Something wonderful happens when a film has two black leads, and we can prove it

I’ve written before about studies that show that diversity has a positive impact on the bottom line, and now I have new one to add to the growing pile.

Researchers at University of North Carolina and McGill University decided to study how films featuring diverse casts performed at the box office compare to cast that feature all white people.

Remember how much money these guys made? Only $206 million

You can see this one coming a mile away can’t you?

The researchers found that after controlling for factors like genre, seasonality and the size of its opening release, having one black cast member did not significantly affect revenues, and having two black cast members correlated with earning roughly 60 percent more at the box office than the average film with no black actors. It was when films employed two or more black leads, however, that the real gains were seen: those films outperformed films with no black actors by 149 percent at the box office.

Yes honey, you read those number right. That’s a 149% increase in revenues bitches.

Cost to make: 13.5 million, box office: 54.3 million.

The Huff Post has a write up and more complete breakdown of the data if you want to see more. The fact of the matter is that this study aligns with previous studies, Diversity Sells and Hollywood executives are out of excuses.

Amandla Stenberg to star in movie based on Black Lives Matter

Outspoken actress and activist Amandla Stenberg has been tapped to play the lead in The Hate U Give, based on the Young Adult novel of the same name by Angela Thomas. Thomas first got the idea for book  after the shooting of unarmed Oscar Grant in 2009 by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cop. As the Black Lives Matter Movement gained steam, she began working on it while a Senior at Belhaven University.

Apparently there was a huge bidding war on this book and it’s very timely subject matter.

Amandla will play Starr, according to the The Hollywood Reporter, which first broke the story:

a 16-year-old girl … who grew up in a poverty-stricken slum, but now attends a suburban prep school. After she witnesses a police officer shoot her unarmed best friend, she’s torn between her two very different worlds as she tries to speak her truth

George Tillman Jr (Soul Food) will direct.

My one hesitation over this film is the fact that Audrey Wells (Under Tuscan Sun, George of the Jungle) will write the screen play. I’ve read both the book and seen the film of Under the Tuscan Sun and I have to say that it was the crappiest book adaption I have ever seen. The movie had NOTHING to do with book aside from the location. Seriously, calling it crappy is an insult to crap. She set fire to the book and wrote her own story almost completely from scratch. Can this woman pull off the screenplay for what is sure to be a controversial movie? Nothing in her resume indicates she is up to the challenge. I can only hope the Tillman and Amandla can keep her honest and keep the focus on #BlackLivesMatter where it belongs.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw to star in Bad Robot’s “God Particle”

Several sites are reporting that David Oyelowo and Gugu Mbatha-Raw will be starring in JJ Abrams’s latest project God Particle. To sweeten the pot even further, Nigerian-American filmmaker Julius Onah is directing.

credit: thesource.com

As you may have guessed from the sciencey title, the movie is described a SciFi thriller. Yes folks, we are getting a diverse SciFi flick! Lord knows we need more visions of the future that include POC.

The synopsis for the film reads:

After a physics experiment with a large hadron accelerator causes the Earth to seemingly vanish completely, the terrified crew of an orbiting American space station is left floating in the middle of now-even-more-empty space. When a European spacecraft appears on their radar, the Americans must determine whether it’s their salvation, or a harbinger of doom.

It is unknown what parts Gugu and David will be playing at this time.

You may recall that Gugu has worked with Bad Robot before, starring in the short lived series Undercovers. God Particle is currently slated to release on Feb. 24, 2017.

Abrams has been very out spoken recently about the need to diversify Hollywood, and this casting indicates he is willing to walk the talk. Whatever you think of JJ and his projects, he is a major player in Tinsel Town and this is a positive step forward.

‘Shooter’ suddenly became much more interesting

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Looks like I’ll have another show to watch whenever Shooter premieres.

Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow) has been cast as the female lead opposite Ryan Phillippe in Shooter, USA Network’s upcoming drama series from Paramount TV and Universal Cable Prods. She replaces Emily Rios, who played the part in the pilot.

The thriller, based on Stephen Hunter’s novel Point Of Impact and the 2007 Paramount film starring Mark Wahlberg, is written by John Hlavin and executive produced by Wahlberg. It stars Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger — the role played by Wahlberg in the movie — an expert marksman living in exile who is coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the president.

Addai-Robinson will play FBI agent Nadine Memphis. Nadine has a strong intuition and dogged determination which has made her a rising star in the Bureau, but her headstrong personality has also landed her in trouble in the past. As the arresting officer of a would-be-assassin, she may have set her career back on the fast track, but her gut tells her there’s more to this case. Not realizing the depth of the conspiracy, she unwittingly puts both her investigation and her life in jeopardy. [Deadline]

Watch Lupita Nyong’o act out Maz Kanata

Remember when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was first released and there some foolishness going around the internet that Lupita “struggled” with her role and JJ Abrams was forced to cut several of her scenes from the movie? JJ himself slammed the rumors.

“In truth, her performance wasn’t satisfactory. It was spectacular. She has brought the character of Maz Kanata to life in the most wonderful, wise, touching, deep and funny way. Lupita never ceased to amaze me. Yes, we tried many approaches, and we finally landed on just what the film needed. She elevated all the scenes she is in, I’m forever grateful, and can’t wait for people to see her stunning performance.”

A video has surfaced showing Lupita acting in a motion capture similar to the ones Andy Serkis and Benedict Cumberbatch used to film the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit respectively. If anyone out there still think that Lupita struggled, this video should put the rumors to rest once and for all. Enjoy.

UCLA Proves Movies with Diverse Casts Do Better Globally

Conventional wisdom in Hollywood say that films with POC leads don’t do well overseas, so white washing is important to the bottom line.

Not so fast there.

According to no less of an authority than UCLA, the latest data shows the truth is actually 180 degrees from conventional wisdom. Diverse casts do BETTER in the global marketplace than all-white casts.

You can read Variety’s write-up here, which also includes a link to the study itself. I’m going to bookmark this sucker and throw it out every time someone tries to tell me that POC can’t open a movie overseas.

Ava DuVernay scores yet another new job

Ava needs to clone herself, that woman is busy! She has yet another project in the works.

On top of Sugar and A Wrinkle in Time, Ava will direct The Battle of Versailles about the 1973 fashion show at the historic palace that pitted the upstart American designers against the established French elite. By the end of the night the Americans scored a major victory and American fashion was raised to the world stage. This show was also notable for the fact that out of the 30 models used by the Americans, 10 of them were WOC. It was ground breaking.

Can’t you just see the visuals now? Ohmygod peeps, Ava is going to slay this!

Ava is also exec producing co-writing the flick for HBO. The film will be  based on the 2015 book The Battle Of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into The Spotlight And Made History by fashion journalist Robin Givhan.

This project is apparently still in the early development stages, so no word when we will actually get to see it yet. Stay tuned!

CBS whiffs on casting “diverse” Nancy Drew

Back in January I wrote about the new Nancy Drew series under development at CBS and I was skeptical about the whole concept. They basically took the whole idea of Nancy Drew and threw out everything that made her unique except her name. Instead of a clever 18 year old living in a white upper middle class suburb, she was going to be a world weary 30 something detective living in gritty New York.  However, even though I devoured the books as a pre-teen like a hungry tiger, I was willing to give it chance since the new president at CBS, Glen Geller, promised a “diverse” Nancy Drew.

“She is diverse, that is the way she is written,” says the CBS president. He doesn’t specify if she is African-American, Latina or Asian-American, but he does say she will not be Caucasian. “I’d be open to any ethnicity,” he adds.

I’m always down for another WOC in a lead role, but at the time I wrote the first post I asked the question, “Can they really make white bread Nancy Drew a real WOC?” While I was traveling on business last week I got my answer, and it was a resounding “No!”

Almost as soon as I left town, the news broke that Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest, Life) had been cast as the new “diverse” Nancy Drew. Despite the fact the woman is half Persian, this casting falls far short of the expectations Geller set back in January.

When you watch Shahi walk down the street, you do not look at her and think, “There goes a WOC.” She passes for white at first glance, and second glance, and third glance. You basically have to be told she’s WOC.  Given Geller’s insistence that Nancy Drew wasn’t going to be white, I was disappointed to see that he cast someone who passes very well as white. He might as well have gone with the traditional “titian” haired white girl.

They followed up casting Shahi by casting the very white Anthony Edwards as her father, Carson Drew. So our “diverse” heroine was adopted into a Wonder Bread family, which is fine if you’re watching Full House, but not when you’ve been promised a “diverse” heroine. I wasn’t expecting Fresh off the Boat, but I was hoping for something more colorful than Family Ties.

So where is the diversity? The Hollywood press has been eating this up extolling Shahi’s Persian heritage, but they completely miss the point. The diversity here is all smoke and mirrors. CBS slides by on the barest of technicalities. They found a WOC who doesn’t look WOC and gave her a white supporting cast. Shame on the Hollywood press for eating it up like toddlers with a birthday cake.