Best known for starring in 00’s classic ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ and most recently Apple TV+’s ‘Mythic Quest’, Imani Hakim had taken on a new role as a producer (while continuing to act) in her latest feature film ‘Dinner Party‘.
The project is a collaboration between the 28-year-old Cleveland native and her partner Chris Lee. It centers around a group of childhood friends who get together for a reunion dinner accompanied by their significant others. Hakim plays Izzie, whose boyfriend Cal (played by Lee) is one of the seven reunited friends.
The dinner takes place while a verdict is incoming on a controversial sexual assault court case that has captured the nation’s attention. But, as the evening progresses, alcohol flows, and conversations occur, the group soon realizes that- they have changed just as much as the social climate around them has.
Shot in Los Angeles in just four days, ‘Dinner Party’ is a powerful visual conversation starter. The film is currently making festival rounds.
HM: First of all, how did you get involved in this project?
IH: My partner Chris came up with this concept of this film, and next thing you know he started writing it. I read the script, and I fell in love. The subject matter was something I felt very passionate about, so I wanted to be a part of it. So, you know, I joined on as an actress and a co-producer.
HM: And how was that experience like?
IH: Chris and I did short films together, and this is my first feature film producing. I learned so much about being behind the camera while balancing being in front of the camera. I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the inception of the idea all the way to the end. Casting, table reads, finding locations, finances, answering questions that actors have. Also, from the creative standpoint, it’s something that I never got to exercise before. It was a challenge.
HM: I felt that Dinner Party is one long uncomfortable conversation that had to be had. In a nutshell, tell us what the movie is about?
IH: The ‘Dinner Party’ is about a group of friends who are getting together after ten years of not seeing each other. The basic premise is – “if you met your friends today, would you still f*ck with them?” Over the course of this dinner, they realize they had changed as much as their social climate has changed. So things are coming to hay during the course of this dinner party. It’s like a slow burner – so much underlying tension – from microaggression to sexual assault. We get to really watch this group of millennials navigate this very difficult conversation. The challenging part that these friends are facing is to communicate that they are new versions of themselves.
HM: How does your character Izzie play into this whole story?
Izzie is bearing witness to the dynamic. She’s like the fly on the wall witnessing the fallout. She is important because she is the only Black person in the room and has this intuitive spirit. There is a lot happening under the surface, and she has to figure out what’s going on.
HM: The conversations in this diverse group during the dinner party are around racism, classism, sexism, sexual assault. All very relevant topics in our world today. Was the goal to create a visual debate and highlight different opinions and points of view?
IH: Ultimately yes. We are covering many taboo subjects and there is no way you can watch this film and not want to check in with yourself or check in with people around you. This film for us is a conversational starter. We love the fact that this makes people uncomfortable and we also love the fact that it inspires people to reach out to their family members or their friends about [things] they swept under the rug. So if we can do that, we’re doing our job.
‘Harlem’ Star Shoniqua Shandai Talks 3 Pillars of Success
Shoniqua Shandai is fully immersed in the study of her success. Through her determination, Shandai found a way to reach the precipice of her goals. In an exclusive interview with Hollywood Melanin, Shandai shared an in-depth level of self-perception. She provided personal definitions of courage, confidence, and self-belief.
The world is waking up to the power that Shandai holds. In the new hit Amazon series Harlem, the New York native brings Angie’s character to life. Many would look at her and say she is struggling, playing into the “starving artist” archetype, but if one looks closer, Angie’s only struggle is the battle with the conformity of the world.
Series creator Tracy Oliver worked with Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Jerrie Johnson, alongside Shandai, to share a raw narrative of Black women who have the goal of living out their version of happiness.
Angie embodies liberty, a freeform display of what it means to be dedicated to pursuing a dream. Off-screen, Shandai knows the level of commitment it takes to create a world that fits a personal vision. It takes a custom-made level of courage, confidence, and self-belief. It takes a personal standard of hustle.
Conquering the fear of being one’s true self ignites the labor in building confidence. Shandai admitted the process was in layers. “I found the confidence to be myself in having tried to be everyone else and it not working,” she continued, “I might as well show up as me–as vividly, as boldly, as audaciously as possible. You have to live for yourself.”
I found the confidence to be myself in having tried to be everyone else and it not working
Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one.” To be one’s true self is nearly impossible without courage. It’s the secret ingredient to personal success. Before every interview, the repeated chorus from loved ones is “to be yourself,” but that takes courage. Shandai opened up and shared her process.
“Courage came from having to build confidence – I am who I am.” The actor and singer continued to explain that her support from her mother, adjacent to her self-determination fueled her confidence.
Courage came from having to build confidence
To be unstoppable, there has to be a strong foundation of self-belief. The approval of others is fickle. Self-belief might be the only thread left to hang on to when no one else is willing to share blind faith in chasing dreams.
The Amazon series star considered the solution to working when the motivation isn’t there, “I am incredibly future-oriented. Being so future-oriented has saved my life.” Shandai said. She admitted to reverting back, and taking baby steps in order to prepare for bigger strides. Each day, she pulled herself closer into the vision.
Shandai said she is most happy when she is cooking success in multiple pots. Her next debut is coming in through audible wavelengths. As a singer and songwriter, she will be looking for a deeper level of self through music.
Her first single, with visuals directed by her co-star Good, is called, Something About You. Nothing has been officially released yet, but Shandai is ready for this part of herself to rise to the surface.
Through her personal definition of courage, confidence, and self belief, Shandai always finds the strength to keep extending her reach, to keep answering the calling on her life. Stay connected with Shandai on Instagram and Twitter. Bingewatch Harlem on Amazon Prime.
Robin Givens Talks Guest-starring on ABC’s Queens
Givens’ episode titled “Let the Past Be the Past” will air on Tuesday, February 8
Robin Givens is set to appear on the all-new episode of ABC’s music drama Queens. We sat down with the Ambitions star to discuss her joining the show and take a deeper dive into her pivotal scenes.
In Queens, we get a first-hand look at the dynasty built by the hip-hop quartet of women – Naomi (Brandy), Brianna (Eve), Valeria (Nadine Velazquez), and Jil (Naturi Naughton). Viewers meet the group on the verge of claiming their place at the top of the music game for the second time.
The upcoming episode titled ‘Let the Past Be the Past’ will feature Givens as Eric’s ex-wife, who will pay him an unexpected visit. Once the manager of the girl group, Eric will have to confront his former spouse to help save the future of Nasty Girl Records.
Last week ET exclusively released the first look images of Givens as Robin and her intense sit-down with Brandy’s Naomi – the woman who might’ve caused the breakup of her and Eric’s marriage. See the photos below.
The official ABC synopsis reads, “Queens follows a fractured girl group living in the shadows of their once prominent hip-hop dynasty. After their popularity skyrocketed with the success of their chart-topping single, “Nasty Girl,” they were once regarded as one of the greatest girl groups of their generation. However, the group was plagued by internal conflict and jealousy despite critical and commercial success. Estranged and out of touch, the four women, now in their 40s, reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had in the ’90s when they were legends in the hip-hop world.”
Watch Queens on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Eris Baker Talks ‘This Is Us’ Final Chapter and Pressures of The Industry
‘This Is Us’ has been making its viewers laugh and cry for six years now. NBC’s hit series and talented cast collected many nods and awards season after season, including several Golden Globes and Primetime Emmys. With the family drama on its sixth and final season, we sat down with one of the show’s stars, Eris Baker, who plays Tess Pearson, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) oldest biological daughter.
Eris grew up on the show, and she calls her castmates and crew, ‘family’. She took on her biggest television role thus far at the age of 10. Now, at 16, Eris is ready to enter a new chapter of her life and career.
The oldest sister of 4 in real life, Eris never shied away from responsibility. So when the opportunity to audition for This Is Us presented itself, she gladly went after it. Convinced that she did not get the part, Eris later received the best news on Christmas – the role was hers. She admits that she did not realize how big this was back then and how massive it would become.
Eris says she never felt overwhelmed by her immediate professional surroundings as a child actor. Working on the set of This Is Us has always been comfortable and fun. However, Eris told HM, the pressures mounted from the demands that came with being in the industry – “You need a manager, you need an agent, you need a PR, you need to post this, you need to post that, you need to be this image for other people, and I don’t even know if I’m that image for myself,” she explained. A lot comes with being in the public eye, and the young talent says she is learning to navigate that.
Watch the rising star talk about working with her co-stars, reveal some of the pressures she faced growing up in the industry, and reflect on what lies ahead in her professional future.