Tag Archives: taji mag

05Aug/22

DC League of Super-Pets…Filled with Cute Moments, Lacking Laughs

Dwayne Johnson voices Krypto the Super-Dog, and Kevin Hart voices Ace the Hound.

Synopsis: In DC League of Super-Pets,” Krypto the Super-Dog (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side-by-side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound (Kevin Hart), PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle, and Chip the squirrel—to master their newfound powers and help him rescue the Super Heroes.

When you have Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as your lead actors, there are a few things you can expect: great chemistry between the two, a big box office turnout, and a bunch of laughs. DC League of Super-Pets continues the chemistry the two stars have shown on-screen in their previous works, Jumanji and CIA. It’s actually the best part of the film, but not enough so to produce the needed laughs to label this film one of their best. I watched this film a second time at an early screening to see how children would react to some of the jokes and funny moments; unfortunately just as I expected, there were only a few laughs from the children in the theater. 

I think the film put much effort into pulling off some cheap laughs, but overall struggled in the humor department. There were some moments that made me smirk and a few times I even chuckled, but mostly because of the turtle with the power of super speed. Merton McSnurtle, played by Natasha Lyonne, had super speed but was literally blind as a bat, pun intended. 

I was impressed with how Johnson and Hart were able to display their acting talents during the more serious moments in the film, especially when Hart’s character explains why his former owners gave him up for adoption. This is not the only time Hart has shown he can deliver a heart left dramatic scene; I remember his performance in Jumanji, where his character, Mouse, had the mind of elderly Milo Walker and reflected on his life. As usual, Johnson was able to bring his charisma to the screen making him the perfect fit for the role of Krypto.

The film features the voices of a star-studded cast including Keanu Reeves as Batman, John Krasinski as Superman, and Jameela Jamil as Wonder Woman. They perform their roles as more kid-friendly versions of the characters, but I would have liked to have seen more of Reeves as Batman because I found the version interesting. 

DC Comics usually have good animated films, so it’s no surprise the story was decent and had good pacing. The film achieved its goal by tying the known DC characters with the pets without overshadowing the featured characters. Mind you, this film is meant for a younger demographic, so I can see children watching it over and over due to the popularity of DC Comics kids animation. Trust me; I have nieces who have all the toys, costumes, and shows/films saved on their iPads. 

The film churned out $23 million over the weekend, $2 million below its $25 million marker. This isn’t surprising to me because, as mentioned, the film wasn’t as funny as I’d expected, but I’m confident it will still have a decent turnout as a DC Comics project starring The Rock and Kevin Hart. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more revenue for the film during its VOD/streaming release. If there is a Super-Pets series in talks, I am sure DC would be able to pull it off based on this film.

Visually, the animation was very sleek and polished. It’s one of the best CGI animated films I have seen this year. When the characters have shadows or reflect light from the environment around them, it shows on screen as it would in real life.  

DC League of Super-Pets is best for children or any fans of DC Comics kids animated films. If you are fans of The Rock and Kevin Hart, you will also enjoy it; just don’t expect a lot of belly laughs. If you want to see Hart in one of his more touching acting moments, it’s definitely a must-watch. DC League of Super-Pets is currently in theaters. 

25Jul/22

NOPE is a Yes, Jordan Peele does it again

Ok that NOPE movie… I love horror films and I am especially excited when Black directors get the funding to fully realize their cinematic vision. A few great examples include Eve’s Bayou by Kasi Lemmons (she also starred in the original Candyman), Tales from the Hood by Rusty Cundieff, Demon Knight by Ernest Dickerson, and Black Box directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour.

Alright, let’s get into NOPE.

Nope film by Jordan Peele

What’s Up With The Monkey In NOPE?

The monkey in NOPE is not a Black man.

I repeat: the monkey in NOPE is not a Black man.

Some people will clumsily connect the killer chimp (Gordy) to enslaved Black people, but it’s not that deep. Gordy serves more as a way to illustrate the difference between the two strategies for dealing with the alien. Jupiter focused on his personal experience with Gordy, while OJ focused on the predator’s point of view. OJ cited various wild animals and their rules. (With a bear, you stand still; with a wolf, you make yourself big, etc.) Jupiter was more like the mayor from Jaws–his arrogance and greed led him to f*** around and find out.

My homeboy Derrick Weston Brown (and critically acclaimed poet/author) saw the film and had spoke interesting observations about nature that were on point. “What is the obsession with white people swimming with sharks and hugging monkeys? People always think they’ve got a lock on nature, but they don’t. It reminds me of that Richard Pryor joke about the jungle. Like OJ said in the movie, you have to understand your relationship to nature and make a deal.”

So Is The Movie About Race?

Now it’s a stretch, but if you wanted to make it about race you could. You could compare the UFO to white supremacy and say that taming structural violence (Jupiter’s approach to the UFO) leads to our destruction while understanding your oppressor and directly attacking its weakness accordingly (OJ’s approach to the UFO) is the only way to survive racism. You could comment on Angel’s FFFFFF coworker who is entertained by the predicament of the characters of color but never uses her privilege to offer support. *Insert reparations analogy*. With the erasure of Black jockeys and horse trainers through history, there could be an assertion that Peele is honoring Jerry Dixon Jr., Issac Murphy, and all the unnamed Black horse riders/racers/trainers.

For real, for real–NOPE is not about any of that. I’m cool with just enjoying this as a straight-up alien/SciFi horror film.

The Black Characters Don’t Die First

Black characters usually die first in mainstream horror films. We never get a chance to get attached to them or think too long about why their “urban” dialogue doesn’t sit right. Brown characters are absent altogether unless it’s a Robert Rodriguez flick. NOPE has a more diverse group of main characters than most in the genre without making the plot about race. In NOPE we get to see what would have happened if we weren’t immediately killed off. I know what yall are going to say: BUT NEWNEW’S DADDY FROM ATL DIED FIRST! First of all, put some respect on Keith David’s name. Second, that’s debatable. Chronologically that chimpanzee Gordy gave everybody the business on set back in the 90s when he went ape shit. OJ & Emerald’s daddy Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) died from falling metal debris which suggests the UFO had just eaten a bunch of people, most of whom were likely white based on the characters we see at Jupiter’s Claim and around town. 

Peele offers a subtle homage to all those Black characters who never got a backstory. We get to imagine ourselves in these classic horror film situations. Instead of running extra slow and falling at the wrong time and camping out unprotected in the woods where sexually active teens get murdered every year, Peele’s characters have a lot more sense. Angel stays wrapped in tarp and barbed wire just before the creature takes him. OJ strategizes logically from the perspective of the predator using context clues. Even Lucky the horse had sense enough to stay in the cage at Jupiter’s Claim when the creature was on its way to act a fool at the show.

Like the homie Derrick said, “we’re at the point where we’ve had lots of Black firsts. Now we can just make movies and enjoy them.” That said, he also referenced a thought he had about Daniel Kaluuya’s character being named OJ escaping on a horse like the white Bronco OJ Simpson drove. I had to laugh a little because I still remember our elementary school teacher making us watch the trial. It was third or fourth grade and when he was found not guilty I was overjoyed. I didn’t fully understand the situation, but my teacher was big mad at the time. That same joy erupted when the dust clears at the end and we find out OJ survived. I loved seeing him on top of a Black horse named Lucky in his orange hoodie. What if more horror films ended with a Black protagonist surviving a battle against the antagonist? It would be a stoic slap to convention. That’s the gift that Jordan Peele keeps on giving. I will forever appreciate Peele’s Black characters making it past the opening credits and playing pivotal roles in the story.

Behind The Scenes

Ok, can we talk about the music though?

Most of us were introduced to composer Michael Abels in Get Out–Peele’s first groundbreaking feature film. That song Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga (meaning listen to the ancestors) perfectly foreshadows the dispatches from the Sunken Place meant to warn Chris of the danger he was in. We collectively gave him an approving head nod for his haunting remix of Five On It by the Luniz. His self-described gospel horror was simultaneously familiar and distorted. In NOPE we were blessed with his love for mixing contemporary and traditional sounds. Dionne Warwick’s rendition of Walk On By perfectly accentuated Otis’s developing theory about the UFO.

Now personally I would have loved more Black people on hair & makeup. Was Felicia Leatherwood not available? Issa Rae slays in so many natural styles so maybe she can help get on payroll for the next Monkeypaw film. That said, as a #TeamNatural member for three decades, I still loved seeing afros, kinks, and curls. So happy they didn’t have Emerald (Keke Palmer) looking like she was wearing one of those Amazon wigs. You know the ones that look like Ari Lennox in the photo but arrive in real life looking like “Ooh baby no, what is you doing”. 

This the Last Thing Ima Say

I’m going to see the movie again this week. Heads up–if you see it in theaters, that Emmett Till movie is in the previews, but don’t worry–NOPE is not about Black trauma.

I didn’t know where this would fit in the article, but yall. The inconveniently timed nihilism of that weird camera guy made everybody in the audience throw up their hands in frustration. First of all–he showed up to a monster fight in a linen caftan and I will never forgive him for that. Between him and the TMZ reporter, I don’t know who I’m angrier with.

We’ve been bombarded with T’Challa-less Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailers. Some of y’all are plugged into the January 6th hearing. There’s always something in the news that reminds us how heavy it can be to exist in Blackness at times. Peele gives us a couple of hours to just watch a good movie. Best believe I’m going to see it in theaters again soon.

RIP Harambe.

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.

21Jun/22

DeWanda Wise and Dr.Rebecca Hall Discuss Audio Drama, “Wake”

Wake

I found myself intrigued with the history of women-led revolts during times of enslavement, mostly because it is barely mentioned when it comes to Black History. With the new audio drama, Wake, the audience is taken on a journey with Dr. Rebecca Hall as she learns more about these fierce and inspiring women while facing her own obstacles, including resistance from the educational system. With Dr. Hall’s story of perseverance and the captivating voice acting of DeWanda Wise, Wake is an audio project you’ll definitely have to check out. Dr. Hall and Wise were able to take the time to discuss the journey of the project with Taji Mag. 

Dapper Dr.Feel (DDF): What inspired you to turn your graphic novel into the audio version that has just been released? 

Dr. Rebecca Hall (DRH): The Podium, who produced the audiobook, swooped right in and was like, “We wanna make an audio drama” and I’m like, “Awesome!”

DDF: Ms. Wise, how did you get involved with this project? 

DeWanda Wise (DW): My TV agent sent it to me. They know that I love information. I need as much information as humanly possible, so they sent it all at once. I just devoured it all, honestly. I read the graphic novel and I was a real creep and really dug into Dr. Rebecca Hall’s whole life, as much as [was] available online. I was really struck by it and it was one of those things that I could automatically recognize as kindred, both in ideological point of view and the approach to the project. Something that we talked about quite a bit was my approach as an actor, it was quite anthropological. I was also an Urban Studies major, so I’m just deeply invested in how we carry our lives and the lives of our ancestors.

I prefer to be hit [with projects that grab my attention], which is, like, deep, you know. It’s just, it struck me really deep. Yeah. Yeah.

DDF:  So how was your preparation different from your acting roles or your theater roles? 

DW: Not much to be honest with you. I think my approach is my approach. I’m like super research-centric. It was mainly kind of balancing and matching her (Dr. Rebecca Hall’s) very iconic voice. Very specific. 

DRH: My voice is iconic? 

DW: As soon as someone hears your voice, they’re like, “I know who that is”. Now you know this about yourself. 

DRH: I don’t know this about myself at all. 

DW: Now you do.

DDF: Dr. Hall, you’ve been through a lot during your career…being fired and taking jobs you were over qualified for. How did you continue to press on? 

DRH: Yeah, it was a nightmare. There’s actually so much that’s not even in the story, but I actually kept track of how many jobs I applied for. At one point, this was actually during the recession. I had 184 cover letters that I created over a two-year period. I was a mess. I mean, the last time I got fired, I got in the car and drove down to Moab, which is about four hours from my house. Then checked into some fancy place and stayed for a few days. I was already overwhelmed and doing all of this. I had a lot of legal support from protestors. My partner was very supportive and kept motivating me to move forward.

My father was really influential: he helped shape this, this determination I have. He was born in 1898, and never finished eighth grade. He lived in Chicago, working weird jobs like shoe shining and waiting tables. He kept getting fired because he wouldn’t be deferential to white people. Like, he wasn’t doing the Jim Crow thing and he just kept getting fired. I guess that’s in my DNA.

DDF: DeWanda, what was one of the obstacles you faced while recording? 

DW: There weren’t really any obstacles. It was a really lovely week, honestly. I’d just finished a job that was very lovely, but also very white. So the experience on Wake was so nice. These are some of my favorite actors. I get there and Chante Adams is there, it was so lovely! [There] was a Black woman Playwright, Black woman Director… Podium really lets us do our thing. 

DeWanda Wise (Middle), Chanté Adams (Right), and other castmates reading WAKE.

DDF:  Dr. Hall, so which one was worse, reading the painful stories of Black women in the past or revisiting your past while developing this project?

DRH: It’s interesting. I was just thinking about that. So, in the book, where I talk about how difficult it was…my emotional journey dealing with a lot of racism obstacles at Archives…it was all almost 20 years ago, so I have a kind of distance from it. Whereas, Wake is very present. So in a way, it was kind of more painful to write this. 

DDF: DeWanda, what historical figure would you portray in a movie? 

DW: I would play Assata Shakur in a second! We were talking about getting the rights to that book and it is impossible because she’s a fugitive in Cuba. I’ve asked and am really trying to figure out a loophole, but yeah. 

DDF: Would you write that movie? 

DRH: I don’t think so, but I don’t know. Shakur’s autobiography helped me survive law school at Berkeley. Like, it was, you know, it was one of those reads where, at different moments of my life, I read it when I needed it. 

Make sure to purchase your copy of Wake, available exclusively on Audible now.

Wake

Wake is an imaginative tour-de-force that tells the powerful story of women-led slave revolts, and chronicles scholar Dr. Rebecca Hall’s efforts to uncover the truth about these women warriors who, until now, have been left out of the historical record. 

Cast: DeWanda Wise, Chanté Adams, Jerrie Johnson, Fọlákẹ́ Olówófôyekù, Katherine McNamara, Bahni Turpin, Rhian Rees, Karen Malina White, Román Zaragoza, Alex Ubokudom, John Clarence Stewart, Blake Cooper Griffin, Tim DeKay, Kate Steele, André Sogliuzzo, and Matthew Wolf.

Originally published as a part graphic novel and part memoir, Podium Audio acquired the exclusive global audio rights to Wake, the graphic novel named one of the Best Books of 2021 by NPR. Over the last year, Podium Audio has developed this work into a feature-length audio play in partnership with critically acclaimed playwright and television writer Tyler English-Beckwith.

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.