Tag Archives: Dear White People

Black storytelling matters

As Netflix launches a curated collection of programming dedicated to the Black Lives Matters movement, DQ highlights some of the featured series.

Netflix has launched a specially selected collection of programming under the Black Lives Matter banner. In a Tweet announcing the move, the streamer wrote: “When we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we also mean ‘Black storytelling matters.’

“With an understanding that our commitment to true, systemic change will take time, we’re starting by highlighting powerful and complex narratives about the Black experience.

“When you log on to Netflix today, you will see a carefully curated list of titles that only begin to tell the complex and layered stories about racial injustice and Blackness in America.”

It comes as anti-racism protests continue to take place around the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Here, DQ highlights some of the series featured in the list, which can be viewed in full here.

When They See Us
From: US
Starring: Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Jharrel Jermone, Marquis Rodriguez, Justin Cunningham, Jovan Adept, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Kylie Bunbury
Launched: 2019
A winner among this year’s prestigious Peabody Awards, this raw and hard-hitting miniseries from creator and director Ava Duvernay dramatises real events that took place in the spring of 1989, when five boys of colour were arrested, interrogated and coerced into confessing to the vicious attack of a woman in Central Park. After being convicted of various charges, they were awarded a settlement for wrongful conviction in 2014.
• See also: Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us, in which the talkshow host interviews the cast and creative team behind the miniseries, as well as the real people involved in the story.

Dear White People
From: US
Starring: Logan Browning, Brandon P Bell, DeRon Horton, Antoinette Robertson, John Patrick Amedori, Ashley Blaine Featherson, Marque Richardson
Launched: 2017
Created by Justin Simien and based on his film of the same name, this comedy drama follows several black students as they navigate life at an Ivy League college where racial tensions bubble just below the surface.

Self Made
From: US
Starring: Octavia Spencer, Tiffany Haddish, Carmen Ejogo, Kevin Carroll, Blair Underwood
Launched: 2020
This miniseries chronicles the life of Madam CJ Walker, an African American washerwoman who rose from poverty to build a beauty empire and become the first female self-made millionaire.

Seven Seconds
From: US
Starring: Clare-Hope Ashitey, Regina King, Beau Knapp
Launched: 2018
Created and exec produced by showrunner Veena Sud, who developed the US version of Danish drama Forbrydelsen (The Killing), this series centres on the death of a 15-year-old African American boy in Jersey City and the search for the truth after a police cover-up.

She’s Gotta Have It
From: US
Starring: DeWanda Wise, Anthony Ramos, Lyriq Bent, Cleo Anthony, Chyna Layne, Margot Bingham
Launched: 2017
This comedy drama was created by film director Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, BlacKkKlansman) and based on his 1986 film of the same name. Lee also directed all 19 episodes of the series, which revolves around an artist who struggles to stay true to herself and her dreams while juggling three lovers.

Undercover
From: UK
Starring: Sophie Okonedo, Adrian Lester, Dennis Haysbert
Launched: 2016
Originally commissioned by the BBC, this six-part drama sees Okonedo play a London lawyer who tries to stop an innocent man’s execution in the US, unaware her husband is hiding a 20-year-old secret with links to the case.

Pose
From: US
Starring: MJ Rodriguez, Billy Porter, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Angel Bismark Curiel, Hailie Sahar, Angelica Ross
Launched: 2018
This FX series from creators Steven Canals, Brad Fulchuck and Ryan Murphy is set in 1987 New York. It looks at the juxtaposition of several segments of life and society: the rise of the luxury, Trump-era universe, the downtown social and literary scene and ball culture. At its launch, the series assembled the largest ever cast of transgender actors in series-regular roles.

Orange is the New Black
From: US
Starring: Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba, Kate Mulgrew, Danielle Brooks, SSascha Polanco, Selenis Leyva, Nick Sandow, Yael Stone, Taryn Manning, Jackie Cruz, Adrienne C Moore, Laura Prepon
Launched: 2013
Concluding last year after seven seasons, this ensemble drama initially followed privileged New Yorker Piper Chapman (Schilling) after she was sent to a women’s prison. But over the course of the series, each episode’s flashbacks would reveal the backstory or relevant character traits of numerous inmates and guards. Storylines include a prison protest and subsequent riot following the death of black inmate Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), as well as others highlighting corruption, privatisation of the prison system, overcrowding, guard brutality, racial discrimination and prisoner safety.

Luke Cage
From: US
Starring: Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Alfre Woodard, Justin Swain, Sean Ringgold
Launched: 2016
Arguably the standout entry from Netflix’s original Marvel series, the comic book drama follows the titular ex-con with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin as he fights to clear his name and save his neighbourhood from crime and corruption.

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Networks and streamers look for laughs

The 2014 movie Dear White People
The 2014 movie Dear White People

This week there has been a lot of movement on the scripted comedy front. Netflix, for example, has given a series order to Dear White People, a 10-part adaptation of Justin Simien’s 2014 movie of the same name.

Due to air on the US streamer in 2017, it tells the story of a group of students of colour at a fictional Ivy League university dominated by white students. Like the film, the series will be produced for Netflix by Lionsgate.

Commenting on the deal, Chris Selak, executive VP of television at Lionsgate Television, said: “We’re proud to expand our partnership with our friends at Netflix on a comedy that tackles racial themes with a combination of intelligence, honesty, irreverence and wit. Our original film with Roadside Attractions catapulted Dear White People into the national conversation about race, and Justin and the rest of the creative team have an opportunity to expand this world and bring its timely and universal themes to a global television audience.”

Another comedy in the news this week is E4’s Foreign Bodies, which follows a motley gang of travellers on a three-month trip around Asia. The show, which is being produced by indie company Eleven and is backed by eOne, was first unveiled by E4 in January. But this week it was announced that US cable channel TNT is coming on board as a partner.

“Foreign Bodies is a terrific opportunity for TNT to work with eOne, Eleven and E4 on a series that will appeal to young adults not only in the US and the UK but also around the globe,” said Sarah Aubrey, exec VP of original programming for TNT. “It’s also a great chance to bring (the show’s creator) Tom Basden’s voice to our stateside viewers.”

The Mindy Project is getting a second season on Hulu, its fifth run overall
The Mindy Project is getting a second season on Hulu, its fifth run overall

Hulu, meanwhile, has announced that there will be a new season of The Mindy Project. The show aired on Fox in the US for three seasons before moving to Hulu for season four. The new run will take the total number of series to five (and the total number of episodes over 100).

A number of critics have been watching season four closely since it launched in September to see how the show has changed under new management. The general conclusion has been ‘not much’ – although the Hulu episodes are two to three minutes longer. This has led some observers to suggest that The Mindy Project has benefited as a result, because it can dwell a little longer on comic scenarios or character development.

Hulu’s announcement about Mindy was part of its Upfronts, which also included some news about its drama slate. It has, for example, ordered a pilot set in prehistoric times called Dawn. Created by Hank Steinberg (The Last Ship, Without a Trace) and Ken Nolan (Transformers 5, Black Hawk Down), the show centres on a tribe of Neanderthals and their battle for survival after meeting a group of Homo Sapiens.

The company also announced there will be a second season of The Path, which centres on a religious cult.

Michelle Monaghan and Aaron Paul in The Path
Michelle Monaghan and Aaron Paul in The Path

Among other major scripted stories this week is the news that FX in the US has ordered Feud – another anthology drama series from Ryan Murphy. The eight-episode show, which also involves Fox 21 Television Studios and Brad Pitt’s prodco Plan B Entertainment, will star Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. Based on a script by Jaff Coihen and Michael Zam, it explores the rivalry between iconic US actors Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

This week also saw National Geographic in the US move forward with Killing Reagan, a TV adaptation of Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s book of the same name. Playing Reagan, the actor who became US president, will be Tim Matheson (The West Wing). His wife Nancy will be played by Cynthia Nixon (Sex in the City). The script for the adaptation is from Eric Simonson, a documentarian who is also a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

The Killing franchise has been a remarkable success for Nat Geo in recent years. Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy and Killing Jesus, which were also based on books by O’Reilly and Dugard, were the most watched shows in the channel’s history. Kennedy and Jesus were also Emmy-nominated. The new show is different from the other Killing productions in that it deals with an unsuccessful assassination attempt (by John Hinckley in 1981). The other three stories famously ended with the deaths of their protagonists.

The chaotic scene in the immediate aftermath of the attempted assassination of Ronal Reagan
The chaotic scene in the immediate aftermath of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan

There are also a couple of stories this week about planned book adaptations. Sonar Entertainment is developing a show about the contraceptive pill based on a book by Jonathan Eig. Called The Birth of the Pill, the show centres on the four people who were involved with the development of the birth control during a period of sweeping social change and rapid scientific advances. Eig has previously written three non-fiction books, two based around baseball players and one about the plot to capture gangster Al Capone. The TV adaptation is being written by Audrey Wells, who has penned a number of popular movies including The Game Plan, Shall We Dance and Under the Tuscan Sun.

In the UK, meanwhile, there are reports that production firm Rooks Nest is developing Joseph O’Neill’s acclaimed novel Netherland for TV. The project is Rooks Nest’s first move into TV drama after success with recent movies such as The Witch and Obvious Child. Netherland is set in post-9/11 New York and London and centres on Hans, a Dutch expat working on Wall Street who rediscovers his love of cricket when he joins the Staten Island cricket team. However, he soon falls under the spell of the team’s charismatic Trinidadian coach Chuck Ramkissoon.

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