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

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 (played by Smith), a successful music executive whose life is about to crumble in front of her. While having an affair with Kingston (Hill), the sexy artist on the rise who promises her everything, 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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‘The Prom’: First Look at Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key and Ariana DeBose in Newly Released Trailer!

Netflix has released the official trailer for its upcoming musical The Prom starring Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, James Corden, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Rannells, and newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman. The cast is led by Hollywood’s heavyweights – Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.

Here is the official synopsis:

Dee Dee Allen (Streep) and Barry Glickman (Corden) are New York City stage stars with a crisis on their hands: their expensive new Broadway show is a major flop that has suddenly flatlined their careers. Meanwhile, in small-town Indiana, high school student Emma Nolan (Pellman) is experiencing a very different kind of heartbreak: despite the support of the high school principal (Key), the head of the PTA (Washington) has banned her from attending the prom with her girlfriend, Alyssa (DeBose). When Dee Dee and Barry decide that Emma’s predicament is the perfect cause to help resurrect their public images, they hit the road with Angie (Kidman) and Trent (Rannells), another pair of cynical actors looking for a professional lift. But when their self-absorbed celebrity activism unexpectedly backfires, the foursome finds their own lives upended as they rally to give Emma a night where she can truly celebrate who she is.

The Prom is a film adaptation of a 2018 award-winning, Tony-nominated Broadway musical. The film is directed by Ryan Murphy (Hollywood) with a screenplay by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin.

Watch the trailer below. Avaialble on Netflix December 11, 2020.

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Eddie Murphy’s ‘Coming 2 America’ Set To Land on Amazon Prime

The highly anticipated sequel to Eddie Murphy’s 90’s classic has found a home. Variety reported that Coming 2 America‘s distributor Paramount Pictures is in the process of selling it to Amazon Studios for $125 million.

The original Coming to America, which came out in 1988 and grossed nearly $300 million at the worldwide box office, featured Murphy as the single African prince Akeem, who traveled to Queen in New York City to escape an arranged marriage and find real love. The brilliant cast included Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Shari Headley and John Amos. All of them have reportedly reprised their roles in the sequel.

In Coming 2 America, Prince Akeem is set to become king of the fictional country of Zamunda when he discovers he has a son he never knew about in America — a street-savvy Queens native named Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler). To honor the former king’s dying wish to groom his grandson as the crown prince, Akeem and Semmi travel to America again. The supporting cast includes Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, Kiki Layne and Wesley Snipes.

The expected streaming premiere date is December 18.

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Film

‘Come Away’: Watch David Oyelowo, Anna Chancellor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Angelina Jolie in The New Trailer

Starring NAACP Image Award winner David Oyelowo and Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie, this imaginative origin story follows two of the most beloved characters in literature – Peter Pan (played by Jordan A. Nash), Alice in Wonderland (Keira Chansa), joined by their older sibling David (Reece Yates) as they let their imaginations run wild one blissful summer in the English countryside.

Encouraged by their parents Jack and Rose (Oyelowo and Jolie), the kids’ make-believe tea parties, sword fights and pirate ship adventures come to an abrupt end when tragedy strikes. Peter, eager to prove himself a hero to his grief-stricken and financially-struggling parents, journeys with Alice to London, where they try to sell a treasured heirloom to the sinister pawnshop owner known as C.J. (David Gyasi). Returning home, Alice seeks temporary refuge in a wondrous rabbit hole while Peter permanently escapes reality by entering a magical realm as leader of the “Lost Boys.”

The upcoming fantasy drama is directed by Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt) and written by Marissa Kate Goodhill.

Come Away is scheduled to premiere on November 13, 2020 in theaters and on demand. Check out the official trailer above.

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