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KJ Smith Talks Leading and Producing ‘The Available Wife’, Tapping Into Her Calling, and Working with Tyler Perry

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KJ Smith is making waves in the industry. In the last few years, she’s been busier (and happier) than ever. From co-leading one of Tyler Perry‘s hit series Sistas to recently starring in Netflix’s top-rated titles #BlackAF and Fatal Affair, the actress (who now also added the producer title to her resume) is not planning to slow down any time soon.

The Available Wife, one of Smith’s latest and dearest projects, is currently going through the festival circuit and has already been nominated for Best Narrative Feature at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF).

The film is based on Carla Pennington‘s book of the same title, which was adapted for the screen by Tressa Azarel Smallwood (BET’s All In) and Jamal Hill (Brotherly Love), who also directed the feature. Also starring in the romantic feature are Terayle Hill, Clifton Powell, and Roger Guenveur Smith.

The storyline centers around Nicole Wright (Smith), a successful music executive whose life is about to fall apart. While having an affair with Kingston (Hill), the sexy artist on the rise full of promises, Nicole learns the hard way that looks can be deceiving and his motives are as dark as the secrets she keeps.

This is Smith’s first time undertaking such a multifaceted role, she shared with us. Although the complexity of Nicole’s character made her exciting to play, the actress could not fully relate to her at first. “It was hard for me because I would simply not make the choices that she made. This is the entertainment industry, you know. One of the things that they warn you is this may be a very dark place. And I’ve faced the same decisions that Nicole had to make and I chose a different path. I’ve literally been in this situation and I did not make that choice.”

Eventually, Smith found other ways to connect to Nicole. “She would do anything for her family, that’s something that was common. The fact that she doesn’t let anything take her down. It’s like me, I never give up, I never have, and I never will,” she shared. The actress hopes that the viewer will have sympathy for Nicole and will see why she made those choices.

‘The Available Wife’ official poster

The Available Wife is special to Smith in many ways: this marks her first leading role in a feature film and her first time producing a project of such magnitude. “I feel like I was really tapping into my calling. I’ve always been a natural-born leader, I’ve always been able to multitask. I’ve always had that capacity and that ability. When you are an actor you kind of do what you’re told, so the opportunity to have a say-so in how this film goes and how my character is portrayed really made me feel empowered and I just fell like I was in my zone, I felt great!”

When it comes to passions outside television and film, Smith enjoys fitness, yoga, and dance classes. Traveling has become her most favorite thing. Now, with COVID still holding most productions on hold, the actress has more time to enjoy new places and discover new cultures.

The pandemic, however, could not hold Smith away from work for too long. Tyler Perry Studios made history by becoming the first in the country to resume production in July. Smith, who stars as Andrea Barnes in Perry’s hit show Sistas, says she had no reservations about going back to the set. “I trust Tyler Perry and I knew we were gonna be okay. I trust him, I trust the team. We are family now, so I don’t worry about it.”

Courstesy of KJ Smith, IG: @KJSmith

Working for Perry has been lifechanging. The world-renowned filmmaker and entrepreneur is not just her boss, Smith considers him a friend and her biggest inspiration. “I don’t know how he finds time to respond to my text messages, but he always responds, quickly. I mean no one’s done what he’s done in this business.”

Smallwood, who owns MegaMind Media and co-wrote the screenplay to The Available Wife, has also made an impact on Smith and her work. “I call her often, she gives me great advice and especially as an up and coming producer. She has made so many films. She is just so great!”

The Available wife is currently available at ABFF Play through August 30, and will later drop on one of the streaming platforms. Smith says an announcement will be made soon, so stay tuned!

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Eddie Murphy Returns as Axel Foley in ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’

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Eddie Murphy Axel F

Eddie Murphy reprises his role as the iconic Detective Axel Foley in the new action-packed trailer for ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.’

After a nearly 30-year hiatus, Eddie Murphy is back as Axel Foley in “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.” The new trailer reveals that Foley returns to Beverly Hills to investigate the untimely death of a long-time confidant and to protect his daughter, whose life is in danger. Along the way, he teams up with a new partner, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and reunites with old friends Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Ashton).

Eddie Murphy Returns as Axel Foley in 'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F'
‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ /Netflix

In addition to Eddie Murphy and the original cast members returning, the new installment introduces some fresh faces to the franchise. Taylour Paige joins the cast as Axel Foley’s estranged daughter, Jane, a criminal defense attorney in Beverly Hills. Kevin Bacon stars as the Beverly Hills Police Department’s captain, Grant.

Eddie Murphy Returns as Axel Foley in 'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F'

‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ /Netflix

First introduced to audiences in 1984, “Beverly Hills Cop” quickly became a massive hit, thanks to Murphy’s charismatic portrayal of Axel Foley, a street-smart Detroit cop who finds himself in the luxurious and unfamiliar territory of Beverly Hills. Two sequels followed, in 1987 and 1994.

Eddie Murphy Returns as Axel Foley in 'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F'

‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ /Netflix

‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ is directed by Mark Molloy and written by Will Beall, Tom Gormican, and Kevin Etten. The action comedy is based on characters created by Danilo Bach and Daniel Petrie, Jr., with a story by Beall. Jerry Bruckheimer, who has been involved with the franchise since its inception, produced the fourth installment.

The film is set to launch on Netflix on July 3, 2024.

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Jeffrey Wright and Ilfenesh Hadera Join Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s ‘High and Low’

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High and Low

In a highly anticipated collaboration, acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright and Ilfenesh Hadera have joined the cast of Spike Lee’s upcoming film, ‘High and Low.’ The film, described as a reimagining of the classic Akira Kurosawa thriller, also stars Denzel Washington.

Known for his roles in films like ‘Basquiat,’ ‘The Hunger Games’ series, and ‘Westworld,’ Jeffrey Wright was most recently nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in American Fiction. His ability to embody complex characters and deliver powerful performances makes him a perfect fit for this new Spike Lee joint.

The upcoming film will mark a reunion for Hadera and Washington, who co-starred in ‘The Equalizer 2.’ The Godfather of Harlem star also previously collaborated with Lee on his acclaimed Netflix series ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ based on his classic 1986 film and his movies ‘Chi-Raq’ and ‘Oldboy’.

‘High and Low’ also marks the fifth collaboration between Lee and Washington, who previously worked together on ‘Mo’ Better Blues,’ ‘He Got Game,’ ‘Inside Man,’ and ‘Malcolm X.’ Washington’s performance in ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ was also released by A24.

The film is being developed and produced by A24, a production company known for its slate of thought-provoking and award-worthy films. It is described as a thriller and an English-language reinterpretation of Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 crime thriller, which told the story of a shoe executive who was in the middle of a complex corporate takeover when his plans were derailed by the accidental kidnapping and ransom of his chauffeur’s son instead of his son.

The film will begin production this month, with a theatrical release before its global launch on Apple TV+.

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‘Becoming King:’ A Behind-the-Scenes Look at David Oyelowo’s Journey to Portray Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In ‘Selma’ (trailer)

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Becoming King

Paramount+ released the trailer to ‘Becoming King,’ a documentary that chronicles the emotional and transformative journey of David Oyelowo as he took on the monumental task of portraying the legendary civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the critically acclaimed film ‘Selma.’

David Oyelowo in Becoming King. Photo Credit: Jessica Oyelowo/Paramount+

Directed by Jessica Oyelowo, the actor’s wife and partner in Yoruba Saxon Productions, the documentary features behind-the-scenes footage, intimate home videos, and interviews with the cast and crew of ‘Selma.’

Seven years in the making, ‘Becoming King’ offers a close look at Oyelowo’s dedication to the historical project and its impact on his life and career. From the meticulous research that went into recreating the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches to the emotional toll the role took on the NAACP Image Award-winning actor, the doc is a deep dive into the making of a modern cinematic masterpiece.

Key Art for Becoming King, streaming on Paramount+, 2024. Photo Credit: Paramount+

The film is included in Paramount+’s Black Voices Collection and will launch this Monday, February 19, for Black History Month. 

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