• Black Girls Tech! Computer Wiz Erica Austin Revolutionizes the Way Comics Are Read with New “Against the Grain” App


    Chicago – When Erica Austin was a child traveling around the globe with her family, comic books were her refuge; and like most wildly imaginative children, her mind’s eye saw the characters leap from the pages and come alive. Now an adult, Austin, a former IBM employee and computer tech, has created her own comic book series, “Against the Grain,” and the heroine, Leslie, makes her childhood dreams a reality by leaping from the screen and coming alive via brilliant animations. Austin’s innovation, one of the first of its kind, comes in the form of an app she has created from her company Slightly Off Productions. Her “Against the Grain” app, named for her comic series, is destined to revolutionize the way comics or graphic novels are read.

    The app bundles the entire “Against the Grain” comic series into an online store and offers readers a totally immersive experience. Boasting a clean, crisp interface, bursting with amazing artwork and incredible two-dimensional and three-dimensional animations, Austin’s comics transcend the standard read. The app also allows users to preview new issues before purchasing and watch animated trailers so they know exactly what they are going to get.

    “Against the Grain,” takes you beyond mere words, weaving different stories together into a single, exhilarating narrative. Each of the comic books spring to life after several pages, bursting into brilliant and vibrantly dramatic movie shorts that advance the storyline. The user reads a portion of the tale, then gets to watch their favorite characters run, fight, jump, and crawl across the pages before returning to reading. The experience is totally captivating. The two current issues include nearly 200 illustrated pages and six unique animations.


    Leslie, the heroine of “Against the Grain,” is a tomboy with a vivid and wild imagination. An outcast of sorts, she is a free spirit coming to terms with herself, the world around her, and the world in her head. With a target audience of teens to young adults, Leslie’s ongoing saga is captured in two current volumes, available in the app, with many more to come.

    “After writing and going to a few comic conventions to conduct research, I realized that I was a bit out of touch with my target audience. Personally, I still like the feel of a good book in my hands but the younger generation wants digital downloads and they want them ‘now.’ So I decided to change my market entry strategy and create an app for my comic that would not only be digital, but more interactive,” explains Austin.

    Austin worked for IBM for seven years before launching her own consulting practice and production company. With a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, graphic novels might seem an unlikely career choice. Austin, however, found herself with more free time on her hands after leaving IBM and felt compelled to write. Her first thought was to pen a novel about her childhood, but the images that filled her head needed a bigger, more colorful home. She knew comics were the remedy.

    “My childhood was not the norm,” reveals Austin. “I was born in Germany, lived in England and then in Nigeria, traveled Europe, vacationed in Amsterdam, and went to high school in the states. I was a fifth culture kid. I had to mix the German, with the English, with the Nigerian, with the American to form my own culture. I didn’t really fit in anywhere and neither does Leslie in, ‘Against the Grain.’ It was great growing up around the world, but because of the different accents and customs I picked up along the way, I was constantly made fun of for it. It is my hope that Leslie inspires young girls and boys to realize that it is alright to be different and you are fine just being who you are!”

    The “Against the Grain” app is an innovative platform that will change the way comics are viewed and read. Austin, along with her team of dedicated illustrators and animators, are changing the landscape of the comic industry and turning the rules inside out. Every reader has yearned to see the pages come alive and the “Against the Grain” app finally makes that possible!

    Watch the “Against the Grain” trailer at \"Against the Grain\" trailer

    “Against the Grain” featuring Leslie and her journey is available now, only at the Apple app store at https://itunes.apple.com/app/against-the-grain/id968736696.

    For more information on the, “Against the Grain” series and its creators, go to http://www.slightlyoffproductions.com.

    Follow them on Facebook at “Slightly Off Productions,” and on Twitter at @slightlyoff99.

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  • Chandra Currelley Breaks Out in Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse” on OWN with Expanded Role


    Atlanta – Powerhouse performer Chandra Currelley breaks out in the fifth season on Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse” in an expanded role capacity with more laughs, more lines and more wisecracking hilarity as the beloved Ms. V. Ms. V is the down-to-earth housekeeper for the show’s central characters Marcus and Angela, played by Michael Jai White and Tasha Smith. Currelley appears on the season premier show, in the episode “Healing Hands,” airing on OWN, Friday, April 10th at 9:00 p.m. ET and rambunctiously returns throughout the season.

    Currelley has become a fixture in the Tyler Perry imprint. A veteran entertainer, she has roots in several of Perry’s productions, both plays and films, including “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” “Diary of Mad Black Woman,” and “Tyler Perry’s A Madea’s Christmas.”

    Many of her recent television fans are surprised however when they realize Currelley boasts a musical legacy that positions her squarely in the realm of old school R&B, jazz, gospel and even funk. As a singer and songwriter, Chandra Currelley has enjoyed a fascinating career. She was the former lead singer for funk legends the SOS Band and also a former lead singer for master vibraphonist Roy Ayers. She actually propelled the SOS Band’s string of top twenty Billboard hits with the CD’s “Diamonds In The Raw,” and “One Of Many Nights,” where she wrote several songs, including the single “Broken Promises.”

    Currelley is also an independent recording artist with three CD’s under her belt including “The Real Me” and “Love Songs,” which contains the hit song “Love Again” from the film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” Her latest CD is “Relationships.”

    Tyler Perry originally hired Currelley to play Ms. V in 2011 during the first season of “For Better Or Worse” when the show aired on TBS. The series is a spinoff of the characters in the movie, “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married,” which was released in 2007. The television show is the longest running scripted series on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network. Ms V’s expanded role in season five gives Currelley additional episodes and more interaction with the original cast. Twenty more episodes are currently in production for the fall season and are being filmed now at Tyler Perry Studios.

    “I’ve done a lot of things, but a sitcom was not one of them,” reveals Currelley. “Starting in season one, Tyler Perry graciously groomed me into the role of Ms. V. and now I believe she is one of the funniest characters on television! I am just having so much fun with her and viewers are going to love her even more in this fifth season. Tyler Perry has this incredible gift of being able to take you out of your comfort zone to a place where you feel free and uninhibited. This is what he has done for me when it comes to bringing Ms. V to life. He’s a genius. I’m just so blessed to know and work with him.”

    Currelley’s loyal fan base loved her as the singer in the nightclub “Chandra’s” in the “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” and as “Shirley” in “Madea’s Big Happy Family.” Most recently, she performed in Kandi Burruss’ (“The Real Housewives of Atlanta”) “A Mother’s Love.” Currelley is the 2014 recipient of the Lady Soul of Jazz award and has starred in the world premier of “Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel.” The Gospel Choice Award nominee has performed at The White House, toured Europe and Asia and has appeared in numerous theatrical plays directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon and Debbie Allen.

    Chandra continues to dance to her own beat with two nominations at the upcoming 2nd Annual Black Women In Jazz & The Arts Awards on April 12, 2015 in Atlanta. She is also currently in rehearsal for the stage play “The Strength Of Love,” opening April 18 in the metro Atlanta area.

    Actress, singer, songwriter and yes, former funkster, Chandra Currelley always does it her way. Tune in to OWN’s “For Better or Worse” and get with Currelley at http://chandracurrelley.com/ .

    “For Better or Worse” promo:\"For Better or Worse\" Promo

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  • Dick Gregory, Kym Whitley, Luenell, Joe Torry, Shang to Bring the Funny at Hope Flood’s 4th Annual Comics Rock! Convention April 23-26 in Los Angeles

    All-Star Comedians Forfeit the Funny for Fashion
    at Convention Highlight
    “Comics On the Catwalk 4a Cause Fashion & Comedy Show”

    Hollywood, CA – What do you get when you mix a room full of comedic talent? Comedians that rock, that’s what! Funny lady Hope Flood is taking over the stage once again with her 4th Annual Comics Rock! Convention, April 23 through 26, 2015, in the comedy capital, Los Angeles! The Comics Rock! Convention (CRC) will gather a diverse group of professional talent, from up and comers to veteran stand ups, with the intent of discoursing all things related to the industry of funny and beyond. Workshops and seminars will be held at comedian/radio personality J. Anthony Brown’s JSpot Comedy Club, located 5581 W Manchester Boulevard in Westchester, CA. Master comic, social/civil rights activist and humanitarian Dick Gregory will be the keynote speaker at the convention on Saturday, April 25, during a luncheon held at The Mavericks Flat Bar & Grill on 4225 Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. A legendary octogenarian, Gregory was recently feted with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    Industry experts such as Kym Whitley (OWN TV’s “Raising Whitley”), Luenell (“Katt Williams: American Hustle”), Mother Love (LA Talk Radio’s “The Mother Love Show”), Rodney Perry (BET’s “The Mo’Nique Show”), Shang Forbes (BET’s “Comic View”), Joe Torry (“Def Comedy Jam”) and The Mooney Twins (sons of comedy legend Paul Mooney) are only a sampling of the talent slated to conduct workshops and seminars over the course of the four days. Workshops including “Social Media & More,” “The Art of Stand-Up Comedy,” and “Intro to Voiceovers” will assist comedians with conquering every aspect of the business. On Saturday, April 25, KJLH radio host Tammi Mac will also lend her comedic flair with her “On the Radio” workshop.

    “Comics On the Catwalk 4a Cause Fashion & Comedy Show,” featuring a special musical guest and after party, promises to be an added event highlight. A co-production with Los Angeles’ premier event host, Kevin Rouse of Rouse House Entertainment, comedienne Cocoa Brown (Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse”) and comic and New York’s KISS-FM morning show host, Talent Harris, will preside as comedians temporarily forfeit stand-up for fashion on the runway. The affair will benefit The American Diabetes Association and A Nickel of Hope, Inc., a non-profit founded by Hope Flood that helps mentor at-risk girls in the inner cities ( www.anickelofhope.org ). “Comics On the Catwalk 4a Cause Fashion & Comedy Show,” will take place Sunday, April 26 at 3:00 p.m. at OHM Nightclub, 6801 Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood. Tickets for this fundraising event are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/comics-on-the-catwalk-for-a-cause-2015-tickets-16368124501 .

    As the founder of Females in Comedy Association (FICA), Flood originally launched her comedy convention a few years ago as the “Females in Comedy Convention,” but has since expanded her vision to embrace both genders. With FICA however, she continues to offer female comedians tools for networking, mentoring, and collaborating as well as fueling awareness for comediennes in the entertainment industry. Comics Rock! will honor females in comedy with a special day of gifting and pampering.

    “Comedy on stage and in life is a crucial component for happiness,” cites Flood. “This year’s convention is particularly special as we acknowledge all things funny but also all things crucial to survival in this ever changing business. It is especially heart warming for me to pay tribute to pioneer and icon, Dick Gregory. As a guide and mentor, it is his work and dedication that drives me to continue to present this convention year after year.”

    Hope Flood has always made waves with her humor, reaching beyond the stage to influence and motivate. Early on in her career she was not only producing weekly showcases that served to propel the career of many comedians, but also publishing her own magazine, “Comedy the Magazine,” the first nationally distributed comedy magazine. She has served as an on-air radio personality on Dallas’ KRNB 105.7 radio with BJ & The Morning Show and has appeared on the Russell Simmon’s HBO All-Star Def Comedy Jam, Comedy Central’s “Comic Groove” hosted by Tracy Morgan, and “Comics Unleashed Hot Chocolate with Byron Allen,” to name a few. Hope has been a semi-finalist in the Old English 800 Women’s Comedy Crunch and a two-time semi-finalist in the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition.

    For registration and more information regarding sponsorship, vendors or attendance, go to www.comicsrockconvention.com. The Comics Rock! Convention is going to seriously shake up the funny.

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  • Soap Star Chrystee Pharris is the Queen of Drama with New Faith-Based Indie Film, Film Fest Tour and POP-TV Docu-Series


    Atlanta, GA – Soap star Chrystee Pharris has successfully positioned herself as a true ‘queen of drama’ in Hollywood. Not only is she starring in the family faith-based film, “Steps of Faith,” with Ted Lange (“Love Boat”) and Irma P. Hall
    (“Soul Food”), Pharris will also impact the small screen as part of an all-star cast on POP TV’s new reality docu-series “Queens of Drama.” “Queens of Drama” will air right after the 42nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on April 26, 10:00 p.m. ET/ 7:00 p.m. PT.

    The former soap star, who played Simone Russell on NBC’s hit daytime soap “Passions,” is also busy touring her new film, “Steps of Faith,” at film festivals around the country as well as conducting her highly successful “Business of Acting” seminars at several of the festival events. After years of dedication, persistence and patience, work efforts are finally paying off for the funny, driven and sophisticated talent.

    In “Steps In Faith,” directed by M. Legend Brown, Pharris plays the lead character, Faith, and stars alongside Ted Lange, Irma P. Hall, Charles Malik Whitfield (“One Life to Live”) and Tracey Ross (“Passions”). The film is about a young woman who is not a church girl, but feels like she hears God tell her to move and work with children and animals, neither of which she likes. When she shares her vision with family they mock her. In the feature, we witness her fighting through her own fears to complete the mission God has called her to do.

    “Steps of Faith” has been accepted into 16 film festivals and is available on DVD. With her “Business of Acting” workshop she is presenting at several of the screenings, Pharris teaches participants how to get work without an agent, how to build relationships with producers and directors, and how to market oneself.

    With TV Guide Network re-branding and launching as POP, their new docu-series “Queens of Drama” is sure to have all eyes glued to the new network. With an all-star cast of former soap divas, including soap stars Lindsay Hartley (“All My Children”), Crystal Hunt (“One Life to Live”), Vanessa Marcil (“General Hospital”), Hunter Tylo (“The Bold and The Beautiful”) and special appearances by Donna Mills (“Knots Landing”), Pharris joins the crew as its only African American cast member. Cameras follow the beauties as they work together to produce, direct and cast their own primetime TV drama. Following its premiere, “Queens of Drama” will begin airing in its regularly scheduled time slot on Wednesdays, at 8:00 – 8:30 p.m. ET/PT, starting April 29.

    Pharris, originally from Las Vegas, can also be remembered as JD’s love interest Kylie in “Scrubs,” as well as for her stint on “General Hospital.” She recently toured her hilarious one-woman show, “In Search of O,” which is about waiting until marriage at the age of 27 to have sex, and the fantasy verses the reality of that experience. She has hit the stage in Ted Lange’s “Let Freedom Ring” with SNL’s Garrett Morris and will again be performing in Lange’s “Lady Patriot,” production October 2 through October 4, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee at Fisk University.

    “I have always known that I wanted to be an actress since I was four years old,” divulges Pharris. “My experience in Hollywood has been truly a blessed journey. I credit three people with giving me the knowledge that I still use today. First is Steve Harvey who I met years ago as an intern while working on the set of “Young and the Restless.” He gave me a 45-minute lecture about sustaining my integrity in the world of acting. Second is Brad Lemack my professor at Emerson College who taught me the business of acting that has served me to this day. And lastly is

    Dr. Kenneth C. Ulmer, my pastor at Faithful Central Bible Church. He directed me on the importance of being a blessing and encouraging others on my journey as an actress.”

    “Understanding my calling in the business is what has taken me far as well,” Pharris adds. “Bishop Ulmer helped me to realize that I was on set to be a blessing, to encourage others. And that is what I have done over the years. I now work with actors around the world teaching my “The Business of Acting” workshops at colleges, seminars, and to individuals. I want the next generation to have more wisdom and confidence and to be fearless. I hope to use my current film and new television series as vehicles to continue to inspire others.”

    Chrystee Pharris is a faith filled queen of drama. Keep up with her at www.ChrysteePharris.com, take a leap of faith with “Steps of Faith” at http://www.stepsoffaithmovie.com and check her out on POP’s “Queen of Drama” this April. Interact with her on Twitter @ChrysteePharris; Instagram @ChrysteePharris and on Facebook: Fan Page Chrystee Pharris.

    View the “Steps of Faith” trailer at trailer for \"Steps of Faith\" .

    View the “Queens of Drama” trailer at trailer for \"Queens of Drama\" .

    Note the “Steps of Faith” film festival schedule:

    NC Black Film Festival – Wilmington, NC
    Saturday, March 28
    5:30PM – Steps of Faith Screening

    Charlotte Black Film Festival – Charlotte, NC
    Saturday, April 11
    9:00 a.m. – The Business of Acting Workshop
    3:30 p.m. – Steps of Faith Screening

    WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival – Houston, TX
    Sunday April 12 – Steps of Faith Screening (Time TBD)

    Langston Hughes Film Festival – Seattle, WA
    April 11-19 (specific date TBD for Screening)

    Barebone Film Festival – Muskogee, OK
    Friday, April 17
    6:00 p.m. – Steps of Faith screening
    Nominated for Best Actress – Chrystee Pharris
    Best Romance/Drama/Dramedy
    Best Christian Film
    Best Family Film

    The Attic Film Festival -Austin, TX
    Saturday, April 25
    11:00 a.m. – Steps of Faith Screening

    Las Vegas Black Film Festival – Las Vegas, NV
    April 25 (specific date TBD for Screening)

    Women’s International Film & Arts Festival- Miami, FL
    June 3 – Steps of Faith Screening (Time TBD)
    June 4 – Panel discussion (Time TBD)

    Roxbury International Film Festival – Boston, MA
    June 17- June 28 (specific date TBD for Screening)

    The Narrow Way Festival – Philadephia, PA
    July 17-19
    Business of Acting workshop (Specific Date & Time TBD)
    Steps of Faith Screening (specific date TBD for Screening)

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  • Casting Call: Veteran TV Casting Agent Jacqui Pitman Is Looking for Reality TV’s New “It” Couple


    Burbank, CA – Casting is the backbone of all great reality shows and veteran TV casting agent Jacqui Pitman knows casting. She is a true behind-the-scenes powerhouse when it comes to finding the perfect people for the perfect parts. Her agency, Pitman Casting, is a full service, reality television casting company that has provided talent for some of TV’s hottest shows, including Syfy’s “Face Off,” Spike’s “Framework,” “Bravo’s “Who Wants to be a Supermodel?”, Discovery’s “Dual Survival” and the CW’s “Plain Jane.” Now the veteran casting director is on the search for reality TV’s next “It” couple as she hopes to find an upscale, single African American woman who has a boyfriend that her family does not approve of.

    The selected couple have only until Friday, March 13, 2015 at 12 noon PST to be considered and will need to forward their name, family photos and a brief description of their fabulous, but not so fabulous life to TVShow@pitmancasting.com or call 818-666-3606 for further information. The chosen couple will be the stars of their own reality show on a major cable network.

    “We are looking for drama, yes, but also an element of social class and sophistication. Our ideal candidate is a Black woman who is more successful than her mate, and her family disapproves. The docu-series will follow her exploits in love, life and business,” explains Pitman.

    Jacqui Pitman has been casting successful television shows since the late ’80′s when she first began her career on the hit dating show, “Love Connection” and Fox’s hit show “STUDS.” She turned TV producer for over 10 years, only to return to casting on the hit CBS-TV show, “Big Brother 2.” In 2004, Pitman created and executive produced the MTV hit show “NEXT!” which she takes pride in admitting the inspiration behind that show was her own dating life. In addition to those successes, she developed and co-executive produced ABC’s mega hit, “Extreme Makeover.”

    Jacqui Pitman and her partner, John Kennamann, together oversee the full casting process from development to delivery at Pitman Casting Inc. As a team, they specialize in all things reality including casting the hosts of game and talk shows, booking experts and comedians, docu-soaps, occupational casting, competitive reality shows and more. Pitman and her team of casting producers handle the creative, outreach, interviewing and cast selection while Kennamann and his production team handle all things logistical; such as background checks, applicant releases and agreements, medical and psyche exams and casting finals.

    “I’m so excited about this new show and have a really good feeling about it! This will be an excellent opportunity and experience for some lucky woman. Even if the description does not fit someone personally, maybe they know a friend or family member that it does. So let me hear from you soon!” cites Pitman.

    Contact Pitman Casting at http://pitmancasting.com/, via email at TVShow@pitmancasting.com or call 818-666-3606 for further information. The deadline is Friday, March 13, 2015 by noon PST.

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  • Next Generation Talent Agents Tay Smith and Christopher Young Celebrate Black History Month at J Pervis Talent Agency


    Atlanta – With its fiery hip hop music scene, Tyler Perry’s production studio and its preponderance of reality shows, Atlanta has been heralded as the new Black Hollywood. Cradled within this number two market for film production are two gentlemen working diligently behind the scenes, quietly positioning themselves as the market’s newcomers for representing talent. Talent agents, Christopher Young and Tay Smith are noticeably the hardest working, African American TV/film agents in the entire southeast area. A dynamic duo, working under the banner of the J Pervis Talent Agency, Smith and Young have created a vortex of synergy that is fueling theatrical bookings with new flair and fresh faces. The agents are celebrating Black History Month with a mission to continue to further the brand of the agency.

    As a team, both Smith and Young come from backgrounds steeped in creative management, insightful career directing and incredible music production. A Trenton, NJ native, Christopher Young is an industry veteran with two decades under his belt. He is credited with discovering and developing Grammy Award winning artist, Johnta’ Austin as well as mega producer Garrett Hamler, better known as Sean Garrett. Johnta’ Austin has written songs for Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige and Aaliyah, while Garrett is famed for producing more than fifteen number one singles in the first seven years of his start at producing music. Young has served as general manager for NBA star Tyrone Hill’s All Net Records, and was product manager and A&R executive at Pastor Creflo and Taffi Dollar’s Arrow Records. Young held his own as the head of his Tricycle Records label and his management firm, Triple Threat Management.

    Tay Smith founded and headed his own music production company, Yungsta Entertainment based in North Carolina. As a young teen he ran a staff of producers, artists and writers. Quickly gaining traction with lead recording artist T-LyriQ, Tay’s Yungsta Entertainment became the talk of the city, positioning him as the “P-Diddy” of his town. Upon taking a trip to uncover the booming music scene of Atlanta GA, Smith kept hearing about Young and his legend. Making it his goal to meet Young, he finally tracked him down and established a mentor/business advisor relationship. The business arrangement proved fruitful and lead to deeper inroads in the music world.

    In 2012, the two decided to make a change and move into television and film. They were extended an opportunity to join the team of Joy Pervis and Jayme Pervis at the J Pervis Talent Agency in 2013. In less than a year, Smith and Young have branded their savvy and style for signing talent. New signings have included actor Columbus Short (“Scandal”), WWE wrestler, David Otunga, hip hop artist/actor Zane “Lil Zane” Copeland, T.I.’s son Messiah Harris and “R&B Divas” reality star LaTavia Roberson.

    “I was amazed when I realized there were so few African American agents working in Atlanta. The talent pool here was looking largely to Hollywood for representation. With aggressive mentorship from the agency, Smith and I are determined to change that. We are committed to our clients and recognize that we are the eyes and ears for our actors in terms of actual work and bookings,” explains Young.

    “Per our music business accomplishments, Chris and I look forward to making colossal waves in television and film. With so much production now taking place in the South, it only makes sense to be able to provide talent with expanded choices for representation here at J Pervis,” adds Smith.

    “As talent agents, our team takes a unique approach toward working with the clients. We look beyond just booking work to actually honing and crafting careers,” adds Young. “Tay and I have years of experience working closely with talent on the management side, so we understand the needs and concerns of our clients. We work with them as a team to create career longevity and brand building, offering advice, counsel and our expert insight on matters.”

    Tay Smith and Chris Young may be reached at the J Pervis Talent Agency at chris@jpervistalent.com and tay@jpervistalent.com . Be sure to follow the pair at Twitter and Instagram: Chris is @ceomgmt and Tay is @taysmithent.

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  • Actor Stan Houston Hits Home Base In “Selma” Opposite Oprah in Defining Role as Sheriff Jim Clark

    Stan Houston as Sheriff Jim Clark and partial cast from “Selma,” photo from left to right top row, cast members: Charles Black, Kenny Cooper, Tara Ochs, Montrel Miller and Corey Reynolds; kneeling, actor Stan Houston as Sheriff Jim Clark

    Atlanta – Every actor dreams of that career-defining role, the one that lands him in a blockbuster film alongside big Hollywood stars. Well when actor Stan Houston was initially offered his ‘big break’ to read for the role of the racist antagonist Sheriff Jim Clark in the now Oscar nominated film, “Selma,” he actually turned it down twice, and with good reason. Distributed by Paramount Pictures, Selma is a historical period piece that covers a critical episode in the civil rights movement. As a resident of Coffee County in the Southeastern area of Alabama, Houston actually lives in the same small town where Sheriff James G. Clark lived and died. Houston felt the dynamics of playing such a controversial role might just be too close to home. He eventually read for the role, and in a move showcasing director Ava DuVernay’s dedication to authenticity, he was selected.

    Houston has been acting professionally for six years now. “Selma” is his most significant booking to date. His larger than life portrayal of Sheriff Clark has garnered him international attention and acclaim. Performing directly alongside Oprah Winfrey, who plays civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper, Houston’s fiery, mean and unapologetic stance as Clark has left audiences stunned in hushed awe.

    One of the film’s most riveting reenactments is the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” demonstration, where police viciously attacked over 500 non-violent protestors with teargas and barbed wire laced billy clubs, under direct orders from Sheriff Clark. Houston’s cold-blooded portrayal has even garnered him a nod from AwardsCircuit.com at “Best Villain” of 2014.

    As predicted however, his superb acting and rendition of the legendary sheriff has been a mixed bag of blessings. While the world is lauding his acting ability, accomplishments and feats, some of his neighboring town folk are less than happy.

    “There have been a few negative comments from people here locally where I live but I tend to ignore the ignorance of some people who should know better. Overall things have been great!” expresses Houston. “Playing Sheriff Clark was emotionally and physically taxing. I would not dare stay in character after the director said cut because I would have gone nuts.”

    “I was still holding on to my reservations playing Clark until one life changing moment,” he reveals. “We were rehearsing the courthouse scene for the first time before we went to set. It was the first time the cast had seen me in character as Clark. I look over and saw some of the cast crying. I lost it. Ava DuVernay, our director, came over and gave me words of encouragement and we continued on. After rehearsals, all the cast gathered in a circle for a word of prayer. Actor Coleman Domingo prayed for God to lift me up and give me strength to play this role. I really lost it then. Each cast member lined up and embraced me and gave me such support. You really felt the presence of God in that room that day and all the love just flowed over me. I was 100% committed to the role after that moment. I knew I had the cast as my family there to support me.”

    Houston began his acting career in 2008 and has appeared in numerous independent projects as well as projects for HBO and the FX Network, including the HBO comedy series “Eastbound and Down.” His most recent role was playing detective Donald Bray in the story of the West Memphis Three in “Devils Knot,” working alongside of Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon and Stephen Moyer. He appears in “A Free Bird” on Hulu and Amazon and just finished filming, “South of Hell,” a new gothic drama coming to WEtv later this year.

    “It is such an honor and to be a part of ‘Selma.’ My wife is also actually a friend of some friends of Annie Lee Cooper’s family, the role played by Oprah. So participating in the production really just hit home for me on so many levels. I believe the viewing of ‘Selma’ is necessary for all of us to realize what these brave American patriots did for everybody, not just one race. Without their struggles, where would we all be today? It is important to realize where we’ve been, how far we’ve come and how much further we need to go as a country. Working with Oprah was unbelievable, and in my eyes, our director, Ava DuVernay is a genius. She has tapped the heart of this country with this film. My character was a pretty bad guy, but I’m happy to have been such a visceral part of the movie. Hopefully I opened some eyes and helped to bring about change!”

    See Stan Houston in action in this brief clip: \"Selma\" clip .

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  • Actor Clay Chappell Lands Biggest Small Role Ever On Screen with Oprah in “Selma”


    Atlanta – Actor Clay Chappell is no newcomer to the big screen. As a working actor, he has landed some prime bit parts in several major films. He played a councilman alongside Dennis Quaid in the remake of “Footloose” and did a scene with Robert Duvall in the Billy Bob Thorton directed “Jayne Mansfield’s Car.” But his brief appearance in the cinematic drama, “Selma,” a historical period piece distributed by Paramount Pictures, has been heralded as the showstopper which may just define his career. In “Selma,” Chappell plays a southern registrar opposite Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper, a Black women seeking to vote in 1965 when racial discrimination made voting very difficult. The scene, only a minute in length, sets the tone for the entire film, and is Oprah’s only speaking role in the movie.

    According to film critic, Derrick Bang (http://www.davisenterprise.com/arts/movies/selma-the-march-resonates-anew/ ) “the scene with Oprah is a “landmark cinematic moment: a scene destined to be memorialized, and oft resurrected, for decades to come.” Chappell’s performance has been highlighted on talk shows across the country, including “Ellen,” “The Tonight Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Barbara Walters,” and “The Today Show.” Not bad for an actor who has been working since 1996 to secure more than five lines in a film!

    Chappell originally auditioned for the role of one of the klansmen in the film, but was asked by casting director Cynthia Stillwell to come back and read for the role of the registrar for the film’s director, Ava DuVernay. After doing so, Chappell was asked back but couldn’t make the third audition and thought maybe he had lost further consideration. When his agent at J Pervis Talent called him a week later, requesting a table read, he remained hopeful. DuVernay offered him the part after the read, informing him that she had considered hundreds of actors from Los Angeles and New York, but he was her choice!

    Clay Chappell and Ava DuVernay

    A native of Swainsboro, GA, now residing in Bogart, GA, Chappell’s southern accent is beyond authentic. In “Selma,” he plays a man who is pugnacious, mean and unapologetically racist, nothing like the charming southern gentleman he is in real life. In fact, Oprah assured Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan on “Live! With Kelly and Michael” the he was indeed “a really nice guy!”

    “As an actor, this has been an amazing ride. My wife and I went to Los Angeles for a screening, gala and gospel brunch at Oprah’s house. I had to pinch myself at one point. I was dancing alongside Oprah, Sydney Poitier, Magic and Cookie Johnson, David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay. Some of my favorite actors even came up to me and told me how much they liked our scene and validated my performance. My wife and I commented that we remembered when we were the caterers at these events and now we are actually guests. It’s all pretty unbelievable!” cites Chappell.

    “Everyone asks, ‘what’s it like to work with Oprah.’ I actually wasn’t very nervous. ‘Selma’ is such a monumental film. I really believe it should be required viewing for everyone. So as an actor, the depth of the role and the magnitude of the film really took over. I asked God to relax me and let me do my job. It also made it easier when Oprah invited me over for lunch with her and the cast a few days before our scene. She was great! I love Oprah!” adds Chappell.

    Chappell is hoping his role in “Selma” will help to continue to land him more good projects. When not acting however, he teaches junior golf, co-owns and operates the Athens Area Junior Golf Tour and Oconee Junior Golf League and is busy with his wife and two children.

    His next film is yet another small but pivotal role in the HBO movie “Bessie” starring Queen Latifah, coming out this spring. With the popularity of his appearance in the landmark production “Selma” however, Clay Chappell’s face is one that the audience will be sure to recognize.

    View Clay Chappell’s performance is “Selma” at \"Selma\" clip

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  • New Actor Drew Stephenson Lands Role in “Vampire Diaries”


    Atlanta, GA – Music, modeling and acting are among the top three career goals for many in the entertainment field, but it is a well known fact that only a small percentage actually make any real headway in all three pursuits. Up and comer Drew Stephenson will not tell you that he is different, but he will show you with his persistence, determination and dedication. So much so that the young actor just stepped off the USA Network’s newest television drama, “Complications,” and is now celebrating landing a recurring role on one of television’s top suspense series, “Vampire Diaries,” on The CW. Stephenson will play Collin, an integral character to the show’s plot, on two consecutive shows, starting January 22, 2015.

    A second generation Jamaican, Stephenson was born in Brooklyn and currently resides in Atlanta. The handsome young looker initially got his start in the business eight years ago as a fashion model, booking gigs like the Sean John anniversary fashion show and print ads for Ashley Furniture, Belk, and Wingate.

    His resourcefulness and strong work ethics have inspired him to travel internationally to Europe and Jamaica with a goal of broadening his horizons. His modeling agent recognized his resolve and savvy and helped him secure an acting agent almost three years ago. Stephenson then honed his skills and technique with lessons and workshops to better position himself in auditions.

    A talented musician as well, Stephenson plays the trumpet, piano, french horn, and tuba. With passion as his ultimate propellant, Stephenson acknowledges, “I am humbled, yet emboldened by these television bookings as I start this new year. As an actor, model and musician, a lot of people compare me to Prince early in his career.”

    “They always ask me what can’t I do. I simply reply that with God by my side, there is nothing I can’t do. I realize I have an opportunity and obligation to immerse the audience in my world be it acting, music or modeling even. Through my work, I totally envision myself as a humanitarian at heart, using art as a vehicle to heal,” offers Stephenson.

    Stephenson’s career is destined to ascend. His long-term goals include directing and scoring his own projects. In the interim, audiences have a chance to see this future star grow and glow as he lights up the screen and continues to forge his path to success! Follow him at www.itsdrewstephenson.com .

    NOTE TO MEDIA: For interviews contact jazzmynepr@gmail.com.

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  • Soulful Singer/Actress Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley Stars in Tyler Perry’s New DVD Release, “Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned – The Play”


    New York – The very talented and soulful singer and actress Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley has been wowing audiences in Tyler Perry’s stage productions for over a decade now. Audiences who remember her in “Madea’s Big Happy Family” and “Madea Gets a Job,” know that she leaves her heart on the stage every single time! In her starring role in Tyler Perry’s latest release, “Tyler Perry’s Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned – The Play,” on DVD (plus Digital), Digital HD and Video on Demand from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Riley does not disappoint. Playing a successful, single woman who has it all, then almost loses it behind a man, Riley keeps viewers riveted with an engaging performance and her soaring singing ability. Filmed in front of a live audience, Riley originally toured with the popular, sold-out show in more than 50 cities across the U.S.

    Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley first burst on the music scene in the late ’80′s with her torching classic “Thanks for My Child.” Unlike many “old school” artists however, she has remained relevant and continues to build her brand and platform. Her inclusion in over ten Tyler Perry productions, including stage plays, DVD releases, film cameos and soundtrack credits are only the tip of the iceberg.

    The Brooklyn native’s own homegrown vehicle, “Black Velvet Mondays,” a musicians’ and singers’ jam session and showcase at New York’s legendary Village Underground venue, has gone international as part of her “The Black Velvet Experience” agenda. The Monday night event has been going strong for almost 10 years now and streams live at http://www.TheVillageUnderground.com. Riley recently took her show on the road to Paris providing a cross-cultural music connection overseas and is in talks to go back to Paris as well as to London.

    Cheryl is also enjoying additional notoriety with her inclusion on Full Force’s new music project “Full Force: With Love From Our Friends.” She joins industry notables Tisha Campbell-Martin, Sheila E., Regina Belle, Vivica A. Fox, Blair Underwood and Malcolm Jamal Warner, just to name a few, on the production. Dubbed a “true skool all-star album,” from the group that produced her first hit, Full Force is also the pioneering group behind an endless string of genre-busting classics for the likes of James Brown, Selena and Bob Dylan, as well as Rihanna, Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake and The Black Eyed Peas. Riley’s single, “Thank You For Leaving Me” with Meli’sa Morgan, is a debut release from the CD.

    Cheryl Pepsii Riley is also releasing a new solo project in January 2015 entitled “Still Believe.” She wrote and co-wrote all of the recordings as well as executive produced the project on her independent record label, SodaFace Records.

    “I am so grateful to Tyler Perry for his continual faith and belief in me! Being a part of his journey has absolutely been a major inspiration for me on my own journey. I am incredibly and truly humbled. The opportunity to play the lead in one of his stage plays and star in a role that allows me to really stretch as an actress, gives me a forum that helps facilitate my purpose here on earth, which is to motivate and encourage others by using my God given gifts,” expresses Riley.

    “I am also beyond thankful for all those who lovingly support my career. It has been such a blessing to have fans that have been with me since the late 80’s to now, along with a whole new generation who show so much kindness. It really is something to know that there is such diversity in the people who appreciate all my endeavors, be it musical or theatrical. I don’t take that lightly or for granted. I will always push to give my absolute best of who I am because they are a huge part of why and how I get to live my dream! Because of them and so much more, I still believe!” reveals Cheryl.

    Check out Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley at http://www.cherylpepsiiriley.com/.

    View the trailer for “Tyler Perry’s Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned – The Play,” at \"Hell Hath No Fury….\" trailer

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  • Hip Hop Heroes Digital Underground Celebrate 25 Years by Crowdfunding New Film and Music with Indiegogo Campaign


    Filmmaker Abdul Malik Abbott to Release Documentary

    “D.U. Days: Adventures in Digital Underground

    the Apprenticeship of Tupac Shakur”

    Next year, 2015, pop music’s hippest heroes, Digital Underground (D.U.), will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut, earth shattering, multi-platinum album “Sex Packets” which featured the runaway hit single “The Humpty Dance.” In preparation for the occasion, original founder and D.U. member Chopmaster J has joined forces with filmmaker and director Abdul Malik Abbott (“Streets is Watching,” “State Property”) to produce the documentary “D.U. Days: Adventures in Digital Underground the Apprenticeship of Tupac Shakur”. The celebratory effort will be supported via a rewards-based Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that fans can get involved with and join by visiting http://igg.me/at/D-U-Days.

    Along with a series of orchestrated music releases planned to commemorate as well as revive the group’s positioning in hip hop, Chopmaster J will be releasing “Sex Packets II” featuring new versions of D.U. classics written and produced by S.O.T.U. (Sun Of The Underground) and featuring an all new D.U. lineup; and unveiling the “D.U. Days’” soundtrack which features, from Chopmaster J’s archive collection, exclusive never before heard tracks of the late Tupac Shakur.

    Recognized as one of the first hip hop bands, Digital Underground included Chopmaster J, Shock G, Money B, DJ Fuze and the then 18-year-old Tupac Amaru Shakur. The group’s meteoric rise to fame in the early ’90′s was accentuated with chart topping hits like “Doowutchyalike,” “Freaks of the Industry,” “Same Song” and “Kiss You Back.” The band made waves with their colorful and costumed attire, animated stage antics and innovative dance styling and moves.

    Digital Underground is best remembered for turning hip hop on its proverbial head and invading the realm of pop with their 1990 pivotal Grammy nominated release “The Humpty Dance.” “The Humpty Dance” climbed all the way to #11 on the pop charts, #7 on the R&B charts, and #1 on the Billboard Rap Singles chart. In 2008, “The Humpty Dance” was ranked #30 on VH1′s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop and #65 on VH1′s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s in 2007. The song was selected in the musical reference book, 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die: And 10,001 You Must Download and nominated for Best Rap Video at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. “The Humpty Dance” is one of the most sampled songs recorded by a hip hop/rap artist. Shock G and Money B performed as “Digital Underground” at the BET Hip Hop Awards in 2010.


    Digital Undergound
    Digital Undergound “Humpty Dance”

    The group’s contribution to history has tentacles that reach even further though. From their 12 inch drop, “Doowutchyalike” to their debut album “Sex Packets,” D.U.’s music unfastened a door in hip hop that was previously non-existent, mixing mad merriment, mayhem and sex with rhyme, rhythm and rap. Factor in the detail that rap music’s biggest legend, Tupuc Shakur, started his music career with the group as their roadie, dancer and emcee and the D.U. legacy is all but cemented in the annals of pop music history.

    The crux of the anniversary celebration, the feature length documentary film, “D.U. Days: Adventures in Digital Underground the Apprenticeship of Tupac Shakur,” will chronicle the turbulent times of the hip hop super group. Chopmaster J and Abbott plan to take the viewer on a historic tour recounting D.U.’s rise and fall. The film will recount a time when the mega rap tour was in its heyday. From sold out US tours, to Tokyo sex clubs, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the young irreverent hip hop band from the San Francisco Bay Area traveled to every corner of the world entertaining millions of eager pop and hip hop music fans.

    Filmmaker and director Abdul Malik Abbot

    Abbott, who directed, co-wrote and edited the platinum-selling, short film / music video “Streets is Watching,” and directed the underground hip hop cult classic, “State Property,” both starring hip hop icon Jay Z, believes the documentary will play a crucial role in music history. “The movie is about the rise and fall of a would-be hip hop dynasty during the ‘Golden Age of Hip Hop,’” he explains. “But more importantly, the film features the birth of the career of music giant, Tupac Shakur. Fans who contribute to the Indiegogo crowdfunding effort will play an important part in helping to document this significant time in pop culture.”

    “This project will be a must have for any true hip hop head,” adds Chopmaster J. “The inclusion of some of Tupac’s never before released first recordings are alone worth the price of admission!”

    Crowdfunding participants can donate $5.00 and become a part of hip hop history while collecting unique D.U. memorabilia! Monies raised will support the completion of the documentary for a 2015 release.

    As the lyrics from “The Humpty Dance” advise “stop whatcha doin’” and go to http://igg.me/at/D-U-Days now to help recapture this legacy in hip hop history! Also check out Digital Underground at www.HipHopEarlyDays.com or www.dudays.com .

    View official video for “D.U. Days: Adventures in Digital Underground the Apprenticeship of Tupac Shakur,” at D.U. DAYS: Adventures in Digital Underground the Apprenticeship of Tupac Shakur [Official Video] .

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  • Actress Janet Hubert Visits Orlando to Mobilize Women to Vote in the Midterm Election During Black Women’s Roundtable “Don’t Count Us Out Tour”

    Orlando, FL – From dangerous Stand Your Ground laws to voter suppression schemes, the state of Florida is known for a host of issues that negatively impact the quality of life for citizens in communities of color. Actress, producer and activist, Janet Hubert, will talk about the importance of voting to combat unjust laws and the overall need to stay healthy, wealthy and wise during the Florida Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR) Don’t Count Us Out Tour. The event will be held Saturday, September 13, 2014 at the Doubletree by the Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld.

    Sponsored by the Florida Coalition on Black Civic on Participation (FCBCP) along with Orange and Osceola County Black Women’s Roundtable, the goal of one-day event is to bring together national and local experts for roundtable discussions designed to educate, uplift and motivate women and girls to vote and/or urge their family and friends to vote in the midterm election. Tickets are free for 15-18-years-olds and $25 for adults. Seating is limited and pre-registration is required. For more information call (321) 285-6297 or visit www.fcbcp.org.

    “Black Women’s Roundtable is conducting this tour through the state of Florida to mobilize women to get their communities to the polls and send a clear message – DON’T COUNT US OUT,” said Salandra Benton, convener of FCBCP, a local affiliate of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “In Florida we are constantly fighting for our rights – that’s why we’re so excited to welcome actress Janet Hubert to speak during the luncheon. Ms. Hubert epitomizes a strong black woman on the screen and off. She has been a shining example of an artist/activist who understands the power and significance of their celebrity and uses that position to empower others.”

    Hubert is best known for her role as the sassy and witty, “Aunt Viv,” in The Fresh Prince of BelAir, but in recent years the award-winning actress has gained a reputation as a producer, activist, and author, penning her own memoir, Perfection Is Not A Sitcom Mom, and the children’s book JG and the BC Kids. She has advocated for many years on health issues, and even addressed representatives on Capitol Hill. She also served as an ambassador for the National Osteoporosis Foundation and worked with the U.S. Surgeon General to implement better nutritional education for young girls. Currently Hubert is touring the country performing her self-produced one woman show, From Broadway To TV…Now Back To Me.

    “We are bringing together women and girls of all ages to share problems and information, support each other in sisterhood, and organize so we can work collectively in our struggle for economic security and justice across the state and nationally,” adds Diana Johnson, chair of Orange County Black Women’s Roundtable.

    In addition to Hubert, speakers include: Desmond Meade, president of Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, and state director for Faith in Florida, Live Free; Sheena Rolle, Florida State Voices; Kionne McGee, author and Miami Florida State Representative, District 17; and community activists, Debra Francis, Greg Jackson, Gail Gardner, and Nedenia Thomas.

    Florida Black Women’s Roundtable convenes BWR network gatherings throughout the state. The nonprofit, nonpartisan group is an affiliate of the Washington, DC-based Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network, an intergenerational women’s policy network of the NCBCP. Convened nationally by civil rights leader, Melanie L. Campbell, BWR stays at the forefront of championing just and equitable public policy on behalf of Black women and girls and promotes health and wellness, economic security, education and global empowerment as key elements for success.

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    NOTE TO MEDIA: BWR conveners and Janet Hubert are available for interview. To schedule an interview contact Edrea via email: edmedia@dogonvillage.com or 770.961.6200.

    PHOTO CREDIT: James J. Kriegsmann Jr.

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