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John Clarence Stewart Talks Avoiding Tropes and Black Men Showing Vulnerability

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Zoey's Extraordinary Failure - Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke, John Clarence Stewart as Simon

The season finale of NBC’s “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” airs TONIGHT, Sunday (05-03-20). The musical dramedy centers on Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy) a smart computer coder who magically begins to hear people’s innermost thoughts through song.

John Clarence Stewart (Netflix’s “Luke Cage” and “What If”) stars as Simon, a new co-worker whom Zoey bonds with over the death of his father. After a season of ups and downs, we were left with the cliff hanger as Zoey and Simon debate on moving their friendship into the relationship zone. EUR’s Jill Munroe talked with Stewart about his journey to the role, Black men discussing grief on TV, his favorite musical numbers of the season and how he’s been keeping himself occupied during the Covid-19 crisis.

JILL: How have you been doing during the pandemic?

JOHN: I cry sometimes because it’s hard, I listen to music, I dance. I’m learning to be creative just for me. So much of my creativity is wrapped up in my vocation, so I’m learning how to reclaim that. Writing, reading, dancing, singing. Just doing whatever I need to do to feel good. And lastly, probably the most important thing is reaching out to my community because it’s easy to feel disconnected.

JILL: You have a diverse background, theatre, Luke Cage. On this show – a drama with an integrated cast – having a Black man as a lead and love interest as a lead character isn’t the standard. What has that experience been like for you?

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ZOEY'S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST -- "Zoey's Extraordinary Failure" Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke, John Clarence Stewart as Simon -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST — “Zoey’s Extraordinary Failure” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke, John Clarence Stewart as Simon — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

JOHN: What drew me to the show initially was Simon and his arc, specifically what he’s going through. This idea of grief and loss is something that I’m very familiar with, I lost my father 13 years ago. When I read the pilot I thought, what an opportunity for me as a Black man in this project where we use music to talk about the inner world.

There are a lot more examples in media now than there used to be of Black men navigating emotional spaces, and traumas and grief. But, I don’t think it happens enough, so I’m happy to be a part of that arc in the legacy of television.

As far as being a budding love interest, Jane- who is the lead – and Skylar – who is the triangle, the trifecta in the show it was important for all of us, well, I’ll speak for myself – is that there are not these tropes. Austin (the show’s creator) has been very deliberate about that. In Simon’s journey through grief, which is what connects them and starts that budding part of the romance, that it’s not nefarious or coming out of ill will. But that it’s coming from a human and vulnerable space, and I think that’s honest.

JILL: You get to show off all aspects of your talent with this show. Your acting, your comedy chops, drama, singing and dancing. What is it like rehearsing for this. How far in advance to you record the songs? Do you know at the start of the season what songs you’ll be working on? And at what point do you add in the choreography?

JOHN: We don’t know at the beginning of the season what songs we’ll be singing. That happens and sometimes fluctuates during the season. We’ll get wind about a song and then it will change within two or three days. We have to then record another version of the song, and then we have to change the choreography. Stuff like that.

There’s a lot of structure to it because it’s necessary, we have to have that. But there are a lot of unknowns. For me, coming from the theatre and having done TV- it’s like you said, a unique blend. Everything that I’ve done has been outside of my comfort zone. Singing and dancing on this level with people I admire and respect – being choreographed by one of the most iconic choreographers of our time – Mandy Moore – and realizing as time has gone on that I can do it. It’s all in me. I can do it, and I can do it well. I can say that without pride, but with a sense of confidence. When I booked the show, I didn’t know that I had that. When I went into the audition, my thought was that I wanted to make my dad proud.

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JILL: How much time do you spend rehearsing.

JOHN: Sometimes an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Sometimes it’s less than that. Jane is pretty much in every scene, so there’s even less time for her.

JILL: Do you have a favorite performance from the season?

JOHN: Yeah, it’s “Happier” and number I did with India de Beaufort (“Jessica”) she’s incredible. She’s an incredible actor, singer. She played my fiancé and there were a few things that I loved about it. One, there’s the believe that when a relationship ends there has to be a lot of vitriol there, we push against that archetype by showing love in transition, which can by difficult in some ways. Two, the song was supposed to be one person singing, then Austin had the brilliant idea to make it a duet. And when I listened to the words, it sounds like a conversation between two people, and it fit so well.

The season finale of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” airs TONIGHT, (and every Sunday) on NBC at 9:00 PM.

EUR Extra Coverage …

From “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” Skylar Astin and John Clarence Stewart Take the Whisper Challenge:

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Supermodel Don Benjamin Opens Up About Tyra Banks, His Faith And Making Babies / The Trend

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Don Benjamin

*Supermodel Don Benjamin Talks Tyra Banks, His New Novel “My Truth,” His Faith and Making Babies / The Trend W/ Derrial Christon and Courtney Stewart.
@derrialchriston
@stewartstarlit

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Deion Sanders Departs NFL Network, Joins Barstool Sports

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Deion+Sanders+Super+Bowl+LIV+San+Francisco+YqGIRGMh_0Ul

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*One day after announcing he’s leaving the NFL Network after 14 years, Deion Sanders announced Wednesday that he’s moving on to Barstool Sports. 

“BREAKING NEWS: Primetime. Primetime. Primetime. It’s a new age. Primetime has joined Barstool Sports,” tweeted Barstool, along with a video of Sanders talking about his new gig, TheWrap reports. 

“Now, I have the platform that I can spread what I got to the masses. Oh baby, thank you !” Sanders exclaimed. “Barstool has the young generation of fans I want to help cultivate. I want to mold you. I want to talk to you. I want to speak to you. See, I love to speak my mind and now baby I got the platform to do it year-round. Controversy ain’t never scared me. See, podcasts are the future; I’m so excited about this opportunity, but I’m also excited to continue my relationship with the NFL … in some capacity.”

“What a move by us,” founder Dave Portnoy wrote in a post on the sports website, noting that Barstool Sports “stealing him away from the NFL network.”

“Let me ask you this,” he added. “What NFL pregame show are you gonna watch this year? Me, Big Cat and Primetime from his ranch in Dallas or the suits at the other networks.”

“Deion has been one of the key figures responsible for the growth of the NFL Network,” NFL VP of communications Alex Riethmiller said in a Tuesday statement. “We thank him for his work and wish him the best in the future.”

Sanders will have a podcast, make regular appearances on the Pardon My Take podcast, and also be part of a Sunday pregame show, per MSN.

The NFL Hall of Famer was recently criticized after he slammed NFL players who decided to opt-out of the coming season over concerns regarding COVID-19.

“All Players OPTING out in all sports PLEASE BELIEVE the game will go on without u. This is a business & don’t u EVER forget that. There’s NO ONE that’s bigger than the game itself. Only the ref, umps & officials are that important that u can’t play without them. NOT YOU! #Truth,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

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Leslie David Baker of ‘The Office’ Shares Racist Messages Over ‘Uncle Stan’ Kickstarter

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Leslie David Baker
Leslie David Baker

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*We previously reported that Leslie David Baker, who played Stanley on NBC’s “The Office,” launched a Kickstarter campaign for a spinoff centered on his character.

Baker and his business partner, producer Sardar Khan, have since passed their goal of $300,000 to shoot the pilot. They plan to shop it to networks and streaming platforms.

The actor is now sharing some of the racist messages he received in reaction to the campaign.

“For those of you who don’t believe racism is still alive in the world…here’s the proof,” he captioned a Instagram post of screenshots of some of the comments he received, including photos of a lynching. Check out the post below.

MOREREAD : ‘The Office’ Star Leslie David Baker Launches Kickstarter for ‘Uncle Stan’ Spinoff

On the official campaign page for the project, the proposed “Uncle Stan” spinoff will follow Stanley Hudson’s post-retirement. The fundraiser makes no mention of “The Office” or showrunner Greg Daniels or original series creator Ricky Gervais, most likely due to copyright issues, per Complex.

“After enjoying his retirement in Florida, carving wood, enjoying the white sand beaches, and dancing to old disco, Uncle Stan (Leslie David Baker) gets a call from his nephew Lucky in Los Angeles asking for help with his two kids and running his motorcycle/flower shop,” the Kickstarter reads. “With his business failing, his kids growing up without enough attention, and on the brink of losing his patience with the cast of characters he has working in the shop, Lucky is going to need all the help he can get from no-nonsense Uncle Stan.”

The campaign also notes the risks and challenges, stating: Any time a large scale production such as Uncle Stan takes place, there is a chance that challenges might arise. With our team of entertainment professionals that between them have decades of experience in the industry, we will help ensure that we stick to our scheduled production and reward fulfillment schedule.

Check out his Kickstarter here.

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