“Working in Hollywood When You’re Not White: Three Players Reveal All”

“The topic America never wants to discuss is now all anyone in Hollywood can talk about.

Should the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shoulder the blame for a field of white nominees in the acting categories, or is that merely a symptom of a more complex problem that touches almost every facet of the filmmaking process — from the agents pigeonholing their clients to executives not championing work by people of color to awards tastemakers ignoring diverse voices in favor of familiar ones?

To shine a light on these issues and more,THR invited three Hollywood players to have a conversation on Saturday, Jan. 23 — Stephanie Allain, 57, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, producer of 2005’s Hustle & Flow and, when she was an executive at Columbia, a champion of John Singleton’sBoyz n the Hood (1991); Justin Simien, 32, the former publicist who wrote, directed and produced 2014’s Sundance award-winning Dear White People; and Alan Yang, 33, who cut his teeth on Parks and Recreation before co-creating and executive producing the Aziz Ansari-starring series Master of None for Netflix.

“The Academy is the endgame,” says Allain, but “the problem is totally systemic throughout Hollywood.”

Stephanie, you were the Columbia executive who shepherded Boyz n the Hood. How difficult would it be to make that film today?

STEPHANIE ALLAIN:  The script was amazing, and content, especially literary content, always rises to the top. What was interesting about that was, in the early ’90s, we were suffering from so many losses in South Central, and the script really tapped into it in a commercial and personal way. Luckily, there’s not a lot of drive-bys going on right now. (Laughter.)

ALAN YANG: It’s topical, it’s topical.

JUSTIN SIMIEN:  It would be so hard to make Boyz n the Hood or Do the Right Thing at a studio. I’m not knocking independent film, but it is different when you just make it on your own, take it to Sundance …

ALLAIN:  This is why it’s so important to have support at the studio level. And you could see, with John [Singleton] and Robert Rodriguez and others, when you have an opportunity to be inside the system, you get the support in marketing, distribution. It’s a different offering than when you’re trying to make important or culturally sensitive work from the outside…”



“JK Rowling Reveals a New Wizarding School in Brazil for Young Magically Inclined Latinos”

“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has disclosed details about new wizarding schools in Brazil and other parts of the world, which were not previously mentioned in any of her fantasy novels.  According to Elite Daily, this revelation is another expansion of the magical world of Harry Potter, the movie series which ended a few years back.

Rowling noted that the wizarding school in Brazil is called Castelobruxo.  This magical school, as per Elite Daily, is the learning facility for witches and wizards in South America. The main focus on the studies in this wizarding school is magizoology and herbology.

In a Pottermore webpage, Rowling said that the learning avenue in Brazil is hidden in a rainforest, which appears as a ruin to the eyes of some Muggles (persons with no magical ability).

Castelobruxo is an imposing square edifice of golden rock, often compared to a temple,” read its description on Pottermore. Founded in 2009, Pottermore is a website that reveals unknown details in the Harry Potter series. It was developed by Rowling herself, in partnership with Sony.

The details on the website further revealed that the building and its grounds are being watched by small spirit-beings called “Caipora.” On the other hand, its students are said to be always dressed in bright green robes.

Aside from the Brazilian wizarding school, Rowling also revealed two more schools in Japan (Mahoutokoro) and Africa (Uagadou).  Uagadou, as per Elite Daily, is considered to be the largest wizarding school in the world while Mahoutokoro is the smallest.

In an AV Club report, Rowling also noted that there are 11 wizarding schools in the world as far as her magical tale is concerned. Among these schools are the famous ones like Hogwarts, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, which were featured on the “Harry Potter” series.

Earlier this week, Pottermore announced that the magical school in North America is called Ilvermorny. During the kickoff of the Celebration of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando Resort on Friday, actress Evanna Lynch made the announcement on behalf of Rowling which made “Harry Potter” fans ecstatic.

Aside from the good news, People said that many people following the “Harry Potter” craze should also look forward to the release of the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” this coming fall…”


“What Game of Thrones Can Learn From The Legend of Korra”

“Game of Thrones is among our favourite shows on TV right now, but it has a big diversity problem. Almost all of the show’s major characters are white, which is rather sad considering that shows such as Twin Peaks have championed inclusivity over 25 years ago.

The Game of Thrones universe is set in a medieval age where Westeros isn’t as racially diverse as the world today. Fans of the show can often be heard using this as an excuse to defend the show’s lack of diversity. They claim that since Westeros is based on medieval Britain and western Europe, the lack of major characters being portrayed by non-white people is to keep the show “realistic”.

Of course that argument is ridiculous in a show where there are ice-zombies and fire-breathing, flying dragons. If Thor can be a woman and Captain America can be black then there’s no reason why all major Game of Thrones characters should be white.

Lack of representation
George R. R. Martin himself acknowledged the show’s diversity problem in response to a comment from a fan on his Livejournal page. Martin told the fan that the next book in the series Winds of Winter will feature ‘characters of colour’.

“I do have some ‘characters of colour’ who will have somewhat larger roles in Winds of Winter. Admittedly, these are secondary and tertiary characters, though not without importance,” Martin wrote.

This applies to the book only though, and not the show.

Martin wrote, “I do think HBO and David [Benioff] and Dan [D. B. Weiss] are doing what they can to promote diversity as well, as witness the casting of Areo Hotah, which you mention. Of course, Hotah IS a guard… but he is also a viewpoint character in the novels, a brave and loyal warrior.”

On the TV show in particular, the only people of colour you will witness are savages – without exception. In one particularly galling scene, the white (and blonde haired) Danaerys walks into a crowd of brown people who have been liberated by her cultural values – since no brown people have problems with slavery (apart from the slaves) – and then literally bodysurfs past the worshipful crowd.

It would have been easy for the show to avoid the kind of issues it has blundered into, and Game of Thrones and HBO wouldn’t have had to look too far to find TV shows that tackle the diversity problem head on.

While Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra isn’t the only show to feature a diverse set of characters, it deserves special mention for how deliberately it demolishes tropes. If the Game of Thrones universe reduces most women to non-combat roles, then The Legend of Korra has men and women fighting alongside each other…”


“American Gods Author Neil Gaiman on Why Casting The 100’s Ricky Whittle as Shadow Is So Vital”

“It’s been a year and a half since Starz announced it would be putting together a lavish TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’spopular fantasy novel American Gods. Little news about the project has emerged since then until today when the network announced that they had chosen Ricky Whittle ofThe 100 fame to play the book’s brooding hero, Shadow.

Shadow is a racially ambiguous character with “coffee and cream” skin and a mother who may have been either Native American or African-American. Oftentimes, when the physical descriptions of a book character are that loose, the tendency in Hollywood is to cast a white actor. (See: Katniss Everdeen.)

Dream casting for Shadow that cropped up online usually mentioned the likes of Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa or Grey’s Anatomy’s Jesse Williams, but there was some concern from die-hard fans of the novel that the show would go in a lighter direction. But in the midst of a larger conversation about Hollywood’s tendency to whitewash, and in the same week Joseph Fiennes was tapped to play Michael Jackson, Starz went with the distinctly not white Whittle.

Fans are delighted that Whittle is every inch the prison-hardened bouncer described in the book.

Gaiman addressed the importance of Shadow’s appearance in a statement about Whittle’s casting:

I’m thrilled that Ricky has been cast as Shadow. His auditions were remarkable. The process of taking a world out of the pages of a book, and putting it onto the screen has begun. American Gods is, at its heart, a book about immigrants, and it seems perfectly appropriate that Shadow will, like so much else, be Coming to America. I’m delighted Ricky will get to embody Shadow. Now the fun starts…


“Can a Black Woman Win ‘The Bachelor’?”

“When Bachelor contestant Jubilee Sharpe worried on last week’s Martin Luther King Day episode that Ben Higgins “has a type and it’s not me at all,” she might as well have just called out the network. On a show with a notorious penchant for one kind of woman—in a nutshell: young, blond, demure, and almost always white—Jubilee stands out. Black, Haitian-born, Jubilee is a war veteran. She’s socially awkward and obsessed with hot dogs. She refuses to attend a mean-girl meeting where she is the intended target. And she has a backstory so tragic—she’s the only surviving member of her family—that only Emily Maynard’s could rival it.

Jubilee is such an anomaly that one of the four Laurens competing for the bachelor’s love laments, “Ben wants to have a wife that will be friends with all the other soccer moms.” Jubilee, the blonde had concluded, is not that kind of girl. Twitter erupted with charges of microaggressions and low-key racism.

But Ben certainly seems to like her. By giving Jubilee a rose, Ben elevated her beyond the other black women who usually appear on the show, who are most often eliminated before a one-on-one date, often before we can even remember their names.

The rise of weird, tough Jubilee, arguably the most authentic contestant to subject herself to the Bachelor treatment, made me wonder if she could actually win. Even better—when fans have been lobbying for a more diverse cast—could she be the next Bachelorette?

Who better to ask than the women in whose footsteps Jubilee now treads? I talked to three black women who appeared on The Bachelor about their experiences on the show to find out what they thought of Jubilee’s chances…”


“Disney Releases First Footage From Moana”

“2016 is going to be a big year for Disney!

Walt Disney Studios released the first footage from its upcoming CG-animated film, Moana, which stars Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho. Cravalho plays the titular character, a young woman who uses her navigational talents to find a fabled island, and Johnson plays Maui, Moana’s sidekick who just so happens to be a large-and-in-charge demigod who helps her find her way.

Obviously The Rock wasn’t going to play a small character. The footage shows Maui wheeling his large hook-like staff and Moana staring off into the distance of the ocean, probably debating whether she should leave her home for an adventure. Spoiler alert: She and Maui head for the high seas…”


“‘Birth Of A Nation’ Electrifies Sundance Crowd In World Premiere”

“Without an honest confrontation, there is no healing.” That’s from Birth Of A Nation director-producer-star Nate Parker today onstage at the Sundance Film Festival. In what I have to say was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had at a movie theater, Parker world premiered what he called his seven-year “passion project.” His telling of the early 19th century slave revolt led by Nat Turner had audience members crying in their seats and jumping to their feet in a prolonged standing ovation at the film’s conclusion.

Potential buyers for the film streamed out of the lobby mere minutes after the cast had left the stage post-screening. Some worked multiple cell phones (with assistants standing nearby fielding calls of their own) in what appeared to be fevered discussions about the awards-bait film.

Speaking to the packed Eccles Theater crowd with almost the entire cast beside him after the lights came up, Parker said, “I made this movie for one reason only, creating change agents,” adding, “there are still a lot of injustices in our world.”

Sanitizing nothing, from the systematic and brutal torture inflicted by slave owners on the men and women they enslaved to the 48-hour bloody uprising led by Turner depicted in the movie, the film challenges our conceptions of that terrible time in American history and the lives it destroyed.

“These people thought they were doing good when they were doing bad,” said Parker of his effort to depict the entirety of the slavery ecosystem. “In 2016, that echoes,” he added, to a roar of approval from the Park City crowd…”