*Los Angeles – OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network announced today the start of production in Atlanta of the new multigenerational family saga “Ambitions,” produced by Will Packer Media in association with Lionsgate and Lionsgate-owned distributor Debmar-Mercury, and starring Robin Givens (“Riverdale,” “The Fix,” “The Bold and the Beautiful”), Essence Atkins (“Marlon,” “Half and Half”), Brian White (“Ray Donovan,” “Scandal”), Kendrick Cross (“Acrimony,” “Tales from the Hood 2”), Brely Evans (“Turnt,” “Being Mary Jane”) and Erica Page (“Ozark,” “Bad Dad Rehab”). Multiple award-winning writer/EP Kevin Arkadie (“The Quad,” “New York Undercover”) has joined as showrunner. Created by executive producer/writer Jamey Giddens (“The Rich and The Ruthless”) from an original idea by Packer, “Ambitions” will debut on OWN in 2019, with the pilot episode directed by Benny Boom (“All Eyez on Me,” “Black Lightning”).
“Ambitions” is a multigenerational family saga centered around one woman who, having recently relocated and intent on revitalizing her marriage, finds herself going head to head with some of the most powerful and deceitful players in the city.
Robin Givens stars as ‘Stephanie Carlisle,’ the wife of Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster (Brian White), whose true loyalty is to her own family’s prestigious law firm, where she is the latest in a long line of distinguished lawyers. Stephanie desperately wants to be in charge of the Carlisle family law firm and quietly fumes about her father Stephen’s condescending assertion that she’s simply not ready yet. Givens is represented by PANTHEON.
Essence Atkins plays the role of ‘Amara,’ a lawyer in U.S. Attorney’s Office who has newly arrived in Atlanta with her husband, Titus (Kendrick Cross). Originally from Texas, she is quickly gaining attention from the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a diligent prosecutor but disappoints her supervisor by turning down the offer to run point on a major local case. Atkins is represented by Buchwald and Kathy McComb Management.
Brian White has been cast as ‘Evan Lancaster,’ the Mayor of Atlanta, who is married to attorney Stephanie Carlisle (Robin Givens). Evan’s political ambitions seem to cloud his judgement as he is willing to do anything to get to the next level in his career. White is represented by Paradigm Talent Agency, Zero Gravity Management and attorney Eric Feig.
Kendrick Cross stars as ‘Titus,’ an attorney who recently moved with his wife Amara (Essence Atkins) to Atlanta. Titus has been hired as in-house counsel for a big pharma company run by Hunter Purifoy, who is fighting a class action suit brought by the powerful Carlisle family. Cross is represented by Houghton Talent.
Brely Evans plays the role of ‘Rondell,’ Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster’s (Brian White) sister, who runs a not-quite-profitable restaurant called Thelma’s Place. Evans is represented by J Pervis Talent.
Erica Page plays the role of ‘Bella,’ a fashion designer in Atlanta who designs all of Stephanie Carlisle’s (Robin Givens) dresses for her. Page is represented by Houghton Talent.
Kevin Arkadie is the co-creator of the series “New York Undercover.” Last season, he Co-Executive Produced season two of “The Quad.” Previously, he was a Producer on “Chicago Hope”; Supervising Producer on “NYPD Blue”; Co-Executive Producer on “The Shield”; and Executive Producer on “Soul Food: The Series” and “Rescue 77.” Arkadie scripted the Emmy®-winning miniseries “The Temptations” and is the recipient of the Golden Globe® Award, Writers Guild Award, Image Award and the Christopher Award as well as a nominee for multiple Emmy® and Humanitas Prizes. He is the Writer/Producer/Director of the documentary “FESPACO.” He began his writing career on the much-acclaimed series “I’ll Fly Away” as a story editor.
Jamey Giddens is an award-winning writer, producer, entertainment journalist, publicist, and podcast personality. He is the co-owner of the wildly popular soap opera-themed website DaytimeConfidential.com. Giddens co-wrote the first season of Urban Movie Channel’s breakout summer hit dramedy “The Rich and The Ruthless.” Giddens worked for 10 years as a communications specialist for the Centers For Disease Control and Protection (CDC), helping to create social media messages alerting the public to such major health events as the H1N1, Zika Virus and Ebola outbreaks.
Situated in Atlanta, the award-winning writing staff includes Jamey Giddens (“The Rich and The Ruthless”), Susan Dansby (“As The World Turns,” “The Young and The Restless”), Michele Val Jean (“General Hospital,” “The Bold and the Beautiful”), Trey Anthony (“da Kink in my Hair,” “How Black Mothers Say I Love You”) and Jazmen Darnell Brown (“The Citizen,” “Saints & Sinners”).
“Ambitions” is produced for OWN by Will Packer Media in association with Lionsgate and its producer-distributor Debmar-Mercury. Will Packer is executive producer. Kevin Arkadie is executive producer/showrunner. Writer Jamey Giddens and Will Packer Media’s Sheila Ducksworth also serve as executive producers. Benny Boom directs the pilot episode.
About Will Packer Media
Led by Hollywood producer Will Packer, Will Packer Media is a first-of-its-kind production and branded content company focused on the New American Mainstream audience, with an urban millennial core. In partnership with Discovery, Inc. and Universal Pictures, the company produces episodic scripted and unscripted series across television and digital platforms, compelling content for brand clients, and short-form digital content for millennial audiences. Will Packer’s films have earned more than $1 billion, with nine opening at number one at the box office.
About OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is the first and only network named for, and inspired by, a single iconic leader. Oprah Winfrey’s heart and creative instincts inform the brand and the magnetism of the channel. OWN is a leading destination for premium scripted and unscripted programming from today’s most innovative storytellers. OWN’s original scripted series include popular dramas “Queen Sugar,” “Greenleaf,” “Love Is __,” “The Have and Have Nots, “If Loving You is Wrong,” popular sitcom “The Paynes,” and upcoming drama series “David Makes Man” from Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney and family saga “Ambitions” from box office hit-maker Will Packer. OWN’s Saturday night unscripted programming lineup includes “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” “Book of John Gray,” “Black Love,” “Chad Loves Michelle” and the new dating series “Ready to Love.” OWN connects with its audience wherever they are, inspiring conversation among a global community of like-minded viewers on social media and beyond. Launched on January 1, 2011, OWN is a joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery, Inc. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform Oprah.com. Access OWN anytime, anywhere on WatchOWN.tv or across mobile devices and connected TVs. For more information, please visit www.oprah.com/own and https://press.discovery.com/us/own/.
The first major new studio in decades, Lionsgate is a global content leader whose films, television series, digital products and linear and over-the-top platforms reach next generation audiences around the world. In addition to its filmed entertainment leadership, Lionsgate content drives a growing presence in interactive and location-based entertainment, video games, esports and other new entertainment technologies. Lionsgate’s content initiatives are backed by a nearly 17,000-title film and television library and delivered through a global sales and distribution infrastructure. The Lionsgate brand is synonymous with original, daring and ground-breaking content created with special emphasis on the evolving patterns and diverse composition of the Company’s worldwide consumer base.
Debmar-Mercury, a leading media company specializing in syndication, network, cable and ancillary markets, produces and distributes The Wendy Williams Show and, with co-producer Citylife Productions, Caught in Providence, debuting nationally in September 2018. It has U.S. distribution rights to FremantleMedia North America’s Steve Harvey-hosted Family Feud; off-Netflix episodes of BoJack Horseman from Michael Eisner’s privately held media and entertainment company, The Tornante Company; as well as U.S. distribution rights to Schitt’s Creek, the critically acclaimed half-hour, single-camera scripted comedy created by Eugene Levy and Daniel Levy that ranks as the No. 1 original series on Pop TV; the 10/90 sitcoms Debmar-Mercury pioneered including Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and spinoff Meet the Browns; Revolution/CubeVision’s Are We There Yet? (starring Ice Cube); and the Debmar-Mercury / Lionsgate Television comedy Anger Management (starring Charlie Sheen). Debmar-Mercury is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B), a global content platform whose films, television series, digital products and linear and over-the-top platforms reach next-generation audiences around the world.
James Ward III
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
The Lippin Group for LIONSGATE
The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.
The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.
“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”
Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”
The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.
“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”
Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”
In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.
“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”
Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.
“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”
Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”
New Music Buzz: Jazzy Rita Shelby’s ‘Goodbye 2020’
*SB Music presents “Goodbye 2020” a new single for the times we are in.
“Goodbye 2020” is performed by Jazzy Rita Shelby and written by Miss Shelby (ASCAP) and Eddie Lawrence Miller (BMI).
It’s the perfect anthem to end a year that has impacted the globe.
EURweb’s Jazzy Rita is also a prolific lyricist who has teamed up with Eddie Miller for “Goodbye 2020” because it was timely and convenient for the birth of a song such as this.
Eddie Miller is a coveted keyboardist & vocalist who performs regularly with Brian Culbertson and he’s the Rhodes Festival musical director. Jazzy Rita rose to notoriety as host & performer at The Starlight Jazz Serenade, an annual benefit concert in North Hollywood with an A list of stars. As a teen Miss Shelby was inspired to write songs by the legendary David Porter.
This year has been a year like no other. “Goodbye 2020” is an ode to the world for the year that we have seen and the hope that lies ahead. Radio Programmers click here for adds.
“Goodbye 2020” is released on the SB Music label and was recorded at Wishing Wells Studio in Canoga Park, CA. Willie Daniels and Mildred Black perform background vocals along with Jazzy Rita. The video is produced & directed by Jazzy Rita (LaRita Shelby), filmed & edited by Reggie Simon of Simon Vision Media, with wardrobe styling by Jazzy Rita and Poet Roni Girl’s Army Couture. “Goodbye 2020” is available on most digital platforms. Click here to listen on Spotify.
Celebrate Halloween with ‘Spell’ Starring Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine and John Beasley / WATCH
*Today/TONIGHT is Halloween and what could be a more perfect way to celebrate than with the release of SPELL? Enjoy the clips below to get you in the spooky spirit!
Omari Hardwick (“Power,” Sorry to Bother You), Loretta Devine (“Black-ish,” Crash) and John Beasley (The Sum of All Fears, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) star in the terrifying thriller SPELL, coming to Premium Video-On-Demand and Digital today October 30 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
While flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, an intense storm causes Marquis (Omari Hardwick) to lose control of the plane carrying him and his family. He awakens wounded, alone and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Loretta Devine) attic, who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. Unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.
DIRECTED BY | Mark Tonderai
SCREENPLAY BY | Kurt Wimmer
STARRING | Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine, John Beasley
AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS | Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, DirecTV, VUDU, Xfinity, FandangoNOW and more.
Rating | R – violence, disturbing/bloody images, and language
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