*A new show has opened for business on Friday nights on TV One. The show is “Belle’s” and Elise Neal portrays Jill Cooper on the sitcom.
“Belle’s is all about family, soul food cooking and basically my family, the Coopers. My father ran this restaurant with my now deceased mom and now he and I have taken over this restaurant and we want it to succeed. We have the crazy Tami Roman as my glamorous sister. We have Ella Joyce as the cook. Miguel Núñez as one of the people who work in the restaurant. It’s just a great cast. And I had such a good time doing it.” Neal said.
She has been on the big screen in a number of films, including the Academy Award winning (for song) movie Hustle and Flow.
The remainder of the cast is also stellar. Neal’s father on the show is played by Keith David, the veteran actor with the mellifluous voice featured in numerous movies, such as the blockbuster The Princess and the Frog where he won rave reviews for the voice of Dr. Facilier. Nadja Alaya makes her TV debut as Pam, the sassy 12-year-old daughter of Jill, who provides narration exhibiting wisdom beyond her tween years. Alaya had previously worked in several theatrical productions.
Juwanna Man is perhaps the movie people first think of when Núñez name is mentioned. On Belle’s he’s more than just a cast member. He’s the creator and Executive Producer of the show too. “I was just looking at all the stuff that was out there already and it wasn’t anything I was proud of. It isn’t anything I thought was really good true family entertainment. It’s a lot of Black shows that are over the top. So big and broad. I wanted something that was more toward like the Cosby Show. Just about family.”
Ed Weinberger, the creator of the Cosby Show, and Núñez share creator and Executive Producer credits. Weinberger gave the show a vintage look. The set is reminiscent of shows with predominantly African American casts from the 1980’s like 227.
Núñez bemoaned the fact that there are an abundance of poor quality sitcoms with predominantly African American casts on television. The reason for that Núñez said with a laugh is because of Tyler Perry.
But he wasn’t joking when he took aim at the acclaimed actor/filmmaker. While Núñez recognized that Perry has a “stellar, impeccable, incredible career,” he was also critical of Perry, saying he has learned something about making TV shows from him. “I learned how not to do one.”
So, what is it about the TV shows, produced by Perry that he doesn’t like? Núñez explained, “I think they’re too big, too loud. Too many people dancing every four or five minutes in the shows. There’s a lot of good actors in his shows. Some of his stories are really good. But I think to me, I’ve seen that before. I’ve seen it over and over again.”
A soon to be released motion picture entitled School Dance, starring Nick Cannon, is something Núñez is proud of. He’s the Executive Producer of the film and gave a preview of what to expect when it’s released this Summer.
“Nick Cannon wrote it and he directed it. It’s got Kevin Hart. It’s got Mike Epps. It’s got everybody you name in this movie and they are incredibly good. It’s about a freshman in school who wants to hang out with the most popular dance crew, but he ain’t really got it. It’s got some incredible dance teams in it. Nick did an incredible job.” Núñez said with a big smile.
Besides making School Dance, Cannon, married to songbird Mariah Carey, will be busy in the Summer hosting Season 8 of America’s Got Talent. The show is NBC’s popular reality competition series that has people in various categories, including singing and dancing, vying for the top prize of one million dollars.
Belle’s is on TV One on Friday nights at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.
Tene’ Croom conducted exclusive interviews with Elise Neal and Miguel Núñez. Reach Tene’ at [email protected]
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