2013 NAACP Image Awards nominee, TV One’s popular series Washington Watch with Roland Martin, returned to Los Angeles yesterday for its fourth annual West Coast taping at KCET studios in Burbank. What was advertised as a taping felt more like a family reunion for Black Hollywood as RFFocus was on hand to join in the festivities and watch Roland Martin do his thing and chop it up with a few of the NAACP Image Award nominees. In a world where roles a scarce, the talent is immense, and everybody knows your name or at least your face due to the oxymoronic minuscule enormity of Black Hollywood, you would think the pressure and tension in small green room filled with actors, actresses, producers, writers, and directors would be thick enough to feel like Florida humidity. It was quite the contrary; I felt like I was on a movie set for a new Soul Food sequel and the cast members were honored to be working amongst each other.
In a room that included the likes Tatyana Ali, Elise Neal, Essence Atkins, Boris Kodjoe, Robert Townsend, Will Packer, Salli Richardson, Rockmund Dunbar, Miguel Nunez, Phil Morris, Kim Whitley, Jonathan Slocum, Ricky Harris, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson of Earth Wind & Fire, Roland Martin, and a host of others this was the place to be on a pleasantly sunny Thursday afternoon in the city of Burbank.
As Roland taped several segments with each of guests with 3 panelist during each segment, the green room was filled with producers going over show content with the talent, make-up artists looking for their next facial canvas, production assistants assisting, invited media conversing amongst one another while trying to snag an interview or two, and celebs reminiscing, networking, and cracking jokes, as the aroma of Uncle Andre’s BBQ and soul food filled the room. While Roland Martin covered topics ranging from the lack of quality roles in Hollywood of African Americans, the NAACP Image Awards, Black philanthropy, to the violence in Chicago on the Washington Watch set, we had the chance to chop it up with a few of his celebrity guests in the green room and pick their brains on a slew of topics.
Tatyana Ali, who was just a few days off of a birthday and looking beautiful as always, was excited to talk to us about her new role on the BET show, Second Generation Wayans. The former Fresh Prince of Belair had this to say, “The show takes place in Hollywood. It’s Damien Wayans, Craig Wayans, George Gore, and my character Mya. On the show they decide to start their own production company to get out of the shadow of their famous family so you can imagine the twists, turns, and good times we have doing the show.” She also mentioned that people would be surprised that she was quite the gardner.
While Ms. Ali may be planting crops, Ralph Johnson and Verdine White of the legendary group Earth Wind & Fire were (For More on Earth Wind & Fire click “Next”) on hand to plant a few seeds of their own in regard to their new album dropping in July.Ralph was elated to tell us what we could expect from the new project, “Its brand new music from us that was written and produced by us. Philip Bailey did most of the production and you can expect it to be Earth Wind, & Fire. We will definitely be during a summer tour to go along with the album and we can’t wait for people to hear it.” When asked what’s the greatest compliment they have ever received about their music, the always fly, Verdine White had this say, “We gotten so many but I think the greatest thing is that people still like the music. The remember where they were, they remember where they are and that means so much to us because we make music to touch people and when you get that feedback you can’t beat it and you know you are doing something right.” We tried to get Ralph and Verdine to talk a little about the track listing on the album but they very hush hush about that and we just laughed it off as they made their way to set to record their segment.
After discussing the state of black entertainment on his segment with Roland Martin, we caught up with producer, writer, director, Robert Townsend and he dropped a small bombshell on us. “I have really been influenced by what I see going on with these one man shows and various stand up acts and for that reason, I’m retiring to the stage to do stand up of some sort.” I’m sure most of you know that Robert Townsend was initially a stand up comedian before he got into television, film, etc. We don’t know about you but we think Robert has still got it!
Speaking of celebs that still got it, the beautiful Elise Neal, who always seems to be on her “A” game was on hand and she chatted with us about her new show on TV One called Belle’s, which premieres today. She plays the character, Jill Cooper, who runs her dad’s soul food restaurant and we asked her has her new role inspired her to possibly own a restaurant, she eloquently said, “No! Just doing the show I can see how hard it is, how much time it takes, how much food it takes and how much patiences it takes. I could never run a restaurant so I will stick to acting and a few other passions of mine.”
Passion may be the appropriate word to describe the energy in room because every one their was so deeply rooted in what they love to do and that is to entertain, inspire,and represent the diverse image of people of color as the NAACP Image Awards merits. Yes, they were there to promote their new shows while discussing various topics with Roland Martin but it was those other candid moments that made the KCET green room feel like a family reunion. Whether it was Roland Martin himself dropping in between segments making sure we saved him some peach cobbler, Essence Atkins admitting she had a stalker crush on Rockmond Dunbar based off his role on Sons of Anarchy, Kim Whitley joking about being a fairly new mom and not knowing a few things, Ricky Harris taking pictures of Salli Richardson because he claims he never saw her eat before, Salli commenting on the wonderful spice level of the greens she was eating, Roland giving Miguel Nunez fashion tips, or just the overall camaraderie in the room, this was a day where image meant nothing and community meant everything.