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‘The voice of the voiceless’: how Viola Davis and Julius Tennon are changing the face of Hollywood



The wife-and-husband team set up their own production company to tackle Hollywoods persistent diversity problem

The actor Julius Tennon is thrilled to be appearing alongside his Oscar-winning wife, Viola Davis, in the new season of her hit show, How to Get Away with Murder, later this month. It is rare they work together onscreen.

Offscreen, however, the power couple spend much of their time working together for they have a joint mission: to change the face of Hollywood by increasing diversity across the industry.

A recent study showed that despite the huge success of recent films such as Fences, starring Davis and Denzel Washington; Moonlight; and Hidden Figures, Hollywood remained as white and male dominated as ever. Representation of race, gender, LGBT people and disability had barely changed in the past 10 years, according to the research by academics at the University of Southern California (USC).

Tennon said: That study was important because its highlighting what the state of Hollywood really is.

He added: Obviously there are pipeline issues at the top with people of color. Some networks were doing a good job, he said, but slow she goes. Its a brick by brick situation.

When I go to meetings, its generally not African Americans that Im talking to about getting something greenlit. Folks at the top are going to have to make decisions about trying to make systemic change. Thats the only way its going to happen by creating a pipeline of opportunities for folk to get in there, go through it and get out and start being a part of it at the top.

He and Davis, who married 14 years ago and have a seven-year-old daughter, Genesis, set up their multimedia company, JuVee Productions, in 2011 to tackle the problem from the grassroots. They wanted to create more suitable roles for Daviss talent.

Tennon, 63, said: We started it out of a need for her career, for Viola to be more than this woman who turns a piece of baloney into a filet mignon. She was getting one or two scenes in a movie and some guest star TV work, but after Antwone Fisher [a 2002 film starring and directed by Denzel Washington], there were a lot of eyes on her.

They quickly decided to expand their goal and try to create opportunities for a diverse range of people on and off the screen.

While we had this elevation in the industry, we felt it was a chance to give opportunities to others, whether that be actors or below-the-line people, Tennon said. We consider ourselves the voice of the voiceless.

The USC study looked at the 100 top grossing films at the US box office in 2016. It found that 5.8% of directors were black and 3.3% Asian. Just 4.2% of directors, 20.7% of producers, 13.2% of writers and 1.7% of composers were female; while only 31% of the speaking roles went to women. LGBT characters filled 1.1% of all speaking parts and people with disabilities 2.7%.

No black women appeared in 47 of the films and there were no black female directors.

Viola Davis said via email: The reason diversity is still an issue is that everyone is not put to task.

She said it was a much bigger issue than casting and stories, agreeing with Tennon that it was a pipeline problem. If a writer, director, cinematographer, actor of color is out there, they have the talent but havent had the opportunities. So, when the studios start putting together their movies, they go for who they know, who theyve worked with the hottest, buzziest, the one with the rsum and most of them are white.

She added: No one says anything, because why would you? To change is to risk losing money, changing your vision, being exposed. Its a problem that needs to be tackled from the studio heads who give the green light vote to film-makers who simply can envision a role differently, to producers who can give a budding gifted cinematographer, grip, writer of color a chance, and finally to audiences to plop down money to see a film character differently. It requires being awoke.

These days, Tennon, who has appeared in more than 50 films and TV series, concentrates mostly on running JuVee and producing. The company takes on everything from virtual reality and digital content to television and film.

Their first film, Lila & Eve, with Davis and Jennifer Lopez, was released in 2015. Custody, featuring Davis, followed in 2016. Next spring, they start shooting the Personal History of Rachel Dupree, the story of an African American woman struggling to farm the Badlands in South Dakota in 1917. A biopic of Barbara Jordan, the first southern black woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, is in the development stage. Both will star 52-year-old Davis.

They are also working on the movie adaptation of Rachel Lloyds critically acclaimed book Girls Like Us, a true story about sex trafficking.

Tennon said Davis, who won an Oscar for Fences this year and was nominated for Oscars in 2012 for The Help and 2009 for Doubt, touches people across the globe. He added: Were using the platform to push things forward.

The first three seasons of How to Get Away with Murder are on Netflix. Its exploded her star. Shes sitting in all these different living rooms where a black woman wasnt sitting, and its powerful. As a company, we feel like we have to make sure that the content going out is above and beyond. When we create narratives, we want them to be whole and full and rich, and non-stereotypical.

He continued: Were in a market now thats accelerated by technology. Diversity is what were bringing to the digital space. We want content for everyone and content that people of color will consume.

Mentioning the global success of Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Fences, he said: Were in a space now where diversity is good business and people should see it like that.

Organizations should be hiring people of color in executive positions, he believes, and thinking how to include these people to help shape things so they have a complete slate, that has a little bit of everything. Those organizations that are thinking that way, big and expansive, will be the winners, he said.

Tennons first public performance was at 14, when he performed the I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King Jr in a school assembly. Encouraged by his English teacher, who thought he had a beautiful voice, he became the first African American in the drama department at the University of Tulsa which he attended on an American football scholarship and went on to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.

Now he, along with the woman he describes as one of a handful of great actresses of our time, hopes to give others the chance to achieve their dreams, too.

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Once Upon a Time in America divides audiences on its historical context



sharon tate

This story contains spoilers.

Based on the trailer and cheesy posters, it’s clear that Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, is set in 1969 Los Angeles and deals with the Manson Family murders. The fact that Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie) is a main character in the film is a big enough hint that Tarantino is going to end on the tragic events that led to her death while 8 months pregnant. Tate’s murder (as well as the murders of her friends, who were at her home at the time) became a national story and is well known by most people with even a vague knowledge of Charles Manson, who directed leaders of his cult to kill everyone in Tate’s home on the infamous Cielo Drive.

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New Movie News

The New Lion King Posters Show Actors Facing Off Their Characters And It Looks Badass



“25 years after its initial release, The Lion King movie still remains the highest-earning G-rated movie of all time. However, following the success of The Jungle Book remake, Disney has taken on a challenge to reboot the all-time classic too. Will the new photorealistic computer-animated movie beat the traditionally animated one? Only time will tell. But there’s not much time left to find out since the premiere is just around the corner.

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The new Lion King movie directed by Jon Favreau will hit theaters on the 19th of July. Just in time for that, Disney released striking photos of the cast posing face-to-face with their characters.

Do you already know who will voice your favorite characters in The Lion King remake?”

50 days before the release of The Lion King movie, Disney shared posters introducing the main characters and the voices behind them. People were surprised to know that American actor, comedian, and performer Donald Glover will star as the main character Simba. The Beyhive started buzzing after it was announced that Nala will be voiced by famous singer Beyoncé.

Nala with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Donald Glover with Simba

Zazu, Pumbaa, and Timon with John Oliver, Seth Rogen, and Billy Eichner

Chiwetel Ejiofor with Scar

Eric André, Florence Kasumba, and Keegan-Michael Key with hyenas Azizi, Shenzi, and Kamari

Alfre Woodard with Sarabi

Nala and Simba with Shahadi Wright Joseph and JD McCrary

James Earl Jones will once again voice Mufasa, the King of the Pride Lands and the father of Simba.

Here’s how people reacted

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Spice Girls to become superheroes in animated movie

Charmaine Blake



All five original band members are set to lend their voices to a film that will feature original singles and new songs

“An animated Spice Girls movie is in the works at Paramount. The film will feature the voices of all five members of the original band and a plot in which the quintet become superheroes.

It will be produced by 90s music mogul Simon Fuller, and written by Karen McCullah and Kiwi Smith, whose credits include The House Bunny and Legally Blonde. A director is not yet attached.”

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