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Film & Television

“Little Fires Everywhere”: Episodes 1-3 Recap

BY KIMBERLY JONES

Little Fires Everywhere is based on a novel written by Celeste Ng that follows the lives of residents in the suburbs of Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 90s. Bill and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon and Joshua Jackson) are longtime residents of the community and are the parents of 4 teenagers who are all on the path to self-discovery. The Richardson’s have a tight family unit and are doing their best to raise healthy, ambitious, generous and well-rounded children. Elena is having a hard time with her younger daughter Izzy (Megan Stott) who is clearly going through a rebellious stage so the two of them are in constant disagreement.

Elena is a suburban upper-class mom who is pretty uptight and wants control of her family and her image. She seems to have the Richardson kids’ lives already planned out for their successful future. Elena is a perfectionist, a quality that doesn’t really work in her favor with her kids because she’s judgmental and intimidating. The family inherited a rental property and that is when she meets single mother Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and her intelligent teenage daughter Pearl Warren (Lexi Underwood). Mia a traveling artist and her daughter have been living in their car and responded to an ad for Elena’s rental. Upon their first meeting, Mia has her guard up with Elena and there is tension between the two. Mia is put off by Elena’s invasive and privileged tone during their first conversation.

Little Fires Everywhere — “Seeds and All” – Episode 102 – (Photo by: Erin Simkin/Hulu)

Elena seems totally unaware of how uncomfortable and unwelcome this makes Mia. Despite their
bumpy start the Warren’s move into the rental property. Pearl immediately adapts to her new environment after she meets Moody, one of Richardson’s sons (Gavin Lewis). The two teenagers are attracted to each other and start spending a lot of time together. Hanging out with the Richardsons somewhat opens Pearl’s eyes to a whole new world. Although there are racial and economic differences between their two worlds, the teenagers still develop a friendship. Pearl also learns that she and Elena have a common interest – writing and journalism. Mia doesn’t approve of Pearl’s friendly relationships with the Richardsons but doesn’t express this to her daughter immediately.

The series takes a deep dive into classism and racism. For instance, Pearl, after spending more time with the Richardsons, realizes just how underprivileged her life has been. She has had to constantly move around. Because of her mother, she has never really had a nice stable place to live, she has never met her father and her school counselor won’t consider placing her in the correct math class at her new school because of her race. Instead of taking her mother Mia’s advice on standing up to her counselor, Pearl asks Elena for help to get enrolled in the correct math class. After a quick conversation with the counselor, Elena (much thanks to her race and status) easily gets Pearl in. When Mia starts working for the Richardsons as their “house manager”, Pearl seems to be surprised, ashamed and uncomfortable that her black mom is now working for this white family that she is trying to build new relationships with. This only further magnifies the differences between the two families. After Mia becomes Elena’s house manager, the two of them get to know each other a little better. Mia, however, is still very guarded with the new family and keeps her distance.

Little Fires Everywhere (Photo by: Hulu)

At the end of the three-episode premiere, Mia remains a mystery. Even in her relationship with her daughter Pearl, she is keeping a secret. Pearl has never met her father and her mother refuses to identify him. This is extremely frustrating for Pearl and leaves audiences wondering what exactly is Mia hiding?

Mia is not the only one with secrets. Each character is hiding something and those secrets have yet to come to light. The suspense of how the stories unfold makes the audience crave more. Little Fires Everywhere is a captivating, stimulating drama with an amazing cast that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. New episodes are available every Wednesday on Hulu.

Film & Television

Dominique Fishback Talks ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ and the Importance of Personal Alignment

by Betti Halsell

Creativity comes from within. Rising actress and writer Dominique Fishback is relishing in her newfound space of alignment. Her performances have shown the depth of her manifestations. During our conversation, the New York native shared a personal view of her journey blossoming in the entertainment industry, and explained how what one may internalize, eventually manifests externally. 

“Everybody is super excited about the movie…” Fishback said she received overwhelming support for her role as Deborah Johnson in recently released Judas and the Black Messiah

The movie is a historical drama based on the life of Black Panther leader of the Illinois Chapter, Chairman Fred Hampton. Fishback plays a distinguished character, his fiance and fellow activist, highlighting the significance of Black women involved in the dawning of the civil rights movement.

During the press release of the film, Johnson also known as Mother Akua sat with Fishback and gave her deep praise for the uncanny portrayal. The actress looked back to that day of acknowledgment and said, “…It was a complete love fest that we had and I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening–since I was in college learning about the Black Panther party, I always cared and I always held them in high regard…” She went to explain her personal embodiment of the organization and what they stand for. 

Dominique Fishback and Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

As Fishback swims deeper into her acting range, the people around her continue to show genuine support. She shared a story of her loved ones pouring into her after a private screening of the movie. One moment that stuck out to her was when her friend noted that the rising star is always present in all of the roles that she takes on. 

The actress also shows her creativity through her writing, she spoke about her one woman play titled Subverted, her thesis project to graduate from Pace University. The playwright talked about the diversity within her classroom or the lack thereof – she was usually the only Black person. This caused a lack of understanding from her peers. Rearing into a debate that broke out in one of her sociology classes, a student said if Black men wore “normal clothes” they wouldn’t get stopped by the police. This sparked the 22-character role Fishback took on with the mission to widen the perspective among the narrow minds, like the one she encountered in her class. 

With all the resources offered at her university, the final production got great feedback and with her first debut she was able to pack up a theatre during a movie festival. Subverted is looking to be brought to a grander audience, to voice a wider perspective for everyone to hear. 

Fishback touched on the frustrations of being a creative soul going through life and watching others achieve their dreams, while still being on ground zero of one’s career. In a Facebook post from ten years ago, she recalls describing her stress of watching people in previews, when she wanted to be there. Now in retrospect, she talks about the power of alignment and what it means to be in full control of one’s destiny. 

“God could’ve given it to me sooner, but I wasn’t in the place for it.” She went on to elaborate on the need for personal growth and self-examination of the energy that’s surrounding one’s life, “… I’m thankful for learning how to remove ego, and appreciate things a little bit more.” 

God could’ve given it to me sooner, but I wasn’t in the place for it

The actress discussed her gift for gratitude and always staying humble through her faith, “…I feel like inside, I have happiness and the outside is matching.” She also reflected on her mental state before she focused on her greater alignment to life, “I would book something and it would be an amazing opportunity, but I would still be sad.” She described sitting with herself and those feelings, asking herself why–why she felt sad even when she seemingly was on the right path. 

Fishback unearthed the complexities of her journey through meditation, journaling, and reflecting. That is when she realized the process is just as important as the reward. She gives herself the time to meditate and find what she needs to bring out from within. Watch Fishback in Judas and the Black Messiah, now streaming on HBO Max. 

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Film & Television

Sneak Peek At “The Proud Family” Reboot Characters

It’s been a year since Disney shared the first official look at the concept art for The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder — the reboot of the network’s fan-favorite animated series, The Proud Family.

Today, we share a sneak peek at how the beloved characters will look like.

Most of the original cast will reprise their roles, including Kyla Pratt as Penny, Tommy Davidson as Oscar, Paula Jai Parker as Trudy, JoMarie Payton as Suga Mama, Cedric the Entertainer as Uncle Bobby, Alisa Reyes as LaCienega, Carlos Mencia as Felix Boulevardez, Maria Canals-Barrera as Sunset, Karen Malina White as Dijonay, and Soleil Moon Frye as Zoey.

Due to the reboot still being in production, no premiere date has been set yet. But now that we got the first look, we cannot wait to find out if the iconic theme song by Solange Knowles and Destiny’s Child will make a comeback as well!

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Film & Television

‘The United States Vs. Billie Holiday’ Review

by Betti Halsell

In The United States Vs. Billie Holiday the audience is thrown into a war zone. Viewers stare at the social terrain with world-renowned Jazz legend Billie Holiday, as she climbs through trenches of trauma, addiction, love, betrayal, and corruption, ultimately leaving some of her best men behind.

Holiday, played by Andra Day, encapsulated the current state of events happening to Black Americans with a simple string of verses over a solemn melody. Her song Strange Fruit paints a vivid picture of events that took place during her time – lynchings in the 1930’s that were happening with no reprimand. The melancholic melody still hits home today, as if America is still singing the same song, with a different tune.

Holiday bellowed with her smoldering voice,

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”

The recording and performance of Strange Fruit stood out like a thorn protruding from the rosey lens the rest of America looked through, causing a problem for those in “high places”. So they created a suffocating smoke around the singer’s life, following her to her final resting place.

The movie focuses on the unsolicited surveillance from federal and local law enforcement because of the pressure that came with the iconic song. It touches on a reoccurring theme happening in newly released biographic films, uncovering people within the Black community supplying incriminating intel to the federal government.

Andra Day as Billie Holiday|The United States vs Billie Holiday, HULU

This confirms the involvement of federal sources, but also the lack of trust happening within the collective community. The film was as explicit as the song itself, telling an unbiased truth of an Artist caught in a war that went far beyond her talent.

Directed by Lee Daniels and written by Pulitzer prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks and Johann Harri, the movie depicts Holiday as an undeniable force – she was feminine and sensual, yet she held a sense of masculine ownership over her life. Although the 1900s were set in gender roles and confined social placement, Holiday was outspoken and knew she had a level of power. The salute to her self-awareness may have beckoned from her childhood. The film exposed Holiday’s early surroundings, which included the power in sexuality and a sense of liberty for women when she was young.

However, there are two sides to every coin. The trauma in her childhood may have given her the soul that is found in her voice and a sense of empowerment, but it also left her damaged. The movie captured her dependency on strong stimulants, to mange her mental state. The singer’s upbringing left her without a true vision of her reflection. The feature focused on nostalgic transitions and captured an unfiltered story of Holiday’s flaws as a friend and lover.

Andra Day as Billie Holiday and Trevante Rhodes as Jimmy Fletcher |The United States vs Billie Holiday, HULU

In The United States vs Billie Holiday, Day is joined by Trevante Rhodes (Birdbox) who played Jimmy Fletcher, the first Black FBN agent and Garrett Hedlund (Four Brothers) as Harry Aslinger, Chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Rendering the critiques from Rotten Tomatoes, the story was labeled “sloppy” and “over-characterized.” However, most of those inferential opinions came from predominantly White men. This leaves the opportunity that they may have been missed; the concept of struggle in being a Black woman, while fighting multiple layers of internal and external battles and combating different perspectives of self-worth.

America is still singing about the strange fruit that holds a rotten core, the Anti-lynching Bill was passed last year. A back-breaking victory, countless marches, too many lives lost, all for roughly 100 years of “consideration.”

The strange fruit from those times left seeds, a new harvest of injustice is ripening. Thanks to Holiday’s strong will to keep performing the truth, others have joined the choir for change. The nation is still singing about the obscurities found in racism. It’s all the same song, just a different tune. Stream The United States Vs. Billie Holiday on Hulu starting February 26.

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