Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige spoke to the magic of “The Wiz Live!,” airing December 3rd 8/7c on NBC, when I asked them about its longevity.
What’s so special about “The Wiz” and what was your first introduction to it?
QUEEN LATIFAH: It was the first Broadway play that I ever saw. My mom took me there as a kid. I don’t know how she hustled up these tickets. I know money was tight, but she managed to get some tickets and took us to see it and I was blow away. I was amazed by it. It just changed my whole mind frame. Seeing a story that I was familiar with and told through the lens of people who look like me, African American, it felt more relatable.
It felt like a place where Oz just wasn’t a fantasyland, but a place I could go. A place that made me feel something different than any place else and seeing Stephanie Mills perform, I was with her. I took this ride along with her. It made me feel like I could do this. So I became more inclined to audition for the school plays and really see it as a real possibility, something that I wanted to maybe do in my life. It definitely changed and shifted my mind in a big way.
MARY J. BLIGE: The Wiz means so much to me. It’s the only reason why I am here because it changed my life, too. As a kid, growing up in the inner cities, it’s hard to leave. But when you see Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, who are both the untouchables and the biggest entertainers of our time, it makes you think that you can do it too because it’s Michael Jackson and he’s the Scarecrow. So it gave me hope. It inspired me, it encouraged me, it told me I had in me what I needed already to make it in the world. So to be a part of something that can do the same thing for another generation or for people who have never seen ‘The Wiz’ before, it’s amazing!
Are there any qualities that your characters have that you can relate to?
MJB: I can relate to Evillene saying, ‘No bad news,’ because when I’m paying you to work this. I’m one of the nicest people, but when people who just can’t make it happen and it’s always about excuses and it’s like, ‘I can’t.’ I don’t want to hear it.
QL: I think my character knows how to make the best out of a bad situation no matter what. I think the Wiz kind of happened into this and hey, the show must go on and knows how to switch off that and switch onto this and make it happen.
What’s it like to wear the costumes and seeing yourself in them?
QL: I would say they are heavy! Amazing!
MJB: I’d say heavy and nice! It’s amazing costumes. They did an amazing job. Unbelievable. The crown is heavy. I’m afraid that the thing will be flying off. The gown, it feels like its 15 to 20 lbs. It’s hard to move in!
QL: She’s going to work that crown! And work that outfit. But for me, the weird thing is, green is my favorite color. I mostly wear black and blue, but green is actually my favorite color. Maybe it’s because of the Wiz. But I love my costume. When I put it on it takes me there into full character. I put on the costume and I feel like, ‘Whoa!’ My posture changes, my attitude changes, my shoulders get bigger and I start feeling a little bossier. I just want to tell somebody to do something that they don’t even deserve told to be doing just because I can. I feel like I got ignorance coming out of my pores when I put on the costume. I feel evil!
MJB: That’s how I feel! It’s like, yeah y’all, I’m the motha bleep! [Laughs]
QL: Yeah, exactly! That’s how we roll! And I’m slightly scared of her character so I’m not going to deal with her too much. She’s very wicked.
Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]
Facebook.com/TheFilmStripTM Twitter: @thefilmstrip
The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Don’t Cry For Melania
*When she (Melania Trump) came on the scene during the 2016 election a lot of Americans had questions about her: Was she nothing more than eye candy for her husband?
Was she oblivious to women who accused her husband of sexual harassment – even while they were married – or did she know about allegations of his dubious business practices?
Then there was that video of her getting left at the bottom of the steps during the inauguration that caused people to assume she might be living under duress and needed to be rescued.
But four years later the perception of FLOTUS Melania Trump has changed, and not necessarily for the better.Tell-all books have offered behind-the-scenes perspectives about President Donald Trump and this 3rd wife, the mother is his fifth child!
The verdict: She is as manipulative as the president. The latest example is a tweet from her where FLOTUS tries to give credit to her husband for somebody else’s work.
In case you didn’t know, Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactured opioids, agreed to pay an $8 billion fine admitting they lied about the addictive potency of the drug that led to America’s opioid epidemic! Purdue Pharma also agreed to shut down operations.
FLOTUS Melania tweeted that Purdue Pharma’s downfall was proof the president cares about the health of Americans! I’m calling her out on that lie.
Trump is too busy trying to erase the Affordable Healthcare Act that could leave millions of people who have pre-existing health conditions without healthcare in the middle of a pandemic. He’s too busy pretending to have a healthcare plan – for the past four years – that he never has revealed. And to make matters worse, when Trump contracted the deadly Coronavirus, he was treated by doctors with access to the best medical treatments and experience to help him recover rapidly. His access to testing and treatment are not the norm. If it was 200,000 Americans wouldn’t be dead because of COVID-19.
The care and concern shown for the president’s health is far greater than what pharmaceutical companies such as Purdue Pharma exhibit towards other Americans. Even though company executives agreed to pay an $8 billion fine, who got the money and how will it be used? Click on the video to find out why company executives agreed to walk away.
Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with your comments, questions and speaking inquiries. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @tcbstef.
Larry Buford: Judgment or Test? America’s Job Experience
*[This is a chapter from my book, “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand, first published in 2007. Although many other tragic events have happened in the 13 years since then, including the current global pandemic, I think it is still relevant as history continues to repeat itself]
Breaking news: Bridge Collapses, Victims Killed; Miner’s Trapped, Victims Killed; Record Flooding, Victims Killed; Senseless Shooting, Victims Killed; Raging Fires, Victims Killed; and the list goes on!!
While it seems like all hell is breaking loose, one may ask, is America being judged or tested?
The biblical character Job received (heart) “breaking news” [Job chapter 1]: “And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword…While he was speaking, there also came another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them…”
In the end, Job had received back-to-back reports from four different messengers that he had suffered great losses including his children. Job even lost his health, but eventually regained everything even more in abundance. It was a test to see if Job would deny God.
Prior to the 911 tragedy, we seldom heard of God or Jesus in mainstream media. Since then it has become acceptable, and more and more prevalent with each new turn of tragic events. Is God testing America to see if we truly are a Christian nation? Or is this judgment on a nation that has turned its back towards God?
If it’s a test, we as a nation should hold steadfast our convictions as did Job. If judgment, God says in II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
There is yet hope for America!
Please share your thoughts in the user-friendly, no-obligation comment section below.
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based contributing writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon); two insightful books that speak to our moral conscience in times like these. Email: [email protected]
Earl Ofari Hutchinson: Why Trump Keeps Beating Biden Over the Head with the Crime Bill
*On November 18, 1993, then Senator Joe Biden let it fly on the Senate floor. He lambasted the “predators on the streets” and “sociopaths” who were “beyond the pale,” and must be “cordoned off.” Biden punctuated his impassioned cheer of the Clinton Crime Bill up for Senate passage with borderline race tinged rhetoric about broken homes, family squalor and ignorance. The inference was he was talking about young Blacks.
Biden’s words that day keep coming back to haunt him like a hideous nightmare. Trump dredged it up again at the last presidential debate. Joe, Trump intoned, you branded young Blacks as “super-predators.” He then gleefully finger pointed Biden as practically the Founding Father of the 1994 Crime Bill; the bill widely reviled as the single biggest cause of the mass prison incarceration of explosion of mostly young Blacks and Hispanics.
Biden, in defense, did the same two things that he’s done repeatedly every time he gets hit over the head by Trump and the GOP with his cheerlead of the bill. He denied that he called anyone “super predators.” He didn’t, but his label of “predators on the streets” came darn close. It’s his second counter though that he hopes will take some of the sting out of his overexuberant tout of the bill a quarter century ago. He called it “a mistake,” and says times have changed. He spruces up some of the features of the bill such as ramped up drug treatment and services that he claims ownership of in the bill.
Biden pivots and rightly points out that the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus backed it out of fear of violent crime and drug plague hammering Blacks. He then does a quick fast forward to cite his array of criminal justice system and police reform-oriented proposals he’s put forth during the campaign.
It doesn’t change the past but it’s part mea culpa and bigger part hope that it gets Trump off his back, and does no damage among Black voters on November 3.
Trump, though, won’t go away on this. He senses a tiny opening with this that can be exploited to fuel the still very deep sting and resentment over the bill. There’s some cause for worry about that.
The draconian bill was the brainchild of Reagan and Bush Sr., they could not have gotten the bill through a mostly Democratic-controlled Congress. But then President Clinton did. He muscled it through Congress. The bill shelled out $22 billion to the states and feds to hire more police and prosecutors build new prisons, and courts, and establish crime commissions.
It criminalized thousands, mostly Blacks and Latinos, for petty crimes and drug possession, ignited the biggest prison-police boom in U.S history, spurred dozens of states to adopt three strikes laws, led to the deadly rash of racial profiling cases, and widened the gaping racial disparities in prison sentencing. The anti-crime legislative mania also tacitly encouraged more states to disenfranchise thousands of ex-felons. The law added more than 30 new provisions for the death penalty in federal law. To no surprise, the majority of those that await execution are Black men. In 1993, there were less than a half million blacks in America’s jails. That figure has soared to more than 2 million today with still about half of them Black.
Biden’s public pledge to change that takes the battle against crime in the direction that it should have gone even twenty years ago. And that’s putting massive resources into investment and repair in poor and minority communities, while committing to fight to end the blatant racial disparities in arrests, sentencing, imprisonment, and the death penalty that have become the trademark of the criminal justice system.
However, the damage that the bill wreaked is done. And Trump knows the bitterness that it has caused among many Blacks. He can take the issue twist and turn it around on Biden to the point of casting himself as some sort of Harriet Tubman liberator of Blacks from the shackle of mass incarceration. So, as Biden squirms on the crime bill, Trump parlays his threadbare record on criminal justice issues which include nothing more than after much arm twisting endorsing a Second Start and a handful of pardons of Black inmates.
The challenge then is not to hold Biden’s feet to the fire for a policy from the past that’s had and has bad consequences for the present. But to hold him feet to the flame to deliver on her pledge to push for meaningful criminal justice system reforms, and programs and initiatives to aid the urban poor once in the White House.
The crime bill will forever remain part of Clinton’s legacy, the good, and the much larger bad of it. Trump will cynically and calculatingly twist that odious history around and call Biden on the carpet for it. And hope that enough other Blacks do the same to dampen enthusiasm for him.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College (Middle Passage Press)He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio-one. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Pacifica Radio.
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