As I pondered the economic support for the new Black Panther movie weeks before it hits the big screen, I was reminded of the similar level of excitement that surrounded the release of Hidden Figures as celebrities, our historically Black sororities and fraternities and others bought out movie theaters to host showings for our kids to celebrate the arrival of heroes who look like them in Hollywood.
Then, as I thought about the lack of women who look like me are too often the ones who get lost in the “woke Hollywood” shuffle (shout out to Robert Townsend, let’s do lunch and talk about a sequel, okay?) of important initiatives such as #OscarsSoWhite and Time’s Up which tend to focus on Black men and White women, I got mad. If the financial and critical success of a movie like Hidden Figures doesn’t prove that Black Girls Movie Magic is a bankable thing and the arrival of Black Panther doesn’t prove how hungry we are to see action heroes who look like us on the big screen, what will? More broadly, who’s out there advocating for a better and more diverse representation of people who look like me in Hollywood?!?!
Then I had an idea. No, it was an EPIC idea. You can see it succinctly summarized in this tweet that I sent to Ava DuVernay, Angela Bassett, Janelle Monae and the folks at Marvel. (Note to self: Get Stan Lee’s address from Dr. Sheldon Cooper next time you’re in Pasadena.)
@ava @Marvel How about X-Men: Storm starring @ImAngelaBassett and @JanelleMonae? Why should Wolverine and the boys have all the fun (and movies)?!? Happy to consult on the script development & casting if you need me! #XMen #Marvel #BlackGirlMovieMagic #LessonsFromWakanda #Storm
In this spirit, and to give the Hollywood power brokers who can make my movie “X-Men: Storm” a culturally-appropriate reality some help, here are 15 casting tips that would ensure its blockbuster success.
- It MUST star Angela Bassett. We ALL know she should have been cast as the original Storm back in the day, so here’s Marvel’s chance at a make good. No, she doesn’t have to play the title role and she doesn’t even have to reprise her role in Black Panther, although a Storm-Black Panther cross-over movie would be dope! The bottom line is: I don’t care who she plays, I just need to see her on the big screen opposite someone besides Madea!
- We’re not casting Lupita Nyong’o or Cookie Lyon (not her real name). Yes, they’re fine actresses but there are more than just two sisters in Hollywood who can carry a movie without playing a slave, maid or ghetto fabulous sassy Black chick. Oh yeah, and I say this humbly, Mo’nique’s not invited to my movie either. Zoe Kravitz (and her awesome Dad) can come though…and so can Viola Davis if she doesn’t ugly cry or take off her wig and makeup. #NewStandardsForUsInHollywood
- Any part you want to offer to Lupita will be played by Grace Jones. Forget the difference in age. Grace is a timeless, legendary super model/Bond girl/innovator/musical genius/international treasure who can sing and act, so put some Grace in your face and get over it. And while we’re talking about singers who can also act, Janelle Monae will star and Mary J. Blige can also have a role as long as there’s no dancing involved. #Strangé
- Danai Gurira will star in the movie to help tease the Black Panther-cross over sequel and, well, because she’s Michonne and can handle a zombie killing katana like no other. And although he’s no longer with us, the pioneering Duane Jones from the original Night of the Living Dead will play her father who inspires her through flashbacks, the magic of Hollywood and some crafty editing.
- And, if JT can try to resurrect Prince via hologram at the Super Bowl, then I’m using my machine to bring back Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and Ruby Dee as the council of elders in the kingdom where at least part of the movie will be set. I might also have to throw in a cameo by the real Janet in which she unplugs a JT hologram just for good measure.
- Diahann Carroll will play a queen. Not sure of what or where but it doesn’t matter. Here’s why. She shattered glass ceilings in TV Land as Julia; won James Earl Jones’s heart in Claudine; wrote the original and definitive bad ass, classy and sophisticated shade throwing handbook as Dominique Deveraux; and, well, she’s Dianne Carroll.
- The entire cast (and crew) of Living Single, including Kyle and Overton, will be attached to the project because they did it before Friends stole their formula and well, respect your roots.
- Sanaa Lathan will play a General who advises, trains and leads the warriors in someone’s army in deference to what she did to the Aliens and Predators (and Omar Epps in Love and Basketball! Too soon?).
- Nichelle Nichols will also play a queen because even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew she changed the world, if not the universe, as Lt. Uhura. Wait, what? You don’t know about…just Google it, okay? I’ll wait….moving on.
- Susan Kelechi Brown who plays Beth on This is Us will star because 1. Sterling K. Brown’s not the only outstanding actor of color on that show and 2. She plays Beth on This Is Us. And I’m definitely casting Ron Cephas Jones as her Dad, the friendly neighborhood barista, the postman or whatever. He just has to be in my movie because we all know he was robbed of the Emmy he deserved for his portrayal of William in season 1.
- Debbie Allen and Jada Pinkett-Smith will be brought in to help choreograph the fight scenes. Just think of the epic awesomeness that will happen when Fame meets the Matrix?!?!? And if Ms. Allen wants Phylicia Rashad and Norm Nixon to have speaking parts, consider it done. After all, if a little nepotism is good for the Afflecks, it’s good for the Allens too, right? #RightHeresWhereYouStartPayingWithSweat
- Shanola Hampton from Shameless, Retta from Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, Simone Missick and Alfre Woodard (also known as the original Viola Davis) from Luke Cage, and all the black actors from Black Mirror will have speaking roles. Then, as a related side hustle, because a lot of us hard working Black folks have side hustles, I’d form a consortium uniting Yvette Lee Bowser and the casting teams from The Walking Dead, Black-ish, Growni-ish and Black Mirror to advise Hollywood and the Academy on how to find new, untapped, underutilized Black female talent and write good roles for them. Hint: it’s possible if you would only look outside Matt Damon’s Rolodex. #NoExcuses
- In the interest of diversity and inclusion, Denzel No-Last-Name-Needed-Because-He’s-Denzel would play a Denzelian king. And, if we didn’t have the budget to hire King Denzel, we’d at least have to purchase the rights to feature his likeness as a king on the currency of our Denzelian Kingdom Akeem-from-Zamunda-style. (As Cleo McDowell famously said, “He got his own money and, baby, when I tell you he’s got his own money, I mean the boy has got his own money!”) Why? Because he’s Hollywood royalty and it’s the Denzelian thing to do.
- Speaking of Zamunda, we couldn’t have a movie that combines Black royalty and superpowers without Eddie Murphy because, well, have you seen his catalog????? He brought us Coming to America; showcased Grace Jones, Melvin Van Peebles, Geoffrey Holder and Eartha Kitt in Boomerang; put Black Comedy Royalty front and center in Harlem Nights; and has already played a king in a Michael Jackson video. Plus, he’s a pretty good actor. And of course we’d cast Tiffany Haddish, Wanda Sykes, Tracee Ellis Ross and Deon Cole as members of his court and kingdom. Why? Because if you don’t know, you better ask somebody. #TasteTheSoup #Aha #Marrrrrrcus
- And, finally, Ice Cube and Ice Cube, Jr. will be in it too. Because Ice Cube. (Swoon) This flick is for the ladies after all!
See, Hollywood? It’s not that hard.
And yes, Hollywood. I’m available to consult on writing, script development and casting for this two-picture deal, so feel to call me. We’ll do lunch.
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