Director Anthony Hemingway wanted to tackle slavery from a different angle

Anthony Hemingway

Anthony Hemingway has worked steadily in film and television for more than 15 years. The director made his feature film debut with the WWII epic Red Tails, but even prior to that, he'd built a lengthy resume on the heels of his work with acclaimed shows like The Wire and features like Freedomland, on which he was an assistant director. In 2016, Hemingway's latest project, Underground, will hit the small screen. The mini-series is set on a plantation during slavery, and Hemingway says he went into this wanting to tell a different kind of story.

"One of our challenges was taking a story that’s rarely known and has rarely been told and finding a new voice," he explains. "I knew that would be a challenge, but it was something that we welcomed and was a risk that we weren’t afraid of. We wanted to definitely give agency to slaves and humanize them. Instead of continuing the path or journey that’s bene done many times before—done well—but its exhausting. We wanted to find the heroism in them, the strength and finding ways of tapping into the celebration of life. Those are beautiful things."

And he learned a lot from working on the project.

"I didn’t know that slaves had plantation dances where they were able to go and be human, dance, hook up, meet nad have fun," he admits. "You don’t really get to know or see those moments."

He wants critics who bemoan projects about slavery to understand that not every story has been told and that we shouldn't shy away from those stories.

"We were never looking to tell a history lesson, we wanted to make this an experience. There are small nuggets that represent the history and the history has been rooted. There’s a foundation. We wanted to spend our time on shedding light on dynamics we don’t get to see. We wanted to shed light on a whole new perspective."


Sexy bachelor Jay Ellis throws in the towel

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Jay Ellis is collaborating with amfAR to raise awareness of their “Countdown to Cure AIDS” initiative which aims to build the scientific basis of a cure for AIDS by 2020. Heading to the beach this summer? amfAR teamed up with famed British visual artist Shantell Martin to bring a limited edition beach towel, designed exclusively for amfAR to help raise awareness and find a cure for HIV/AIDS. The towel’s bold design features one of Martin’s trademark black-and-white illustrations and the inscription, “Be Epic, Cure AIDS,” a nod to amfAR’s “Countdown to a Cure for AIDS” initiative, aimed at developing the scientific basis of a cure by 2020.

Born in Fort Sumter, South Carolina, Ellis' military family settled in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he graduated from Metro Christian Academy. He attended Concordia University in Portland, Oregon on a basketball scholarship. There he was elected as student body president, spent two years working with AmeriCorps and interned with the Portland Trail Blazers before deciding to pursue acting. He began his career as an international print model and has since appeared on award-winning shows including ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," CW's "Heart Of Dixie," CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," as well as the Elizabeth Banks directorial feature MOVIE 43 starring Hugh Jackman, Seth McFarlane and Kate Winslet.

When he's not filming, this gentlemen enjoys playing basketball, cooking, staying fit while teaching at his line of Pilates studios, and playing the guitar. Ellis' is a staunch advocate for higher education, community service and encouraging youth to pursue the arts.

The sexy bachelor not only pierces his way through the heart of Lauren London as Byrce "Blue" Westbrook on BET's long running fan favorite dramedy series "The Game" (airing Wednesday nights at 10p/9c) but also all over the airwaves in both television and film as he affirms his position in Hollywood as the actor to watch in 2015. With cameos under his belt on shows including Showtime's "Master of Sex" and in the celebrity filled feature Movie 43, Ellis continues to expand his resume starring in two feature films (November Rule and Breaking Through) and producing another (Lemonade) set to begin principle photography with Hannah Simone (New Girl) this past April.

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This towel is sold exclusively at Scoop NYC locations and on amfAR’s website for $40 with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting research to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.


Hollywood faith-based producers: Lemuel Plummer, DeVon Franklin

(L to R) Moderator Jack Hafer with Panelists Michael Carney, Cale Boyter, DeVon Franklin, Meagan Good and Lemuel Plummer. Photo Credit: Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Variety, Courtesy of FrontPage Firm
(L to R) Moderator Jack Hafer with Panelists Michael Carney, Cale Boyter, DeVon Franklin, Meagan Good and Lemuel Plummer.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Variety, Courtesy of FrontPage Firm
Producer Lemuel O. Plummer ("Preachers of L.A." and "The Sheards") joined a host of panelists during the Storyteller's Super Session at Variety's Purpose: Family Entertainment & Faith-Based Summit. The Detroit native spoke about balancing faith and business when undertaking projects and stated that faith-based reality TV can succeed by targeting the right audience. "It's all about how we get young people engaged and want to watch television that is inspiring, but will also challenge them."
The panel was moderated by Jack Hafer, director of the Cinema and Media Arts Program at Biola University. Other panelists included: director, writer, and producer Michael Carney ("Same Kind of Different As Me"); producer and founder of Franklin Entertainment DeVon Franklin ("Miracles in Heaven", "Heaven is for Real"); actress Meagan Good ("Minority Report", "Think Like a Man", "Think Like a Man 2") and producer Cale Boyter ("Noah", "Spongebob Squarepants: The Sponge Out of Water").
In addition to Plummer's work as executive producer on "Preachers of LA," "Preachers of Detroit," and "Preachers of Atlanta" (currently in production). He is the creator and executive producer of the docu-series Comedians of L.A., currently in production and, for the first time ever in broadcasting, scheduled to air simultaneously on two different networks-Esquire and Oxygen. Other current projects in production include two new series scheduled to air on BET Networks late 2015.

Born in Detroit to parents who owned three television stations, Lemuel Plummer was surrounded by television and media since birth. Following the passion that was handed down to him by his family, he moved out to Los Angeles and found work on ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. By the age of 22, Mr. Plummer acquired a first look deal with BET, and from there he has gone on to produce, create, and executive produce several shows across a wide range of successful networks, including BET, Bravo, WeTV, Oxygen, and Esquire. He is perhaps most well-known for his smash hit series on Oxygen, Preachers of LA and Preachers of Detroit, with Preachers of Atlanta coming soon.

Plummer's previous production credits include work on WeTV's hit show, "Mary Mary" as well as several BET Network shows in various capacities. He created and executive produced the docu-series "Vindicated," executive produced "The Sheards," and worked as a producer on "The Mo'nique Show" and "The Family Crews." He is currently in various stages of production on a number of non-scripted programs and film projects for several major networks and studios. He now owns his own production company, L.Plummer Media, and is looking forward to a bright future in the entertainment industry.

Actress KeKe Palmer lands a talk show

KeKe Palmer is preparing to make history as the youngest talk show host in television history thanks to BET and Judge Greg Mathis. The 20-year-old actress and chanteuse is hosting “The KeKe Palmer Project,” set to premiere on the network this July. The daily talk show will target millennials by covering a variety of topics including social issues, pop culture, fashion, sex and more.

Production will begin in Los Angeles this summer and the show will air Mondays–Fridays during its initial four week run. Judge Greg Mathis, who was instrumental in establishing the relationship between Palmer and Telepictures, will serve as an executive producer of the series. The show will include celebrity interviews, “on the street” bits and undercover segments.


Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas to be portrayed on Lifetime

SAG Award nominated actress Regina King ("Southland"), Golden Globe and Emmy winner S. Epatha Merkerson ("Law & Order"), Imani Hakim ("Everybody Hates Chris"), Sydney Mikayla (Whitney) and two-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will star in The Gabby Douglas Story on Lifetime. An original movie, it tells the inspiring true story of the international gymnastics phenomenon who overcame overwhelming odds to become the first African American everto be named Individual All-Around Champion in artistic gymnastics at the Olympic Games.

A prodigy from a very young age, Gabby Douglas originally made her mark on the world of competitive gymnastics at age eight.  She won numerous state championship titles in her age group throughout her early competitive career.  While her star was fast rising in the arena, Gabby and her family faced economic challenges at home and she made the difficult decision to leave her mother Natalie (King), three siblings and grandmother (Merkerson) in Virginia Beach and move to Des Moines, Iowa, to train with renowned coach Liang Chow (Brian Tee, The Wolverine) to pursue her dream of Olympic glory.  Buoyed by her early success, dedication and unyielding love from her family, Gabby made it onto the 2012 U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team, setting the stage for triumph shortly thereafter at the London Olympic Games.

Her sacrifice and perseverance were triumphantly rewarded with Team Competition and Individual All-Around gold medals, placing Gabby and her teammates – known as “The Fierce Five” -- among the world’s all-time greats in gymnastics.

To celebrate the premiere of The Gabby Douglas Story, Lifetime is launching a contest and inviting schools across the country to take the Gabby Douglas Raise the Bar Pledge. Schools may enter for a chance to win $10,000 by encouraging their students to submit pledges to raise the bar in their own lives. For the Official Rules, please visit www.raisethebarpledge.com.

Kicking off Lifetime’s Black History Month celebration, The Gabby Douglas Story premieres on Saturday, February 1, at 8:00pm ET/PT.


'Single Ladies' actress Denise Vasi talks balancing marriage and career

The actress and model who broke through to mainstream television audiences on the long-running soap “All My Children” is returning as one of the principle stars on VH1’s “Single Ladies” — but this lady is no longer single. As the show gears up for its third season, Vasi is adjusting to her latest and greatest role:  newlywed. Vasi married film director Anthony Mandler in October, and she says that tying the knot was not a huge priority for her until she met her future husband.

“Lucky for me my husband is in the business,” she says. “He understands that when I’m on set making out with another guy, that’s my job. I’ve dated other guys who didn’t really understand how technical it is.”

But beyond understanding the dynamics of shooting a love scene, Vasi and Mandler have been able to come to an understanding in regard to juggling their busy careers and the life they are building together.

“We figured out a system where we both have to balance our careers with being married. He’s a director, so his job takes him all [kinds of] places. When I’m not shooting the show, basically I will follow his schedule and his travel itinerary. When I’m in Atlanta shooting, he comes out and he stays every four to 10 days…"

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