Monday, June 15, 2009

Review on The Hollywood Black Film Festival Panel Discussion of NOTORIOUS

by today’s Urban Chameleon contributor

This past week I attended the annual Hollywood Black Film Festival in Los Angeles and sat in on a panel discussion of the film, Notorious.

My journey began on the elevator. I rode up two flights with Puff Daddy, I mean, Derek Luke. He is a fine chocolatey man. I know chocolate is over used when describing the dark skin tone of a Black man, but really there is nothing else to compare the rich, creamy, savory browness. Is it weird that I thought to myself when he spoke, "he sounds just like he does in movies?" complete with the speech impediment where he runs his "m's" and "n's" together. OH it's so very cute.

On the ride up, Derek was asking his handlers who all was attending the panel. Apparently all of the main cast and director, George Tillman would be there!

But no, CPT must have caught the best of some of them including Mrs. Basset.

The 1:30pm panel started promptly at 2:15pm, and we attendees entered to take our seats as they put on "Mo Money Mo Problems" trying to woo away our attitudes from the delay with a beat. It worked...I even started to dance a little in my seat...and wished I had some money that caused problems.

But I digress-- It was a great turn out and was moderated by casting director, Tracy "Twinkie" Byrd. Twinkie is a character herself with her blond Afro, Brooklyn accent and vivacious personality. She wore a yellow Moshood outfit (which is an African inspired clothing designer from Fort Greene Brooklyn) and all of her assistants wore bright orange. They were like a pop group. Twinkie immediately put a lid on all random actors there trying to use the Q&A as an opportunity to make a shout out about their Youtube video or asking to get put on. I never see this at white panel discussion why is that? Twinkie in fact insisted that everyone wanting to participate in the Q& A have their answers written on cards. Someone did actually ask the question "When did you fall in love with hip hop?" Yes, just like in Brown Sugar. Why are people so deep? Thankfully, everyone kinda laughed it off and moved on.

Twinkie first talked about how she got started in the game casting music videos and when she first heard the movie about biggie was being made, begged to be casting director-- after all, she knew Biggie and cast most of his videos. Twinkie so wanted to be involved she was willing to relinquish being the lead casting person and after many meetings and many "once-overs" by 20th Century Fox she was finally appointed Head of Casting for Notorious.

Derek Luke on the other hand was pretty candid about not wanting to do the film initially. He said this a few times stating that, "It was a great era [and he] didn't want to ruin it." Apparently it was his wife who really wanted him to do the film and after several calls from Diddy. Yes, Diddy really 'can't stop won't stop' Diddy was finally able to sway the actor. George Tillman said he just loved the project and also in trying to get Derek to sign on asked Spike Lee for advice. Damn Derek you were really the Al Pacino of the film.

Most of the cast was not wooed like Mr. Luke and were found through the regular cattle call casting process. Naturi Naughton, who played Lil Kim said that she had to really fight to get the part and had to work on her rhyming and hoochie skills. Sadly, Lil Kim was not there to help her get into character. There has been a lot of speculation as to why Lil Kim was not around but this was not touched on and I was not gangster enough to ask. The actor I was really looking forward to seeing was the Biggie Smalls impersonator himself, Jamal Woolard but he must have still been in character because he was so damn late. Twinkie kept saying he was on his way but I had another screening to get to.

As I left I thought about how eerie it was having attended a panel discussion with actors playing roles of the biggest hip hop stars from the 90’s. Especially since I could remember the era like it was yesterday listening to “Juicy” for the first time… damn, how old am I?

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