Tag Archives: Dapper Dr. Feel

06Jul/22

Kadeem Hardison Talks About Starring in AMC Plus Sci-Fi Series Moonhaven… Truly, a Different World

Kadeem Hardison as Arlo – Moonhaven _ Season 1 , Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

Every time I see Kadeem Hardison’s name all I can hear in my head is “Dwayne! Dwayne!” in the voice of Whitley Gilbert played by Jasmine Guy on the hit show A Different World, but these days you can find Kadeem Hardison in the new AMC Plus series Moonhaven… a show where he is literally on a different world, the moon to be exact. The actor talked about his new show with Taji Mag and gave us an introduction to his love for comics books. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How did you become a part of this project and what was your inspiration for this role? 

Kadeem Hardison (KD): Life as an actor is pretty much the routine of you audition and then you wait. So I auditioned then I waited, but I got the part. The good part was I got sent a script, I read it, and I got very excited at the prospect that this was gonna actually be a show… like, this was already financed and happening. It wasn’t like someone was sending me a script and hoping they could raise some money. This was the beginning of a series. I was thrilled at the idea of being a part of the show because of what it suggests (in regards to the world and human existence) and how it tackles the issues [humanity has faced over the years]. I found interest in the culture that is created on the moon, this society, and the different ways people are living there. These are the same humans on Earth, they are just living a different way of life. They have figured out a way, over a hundred years, to have worked out all the kinks that have plagued society on Earth. I just thought it had a lot of good stuff to say.

What inspired my character, Arlo? For me, the character comes from the writing. Usually, I read the, script, I get an idea about how the character should walk, talk, stand, etc. There wasn’t anything specifically in other roles where I’ve gone ahead and said “okay, this guy’s gonna be a little bit like this” (an amalgamation of a bunch of different characters that I’ve either seen in the past and loved or thought “this is something I’ve always wanted to do”). This was pretty much the future and on another planet! So there wasn’t anything I could draw from the present. It wasn’t going to be like Denzel in John Q. The one thing I know about this Arlo is that he is true, a hundred percent committed to this cause, and not fake in any way. He may have problems or issues, but his focus is “we have to build this bridge to save mother Earth”.  

DDF: Are there any methods or technology from the series that you would like to see present today? 

KD: Hell yeah, I would love it if you could just take a little piece of wood and point it at something and click it, then anything you want to know shows up. That’s the first one, the fact that any surface really can be a tablet.  Anything you’re looking at, you can just tap it and it turns into a tablet. 

I loved that the detectives are more concerned with the living than the dead and the mystery of how they became dead. Now we’re more concerned with you and how you are feeling and how you’re dealing with this tragedy because your balance is my balance. If you are outta whack, then you might go out and do something crazy. That’s more work for me to try and clean up. So making sure you are okay and that you are balanced keeps the rest of us in balance. 

 DDF: So what would your utopian world look like?

KD: It would probably look a lot like Moonhaven. I really thought the things implemented in the script, in our society on Moonhaven, were pretty damn good. No, one’s hungry, no one’s stealing, very little crime and jealousy. You have those feelings, but you learn to work them out through practices and methods put in place. Music is everywhere, the alphabet is musical. There’s a dance in it. I didn’t see any animals. There’s only one dog on the moon. After realizing this, I was like “Huh? Does that mean there are no animals on the moon?”. I don’t remember the moon inhabitants dealing with animals besides the one dog and a big bird. Then I thought to myself “is that dog real?”. Yeah, I’d have some animals for sure.

DDF: Were you able to keep your composure and be in sync with Dominic during your dance routine in the series? 

KD: Yeah, absolutely. We learned that dance and it’s pretty simple. We couldn’t wait to perform it and the showrunner kept saying “We’’ll probably let you do half of it.” They let us do maybe two movements and it was like “Oh man, really?”. 

Kadeem Hardison as Arlo and Dominic Monaghan as Paul Sarno – Moonhaven _ Season 1, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

DDF: Speaking of dance moves, what is your go-to move if you are asked to dance at some place like a bbq? 

KH: I like the gigolo from back in the day. That’s pretty much my go-to because it doesn’t involve a lot of movement and I am not going to sweat a lot since I don’t have to move my feet. 

DDF:  So let’s say you could bring four people from any time period to your utopian moon, what four people would it be? 

KD: I’d probably bring my idols. I’d bring Bruce Lee so he could teach us Jeet Kune Do. I’d bring Muhammad Ali so he’d give us confidence beyond ourselves. I’d probably bring Malcolm X because he starts some shit… he’d definitely find some shit to start. I’d bring Prince because he is a musical genius and he would figure out new instruments. He would invent instruments and find ways for us to enjoy sound. 

DDF: I see you like comic books, who are your four favorite comic book characters? 

KH: I’d have to say Spiderman, Batman, Black Panther, and Wolverine.

DDF: What other sci-fi character would you like to be? 

KD: Any of the Dune characters. I don’t care who it is.

DDF: The Mooners focus on healing in Moonhaven. What way(s) do you use to heal? 

KH: Usually peace and quiet. If that doesn’t work, then usually loud music and video games. Comics are also my go-to and have been since I was eight years old. It is a form of escapism. You can dive into a comic and next thing you know, you’re doing voices. Then you’re trying to read each character differently and create something new. 

DDF: I was a huge “A Different World” fan growing up. When I saw your character killed by television in “Def by Temptation”, it kind of scarred me. 

KH: Killed by television, right? Which became an actual fear (of mine). I was like, “I gotta get off this show because I will never be able to do any movies or other projects. I don’t wanna be killed by television”! So yeah, that’s funny.


Moonhaven starring Kadeem Hardison, Emma McDonald, Joe Manganiello, and Dominic Monaghan starts streaming on Thursday, July 7 Exclusively on AMC+.

Full interview with Kadeem Hardison

06Jul/22

Moonhaven Star, Emma McDonald, Says the Series is Brilliant, Experimental, and Timely

Emma McDonald as Bella Sway – Moonhaven _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

What would happen if we flew people to the moon and established a place where solutions to human issues were developed or have been already invented? The sci-fi drama Moonhaven on AMC Plus gives a glimpse of what that would look like. The star of the series, Emma McDonald, talked with Taji Mag about her lead role in the series plus she gave us details on what the Moonhaven community is like. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What was your reaction when you first read the script?

Emma McDonald (EM):  I have to do this, please let me be a part of this. Moonhaven is brilliant and such a rare thing.

DDF: How would you describe your character, Bella?

EM: It’s like an onion. There are a lot of layers there. A reluctant hero, a soldier, a cynic who’s incredibly lovable at the same time. She has the most bangin’ playlist as well. 

DDF: Speaking of the playlist, what song or songs would you use to describe her? 

EM: Oh, she’s into her oldies and she likes classics. Bella likes things with a bit of heart and soul.

DDF: Can you describe what the utopian place looks like in the series and if you could create your own utopia, what would it look like? 

EM:  It’s interesting because going into the series, I don’t think you expect it (the utopian community) to be what Peter (Ocko) has made. It’s so stunning and so sort of focused on nature, the environment, beauty, and love. You kind of picture a typical sci-fi world with metal shiny composites and all of that, but instead you have a botanical garden and woodland. I found it really interesting seeing that development and all the sets being built by the fantastic art department. Peter has such a way of making things so timely and so relevant, but also creating something so beautiful and unexpected. You have a diverse landscape there, as well, from quarries to rich woodlands and beautiful meadows. If you look at it from Bella’s perspective, she’s been on this barron polluted earth (a hundred years in the future), which if we don’t change our ways, at the rate we are going, that situation may be our reality. 

DDF: There is a scene where Peter (Dominic Monaghan) and Arlo (Kadeem Hardison) perform a dance for your character. Were you able to keep your composure and not laugh? 

EM: So they weren’t allowed to do the dance in its entirety. I think one day we may have them do it. I think it’ll be something beautiful. When they practiced it beforehand, I had a giggle. But when I was on set, I thought “Bella would not think this is funny. She wants to leave and have her mission end right now.” So I channeled [what I envisioned would be] her composure and it showed on the outside. 

DDF: So what was your biggest obstacle filming this series? 

EM: For me, it was letting go of each scene at the end of the cut. I’ve got a rich theater background, which I think has really helped me in this role and set me up well for it. But obviously, when you’re doing a show, you’re doing a tour, you sleep on it, and then the next day you come in and you think “Oh my, I can do this” or “What happens if I play it out in this way?”. So for me, the biggest obstacle was letting go of each scene and each day, and sort of starting fresh the next day with something new. There are so many ways to play a scene and because Peter’s writing is such a gift, you kind of wanna keep going at it. 

DDF: Speaking of theater, I noticed that the conversation between you and Joe Manganiello’s character, Tomm, seemed very poetic and Shakespearian. Was that included in the script or was that something that you or Joe channeled on the spot?

EM: Well, that’s all Peter. All of the writing and the dialogue was him. We had a few moments of improv, not really with me and Joe necessarily, but with Kade and Dominic. For Peter, language is such a big part of the story. You can see it in the Mooners’ (citizens of the moon) mannerisms, their physical language, and the way that they speak to each other.

It’s so beautiful, but coming at it from Bella’s perspective, she’s kinda like “You guys are a bit strange.” Which is also fun to play. As she adapts, she brings some of those things into her own life. It’s very interesting.

Emma McDonald as Bella Sway – Moonhaven _ Season 1, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

DDF: What four people would you like to bring to your version of a utopian planet?  

EM: I’d have to say my little sister, cause she’s my number one.  Would I be able to use my spaceship to go back to earth? 

DDF: Sure, you have in the show. 

EM: If I have my spaceship, I can take three people to head back. My grandma. She’s no longer with us, but I would love to experience that with her and I think that would be wonderful. I’ve gotta take my mom and my dad now as well.

DDF: Is there a sci-fi character or a sci-fi franchise you would like to take part in? 

EM: I’d like to see Moonhaven keep going, first off. 

DDF: Of course, of course! I can see you in the Alien franchise.

EM: Oh my gosh. I would love to work with Sigourney Weaver. Yes, please. I’d shave my head as well. Yeah, I think together we’d be great with it. I really like Lord of the Rings. God, I would love to be in Star Wars. I mean, I could just keep going. Ex Machina, I thought that was awesome as well. That’s a very different route into it. 

I think we have quite a lot of experimental and character-driven stuff in Moonhaven, and I think their approach is really interesting as well…but yeah, Alien, man. I think you’re absolutely right with that. I would love that. 

I really hope to see Emma in another sci-fi franchise like Alien or Star Wars! I have no doubt she will end up getting some screentime in the future. In the meantime, catch her as Bella on Moonhaven streaming on Thursday, July 7th.

30Jun/22

Rise is About Family, Love, and Perseverance

Streaming: Disney Plus

Release Date: June 24, 2022

Actors: Dayo Okeniyi as Charles Antetokounmpo, Yetide Badaki as Veronica “Vera” Antetokounmpo, Uche Agada as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ral Agada as Athanasios “Thanasis” Antetokounmpo, Elijah Sholanke as Alexandros “Alex” Antetokounmpo, and Jaden Osimuwa as Kostantinos “Kostas” Antetokounmpo

Synopsis: Based on the real-life story about the Antetokounmpo family, the first family to produce a trio of brothers who go on to become NBA champions. It explores their journey as Nigerian immigrants in Greece striving for a better life.

Many of us know about, or at least have heard of, Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka The Greek Freak) from his MVP awards and 2021 championship with the Milwaukee Bucks. For years now, he’s been dominating the NBA. We also know that he was born in Greece to Nigerian parents and has siblings in the NBA. One thing we are not sure about is his upbringing…until now. With the film Rise, audiences and fans can get a glimpse of what it was like for Antetokounmpo growing up. You’ll be surprised to learn what Giannis’ family had to go through…I know I was.

Giannis and his family

We’ve seen it before: the overseas basketball player struggling financially with aspirations to play in the NBA. But Rise has a different narrative; Giannis and his brothers were also trying to avoid deportation while living in Greece. Not ony does this make for a more interesting film with layers, but also provides a better feel for the family’s obstacles. This film brings to light the family’s obstacles and their persistence to make ends meet while also showcasing their optimism. This gave me a better understanding of why Giannis and his brothers are down to earth on the court and on social media. The scenes when the family was almost caught by the authorities and deported back to Nigeria felt incredibly tense. They were barely escaping each time, and so I couldn’t help but cheer for this family’s breakthrough since it was clear they needed it. It elicited an oddly intense response from me, especially for a Disney film. I found this quite impressive. Even during the part of the movie where Giannis was drafted, I couldn’t help but watch with great antcipation!

The direction and videography were very well executed in this film. Historically, it hasn’t been easy capturing the beauty of dark skin on screen, especially when it comes to lighting and angles, but this wasn’t an issue in this film. This is my first time watching a piece directed by Akin Omotoso and I look forward to seeing more of his work.

I have to be honest. When it comes to biopics, sometimes they aren’t the best quality, but I can say that Rise was well done. There was nothing lacking in the acting, especially with Yetide Badaki who played Giannis’ mother and who is Nigerian herself. She was nurturing, protective, and also provided an inspiring presence on screen. Every time I saw her, she reminded me of not only my mother but also other Black mothers I know.

Dayo Okeniyi (as Giannis’ father, Charles) also had a great performance. Portraying a father who’s doing all he can to provide for his family, considering everything they’d overcome, the stress was real and Dayo was able to channel that stress. I can only imagine how it would feel consistently trying to find ways to bring joy to my family while dealing with such difficult circumstances.

The actors portraying Giannis and his brothers added to the great performance of the cast as a whole. Uche Agada was convincing as a newcomer learning how to play the game of basketball at a later age. He provided a believable fish-out-of-water perspective. When the boys were faced with racism as teenagers, it definitely resonated with me because I too have experienced racism at a young age, as I’m sure many other young men of color have.

Giannis with actor Uche Agada

Overall, this film was a well-crafted project for Disney Plus that the entire family can watch and enjoy. It’s a film about family, love, and perseverance. After watching this film, I have a better appreciation for the Antetokounmpo family as a whole and it made me respect the former MVP even more. The writing and acting were compelling, and I hope many people watch this film as it’s a fresh take on a basketball story that happens to be based on true events. Not only am I cheering for the success of this film, but I am also cheering for the success of the Antetokounmpo family.

05Jun/22

AMC Releases First Look at 61st Season Two

61st Season Two
Courtney B. Vance as Franklin Roberts

With season one of 61st Street ending on May 29th and most of the stories surrounding Mose’s case beginning to unfold, many more opportunities to clean up the police and judicial system are in sight for lawyer Franklin Roberts, played by Courtney B. Vance. The same police and prosecutors are responsible for illegal activity and conviction of Black people in the community, are still not happy with the result of the case and will continue with their illicit tactics. Who knows how Lt. Brannigan, played by Holt McCallany, and his underlings will react to the righteous efforts of Roberts and his wife. By the way, I’m not too fond of Lt. Brannigan because he has shown me he is the devil. I know it’s just acting but Holt plays that role so well; he had me yelling at my tv screen. You’ll have to see what I mean by watching the first season streaming on AMC+. 

The second season will start streaming in 2023, enough time for me to cool down and lower my blood pressure before revisiting my dislike for Lt. Brannigan. Check out the trailer below. If you are like me you’ll have a few questions and it looks like there won’t be any dancing to Kirk Franklin at the end of season two.

About 61st Street: A propulsive thriller that courses through the dark heart of the infamous Chicago criminal justice system as police and prosecutors investigate a deadly drug bust that threatens to unravel the police department’s code of silence.

Starring: Courtney B. Vance, Aunjanue Ellis, Mark O’Brien, Holt McCallany, Tosin Cole, Andrene Ward-Hammond, and Bentley Green.

24May/22

Disney Launchpad Finalist, Spencer Glover, Is Ready to Share More Stories

Every once in a while, I find an indie short film I can connect with during my coverage of film festivals. One of the films that stood out to me at the 2021 Bentonville Film Festival was Message Read by Spencer Glover.  Not only did Spencer impress audiences with his touching film, but he also won over the judges for the Disney Launchpad contest. He was selected as Director for the project, Black Belts

Taji Mag was able to catch up with the busy Writer/Director to talk about his upcoming Disney Plus project and his work as a creative. 

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

Spencer Glover (SG): It’s been a little bit of a, well, not-so-crazy story. As a kid, I watched a lot of movies. I remember watching movies like Blood Sport and Jurassic Park. And so I think the love for filmmaking started when I was a kid. The “seed” was planted when I was young, but it didn’t really sprout until college when I got into Tennessee State. 

I remember as I was walking on campus and, at this point, I was studying Music. I was walking around the music building and it was connected to the Communications department. So I walked past some students that were running the Tiger News Broadcast, which goes out to the entire school. And I just saw this group of kids and they’re running the show… the cameras, they had a director, there were students working on the sound, and they were doing interviews. Something about that just sort of struck me and, later that semester, I changed my major to Film. From there, everything exploded. 

DDF: What is your process for making your films? Does it differ depending on the genre?  

SG: You know, I’ve realized this: that [with] films, for me, all I’m trying to do is just connect to the emotions that I felt as a kid watching movies. So, I’m trying not to be a Filmmaker who just deals with one topic because I love so many different types of films. But I do recognize that there are certain personal dramatics that come out of your work unconsciously.

For me, the themes could be anything from losing a parent or dealing with childhood trauma to just protecting things, protecting the world that you live in. Those things have sort of found their way into everything that I’ve written so far. And I think it’s going to continue to be that way. I try to recognize that feeling when I have an idea and I feel like that inspiration comes over my body. I try to really grasp onto that and examine what it is about the idea that is sticking with me.

DDF: What is your favorite film genre? 

SG: I have a lot of guilty pleasures in film. Action films are probably always going to be some of my favorite. Action comedies too! I think of films like Rush Hour shamelessly. It’s one of my favorites. It’s got a little bit of a different tune than what I regularly watch now, but I just try to appreciate the heart of the story and what it was trying to say. I’ve always been attracted to Sci-fi films and, like, the whimsy of filmmaking. So, I love to watch stuff that transports me to a different place where I can just forget about my problems and the world for an hour or two, and just kind of get sucked into the world of the movie.

I like those character-driven sort of indie dramas too. Like the ones you watch and just know that this film is going to break your heart. I was watching Drive My Car the other day and during the first 20 minutes of the film I’m like “This movie is going to break my heart.”. An hour or two later I am in tears saying to myself “Why is life like this, why do we have to go through this?”

DDF: What was your reaction when you got selected as a Launchpad finalist?

SG: Just pure joy. I remember one of the coordinators for the program set up a meeting with me for 15 minutes after the second interview. I got on the call and the coordinator said “man, I’m not even gonna waste time…you got it”. And I just had the biggest smile on my face. It was a big thing for me and I just felt a lot of joy.

I’ve gotten over a little bit of a hurdle in my career because, as Filmmakers, we all struggle with this; that idea of “can I perform at a level that’s high enough?” You aspire to that, but you do the work and then you put it out. Sometimes it doesn’t resonate or connect the way that you want. And you have that battle of, like, “Man, I don’t know if I’m in the right space or doing the right thing”. So hearing that I got into this was, it was a boost of confidence and it was really validating.

DDF: This leads to my next question. Have you ever questioned yourself at any moment in your filmmaking career? If so, how did you overcome it? 

SG: I did have my moment, but I was able to get over it. The post-production of my film, Message Read, was really hard. We had plans to take it to the professional post house, do professional color, and all these other things and, you know, money is tight in our industry. We only had, I think, a $12k budget for the project, and all of that money was used up during the shoot. So I had to take on being an Editor and doing graphics, visual effects, and color. It was a lonely process, but in the end, this film is such a personal story.

I’m very critical of my own work, so I’m seeing all of the shortcomings. We sent it out into the world and we submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival and South By Southwest Film Festival and all these places. We got rejected from all of them. 

I’ve learned that everything you create, you don’t control and it has it’s own life. So we put the film out and it got rejected a bunch in the beginning. Kariss (my partner and wife) had similar feelings: that we did a great job with this film. We’re happy and proud of it. We can’t control anything else. Then, at about four months into the pandemic, the movie started gaining momentum. Out of nowhere the project just started getting into festivals and people were really starting to respond to it. I think it had to do with the fact that, as a group, we were losing so many people at that time and the story is about dealing with loss. It was just connecting in a way that we didn’t expect. And it just goes back to the idea: you don’t know what’s going to happen. So, I’m thankful that Message Read is making a connection now. 

DDF: Can you tell us about your Disney project, Black Belts

SG: It’s a Kung Fu story. It’s a father and son relationship dealing with loss. It touches on aspects of masculinity and what it means to be masculine. I think you and I grew up in an era where a macho man was the way to be for boys and young men. I was talking to a friend about how from the 80s and early 90s, it was peak macho. It was, like, shoot’em up and a lot of action associated with masculinity, especially in entertainment. It was such a fun time, but it could be a little toxic and Black Belt touches on a few of those areas.

It’s coming out in 2023 on Disney Plus. We’re in development with it right now. We’re doing rewrites on the script and I’m working with Xavier Styles (the writer of the story). It’s also a true story for him, so it’s been really fun. It’s definitely a process and it’s really setting me up in a way that feels true to the studio world because this is the first film that I’m going to be directing something I did not write.

Also, a big part of this program is that it’s multi-hyphenate filmmaking. This season, they actually split it into two groups. So there are Writers and there are Directors. I just applied as a Director because I wanted to really take a shot at receiving somebody else’s script, finding myself in it, and then putting it up on screen. 

You try to find your way into it and make sure that you connect with the material. It’s been a journey. We have about another month of development, then we go into pre-production, then we shoot the film in the Summer, then post-production takes place, and then there’s a release on Disney Plus. 

The entertainment industry has shown progress in Black creatives getting exposure to audiences across the world. Spencer Glover is one of the names that will be on that list. I know Spencer talked about how the movie Drive My Car broke his heart. Well, Message Read broke my heart and so I’ll be looking forward to seeing his future projects. Make sure to check out his work on his website and be on the lookout for his Disney Plus project, Black Belt, in 2023.

 

08May/22

Kamal Angelo Bolden On NBC’s New Hit, ‘The Endgame’

THE ENDGAME SYNOPSIS: A pulse-pounding high-stakes two-hander about Elena Federova, a recently captured international arms dealer and brilliant criminal mastermind who orchestrates a number of coordinated bank heists throughout New York City for a mysterious purpose. Her antagonist is Val Turner, the principled, relentless, and socially outcast FBI agent who will stop at nothing to foil her ambitious plan. The gripping heist drama reveals how far some people will go for love, justice, and the most valuable commodity in the world: the truth.

While watching the pilot of the new NBC series, The Endgame, all I could think about was the relationship between lead character Val Turner (played by Ryan Michelle Bathé) and her husband, Owen Turner (played by Kamal Angelo Bolden ). The show gives us this loving couple who’d been together for years, and now Owen is divorcing Val. All the while she is having a cerebral chess match with a crime boss in custody and orchestrating multiple bank heists involving hostages all over New York City. Just brutal! Luckily for Taji Mag, we were able to sit down with actor Kamal Angelo Bolden and ask him “what’s up with Owen in The Endgame?”

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How did you get involved with this project?

Kamal Angelo Bolden (KAB): My agent hit me up with the opportunity to audition last summer while I was in Chicago filming a TV show for AMC (61st street) and I read the script. I was lucky enough to get a script. At the time, the Owen character was named Elgin. That’s a little Easter egg for some people. The first time we encounter Owen, he’s issuing his wife divorce papers inside a correctional facility. And I was automatically like, “Wait a minute. What is this? I thought this was going to be, like, network television”.

It’s hard-hitting and not like your typical show. I was like, “this is kind of deep!” because the further I read on, I found out that his relationship with his wife goes back to when they were about five years old. So they’re, like, not just only high school sweethearts, but they’ve known each other their entire lives.

After getting to know more of the story, it was something I had never ever had an opportunity to explore or relate to. You automatically question, “How could Owen divorce his wife (Val) like that, with all that history? So, I was already taken by the script and I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna do my best…if I get this particular callback.”

I got a callback and the dominoes kept falling in place because I got the screen test while I was at home in Peoria, Illinois (my mom’s house). Obviously, I knocked it out of the park. I felt God sent the job my way.

DDF: How would you describe Val and Owen’s relationship to someone who hasn’t seen the show?

KAL: Their love is deeper than words can describe. When you encounter these two individuals who have been together their whole lives, they have a certain amount of trust to make it as far as they have.

So when you see the pilot, there’s a sense of betrayal. But they’re both fighting for something bigger than themselves. Val, played by Ryan Michelle, is fighting to keep their relationship while trying to bring down Elaina Federer over the international arms dealer who’s seized seven banks across New York City. And in the same point, she’s also dealing with some of her personal paths with her father and her mother. And then she’s also trying to figure out why her husband is in prison, you know, ’cause I’m a former FBI agent who [was] accused of stealing money.

So there’s a lot going on there. She’s trying to figure out if I’m on her side or if I’m on the side of the other people who are running these heists. And for me, I can only divulge so much information to her, even as she comes and visits me while I’m in prison.

Right now we are further along into the series and finding out some really, really deep, intricate stuff about Owen and Val’s relationship.

Kamal Angelo Bolden as Owen Turner

DDF: What is going through Owen’s mind while he is going through all this?

KAL: What I think Owen is really experiencing while he’s behind bars is a sense of struggle. There’s like a battle between feeling helpless and protecting his wife from the inside of this correctional facility, but there’s this sense of optimism that it’ll all be worth it in the end. There’s this plan that Owen has.

And so every day is a battle. It’s a struggle inside there. You’ve lost your freedom. You are in there with other criminals, and being an FBI agent in a facility like that, you’re not a welcome, you’re a persona non grata. He has got to watch his back all the time, but at the end of the day, he’s trying to work towards getting his wife.

DDF: I’m trying to get you to think objective now. Who would you choose: team Val or team Elena?

KAL: So we have two strong cerebral women that are competing against each other. You know, it changes each episode in a way. Objectively, when you start off in episodes one and two, I think it’s pretty easy to be team Val.

The thing is whether you’re team Val or team Elena, you know that both women are very strong for different reasons and have very strong motivations for why they go head to head.

So you root for Val because she has the smarts, she has the intuition, and she has the, like, stamina to go after these things with such a passion and ruthlessness.

As for Elena, she is slick, smooth, and she’s pulling off stuff that you’re like “how does she pull it off?” Because she thinks so many moves ahead! They’re both playing tough. So it was kind of like watching two chess masters go against each other.

In the end, I don’t care who wins. This is just an exciting match to watch.

DDF: What’s been your favorite experience while shooting this series?

KAL: Shooting in New York. First of all, there’s that. It’s a different energy to the city of New York, you know? I’m from Illinois. It’s just something about New York that reminded me of Chicago, but just a little bigger and a little bit more energy.

My favorite part is just the people. Everybody from the cast and crew is super dope!

They’re super goofy. We have a lot of fun, but then even our hair and makeup people…they’re hilarious! They keep the day going. And our crew is hilarious. Shooting in New York is super fun and super dope. And I think we make good TV.

DDF: In a previous interview. You said your favorite character you play was Emile Griffin. Would you be interested in turning it into a film?

KAL: Absolutely! I would love to direct it and not have to play the lead. I would be honored. I believe his story 100% deserves, like, a $50 million, a $100 million budget. His story is absolutely phenomenal. He was a great human being, but he was also coming through in a time where his sexuality and his humanity were not only questioned but attacked.

It was easy for people to kind of paint him a certain way because of what he did for a living, which is boxing. And of course what happened to him, tragically, against Benny “The kid” Paret is heartbreaking. It’s a beautiful story, man.

DDF: Say you are doing an action film? Who would be your sidekick, love interest, or villain, and who would direct it?

KAL: That’s a crazy question, man. Who would be my sidekick in this bad boy? You know what? I’ll cast for this movie right now. If I’m filming an action film, I’m going to say I want Don Cheadle to play my pop. Right. Okay. Um, I’m going to have Lisa Nicole Carson play, even though she is not old enough, to play my mother but we can figure something out. As for my sidekick, I would have to go with my boy Aaron J. Who would be my nemesis? Let me see? Dang. You got me on that. Oh, you know what? I might go with either Yaya or LaKeith Stanfield.

That’s a good question, man. That’s a good one.

DDF: Okay. So who’s going to direct this big-budget, phenomenal film?

KAL: I think I might have to go with Ryan Coogler.

Until he shoots his dream action film or biopic film, you can catch Kamal Angelo Bolden as Owen Turner in The Endgame on NBC and Peacock. Hopefully, Owen will redeem himself because where he is in early episodes is not a good look.

01May/22

Taji Vol31: Colors

Release Jun 7 2022 | Vol31 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Colors! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol31 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @chrissythevocalist. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: ““Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” Explores Devotion and Relationship” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Stop The Deregulation of the NYS Natural Hair Styling License; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: Who Am I Outside of My Blackness?” by dCarrie; “Heart and Mind are a Power Couple” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Sankofa — Go back but don’t forget to also go forward” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 31 contributed photo story, “Colors;” Fitness Highlight, Rose Rollins Rocks Long Slow Exhale as Head Coach Abernathy; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Black Bean Quinoa Burger; “Use Credit to Pay Off Debt While Building Wealth in 7 Steps” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; “Healing With Hugs or Softcore Prostitution?” by Jehriko Turner; Featured Art Piece by Craig C The Artist; Comic Appreciation featuring “Kishi and the Island of Dreams” by AnimeHipHop; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 31 Colors

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 31

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of OUR people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

14Apr/22

Actress Andrene Ward-Hammond Says 61st Street is Not Your Typical Courtroom Show

Andrene Ward-Hammond in 61st Street

James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The new AMC series, 61st Street, does just that. It’s a story about the struggles of a Black man named Moses and the obstacles he must face in pursuit of his college dream. Andrene Ward-Hammond, the actress portraying Norma, the mother of Moses, let Taji Mag know why 61st Street is not a typical courtroom show and talked about what makes the series relatable. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What made you choose to be a part of this project?

Andrene Ward-Hammond (AWH): Other than getting booked? Lol. I came off of the show Your Honor, and Peter Moffat (61st Street creator) sent this project to me. So I’m super grateful for that. A mom raising two Black kids, specifically black sons in Chicago. I don’t know if I would want to pass up the opportunity to portray the character. I’m a Black mom, a few different sides of her, you know?

DDF: How did you approach this role? 

AWH: I am originally from New York and moved to Georgia. I [have] a daughter, and the part of Georgia we moved to, didn’t see much of us. It wasn’t a hard reach playing a mom, and it was easy to pull from experiences because I knew my challenges raising my daughter. Like, we are not seen in the best light in America…how we protect our tribe, how we protect our family, and how excited we are about our culture. It’s not hard to pull from because I am wildly protective of my daughter, my family, and of my friends. So to raise two Black men as characters, it’s already sitting in there ’cause we already fighting for Black men in America. So it’s like, we’re not way too far off from that. 

Andrene Ward-Hammond in 61st Street
Andrene Ward-Hammond as Norma Johnson in 61st Street Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/AMC

DDF: What do you think Norma is thinking internally as her son is being blamed for killing an officer? 

AWH: That (Norma) wants him alive by any means necessary. She knows who her child is. She knows who she raised Moses to be. He is not the criminal the police are making him out to be. It’s so outside of Moses’ character, she tells him to run. She saw a child who was always the good kid. So it’s always a battle internally, too. Like, what can save him? What can she do to ensure that his life is saved? [The authorities] do not see him in the best light. Norma just wants to see her kids happy.

DDF: What was it like on set with the rest of the cast?

AWH: Mr. C (Courtney B. Vance) is dope. He is like that uncle you always wanted. Ms. Aunjanue (many flowers given) is like a big sister I absolutely needed. It’s so funny because we were just texting today. Tosin and Bentley were the sweetest ever. They can’t get rid of me now. Tosin’s like my little brother. Bentley’s like my son. Holt is hilarious and the best host ever. As for Mark. I just want to be on a comedy show that Mark writes because he is absolutely fricking hilarious. You can’t say no to a project that’s led by Courtney B. Vance and Aunjanue. It was a given, it was a gift. I don’t care how it turned out. 

DDF: What do you think people will get out of this project? 

AWH: It’s not your typical courtroom show. It shows how these cases, like the one in 61st Street, affect families outside of a courtroom. It doesn’t lean towards anybody being a good or a bad guy. It’s based on your moral compass. So you get to determine, “okay well, this is how I feel about that”, but, more than anything, start to engage in conversation that’s incredibly uncomfortable. But it’s not like it’s going away ’cause it’s happening now. Although the show is [only now] made, the creators started on it six years ago. To have it land at a time after the kneeling on the neck incident, it just shows you how relevant the conversation is and how it needs to continue. We clearly still have a fight ahead of us.

The first two episodes of 61st Street have provided more than enough interest for me to stay invested. I want to see what paths each character will choose since the Chicago environment places some tension between the police and its citizens, much like real life. Veterans Courtney B. Vance and Aunjanue Ellis bring their chemistry from Lovecraft County. The series looks promising as Andrene and other castmates add to the intensity and compelling stories in the series.

Promising high school teenager, Moses Johnson (Tosin Cole), finds himself running for his life after he is wrongfully accused of killing a police officer. His only hope is Franklin Roberts (Courtney B. Vance), a lawyer down to his last case and struggling with his health. Will Moses be placed on the path of prison or will he be able to live the life for which he’s worked so hard? 

61st Street | Where to watch: AMC 

Starring: Courtney B. Vance, Aunjanue Ellis, Andrene Ward-Hammond, Tosin Cole

Executive producer: Michael B. Jordan

14Apr/22

Omar Epps Discusses His New Film, The Devil You Know, and How He Defines Love

From Love and Basketball to House, Omar Epps has entertained us for years with characters that have been nothing short of memorable. With his new film, The Devil You Know, he serves as actor and executive producer. It’s a crime-thriller drama about a recovering alcoholic trying to piece his life together after being incarcerated. He is faced with a difficult decision to either tip off a detective (Michael Ealy) or keep quiet after discovering his brother, Drew (Will Catlett), was part of a horrific robbery. Omar Epps was able to sit down with Taji Mag to talk about his new project. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What made you want to be a part of this film? 

Omar Epps (OE): Charles and I were having lunch eight years ago. He just pitches me what I thought was a great idea. I’m like, ”Yeah, let me read the script!” and he’s like, “I haven’t started writing yet.” I’m pissed off thinking “Why did you get me all riled up with ideas?” But you know, it’s been living with me and him for years. It took us eight years to actually get it made, which is a whole other conversation.

DDF: What else did you love about this film?

OE: I also loved the idea selfishly, as far as just the artists, to try to unpack this fractured human. The character I play in this film, Marcus, always looked like, if you can visualize it, a picture on the wall that’s ripped up, but then it has a bunch of tape on it.

So it’s still on the wall to me… Here’s a guy the audience meets and he’s newly sober, he’s just gotten a new job after a few years. He’s just growing and having enough confidence to maybe open himself up… He’s in a very emotionally precarious position, then you throw a grenade on top of that and let’s see what happens. That’s just really what drew me to it. 

DDF: What makes this film stand out? 

OE: You know, we (as a Black community) don’t get the chance to make films similar to like a Mystic River or The Town. You know, films that just have certain pacing to them. And that’s what really got me excited.

DDF: I noticed in the film that Drew and Marcus both struggled with adversities in life and dealt with periods of hardship. Where do you think that came from? It seemed like the other two brothers in the family were doing fairly well.

OE: I think it’s a true depiction of a real family, right? The more people there are in a family, the better chance that everybody ain’t gonna be able to stay on the straight and narrow. That’s just the nature of things, but we support the ones who may struggle more than others because it’s a struggle either way. It’s like King Richard [who] looked out for his girls who went on to become legends. With all due respect (and God bless them), the Williams sisters also have other sisters who are not sports icons. Do you know what I’m saying? No telling how things would be if they went a different way. To me, it’s a true depiction of life. 

Sometimes you’ve got to love hard and sometimes you’ve got to love soft. It’s a push and pull in that way. It’s really a film for everyone because everyone comes from a family that is similar to the one in this film. Everyone knows what it’s like to sit around a table, the food’s being cooked, and your cousins are playing cards over here. Uncle such and such just cracked open a bottle of you know what and talks about social stuff [for] about a half an hour. We all know that feeling. We wanted to try to capture that feeling so that people could examine themselves in a sense, I guess, and live vicariously through Marcus.

DDF: Speaking of which, did you learn anything about yourself while doing this film that made you look at things differently? Perhaps anything you could turn into a book seeing as you’ve published books before? 

OE: Well, that’s an interesting question. From a creative standpoint, I think if I do the job right, it’s up to the audience to try to learn about themselves in some way, shape, or form, you know?

DDF: Your wife is making her acting debut in this film, how did that happen?

OE: Well, you know, that’s really all Charles. We would talk about funny things about my wife. She’s been under the tutelage of the great Tasha Smith for a few years now… Art is art is art. You know, it’s just the different formats, but she took it seriously. So, we threw around different names and one day he calls and says “You know who would be great to play this role?” And I’m like, “ Who?” He says “Your wife!”  And I was like, “I should have thought of that. Well, I can’t be the one to tell her (lol).”

DDF: If you could describe The Devil You Know using music, what song would you pick?

OE: No one’s asked me that question, so my mind just went blank. That is a great question. Let me go seventies, “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye.

DDF: You are widely known for your role in Love and Basketball. The film was about love. My question to you is how do you define love? 

OE: Love itself? Honestly, I think that it is a verb. We can say it all day. You could have whatever [written] on tank tops, t-shirts, or whatever, but it has to be an action for it to actually be real, you know?  I’m from Brooklyn, New York and I grew up around a lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life. I’ve seen various forms of love. If love is sort of the roots of a tree, you have compassion, empathy, and all of these other things that come along with that type of feeling that forms the trunk and branches of the tree.  

I’ve been fortunate enough to see both sides of love and see the effects that it has on people. I choose the side of light. I choose the side of love because you just never know what someone’s going through. 

DDF: Are there any moments in life where you learned about love? 

OE: One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned so far on this life journey is from my mother. She was an educator [with] the Board of Education for 30 something years. She basically taught half of New York City. When Juice first came out, I was about 17 years old. I didn’t know enough. People would come up to me on the street and I’m like “They might recognize me from the movie” and they would say “You are Bonnie Epps’ son? She used to teach me in eighth grade”. You know, it didn’t matter if they become a doctor or a bus driver. They would tell me to thank her for the conversations she had with them when they were young. The crazy part is, I would always go back to my mom and tell her these things and she would remember exactly who I was talking about. She would say “Oh, big head Craig? Oh, yeah. He used to give me trouble”. What that taught me was the power of giving and if we’re not giving, we ain’t doing enough. And you don’t give to receive, you give simply for the act of giving. Whether that’s if someone is homeless and you give whatever you got in your pocket or whatever you can spend. You see a homeless person outside a restaurant and you go in. If you can afford it, don’t just give them the scraps. Maybe get them a small little plate of something. Whatever you can do, you know? 

I’m just saying that to say, going back to my definition of love, it was instilled in me at a very early age. A big part of this cycle is all about giving because when you are giving for the sake of giving, the universe gives it back to you in some way, shape, or form. You just don’t know what that may be. And I’m not talking about material, I’m just talking about happenings, you know. So I know that was a long-winded answer, but it all kind of comes back to that.

Epps made a valid comparison when he mentioned movies like The Town and Mystic River because The Devil You Know is in par with the pacing of those movies. The film explores the dynamics of a blue-collar family and the lead character, Marcus, has to make choices that may jeopardize his relationships but also provide him an avenue for forgiveness and peace.  

The Devil You Know will serve as a great conversational piece in regards to what we would do in Marcus’ or Drew’s shoes, how the actions of one person in the family can affect others, and how we should deal with the sins of our past. The film’s finale is filled with surprises and twists that I am personally not ready for but could see how these things could happen in real life. As Omar Epps mentioned in the interview, we all have that family member who suffers and struggles with temptation, but how do we deal with those individuals? 

See how things turn out for Marcus and his family in The Devil You Know

Synopsis: Boundaries and bonds are tested in this gritty crime-thriller drama about family, morality, and redemption. Once incarcerated Marcus Cowans (Omar Epps) is trying to turn over a new leaf with the support of his loving family. Upon discovering that one of his brothers (Will Catlett) may have been involved in a horrific crime, Marcus grapples with the limits of brotherhood and loyalty. He and his family, increasingly weary of the justice system’s failings, end up in the crosshairs of a seasoned but jaded detective (Michael Ealy). Written and directed by Charles Murray, The Devil You Know evokes the question: Am I my brother’s keeper? And at what cost?

Starring: Omar Epps, Will Catlett, Glynn Turman, Curtiss Cook, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Erica Tazel, Vaughn W. Hebron, Michael Beach, Keisha Epps, Ashley A. Williams, with Theo Rossi, and Michael Ealy. 

Written and Directed by: Charles Murray 

Run Time: 116 minutes

Where to watch: AMC Theaters

01Apr/22

Grand Crew Cast Talks Representation, Relationships, and Why They’re More than Just a Black Cast 

Watch via these Stream services: NBC/Peacock/Hulu

Cast: Echo Kellum, Nicole Byer, Justin Cunningham, Aaron Jennings, Grasie Mercedes, and Carl Tart

From writer/producer/director, Phil Augusta Jackson (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) and creator, Dan Goor (also “Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) comes a new comedy that proves life is better with your crew. 

Synopsis: This group of young professionals are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles, and they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to “wine down” and unpack it all. There’s Noah, a hopeless romantic too eager to settle down; Nicky, a go-getter in real estate who’s adventurous in romance; Sherm, a low-key genius who plays the dating odds; Anthony, whose true love is his career; Wyatt, who’s relieved to be married and out of the dating scene; and Fay, who’s recently divorced and looking to start fresh in LA. And just like wine, their friendship gets better with time.

Grand Crew cast: (left to right): Justin Cunningham, Nicole Byer, Echo Kellum, Grasie Mercedes, Carl Tart, and Aaron Jennings. 

Issa Rae’s popular series, Insecure, recently aired its last episode, posing the question “What Black-led series will be the next to have genuine relatability to the Black community?” My answer is Grand Crew! Not only is the series Black-led, but it’s mostly a male cast. Something not commonly seen on television. Grand Crew is a show about Black people navigating everyday issues where drugs, police, and violence are not the main focus. Taji Mag was able to talk to the cast and producers of the show to discuss the importance of having shows like Grand Crew on television. 

Representation is Everything 

When asked about the show being the next big hit like Insecure, Jackson said “Anybody that is saying it’s the next Insecure…I think that’s very flattering. I do think that the shows are very different [though]. I think highly of Issa Rae and Prentice as a team and as leaders behind the scenes. I was able to learn so much from them about the craft and the business. You know, like how to run a room and every job that I’ve had working with Dan on Brooklyn‘, too.” Jackson also added “As far as those comparisons go, we are not setting out to replace Insecure, especially after having worked on the show. I knew how special that show was. I think, tonally, the show’s different. I think the point of view is different. It does take place in Los Angeles, but it’s also a different part of Los Angeles.” 

What does the cast want people to get out of the show? Grasie Mercedes stated, “I would love it if people watch the show and are inspired to create more characters like this; to create more shows like this that just show different black, different Latin, different Asian, different people’s of color experiences, and not try to put us in these monolithic boxes that we are constantly portraying over and over again.”

Grasie Mercedes and Nicole Byer

Justin Cunningham added, “[With] the majority of black characters or diverse cast or diverse crew or diverse producers, whatever the makeup of the show, we can start to open our eyes to what is possible and not try to place labels or limits. Not to say what something should or should not be in society’s eyes, but what things could be. This could be a show that is just about people who happen to be Black and has Black themes. But there are people who go through the same things and themes in the show.”  

Grand Crew cast: (left to right): Echo Kellum, Carl Tart, Justin Cunningham, Nicole Byer, and Aaron Jennings

The Actors on Their Characters

With part of the show exploring the dating lives and relationships of the characters, I had to ask what advice would the actors give their characters? When asked what advice Nicole would give to her character, Nicky, she said, “I would tell Nicky to keep doing what she’s been doing. She’s pulling them in and getting dates. She’s getting what she wants. She’s having the relationship she wants. I would tell her to not dim her light for anybody.” 

For Noah, Echo stated, “I would definitely tell him to be true to himself. Don’t try to force anything. Let it come naturally and really take your time with love. Because the truth is that if love doesn’t come from within, it can’t come from anywhere else. To do yourself justice for the rest of your life, I think you have to deal with yourself, love, and aspects of yourself before you can brag now.” 

Grasie Fields encourages her character, Fay, to continue to be “open to love”, especially after being divorced. “It hasn’t discouraged her from finding love again. And I think she believes she has a good relationship with her ex-husband. Maybe we’ll see him, if we continue to be able to do the show, in a future episode. But I think she’s very open to love”, Fields says about Fay. 

Noah, Fay, and Nicky all have unique ways of approaching dating, and the audience has seen some development towards a season finale that has everyone wondering with whom they will end up. Part of the reason why we need a season 2! 

Black Masculinity

One of the things I love about the show is its coverage of Black masculinity. Wyatt, the level-headed voice of reason in the group, is a stay-at-home husband. He isn’t ridiculed or insulted because of the arrangement he has with his wife, his situation is normalized by not focusing on his status. 

When asked how Wyatt embraces his masculinity, Justin exclaimed, “How does he embrace his masculinity [while] being a stay-at-home husband? By vacuum cleaning the floor as perfectly as possible, by cooking meals as an expert like Gordon Ramsey would. That’s it. It’s fabulous. It’s great. I think that because that’s part of myself (as I’m [also] a perfectionist in that sense), I’m gonna do my best to be good at whatever I’m doing. I’m going to find joy in whatever I’m doing.”

Episode two of the first season, titled “Wine and Serendipity”, I found to be very funny because it addressed the topic of men crying and one of the characters, Sherm, talked about how he doesn’t cry. The episode even poked fun at how some men perceive that being caught crying is worse than being caught naked, a notion that is tested when Wyatt is caught naked in the bathroom by Sherm and, indeed, was more concerned about being caught crying.

Aaron Jennings, Carl Tart (center), and Justin Cunningham

When asked what would make Sherm cry, Carl Tart said, “The only thing that would make Sherm cry is the LA Clippers winning a championship. That would make me cry.” Tart added, “I have a $10,000 Clippers crystal ball sitting in the cart online now for when they win a championship.” “Yeah, by the time the Clippers win a championship, you’ll have enough money to buy the Clippers”, Aaron Jennings jokingly replied. 

Aaron Jennings and Carl Tart as Sherm and Anthony have great chemistry as roommates. Various episodes have resonated with me and brought back memories of my experiences with a roommate. When I asked them what sports duo they could be compared to, Carl responded “I’m going to say their relationship is like two teams at odds. This is the Lakers versus the Clippers. Sherm and Anthony are like those two teams. We share a home like they share a home court.” Aaron jokingly replied, “It’s like greatness versus mediocrity. Lol!” 

The Take-Away 

I love the fact that the show explores some of the very same topics my friends and I have discussed and they utilize a group chat, which my friends and I have also used. If you are a fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Living Single, or other single-camera comedies like those, you will love this show. I do, however, find a few moments where the dialogue is not authentic, or at least not relatable to me and my friends. Then again, dialogue is difficult to write. 

With the lack of representation and exploration of the dynamics of the Black community on television, Grand Crew is considerably one of the better shows to watch. With a helluva cliffhanger, an awesome cast, and more room for relatable content, we all hope to see this series renewed beyond season 1…and hopefully beyond a season 2! Tune in to NBC Peacock to catch the first season of Grand Crew.