Actor Courtney B. Vance: ‘Lucky Guy’ or ‘Relentless Guy’

Detroit --- On a particularly sun drenched Monday morning in Detroit, the planets aligned and I returned to my high school alma mater to connect with former classmate, acting great and all-around "nice guy" Courtney Vance. The consummate actor traveled to Detroit to address students at Detroit Country Day School regarding his journey to success, his inspiration and his hopes for them. Vance was, however, unaware of the surprise honor they had in store for him, that he would be the recipient of DCDS' first Courtney B.Vance Performing Arts Award.

But what I and everyone else heard in Country Day's elegant state of the art Performing Arts Center was an eloquent and impassioned discourse on the importance of "getting back to basics."

I encountered Vance walking the halls of his high school alma mater, holding his mother's hand, not in the way a child does, but as a man does, gently and confidently leading her along the hallowed halls of what had become professional and personal memory lane. The irony was not lost on anyone who witnessed that poignant moment.

Vance, who has worked with such industry giants as James Earl Jones, Denzel Washington, and Whitney Houston, turned and caught sight of me as we approached our favorite English teacher, Mrs. Hannett's classroom. With a booming and familiar laugh he opened his arms; we embraced and reminisced briefly about the years we spent at one of the country's most prestigious academic institutions.

Vance worked through the exhaustion of eight weekly Broadway performances, then traveled to Detroit from New York where I had spoken with him a few days earlier about his role in the Broadway production of the hit play, Lucky Guy.

Having seen Vance perform in so many big and small screen hits, including Hamburger Hill, The Preacher's Wife, etc., I joked that he owed me $1,350. When he asked why, I admitted that I had become such a fan of what had become television gold, "Law and Order," and his role of Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver, that I downloaded countless hours of the show from Netflix and exceeded my Wi-Fi card limit by 135 megabytes. "We really got you, didn't we Roz," he shot back with a smile, and having gotten that off my chest, we immersed ourselves in the interview.

When you consider your entire body of work, which of your performances comes to mind?
It would have to be Fences and Hamburger Hill, because that was my first (hit movie), along with The Preacher's Wife and the show I'm doing now, Lucky Guy. I was blessed to get two wonderful theatrical productions on Broadway, Fences and Six Degrees of Separation, which I ran in for over a year in both of them but to get a third go-round typically just doesn't happen. Imagine working with George C. Wolfe coupled with getting 14 actors together in such a complex play, and doing it without the late playwright Nora Ephron is nothing short of a tour de force.

How do you decide on what roles you want to go after?
I look for role's that challenge me, andI consider whether it is something that I and my family will be proud of? Will my family be proud to watch the work and will it challenge me. In this case [The Lucky Guy] it was the opportunity to work with Nora Ephron and Tom Hanks and George C. Wolfe; if the three of them are involved, I am in it. George is a taskmaster, and we are all exhausted, but exhilarated. He is relentless because his vision is so big.

If you had not become an actor, what would you have done instead?
Probably work at General Motors in some sort of business development capacity. I worked summers there in the World HQ and ... the worldwide head of purchasing for GM, Robert Stone, and his boss took me under their wing. They were about to send me to business school when I found theater. In fact, they offered me a job that summer which I turned down because I was going to participate in an acting workshop. Then I told my parents what I had done. ... Years later that same head of purchasing, and his wife, came all the way from Switzerland and saw me on stage in Fences. ... Later he and I wept backstage because he had essentially saved me that summer ... it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

What are you proudest of in your career?
My body of work. My kids can watch it and feel good about it. ... People just embrace me and my wife [Angela Bassett] for our body and of work, and we haven't compromised who we are. That means that we save our money and we have to wait sometimes. ... I haven't been on Broadway in 20 years, and then this came along at the right time when my children are older, they are seven now, and they are old enough that I can be away from them for a time. ... when they were younger I couldn't commit to six months of being in New York. I am most proud of the way we have crafted our careers and our lives.


Lucky Guy dramatizes the story of tabloid columnist Mike McAlary's meteoric rise, fall and rise again, ending with his coverage of the Abner Louima case for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, shortly before his untimely death on Christmas Day, 1998.

The Voice top 12 includes two Memphians

voices-400The talent that comes from Memphis never ceases to prevail.

Memphians Kris Thomas and Sarah Simmons both performed on the LIVE show of NBC's The Voice last night, and they both made it through to the Top 12. Kris was voted through, and Sarah was about to be sent back home to Memphis. At the very last moment, when the credits started to roll, Adam Levin said, "I have to save Sarah!"

On Tuesday night's show, Kris soulfully performed Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World, and Sarah performed The Rolling Stone's Wild Horses.


Justin Timberlake announces world tour

JT-600Justin Timberlake is suiting up for a world tour this fall.

The "Mirrors" singer has announced that in addition to releasing a second half of "The 20/20 Experience," he's also going to embark on a tour that will last through 2014.

Timberlake hinted around the March release of "Experience" that the 10-track disc was actually only the first half of his heralded return to music. The 32-year-old has since confirmed that 10 additional tracks will arrive on September 30, roughly a month before he kicks off his tour in Montreal on October 31.


Craig Robinson breaks out with romantic lead in 'Peeples'

peeples02-600Craig Robinson said it wasn't hard to get him to sign on for the new film "Peeples" once he heard one phrase in particular.

"They said something about spanking Kerry Washington and I was like, 'OK," the actor told CNN.

Robinson, who many will recognize from his role of Darryl Philbin on NBC's "The Office" and Nick in "Hot Tub Time Machine," takes a star turn in the new romantic comedy.


Dating advice from Chris Brown and Rihanna

Rihanna-n-Chris-600Chris Brown and Rihanna have gone from publicly canoodling to tweeting about the harsh reality of romance in less than three months.

In February, the two were seen happily sitting together in the audience at the 2013 Grammys, confirming weeks of speculation that they were once again, at the very least, pretty friendly. Shortly before, Rihanna explained to Rolling Stone that she and Brown had repaired their relationship after he assaulted her in 2009.

Since then, onlookers have had a hard time keeping track of their relationship status.


Education, says actor Lamman Rucker, is ‘a big part of who I am’

L-Rucker-600Actor ("All of Us," "Half and Half," "Why Did I Get Married?" and "Meet the Browns"), sex symbol and entrepreneur, Lamman Rucker, visited Memphis on Friday, May 3, in conjunction with Teach for America Week, supported and sponsored by FedEx.

He sat down at Clear Channel Media studios with TSD President and Publisher Bernal E. Smith II to share his passion for education, his affinity for Memphis and words of wisdom to younger generations, among other things.

Following the interview, Rucker spoke at Overton High School, where the listeners included FedEx executives, who spent the day at Overton as guest teachers – another element of Teach for America Week.


Kerry Washington: ‘I’m the luckiest broad in Hollywood’

KerryWashington-400Kerry Washington has long been a star on the big screen, but with ABC's "Scandal" she's now also one of the hottest stars on TV.

The 36-year-old is reveling in her moment, as she tells Elle magazine in its June issue that she's "the luckiest broad in Hollywood now."

"To be the lead actor on 'Scandal' and to be in the highest-earning (Quentin) Tarantino movie ('Django Unchained'), I don't get to ask for more."


Kam’s Kapsules: Weekly previews - 05/10/2013

Peeples-poster-400For movies opening May 10, 2013


"Peeples" (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and drug use) Tyler Perry produced this kitchen sink comedy about a social climber (Craig Robinson) who shows up unannounced at his girlfriend's (Kerry Washington) family's summer home in Sag Harbor to ask her uptight father (David Alan Grier) for her hand in marriage. Supporting cast includes S. Epatha Merkerson, Tyler James Ferguson, Kali Hawk, Diahann Carroll and Melvin Van Peebles.


Is this the last go-round for Iron Man?

Iron-Man-3-400WHAT'S HAPPENING MYRON? This weekend I went out to see "Iron Man 3." I usually don't make plans to go see movies such as this, it just sort of happens when you have kids. That accounts for how I've sat through versions 1 and 2.

However, after nearly two hours of non-stop action, a ton of overpriced concessions and a restless two year old, I must say that I wasn't disappointed at all.

Without giving up the plot or ending, this particular installment of the "Iron Man" series to be sort of a wrap-up, as if there won't be an "Iron Man 4." But of course we all know better, huh?


Music Fest had Memphis jumping

Flavor-Flave-600Memphis In May is upon us, and so is the wet Memphis weather, turning it into Memphis in MUD! But that didn't dampen the spirits of the thousands who attended the music festival. Big Boi (former member of Grammy Award winning Outkast.) took me back by singing songs like Hey Ya, and Players Ball. He had the crowd dancing and singing the to his hit songs.

The legendary Mavis Staples, who put on a stellar show, spoke about her dad, Pop Staples, and how he influenced her career. She is a considered a Memphian although she is from Chicago because her group, the Staple Singers, are part of the Stax family here in Memphis. She sang her songs and hits like I Take You There by the Staple singers. A favorite from Saturday's performances would have to be the Roots. The message they give and that funky Jazz style they have makes you want to follow them no matter where they are touring. The Roots have won a lot of Grammys with their smooth style.


Competition for BET is good news for TV viewers

Myron-Mays-160WHAT'S HAPPENING MYRON?: Four cable networks broadcast directly to the African-American community as of today – BET, TV One, Aspire and Centric. More are on the way.

Could Bob Johnson have imagined this when he started BET way back in 1981? Maybe, but I say probably not. However, as society changes, so do viewing habits and choice of content.

For years, BET was the central source of programming for content geared toward the African-American community. It was once the only entity of its kind fully owned by an African American. Things changed in 2005 when Johnson sold the company for a cool $3 billion. Yes that was BILLION with a "B".


Wooddale student wins Congressional Art Competition

JayWilliamsArt-600"The Rhythm of Memphis" is headed for a one-year run in the Cannon Tunnel in the U.S. Capitol.

The artwork is the handiwork of Jay Williams, a 17-year-old senior at Wooddale High School. On Tuesday (April 30), Williams emerged as the winner of the 2013 Congressional Art Competition.

"Jay Williams' artwork embodies the culture of Memphis," said Congressman Steve Cohen, who announced Williams' selection.


Anthony Mackie: The ‘Pain & Gain’ interview

PG-33-600Anthony Mackie was discovered after receiving rave reviews for playing Tupac Shakur in the off-Broadway play "Up Against the Wind." He's established himself as a solid on-broadway performer and has pocketed an impressive film career.

For Mackie, 2013 is proving very productive, with the horror thriller "Vipaka," the coming of age drama "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," the crime thriller "Runner, Runner" and "Bolden" being among his offerings. Here, he talks about his new movie, "Pain & Gain," a fact-based crime comedy co-starring Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg.