The recent ethnicity changes to popular film characters continues to cause controversy in Hollywood. The casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch in the next Fantastic Four movie, a character who has previously been white, is one that has ruffled the feathers of comic enthusiasts. If you saw any of the interviews where Michael B. Jordan discussed the issue after he was casted, it’s pretty clear that it’s not something he wants to focus on. He’d much rather focus on the content of the film and doing his very best to “flame on”. Jimmy Kimmell clearly didn’t get the memo. The Creed actor was on Jimmy’s couch last night and things got a bit awkward when Jimmy pushed about Michael being black and his character’s sister in the film, Sue Storm, being played by a white Kate Mara.
Andrea Lewis has been acting since she was a mere adolescent. After years of success, including 5 seasons on teen cult classic series Degrassi: The Next Generation, the multi-faceted starlet has spread her wings to delve into music and production, even starting her own production company, Jungle Wild Productions. It’s only right that the first project from Jungle Wild Productions is a web series about the plight of the black actress in Hollywood written by and starring Andrea, Black Actress. I spoke with Andrea about Black Actress, black images and racism in 2015, the natural hair movement, how she wants to impact the next generation of artists and more.
As much as we love Andrea the actress, she says it was always in her plans to work on the other side of the camera as well.
Because I grew in the entertainment industry I always had a crazy imagination, I knew I was gonna eventually do my own thing. That just was apart of my life plan maybe since I was like 8 or 12 years old. Something in my soul just always felt like that. So I always look up to and admired any actresses that I saw doing that like Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore they had their own production company’s a long time ago and a lot of the things they were doing was through those productions companies. I just had to get to a place where I confident enough to do it on my own. I think that’s where Black Actress came into play. I was finally confident to put myself out there like that to let people see that I’m more than just an actress.
Andrea’s expansion into production was strategic but the idea for Black Actress was far from planned. It came from an awkward moment on set.
I was doing a film and I was the only black girl on the project and I mean that’s very normal for my life to be quite honest with you. So I wasn’t like weirded out or anything. But one of my castmates was introducing everybody to his manager and when he got to me he was like ‘this is Andrea and she’s the urban one’. It was the weirdest introduction…nobody knew what to do including myself (laughs out loud). Other than being black I don’t consider myself that urban because I don’t even know what than means (continues to laugh). It was in that moment that I was like ‘oh he’s actually seeing me, the person, the same way the script sees me’. It is as the “urban one” the “black girl” and not really as a person or as the same as him, an actor pursuing my dreams. He didn’t see me that way. So it was in that moment that I was like I have to make something that shows the experience of black women, black actresses specifically, to show that we are the same. Obviously, we don’t have the same amount of roles and we have some other challenges. I have to make sure my makeup is right, I gotta do my own hair most times…those types of things, yes. But the pursuit of my dreams, my insecurities, my friends, my relationships, those things are all universal. So I knew I wanted to make something that touched on all of that.
And the story lines and plots written for the Black Actress come from that authentic, real place of Andrea’s experiences and the other black actresses she knows.
I take them from my own experience and from the experiences of my friends. I have tons of friends who are actresses, ones who are super famous, ones that are grinding it out, ones that are recognizable, so I just kinda took everything I’ve done, experienced and heard and made them into these stories. It’s also why I wanted to put in these interviews (the intro interviews Andrea conducts with actual Black actresses) because I want people to see that this is universal. All of us have the same ups and downs.
The decision to include real interviews with real actresses sharing their experiences was one that Andrea feels was a necessary component and helps viewers to relate to the show.
It’s very inspiring when I’m doing the interviews. Some of them (the actresses) I don’t know prior to, so I get to learn their stories too and I’m like yeah I’ve been through that. That’s what I want. I look at the show as a creator and a viewer. So I’m always looking to see how the story is like me and how I can relate. The interviews definitely help with that.
Relatability has never really been a problem for Andrea. The former Degrassi star is approached by young actresses all the time looking for advice. The advice she gives them is less about lines and auditions and more about preparing them to sustain in a sometimes cut throat industry.
“I talk about confidence. I don’t think people realize how much rejection you face in this business. I think you hear that but I’m like REALLY, it’s A LOT of rejection lol. So this is not the business you get into if you’re hoping to gain confidence or you’re hoping people tell you you’re pretty or awesome. Self love, self help books, training etc. is important. You have to go in with some sense of self and confidence in your abilities in order to sustain.
The entertainment industry can indeed be cut throat, but the fact remains that it’s an artist’s playground. As fun as it is to create, Andrea feels that as a person of African American descent, she has a duty to create positive diverse images of people of color.
I think that’s my responsibility. I’ve been fortunate to have a platform and for people to recognize me and be somebody to look up to. So, I’ve always felt like I have a responsibility for the images of black women and black people as a whole. I try my best when doing a show like “Black Actress” to show the spectrum of women…because that’s something that has always boggled my mind when it comes to black beauty. There is so much, there are so many complexions, so many body types, so many hair textures, so it’s complicated for a white person to really understand the level of how diverse we actually are as a race. So I try my best to show that in as many ways as I can. Even when I’m casting, I’m looking for people that are representative of everything. I want every complexion, every hair type in there. I try to stay away from stereotypes and show us as relatable to EVERYONE. I think that’s the problem with how white people see us in media. They are not accustomed to seeing a black hero, to seeing a black man that is not intimidating or scary. Or a black woman who is not sassy who likes humus and does yoga. There are women like that who are black. So I want my work to reflect that in every way because that’s the way I am and the way my friends are.
But for those who are not yet creating what they want to be a part of, the hurdles and challenges that come with getting the roles you want or deserve are still enormous.
I had a genuine conversation with my actress friends about hair, wearing it straight, wearing a wig or wearing it natural. I got different responses across the board. One friend said she’s not booking with her hair natural so she’s gonna wear a wig and see if that helps her. One of my other friends was like ‘I’m never gonna do that. I’m always gonna wear my hair like this because that’s who I am.’ I went through a phase where I thought I was prettier with my hair straight. But then I was like ‘this is not realistic to me, this is not me. I’m just gonna be who I am.’
One of the major issues that exists in Hollywood is the ethnicity changes for reprised roles like Annie (played by Quvenzhané Wallis in the 2014 Annie remake) and the Human Torch (played by Michael B. Jordan in the Fantastic 4 remake hitting theaters in August). Accordingly to Andrea, it’s something that people ill have to accept and the world will be better for it.
We’re so accustomed to be on the outside (Blacks) and our positive images not represented that we are able to see a magazine cover with white people and still be able to see an outfit and be like ‘that would probably look good on me’ or ‘I can still look at this magazine and get makeup tips’. White people are so not accustomed to that. That’s where that white privilege comes into play right? They’re kind of unaware of their privilege and I think these ethnicity changes are bringing that to the forefront.
Andrea feels that more and more people of color becoming content creators will help us to share the stories that create change. She praised Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get away With Murder) for the recent episode that brought to prime time television one of the most relevant issues of this country, the killing of unarmed blacks. The episode’s fact pattern mirrored the details of the killing of Mike Brown back in Fall 2014.
Ava Duvernay (Director of “Selma”) said it best.
An episode like this isn’t easy. Isn’t easy to write. Isn’t easy to direct. Isn’t easy to get on air. I appreciate the effort.
#ScandalABC – Ava Duvernay
That’s what I thought when I saw that. I was very happy and I felt a bit of triumph. I think Shonda Rhimes has a huge platform. We have to keep in mind that it’s not a platform that’s run by a black person and it’s not a black network. That was probably a huge challenge to get someone to say yes. She is taking a step forward and I have to commend her on that. I read people’s reaction and it was mixed. Some thought it was amazing and some thought it was cheapened, thought it was too soon. Again, I think what Ava said was best. The hoops you have jump through, the behind the scenes discussions…who knows how long she (Shonda Rhimes) even had this idea. I think Zahir McGhee did an amazing job writing it. To watch something that is so relevant to today on a predominately white show…(thoughtful pause). I thought the things that the character Marcus said to Olivia (about not being able to relate to the black struggle) were real and the fact that they took away the white hero (the crime was solved and the assailant, a white cop, was arrested). I thought it was one of their best episodes because I know the difficulties in trying to do something like that. Art is suppose to imitate life.
It’s easy to get caught up in the sensational part of acting and content creating, but Andrea says there’s so much more to know. The one thing she would advise someone getting into the entertainment industry…never stop learning.
There’s never enough education in this business. When you’re young on a tv series like I was, you take for granted the hard work that it takes. Some people get into this industry for fame and not necessarily for the art so they’re lazy. You must sharpen your tool on a regular basis.
To learn more about Andrea Lewis, Jungle Wild Productions and go to MissAndreaLewis.com.
Earlier this week, the Twittersphere was a buzz after actress Tia Mowry-Hardrict tweeted and deleted the following message from her Twitter account.
“Saying you like married men in interviews [is] not cute…Just saying.”
Although the tweet didn’t mention any names, it was rumored to be aimed at fellow actress Keke Palmer who is currently promoting the film “Brotherly Love” with Tia’s husband, actor
It’s that time again! (pun intended lol) TIME Magazine has released it’s annual list of the 100 most influential people. The twelfth installment of the list is included in 5 different versions of the magazine with 5 of the 100 influencers gracing the covers; one of which is Kanye West. As if Kanye needs anyone to tell him how influential he is lol, but engineer, entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors does exactly that in his piece about the musician in the Time 100 issue.
There’s always three sides to every story…his side, her side and the truth. Tamika Fuller, the mother of rapper/actor Ludacris’ toddler daughter, Cai Bridges, is sharing her side in the form of an essay penned for Madam Noire entitled “A Personal Essay from Tamika Fuller…Fighting for My Daughter: Power, Wealth, and Hip-Hop.” In her essay, Tamika chronicles her side of the nasty court battle that eventually resulted in Ludacris being awarded full custody of their daughter. In the essay Tamika expresses her shock that Luda sought and received full custody after asking her to get an abortion and refutes accusations that she is a gold digger and unfit mother. Check out a few excepts below.
After Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Madonna and a few other big name artists launched music/video service Tidal by signing ownership documents at a press conference on earlier this week, Jay Z is responding to criticism of the new app. Naysayers are claiming that the artists are just trying to get richer by charging as much as $19.99 a month to consumers for the service. Yesterday Mr. Carter, along with Tidal executive Vania Schlogel, participated in a Q&A at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music to discuss all things Tidal. They addressed a lot of the questions consumers had. When discussing the costs of the service, Jay made it clear that people are nitpicking in his view. “Nobody’s ever said, “Oh, the rich getting richer! I won’t buy an iPhone!” Check out a few excerpts from the Q&A below.
If you were looking to get the tea from Karrueche Tran’s interview with Iyanla Vanzant, Iyanla says you may be disappointed. According to the life coach, Karrueche, to her surprise, was not forthcoming about the inner turmoil of her relationship with Chris Brown and did not bash him for cheating on and disrespecting her. She instead chose to be forgiving of Chris, who fathered a child with another woman during the couple’s four year on and off again relationship.
In every successful career, there has to be a moment or two that show and prove just how talented you are. We’ve always been fans of our home town gal Taraji P. Henson but her portrayal of “Cookie” on Fox’s Empire has shown EVERYONE just how talented the Academy-Award nominee truly is. During a recent interview with Power 105’s Angie Martinez, the actress dished on how her new found popularity has impacted her life, how she keeps her sexy co-stars at bay, how the infamous “booty scene” came to be and more. Check out a few excerpts below.
If you’re one of those people who’ve wondered if art was imitating life in the case of Empire star Jussie Smollett, then wonder no more. The actor who plays the gay son of Luscious Lyons talked with Ellen DeGeneres after his recent appearance on her show about the rumor that he and Jamal share the same sexual orientation. Jussie says it’s no secret. He has never been in the closet to begin with.
The plight of the black actress in Hollywood is one that I’ve heard expressed time and time again from some of my favorite actresses. Just this past week, Essence hosted it’s 8th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. The luncheon which uplifts black women in Hollywood is necessary because far too often black actresses are not given the lead roles that they seek. The sentiment is that the playing field in Hollywood is not leveled. Tatyana Ali, Essence Atkins and Andrea Lewis have teamed up to shed more light on the issue with web series “Black Actress”. The series created by and starring Andrea Lewis is a mockumentary style series following the life of actress Kori Bailey while she pursues her next big acting role and making a name for herself in the entertainment industry.
As expected, Selma, the film starring David Oyelowo and Oprah, didn’t win big at this year’s Academy Awards. The award winners clearly lacked diversity but the show’s attendees and performers didn’t let that make the film’s message null and void. During the show there were several moments that highlighted the need for equality and end of racism. In fact, the night’s most powerful moment came when the leading song from the film’s soundtrack was performed.
After being found face down and unconscious in her bathtub, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown remains in a medically induced coma and breathing only with the assistance of a ventilator. Relatives and fans are praying for the best, but it’s not looking good for Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown. A family source told People that the 21 year old has very little brain activity. According to a Massachusetts neurologist, Bobbi Kristina’s recovery depends on how much oxygen her brain was getting before she was found.
When being kind enough to carry a baby for someone else goes wrong…
When Jessica Bartholomew agreed to carry and deliver a baby for media personality and actress Sherri Shepherd and her then husband, Lamar Sally, she never imagined that she’s now be paying child support for the child. Shepard and Sally separated while Bartholomew was still pregnant and Sherri has completely has abandoned the situation and the child. Bartholomew told Inside Edition that the state of California may come after her to pay child support to Sally, who has full custody of Lamar, Jr.
If I told you that actress Regina Hall had never had a leading role would you believe me? Yeah, I wouldn’t believe me either, but it’s true. However, that streak comes to an end with her next role in the LifeTime movie With This Ring. We gave you the scoop on the film starring the DC native, Jill Scott, Eve Jeffries Cooper and Brooklyn Sudano earlier this month, but we spoke with Regina recently and she expressed how blessed she’s been to work with ensemble casts and what it’s been like being a leading lady.
I’ve had a chance to work in the most amazing ensembles…with people I get to watch and learn from like my, you know, my friends. I have a lot of friends including Taraji (P. Henson) who are just women whose work I respect who are so talented. You have this thought of what it’s going to be like but it’s like you’re just in more scenes. Every single part is so important in – yes, it’s just, yeah more scenes lol. But every single person and every single part and every single character is so important in a movie that…you begin to say oh gosh, you know. It’s the moment that you think ‘oh, I can’t wait’ but it’s perfect when it’s a role that resonates with you. When you feel comfortable. When you have a great cast.
And according to Regina, working with people that she actually likes has made working not feel so much like work at all. She’s enjoyed building genuine friendships while working on projects throughout her career.
You know, all of those honestly have been just pretty organic. I had never met Jill or Brooklyn. Oh, I did meet Jill once at – but she didn’t remember. I have never met Joe, Brooklyn or Eve. And so you’re always like I hope – I hope they like me, you know, when you go on a set, especially when you’ve got to play friends. But I love them. I didn’t even know anyone on Best Man. I became best friends with people from that film. I love that I get to meet all these people – and that’s behind the camera and in front of the camera. So it’s not what I look for but it’s a bonus. It’s such a bonus. Even Nia Long. I had loved Nia for so long and I’m like, oh my goodness, it’s Nia Long. But then you work with people and you get to know them and you’re like wow, you know, they’re just great women. I met Gabrielle (Union) (who is an executive producer of “With This Ring”) actually even before we worked. And so when I would find out oh, Gabrielle is in it? Yes! And you know you’re going to go to work and you’re going to be in each other’s trailers so it’s definitely a bonus.
Snagging her first leading role and working with amazing women aren’t the only reasons why With This Ring is a project that is near and dear to Regina’s heart.
In particular this time, I’ve had a gigantic amount of support from the women, our director-producer and, you know, from Lifetime meaning Lifetime has really been wonderful in supporting the movie. I mean wonderful. They have really done a lot of hard work in making sure people are aware of the movie and making sure people watch it and making sure that they are a part of promoting the images so all of that feels wonderful when you’re the one on the call sheet.
The support she’s receiving isn’t only from women though. She seemed a bit taken aback when I asked her if she knew she was a sex symbol. The men love her too (my husband ADORES her lol). She attributed it to people not being exposed to the “everyday” her who rocks sweats and a baseball cap.
I haven’t been on social media so you don’t get to — well until five days ago and I’m still not good at it — but your husband may not know I’m in sweats and a baseball cap. They may see me out and say wait a minute lol. It’s always wonderful to be supported. Like the fact that, you know, you are an amazing woman and they like anything that you’re in, like you’re taking time out to say I really like what you do. That’s the beautiful part of it, you know. It’s a real sincere part of it. And that’s kind of what you love.
And being “YOU” and living your life NOW is the biggest lesson that Regina wants women to take from the film.
Before this movie started I was living in in my house but I wanted a yard in my house. It was about three years ago. I wanted to move. And I remember the first thought was ‘Oh, you know what? I should probably wait until I get married and then I’ll move’. And then I thought well, I don’t know when that is. And I could enjoy my yard right now, you know. Because right now is really all I have. And I think that’s the message that I really hope women take away from it. There as so many wonderful things and so many wonderful pieces that make up life as a whole. There’s so many different elements. So just because it’s not the way you necessarily envisioned or dreamed it doesn’t mean that it’s not deliciously wonderful. And I hope women really can know that and know that they themselves are the most valuable component in their life. And making that choice to really acknowledge and just delight in that is really the most important step to real true happiness.
I couldn’t agree with her more. With This Ring is definitely a must see that could have very well been a theatrical release. Grab a few girlfriends and check it out when it airs on LifeTime on January 24th at 8pm EST. You’ll love it. I sure did. Here’s the trailer again and a bonus clip of the Regina, Jill and Eve chatting about the film on TODAY to get you ready.