2… which I’ve already started crafting because it’s the stories of being actually inside and going through the first three years of what happened while I was incarcerated.

My friends and my family, are always like “hey man, you gotta tell this story”. Once they say that, I usually wait a couple of years before I even do the story because I have to be comfortable with what I’m saying and giving that part of myself. There is always somebody in the wings waiting to say something that’s contrary to what you saying that don’t even know the situation. 

One of the most irritating questions I get is  “Well, did you use comedy while you were in prison to protect yourself?” In my mind that sounds crazy because they got that off the movie House Party and, not to mention, that wouldn’t work. Then lastly, what makes you think that I’m not a formidable opponent? I think in my mind, most people wouldn’t ask me that if I was six foot anything. I’m only 5’7 and a hundred and fifty, a hundred fifty-five/ fifty-eight pounds. People don’t realize the small, low-man win. Most of the time, just like in boxing, the low man wins.

DDF: Unless you slap them. (Ali Siddiq tells a story about slapping a fellow inmate, Rich Cat, during a fight)

AS: Hey man, you don’t slap any man when he is down. This is the pitfall of me watching my father sell cocaine and then getting busted for selling cocaine. Then having my father coming up to the county jail asking what got into me. I’m like, “Oh, really? That’s where we at with this?“. Remember that commercial that came out when that kid was smoking weed. His father asked him, “Where did you get this from?” and he responds, “ I got it from you, dad”.

DDF: Yeah, you definitely had to bring those stories back, stories like the one with Rich Cat.

AS: Yeah, man. You know, and that’s my signature. If people actually pay attention in every special, I always bring back one story that I elaborate on. So it’ll be, it’ll be something that’ll, that’ll turn back up from one of the other specials. 

DDF: You bring up one of your high school girlfriends, Tee. Have you heard from her since you released the special?

AS: Yeah. Patrice sent me a picture of me and Tee together and then she hit me on Instagram. Even though she has my phone number, she hits me on Instagram and told me her cousin, Maude, called to tell her that the special was out. She told me she didn’t wanna see it because she thought that I’m going to do the material when I come to Oklahoma in the first week of July (that’s where she lives). I’m gonna put a picture out there because she’s a very pretty woman. When people see the picture, they’ll understand. 

DDF: Domino Effect seems to be one of your most vulnerable specials. It had to be difficult to deliver the jokes, especially the ending of the special. Can you further explain the difficulty? 

AS: Yeah. Every story was leading towards that. That is why I didn’t run it. We didn’t even edit that part at the end, because I couldn’t watch it to edit it. So I had to nail it the first time, because it took so long to make certain parts of this special… because of the emotional attachment.

Photo by David Wright

When my older sister pops in on the special, that scene that she does, people will never know. It backed us up 25 minutes because of all the crying and all the tears that happened. If they listened to it, my sister and I never had a discussion about what happened with my little sister. We never have, it wasn’t a comforting moment because we was both going through the same pain at the same time. So my mom and I never discussed it. That’s the thing, at that point we never discuss losses. So I, I want people to understand this. This is not a play, this is not something that I crafted. We shot it in the moment because there’s no other way to shoot something like this. You can’t go down that emotional turmoil every show. We literally ran it just like this.

The people who know will know that this is a hundred percent true. I did the show one night on a Friday night. Everybody knows the second Friday night show is the hardest show because people getting off work, they are tired, they just kind of come to the show to be entertained.

I wanted to run the show in a space where people were tired. We were 45 minutes behind. The show started and then the feature went up and did 30. Then, the host went up and did 15 mins, so it’s another 45 minutes [before] I go on and I’m out there doing my actual club show.

So then I notice that people in Philly want me to be as rugged as possible. So I said to myself  “I see what this is. Y’all want the real stuff?”. I said it a little more colorful than that, but I said, “Y’all want the real stuff?”. And they were like, “yeah”. So I did that. I did that hour and a half that way, just like I did this special. But we didn’t record it, we didn’t do anything because it was spur the moment.

I remember this lady coming up to me, she said, “I don’t know what just happened, but this is my mother, this is my father, this is my brother. We lost a sibling and we never talked about it, and you just healed my whole family”. And this other lady came from behind and said, “If this is special that you are about to record, I’m glad I saw it now because I will never watch this again”. “Why is that?” I replied.  She said “This is too much pain for me because it was healing, but the pain that came in my heart, even though I laughed, that took me to a place I never knew I’d go”. And I said “I’m glad because you may never release that pain if I don’t ever say anything”. 

When we shot it on the second show, on Saturday, I kept telling them, I’m not going to be able to do a second show about this. It’s no way, and my oldest sister told me “Yeah you can, just do what you just did”. It took me about an hour and a half to get myself together to do it again. It’s too much sometimes for me to go that deep into emotion, then have to come out of it and still deliver.

Photo by David Wright

Four times, one time in Philly, months went by. The level of commitment and emotional turmoil, I can’t even explain it. I’m happy that it’s done. I’ve never watched that part afterwards. I watch up to a certain point, and then I’m done. Once it gets to a certain part, I know what’s going to happen next, it’s about my little sister and it’s still a painful thing for our family.

DDF: In my opinion, you took us through the perspective of a young man or young woman who would be counted out by society or seen as a menace while maturing and growing. It gave me a different perspective. Was that your intention? 

AS: You hit the nail on the head. The special is about not getting lost in your losses. Cause sometimes people don’t come back from a loss or families separate.

You look at the great Aaliyah, are we just now getting her music because, [for] her family, it may have been too hard to hear her voice all the time? Sometimes her family doesn’t have the same strength as Biggie’s mom and Tupac’s mom to celebrate the death with the world.

It’s my responsibility as an artist to give people things that they can grow from. Whatever these losses are that occur in people’s lives, you have to be able to bounce back because it’s not over. Even though you lost something, you didn’t lose your life. You still have more life to live. I don’t want people to be walking around emotionally dead versus living.

DDF: You’ve talked to a bunch of great comedians, from Chris Rock to D.L. Hughley. What has been the best advice you have received? 

AS: This is going to be in my new book. I have two books coming out,The Domino Effect book will be out June 27th. I’m writing this in the process of writing another book called The Jewels.

I’ll just give you one of “the jewels” from Billy D. Washington. One of the best things I ever was privileged to be told by Billy D. Washington was “Man, a lot of people won’t be able to do this, but you can. I would like you to understand this.” I said “What’s that, Billy?” He said, “Man, when you’re on stage and you’re not being funny, be interesting. Be interesting. Whatever you’re talking about, make it interesting when you’re not being funny”. And at that point in my life as a comic, people had only been telling me to be funny. Stay on stage, be funny, keep writing, but nobody ever told me to be interesting, and I think that was the best lane for me.

Photo by David Wright

DDF: My last question that I have been pondering in my head is, have you forgiven Quincy from your stories? 

AS:  No (lol). I’m gonna be honest about this question. I haven’t seen him since the Walmart thing. In order to say that, I have say to myself “Okay, yeah I’m over X, Y, Z”. Then when I see him, it’s going take me back to my eye because I still see double out of that eye. To be honest, I don’t know. I’m not gonna say I have, I’m not gonna say I haven’t. We’ll have to see.

Ali’s humor is as sharp and personal as ever in his new special. Here’s to more laughs with Ali Siddiq and his hilarious Domino Effect series. Make sure to catch the special on YouTube and be ready to share some stories with your friends about it. You can also check out his tour listings to watch him live. After watching him on stage myself, I can attest that there is nothing like it. Watch it here.


I’m a Virgo: Boots Riley Delivers a Masterful Blend of Humor and Social Commentary

Jharrel Jerome as Cootie

Starring: Jharrel Jerome, Brett Gray, Kara Young, Allius Barnes, Olivia Washington, Mike Epps, and Carmen Ejogo

Synopsis: From visionary filmmaker Boots Riley, I’m A Virgo is a darkly-comedic fantastical coming-of-age joyride about Cootie (Jerome), a 13-foot-tall young Black man in Oakland, CA. Having grown up hidden away, passing the time on a diet of comic books and TV shows, he escapes to experience the beauty and contradictions of the real world. He forms friendships, finds love, navigates awkward situations, and encounters his idol, the real life superhero named Hero, played by Walton Goggins (Hateful 8Righteous Gemstones). I’m A Virgo is a mythical odyssey that questions the purpose of the mythical odyssey.

In a world inundated with formulaic television shows, I’m a Virgo (brainchild of the brilliant director and writer Boots Riley) emerges as a refreshing breath of fresh air. With its unique blend of humor, social commentary, and surrealism, this series does what all of Riley’s stories do…transcend the boundaries of conventional storytelling. Through its meticulously crafted characters and thought-provoking narrative, I’m a Virgo captivates viewers and leaves them pondering the intricate complexities of contemporary society.

Taji Mag had the opportunity to get an exclusive interview with the cast. From the quirky yet lovable protagonist to the ensemble of talented actors who authentically bring their characters to life, these interviews will offer unprecedented insights into the creative process, the challenges faced, and the profound impact I’m a Virgo may have on television.

Allius Barnes and Brett Gray
Kara Young and Olivia Washington
Jharrel Jerome

My Reaction and Review of the Show

Brett Gray as Felix, Kara Young as Jones, and Allius Barnes as Scat

Engaging Characters

One of the standout aspects of I’m a Virgo is its ensemble, which brings a diverse range of characters to life with great performances. Each character is meticulously developed, allowing viewers to forge a genuine connection with their stories and experiences. Every character feels authentic and relatable, from the quirky and enigmatic protagonist Cootie (played by Jharrel Jerome) to the eccentric supporting cast.

As Cootie’s father, Mike Epps had me cracking up with his advice and impromptu song lyrics. In every scene, he is acting a fool!… yet still provides support and love for his oversized son. 

Cootie’s crew consists of Felix (played by Brett Gray), Scat (played by Allius Barnes), and Jones (played by Kara Young), bringing out the best of our protagonist. They are the characters who expose him to the whole he desires to be a part of while his parents try their damndest to protect him from himself. They are my favorite part of the series, along with Cootie himself, because of the heart they possess and how they embrace Cootie. It reminds me of high school and how it took my circle of friends to help me find confidence and learn how to survive this new environment.

One of the biggest surprises for me was the Flora character, played by Olivia Washington. She is Cootie’s love interest and one of the few characters who genuinely understands his uniqueness. Washington is both endearing and rememberable in this role, the audience is bound to like her. I was really drawn to the expressiveness of her eyes while acting, especially when she sees Cootie for the first time.

The antagonist, Hero (played by Walton Goggins) serves as a vigilante who falls short with his approach but wins over the population with charm and technology. Although you want to hate him, his character is still compelling. 

The depth and complexity of the characters shine through as they navigate a surreal world that mirrors our own. They grapple with personal dilemmas, confront social injustices, and challenge the status quo, making the series a compelling exploration of human nature and societal dynamics which I found to be intriguing.


Walton Goggins as Hero

Surreal Humor

Boots Riley’s signature surreal humor infuses I’m a Virgo with an irresistible charm. The show seamlessly weaves absurd scenarios and witty dialogues, resulting in laugh-out-loud moments pushing conventional comedy’s boundaries. The clever wordplay and unexpected twists keep viewers engaged, constantly guessing what might happen next. The comedic timing is impeccable, and the satire cuts through societal norms like a blade.

Social Commentary

I’m a Virgo transcends pure entertainment, serving as a powerful platform for social commentaries, like all of Riley’s projects. Through its engaging storytelling, the series fearlessly tackles relevant issues, such as capitalism, racial inequality, and the dehumanizing effects of modern technology. Some of the commentary can be found in the popular cartoon Parking Ticket, a cartoon filled with violence, crazy antics, and random characters but essential messages are within each clip; it’s almost poetic. Boots Riley’s incisive critique of contemporary society encourages viewers to question the status quo and consider alternative perspectives.

The show’s ability to address weighty subjects with sensitivity and humor is commendable. By blending satire and social commentary, I’m a Virgo becomes an invaluable tool for sparking conversations about the challenges we face as a society, which is what I love about Riley’s work.

Visual Aesthetics and Soundtrack

Riley’s directorial vision shines through in the mesmerizing visual aesthetics of I’m a Virgo. Every element contributes to the series’ immersive atmosphere, from the vivid and imaginative set designs to the meticulously crafted costumes. The show’s vibrant color palette and inventive cinematography create a visual feast for the eyes, enhancing the overall viewing experience.

Furthermore, the carefully curated soundtrack enhances the emotional impact of each scene. The eclectic mix of musical genres perfectly complements the narrative, elevating key moments and intensifying the show’s overall mood. 


I’m a Virgo, directed and written by Boots Riley, is a television series transcending conventional storytelling’s boundaries. The show’s engaging characters, surreal humor, and thought-provoking social commentary stand as a testament to Riley’s creative genius by fearlessly addressing societal issues with wit and satire. Make sure to catch the series on Prime Video June 23rd.


The Blackening – a Horror-Comedy That’s Unapologetically Black and Utterly Hilarious

Antoinette Robertson as Lisa, Grace Byers as Allison, Jermaine Fowler as Clifton and Dewayne Perkins as Dewayne in The Blackening. Photo Credit: Glen Wilson

Starring: Melvin Gregg as King, Grace Byers as Allison, Antoinette Robertson as Lisa, Sinqua Walls as Nnamdi, Jermaine Fowler as Clifton, Dewayne Perkins as Dewayne, Xochitl Mayo as Shanika, Yvonne Orji as Morgan and Jay Pharoah as Shawn

Director: Tim Story

Where to Watch: In theaters

Date of Release: June 16th

Length of Time: 1hr and 36mins

Fear and laughter go hand in hand in Tim Story’s latest offering, The Blackening. This horror comedy is hilarious, a laugh-out-loud blend of satire and humor that just works. And it’s about time someone put the actions and thoughts of real people on screen during a horror movie. Just to think, this all started from a viral short film on Youtube of the same name.

On the surface, The Blackening seems like your typical horror comedy. A group of friends travel to a cabin in the woods to celebrate Juneteeth ( I don’t know to many Black folk that would celebrate Juneteenth in the woods, which is acknowledged in the film.) Who becomes hunted by a killer in a creepy house and tormented by a mysterious killer, Black Face, who wants the group to play a game…until the last man or woman stands. The usual horror movie cliches are all there: weird police officers, bumps in the night, and an eerie atmosphere. But The Blackening takes these Black tropes and turns them on their head, so we end up with something fresh, fun, and absolutely bonkers.

Melvin Gregg as King, Grace Byers as Allison, Antoinette Robertson as Lisa, Sinqua Walls as Nnamdi, Jermaine Fowler as Clifton, Dewayne Perkins as Dewayne, and Xochitl Mayo as Shanika in The Blackening. Photo Credit: Glen Wilson

The tone of the movie is its biggest draw. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes for a refreshing change of pace. Horror comedies are nothing new, but what sets Tim Story’s movie apart is that it doesn’t rely on cheap scares to get a reaction out of its audience. Instead, it finds humor in the absurdity of the situation, poking fun at horror movies and the Black experience in equal measure.

The entire cast is a delight and funny, but special mention Dewayne Perkins, who plays Dewayne in the film, returns as he starred in the short film that The Blackening was based on, he is more knowledgeable about the horror genre and the more believable and entertaining character. There was also, Clifton, played by Jermain Fowler, who was the nerdy archetype, think Urkel except weirder. There were several moments Fowler had campy moments on screen with the other characters, and when it comes to seeing who is the Blackest, he stuck out like a sore thumb because of his awkwardness. 

The horror elements are solid, but the comedy shines here because the characters react the way I, or any other Black person, would during these scenarios in the film.  Whether it’s a running joke about the town’s “blackening” or a ridiculous chase scene involving a 6’6 athletic man in a Black Face mask trying to murder a group of friends, there’s always something to laugh at. Basically, the antagonist is a hybrid of The Jigsaw killer, Ghost face from the Scream movies, and Jason from Friday the 13th. And it’s not just the quips and one-liners – the movie is packed with visual gags and absurd set pieces that had me howling with laughter. It’s not often you see Black characters in horror films live to fight the villain and, better yet, outrun them. The best I can remember is the Black character Julius in Jason Takes Manhattan, where he tried to fight Jason on a rooftop in New York. He threw a barrage of punches that barely affected Jason, only to have his head knocked off with one punch. Then there’s Joel ( Duane Martin) in Scream 2, who decided to do what I would do, leave the location where people are dying. I’m still cracking up at the fact he left Gale’s ass at the college with the camera and like, “People are getting murdered, and I’m out!”

The movie’s pacing is sometimes tight, and there’s never a dull moment. The jokes come fast and furious, but it never feels overwhelming. And while there are certainly some cringe-worthy moments – the gore factor is relatively high – Tim Story’s deft direction keeps everything in balance. The movie knows when to ramp up the tension and when to let loose with some ridiculousness, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining experience from start to finish. 

There may be some comparisons to Scary Movie and there but the film is more rooted in the completely Black experience in a horror movie, where the characters are predominantly Black, and they are completely different is personalities and how they interact with each other. 

Grace Byers as Allison in The Blackening. Photo Credit: Glen Wilson

Horror comedies are a tough nut to crack, but The Blackening hits the mark perfectly. It’s a movie that manages to be both genuinely funny and genuinely scary, a rare feat in a genre that usually leans too heavily on one or the other. But with Tim Story at the helm, we get a movie that’s both a love letter to the horror genre and a biting satire of it. It’s the kind of movie you’ll want to see again and again to catch all the little jokes and visual nods you might have missed the first time. I am sure this movie will have clips plastered all over social media and trending for weeks. 

In short, if you’re looking for a horror comedy that delivers laughs and scares in equal measure, look no further than The Blackening. It’s a wild ride that’ll have you cackling with laughter and cringing of your seat at the gore. And honestly, we could all use a good laugh right about now.


How This Black & Indigenous Curator is Putting Louisville on the Map

Huddled over a canvas or gazing thoughtfully at a sculpture, Shauntrice Martin is in her element. She has honed her craft for years, working with various media and exploring race, culture, and identity themes. Her art has captivated audiences in Louisville, KY and beyond, earning her a well-deserved reputation as a rising star in the city’s flourishing arts scene.

But for Martin, art is more than just a vocation. It’s a passion that extends beyond the studio into the community where she lives and works. As a Louisville Visual Art Association board member, she has actively engaged in the city’s cultural landscape, partnering with other artists and curators to bring new perspectives and fresh voices to the forefront.

For Martin, building awareness and understanding around issues of race and identity is always at the forefront of her work. “The stories of my ancestors inspire me,” she says, “those who were taken from their homes, families, and cultures and brought here against their will, their stories are our stories, and we must remember them”.

Martin’s work reflects a deep sense of connection to the past and a commitment to telling forgotten stories. Her mixed media pieces (including sculpture, photography, and textiles) are often layered and complex, inviting the viewer to engage with them on a deeper level. Using different textures and materials, Martin creates a sense of tension and depth that mirrors the complexity of her themes.

Throughout her career, Martin has been inspired by various curators, artists, and creatives who have challenged her to think more deeply about her work. Among her influencers are Kelli Morgan (Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Speed Art Museum), Poet and Activist, Hannah Drake, and Aurora James (a fashion designer committed to sustainability and ethical production).

Martin is also guided by the legacies of the artists who came before her, particularly those from her hometown of Louisville. “We are at the epicenter of creativity,” she says. “There is something incredibly innovative and culturally significant about the West End of Louisville in particular”.

For Martin, the West End is a place of deep historical significance, one that the experiences of African Americans and other marginalized communities have shaped. She points to the Ohio River (which played a key role in the slave trade) as a reminder of the city’s heritage and the need to keep telling these stories.

But despite the weight of this history, Martin remains optimistic about the future of the arts in Louisville. She is particularly excited about the work of artists like Hannah Drake, who push the boundaries of what is possible and create new conversations around race and identity.

For Martin, the importance of these conversations cannot be overstated. “We must continue to have these discussions, to push ourselves and others to think more deeply about the issues that affect us all,” she says. “It’s through art and creativity that we can begin to build bridges and find common ground”.

Martin is deeply committed to highlighting and promoting the work of other Black artists. She created Chahta Noir as a resource for artists to network and develop their skills. Some of the artists she has worked with include Lance G. Newman II, Tomisha Lovely-Allen, Sandra Charles, Ashlee Phillips, and Jon P. Cherry. For Martin, showcasing the work of Black artists is not just a passion but a mission. She believes that Black artists are often overlooked and undervalued in the art world and that it is her responsibility to help change that.

As Martin continues to make her mark on the Louisville art scene, her work serves as a reminder of art’s power to heal, inspire, and challenge. Through her captivating and thought-provoking pieces, she invites us to consider our histories, identities, and place in the world. In doing so, she reminds us that art is not just a product but a process that requires us to engage with each other and the world around us in new and meaningful ways.

Martin has had her work featured in some of the top art spots in Louisville. Places like the Speed Art Museum, Roots 101 African American Museum, Kennedy Center, and Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture & History have housed her works.


Chevalier Director Stephen Williams on the Forgotten Music Legend

Kelvin Harrison Jr. in the film CHEVALIER. Photo by Larry Horricks. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

 Inspired by the incredible story of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr. in a tour de force performance) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) and her court.

Many names come to mind when influential and famous composers are mentioned, but there are some artists whom you rarely if ever, hear about. One of these artists is Joseph Bologne and Chevalier de Saint-Georges. He was a musician and composer who swooned French audiences with his work. What makes Bologne even more interesting is that he was of mixed race and from the then-French colony of Guadeloupe. Searchlight Pictures has brought the story of Bolonge to life in the upcoming film Chevalier, written by Stefani Robinson (Atlanta, What We Do in the Shadows) and directed by Stephen Williams (Lost, The Watchmen). A compelling story about a multi-talented artist who took Europe by storm. 

Becoming the Director

Williams admitted that the script written by Robinson immediately blew him away. “I felt blessed and had the good luck to be the recipient of the offer to make this film,” Williams said. 

With some of Bologne’s work destroyed by the French government and lost over the years, Williams and Robinson had little to work with. “There were gaps in the story that we had. We tried using our imaginations to [bring to life] his subjective point of view or what we imagined his point of view to be. We tried to walk with him through the course of his life. Our interest was not necessarily being bound by fact but more by truth, which is not necessarily the same thing”, Williams explained. 

In a previous Toronto Film Festival interview, Williams mentioned that Joseph’s story is relatable to some creatives today in entertainment. Williams said, “Let me just say that when I read the script, part of what was interesting to me was obviously an opportunity to tell an entertaining story, but also to introduce viewers to a character, a historical figure, and a time period that maybe they weren’t familiar with. On another level, it felt really personal to me. Joseph Bologne was from a Caribbean island, Guadeloupe, and made his way to Europe as a young man. I was born in Jamaica and went to England as a young man. My life story, I felt, totally identified with some aspects of Joseph’s life story, which were very personal. I can recognize much of the trajectory of his life in my own. A reflection of my own experiences. Sure, the story happened in the mid-1700s in Paris, but it felt like it could have been happening today, minus the wigs and the costumes”. 

Working with Kelvin Harris

Kelvin Harris Junior is being dubbed one of the most talented young Black actors of our time. Williams had nothing but praise about the young talent. “Yeah, I mean, Kelvin is just a fantastic talent. He’s just, you know, he’s a really intuitive actor. He first has to feel that person’s reality… He imagined what it, you know, what it could be. All the violin bowing that you see in the movie, that’s Kelvin. The fencing that you see is Kelvin. There are no tricks, no CGI, and no stunt doubles. It’s all Kelvin. And all of that is a product of the immense dedication and hard work he brought to tackling this role”, Williams explained. 

He continued, “We wanted to honor and respect the period in which the story took place but then also open it up tonally so that it felt contemporary at the same time. So it didn’t feel like a stuffy period piece, you know? It didn’t feel like Masterpiece Theater. It felt like something that was vital and energetic and kinetic and felt of now even though it was taking place in pre-revolutionary France. Calibrating that balance was tricky.”

Kelvin Harrison Jr. in the film CHEVALIER. Photo by Larry Horricks. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Bologne’s Life

For portraying people of color in France, director Williams said, “France had a number of colonies at that time, right? And again, in ways that reflect much of what happens today. A lot of people of African descent, from the diaspora, from the colonies, made their way to France and made their way to Paris. So much so that the character you see portrayed in the fencing scenes is a real guy whose real concern at the time was that too many people of African descent were making their way into Paris. They’re undocumented. We need to have a census to get a handle on how many of these people there are so that we can ultimately send them back from whence they came”.

Williams explained, “if that doesn’t strike you as being contemporary, then nothing in the movie will. There were a lot more people of African descent in Paris than is normally acknowledged in cultural output at that time. And it was imperative that Joseph’s mother, Nanon (played by Ronke Adekoluejo), a formerly enslaved woman from Guadeloupe, would make that connection with that community in Paris and use that strength to help inform him.”

When asked what he thinks people will get from this film, director Stephen Williams explained, “You know, hopefully the audience is entertained because it’s an entertaining story. Joseph’s life was lived on a grand operatic scale. The music is dope; hopefully, people leave the movie having learned something about somebody they never knew before”.

Chevalier opens in theaters April 21st, 2023.


‘A Thousand and One’…The Beauty of Black Storytelling

Teyana Taylor as Inez da la Paz

Title: A Thousand and One

Release Date: 3/31/2023

Where to watch: In theaters

Directed by: A.V. Rockwell

Produced by: Lena Waithe

Starring: Teyana Taylor as Inez da la Paz, Aaron Kingsley Adetola as Terry (6 years old), Aven Courtney as Terry (13 years old), Josiah Cross as Terry (17 years old), and William Catlett as Lucky

Synopsis: A fiercely unapologetic and loyal Inez kidnaps her son, Terry, from the foster care system. Mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in a rapidly changing New York City.

Worth noting: A Thousand and One is a Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner.

Filmmaker A.V. Rockwell


A.V. Rockwell created colorful and flawed characters who I found myself rooting for as they lived their truths while trying to achieve an ideal life the best way they knew how in an unforgiving city, NYC. Storytelling like this only makes me desire more stories about well-rounded Black characters who flourish despite being a product of their harsh environments.  

Outside of the writing and acting in this film, I appreciated how Rockwell incorporated scenic shots of New York, giving the audience an idea of what the characters were truly up against. The tall buildings, busy neighborhoods, and various personalities inhabit the area highlighted in this film.

Aaron Kingsley Adetola as Terry and Will Catlett as Lucky

Teyana Taylor and the Cast

The last time I saw Taylor in a film was Coming 2 America where her role was limited albeit entertaining. Before then, I saw her in Madea’s Big Happy Family where she played the annoying ex-girlfriend of Bow Wow’s character, Byron. During the screening of A Thousand and One, I thought to myself, “wait, is this the same Teyana Taylor?”. I was so impressed with her performance that I couldn’t help but focus solely on her character, Inez, and the barrage of obstacles thrown her way. 

Although well-intentioned, Inez’s approach is sometimes questionable and at times illegal. It was interesting to watch Taylor bring this character to life and make her compelling but also believable. When Inez provides life lessons to her son Terry, you can feel her love for him and her desire to give him a better life than she had growing up. It’s certainly not smooth sailing for this troubled mom; at times, you see the character get in the way of her own success. Taylor recently shared with Elle magazine “She (Inez) is so strong, and sometimes she gets in her own way. So you’ll see her almost go there and then hold it in. So I had to dial it back. There were a lot of different techniques that I taught myself to get into this space. It felt like I was on my own pursuit of happiness”. 

Taylor’s chemistry on screen with the young actors (Aaron Kingsley Adetola as 6-year-old Terry, Aven Courtney as 13-year-old Terry, and Josiah Cross as 17-year-old Terry) genuinely resembles a mother-and-son relationship. In my opinion, Cross had the best Terry performance because the film’s final act called for a more emotional display, given the big reveal at the end (don’t worry, no spoilers here). It was not only the performance for me, the writing was incredibly impactful. 

Actor William Catlett plays Lucky, Inez’s boyfriend. He serves as a father figure to her son and provides guidance on how to manage daily as a young Black man in a world that is bound to stereotype him. Although his methods and delivery are not considered ideal, the messages are clear and understood by young Terry. I loved how the Lucky character tried his best to change his life after incarceration. Catlett, as Lucky, knocked this portrayal out of the park and is honestly one of the most underrated actors I’ve seen in a while. I hope to see his career continue to flourish. 

Final Thoughts

Taylor deserves genuine applause for her role in this film. I think it should serve as proof that she CAN pull off the role of Dionne Warwick in an upcoming project. The verdict on Black Twitter is that she surely can! Even the icon herself has mentioned she would love the artist to portray her. The direction and writing of Rockwell gives film lovers a taste of the future of storytelling that Black people and POC can be proud of. A Thousand and One shows the complicated dynamics of a mother’s love which is 100% worth watching.


Rye Lane: A 2023 Must-See Rom-Com

Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah)shown. (Photo by: Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

Directed by: Raine Allen-Miller

Starring: David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah

Run time: 1hr and 22mins

Where to watch: Hulu

Release date: March 31st, 2023

Synopsis: Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) bond over an eventful day in South London after discovering they are both recovering from bad breakups. 

Would I recommend it? 

Yes! This 2023 Sundance Film Festival selection checks all the boxes for a good rom-com movie, especially with the acting chops showcased by David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah. The tone and pacing of the film felt appropriate, I was at no point thrown off. Although their experience together took place in one day, it did feel like they had this journey over the course of at least a few days. 

I have not been to South London, but from the looks of it, it is an excellent place to visit. This is all based on the amount of scenic exposure the director gives the audience. The environment looked spectacular. He did a good job of sucking the viewer into the locale. You almost feel like you’re there yourself.

The film pays tribute to the music of the ’70s, ’80s, and ‘90s with songs from each of these eras. I personally commend this because I love music from those periods. The nostalgia rushed over me when I heard back-to-back hit tracks during a backyard bbq scene.

Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah), shown. (Photo: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

The Characters

I loved the chemistry between Jonsson and Oparah in this film. The dialogue between the two (including non-verbal cues) had me rooting for them to end up an item. Each brought the best out of the other, from the shy and broken Dom to the free-spirited yet delicate Yas. I haven’t felt this since Dwayne and Whitley from A Different World. I also enjoyed the lead characters’ interaction with the other personas in the film. For example, to me, the funniest moment was when Yas’ ex’s family appeared. They didn’t have much screen time but quickly had me laughing since they reminded me of my family hangouts. There was a sense of relatability that made this flick feel nostalgic. 

Jonsson is already ascending in stardom, but I can for sure see Oparah as another rising star whom I wouldn’t mind watching in more projects. Oparah undoubtedly wins over the audience with her charming and fun personality.


What stands out in this film is how Allen-Miller uses color palettes and visuals to set the scene’s tones. For example, during flashbacks, the director uses darker purples and blues when a character reveals a heartbreaking story. The director cleverly sets up these flashbacks like stage plays where the characters are in the audience along with the movie’s viewers watching these memories play out. It’s one of my favorite things about the film; if I had to compare it to a style, I would say it resembles Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You”. I look forward to seeing more work from Allen-Miller and witnessing her career flourish as she becomes a household name.

Initially, I did not understand why the art gallery at the end featured portraits of naked butts, but as I thought about it further, I realized that the beginning of the film featured pictures of people’s mouths in the art gallery. I wonder if this is supposed to be symbolic of moving from start to finish as the viewer is introduced to the mouth in the film’s opening and then as we exit the film, we are shown bare naked bums. Clever. 

Director Raine Allen-Miller, shown. (Photo by Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

Final Thoughts

This is one of the best rom-com I’ve seen in a while! If you loved Brown Sugar, Love and Basketball, or Love Jones, Rye Lane is a film definitely worth your time. I can just about guarantee it’ll be added to your list of top Black rom-coms. With loveable characters, creative cinematography, and a heart-warming love story, Rye Lane is one of my favorite films of 2023 thus far.


Creed III is a Strong Directorial Debut For Michael B. Jordan

Creed III
Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) v. Damian Anderson( Jonathan Majors) (photos courtsey of MGM)

Creed III Stars: Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed (who is also the film’s director), Jonathan Majors as Damian Anderson, Tessa Thompson as Creed’s wife (Bianca Creed), Mila Davis-Kent as Amara Creed, and Phylicia Rashad as Mary-Anne Creed. 

Synopsis: Adonis Creed’s (Michael B. Jordan) life has flourished both professionally as a Boxer and personally. An old friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian (Jonathan Majors), re-emerges after a long stint in prison, eager to live the life he always wanted as a boxing champion. The two former friends engage in the fight of their lives which is more than a boxing match; it is a fight to overcome their pasts. 

Why Creed III is Worth Your Time? 

Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut is nothing short of phenomenal, especially with the film being the trilogy to one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. It’s apparent that this was a passion project for Jordan as he was able to craft this great film carefully. During a recent press conference, he mentioned he’d had scenes that were all but ripped from his fingers and left on the cutting room floor, but he didn’t let that jeopardize the film’s quality. I can confirm that this project was well-paced and that the film’s tone was consistent from beginning to end. 

There were rumors of former Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder appearing as the son of James “Clubber” Lang in Creed II a few years ago, which would’ve been decent provided the right script; but I am glad this particular Creed spinoff franchise was brought to life. Much kudos to the writing team of Zach Baylin (King Richard writer) and Keenan Coogler (Ryan Coogler’s brother) for putting together a story with characters compelling enough to add quality to the Rocky franchise. 

The underdog storyline, which the Rocky franchise is known for, fits well into this story because we see Damian Anderson go from serving time in prison to his pursuit of living his dream as a Champion. We also see Creed’s rise from being a retired Champion to fighting his former best friend, the current Champion. Both characters must not only fight their opponent in the ring but also fight their own internal battles. 

I feel like Creed III offers more depth than the more recent Rocky films because even though you have a designated antagonist and protagonist, you really can’t instantly side with Creed. You understand why Damian is the way he is; honestly, he very convincingly reflects those who have struggled with a complicated past and have had to overcome major life obstacles. I can see Ryan Coogler’s fingerprints all over this script because it’s quite similar to Black Panther‘s ruthless Kilmonger character in that you understood and almost couldn’t blame him for his actions or way of thinking. 

There is a lot of American Sign Language representation in this film. With Creed and Bianca’s daughter being deaf, we see excellent attention to detail depicting what the environment would be like and how families interact with someone who is hearing impaired. Also worth a mention is Mila Davis-Kent as Creed’s adorable daughter, Amara Creed. We get a glimpse of how Creed’s actions affect his relationship with his daughter. We even see her passion for boxing showcased. Can we see how her storyline plays out when she finally puts on the gloves? That would be fun to see. Although her screen time is limited, Davis-Kent’s charisma is undeniable. 

Creed III
Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) (Photos Courtsey of MGM)

The Characters

One of the surprising elements of the film was that it is an origin story for Adonis Creed, exploring his growth from a troubled teen to the man we see today. This is accomplished seamlessly without dragging the cinema or stealing focus from the storyline. The film carefully weaves in the character’s past while dealing with actions that will undoubtedly impact his future, leading to a conflict you’re unsure if he’ll win. 

The chemistry remains strong between Jordan and Thompson. They create a relationship that appears to have stood the test of time and survived the pressures of their careers. There are moments in the film where Creed is standoffish and wants to shut his family out, but the presence and voice of Thompson creates a clear path of communication, allowing Creed to be vulnerable and honest with her. Creed III shows Bianca as not only Creed’s other half but also as the glue that holds the family together. 

It’s worth stating again how Mila Davis-Kent as Amara Creed was so adorable and charismatic. The moments with Jordan were like watching a genuine love between a daughter and father. Davis-Kent not only stole focus during her screen time, she respectfully represented the American Sign Language community (ASL), normalizing the community and giving attention to many small details providing a sense of authenticity appreciated by ASL and non-ASL viewers alike.

Jonathan Majors once again puts on a robust and touching performance as Damian. He makes you hate the character at moments, and sometimes you even feel sorry for him. After serving so many years in prison and feeling abandoned by Creed after receiving no contact from him and watching him live the life he planned, Damian wants his opportunity. There is just so much the character must learn and let go of, but cannot because of his haunting prison experience. Damian reminds me of Killmonger, as his actions are driven by hurt and disappointment, making him a compelling character. Being a former Golden Gloves Champion and boxing prodigy, Damian believes his dreams are still possible. When asked where Majors got the inspiration for this role, he mentions that he watched the previous Creed films and gave much credit to his stepfather. He explained, “My stepdad was locked up 15 years before he got with my mom and then raised me.” Majors also said “Like, I was the kid that was trying to make sure Dad got home on time before the parole officer got to the crib. And I watched it. You know, I watched that happen. My stepdad tried out for the Dallas Cowboys. I’m from Dallas. And almost made it to the Cowboys. He was in the second round. I watched that inspiration. I watched that hustle. You know, I watched that dream that he had”. Majors, a friend of producer Ryan Coogler, also consulted him.

Creed III
Director and actor Michael B. Jordan (Photos courtesy of MGM)

Videography and Sound

I saw Creed III on Imax, of course, which was well worth it because I heard and felt every punch that was delivered during the fight scenes. The sound design in this film made me feel like I was in the match, and there were a few times I physically reacted to the punches. Especially when Michael B. Jordan takes a particular punch in the solar plexus in the third act. I really felt like I couldn’t breathe for him. There are other moments in the film where the sound design helped enhance the action and tension between the boxers. 

With Jordan’s direction, the film is visually appealing with anime and The Matrix-influenced angles that help the audience stay engaged during the matches. When a boxer sees an opening, the camera allows you to see it as well, so when the punches land, you understand why it is so effective. 

Jordan utilizes his skills not only when the characters are boxing, but also when he shares conversations with his wife, daughter, and Damian. I love the scenes where he places the characters in front of the giant Apollo Creed painting he has in one of his rooms, representing their passions as fighters. It also shows that Creed has forgiven his father. 

Creed III
Bianca Creed (Tessa Thompson), Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Amara Creed (Mila Davis-Kent)

The Takeaway on Creed III

This emotional and action-packed sequel is well-written and has a phenomenal cast. The film highlights male trauma, growth, forgiveness, and healing. Even if you disagree, you’ll still feel connected with the characters and understand their actions. It is a must-watch that could be shared with family and fans. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself cheering during fight scenes or even holding back tears.