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userpicGina the Dreamer
Posted by Kam Williams

Gina Prince-Bythewood
The “Beyond the Lights” Interview
with Kam Williams


Born on June 10, 1969, Gina Maria Prince-Bythewood studied film at UCLA before beginning her career as a writer for the TV sitcom, “A Different World.” In 2000, she made a noteworthy directorial debut with the critically-acclaimed Love & Basketball, which netted a dozen accolades during awards season, including a couple of NAACP Image Awards, a BET Award and several Black Reel Awards.


Gina’s next feature was The Secret Life of Bees (2008), which also earned its share of trophies, including Image Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. Here, she talks about making her third movie, Beyond the Lights, a romance drama co-starring Gugu Mbata-Raw and Nate Parker.



Kam Williams: Hi Gina, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Gina Prince-Bythewood: Absolutely! Thank you, Kam.


KW: I have to start by asking: Why so long between films?

GPB: Well, I didn’t expect it to take this long. This one took a very long time. I started writing it in 2007. But I stopped to make The Secret Life of Bees, which took up a couple years, before coming back to this. Then, it was another four-year journey between the writing and setting it up. The project was turned down by everybody a couple times. I was fighting, fighting and fighting for it until BET and Relativity finally stepped up. 


KW: Beyond the Lights was obviously a labor of love. What was the source of your inspiration for the project?

GPB: A couple things. One, I knew I wanted to write a love story. And I’ve always wanted to write a music film. Some of my favorite films are musicals, like Walk the Line, The Rose and Lady Sings the Blues. I just love the way the music and the story fuel each other. I wanted to do that with Hip-Hop, since it had never been explored before. It was really marrying those two together. The next question was: What’s the story going to be? I was dealing with two things in my life at the time. Someone very close to me had tried to kill themselves, changed their mind halfway through, and was able to get themselves to the hospital, thankfully. Going through that with them, and researching suicide afterwards, I was amazed to learn that 60% of people who succeed at committing suicide try to change their mind. I thought that was a pretty important thing to explore. This character, Noni [played by Gugu Mbata-Raw], if she’d been successful on the balcony attempt, her life would’ve been over at that point. She could not see past all the pain she was feeling but, by having the second chance, she did get to change her life, find her voice and experience true love. I wanted to put out a movie that could let others in a similar position to take a chance know that there might be something positive past the pain. The other inspiration had to do with issues surrounding my finding my birth mother, who was white, and her not being the fantasy I expected, and my realizing what my life would’ve been if I’d grown up with her, in a home where I was loved and hated at the same time. Because I was black, her parents told her to abort me, and would not allow her to have me. I thought that was a fascinating thing to deal with, and served as the basis of Noni’s relationship with her mother [played by Minnie Driver].         


KW: So, who were you raised by?

GPB: I was adopted by two amazing people, a Salvadoran mother, and a white father who were incredibly supportive of me and my work. I am eternally grateful for them.


KW: Gee, I didn’t know any of that about you. This question is from Thelonious Legend. He says: I recently interviewed your husband [actor/writer/producer/director Reggie Rock Bythewood] and was very impressed with his passion for bringing diversity to film and with his using his talents for a cause bigger than himself. Do you ever feel a pressure from women or minority communities to “do the right thing,” and how does that influence your creative process?

GPB: I don’t feel any pressure because these are the stories I want to tell. People often ask me if I feel discriminated against as a black female director. I don’t. I’m actually offered a ton of stuff. But I only want to direct what I write. And I prefer to focus on black female characters. What’s most important to me is to put characters up onscreen who are not perfect, but who are human and flawed. 


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: I am a huge fan of Love & Basketball. I was just talking about the film the other day. The trailer for Beyond the Lights looks great, as well. She asks: Has your perspective of women’s struggle of career versus love changed over time?

GPB: [LOL] That’s a great question! Back then, as now, I want us to have it all, love and career. It’s a struggle sometime to achieve that, but I love the struggle.


KW: How did you come to cast Gugu in the lead? Did you feel like you were taking a big chance since she’s British and not a singer?

GPB: I found her in the auditions. My original plan was to go with a musical artist, but then I realized I needed an actress, given the depth of what her character goes through. She came in to audition two years ago, and she was phenomenal. I saw the movie when I watched her. She sang “Blackbird” as part of the audition, and she knocked that out of the park, too. After hearing her connection to the material, and her being raised by a single-mother, it became obvious that she was the one. It was a gut thing. I knew that she was a star. She just hadn’t been broken yet. That was exciting for me as a director, to be able to give her that opportunity. As far as Nate [co-star Nate Parker], I’d worked with him before on The Secret Life of Bees, and always felt like he was going to be the next Denzel. So, I’m really hoping that this is the breakout role for him, too. Once I put him and Gugu together, it was crystal clear that these two had amazing chemistry.


KW: I thought he also had great chemistry with Alicia Keys in The Secret Life of Bees. So, maybe you deserve a share of the credit for cultivating that between your leads.

GPB: Nate and I have a great trust with each other, and we had these live improvs on both pictures. I sent him and Alicia on a date in character that ended up lasting three hours and really connected them on such a deep level. With Beyond the Lights, we did a live improv early on in the process where I sent Nate and Gugu to a restaurant in character. I secretly told her not to take her sunglasses off. And I whispered to him to get her to take them off. They had no idea. I also hired about 30 paparazzi to show up and swarm all over her. They stayed in character and he protected her. The restaurant had no idea, either. They thought it was all real. That real-life experience bonded them throughout the shooting in a way that just rehearsing never would have.


KW: When I saw Love & Basketball, it was with an inner-city, all-black audience that yelled back at the screen. Did you get to see it that way?

GPB: Oh, my goodness! Yes, the very first time I played the film for an audience was at a mall in Crenshaw, so it was very scary. But once folks started talking to the screen, it was fun. It was great that the audience was that engaged.


KW: I included funny things people shouted out in my review. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

GPB: [Chuckles] Not really.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music have you been listening to? 

GPB: Beyonce’s “Drunken Love,” which came out right when I was in the middle of editing the film. I never thought I’d be able to afford it, so the fact that it ended up in the movie was such a shock to me.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

GPB: Gone Girl.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

GPB: Salmon with barbecue sauce.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

GPB: [LOL] Wow! I see a wife, a mom and a filmmaker.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

GPB: Honestly, happiness for my children.


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

GPB: I hate to fly. I’m deathly afraid of it. And I keep promising myself to take a fear of flying course because I have to fly around to promote each film, but I still haven’t done it.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

GPB: I’m much more comfortable at home.


KW: If you could have a chance to speak with a deceased love one for a minute who would it be?

GPB: Wow! I would say my Oma, my adoptive grandmother, who was Salvadoran but embraced me instantly despite my being black, and who encouraged my grandfather to follow suit.  


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

GPB: I remember standing up in a crib in an empty room. I think it was the first time my parents came to the orphanage to meet me.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

GPB: No, a classic is a classic for a reason. Let’s try to create new classics. The idea of repeating ourselves drives me a little crazy.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

GPB: Be passionate about your material, because you’re going to have to overcome a lot of “No’s,” and it’s that passion that fuels the fight. So, yeah, be passionate.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Gina. Best of luck with the film. Don’t take so long to make your next one. I look forward to speaking to you again in less than six years.

GPB: [LOL] Same here. Thank you very much, Kam. Take care.

To see a trailer for Beyond the Lights, visit:

userpicArcane, Urbane and Insane Bourdain
Posted by Kam Williams

Anthony Bourdain
The “Parts Unknown” Interview
with Kam Williams


Chef, author and world traveler Anthony Bourdain is an outspoken trailblazer with unique insights about food, culture and current events. Here, he talks about his life, career and his Peabody and Emmy-winning TV-series, Parts Unknown.  


Kam Williams: Hi Anthony, thanks for the interview. I love the show. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Anthony Bourdain: Oh no, my pleasure, Kam.


KW: Congratulations on the his Peabody and Emmys for Parts Unknown.

AB: Thank you. It feels good.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you. So, I’ll be mixing their questions for you in with my own. The first is from editor/Legist Patricia Turnier who is French Canadian. She says: You have French background and you’re fascinated with French cuisine. Do you speak the language?

AB: Yes, badly. But my French definitely improves the more I drink, as I worry less and less about absolutely perfect grammar. [Chuckles] I do speak and understand the language, just not particularly well.


KW: Patricia also asks: Did you spend any summers in France with your parents growing up?
AB: Just a few. Two or three. Three summers, I think.


KW: Patricia says: you are an excellent writer. What is the best advice you have for young writers about cultivating a unique writing style with a sophisticated voice like yours?

AB: Wow! That’s hard to say… I just don’t know… Be true to yourself. I write quickly with a sense of urgency. I don’t edit myself out of existence, meaning I’ll try to write 50 or 60 pages before I start rereading, revising and editing. That just helps with my confidence. I listen a lot to how people speak. I’ve read a great many good books in my life. I had some excellent English teachers. Surely, those things were helpful.   


KW: Besides your books, the show is extremely well-written. Do you have a hand in that?

AB: I write the voiceover as part of the editing process, some of it beforehand. Working with the producer, we’ll sort of hash out the flow of each show, the sequence of events, and the general framework. And maybe there will be some writing as well that they can edit to. But much of it is done afterwards. It’s a long and interactive process that takes about 9 to12 weeks sometimes, per show. So, a lot of attention is paid. I’m very aware that we’re telling a story here, and that we want to tell it in the most compelling, honest and accurate way we can.


KW: I’m not surprised to hear that you wear several different hats on the show, since you strike me as one of these versatile, multi-talents like David Byrne.

AB: I wouldn’t want to compare myself to David Byrne whom I consider a genius, but what I think what we have in common is that he’s also a guy who is very interested in the world and who has a lot of passions beyond singing and playing guitar. Clearly, if you track his career, you see a great many collaborations with interesting artists, and his work reflects whatever’s turning him on that year. In that sense, what a great way to live, if you could always do things that interest you, and do them with people who interest you.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: This is tough because you have already been asked everything from your worst meal ever [unwashed warthog rectum] to the most disgusting food you ever ate [McDonald’s]. Would you mind comparing McDonald’s to some of the wildest dishes you’ve sampled on the show?

AB: I think it’s very hard to make an argument that a Chicken McNugget is either chicken or a nugget? If you’re eating unwholesome, street food in a country where they have to make do with whatever scraps are left to them, at least you know what it is, and generally have some sense of where it came from. Whereas a McNugget, to my way of thinking, is a Frankenfood whose name doesn’t necessarily reflect what it is. I’m still not sure what it is. Listen, Kam, when drunk, I will eat a McNugget. It’s not the worst tasting thing in the world, but it’s one of the things I’m least likely to eat, because I choose not to.    


KW: Isn’t there beef in the Chicken McNugget’s bread crumbs?

AB: They use a beef flavor that they spray or somehow add. I think it’s in the French fries, as well. Manipulating flavor, salinity and sugar levels is an important part of convenience food, snack food and fast food.


KW: Lisa also asks: What does your daughter Ariane like to eat? Have you cooked together yet?

AB: We cook together all the time. And since her mom and grandparents are Italian, a little Italian gets snuck in. She eats like a European kid in the sense that she’s very daring. She eats raw oysters, chicken hearts and yakitori and other Japanese food. She’s very curious about food and isn’t afraid to try new things. She loves to cook with me, and I love cooking with her. When we do cook together, we generally make ratatouille and pastas. Simple things. She’s 7, so I have to monitor her knife work very carefully. But I just gave her her first chef’s knife. 


KW: when you’re in the middle of nowhere, do you ever hesitate before eating something alien, fearing a negative reaction that might call for emergency medical attention that’s too far away?

AB: No, wholesome food is wholesome food anywhere. I may not like something but, generally speaking, if it’s a busy, street food stall serving mystery meat in India, they’re in the business of serving their neighbors. They’re not targeted toward a transient crowd of tourists that won’t be around tomorrow. They’re not in the business of poisoning their neighbors. I have eaten food that was clearly not fresh, that was dirty. I knew I was spinning the wheel of fortune there, but I did it because there was no polite way out. I saw it as the lesser of two evils, and I did pay a price. But it’s one I was willing to pay because turning your nose up at a genuine and sincere gesture of hospitality is no way to travel or to make friends around the world.


KW: Jeff Cohen says: I love that guy and his show. I want to know how I can get that job. Best job in the world!

AB: Hell if I know. I still don’t know how this happened to me. One minute I was dunking French fries, the next minute I had a TV show. I still haven’t figured it out. I guess not giving a crap is a very good business model.


KW: More seriously, Jeff asks: What fuels your passion to find out of the way places and cuisine, and how do you incorporate those experiences into your cooking?

AB: As far as the first part of the question, that’s just how I like to eat. Those are the places that make me happy, and they’re the most representative places, if you kinda want to get the flavor of what a place is really like and of who lives there. As to the second part of the question, it may come as a surprise to some that I do not incorporate those flavors that I discover or encounter around the world into my own cooking. I’m not so arrogant as to think that I can visit India for a week and then come back and cook Indian food. Just because I like sushi, doesn’t mean I can make sushi. I’ve come to well understand how many years just to get sushi rice correct. It’s a discipline that takes years and years and years. So, I leave that to the experts. When I cook, I generally stick with what I know, what I’m comfortable with, and what I feel I’ve paid my dues learning, and am good at.  


KW: Jim Cryan has a question related to one of his favorite episodes of Parts Unknown: What's the best street food to eat while watching cricket in India?

AB: Gee, I forget the name, but it was this very spicy, colorful, flavorful Rice Krispies-type dish.


KW: Cousin Leon Marquis asks: What's the strangest food you ever ate, and where were you when you ate it?

AB: I think I’d refer back to Chicken McNugget or a Cinnabon.


KW: Attorney/Pastry Chef Bernadette Beekman was wondering whether you have a preference for any particular type of cuisine.

AB: If I were trapped in one city and had to eat one nation’s cuisine for the rest of my life, I would not mind eating Japanese. I adore Japanese food. I love it.


KW: Bernadette would also like to know whether you will do other love stories to cities in period style such as you did with Italy? Loved the black and white “La Dolce Vita" feeling!

AB: That was one of my proudest accomplishments, and one of my favorite shows. I don’t know whether we’d do it in black and white again, but yes, I hope to do another richly-textured, carefully-designed, cinematic ode to a city I love and to its food. Sure! That’s always what I like to do, and when I’m at my happiest.


KW: Pittsburgh native Robin Beckham says: Parts Unknown is one of my favorite shows. She asks: Do you ever plan to visit the Steel City?                                                                                

AB: Very likely, yes.


KW: Robin goes on to say: Mr. Bourdain, through your show you call attention to the variety of food choices people are indulging in around the world. And on your journeys visiting various countries, you have a unique way of helping to break down religious, racial and ethnic barriers by presenting people in a light that forces an audience to think about other cultures in a positive manner (in a way they may never have in the past). When you return to the United States and witness the racial divide we have in Ferguson, what are some of your thoughts about what we need to do here in America to bring people together? What are the “Parts Unknown,” from your perspective, that can help to heal our country?

AB: Wow, that’s a big, big, big, big, big question, Robin. I wish I knew. We are, in many ways, a much more divided nation than we like to think or say we are. In some of the countries I’ve visited, like Malaysia and Singapore, people are mixed up, whether they like it or not. Here, it’s like a grid system, even in New York, where we like to think of ourselves as enlightened and multi-racial. It’s a complicated question that I certainly don’t feel qualified to answer. I could suggest that all that’s needed is for us to sit down and share a meal together, but I don’t know if that’s true. Certainly, to the extent that people can walk in each other’s shoes for a few hours, or even just for a few minutes, this can only be a good thing. Looking at Ferguson, Missouri from the outside, I would guess that the Police Department has a particular siege mentality, an “us vs. them” mentality, that’s not all that unusual in this world when you look at angry, disenfranchised, paranoid people. It’s a mentality that emerges in groups of people. It’s ugly and, frankly, I’m the last person in the world in terms of having a constructive clue as to what to do about it.      


KW: But you have a natural ability to relate to people and to reduce the human experience to a collective one. Add in food, and you’re a natural ambassador.

AB: It’s not my intention. I’m out there looking to tell stories about other cultures, places I go, and things I see. That’s all, really. I’m not trying to explain other cultures, or to give a fair and balanced account of a country, or the top ten things you need to know. I’m not trying to spread world peace and understanding. I’m not an advocate or and activist or an educator or a journalist. I’m out there trying to tell stories the best I can. I come back and make television shows that give as honest a sense of what I felt like when I was there. If that enables the audience to empathize with people they felt hostile towards or never thought about before, that is good and I feel happy about that. But that is not my mission in life. My mission in life is tell an entertaining, well-made, well-crafted story that is true to myself. I am proud and pleased when viewers report afterwards feeling some kinship with people they never imagined empathizing with before. I’m not Bono. I’m not on a mission.


KW: You’re doing something that resonates with the audience to come to CNN and become the network’s highest rated show almost immediately.

AB: I see Parts Unknown as an adjunct to the news in the sense that when you see something terrible or something good that transpires in Libya or Palestine or Iran or Congo or Southeast Asia, you know who we’re talking about, if you’ve watched this show. You’ve sat down with a family from the West Bank or Gaza. You’ve seen the daily routine of a Vietnamese rice farmer. You have some sense of whom we’re talking about in Congo, the next time a statistic pops up. We put a human face on places faraway from where we live. I think it’s useful. It may not be news, but it’s useful. 


KW: Do you think you’re helping to obliterate the “Ugly American” stereotype by being so sensitive to and appreciative of other cultures?

AB: I think many, if not most, of the people I’ve met in countries where you’d not expect them to be friendly, make a definite distinction between our government and us. They are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming just about everywhere, and are often cynical about their own leaders and government. So, the idea that they could disagree with many things about our government and yet still find it in their hearts to invite us to their table and to enjoy sharing their culture with us is not an unusual impulse, at all, in my experience. People everywhere have been very, very good to me, whether I’m with or without cameras.   


KW: Robin asks: Do you have any updates on a possible show in North Korea? AB: The state control is so tight there that there’s no way we could have anything resembling an organic or real experience. They really keep you inside a sort of North Korean Disneyland, and there would be no way, at all, of seeing how ordinary North Koreans live, and that, of course, is what we would want to show.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

AB: Playing with plastic army men on the beach with my brother at around 3.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

AB: I see a face full of lines, and every one of them has been earned.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

AB: I love making Neapolitan style ragu of neck bones, oxtail and tough cuts of meat, and slowly cooking down with a tomato sauce into a ragu.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

AB: A bowl of spicy noodles, a beautiful beach, anything involving my daughter, a fat unread book, any number of film directors coming out with a new film, and seeing stuff that few others have seen. And Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I’ve been doing  lot of that lately, and it’s deeply satisfying.


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: I have really enjoyed and learned so much watching Parts Unknown. What advice do you have for vegetarians who want to travel to countries where it's a bit harder to find meals with no seafood and no meat?

AB: I’m sort of unsympathetic. I just think it’s bad manners.


KW: Robin asks: What do you share with your daughter about your experience connecting with human beings who welcome you into their very different worlds?

AB: She watches my show, and I try to bring the family along to one family-friendly location a year. She’s only 7, but she’s traveled pretty widely. I think it’s important for a kid, especially a privileged kid like my daughter, to see that not everybody in the world lives like her.


KW: How does she react to seeing daddy on TV?

AB: She doesn’t take it seriously. In my house, neither my wife nor my daughter are impressed that I’m on television, and they remind me of that frequently.


KW: If you could have a chance to speak with a deceased loved one for a minute who would it be and what would you say?

AB: Well, my dad. When my father passed, I was still an unsuccessful cook with a drug problem. I was in my mid-thirties, standing behind an oyster bar, cracking clams for a living when he died. So, he never saw me complete a book or achieve anything of note. I would have liked to have shared this with him.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

AB: I’d like to play bass like Bootsy Collins. I’m serious. That would be my dream. Or I’d play with James Brown’s Famous Flames or with Parliament or Funkadelic.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

AB: Show up on time and do the best job you can.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

AB: I don’t care.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Anthony, this has been tremendous. All the best with the family, the new season and all your travels.

AB: Thank you, Kam. It’s been fun. I really enjoyed it. So long.

To see a trailer for Parts Unknown, visit:

The Best of Me
Film Review by Kam Williams

The real test of a good tearjerker is whether or not it moves you to tears. And this movie managed to make me cry in spite of myself.

As this film unfolded, I frequently found myself criticizing its considerable structural flaws, from the questionable casting to the farfetched storyline to one humdinger of a reveal. Nevertheless, as the closing credits rolled, I found myself wiping my eyes, a sure sign that this manipulative melodrama calculated to open the floodgates had achieved its goal.

Directed by Michael Hoffman (The Last Station), the picture is loosely based on the Nicholas Sparks best seller of the same name published in 2011. Sparks is the prolific author of 18 romance novels, half of which have been adapted to the big screen, most notably Message in a Bottle and The Notebook, with a couple more already in the works.

Set in Oriental, North Carolina, The Best of Me stars James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan as Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier, former high school sweethearts who haven’t seen each in a couple decades. Strangely, the teenage versions of the very same characters are played in a series of intermittent flashbacks by look-un-likes Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato.

The point of departure is the present, where we learn that Dawson, who never married or attended college, is employed on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. He subsequently barely survives a deepwater explosion that blows him off the hundred-foot high platform and turns the Gulf of Mexico into a sea of fire. Meanwhile, miserably married Amanda is living in the lap of luxury in Baton Rouge where she has stuck it out for 18 years with an abusive alcoholic (Sebastian Arcelus) for the sake of their son (Ian Nelson).

Fate brings the two back to their tiny hometown for the funeral of Tuck (Gerald McRaney), a mutual friend with a posthumous agenda. He named them both in his will with the hope of orchestrating a reunion of the star-crossed lovers he considered meant for each other. Sure enough, sparks fly, but will they share more than a one-night stand?  

A syrupy, sentimental soap opera tailor-made for fans of the Nicholas Sparks franchise.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence, brief profanity and some drug use

Running time: 117 minutes

Distributor: Relativity Media

To see a trailer for The Best of Me, visit:        

userpicOrgasm (BOOK REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Photographs & Interviews
by Linda Troeller and Marion Schneider
Book Review by Kam Williams

Daylight Books

Hardcover, $35.00

188 pages, Illustrated

ISBN: 978-0-9897981-3-6


Orgasm Book Cover“Due to the repression and shame imposed by patriarchy, we are still at the onset of exploration of female sexuality and eroticism. Not only does this book reveal the power, divinity, originality and necessity of female orgasm, but by giving women agency and voice regarding their sexuality, it becomes a deeply erotic work in itself.

Each woman, a brave sex artist mapping a landscape of pleasure, explosion and mythic delight. The project makes it clear that orgasms not only liberate women’s lives, but can save the world as well.

This book is an orgasm.” 

-- Eve Ensler (page 69)


Given America’s Puritanical cultural roots, it’s no surprise that it’s considered déclassé even to mention the female orgasm in polite society. Sure, we might have all laughed at an exasperated Teri Garr joking in the movie Tootsie that “I’m responsible for my orgasm!” Or at that hilarious deli scene from When Harry Met Sally where a matronly patron told her waitress, “I’ll have what she’s having,” after watching Meg Ryan climax while eating a sandwich at an adjoining table.

But other than such humorous asides, the climax is rarely the topic of casual conversation let alone of serious clinical examination. Now, thanks to photographer Linda Troeller and historian Marion Schneider, who in 1998 published “The Erotic Lives of Women,” we have a groundbreaking book blowing the sheets off (pun very much intended) the taboo subject.    

For this collaboration the pair found 25 women of every age and ethnicity and from countries as far apart as Holland, France, Israel, Germany, Colombia, Portugal and the United States who were willing to be photographed while answering questions about a most intimate aspect of their sex lives. They were all asked to recount their first and their most powerful orgasms, as well as their greatest fantasies and what orgasms mean to them.

The responses varied wildly. Co-author Marion describes hers as “the building up of energy focused on a certain point: my vagina” where “the energy buildup becomes so great that… it needs to discharge into the universe.” By contrast, Dragonfly, an African-American, sees hers as “a pleasurable reflex, much like a sneeze or a hiccup, or when you jerk your knee when the doctor hits it with the hammer.” Keren from Israel defines hers as “the release of tension… related to some kind of emotional overflow” after which she feels both “clearer” and “emotionally cleansed.”

An eye-opening project that plunges with abandon into the deep chasm of sexual freedom and sexual identity.

userpicThe Sound and the “Fury”
Posted by Kam Williams

Michael Pena & David Ayer
The “Fury” Interview
with Kam Williams

Michael Pena was born in Chicago on January 13, 1976 to immigrant parents from Mexico . After graduating from high school, he answered an open casting call for the sequel to To Sir, with Love. He landed a role, relocated to L.A., and the rest is history.

Michael went on to deliver memorable performances in Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Babel and The Lincoln Lawyer. He also landed lead roles in World Trade Center and End of Watch, and played the title character in the biopic about Cesar Chavez released earlier this year.

Here, he and End of Watch director David Ayer talk about reuniting to collaborate on Fury, a World War II adventure starring Brad Pitt.


Kam Williams: Hi David and Michael, thanks for the interview. I really appreciate it.

David Ayer: Right on!

Michael Pena: Thanks, Kam.


KW: I loved Fury! Great job! Did you read my blurb about the movie?

DA: Not yet.


KW: I described it as a WWII tank flick you don’t so much watch as endure. Picture the sheer intensity of Saving Private Ryan coupled with the visual capture of The Thin Red Line, the harrowing claustrophobia of Das Boot, and the utter insanity of Apocalypse Now.

MP: I’ll take that. 

DA: That’s pretty damn good, bro!


KW: I’ll be mixing in readers’ questions with some of my own. Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: David, what is the most significant memory from your military service which continues to influence your writing today?

DA: Holy cow! Nothing I would care to say in public. [LOL] Actually, there’s nothing I could say in public, because of my security covenants. My proudest moment was being awarded my submarine warfare qualifications pin in the Philippines after a lot of intense studying.    


KW: David, given that you served in the Navy, where did the idea for Fury come from?

DA: I had one grandfather who was in the Army in World War II, and my other grandfather served in a Navy submarine during the war. And I had an uncle in the Army Air Corps. But I’ve always been fascinated by the war in Europe. And I kinda realized that no one had done a tank movie about it. It was sort of long overdue. So, I hope this becomes the classic American tank movie, the Top Gun for the Armored Corps.  


KW: I think you achieved that given how you make the audience feel like they’re right inside the tank and have us pulling for the crew at every turn. I was sweating bullets.

DA: It’s really intense.


KW: Bernadette asks Michael: Having appeared in multiple Ayer-written works, do you have an affinity for an Ayer script. Do you feel a certain rhythm to the dialogue in each film?

MP: Yeah, of course I loved Training Day and Harsh Times. I remember then reading the script for End of Watch and thinking: this is a great role, dude! I studied my entire life to make almost every performance as if I were doing a documentary. That’s my motivation. And David writes in that style, so I went, “Oh, this is so cool. I can actually delve in.” Not every director likes that. After I read the dinner scene, I couldn’t wait to do it. I remember on the day of the shoot, he asked me whether I wanted to warm up. But I said, “No, I’ve been rehearsing it for five months. Let’s go now!”   


KW: Bernadette asks: Michael, do you have a preference for roles in a certain genre? Is there a type of role you tend to seek to play?

MP: I didn’t go to acting school. Because I didn’t have a lot of cash, the way I taught myself how to act was by watching all of the early Inside the Actor’s Studio episodes. I watched Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and Robert De Niro’s Mean Streets a hundred times. I prefer films that are very, very real, like Crash, End of Watch and now Fury. I just enjoy the basic human drama. 


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Michael, How did you prepare for the role of Gordo?

MP: It was tough because, although it was all there on the page, I wanted to represent more of a generational figure. So, I took from a bunch of other people. But as for the voice, David would talk to me in Spanish in kind of the same rhythm, because I could easily lose it, especially since we were filming in England where I was surrounded on the set by so many British accents. So, I needed a little more help on this one than usual. To me, the voice was a critical aspect of the character, because Gordo has a different sense of humor. He’s kind of a simple man. I thought about the way my dad is. He grew up in Mexico, and was a farmer. He’s a very simple, quiet, brooding man.  


KW: Patricia also asks: Michael, You recently portrayed Cesar Chavez?

MP: He means an awful lot, to be honest with you. My parents were farmers who came to the U.S. for the American Dream. They still grew cucumbers and peppers and corn in the backyard, because we didn’t have much money. They came to this country because people had taken advantage of them in Mexico. And here comes this small man by the name of Cesar Chavez who actually fought for their rights. It wasn’t the easiest thing for him to do, to speak up on behalf of people who didn’t have a voice. And he actually took it upon himself to do just that, and he made a big difference. So, it was an honor for me to be given an opportunity to portray him.


KW: Margaret Van Dagens says: You are both from the Midwest, and both originally from Illinois, my home state. I'd like to know how being from the Midwest has influenced your work, and whether being from there gave you a feeling of camaraderie as you collaborate on projects. This is not as superficial a question as it may sound. I feel that being from the Midwest has made a great difference in my work. 

MP: Honestly, I didn’t even know David was from the Midwest until this minute.

DA: Yeah, I bounced out of there as a kid, and pretty much grew up in L.A.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: David, how do you walk the fine line between gore and gripping?

DA: You don’t want to take your audience out of the movie, and too much of the wrong thing can do that. Violence and violent images obviously have a strong effect. If it’s gratuitous, it ain’t good. It has to have a reason. For me, especially in this film, violence has consequences. And the violence is part of the environment this band of brothers lives in. These guys are like a family trying to survive in a violent environment. So, every violent act is reflected in these characters. And they have to process them and come to terms with them.


KW: Harriet has one for you Michael. She says: You’ve just done a biopic and an action film based on true stories—how is the preparation different from roles based on fiction?

MP: I don’t really think there is much of a difference. I try to do the same kind of work from picture to picture. The only time it’s different is when I’m doing comedy. Then, the main focus is on making people laugh. And then, secondarily, you try to find the drama in it. I grew up in the ghetto, and I remember not realizing I lived in the ‘hood until I moved out of there. Then, I was like, “Oh man, I used to live like crap. Holy cow!” The crackheads and heroin addicts weren’t cool, but other than that I had so much fun growing up.      


KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to direct, David?

DA: That’s hard for me to say. Because I’m a writer, it’s easy for me to generate material for myself. My big advantage as a director is that I’m also a writer. The way that markets work now, everything has to be PG-13, and you have to kind of go for a broader audience. So, the problem with remakes is that a lot of what made an original special can get watered down or lost.

KW: Thanks again for the time, guys, and best of luck with the film.

DA: Alright, Kam.

MP: Absolutely!

To see a trailer for Fury, visit: 

Film Review by Kam Williams

It is April of 1945, and the Allies are making major inroads across the European theater. However, Adolf Hitler has responded to the attrition in the ranks of his army by exhorting women and children to take up arms in a desperate fight to the death.

This is the state of affairs awaiting Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) when he reaches Germany after engagements in Africa, Belgium and the Netherlands. Sergeant Collier is the commander of a Sherman tank that is part of a battle-hardened armored division being dispatched deep into enemy territory to help deliver the coup de grace to the Nazis.

We meet Wardaddy during a brief pause in the action taken to refuel, to restock ammo and to replace his recently-deceased “best damn gunner in the 9th battalion.” Now, he must make do with Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a private with no fighting experience just plucked out of the typing pool.

The other members of Collier’s motley crew include tank driver Trini Garcia (Michael Pena), Bible-thumping Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf) and a good ol’ boy who goes by Coon-Ass (Jon Benthal). Their next mission is to rescue some stranded GIs urgently in need of assistance.

But prior to shipping out, Collier wants to make sure his greenhorn is ready for the front. So, he forces him to shoot a captured SS officer in the head to show he has no qualms about killing.

That is the premise established at the outset of Fury, a fairly gruesome adventure written and directed by U.S. Navy veteran David Ayer (Training Day). Fair warning: this is a film you don’t so much watch as endure. Picture the sheer intensity of Saving Private Ryan coupled with the visual capture of The Thin Red Line, the harrowing claustrophobia of Das Boot, and the utter insanity of Apocalypse Now.

Brad Pitt exudes an endearing combination of confidence and charm as a calm leader who proves himself quite capable of generating a genuine camaraderie among his men despite the cramped quarters and constant close brushes of death. Moreover, he exhibits an uncanny ingenuity when forced by circumstances to survive by his wits as their resources dwindle.

The meat grinder that was World War II convincingly portrayed from the point-of-view of a band of brothers who were like sitting ducks stuck in a sardine can.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for sexuality, graphic violence, grisly images and pervasive profanity

In English and German with subtitles

Running time: 134 minutes

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

To see a trailer for Fury, visit: 

Dear White People
Film Review by Kam Williams

The academics are tough enough at Winchester University, a mythical Ivy League institution. It’s too bad that black students there also have to worry about making themselves comfortable socially.         

That’s precisely the predicament we find a quartet of African-American undergrads facing at the point of departure of Dear White People, a sophisticated social satire marking the directorial and scriptwriting debut of Justin Simien. Earlier this year, the thought-provoking dramedy won the Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the Sundance Film Festival.  

The picture’s protagonists are as different from each other as night and day. Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) is gay and uncomfortable around his own people because blacks teased him the most about his sexuality back in high school. So, he lives in a predominately-white dorm where he’s ended up being bullied anyway.

Then there’s Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), a legacy admission to Winchester courtesy of his father (Dennis Haysbert), an alumnus and the current Dean of Students. Troy’s dating an equally-well connected white girl, Sofia Fletcher (Brittany Curran), the daughter of the school’s President (Peter Syvertsen).

Political activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) sits at the other extreme, being a militant sister who lives in the all-black dorm ostensibly serving as a refuge for the “hopelessly Afro-centric.” She also hosts a talk show on the college’s radio school’s station, “Dear White People” where she indicts Caucasians about everything from their racism to their sense of entitlement.  

Finally, we have Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris) who just wants to assimilate into mainstream American culture. In fact, she’s more concerned with whether she might make the cut for the reality-TV show conducting auditions on campus than with challenging the status quo, ala rabble rouser Samantha.

So, the premise is set by establishing that the four lead characters have little in common besides their skin color. And the plot subsequently thickens when Pastiche, a student-run humor publication, decides to throw a Halloween party with an “unleash your inner-Negro” theme.

Now they share the prospect of being stereotyped by white classmates cavorting around in blackface dressed as pimps and gangstas, and as icons like President Obama and Aunt Jemima. En route to a surprising resolution, director Simien pulls a couple of rabbits out of his hat while lacing his dialogue with pithy lines (“Learn to modulate your blackness up or down depending on the crowd and what you want from them.”) and touching on a litany of hot button issues ranging from Affirmative Action to Tyler Perry.

A delightful dissection of the Ivy League that stirs the pot in the way most folks mean when they a call for a national discussion of race. 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity, ethnic and sexual preference slurs, sexuality and drug use

Running time: 106 minutes

Distributor: Roadside Attractions

To see a trailer for Dear White People, visit:

Film Review by Kam Williams

I’m not sure whether in these more enlightened, politically correct times I’m allowed to call a movie a “chick flick” anymore. But when I went to see Addicted, the only other guys in attendance were the couple of buddies I invited to join me at the advance screening.

Furthermore, all the women were African-American. And as they exited the theater afterwards, out of curiosity, I polled about a dozen sisters to see what they thought of the picture. They all loved it. But we men had found it sheer torture, from the tame sex scenes showing precious little skin, to the Puritanical moralizing, to the over-the-top melodrama.

That being said, since the estrogen-laden ladies uniformly enjoyed the film, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that testosterone heavily influenced my viewing experience. Therefore, fellow males might want to take anything positive I have to say here with a ton of salt.

At the point of departure, we’re introduced to Zoe Reynard (Sharon Leal). The attractive wife/mother/career woman has a thriving business and a sprawling house in the suburbs where she lives with a couple of cute kids and a doting husband (Boris Kodjoe) who just adores her. Jason showers her with affection and little reminders of his devotion like “I love you more than life itself,” and “Our love is forever.”

Trouble is he can’t satisfy her sexually, despite being a handsome hunk and giving it his best efforts between the sheets. Consequently, after they’ve made love, she remains so aroused that she slips out of bed to finish herself off with a huge dildo.

But she’s somehow still horny the next morning and, despite making mild protestations (“This isn’t right!”), easily succumbs to the seductive charms (“I just love the way your lips move.”) of Quentin (William Levy), an ardent Latin lover with an unintelligible accent that just screams “Subtitle this!” Meanwhile, the indiscriminate adulterer also indulges her illicit urges with a buff biker named Corey (Tyson Beckford).

All of the above unfolds flashback-style as recounted by the regretful protagonist in therapy sessions with Dr. Marcella Spencer (Tasha Smith). Unfortunately, the ineffective shrink comes off as more of a voyeur than a psychologist, given her vapid, incongruous responses (“We need to talk about your childhood,” and “We need to talk about your past.”) to Zoe’s couch confessions.

Long ago, I learned Newton’s law that bodies at rest stay at rest, and bodies in motion stay in motion. But what about a body hit by a speeding car at about 70 mph? You’ll have to see the movie to get that laughable lesson in cartoon physics.

Far be it from me to totally trash a seemingly-silly soap opera males (0 stars) might find laughable to the same extent it moves females (4 stars) to tears. Go figure! Consequently, with the wisdom of a modern day Solomon, permit me to play it safe by splitting the difference.

Good (2 stars)

Rated R for nudity, profanity, graphic sexuality and brief drug use

Running time: 105 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Films / Codeblack

To see a trailer for Addicted, visit:

userpicThe Judge (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

The Judge

Film Review by Kam Williams


Downey and Duvall Square-Off in Character-Driven Courtroom Drama

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a very successful, criminal defense attorney with a good reason to hide his humble roots. After all, he was a rebellious kid who frequently landed in trouble with the law while growing up in tiny Carlinville, Indiana.

That juvenile delinquency only served to alienate him from his father, Joseph (Robert Duvall), who just happened to be the town’s only judge. In addition, one of Hank’s more egregious missteps left him permanently estranged from his older brother, Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio). And since their only other sibling, Dale (Jeremy Palmer), was mentally handicapped, Hank hadn’t been back in ages when he received word that his mother (Catherine Cummings) had died.

So, he only planned to make a perfunctory appearance at the funeral before quickly returning to Chicago where he had his hands full, between his high-flying career and a custody battle with his estranged wife (Sarah Lancaster) over their young daughter (Emma Tremblay). However, everything changes when Judge Palmer is suddenly arrested in the hit-and-run killing of a creepy convict (Mark Kiely) he’d publicly castigated in court before releasing back onto the street.

This shocking development conveniently forces Hank to stick around to represent his father, and simultaneously affords him the opportunity to mend a few fences. Plus, it gives him time to unwittingly seduce a woman he meets in a bar (Leighton Meester), who is not only the daughter of his high school sweetheart (Vera Farmiga), but might be the love child he never knew he had.     

Thus unfolds The Judge, a character-driven drama which is half-whodunit, half-kitchen sink soap opera that pulls another rabbit out of the hat every five minutes or so. A potentially farcical film remains rather well grounded thanks to Robert Duvall who plays the Palmer family patriarch with a sobering, stone cold gravitas.         

Both Robert Downey, Jr. and Billy Bob Thornton turn in inspired performances, too, as the opposing attorneys matching wits in a classic courtroom showdown. And the rest of the ensemble more than holds their own as well in service of a script that has a tendency to strain credulity.

A fanciful, thoroughly-modern variation on the parable of the Prodigal Son!

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated R for profanity and sexual references

Running time: 141 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for The Judge, visit:

userpicBoris Kodjoe (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Boris Kodjoe
The “Addicted” Interview
with Kam Williams


Kodjoe Aglow!

From his big screen and television roles to his theater and entrepreneurial skills, Boris Kodjoe has proven to be one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents. He is probably best known for his role as Damon Carter on the TV series “Soul Food.”

He can currently be seen opposite Kevin Hart, Nick Cannon and JB Smoove on another hit sitcom, “The Real Husbands of Hollywood,” and will soon be starring in the upcoming series “Members Only” which will premiere this fall on ABC. And on the big screen, Boris was recently seen reprising his role as Luther West in the box office hit Resident Evil: Retribution, as well as in Baggage Claim opposite Paula Patton, Derek Luke and Trey Songz.

He was born in Vienna, Austria to Ursula Kodjoe, a psychologist from Germany, and Eric Kodjoe, a physician from Ghana, West Africa. They raised Boris, his brother Patrick and sister Nadja in Germany where he became one of the best tennis players in the country before earning an athletic scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University.

While studying in Richmond, he was approached by a talent scout for Ford Modeling agency which he joined after earning his marketing degree in May of 1996. Immediately, he booked a dozen campaigns such as Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, Yves Saint Laurent, and The GAP. His career skyrocketed as he quickly became one of the most recognizable male supermodels.

Hollywood soon took notice. While studying with acting coach Janet Alhanti, Boris started guest starring on sitcoms such as “For Your Love,” and landed a supporting role in the feature film Love and Basketball. He also starred in Brown Sugar, alongside Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan, for which he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. His other screen credits include Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion, The Gospel, Surrogates and Resident Evil: Afterlife.

Onstage, Boris made his Broadway debut in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, opposite James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad and Anika Noni Rose. Previously, he toured the country in the play Whatever She Wants with Vivica A. Fox and Richard Roundtree.

Boris and his brother Patrick have launched the clothing company ALFA (Affordable Luxury For All), bringing the luxury of custom-made clothing to every man and woman in America at affordable prices. The line can be accessed at But his primary personal interest is to raise funds for Sophie’s Voice Foundation (, a charity he started with his wife in honor of his daughter Sophie, who was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth.

Here, Boris discusses his new movie, Addicted, the screen adaptation of the steamy best-seller by Zane.


Kam Williams: Hi Boris, thanks for another opportunity to interview you.

Boris Kodjoe: Thank you, Kam.


KW: You know, I recently met Nicole at a charity function here in Princeton after one of her performances of Antony & Cleopatra.

BK:  Wow!


KW: That was a lot of fun after having interviewed her several times over the years. She’s even more beautiful and gracious in person. Now, let me ask you about the movie. What interested you in Addicted? Were you already a Zane fan?

BK:  I wasn’t as aware of her before I read the script. That’s when I began to find out more and more about Zane, her tremendous fan base, and all of her books.


KW: How did you like the idea of playing the aggrieved party instead of the hunk the female lead is after?  

BK: It was interesting to me, because he went from being a victim to being a protagonist, in a way, once he found out that his wife had been leading this parallel life. So, the character had to deal wiith all kinds of obstacles, and ups-and-downs that I found intriguing.


KW: Tell me a little about what it was like making this movie.

BK:  It was great. It was almost like a family affair. I’ve known [director] Bille Woodruff for years, as well as [fellow cast members] Tyson [Beckford], Sharon [Leal] and everybody. So, it was quite easy to trust my director. My job was basically to make Sharon feel comfortable and protected. She was so courageous and vulnerable, and did such an amazing job. And I was sort of the safety net for her to do all that.


KW: Was there any tension on the set between Zane, the author of the novel, and Bille in terms of their vision for the screen adaptation?

BK:  No, they got all of that out of the way before we started shooting. They had numerous meetings, and made sure they were on the same page. To make a movie like that, you really have to trust your director, and they were on the same page.


KW: What message do you think people will take away from?

BK:  It’s about communication, weathering the storms, and making sure you really understand each other. In a situation like that, especially where addiction is involved, that lines of communication are open for the spouse not only to understand but to be ready to jump in and help. In the film, you see how difficult it can be because there’s guilt, there’s blame, there’s doubt, and therapy comes into play, as well. And it encourages the audience to engage in conversation after seeing the movie, which is great, too.  


KW: You’re really busy on TV nowadays, between Real Husbands of Hollywood and Members Only.

BK:  Yeah, Husbands starts up on October 14th, that’s when Season Three premieres. And I just finished the first episode of Members Only, which takes a unique look into contemporary life at a country club, at a lot of scandal and other ridiculousness that transpires there. So, it’s been exciting for me to do both shows, and a diverse selection of work overall.  


KW: Do the series’ shooting schedules overlap?

BK:  No, it worked out perfectly, which things usually do when you relinquish control and give it to God.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do you and Nicole balance your busy careers with being the parents of young children?

BK: It’s not about balance. It’s about priorities, and we make family our priority, and everything else sort of falls into place around it. When you do that, you don’t have the stress of trying to make things happen. They happen organically. Our kids are more important to us than any movie or TV show. So, we want to make sure they have what they need, and mostly that’s quality time with us.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

BK:  An amazing book I read with my kids about the life of a child with a very rare and severe facial disfigurement, and about how his environment responds to him, and how he makes his life, his community, friends and school. It’s phenomenal. We’re reading it right now. The book is called “Wonder” and the main character’s name is August.  


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you at this point in your career?

BK:  Anything that’s new and different.  


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

BK:  Our new clothing line, World of Alfa [ ]. That’s our company.


KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?

BK: My wife, my father, my brother, my mother, James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier, Rupert Murdoch, Desmond Tutu, J.J. Abrams, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, John Stewart, Bill Maher, Chris Rock and Banksy. A big table.  


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

BK:  In Vienna, when I was a year-and-a-half or two years-old. I remember it because I remember the little blue raincoat I used to wear, and how the buttons felt. I liked to walk on the street in front of our house when it was raining, and jump into all the puddles. That’s weird, but that’s my earliest memory. I’m going to have to go to therapy to figure out what that means.


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

BK:  No, I never dealt with fame. It was never a goal of mine to become famous. So, I never projected any goals associated with that. But I did have a bunch of goals I wanted to achieve when I was financially able to do so, but they had nothing to do with fame. When I set goals, they’re more tangible than becoming famous. You don’t build a company or a foundation for fame. By the way, October is Spina Bifida Month, so that’s a big deal for us.


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

BK:  I had to make a decision about whether it would impact how I felt about trusting people, and I decided I wasn’t going top allow it to impact my outlook on trust, because I believe trust is a choice. And I’ve always given people the benefit of the doubt until they prove me otherwise. So, it just made me stronger in my conviction about that, but it also taught me never to put anything past anyone.


KW: Ausgezeichnet!

BK:  danke sehr.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

BK:  Just the way I dress. [Laughs] Otherwise, I’m the same person. I don’t put on a face. I’m the same guy every time you see me. I like to laugh, I like to smile, and I don’t take myself too seriously. I can be a goofball. When I come home, the only thing that changes is that I take off the suit and put on tennis shorts and play with the kids.

KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

BK:  I’m always an entrepreneur, but I’d probably be a teacher. I like teaching kids, whether that’s tennis on the courts or history in the classroom.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

BK:  American Gigolo.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

BK:  Conviction. Belief in yourself. What it really says is that we are willing to weather the storm of multiple failures to achieve a goal. We’re so convinced in the destination that we are able to let go of the reins and give it to God.


KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?

BK: When I’m with my family.


KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: What defines who you are?

BK: My actions.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

BK: Abort the mission, and build your own.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Boris, and best of luck with Addicted.

BK: No problem, thank you, Kam.

To see a trailer for Addicted, visit:

userpicJeremy Renner (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Jeremy Renner
The “Kill the Messenger” Interview
with Kam Williams

Chillin’ with the Messenger!

Jeremy Renner starred in The Hurt Locker, which won a half-dozen Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow). For his portrayal of Sgt. William James, he received many accolades, including his first Academy Award nomination, in the Best Actor category.

The following year, he was again an Academy Award nominee, this time as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as James Coughlin in The Town, directed by Ben Affleck. Moviegoers worldwide also know him for his starring roles as Hawkeye in The Avengers, as William Brandt in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and as Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy.

Jeremy’s breakthrough movie role was as Jeffrey Dahmer in Dahmer. And his other films include American Hustle; The Immigrant; Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; 28 Weeks Later; Take; North Country; S.W.A.T.; and Neo Ned.

Here, he talks about his new film, Kill the Messenger, directed by Michael Cuesta. The two previously collaborated on 12 and Holding which was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards’ John Cassavetes Award.


Kam Williams: Hi Jeremy. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Jeremy Renner: Thank you, Kam. My pleasure.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I’ll be mixing in my questions with theirs.

JR: Okay, great!


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: Oh my God! Oh my God! You made a movie about Gary Webb. Thank you. Wow! You are ripping my heart out right now. I am not going to cry. I just forgot what the heck I was supposed to be doing today. Jeez! I’m giving myself permission to cry a little. Jeremy, to me, this is one of the most important stories of the Modern Age. And the way Gary’s life was systematically destroyed—not just by the CIA but by the newspapers that mindlessly colluded with them—makes me weep for all time. His book, “Dark Alliance,” is one of my most treasured possessions. She asks: Mr. Renner, did either your role in Kill the Messenger or The Hurt Locker change the way you regard the world or our nation?

JR: Yeah, but not in a political sense. Just five minutes ago, I was talking to someone else about The Hurt Locker’s not being a political movie, whereas it could have quite easily been spun into one very heavy-handedly. Kill the Messenger is a little more obviously a political picture, but I didn’t really want politics to weigh-in on that, even though I might have my opinion and thoughts about it. I think politics and religion are personal belief systems that have nothing to do with anybody else. That’s where I stand. And I don’t like to make movies that try to force people to change their opinions. However, while the backdrop of Kill the Messenger involved politics and journalism, what was important to me was the underdog story. I love to watch an Everyman rise to the occasion under extraordinary circumstances, like in David and Goliath. I think that universal theme resonates with almost anyone, since most people are trying to do the best they can. Like The American way. I pride myself in sort of representing that, as an actor, especially with Gary Webb coming from the same area as I. It was a tragic situation all the way around, and a big story that’s impossible to tell in two hours, which is why we focused more on Gary Webb personally. 


KW: Lisa also asks: What did you learn by immersing yourself in Gary’s life story?  

JR: I’d always been on the other side of journalism, just being asked questions. This afforded me a chance to learn a lot about newspapers, satellite stations, and the work of an investigative reporter, and how they get a story. But what I still really enjoyed the most was learning about Gary Webb’s personal life as a father and husband, as well as a journalist.


KW: Lisa’s last question is: Do you think Gary committed suicide, or do you think he was killed by the CIA?

JR: I have an opinion about it, but I don’t care to address that on the record. I’ll let the movie speak for itself. What matters more to me is what other people think.


KW: David Roth thinks that since you’re one of the producers, you must feel pretty passionate about this project. He asks: Why do you think this story took a back seat to the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

JR: [LOL] The Monica Lewinsky story… [Laughs some more] and I do say this laughing… is just more entertaining to follow. Dark Alliance was talking about the CIA connection to cocaine and crack as opposed to blow jobs, which was a lot easier to swallow, no pun intended. [Chuckles]


KW: David also asks: Why didn’t you include Webb’s decline and death in the film, since it was under such suspicious circumstances?

JR: We did, actually. We have a very beautiful, long tracking shot. We replicated the morgue photo, and we originally had it bookending the beginning and end of the movie. But it felt too heavy-handed, and made what we were saying glaringly obvious, which wasn’t how we wanted the movie to be. So, we took it out, and put in a little text at the end saying what happened, instead of showing all that stuff. We wanted to be very delicate about showing what happened to Gary Webb as opposed to going, “Eff you, CIA! Eff you, government! Eff you L.A. Times and the San Jose Mercury News! It’s not about shooting all these other people down, because I don’t think there’s just one bad person to point at here, at all. The tragedy is really on Gary Webb and his being victimized by uncovering something that was ultimately true. 


KW: Sangeetha Subram says: Your performance in Kill the Messenger was sensational! I also loved you in The Bourne Legacy also. She asks: Is there one actor or actress that you would say has inspired you?

JR: Thank you, Sangeetha. Jeez! Most of the people I’ve worked with have inspired me. I’ve been lucky to work with so many great actors. Speaking of the Bourne Legacy, Rachel Weisz was someone I’d been trying to work with for so long. She’s amazing! I love Emily Blunt, too. She’s another one of my favorites. But there are loads and loads of them. It’s a long list. 


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You’ve achieved leading figure status and you also do wonderful ensemble work—how different is your focus for each kind of different ‘space’ on the screen?

JR: The focus, I suppose, is the same. The requirement of time is not nearly as demanding, but the work is the same whether you work one day or a hundred days on a movie. You still have to bring a fully-realized, three-dimensional character to the screen. So, the work is the same, it’s just that the responsibility of carrying the movie is lightened.


KW: Harriet also asks: How do you put your own imprint on a movie that is based on a true story, you’ve done a bunch of them, when you already know your character’s motivation and outcome?

JR: I guess it’s a subjective thing. If I’m playing a real-life person, I’m beholden to the truths of who they are or who they were, if they’re dead. It’s easy, but then there are limitations to that, because they’re a known figure. If it’s something I’m creating, it’s free game. So, I guess truth is really the ultimate decider of what it is. 


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

JR:  I feel like we’re constantly remaking movies, but they just have different titles. I believe there are twelve stories that we retell over and over again thematically. I’ve never thought about remaking a film, but I’ve probably already done it. [Chuckles]


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

JR:  It’s usually the other way around. They ask a question I wish they wouldn’t ask. [Laughs heartily] But I welcome any opportunity to answer a question I’ve never been asked before. But I don’t know what that is. You’re asking me to divulge something I don’t really want anyone to know about me, but I don’t want anybody to know anything about me. [LOL]


KW: Here’s one you might never have been asked: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

JR: [Chuckles] I can’t tell that story. I was running around naked in my mom’s high-heeled shoes. I was a tyrant. I was always disappearing a lot, like a ninja.  


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JR: Breakfast. Anything for breakfast. It’s my favorite meal.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JR: Flaws.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you at this stage in your career?

JR: The same thing as ever. The same principles that did with my very first job: to be challenged to grow.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

JR: I suppose I can get a little loose on the red carpet, but I’m not wearing a suit at home where I’m relaxed and a bit more of a goofball. Who I am as a person is a pretty down-to-earth, simple, simple man.  


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

JR: To be with my daughter.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key qualities do you believe all successful people share? 

JR: Tenacity, perseverance and fearlessness.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

JR: Flying is always a good one.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be? You were a makeup artist before you got your big break, right?

JR: Yeah, I was a makeup artist for a little while, instead of waiting tables. I’d probably be a teacher, a musician or a real estate developer, which I’m already doing.


KW: What instrument do you play?

JR: Drums, guitar and piano, and I sing.


KW: Can I find you performing on Youtube?

JR: There’s some stuff from SNL and from when I was pressured to sing on some talk shows.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

JR: If there’s anything else that makes you happy, please go do that. But if this is what you love, and what you want, make it your Plan A, and don’t have a Plan B. Don’t plan to fail.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

JR: As complicated.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Jeremy, and best of luck with Kill the Messenger. And I hope to speak to you again about your next project.

JR: Yeah, yeah. I really appreciate it, Kam.

To see a trailer for Kill the Messenger, visit:

To see Jeremy singing “Stuck in the Middle with You” with family and friends, visit:

userpicKill the Messenger (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Kill the Messenger

Film Review by Kam Williams


Jeremy Renner Riveting in True Tale as Intrepid Investigative Journalist

            In August of 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published an eye-opening expose’ detailing exactly how the Central Intelligence Agency had orchestrated the importation of crack cocaine from Nicaragua as well as its distribution in the black community of South Central Los Angeles. Entitled “Dark Alliance,” the 20,000-word series was written by Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), an investigative journalist who’d risked life and limb to release the incendiary information.

For, in the midst of conducting his research, he had been asked “Do you have a family?” by a CIA operative trying to intimidate him into killing the article. The spy agency was ostensibly determined to suppress any facts which might shed light on its covert dealings with the Contras, the rebels attempting to topple the government of Nicaragua.

But Webb, already a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, would not be intimidated and went with the piece. And even though he had supported his shocking allegations with declassified documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, the Establishment secretly enlisted the assistance of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the L.A. Times to discredit him.

These prominent papers pooh-poohed the very notion that the CIA could possibly be behind the dissemination of crack in the inner-city. Nevertheless, “Dark Alliance” became the biggest story of the year, especially among African-Americans, many of whom surfed the internet for the first time in order to read the damning report.    

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) took to the floor to warn that “Somebody’s going to have to pay for what they have done to my people.” Yet, the revelations seemed to take the greatest toll on Gary Webb, who lost his good name, his job, his career, his home, and even the love of his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt ) in due course.

This shameful chapter in American history is the subject of Kill the Messenger, a sobering biopic directed by Michael Cuesta and starring Jeremy Renner. The film features an A-list cast also including Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Tim Blake Nelson, Andy Garcia, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Robert Patrick and Paz Vega.

However, make no mistake, this riveting thriller is a Renner vehicle, and the two-time Academy Award-nominee (for The Hurt Locker and The Town) delivers another Oscar-quality performance as a family man/respected writer slowly turned into a paranoid soul haunted by demons and hunted by Machiavellian mercenaries drunk with power.

 A cautionary tale about what might easily transpire whenever the Fourth Estate is willing to serve as the Fifth Column rather than as a government watchdog.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity and drug use

Running time: 112 minutes

Distributor: Focus Features

To see a trailer for Kill the Messenger, visit:

userpicOne Chance (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

One Chance

Film Review by Kam Williams


Overcoming-the-Odds Biopic Recounts Rise of Aspiring Opera Singer

For as long as Paul Potts (James Corden) can remember, all he every wanted to do was sing. Blessed with a big voice, the chubby boy sang everywhere as a child, whether in the shower, walking down the street, riding the school bus, or in the church choir.

Sadly, this inclination didn’t sit well with the ruffians of Port Talbot, the blue-collar town where Paul was raised. The more he sang, the more they would bully him, and vice-versa.

Fast-forward to 2004 where we find Paul, at 34, pursuing the pipe dream of an opera career and still living at home with his supportive mom (Julie Walters) and skeptical dad (Colm Meaney). Meanwhile, he’s taken a job as a cell phone salesman in order to save up enough money for a master class in Venice with the legendary Luciano Pavarotti (Stanley Townsend). And he is lucky to have an understanding girlfriend in Julz (Alexandra Roach), a portly pepperpot he met over the internet.  

Thus unfolds One Chance, a delightful musical dramedy directed by Oscar-winner David Frankel (Dear Diary), best known for The Devil Wears Prada. Here, the Native New Yorker has fashioned an overcoming-the-odds biopic revolving around Potts’ real-life exploits as a contestant on the TV show “Britain’s Got Talent.”

The film feels a lot like The Full Monty (striptease) and Billy Elliot (ballet) in terms of the protagonist’s pursuit of an unconventional art form. However, it also is evocative of Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral in the way it wins your heart via a charming courtship.

A touching, true tale chronicling a talented troubadour’s televised triumphs.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexuality

In English and Italian with subtitles

Running time: 103 minutes

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

To see a trailer for One Chance, visit:

userpicLaurence Fishburne (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Laurence Fishburne
The “Black-ish” Interview
with Kam Williams 

Fishburne Baby Fishburne!

Laurence J. Fishburne, III has achieved an impressive body of work as an actor, producer and director. Starting at the age of 10, Laurence starred on the soap opera "One Life to Live." He made his feature film debut at age 12 in "Cornbread, Earl and Me" and followed that up a few years later with "Apocalypse Now."


His television performances include "The Box" episode of "Tribeca" which earned him an Emmy award and "Thurgood," which earned him an Emmy nomination. He starred for three seasons on the hit series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and he was an Emmy Award nominee and an NAACP Image Award winner for his starring role in the telefilm "Miss Evers' Boys," which he executive-produced. And he can currently be seen alongside Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen in the NBC thriller series "Hannibal."

Through his production company, Cinema Gypsy, Laurence is scheduled to executive-produce and star in "The Right Mistake," a dramatic television series for HBO. The company also made the movies "Akeelah and the Bee," "Five Fingers" and "Once in the Life."

Among his many film credits are "Boyz n the Hood," "A Rumor of War," "The Color Purple," "The Matrix" trilogy, "Decoration Day" and "The Tuskegee Airmen," for which he received an NAACP Image Award. Laurence also won the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Theatre World, and Tony Awards for his portrayal of Sterling Johnson in August Wilson's "Two Trains Running." In 2006. he reteamed with his frequent acting partner Angela Bassett at The Pasadena Playhouse in August Wilson's "Fences." directed by Samuel Epps.

Here, he talks about playing Pops on the new TV sitcom, “Black-ish.”


Kam Williams: Hi Laurence, I’m honored to have another opportunity to speak with you.

Laurence Fishburne: Thank you, Kam. It’s good to hear your voice. 


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I’m mixing in their questions with my own. Aaron Moyne asks: What inspired the title Black-ish?

LF: Ah, the title came from Kenya Barris, our writer/creator. It’s like “squeamish” or “Jewish” or other “ish” terms like that.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: Why this show? Why now? And Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: What was “intrigue-ish” about doing this show?

LF: What was intriguing to me, first of all, was that it’s comedy, which is something I don’t do a lot of. I’ve wanted to do comedy for a while, and the elements of this show fit. They really made sense in terms of my doing a comedy basically about a well-to-do black family with children of privilege, living in modern America, in our Digital Age. I can relate to what all of that means and how we have to navigate it. So, that’s the why and the where.   


KW: How would you describe your character, Pops, in 25 words or less?

LF: [Chuckles] I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t describe my character Pops in 25 words or less.


KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: You've presented some of the most memorable images of African-American men at either end of the spectrum with "Furious Styles" from "Boyz N the Hood" and Ike Turner from "What's Love Got to Do with It?" Is it difficult to portray characters that are so different in persona and morality, and do you have a preference?

LF: I don’t have a preference. The wonderful thing about what I do is being able to run the gamut. It’s never the same. I don’t get excited about the idea of playing the same person all the time. I do get excited about being able to explore different people and different characters, and using my range, as it were.


KW: Professor/Filmmaker/editor Hisani Dubose says: Please ask the wonderful Mr. Fishburne why he decided to do comedy. He's such a great actor that I'm sure he'll pull it off.

LF: Because I haven’t done much of it and because a lot of people don’t know that I actually can be quite funny. Plus, I feel that the context of the show, the timing of everything, and my wonderful cast mates, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, all added up to the perfect combination of ingredients. It just makes sense at this time. And actors should be able to do both comedy and drama. At least the good ones.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you get to ad-lib on the show?

LF: Yes, we do.


KW: Shelley Evans asks: Is it any easier for African-American actors to land parts on television and web series these days?

LF: Well, it’s certainly easier than it was 30 years ago! [LOL]


KW: Sangeetha Subram asks: Do you think diversity has improved on television over the years? There is still so much more to do, but is there anything the general public can do to campaign for more authentic diverse images being represented?

LF: I think that if the general public would use that social media tool to express their desire to see a more authentic and genuine representation of what the American family looks like, then that would be helpful.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I have a high respect for you as an actor for decades and I was blown away to discover even more your high-caliber when you performed the role of Thurgood Marshall for the play. My question is what does Marshall represent to you and how did you prepare for the role?

LF: Thurgood Marshall represents so much to many different people. For me, he really came to represent not just the courage that African-Americans have had to have in the face of discrimination and racism, but the courage that was borne out of the love that he received from his family, his community, his educators and his classmates. Everything he did was borne out of that love and support that was given to him. He also went into the lion’s den not only with great courage but with great humor. So, he’s really a towering figure in our history.


KW: Is there another historical figure you would like to portray?

LF: I’m sure there are many, but I couldn’t pick just one right now.


KW: D.V. Brooks says: Mr. Fishburne, having become one of our esteemed elders in the performing arts and public figures what advice would you like to pass on to the upcoming generation of writers, actors, producers and directors of color in continuing the legacy of such individuals such as  Ruby Dee, Amiri Baraka, August Wilson and others like yourself?

LF: The real answer to that is that when I see those young people I will give that advice to them. It is for them and for them only.


KW: D.V. also says: You and I share an experience from our youth: the Model Cities summer programs. What did that experience, along with the support of your parents, Laurence, Sr. and Hattie, instill in you as an artist?  

LF: The Model Cities experience didn’t really inform me as an artist as much as it informed me as a human being. It was a very safe place to be, and I came away from that experience with a lot more confidence in myself as a person.  


KW: Marcia Evans says: Kam, you must use my questions and comments.  Please start off by letting Laurence know that I've followed his career since One Life to Live. Let him know that I'm a huge fan of his work, especially the amazing performance he honored us playing Socrates Fortlow in “Always Outnumbered" That blew me away. I went thru a box of tissues that night. Thank him for me because he really brought it.

LF: Thank you, Marcia.


KW: She goes on to say: I know his lovely wife Gina Torres has Cuban roots. I wonder if he's had the pleasure to visit Cuba as yet.

LF: No I haven’t been to Cuba yet.


KW: She also says: I'm aware he is a music lover and I’d like to know whether he digs Cuban vibes.

LF: I love Cuban music.


KW: Next, she asks: What are your favorite countries to visit?

LF: Goodness! I love Morocco. I love Italy. I love Spain. And I love Tahiti.


KW: Finally, Marcia suggests: They should make a film about Hannibal, and cast you, Mr. Laurence Fishburne, in the title role. You’d make a splendid Hannibal!

LF: That’s very kind, Marcia. Thank you very much!


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

LF: No. [Chuckles]


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

LF: The last book I read would be right here on my Kindle. It’s called “Perfect Brilliant Stillness.”


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

LF: I enjoy making Arroz con Pollo for my wife.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Laurence. I really appreciate it. And best of luck with Black-ish.

LF: You’re welcome and thanks, Kam.


To see a trailer for Black-ish, visit:

userpicPlastic (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams


Film Review by Kam Williams


Brit Hackers Hustle Gangster in High Octane, High Body Count Heist

            Sometimes, a film unfolds so fast and furiously that it’s hard to keep score. Such is the case with Plastic, a high-octane, high body count affair following the antics of a stolen credit card ring run by a brilliant and brazen computer hacker named Sam (Ed Speelers).

The movie opens with one of those “Based on a True Story” (google Saq Mumtaz) which might mean that what you’re about to see is the cinematic culmination of painstakingly-researched historical fact. However, it’s could just as easily be serving as a disclaimer designed to sucker you into believing a farfetched story since, well, somebody once said it happened.

I suspect that this tall tale belongs in the latter category. Regardless, I suppose all that matters in the end is whether the picture has any entertainment value. Plastic does throw a lot of testosterone-directed gore and sensuality at you, but not much for anyone outside of the eroticized violence demographic.

The fun starts when the gang of four steals the identity of Marcel (Thomas Kretschmann) to the tune of a couple hundred thousand pounds. Boy, does this sadistic gangster know how to hold a grudge. Soon enough, he turns the tables and has the college student punks promising to pay him back ten times the amount they stole, plus interest. 

 High-stylized piffle designed to titillate and satiate bloodlust while slowly turning your brain to mush! 

Fair (1 star)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, drug use, graphic violence and pervasive profanity 

Running time: 102 minutes

Distributor: Arc Entertainment

To see a trailer for Plastic, visit:       

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