However, much controversy has been surrounding the variety sketch show and the comedy’s elite for including little to no diversity in its lineup.
*Fresh from announcing it’s first black female regular cast member since the departure of Maya Rudolph, “Saturday Night Live” is continuing to branch out with the hiring of two African-American writers.
*Fresh off of its much ballyhoo’d stance on a lack of diversity in showcasing ethnic female talent on the long-running “Saturday Night Live” series, “SNL” chief Lorne Michaels goes back to his safety net, and gives Maya Rudolph the green light for a primetime show on NBC.
Rudolph, you may recall, was the last black female (please let’s not get persnickity because she is biracial) to serve as a regular cast member on SNL; prior to the asinine attempt at justification by current “SNL” female impersonator, Kenan Thompson, that “black women are not ready” to be on the show.
Nevertheless, NBC has ordered a pilot for the proposed variety show, to air as a special after the Winter Olympics, which begins Friday, February 7, 2014 and Rudolph will executive produce with Michaels, Erin David and Dave Becky.
Apparently, the series is a hot property, and was chased by a number of networks, with NBC eventually winning out.
This will mark a return to TV for Rudolph, who, most recently, appeared on the big screen this year, in “Grown Ups 2″ and “The Way Way Back.”
*The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, is coming to a screen near you earlier than previously planned.
Universal has moved up the release date of the biopic, “Get On Up,” from October 17, 2014 to August 1, 2014; taking over the slot previously reserved for its highly anticipated “50 Shades of Grey” film adaptation, which has now got a new lead and been pushed to February 13, 2015.
“Get On Up” stars Chadwick Bozeman (“42″) as James Brown and Jill Scott as Brown’s wife. The cast is rounded out with Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Lennie James and Keith Robinson in the Tate Taylor-directed film.
Shooting on the project has begun, in Mississippi, with Brian Grazer producing alongside Mick Jagger, for Universal Pictures.
Promising a true tell-all of Brown’s life story, the screenplay was penned by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (they wrote the script for ”Fair Game,” the Naomi Watts and Sean Penn film).
“Get On Up” will compete with Disney’s wide release of its adaptation of “Guardians of the Galaxy” on that August 1, 2014 weekend.
*“Saturday Night Live” announced this season’s six new cast members, and for the sixth year in a row, nary one of them was an African American woman – which means Kenan Thompson will have to continue putting on lipstick.
But there’s one problem, Kenan says he’s not doing it anymore.
When asked what the show would do now when confronted with potential black female characters or celebrity spoofs, Thompson told TVGuide.com, “I don’t know. We just haven’t done them. That’s what I’m saying. Maybe [Jay Pharaoh] will do it or something, but even he doesn’t really want to do it.”
Instead of blaming showrunner Lorne Michaels or the series, which currently only employs three actors of color out of 16 cast members (Thompson, Pharaoh and the Iranian Nasim Pedrad), Thompson blames the lack of quality black female comedians.
“It’s just a tough part of the business,” Thompson says. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”
In the 38 years “SNL” has been on the air, the series has only had four black female cast members: Yvonne Hudson (1980-81), Danitra Vance (1985-86), Ellen Cleghorne (1991-95) and Maya Rudolph (2000-2007). Of the four, only three were repertory players (Hudson was only a featured player before being fired midseason). This means, there were large gaps in “SNL’s” history when there were no black women on the show at all.
Pharoah has recently spoken out about the series’ diversity problem, telling theGrio, “They need to pay attention” and add a black woman to the cast. Pharoah even suggested his pick, Darmirra Brunson, who’s currently on “Tyler Perry’s Love They Neighbor.”
“Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on ‘SNL.’ I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.”
As to how the six new (all white) cast members are faring so far this season, Thompson says they’re doing just fine. “They’re all contributing in different ways I think. They’ve been doing great job so far. They’re all very, very smart and talented, so that’s how it is. That’s the kind of people I guess that get the job,” Thompson says.
*Between his concert pics and Throwback Thursday photos, Prince has been occupying his Twitter time with photos of his meals.
In his latest offering, he serves up both a food pic and the name of his new single, simultaneously.
His first tweets on his account, @3rdeyegirl (“4 hard-rocking, soft-spoken, astral traveling explosions of awesome”), started small. “PRINCE’S 1ST TWEET… TESTING 1, 2…” then “PRINCE’S 2ND TWEET.” Just warming up.
But then in his third tweet, he tweeted a pic of pepper with a salad underneath. He captioned the photo, “Did eye add 2 much pepper?”
His second and latest food tweet is for his new single “Breakfast Can Wait.” [Scroll down to listen.] Prince tweeted the cover art: a photo of Dave Chappelle impersonating Prince and holding a plate of pancakes.
Fans of Comedy Central’s “Chappelle Show” already know story behind the photo. Charlie Murphy plays a game of basketball with Prince, impersonated by Chappelle, in one of the show’s most memorable skits. After Prince schools him on the court, he invites Murphy and his losing team back into the house and serves them pancakes … and grapes.
In other Prince news, the lineup for the March 7th Carnegie Hall tribute to His Royal Badness has been revealed. Joining the Roots, Talib Kweli, Booker T and the Blind Boys of Alabama will be Elvis Costello, Bettye Lavette, and D’Angelo. Rounding out the cast: actress Sandra Bernhard, Bilal and Princess, a tribute band featuring “Saturday Night Live” alum Maya Rudolph.
Listen to the “Breakfast Can Wait” tease below.
*Samuel L. Jackson fans aren’t used to his presence in a film without the f-word coming out of his mouth, but his character in the animated film “Turbo” comes off as the type that would curse like a sailor…if the film wasn’t rated PG.
“In his mind he’s the undisputed leader of this group of snails,” Jackson says of his character Whiplash, part of a team of snails (including Snoop Dogg’s Smoove Move and Maya Rudolph’s Burn) whose owner puts them in snail races. “They have their own particular style. They all think of themselves as very fast and very athletic – athletic as snails could be, I guess – and they have a sort of routine and a pecking order. [Whiplash] is sort of the undisputed leader of this group of snails who’ve been coddled and decorated by their owners.”
When Turbo (Ryan Reynolds), a garden snail, gets swooped up by their owner after a run-in with some nitrous oxide makes him super fast, Whiplash and his crew help the newbie fulfill his dream to race in the Indianapolis 500.
Below, Jackson speaks to those who may stay away from the film over personal issues with snails.
“Turbo” zooms into theaters on July 17. Watch an introduction of Whiplash’s crew below.