New York Women in Film and Television Black Actresses on Screen Panel

NYWiFT PanelPanelists: (l-r) Ylana Kellar (moderator), Chenoa Maxwell, Sharon Hope, Neema Barnette, Rachel Watanabe-Batton (r on screen) Julie Dash (l on screen)

Last week, I was blessed to have been able to attend a NYWiFT Panel on the current state of black women on screen at Harlem venue My Image Studios (MiST). It was very inspiring and I got to watch Scandal afterwards with a room full of Gladiators. It was pretty amazing. Here are some of the questions and responses below (featuring general essence of their answers, with direct quotes from my notes).

The panelists for the evening were: Neema Barnette, Julie Dash, Sharon Hope, Chenoa Maxwell, and Rachel Watanabe-Batton with Ylana Kellar as the moderator. You can google them and check out their work like I have been. They’ve all been working in Hollywood trying to get the stories of black women told in the right ways and the things they had to say were very inspiring for all future black artists: whether actors, writers, directors, producers, any kind of black content creator.

The questions and answers are below as slides, click one and read through! These ladies were really inspirational and it was great to just be in a room with other like-minded people. Hopefully the roles portrayed by black actresses will continue to expand in number and in character dimension.

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ConStar Watches Scandal: “A Door Marked Exit”

Scandal Midseason Finale Preview: What To Expect From 'A Door Marked Exit' image

[Apologies for no post for last week’s episode, I had some other stuff distracting my brain, making me unable to write a post][This might be my longest Scandal post yet!]

Last night’s Scandal Winter Finale left me at a peak during Papa Pope’s EPIC speech (which I will of course get to later, probably in the most detail of any other plot point) and then kind of rolled down to the end of a roller-coaster. The end wasn’t shocking like last week’s (though that’s typical of a penultimate episode–a shocker ending to get you into the finale) but neither did the episode really have those BIG moments we expect from Shondaland. Last season’s mid-season finale was the Defiance arc–those five major moments in that episode: from Cyrus almost getting James sniped, to Fitz killing Verna–but we didn’t get nay moments that big. Some jobs switched around, and Mama Pope came back (which is not really a surprise), and ugh Quinn. Nothing really big happened, so I was left a tad disappointed. But perhaps it’s better this way! We don’t get another episode until February 27 (which is basically March), so I’m kind of glad this was an episode that wouldn’t have me going through MAJOR Scandal withdrawal. Just minor withdrawal will happen now. 😉

Starting with the Sally/Cyrus arc, as the episode does, I really enjoyed the direction of the fight at the beginning of the episode: the fight overlapping quiet moments of introspection between them. I don’t know that I am sold that Sally would kill him in this moment–he merely threatens to leave her and tell her story on national TV? I am not sold that that would be the push to send her over.

“The devil came in.”

Cyrus seeing that his actions have negative consequences if very important. Usually, his awful actions have no negative consequences for him; but now it’s affected his marriage and killed a man (hope you weren’t eating during the vomit shot).

“Give me your sin. Let me clean this up.”

Quinn needs to get her life together. She needs to pick a side and stick with it. She’s a gladiator, then she betrays them, then she agrees to kill Command for Huck, then can’t do it so she takes her tracker out and sticks with Charlie, then in middle of the night goes BACK to OPA, and is SURPRISED when she is rejected! Then back to B6-13. SMH. GET IT TOGETHER GIRL.

Fitz really wants to be in charge. He tries to use his power to control Rowan and gets in a tizzy when it backfires. So he calls up Jake to take over B6-13. I don’t understand how this happened. Rowan constantly says that B6-13 is above the president, so how does Fitz have the power to have him removed? Has Rowan been wrong this whole time? And Fitz allowing that power dynamic to seem like it’s out of his favor until this moment? Or did he call someone else to have that change made? I don’t get it. And choosing Jake? That’s going to go sour real quick, since they have rival affections for the same woman. What will Jake do with this position? I feel like he would have to eventually make the same choices Rowan did, the choices that he and Huck are scarred over. There must be more to Jake accepting this position; does he plan to destroy B6-13 with his new power? Or will he eventually put Charlie/Quinn in the hole like he was?

Now onto the Fitz/Rowan scene. As I mentioned before, Fitz is trying so hard to play grown. He decides to rub it in Rowan’s face that he is sleeping with his daughter. That’s never a good idea, fool, regardless of whose father you are speaking to.

“Here’s the thing about power, Rowan. It’s always hard to accept when you’ve lost it.” “But you realize you never had any at all.”

Fitz clearly takes this as a challenge. But then why hasn’t he done anything about Rowan before all of this?? If he had the power to do anything about it, it should’ve been done. And Fitz clearly isn’t the type to do anything unless prompted. He didn’t want to get into politics but he was prompted by Mellie and challenged by his father. Just recently, Cyrus questioned his balls, so Fitz made a counter-move to say “How presidential are my balls now, Cy?” He only did what he did in response to someone calling him out on how weak he is. All the signs of a “boy,” as Rowan says.

Watch the moment when Fitz tells Rowan about him and Olivia. The direction is brilliant here: Rowan in the chair, center of the screen coming at him from below, with Fitz dominating the left half of the screen behind him. The angle makes him look large as he hovers over Rowan to tell him about Liv. Fitz wants to have the power, but Rowan out plays him in this moment.

Rowan calling Fitz a “boy” has so many levels. Obviously, one is that it’s true. Fitz has suffered from his father’s influence on him, as well as his wealthy status, and in turn has never grown up. He gets things handed to him, but throws a fit when he finds out about it. But not enough to do anything on his own.

But Rowan calling Fitz “boy” also has some historical connotations as well. To have a black man call a white man [who is in power, but that wasn’t even usually the case] “boy” speaks to centuries of racism. Rowan’s character is probably the most racial context we’ve gotten on this show, between this moment and his “you have to work twice as hard” speech from the premiere.

“For you, it’s always summertime and the living is easy and daddy is rich and your momma’s good looking!”

Excellent delivery of this well known lyric. Really, the whole scene is fantastically executed. Joe Morton wasn’t playing around when he delivered these lines, and that’s all while being tied down in a chair. I don’t know if Season 3 is eligible for any of those TV awards, but I really hope Joe Morton gets some sort of recognition for this role, because right now, he’s the most interesting character on the show for me.

“You have everything handed to you on a silver platter and you squander it!”

Someone on twitter mentioned that this monologue should be every black actor’s audition piece. It really is fantastically performed.

“So you decided the one thing you wanted was my daughter. My child. Mine. What I made. What I created.”

It’s a problem that they are talking about Olivia like she has no autonomy of her own, but that’s built into these characters. They are both characters who possess things. Fitz has things handed to him, Rowan works for them, but they are both still men who believe they deserve power and the things that come with power.

“You love that she is a door marked exit.”

This has been it from day one. Fitz wanted to get caught with Olivia, he’s the one who leaked her name. He built a house in the country they could never live in, they talk about making jam, he constantly wants to run away with her. He is, as Rowan says, using her to fuel his escape fantasies from this life that was 1. handed to him 2. designed by his father.

“She is always going to be the formidable Olivia Pope.”

Said right after he says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Papa makes Olivia formidable, so he can imply he is even greater than that.

“Don’t use the person that I made to make you into a man. You are a boy.”

“You disappoint me as a suitor for my daughter’s hand.”

I was lightheaded from that speech. It was so well delivered and hit some great points about Fitz and Liv’s relationships.

After this moment, the episode left me kind of meh. Mellie is ruthless, Quinn is dumb and can’t pick a side, James wants to file charges against Sally or Cyrus, Maya used Rowan to kill 300+ people… for fun? As an act of terror that lies on the side of the government rather than a terror organization? Rowan is released but then fired as Command in favor of Jake. James decides to stay with Cyrus and play some power games of his own to get White House Press Secretary. Leo, Sally’s wanna be Chief of Staff, also doesn’t bat an eye to Sally murdering her husband, he wishes he’d been called. Definitely Cyrus-light. Rowan continues to evade Olivia’s questions, but I’m not sure why at the moment.

And Maya escapes from the plane only to still be in DC, looking like Olivia Pope’s mother (hair, fly jacket, GLOVES), outside the White House with her burner phone. What is she planning? Has she already done it? Is she going after Rowan? What has she been planning for the last 20+ years? But I couldn’t help but feel this moment wasn’t enough for what we expect to end on in a Shondaland episode. But like I said earlier, it’s for the best, so that my withdrawal isn’t as strong.

Oh, another moment that I loved was the one between Eli and Olivia. When Liv lip quivers and realizes the truth in front of her dad, he doesn’t even move. but his acting is still impeccable?! How does he do it? He literally just stares into space, but you can see his jaw clench and the tears in his eyes and that speaks so much. So much about his love for his daughter, which I’ve seen all along, and about being played by his wife, and the effects his job has on other people and himself. Maybe he needs this break from being command.

ALSO, when Eli flashes back to the night Maya “dies,” we see him crying in front of the TV. We’ve been showed this before and assumed it was because he loved his wife. But now we see that it was because of all those people he had to shoot down. When he said in the last episode that he got no pleasure in taking a life, we scoffed, but deep down, it’s true. He didn’t cry for Maya (or perhaps he cried for knowing she betrayed him all those years), but he cried for the plane crash victims and he cried for what he was about to do to Olivia. Again, Eli/Rowan/Papa Pope is (clearly) my favorite character and it’s moments like these that cement that opinion.

Other things:

“Your father, he is not our hero. He is our demon.”

“You’re not a gladiator anymore.”

“I’ll see you real soon.” –> Shonda’s words to us fans.

I can’t wait to see how they continue to hide Kerry’s Washington’s pregnancy!

We won’t get another episode until February 27, so hang in there, gladiators! We can do this! If anything, we’ll still make Scandal trend on Twitter on Thursdays.

See you real soon, gladiators!

My Inbox on Scandal Night

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 11.27.14 PM

I’m working on the blog post for tonight’s episode of Scandal (and also trying to use the left over energy to twist my hair), but just to tide us over until I can get my thoughts together, here’s a look at my Gmail Social Media inbox on Scandal night… It gets pretty crazy. I never have this much social media interaction lol I love the discussion and humor that twitter brings to the Scandal party. It really makes watching fun (and sometimes hard), but gets people theorizing and sharing jokes. I love it.

I bet everyone’s mentions and social media interaction is going to skyrocket for the Winter Finale in 2 weeks. We’re not ready, I just know it.

If you recognize your twitter handle there, hi! I love tweeting with you on Shondaland Thursday!

Oh, looks like I just got another notification! lol

ConStar Watches Scandal “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

I was hoping Scandal season 3 would be good; I wasn’t expecting it to be THIS good! I don’t even know where to begin!!! I’ll try to organize my thoughts to make it easier to read! (but it’s shorter than last weeks, actually! Surprised me!)

Quotes

“I can kill a man with very little effort and a lot of joy but I try not to.”

“You’re evil.” “You’re welcome.”

“I am your father. So I’m going to explain to you how to behave in my presence. You do not ask questions that you can’t handle the answer to. You do not make judgements about things you cannot imagine. You don’t know me that way, you don’t ever want to know me that way; but if you push you will know me well and that would break my heart. Because I’m enjoying these Sunday dinners that you make me pay for. Now, you are on my dime, pick up your menu, order your meal, and tell me about your day.”

“How presidential are my balls now, Cy?”

“We are family, sweetie. We are never done.”

Questions

  • What exactly does (Eli? Rowan? Which is his name? I’ve seen cast members say Rowan, but his cover is Eli…?) he do for B6-13? Is he in charge? Or just one leader of others?
  • Some timeline qs: Liv’s mom dies, Papa Pope “grieves” and sends her away. Is it guilt because he had something to do with it? Or he gets deeper involved in B6-13 to exact revenge because of her death? Is his love for his family the softest thing about him?
  • Who were those muggers at Union Station? Could they be more than muggers? Or simply that plot device to show Liv Huck’s nature?

Thoughts

So I guess Liv is over Verna, huh? I thought in the finale, she said she didn’t know if she could continue knowing that he killed Verna. THOUGH, she DID ask, as someone on Twitter put it, “her main squeeze to find and save her side piece.” So maybe she’s just waiting it out until Jake comes back…?

We’re going to get just the pieces of what’s in the file every episode aren’t we? It will probably be an episode 13 reveal. There was so much in this episode but don’t think I’m going to forget that “Remington” detail Cyrus gave us. What’s in the file?! (also, Cyrus and Papa must have known each other 5 years ago, the way Papa Pope threw his name at Liv at dinner the way he did.)

The scenes with Papa Pope from 5 Years Ago. They were amazing. He went from this picture of a loving dad who was trying to make amends (and I am sure that it was true, as the confidence of his lies must have been based in truth to be so genuine) to showing Olivia the man he really is. I’m skipping ahead a bit but I canNOT believe he said “You don’t know me like that…”! When he flipped on her when she confronted him, I nearly died. No really, I couldn’t breath while he was talking and I started tearing up from crying. But he should have KNOWN she could figure it out: he’s paying for her law degree and she has his genes! Of course she’s going to find out! She’s Olivia Pope! But I guess he hadn’t seen her in so long and was trying so hard on the emotional side that he didn’t think about her logical side (which I’m sure she gets from him). But, as my friend said on Twitter, I wouldn’t walk away from my dad if I just found out he’s a killer. Choose life. And now we know why she broke it off with Edison in the past. They hold a lot of power over each other, those Popes.

Focusing on the Popes in the present: He just suddenly shows up at her office! Huck is there, but I guess, considering the ending, that they’ve never met before, even under B6-13. I guess he’s the shadowy figurehead that no one sees? I’m confused about his position. Is he the leader? Just a commander for one section? It’s interesting how easy it was for Olivia to negotiate getting Jake back. All it took was Sunday dinners again. I suppose we must believe that his interest in his daughter is genuine.

The scene in the office between them was great.

*smiling* “You need to leave.”

Those fake smiles between them for her co-workers was a genius move; I didn’t notice in the first few seconds that their smiles were for show, not until they shot from outside the room with no sound. Brilliant. And it’s so both of them. There are so many ways in which you see the similarities between them; because with as little time they spend together, they just know what to do together. Imagine if they were on the same side, the damage they could do; the power they would have.

Wine: Papa Pope introduces Liv to wine! He’s where her wine-only diet comes from! It makes you think, however, what her thoughts might have been in all those previous scenes with wine. Those scenes have deeper meaning now. Could she have been thinking of her father?

Fitz/Liv: I think Fitz has a bigger game for Liv and the public. He had a proud gleam in his eyes when she was fighting for Jeanine at the press conference. And he told her to “go for the jugular,” why?

Olivia wanted two things: The free Jeanine from the scandal and the free Jake. She tried to appeal to both Fitz and her Dad. No matter how she came at it, there was only ever one solution. Jeanine burns. She wanted Jake more than she wanted Jeanine free; she asked about him more.

Harrison: Harrison is coming to his wit’s end, I believe. The side-eye he gave her when she walks into her office when the interview is about to begin was quick but deep. And Black Girl Nerds on Twitter thought that there might have been a connection between Harrison and Papa Pope that they might have been suppressing. I ran with this idea, here it goes: Harrison is overly good to Olivia; what if he is doing so because he is trying to pull a Papa Pope card and make up for a transgression in the past that affected Olivia? (I always go back to the mother theory since we found out but it could be anything I guess). That’s why we haven’t gotten Harrison’s backstory yet, because he’s atoning for something in his past that directly affects Olivia. (I wonder if she knows about whatever it is and that’s why she kind of snubs him the way she does?)

Huck: FIRST OF ALL, I CAN’T BELIEVE HUCK TOUCHED LIV LIKE THAT! We know he’s crazy, but we all thought Liv was his center; his one person he wouldn’t ever mess with. But she lied to him and kept her dad from him. The person who ruined his life and put him in a hole and made him crazy. Poor Huck. (Though upon rewatch, he doesn’t go for her neck. He’s wringing her chin kind of loosely. But the move still did the damage it intended to.) Now Huck and Liv’s relationship is broken. Who knows if it can come back together. However, now that Jake is back, she is exchanging one Huck for another.

This episode has a lot of people playing someone’s weakness against them. Fitz uses Cyrus’ love of White House power in the scene before he does the press conference. Liv uses Fitz insecurities about the election to (try) to get him to choose her side in the Jeanine situation. Fitz uses the VP’s dislike of sexual immorality against her to get her to leave him alone when she confronts him about lying about Jeanine being the one (“I had Jeanine six ways to Sunday all over this White House…”). Papa uses Jake to try to convince Liv to burn Jeanine. Olivia uses Papa’s desire for Sunday dinner to get Jake released. I’m sure I’m missing more, but there were a lot of power plays used in this episode.

Other thoughts:

  • Didn’t Amanda Tanner get kidnapped from Liv’s house and then murdered?! Liv, don’t leave that girl in your house!
  • Olivia is on the phone, Fitz kicks everyone out the room. ON THE PHONE lol
  • David Rosen’s goatee lol.
  • Ohh that’s why she gave the ring back to Edison the first time! But she only accepts his proposal to blackmail her dad… so it wasn’t going to last anyway.
  • Olivia is flawless even in the middle of the night on her way to the morgue.
Only about 100 words shorter than last week! I surely thought I’d go longer! Thanks for reading!

ConStar Studies Scandal “It’s Handled”

How I felt watching most of the episode.

Season Three came out of the gate FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS! I’m still in shock from that premiere. *major spoilers below*

I’m rewatching the episode as I type to get some of his lines right. This episode was chock full of fantastic, fierce, and fiery one liners.

Key thoughts:

  • Joe Morton KILLED IT as Papa Pope. Act One was amazing. I basically wrote a dissertation below; lots of questions about him & his motivations.
  • I want to know what happened to Olivia’s mom and the plane crash. I have a feeling that will be important*[theory at the bottom]
  • Shonda did a great job of using dialogue to express character and relationships.
  • Fitz basically told us he leaked the name halfway through the episode.
  • Harrison is Liv’s champion and she (still) refuses him. I blame Papa Pope.

Quotes:

  • “I know more than  you could possibly imagine; about things of which you cannot possibly dream.”
  • “Just to be clear, I am the hell AND the high-water.”
  • “You have to be what?” “Twice as good.” “Twice as good as them to get half of what they have.”
  • “I am done with you and your superiority and your rudeness.”
  • “I am a monster, but honey, I’m your monster.”
  • “The White House will destroy you.” “That’s what mom used to tell me about you.”
  • “The time has come; I want it to come.”

Tl;dr under a read more cut, but just know I have a lot of thoughts. This is a long post. Continue reading