Saturday, January 21, 2017

An OUTSIDERS Saturday

This is an intelligent, provocative, action-packed new series that deserves attention.  I had the fine opportunity to interview the producers and cast members before the premiere of the first season.  OUTSIDERS on cable's WGN America got renewed for a second season.  The new season starts next week on Tuesday.  The first season plus previews of the upcoming new one air today, Saturday, on WGN America.  So, I feel that today is a good time to repost interviews I did for premiere of Season One.
The Farrells may just seem like a bunch of bad-ass hillbillies who live on a Kentucky mountaintop and want to be left alone.  But the show is more than that.  There's class struggle, drug addiction, interracial lovemaking, racial prejudice, corporate greed, murder and intense fighting within the Farrell clan itself.  The Farrell clan is an American family with its own way of doing things.  It can survive without TV, the internet, cell phones and updates on the Kardashians.
There may be major conflict within this independent, mysterious mountain family --but, fashion-wise, the Farrells always seem to be coordinated.

OUTSIDERS is one of those solid, sharp TV shows that I hope gets Emmy and Golden Globe attention this year.  It's a fine production with excellent writing, good acting, complicated characters, and socially relevant scripts that tell the story of an American family that lives off the grid.  I loved meeting two of its producers.  They are novelist Peter Mattei, creator of OUTSIDERS, and writer/director/producer Peter Tolan.  Tolan's history has a lot of comedy credits such as the MURPHY BROWN, HOME IMPROVEMENT and RESCUE ME sitcoms in addition to the hit comedy film ANALYZE THIS.  Here's my first meeting with those OUTSIDERS producers.

Burly David Morse, one of my favorite actors since way back in his NBC years on ST. ELSEWHERE, gets to exercise some new acting muscles as Big Foster, head of the Farrell clan. Australian actor Thomas M. Wright is remarkable as the grief-stricken and drug-addicted Sheriff Wade Houghton, a widowed single father.  Wade has a heart full of pain. The sheriff warns the corporate types who want to take over the Farrell mountain property that they don't know they're dealing with.  The corporate types want the coal rights to the mountain.

Catch up with the first season today, January 21st, on WGN America.  Enjoy the previews for the upcoming Season Two.






Thursday, January 19, 2017

OUTSIDERS Return on WGN America

A fierce and mysterious tribe in the Kentucky mountains.  The Farrell clan survives without modern technology.  It's survived that way for about 200 years.  Corporate types in the town want to take over their mountain turf for profit.  Those sophisticated men in suits think the Farrells are just hillbillies who make a moonshine that local teens seek for a quick buzz.  But, that moonshine can cause demonic behavior.  The town sheriff warns corporate folks that they don't know what they're dealing with.  The Farrell clan wants to keep its way of life and its traditions.  They're strong, they're strange, they're undaunted and they can be deadly.
OUTSIDERS returns for a second season on January 24th.  At first glance, you may think the show is a bunch of hillbillies fighting change and modern times.  But it's more than that.  It comments on our technological age, our social class system and our political climate.  The executive producer is silver-haired and sharp Peter Tolan.  Peter has producer, writer and director credits.  He was a writer for MURPHY BROWN and a writer/director on the RESCUE ME sitcom.  His screenwriting credits include  ANALYZE THIS this starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal and the comedy MY FELLOW AMERICANS starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner as two former U.S. presidents.  He also writes for OUTSIDERS.
Tolan makes quite a team with OUTSIDERS creator and fellow writer/producer Peter Mattei.
Mattei, a filmmaker and novelist, is the show runner who came up with the idea for the challenging drama.

There's a power struggle within the family.  The clan leader, Big Foster, is at odds with Lil Foster.  Big Foster has also experienced some high drama with mama.  The versatile David Morse returns to weekly TV for OUTSIDERS.  Remember back in the day when he was a cast member on the NBC hospital drama ST. ELSEWHERE co-starring Denzel Washington?
His big screen credits include CONTACT with Jodie Foster, THE GREEN MILE, THE HURT LOCKER and the REAR WINDOW-inspired murder mystery, DISTURBIA.
Morse has a much different look for his Big Foster role.  Here he is on the right with actor Ryan Hurst who plays Lil Foster.  Take a look at this short TV promo.
I talked to the two producers and the two actors about Season 2.  These interviews took place in August.  None of us interviewers had seen the new season.  We just saw some of the new season's premiere episode.  Also, in August, none of us expected that by the time the new season premiered, Americans would be saying "President Donald Trump."  Otherwise, I would have asked questions about our current political climate and how it could affect story lines.
For Season 2 of OUTSIDERS premiering January 24th on WGN America, here's my talk with Peter Tolan, Peter Mattei, David Morse and Ryan Hurst.  I interviewed them again for WeGotThisCovered.com.  The producers talk about the excitement of hearing they got renewed for another season.  The actors talk about the quality of the scripts and tell me if they've ever lived "off the grid" like the Farrells during any point in their careers.





Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Betty White

A versatile comic actress.  We love Betty White!  I rarely hear the word "versatile" used to describe her talents, but it does apply.  When I was a boy, I watched daytime TV during summer vacations and saw her as a celebrity guest teammate on game shows.  Then she showed up as the superficially cheerful, catty and man-hungry TV cook Sue Ann Nivens on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.
She created a memorable and very funny character in playing that lusty local TV celebrity.
Years later, she played Rose, the lovably innocent and somewhat ditzy member of THE GOLDEN GIRLS.  Sue Ann and Rose, two different types of characters.
Betty White played another sitcom that I just loved.  CBS should have let that sitcom have a longer life.  After Mary Tyler Moore ended the run of her classic sitcom, White moved on to THE BETTY WHITE SHOW on CBS.  She played a middle-aged B-actress who is now starring in a cheesy TV cop series called "Undercover Woman."  The actress, Joyce Whitman, has a non-star career, a sharp tongue, she needs the work and -- as if that's not enough -- she's working with her ex-husband on the series.  There were some really good one-liners on this backstage 1977 sitcom.  OK, so it wasn't a classic sitcom like THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.  It still made me laugh.  Betty was terrific.

Did you see the Oscar winning movie AS GOOD AS IT GETS?  That brought a Best Actress Oscar to Helen Hunt and the Best Actor Oscar to Jack Nicholson.  The film was an Oscar nominee for Best Picture and Best Screenplay.  James L. Brooks wrote the screenplay.  He's also the whiz who gave us THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. Shirley Knight, who'd been doing some pretty heavy movie dramatic roles since the 1960s, got to show her sparkling comedy chops playing the loving mother to Helen Hunt's waitress character.
Well...Shirley Knight got the role after Betty White turned it down.  Why?  Because, in the opening minutes of the story, Nicholson's cranky New York City character takes a hyper little dog that's bothering him and puts it down his apartment building trash chute.  The dog was unharmed.  BUT...we know how much Betty loves animals.

She loves animals as much as we love her.  We wish a most marvelous and very happy 95th birthday to the beloved Betty White.

I've got a question for you younger gay guys who adore and still pledge devotion to THE GOLDEN GIRLS thanks to TV reruns and trivia books about the show.  We watched --- and still watch -- those dear friends and fabulous female characters.  They were of retirement age.
If there were 3 or 4 gay gentlemen of similar ages as THE GOLDEN GIRLS and they lived together in your vicinity and they would absolutely appreciate company occasionally for cheesecake and chat, would you go over and visit them?

I ask because I hear and see the love from male gay community members for THE GOLDEN GIRLS...then I hear remarks like "Ohmygod, he's over 50" or "Some old guy tried to talk me up at the bar."  None of us is getting any younger.

Would you give 3 or 4 sweet gay senior males living together that same time, attention and affection you give THE GOLDEN GIRLS?  Would they thank you for being a friend?  I'm curious.  I'm interested in how the gay males treat aging within their own community.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

MOONLIGHT's Mahershala Ali

I hope that, next week, this actor hears his name announced in the list of Oscar nominees.  Last year was a great one for Mahershala Ali and a great one for us moviegoers who got to see his work.  He gave a rich, beautiful, touching performance in MOONLIGHT.  He plays Juan, the tough black/Latino drug dealer in Florida who lets his sweet paternal spirit float to the surface when he meets a troubled, lonely, fatherless youth who's been bullied with homophobic remarks.
Juan becomes a kind father figure to the boy.  They're both outsiders in society.

Months before MOONLIGHT came out, Mahershala Ali was seen -- by some -- in FREE STATE OF JONES.  This Civil War drama, based on a true story, died a quick death in the battle of the box office.  Matthew McConaughey was the star.  He played a Confederate deserter who hates the war, hates the idea of slavery, returns to Mississippi and challenges inequality with some runaway slaves on his side.
The movie was only so-so but there was one standout performance, as far as I was concerned.  And it wasn't from the star of the movie.  It came from a supporting actor.  I'd recognized him immediately from the cast of the hit Netflix TV series, HOUSE OF CARDS starring Kevin Spacey as a ruthless politician in Washington DC.  In FREE STATE OF JONES, Mr. Ali played Moses, a runaway slave who wants freedom and equal rights for himself and his people.
 Here's a clip from FREE STATE OF JONES.
FREE STATE OF JONES didn't bring a noticeable population to movie theaters.  Fortunately, the same cannot be said about MOONLIGHT.  Critics loved it.  Moviegoers are loving it.  Next week, we'll see if the Academy loves it and gives it Oscar nominations.  Here's a clip.

It's Sunday afternoon.  According to The Hollywood Reporter and The Los Angeles Times, the movie HIDDEN FIGURES finished first at the box office.  That's the uplifting true story of the three African American woman on the NASA team who helped launch astronaut John Glenn into space in the early 1960s.  By the way, Mahershala Ali is in that movie too.  It's another film that could score an Oscar nomination next week.

For a few months, I've spending time with my sister in the Twin Cities.  On the Fox affiliate in Minneapolis, there's a low-budget but highly entertaining live weekday morning program called THE JASON SHOW.
Jason Matheson, the Fox9 host, presents taped and occasionally live celebrity interviews. Several of the live celebrity interviews I've seen were conducted via satellite with the star seated in a bigger city.  Mahershala Ali won awards from critics for MOONLIGHT and started making the rounds on network morning news programs.  He did a satellite interview for THE JASON SHOW.   I saw it.  What impressed me the most was how warm, humble and appreciative the actor was.  He gave that interview for a local Minneapolis morning show the same energy and enthusiasm he gave GOOD MORNING AMERICA and CBS THIS MORNING.  Believe me, not all celebrities do that when granting time to, shall we say, smaller markets.

What a class act he is.  And what a remarkable actor too.

Again, I hope Mahershala Ali hears his name announced next week as a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee.



Friday, January 13, 2017

BRIGHT LIGHTS Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher

When I was growing up in South Los Angeles, I had a crush on Debbie Reynolds that started when I was in grade school.  One weekend afternoon, while my mother was trying to get stuff done around the house, I was way too energetic and focused my energy on her.  I was working her last good nerve.  To get me out of her hair, she sat me down with a snack on front of the TV.  She turned to Channel 9, then called KHJ, and a "Million Dollar Movie" matinee was about to begin.  SUSAN SLEPT HERE starring Debbie Reynolds was the feature.  Mom said, "Here.  Watch Debbie Reynolds."  There was 1954 Debbie Reynolds, at a peak of her 20-something cuteness, playing the prettiest juvenile delinquent ever.  She had a ponytail, she was wearing blue jeans, and she was kicking two middle-aged cops on Christmas Eve.  As the cops dragged Susan into the apartment of a Hollywood screenwriter who'd become her temporary guardian, she let out such a piercing scream that it burst one of the bulbs on his Christmas tree.
She was my kind o' girl.  And then when she used the screenwriter's Oscar as a nutcracker.  Well...my little grade school heart took wing.
When I saw her on TV in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, I knew that I wanted to grow up and marry her.

Debbie Reynolds had a dedicated fan in my mother too.  Mom saw her as a tireless entertainer who was a fellow working mom, often a single working mom.  As for Carrie, I fell in love with her ne special night in Milwaukee.  That's the city where I attended college and began my professional broadcast career.  During my first broadcast job out of college, I was a local radio station news reporter.  I got a pass to a preview screening of a new movie called STAR WARS.  There was Debbie's daughter as Princess Leia.  I loved her.  So did everyone else in that packed movie theater.
I still cannot believe that I had a national TV talk show and two of my all-time favorite guests were Carrie Fisher and, later, Debbie Reynolds.  When Carrie entered the studio and when Debbie entered the studio, there was a delicious breeze of warmth and wit.  They made us laugh.  They were playful.  Both hung around after they taped my show to pose for photos and chat.  Not all celebrities did that.  Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds made a direct hit on hearts and stayed there.  When Carrie was on my show, you knew how special her mother was to her.  When Debbie was on, you knew how special Carrie was to her.
When they both died, we all felt as it we'd lost two beloved friends of the family.  In their relationship, we could see ourselves reflected or see a dream version of ourselves.  We could see family friction in youth that faded and lead to fierce family devotion.  They died during the holiday season, after Christmas and before New Year's Eve.  Starting with Thanksgiving, America focuses on how to get through a dysfunctional family gathering for a meal.  Let's face it.  Millions of us probably have that one immediate relative who treats us more like a casual, low-priority acquaintance than a close relative.  That breaks our hearts.  But in the story of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, we see a family love and devotion so close that it shattered a certain Hollywood family stereotype in all the years that followed the publication of MOMMIE DEAREST.

You can see that tender, tight mother/daughter bond for yourself in BRIGHT LIGHTS, a documentary on Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds that airs on HBO.  You will laugh.  You will cry.  You will miss them.  I heard about this documentary months ago when it had screened at film festivals.  It was seeking a distributor.  With the sudden passing of both stars, it found a place to air.
As Carrie says in the documentary, Hollywood didn't exactly "lavish her with awards" when talking about her mother.  They were on their way to the Screen Actors Guild awards just a year ago when Debbie was given the SAG lifetime achievement award.  And a well-deserved one it was.  Debbie and Carrie were onstage together for the acceptance and, as always, they made us laugh.  Just a year ago.  Hollywood, around that same time, gave Debbie a special Oscar.  She was ill and couldn't attend that ceremony.

Over the last few years, I've written blog pieces expressing how I felt Hollywood dropped the ball on showing appreciation for Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.  Debbie had the reputation for being one of the hardest working women in show business for decades.  She was our connection to the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Under contract to MGM during its final years as the Tiffany studio of movie musicals, she became a star with her lead role in 1952's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.  She got a Best Actress Oscar nomination for MGM's deluxe musical, 1964's THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.  She lost to Julie Andrews for MARY POPPINS, Andrews' film debut.  I've often said that Debbie Reynolds, up for Hollywood gold for that performance, should've received an Olympics gold medal.  The "He's My Friend" number in that movie was a triathlon with a downbeat.  She acts, sings and dances -- in high heels, high hair and an evening gown.  Look.
Debbie had to fight for that part in MGM's film version of a hit Broadway musical.  Shirley MacLaine was also a guest on my old VH1 talk show in the late 80s and we talked about it.  Shirley was slated to do the film.  There was a contract snag.  Shirley told me that Debbie contacted her and honestly said why she wanted the role.  She felt that Shirley would go on to other good roles, but the era of the Hollywood musicals was ending.  Debbie sensed this would be her last chance at a big, first class Hollywood musical.  Shirley did go on to other good roles, roles that brought her Oscar nominations with one victory.  She won Best Actress for the mother/daughter tearjerker TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.  Shirley laughed in our VH1 interview and added that it was "karma" she was in rehearsals at that time for a role that Debbie wanted.  The role was Hollywood mom Doris Mann in POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE with a screenplay by Carrie Fisher based on Carrie's first novel.
The Oscar nomination Debbie Reynolds got for THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN was the only one she received.  I said in my network TV film review that she deserved to get one for her terrific comedy/drama character role performance in Albert Brook's MOTHER.  She got raves from critics for that 1996 film.  But she  did not get an Oscar nomination.

I often got the feeling that Hollywood took Debbie and Carrie for granted.  Have you seen POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE?  Carrie wrote Meryl Streep to another Best Actress nomination.  If you've read the novel, you'll agree that Carrie should've been nominated for Best Screenplay.  Keeping the same characters from the novel, it's a different look at the same story.  Brilliant dialogue.  Memorable scenes.  In the book, Suzanne's grandmother is the relative we hear from the most.  Doris, her mother, is in less than 10 pages.  Carrie went deeper into her own relationship with Debbie for the screenplay.  The celebrated staircase argument scene in the movie ("It twirled up!") is not in the book at all.

But Quentin Tarantino won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 2012's DJANGO UNCHAINED even though his film was inspired by 1966 foreign western called DJANGO.  Tarantino's film had a cameo appearance by Franco Nero, the star of 1966's DJANGO.  Go figure.

With Carrie's talent as a screenwriter and a novelist coupled with her lead actress work in the original STAR WARS trilogy, three box office blockbusters that are truly iconic all over the world, she never got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

As for Debbie, she dynamically and selflessly toiled for years and years to preserve Hollywood history starting at a time when shoe salesmen were becoming studio heads.  She often went broke collecting classic Hollywood costumes from classic films.  But the Hollywood that would give $20 million to Adam Sandler to make another shitty comedy would not help Debbie with her Hollywood memorabilia museum.  In the early, dark days of the AIDS crisis, there were two Hollywood female stars who jumped right in to help and raise money -- Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds.  Debbie didn't get the headlines that Elizabeth did, but she was there onstage entertaining at AIDS benefits when our government was doing nothing.

Hollywood should have given Debbie Reynolds a special Oscar around the time MOTHER was released.  She was Hollywood royalty.  Debbie was a Hollywood star who showed her musical comedy and dramatic talents over the years in films such as SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, THE TENDER TRAP, A CATERED AFFAIR, THE RAT RACE, THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY, TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, DIVORCE AMERICAN STYLE and MOTHER.

But, years before Debbie got one, the Academy gave a special Oscar to Oprah Winfrey whose global success came from daytime TV.  Nothing against Oprah, but Debbie was a movie star before Oprah was born.

You'll see the side of Debbie Reynolds that her professionalism kept hidden.  You see her older, growing infirm and slowing down.  You see Carrie being protective of her mother's image.  The behind the scenes section at the SAG awards show will touch your heart.  Check your listings or go to HBO.com and look for upcoming repeats of BRIGHT LIGHTS. I'm so grateful to HBO for showing it.  The whole documentary makes you love Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher even more.  They were two bright lights -- and I wonder if Hollywood truly appreciated how radiant and colorful those lights were.

If Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher had played an extremely close mother and daughter in a movie like TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and if the movie ended with the daughter dying unexpectedly and the mother also dying unexpectedly the following day, critics would have snarked that it was a sappy, sentimental and totally unbelievable ending.  But those deaths happened in real life.

That's Hollywood. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today in TV History: Teresa Graves

"You're under arrest, Sugar."  Baby boomers who were kids in those days can still quote her weekly line on that groundbreaking cop series.  Born on this day in history:  The late Teresa Graves.  No one talks about her today, but she was stellar on TV.  The camera loved her.  What was there not to love?
TV viewers -- especially those of us in the black community -- fell in love with Teresa Graves when she was added to the cast of NBC's extremely popular comedy sketch/variety show, LAUGH-IN.  That was in the late 1960s to early 70s.  She could sing and she had a flair for comedy.
There's Teresa Graves on the left next to future Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner and fellow LAUGH-IN cast member, Goldie Hawn.  Anybody who was anybody in show biz, past or present, wanted to do a cameo appearance on LAUGH-IN.  Even Republican presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon did a cameo comedy bit on LAUGH-IN to boost his popularity.  He won the election.  Then he resigned from office because of the Watergate scandal.

As for Teresa Graves, she made racial and gender history on ABC.  In 1974, she starred on the new series GET CHRISTIE LOVE!  Not only was she one of the first African American actresses to be the star of a prime time network drama series, she was playing an undercover cop who was the lead character.  In September 1974, NBC came out with Angie Dickinson as POLICE WOMAN.  In January 1974, GET CHRISTIE LOVE! was an ABC Movie of the Week.    It became a series in September.
That means Christie Love was on the undercover cop beat before POLICE WOMAN, thanks to the ABC Movie of the Week.  (Man, how I wish that original programming format would be revived by ABC!  It helped launch careers of new actors like Sally Field, James Caan, Billy Dee Williams, Stockard Channing and Martin Sheen plus young new directors like Steven Spielberg.)
GET CHRISTIE LOVE!, just like ABC's 1965 series HONEY WEST starring Anne Francis, was a drama/action series featuring a woman in the lead role as a non-comic book crimefighter.  Anne Francis played a hip, smart private eye who ran her own business.  The female private eye story is a TV and film genre just waiting to be tapped.  Both HONEY WEST and GET CHRISTIE LOVE! had short runs.  Each lasted just one year compared to the long run of POLICE WOMAN.  But, during their short runs, both those ABC shows were very popular with young viewers and the network should've kept the shows on longer than they did.
Another word about HONEY WEST:  Like Christie, she was cool.  Honey knew karate, she could handle a gun, she drove a convertible and she had a pet ocelot.

In the late 1980s, during my years as a VH1 daily veejay and talk show host, a buddy of mine who worked for a Hollywood studio told me that his company was eager to do movie versions of properties already known to TV audiences.  I suggested his company star Michelle Pfeiffer in a film version of HONEY WEST and write in a nice guest star role for Anne Francis.  But did Hollywood listen to me?  No.  In today's age of the TV reboot, maybe GET CHRISTIE LOVE! should get some consideration.  Here's an opening of the show.
I don't know much about the lovely and very talented Teresa Graves after the cancellation of this hour-long cop series.  I wish there had been another network TV project for the singer/actress.  Reportedly, she retired for show business in the early 1980s and concentrated on religious and social awareness issues.  Sadly, Teresa Graves was the victim of a pre-dawn house fire in Inglewood, California and died in 2002.  She was only 54.










Saturday, January 7, 2017

Viola Davis, Fabulous in FENCES

A few days ago, I went to see FENCES.  It was worth every single penny I spent on that New York City cineplex ticket.  A few critics have written that this film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play by African America playwright August Wilson feels "stagey" and shows its theatrical roots.  Well, frankly, you can tell it was originally a stage vehicle.  The late August Wilson wrote the screenplay.  Initially, FENCES was slated to be a presentation on HBO.  The FENCES project, to be directed by Denzel Washington who starred in the Broadway revival with Viola Davis, got upgraded to theatrical release.  Wilson won two Pulitzer for plays and it took over 20 years for either one of those plays to hit the big screen.  I'm cool with the film FENCES showing some theatrical roots.  I'm cool with it as a black American who's proud the work of August Wilson has finally made it to the big screen like the works of Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee and Neil Simon -- other playwrights who won Pulitzer Prizes and saw their award-winning plays turned into films.  I'm cool with it because of the magnificent performance delivered by Viola Davis under the direction of Denzel Washington.  Her power, her depth, her acting brilliance take your breath away.
Let's be real:  One of the big blocks on the FENCES road from Broadway to Hollywood was race.  Wilson wanted a black director to helm the project.  At one time, Eddie Murphy was mentioned to play the son in Wilson's working class family drama.  That's because Murphy had hit comedies under his belt and Hollywood, which didn't think black actors were "marketable," wanted a name to assure box office.  White director Norman Jewison mentioned this very thing in talking about his film adaptation of A SOLDIER'S STORY, another Pulitzer Prize winning work written by an African American playwright.  Jewison, whose IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1967, revealed the hard time he had getting A SOLDIER'S STORY to the screen because no major studio wanted to do it.  Why?  Because it was "a black story" with a predominantly black cast.  A cast that included screen newcomer, Denzel Washington, by the way.  Jewison offered to take less money than his usual director's fee to get it done.  His film got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture of 1984.

I saw the original production of FENCES on Broadway in the late 80s.  It starred James Earl Jones as the strict, complex family man in the Pittsburgh of the 1950s.  Jones' performance was great.  He gave you goosepimples.  We gave him a thunderous standing ovation.  If Hollywood had not been so racially narrow-minded, FENCES should have been on the big screen in the early 90s with James Earl Jones and Ruby Dee.  Ruby Dee would be so proud of Viola Davis' performance today.
Viola Davis, who has done works of August Wilson on stage, gives the role of the wife a warm and easy sexuality that I didn't see in the original Broadway production.  Her Rose has been married to Troy for 18 years and you can tell that she still loves making love with him.  In Davis' performance, you see that her Rose said "I do" and was in for the long run.  You feel that, before Troy came along, her life was a subject in search of a verb.  Her life as a wife and mother is not a trouble-free one.  Racial discrimination took a toll on Troy's talents and dreams.  But that suburban life with him is the one she wants.  And then, just like that, something changes her life.
Trust me.  That one strong scene clip you just saw is not the only strong scene Viola Davis has in FENCES.  Her realness put tears in my eyes.  I saw some of my mother in Davis' portrayal of Rose.  I saw some of my late father in Denzel Washington's performance as Troy.

Give Viola Davis an Oscar nomination right now for FENCES.  This week, the star of ABC's HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She deserves it.  She also deserves an Oscar.