Monday, January 25, 2016

WENDELL PIERCE ON HOLLYWOOD’S RACISM, AFRICAN SELF-DETERMINATION IN THE FILM BUSINESS, AND WHY HE NEARLY QUIT THE WIRE (MF GALAXY 062)

THE CRAFTS OF SCREEN VS. STAGE ACTING, THE RESPONSIBILITY OF AFRICAN CELEBRITIES IN THE US, WHY ANTWONE FISHER FAILED AT THE BOX OFFICE, AND WHY HE SAYS ISHMAEL REED IS RIGHT ABOUT THE WIRE

Best known as Detective Bunk Moreland on HBO’s The Wire, stage and screen actor Wendell Pierce has appeared in over 30 films and more than 50 television shows. He’s also an outspoken commentator on racism in US life, politics, and entertainment, and a social and economic justice activist for the people of his home town, New Orleans. He was also a top fundraiser for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Way back in 2008, Wendell Pierce came to Edmonton to shoot “Something with Bite,” the werewolf episode of the horror anthology Fear Itself produced by Lion’s Gate, written by Max Landis, who later wrote Chronicle, and directed by Ernest Dickerson, best known for Juice and Never Die Alone.

Pierce and I had a wide-ranging discussion in which he discussed:

* How he deals with disappointment about his acting performance
* The craft difference between acting for the screen and acting for the stage
* What the “domino effect” is in acting and how to use it
* Representation of Africans in US entertainment, in 2008 comments that are completely relevant to the 2015 US Academy Award nominations
* His commitment to working on films by independent African artists
* The responsibility of African celebrities in the US
* Why the superb film Antwone Fisher failed at the box office
* His opinion of the brilliant writer Ishmael Reed, who is one of the most outspoken critics of The Wire, and why he frequently considered quitting the series, and
* His analysis of the so-called War on Drugs, privatisation of education, and the US Prison-Industrial Complex

I recorded today’s never-before-aired interview with Pierce on April 30, 2008. We sat in the lobby of the downtown Sutton Place Hotel while he waited for his ride to take him to set. I began by asking him about his approach to the craft of acting.

And now on MF Galaxy, my conversation with Wendell Pierce.


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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

REGINALD HUDLIN ON BLACK PANTHER, LUKE CAGE, MOTION COMICS, AND FILMMAKING (MF GALAXY 061)

http://tinyurl.com/hffpmsr

Reginald Hudlin is one of the most successful creators of film and television of the last twenty-five years. He leapt to prominence by writing and directing 1990’s House Party, an intelligent and hilarious film about African American teenage life, following that with, among other films, Boomerang, widely regarded as Eddy Murphy’s finest performance, and the acerbic satire The Great Whyte Hype.

In television, Hudlin created Cosmic Slop, and wrote for and produced Bebe’s Kids, one of the few animated series ever to focus on African characters in the US. He also helped launch Everybody Hates Chris, The Boondocks, and The Bernie Mac Show. He’s directed for many series, including The Office and Modern Family.

During three years as President of Entertainment for the American network Black Entertainment Television or BET, Hudlin, according to his website, “created 17 of the top 20 rated shows in the history of the network including the award-winning KEYSHIA COLE: THE WAY IT IS; AMERICAN GANGSTER; and SUNDAY BEST.”

The recipient of awards and widespread critical acclaim, Hudlin also co-authored the satirical and highly lauded graphic novel Birth of a Nation about East St. Louis seceding from the United States.

It’s Hudlin’s love of and work in comics that are the focus of this episode of MF GALAXY. Hudlin reputedly owns more than 50,000 comics, and while he was heading entertainment for all of BET, Hudlin somehow managed to write Black Panther for Marvel Comics.

Black Panther is the story of T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda, a country that throughout history was never conquered and achieved an unparalleled height of technology. Shockingly enough, Black Panther was created back in the early 1960s not by Richard Wright, George Schuyler, Charles Saunders or Octavia Butler, but by two of the giants of modern superhero comics, the Jewish-American creative geniuses Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, ironically just a few years before the birth of the Black Panther Party.

Under Hudlin’s creative control, Black Panther continued to combine martial arts, spy thrills, science fiction and mysticism, but more than ever a critique of American politics, an Africentric perspective, and a magnificent re-imagining of some of Marvel’s few African characters such as Luke Cage and Brother Voodoo.

Reginald Hudlin spoke with me by telephone from his home in Los Angeles on December 30, 2010. We discussed:

Why comic characters such as Blade could sustain three movies and hundreds of millions of box office dollars, but never be successful as comic books

Which has created better African characters: Hollywood, or American comic books?

The pioneering breakthrough of Milestone Comics and its dramatic conclusion

Hudlin’s approach to creating the Black Panther animated series and to rebooting Black Panther as a comic book

What the Black Panther has in common with George W. Bush

The danger of writing comics about comics, and

Hudlin’s reaction to attacks from rabid comic fans accusing him of racism for his work on Black Panther.

This episode’s conversation is from the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. Reginald Hudlin spoke with me by telephone from his home in Los Angeles on December 30, 2010. Along the way, Hudlin uses the acronym “IP,” meaning “intellectual property,” such as characters, settings, and stories. At one point in our conversation, I misidentified the Juggernaut as the Rhino, but Hudlin didn’t call me out.

We began by talking about the Black Panther. 


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The following material is exclusive to the patrons-only extended edition of MF GALAXY. You’ll hear Reginald Hudlin discuss:


  • Why some fans attacked him for marrying Black Panther to the X-Men character Storm
  • Audience and studio reactions against the sexualisation of African male characters
  • Why Hudlin downplayed his signature humour for his run on Black Panther
  • Hudlin’s re-imagining of Brother Voodoo and Luke Cage, and the relationship between Cage and Black Panther
  • Hudlin’s favourite African comics and animation creators such as Kyle Baker, Christopher Priest, Denys Cowan, and his comments on the late, great writer Dwayne McDuffie, recorded just 44 days before his death
  • The bigoted backlash against the Muslim Batman in the Batman Incorporated world, and the casting of Idris Elba in the movie Thor
  • Hudlin’s own resilience in the face of attacks from former friends and colleagues, including following his very public split with Boondocks animated series co-creator Aaron McGruder who attacked him again and again
  • Hudlin’s philosophy for success




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

STEPHEN NOTLEY + MINISTER FAUST ON STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS (MF GALAXY 060)




HOW DERIVATIVE IS IT? WILL IT RESTORE LUCAS’S REPUTATION? WHO’S MORE HUMOURLESS: LUKE OR REY? DOES STARKILLER BASE MAKE ANY SENSE? WHO’S IN LOVE: REY/FINN, REY/KYLO, OR FINN/POE?
Today’s episode is 100% non-stop spoilers. If you haven’t watched The Force Awakens yet, you obviously don’t care enough about Star Wars to care about these spoilers, or you’re in a coma. Either way, on we go.

Stephen Notley and I have been talking about science fiction and fantasy for more than 25 years. He’s the cartoonist who for more the last two decades has written and drawn the genre-hopping, politically satirical, gonzo fanboy comic strip Bob the Angry Flower about an evil, brilliant, and super-enthusiastic flower named Bob, and the panels of Bob frequently geek over everything S F & F.

Notley’s put out numerous Bob the Angry Flower compilation books and appeared at many major conventions including San Diego Comic Con. He has a vast following and counts among his fans no less than Joss Whedon, who also blurbed one of his collections.
Of course I’m the author of the Philip K. Dick-shortlisted The Coyote Kings whose pages are bursting with genre references and even include a criminal gang called the FanBoys.

To talk The Force Awakens, this last Boxing Day, Notley and I sat down at Ninja Sushi on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. They have not paid me to endorse them, but I will say they had great tuna. I also apologise to the couple sitting next to us who had to listen to us talk about Star Wars for 90 minutes. Which isn’t exactly true, because they left after 45.

If you’re listening on radio, strap in for this half-hour edition. If you’re listening via podcast, this is a special 90 minute version. Radio listeners can go to iTunes or mfgalaxy.org to get the Starkiller-size.

Notley and I will debate the following questions:

  • So, just how derivative was The Force Awakens?
  • Will it help resurrect the reputation of George Lucas?
  • How much did Lucas’s prequels successfully add to the Star Wars universe without getting any credit?
  • Who’s better in a first movie appearance: Luke, or Rey? And who is more humourless?
  • What’s the role of cuteness in Star Wars?
  • Why isn’t Jaaku simply called Tattooine?
  • When does Star Wars do planets right?
  • How did Starkiller Base actually work?
  • What do The Force Awakens and the original Battlestar Galactica have in common?
  • Why does Han starts talking like Geordi LaForge?
  • Is Poe the new Han Solo?
  • Who’s in love—Rey and Finn, or Rey and Kylo Ren? And how will Disney decide?
  • What’s the love and character arc parallel between The Force Awakens and Avatar: The Last Airbender?
  • What’s the major writing no-no in how the script introduces and develops Kylo Ren, especially with his powers, his mask, and his swordsmanship?
  • Who is Snoke? Why is he called Snoke? And why is he a giant Gollum?
  • What was wrong in the generational values of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot?
  • The Han-Leia relationship and Han’s decline from general back to smuggler and bad father: well-written or a lost opportunity?
  • Why should you read the novel Darth Plagueis?
  • Does Finn possess the Force?
  • Maz Kanata, Lupita Nyong’o. Is the character a Super Duper Magical Negro?
  • And is JJ Abrams’ greatest Star Wars movie… Star Trek 2009?
Along the way, Notley refers to local journalist and our mutual friend Fish Griwkowsky. I began by responding to Notley’s question, How many times have I seen the film?

BUY BOB THE ANGRY FLOWER BOOKS AND SWAG!