The new Thurgood ‘Marshall’ movie is a thrilling What-Had-Happened-Was Superstar Chadwick Boseman and director Reggie Hudlin talk colorism and the black film renaissance

Chadwick Boseman remembers the exact moment when he understood why the work he was doing — not just the grabbing of marquees, not just working alongside Hollywood’s top talent, not just surprising critics with how easily he melts into a role of some of the world’s most famous men — was cemented.

He was on the set of Draft Day, a 2014 sports drama about the Cleveland Browns and its general manager (Kevin Costner) who wants to turn around his consistently losing team with a hot draft pick. “When you’re doing a car shot,” Boseman says, leaning in and slightly pushing back the sleeves of his sharp, black bomber, “you’re following the lead car.” He said they stopped in front of the projects. “I get out of the car, and somebody says, ‘Yo, that’s that dude from that baseball movie outside, right?!’ Everybody in the projects came outside, and they were like, ‘Hey, hey, hey! I got your movie on DVD in the house!’ The DVD hadn’t come out yet. They were like, ‘It didn’t come out yet? Oh, no, no. We didn’t mean it that way. But look — I saw it.’ ” He says that’s what it’s all about. “You want people to appreciate what you’ve been doing.”

This week, Boseman’s latest film, Marshall, opens. Once again, the actor takes on a role of a historical, powerful-in-his-field man. He’s portrayed baseball and civil rights icon Jackie Robinson and the influential James Brown. Now he’s legendary lawyer and eventual Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.

It’s an interesting casting, to be sure. Part of Marshall’s story is rooted in his light skin. It was a privilege. Marshall himself was the highest of yellows, and his skin color — on the verge of passable — was unmissable. Boseman, on the other hand is decidedly black, with striking chocolate skin — and that factor almost prevented him from even going after the role.

It’s an interesting casting, to be sure. Part of Marshall’s story is rooted in his light skin. It was a privilege.

Reginald Hudlin, the film’s director, said it’s been a hot topic, even among his close circle. “I’ve had friends who admitted to me, ‘I went in going I don’t know if this casting works.’ And they also have admitted, within 20 seconds, that concern was gone, it had never occurred to them. Because Chadwick’s performance is the exact spirit of Thurgood Marshall. He said that people who have clerked under Marshall, who knew him intimately, are more than satisfied. They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, how did you capture all those little nuances of his personality? You guys nailed it.’ To have that affirmed by people who have firsthand knowledge is a huge relief.”


But Marshall isn’t a biopic. It’s a dissection of one of the best legal minds in American history. And as he has done in his previous biographical work, you stop wondering about the actor at all, let alone the shade of his skin. “If this was a cradle-to-grave story about Marshall, obviously we would have to deal with his complexion,” said Boseman, who is also credited as a producer on the film. “Right now, we’re dealing with one case. He’s walking into this courtroom as a black man. He’s not a black man passing as a white man. He didn’t try to pass as a white man. He showed up as the black attorney, right? He showed up as a black man and got gagged for being black, right?”

“They didn’t say,” Boseman stops to laugh, “ ‘We’re going to gag you because you’re light-skinned-ded.’ ”

Marshall, at its best, is an examination of Marshall’s brilliance. It’s an up-close, deep dive into how Marshall changed the course of American history. “Everything is a risk,” Boseman said. “No matter what movie you do, it’s a risk. … It’s also a risk, if you look like the person, to play the role because then there’s the pressure of doing certain things a certain way.”

The court case used to examine Marshall’s legal savvy is relatively unknown — a black man in Connecticut (Sterling K. Brown) is accused of raping a white woman (Kate Hudson) — and Marshall is stripped of his voice. He’s told by a racist judge that he can’t speak in the courtroom. He couldn’t speak on behalf of his client at all. Instead, he had to employ Sam Friedman, an insurance lawyer who is a white Jewish man (Josh Gad), and teach him how to try this case. There’s a tone of Mighty Whitey here, to be sure, intermingled with a lesson on the importance of allies. Timely.

That said, it’s Boseman’s film. And not for nothing, he absolutely nails it. In four short years, the Howard University-educated Boseman has positioned himself as a force. He’s a box-office draw, and at the top of next year he leads the highly anticipated Black Panther, which surely will change the course of Hollywood, or at least continue to challenge the notion that films with predominantly black casts don’t travel internationally.

Not that Boseman isn’t up for the challenge. He’s the black man — sometimes he’s by himself — gracing Vanity Fair-like magazine gatefold layouts representing the next biggest thing in Hollywood. His representation is undeniable. And he understands his worth.


This film feels very much like 2017. It takes place in December 1940, a time when the NAACP was concentrating on its litigation in the South, suing over voting rights and equal pay for black teachers and segregation in higher education. But in the North, issues abounded as well — in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, there was a 1933 law that banned racial discrimination in public places, and it went unenforced in 1940. Marshall was 32 years old at the time and just beginning the work that would change the lives of black Americans for generations to come.

That notion of public discrimination is tested constantly — turn to any current news headline or cable TV news lower third for quick proof. And Marshall the movie sometimes feels like a thrilling, current-day, true-life drama. Often, when we talk about the historic work the NAACP did with Marshall as its chief legal brain trust, we think about the work done south of the Mason-Dixon line. But this case is set in a conservative white Connecticut town — away from the hard-and-fast Jim Crow laws that crippled black folks who lived in American Southern states.

“That was very much our intent. ‘Why did you choose this case? Why didn’t you do him as a Supreme Court justice? How come you didn’t do Brown v. Board of Education? Those are all worthy stories, stories that the public thinks they know — ‘Oh, I learned about Brown in fifth grade. I got that.’ You don’t got this,” Hudlin said. “You don’t know this case, you don’t know the outcome of this case, which gives me the chance to be true to genre. Because I think genre is what saves these movies from being medicine movies, which I despise. You want to make a movie that works if it wasn’t Thurgood Marshall. If Joe Blow was against the odds in this legal case, does the movie still work?”

It does. “This crime has all these broader implications, economic implications, for black folk. And for the institution of the NAACP. The truth is messy. Everyone comes into the case with their own particular set of -isms,” Hudlin said. “The challenge is, do you respect the process of the legal system to get to uncomfortable truths? And do you have enough personal integrity to acknowledge uncomfortable truths as they emerge, that don’t fit your preconceived notions? That’s how America works, you know?”


This film premieres right at the start of Hollywood’s award season preseason. In the fourth quarter of each year, we’ve come to expect the year’s best to be presented, or some of the year’s most generously budgeted films to hit the big screen.

But Marshall, perhaps, carries a bigger weight. It feels like a tipoff of a major moment for black creatives both behind and in front of the camera. This is the first time we’ve seen so many black directors working on films of this magnitude and at this level. Coming soon after this film are projects by directors Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle In Time) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), and Gina Prince-Bythewood is writing and directing Spider-Man spinoff Silver & Black. And the list goes on.

“He showed up as a black man and got gagged for being black. They didn’t say, ‘We’re going to gag you because you’re light-skinned-ded.’ ” — Chadwick Boseman

“I would say like three, maybe four years ago … in separate moments … we’ve talked about what’s been happening over the past few years. And I remember leaving several of those conversations, and we said, ‘Let’s not say it publicly, but we’re in the renaissance,’ ” Boseman says. “Let’s not say it publicly, because if we say it, then people will think we’re happy with it. That we’re satisfied with that. So let’s not ever actually say it. I think now we’re at a point where there’s no point in not saying it, because it’s obvious that this is a different moment.”

This is a huge moment, but it comes with questions — plenty of them.

“My bigger-picture analysis is that there are 20-year cycles,” said Hudlin. “You have this explosion in the 1970s with the blaxploitation movement, which created a set of stars and a set of icons so powerful they still resonate today. You can say Shaft, you can say Superfly, you can say Foxy Brown, and those things still mean things to people 40 years later.” He said that then there was a five- or 10-year period, a kind of collapsing, where basically in the ’80s you have Eddie Murphy and Prince. They don’t have folks really able to make movies. “Then, in the ’90s, there was that explosion of Spike Lee, and myself, and John Singleton. Those films were different from the movies of the ’70s. More personal, you know?”

He said blacks were telling their own stories, and there were greater production values. “And then like a 10-year period, a shutdown, and really you have Tyler Perry. And now this new wave, right? And when you look at all three of these periods, the thing is, the movies get bigger, they get more varied in their subject matter, and the production value keeps increasing. When you look at the bounty of black images, of black filmmakers working in film and television — no. We’ve never had it this good. We’ve never had material this rich, and to me, the outstanding question is, when does it no longer become a cycle and becomes a fixture and part of the entertainment landscape?”

As they say on social media, that’s a question that needs an answer.

Five new TV shows worth watching this fall Last year’s bonanza of blackness hasn’t repeated itself, but you should still plug these shows into your DVR

What’s new in TV this season? Worth checking out? Honestly, the pickings this fall are slimmer than last year’s bonanza of blackness. Both The Carmichael Show and Pitch have been canceled. Atlanta’s second season was delayed so creator and star Donald Glover could go be Lando Calrissian, and Insecure became the most celebrated and discussed show — of the summer.

Empire, black-ish and ABC’s Shondaland lineup have been around long enough that they’ve morphed into reliable fall standards: This Is Us, though still young in television years, has clearly captured the country’s imagination — along with its appetite for Kleenex. And the OWN juggernaut and prestige drama Queen Sugar returns this week for the second half of its second season. We’ll finally get to see those episodes directed by Julie Dash!

[‘Queen Sugar’s’ second season explores a fraught mix of family and historical legacy]

So what’s left? Allow me to walk you through the best of the rest.

Big Mouth (Netflix)

Netflix’s oddball animated show about puberty is currently streaming. It features Jordan Peele as the ghost of Duke Ellington (he lives in one of the character’s attics) and Maya Rudolph as a hormone monstress. Yes, she’s a hairy, horny, imaginary monstress who puts bad ideas in the head of a 12-year-old girl named Diane.

Big Mouth follows the lives of a group of 12-year-olds navigating the hellacious road map of wet dreams, peer pressure, unfortunately timed boners, first periods and, yes, hormone monsters. Big Mouth also contains its share of meta TV and Hollywood jokes — there’s a shocking stinger about director Bryan Singer that I didn’t see coming — but mainly it really gets just how awkward, fraught, miserable — and, in hindsight, quite funny — puberty can be. It is not a show for 12-year-olds, but it is fun for anyone who felt like a mess as their hormones went bonkers for several years.

The Good Place (NBC)

If it feels like all of your favorite smart internet people are talking about The Good Place on Twitter, it’s because they are.

The Good Place, which recently began its second season on NBC, is a sitcom about ethics and philosophy — yes, the stuff Immanuel Kant spent so much time noodling in his brain about. It’s smart, funny, fresh, inventive and quite good at anticipating the questions viewers will form in their own minds. It’s also like The Good Wife in that it excels at finding ways to circumvent and poke fun at profanity restrictions on prime-time network television (and The Undefeated). You can’t curse in The Good Place, and so “f—” has been replaced by “fork.”

The show stars Ted Danson as Michael, the architect of what he hopes will be The Worst Place in the Afterlife. His grand plans for reinventing hell — or The Bad Place, as it’s known — keep getting upended by his wards, Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil) and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto). Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason are all dead and have been sentenced to spend eternity in The Bad Place, though they don’t know it. They think they’re in The Good Place, although they all (except for Tahani) have a sneaking suspicion that they’re not supposed to be there.

By the end of season one, Eleanor, Tahani, Chidi and Jason have figured out that they’re in The Bad Place and that Michael is using them to experiment with a new form of torture. Rather than subjecting folks to lakes of fire — you know, your run-of-the-mill hellish unpleasantries — he’s created an elaborate scheme of psychological torture and gaslighting, mostly by making an environment that’s supposedly perfect a bit of a drag. To Michael, hell is the suburbs.

Now that we’re at season two, there’s just one problem with Michael’s scheme: Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani keep figuring out what he’s doing and Michael constantly has to erase their memories so he can start over with his experiment. Being middle management in hell is tough, man. Michael’s problems just keep compounding: Even though Eleanor and Chidi are deliberately mismatched as soul mates, Eleanor’s begun to fall for him anyway. Even Jason, the dumbest of the bunch, has independently figured out what Michael’s up to. There’s also a very helpful android named Janet (D’Arcy Carden). Every time Michael has to wipe the memories of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason, he has to reboot Janet too.

There’s a lot to like about The Good Place, from its critique of our conceptions of utopia to its interrogation of what it means to be truly “good” or “bad.” The show follows four characters who are kind of terrible, but not genocidal maniac terrible. They’re terrible in an everyday, narcissistic, common sort of way — and they’re capable of change.

The Good Place also works in diversity in a way that doesn’t feel forced or like an afterthought, or as though it came from a network on a cookie-seeking mission. It just feels natural. Anagonye is one of the few African characters on television. (While both Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji are kids of African immigrants in real life, their ethnicity hasn’t come up in Insecure.) There’s such a dearth of characters who are Africans living in America, which is why I was disappointed to hear that HBO would not be developing the K’naan Warsame pilot Mogadishu, Minnesota.

Loosely Exactly Nicole (Facebook)

After garnering less-than-impressive ratings in its first season as an MTV comedy, Loosely Exactly Nicole, starring Nicole Byer, has moved to Facebook for its second season.

Given the return of Curb Your Enthusiasm, there’s obviously still an audience for shows about people who are awful and also unaware of (or maybe simply don’t care about) their awfulness, and the comedy that ensues as a result.

[The temerity to be terrible]

Byer is quietly daring in that the Nicole of Loosely Exactly Nicole is sexual, nervy and self-obsessed in a way that’s generally reserved for Beckys. Like Gabourey Sidibe’s Empire character (actually named Becky), Nicole hooks up with cute guys (white guys, at that). She’s not consumed with hatred of her body or her hair or her blackness, and she’s not an irritated government employee in the way that fat, dark-skinned black women often show up on television.

I want to see success for Byer, for Yvette Nicole Brown, for Retta, for Amber Riley, for Leslie Jones and for all the funny black women who don’t necessarily look like Yara Shahidi or Tracee Ellis Ross but are still bawdy, dangerous and funny. What’s more, their youth and sexuality deserve acknowledgment, and I don’t just mean in the predatory, Leslie-Jones-is-obsessed-with-Colin-Jost sort of way either.

That’s part of the reason that the summer show Claws was such a hit. In many ways, Niecy Nash is a precursor for a lot of these younger women. It’s taken years for her talents to be acknowledged, although playing Nurse Didi in Getting On may have been what it took for her to be taken seriously — she was nominated for Emmys twice for the role. Octavia Spencer is a terrific comic actress (see: Spencer as Harriet Tubman in Drunk History). There’s no doubt her career has blossomed since The Help, but I hate seeing her typecast as dowdy, matronly figures, and the more women like Byer insist on playing otherwise, the more that will hopefully change.

The Mayor (ABC)

From creator Jeremy Bronson and executive producer Daveed Diggs, The Mayor (which debuts Tuesday on ABC) stars Brandon Micheal Hall as Courtney Rose, a rapper who just wants to get some shine — so he decides to run for mayor of his hometown of Fort Grey, California. And, as you might have guessed from the title, he wins. So now you’ve got a person with zero experience or qualifications, who really just wanted a bit more fame, in public service as the head of the executive branch of a city.

I know — impossible to imagine something like that happening, right?

The Mayor reminds me of the 2003 Chris Rock movie Head of State, in which Rock stars as alderman Mays Gilliam, who is engaged in a long-shot bid for president (mostly for the publicity) with Bernie Mac as his take-no-prisoners, blackity-black hype man and brother. Head of State found comedy in the process of running for office, and the movie ends just as the awesome, weighty reality of being president is falling on Gilliam’s shoulders.

The premise of The Mayor is certainly interesting, but what I’ve seen so far doesn’t necessarily make me excited about where the show will go once Courtney has to actually start governing. It’s hard to avoid cynicism there, but maybe as the mayor, Courtney will grow into something a little more like Leslie Knope. Otherwise, there’s a scenario that’s so serious, there’s little to laugh at. Yvette Nicole Brown, who was such a treasure in Community, stars as Dina Rose, Courtney’s mother. It’s a bit of a waste to see Brown, who in real life is young and vivacious in the role of churchy, kinda sexless (though quite funny) mom. Which again, says something about the type of woman Hollywood sees as plausibly forkable.

White Famous (Showtime)

White Famous, the new comedy from creator Tom Kapinos starring former Saturday Night Live actor Jay Pharoah, joins the ranks of shows that expose, comment on and make fun of the artifice of Hollywood, such as BoJack Horseman, Episodes and Entourage.

In terms of the callouts that raise eyebrows for torching real-life relationships, White Famous, which premieres Oct. 15 on Showtime, does not disappoint. Pharoah plays an up-and-coming comic named Floyd Mooney who’s a bona fide star with black people but still gets mistaken for a restaurant valet by white Hollywood producers. Within the first 15 minutes of the show, Pharaoh has already thrown two symbolic middle fingers at director, producer and vocal Bill Cosby critic Judd Apatow.

It’s a tricky jump. Mooney has a meeting with the thinly veiled Apatow character named Jason Gold (Steve Zissis), who is directing a movie about an imaginary attorney who was the first woman Cosby assaulted. Gold wants Mooney to play the woman, a la Eddie Murphy or Tyler Perry. Mooney tells Gold that focusing solely on Cosby’s lechery is racist, although he makes the unfortunate misstep of downplaying the accusations against Cosby of drugging and sexual assault from more than 50 women.

[Why the hot black bodies on ‘Insecure’ are more revolutionary than you think]

White Famous engages in a practice I find annoying about premium cable shows: It treats naked women as mostly silent pets that can be sent to another room when their nude bodies are no longer useful to a scene. Sometimes that works as a reflection of the actual sexism that pervades Hollywood and makes pretty women disposable. For example, there’s a scene in which Mooney and Gold walk in on Jamie Foxx going to town on some unnamed woman in his trailer, and he just keeps going while continuing to hold a conversation. But sometimes, like the moment we’re introduced to a clothed Gold sleeping next to a naked woman, it’s not saying much of anything except, “Hey, I too have the power to put naked women on TV for no reason except to show boobs and butt.”

How novel.

Despite its sexist deficiencies, White Famous is still engaging. It confronts race and success in Hollywood head-on, raising questions about when and why artists end up compromising their own principles.

With ‘The Rich and The Ruthless,’ Victoria Rowell flips the soap opera script Rowell’s Rules: When you’re at the wheel, you can cast the net wide and hire black

Drucilla Winters. A fictional character on CBS’s The Young and The Restless portrayed by one of daytime TV’s hottest black women on the tube, Victoria Rowell. Drucilla was spicy. She came in with a fiery personality that kept faithful viewers watching. So when Drucilla fell off a cliff on April 4, 2007, with no body to be found, fans were left waiting and wondering whether she would ever make her return to the daytime soap world.

Rowell has moved on and has created her own lane. Her new vision, a six-part scripted comedy series titled The Rich and The Ruthless, will premiere on the Urban Movie Channel on July 28.

“As you know, I’ve had more than 14 years of daytime drama experience beyond The Young and the Restless, but that is the most iconic role that I played in daytime, as Drucilla Winters,” Rowell said. “I very quickly saw the disparity for African-Americans not only in front but behind the camera and was very active in diversity in the genre of daytime drama television.”

Rowell, the creator and director of the dramedy, is also one of the show’s stars. She first launched a Kickstarter campaign for the pilot episode four years ago. Featured in UMC’s summer lineup, The Rich and The Ruthless is a fictional story of the first black-run daytime drama in the soap opera industry and is loosely based off her novels The Young and the Ruthless and Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva.

“The premise of the show is a black-owned soap opera that’s been on the air on a fictitious network in Hollywood for 20 years and the network is trying to get rid of them,” Rowell said. “This is a dramedy. It’s wonderful. It’s a behind-the-scenes from the black perspective looking out on the perspectives of fans, the perspective of the actors and the balancing act for a black actor or actress in Hollywood taking care of their family back in Mississippi.”

Rowell said she decided to choose Mississippi because of a relationship with Myrna Colley-Lee, the founder of SonEdna, a foundation that celebrates and promotes the literary arts and writers of all genres and backgrounds.

“I was introduced to her literacy organization many years ago and was invited to Mississippi,” Rowell said. “I had the great honor of collaborating. I was invited to the local high school, and I spoke and I was taken to the SonEdna art center. I’m also involved in literacy. The high incidence of illiteracy in the South and teen pregnancy, I absolutely wanted to make Mississippi a part of the story. Besides that, the historical civil rights aspects of Mississippi.

“To me, it all matters. It all collides. It all has to matter. In my opinion, to live a full, bountiful, abundant and give-back life, you have to know the history. You’ve got to look back to move forward.”

In The Rich and the Ruthless, all the drama begins when greedy studio executives inform self-made businessman and showrunner Augustus Barringer (Richard Brooks) that his show is getting booted off stage for another talk show after two decades on the air. Augustus is ready to fight back by any means necessary to stay on the air — even if that means filming out of his sleek Hollywood mansion or moving the company to Jamaica. Meanwhile, his unpredictable wife, Kitty Barringer (Rowell), is not happy about any of it. After recently returning home from her latest stint in rehab, she decides it’s time to claw her way back up the cliff and make her soap diva comeback to her role on the show as Blue Sylla, much to her husband’s chagrin.

“I won’t give it away, but it’s a family-owned business, so think Game of Thrones meets The Office meets Empire, sort of the political mores, dealing with the tug of war with the network, dealing with the family dynamics and power struggle,” Rowell said.

Rowell’s journey includes being raised in foster care as a child. But she overcame everything and became a successful model, dancer, actress, mother and activist. She is particularly passionate about fairness for black actors, so much so that she decided to take the lead as a creator and director so she could create positions and cast talented actors in nontraditional roles.

“I grew up in foster care for 18 years,” Rowell said. “I understand disparity. I understand racism. I understand all of that. I understand what poverty looks like. I do my job. No one works between two companies for 22 years not doing their job. I was able to learn and glean a lot from that experience, but at the same time, I thought, I have to do more than collect a check. I have to do my level best too … and if it means creating my own show, all the better. I don’t find it to be a hindrance at all. It has only empowered me and made me stronger. I manifested The Rich and the Ruthless so that I could be at the wheel and cast the net wide and have a black casting director and wardrobe, costume designer, and have black producers and be the executive producer, have black writers, cast the net wide for black catering, and so on.

“So you see, when you’re at the wheel, you can cast the net and hire black. We’re there. That’s a myth, that we don’t exist. Not only do we exist, but we have our union cards as well in some cases, many cases.”

Rowell, who wrote the New York Times best-seller The Woman Who Raised Me, portrays the series as a soap within a soap. Rowell stars alongside Brooks (Being Mary Jane, Law & Order), Dawnn Lewis (A Different World, Major Crimes), Robert Ri’chard (Coach Carter, Chocolate City), Chrystale Wilson (The Players Club), Caryn Ward Ross (The Game), Michael Colyar (The Princess and the Frog), Alesha Reneé and more.

Rowell has earned three Daytime Emmy nominations and 12 NAACP Image Awards. She had an eight-season stint on Diagnosis Murder as a medical examiner and a handful of feature-film roles.

“Being Emmy-nominated is hugely a part of my story and my imprint as an actress,” Rowell said. “I’ve worked in Hollywood over 25 years with the likes of Sam Jackson to Eddie Murphy to Will Smith. I’ve worked with Mario Van Peebles. I’ve worked with Forest Whitaker, Dick Van Dyke, Jim Carrey, lots of incredible actors, black and white. Roc Dutton, Robert Townsend and, of course, Shemar Moore. Today, my highest achievement is being owner, creator, executive producer, director and co-writer and actor of … and in The Rich and the Ruthless.”

A letter of gratitude to Stuart Scott Scott was beacon of light for the athletes he covered and the North Star for aspiring black sports reporters

“See,” my Uncle John said in the summer of 1998. He pointed toward the television in his Washington, D.C., apartment. “That’s gonna be you one day.” A fluorescent light from his fish tank dimly lit the apartment. My uncle and I were up watching Stuart Scott on SportsCenter. Scott talked about sports the way we talked about sports. Scott wasn’t just relatable. He was us. My uncle said, “I’m gonna be watching you do that.”

I loved the way Uncle John approached life. The way he interacted with people and made them feel comfortable. He never came off lame, or corny. My parents had divorced when I was 2, and John treated me like a son. This was when I had no memory of my biological father and didn’t care to know who he was.


John and I loved sports. He was a Washington fan, and I was a diehard Cowboys fan. The last conversation we ever had was about just that. We both loved Michael Jordan, Shaq and Penny, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. But SportsCenter was our drug of choice. We loved the infectiousness of Linda Cohn; same for Dan Patrick’s and Kenny Mayne’s dry humor. But our favorite combo was Rich Eisen and Stu Scott.

I played basketball as a kid, and my uncle and I decided early on that going pro wasn’t my calling. I was 9, and I purposely moved in the chair so the barber would take a plug out, forcing him to shave my head. Talk about taking “be like Mike” to the extreme — I also purposely got myself sick hoping to mimic Michael Jordan’s “flu game.” My mom was rightfully pissed. She yelled at me — and said I looked more like a light bulb than Jordan. “She’s right,” Uncle John said with a laugh. “Let’s be more like Stu than Mike. That’s our route.”

Me and my Uncle John (circa Sept. 1998).

Courtesy of Justin Tinsley

Uncle John died of colon cancer on Jan. 2, 1999. We were in what used to be known as MCV Campus Hospital at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. It’s unclear how the room was cleared of everyone except for him and me. John alternated between looking out the window and looking at me. It was as if he had prepared his entire life to deliver his own eulogy. I couldn’t talk, for fear of crying. That winter morning remains the single most important moment of my life. I felt childhood end, and adulthood arrive. John knew death waited around the corner: the cruel reality of dying at the age of 42. He seemed at peace. With life. With death. With everything. But he made me make a promise.

“I’m still going to watch you on SportsCenter one day,” he said. “Make sure you keep your promise.”


July 19, 2017, would have been Stuart Scott’s 52nd birthday. He should be here hosting SportsCenter. He should be here presenting teams with their championship trophies. He should be here making JAY-Z 4:44 references on SportsCenter, because that’s who Stuart Orlando Scott was. In the way that Marvin Gaye’s 1970 What’s Going On changed the direction of Motown, in the way Eddie Murphy altered the scope of comedy, in the way Gwen Ifill brought so much authenticity and excellence to her journalism, Stu was just that for ESPN, and for sports media, period. The way he spoke was the way so many athletes wanted and want to be spoken about: with unparalleled charisma and respect.

More importantly, he should still be here as a daily presence for his two daughters, Taelor and Sydni — although, even in death, he remains just that. He should be here congratulating Leah Still, who received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award a year after Stuart did. It’s been three years since most of us last saw Scott, who was transformed into an icon by his landmark and emotionally charged speech at the 2014 ESPYS, when he was honored for his inspiring fight against cancer.

It’s impossible to forget Stu. He brought swagger and rebelliousness to sports broadcasting — and he had more catchphrases than Ric Flair and The Rock. He came up in the same era as did cultural bibles VIBE and The Source, and in the vein of those magazines, Scott helped inject the culture, the cockiness and confidence we loved and cherished, into mainstream consciousness. It didn’t matter if America wasn’t ready for what he had to say and how he had to say it. His generation and the one following, mine, were ready to be heard. In our own voices. In our own skin. Stu did this on television, where the idea of diversity — not only in skin color, but also in train of thought — is ever more complex and necessary.

Scott died Jan. 4, 2015. The very next day I moved to Los Angeles to start my career with ESPN.

And it is absolutely impossible to forget Scott at the ESPN campuses, where his pictures remain on the walls — and even on the set of Jemele Hill and Michael Smith’s The Six, the 6 p.m. SportsCenter with deep roots in Scott’s meteoric rise and impact on the company. It’s impossible to forget about Scott at ESPN, because no one would dare.


Scott died Jan. 4, 2015. The very next day I moved to Los Angeles to start my career with ESPN. The night before I was to get on the first one-way flight of my life, my mother — the same one who told me I looked like a light bulb with a bald head — sat me down. “You may not realize it for years down the line,” she said at our kitchen table, “but this means something. You’ve looked up to this man your entire life. You’ve talked about ESPN your entire life. … It’s destiny.”

Working at The Undefeated, in the year since its launch, has been the most incredible experience of my life. My first television experience was when I went on SportsCenter to talk with Linda Cohn about O.J. Simpson. This type of stuff just doesn’t happen. These blessings are the gifts I fantasized about when watching Stu was as much a part of my routine as was brushing my teeth. I prayed for this while watching my ceiling fan twirl, while begging God for a chance to do something impactful with my life.

But if there are regrets? There’s the fact that The Undefeated never had the chance to work with Stu. There’s the fact that I never got a chance to buy him a beer, and tell him how his tweets to me after the Super Bowl in 2013 meant more than he could have ever realized. I never got the chance to chop it up with him about sports, music and his journey. Or tell him he was as important in the lives of myself and my Uncle John as Jackie Robinson was to generations before.

Or that when I had no memory of an actual biological father, nor any desire to acknowledge his existence, Scott helped to solidify my most critical bond with an older man. Had it not been for Stu being Stu that day in the summer of 1998 — and my uncle, growing more ill by the hour, pointing at his TV, predicting my life’s course and giving me a North Star — there’s no telling where I’d be right now. Not writing this, for damn sure.

My three sons: Mother of ‘Queen Sugar’ star Kofi Siriboe on raising her Hollywood heartthrobs Supermom Koshie Mills on her Mother’s Day surprise and her ‘three kings’

Koshie Mills’ three sons have distinct personalities, and they all correspond with the personas of well-known and accomplished actors.

The eldest is the life of the party, a charismatic cross between comedians-turned-actors Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx (“The party starts when he arrives,” she jokes). The middle son is more like Denzel Washington: “He is more introspective and philosophical​; he’s my charmer; everyone flocks to him,” she explains. The baby is a Denzel/Will Smith mix in the group. Dubbed “the diplomat,” he’s​ “the spiritual conscience of the brothers and always pushing others to view life from different perspectives,” Mills said.

And this supermom knows her sons very well.

“I call them my three kings, like the three kings who visited baby Jesus,” said Mills, a Ghana-born, London-bred and “Los Angeles-curated” international media strategist. “Each brings his own unique gift, and there’s power in each of those gifts.”

Like most any proud mother, Mills can’t contain her excitement when she speaks of her “boys” — well, fawning and gushing is more like it. And she’s got plenty of reason to do so.

Her middle son, Kofi Siriboe, 23, is best known for his breakout role as Ralph Angel Bordelon on Ava DuVernay’s drama series Queen Sugar on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The swarthy heartthrob began acting at age 6 with print work and television commercials, followed by ​guest ​roles on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and a ​recurring role on MTV’s ​comedy series Awkward. He made his film debut in 2008 in the comedy-drama The Longshots.

The eldest, Kwame Boateng, 25, got an early start too, acting and modeling at age 8 and appearing in more than 30 national commercials and movies, including Not Easily Broken, a film based on a T.D. Jakes book. He also snagged roles on television shows The Chicago Code, The Office, ER and Everybody Hates Chris.

At 18, Kwesi Boakye is the youngest of the brood. (“He booked his first job at 9 months,” gushed Mills.) He played Manny in the 2009 Tyler Perry film I Can Do Bad All By Myself and has also previously done voice work for The Looney Tunes Show and The Amazing World of Gumball. He has also ​starred in television shows such as TNT’s Murder In The First with Taye Diggs, ABC’s Mind Games, Touch, The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-O and as a series regular on Ray Romano’s Men of a Certain Age.

Being “mom” to three of Hollywood’s brightest rising stars is no small feat. Add in a flourishing, nearly 26-year marriage and helming her own full-service, boutique multimedia firm based in Beverly Hills, California, and it’s safe to say that this “mom-ager” is, like Jill Scott sings of, living life like it’s golden.

From left to right: Actors/brothers Kwame Boateng, Kwesi Boakye and Kofi Siriboe pose after the making of a TV commercial for Code Blue PSA Campaign, designed by actor Jermaine Crawford on Oct. 17, 2009, in Los Angeles. Crawford created Code Blue to bring awareness of and to fight against the issues that threaten teen youth.

Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

After many years solo, Mills now shares management duties and also serves as publicist and does branding for all three. Having dear old mom so inextricably intertwined in their lives both personally and professionally is not a problem, they insist, but a plus.

“Our relationship is very special. I’m a mama’s boy,” confessed Siriboe, who is slated to appear this summer alongside Regina Hall, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith in the Universal Pictures flick Girls Trip. “My mom is one of those people with a big, nurturing spirit, so even simple moments with her feel like pure nourishment for my soul. There’s a level of assurance I carry that trickles into my work, no doubt. I fully trust my mom, and I know she always has my back; that trust allows me the space to be as expansive as God intended me to be.”

Boateng said he feels similarly.

“It was my mom that started me in the business, so obviously she has been instrumental in nurturing this passion I have for the arts and entertainment. She helped develop me and put me in classes and supported and cultivated my dream, so her impact is undeniable,” Boateng said. “My mom is my best friend, confidant, my ride-or-die, the person I go to when I need counseling or help dealing with life decisions and challenges. My mom makes me feel like there is nothing I can’t tell her, and our transparent relationship is precious to me.”

Kwesi, who graduates from high school next month and ​i​s currently in a ​recurring role on the USA Network’s Colony, echoed his brothers’ sentiments. “She’s very hands-on, and it’s dope,” he said. “She’s like a guardian angel. She makes sure that I am taken care of, that I’m not taken advantage of.”

Mills laughs at the assertion that all three of her uber-talented sons hold their own as bona fide “bae” status (some of their adoring fans have even nicknamed them “Triple Chocolate Crunch”). While flattered, she said, she’s most proud that they’ve developed into positive, respectful and upstanding young men who are equally proud of both their American and African roots and give back to the community.

When she thinks back to the 10 years she spent solo managing their careers in film, television, voice-over and modeling work, she can’t help but feel a personal sense of accomplishment. Somehow she juggled it all around their schooling, extracurricular activities and, through much of it, a full-time job working overnight as a registered nurse.

Oprah Winfrey Network’s Queen Sugar premiere at the Warner Bros. Studio Lot Steven J. Ross Theater on Aug. 29, 2016, in Burbank, California.

“Acting was just another one of their hobbies,” she said. “All of them played instruments: Kwesi played the violin, Kofi played the trumpet and violin, Kwame played the bass clarinet and viola. Then there was soccer, basketball and tennis too. Kwame and Kofi played golf, but Kwesi didn’t [because] I was too tired by then.”

Her husband, Kwame Boakye, cared for them while she worked and made sure they got to school each morning, giving her just enough time to rush home to grab two hours of sleep after work before calls from casting agents started pouring in around 10 a.m. There were always last-minute auditions or jobs across town that clashed with school schedules.

“At one point I had one in elementary, one in middle and one in high school — that’s three stops I had to make,” remembered Mills, chuckling at the memory. “Even if only one had a job, I had to [pick] them all [up] because I could not risk being across town [for their gig] and miss picking the others up from school in time. Sometimes I wonder, ‘Who was that woman back then?’ I did it with God and my husband right there holding us down financially and supporting us.”

Even with their natural, God-given abilities, Mills said, cultivating the talent within her brood took time and sacrifice. For example, on countless evenings after a long day on set, she’d meet her husband, style aficionado and fashion consultant, in arbitrary parking lots to hand the boys off to him, car seats and all, just in time to race to work at the hospital. And then there were the afternoons she’d meet up with teachers at McDonald’s to scoop up a child (or children) stuck at school late when another’s acting job ran long.

She finally ended her 19-year nursing career in 2011 to devote herself full time to her sons’ careers.

“I hope my story will inspire others to recognize, curate and nurture the talents of their children,” she said. “Never give up hope, and seize the moment when it’s at hand.”

She insists that her K3 firm, which provides media relations, branding, strategic support and talent management for her diverse mix of mostly international clients, was inspired by her sons because their “talents needed the various platforms to shine.”

Added Mills, regarding her company: “It was literally born out of a mother’s love to give her children the recognition they deserved for the great work they are doing in Hollywood.”

Her passion for her family runs as deeply as her West African roots, which she and her husband have always shared with their children through music, language and their favorite: food. Mills is far from meek when speaking of her cooking skills. During the holidays, one of the rare times the entire family is all together under one roof, her sons always flock home to Los Angeles, ready for one of her world-famous feasts.

“I’m very African but I am also very American, and so they were raised on a mix of both African and American foods, like jollof rice, fufu and soup,” she said. “My recipes for greens, mac and cheese, and gumbo will make somebody want to smack their mama.”

Mills said she remains committed to serving as a “connector to bridge the creative gap between Africa and America,” and she hopes to one day soon spearhead an initiative that helps to “rebrand the dastardly images [often] perpetuated in the media about our black boys.” Well, it seems her three sons have already gotten a jump on that idea.

“I always taught them to be strong black men, to be leaders and not followers,” she said. “We’ve tried to raise them with a sense of identity, and to let them know that they are vessels and vehicles for their talent, not the drivers of it.”

Mills said she’s not sure what her sons and husband are planning to pull off for her this Mother’s Day weekend, but she expects it to be epic. The K brothers don’t disappoint.

“For sure we have some plans, lots of designer gifts,” quipped Kwesi, stopping short of spoiling any impending surprises. “She has expensive taste, and she loves luxury. And she deserves it.”

The hilarious and self-aware glory of Charlie Murphy Comedian, actor, screenwriter — and yes, Eddie Murphy’s older brother — was a funnyman in his own right

Charlie Murphy, the straight, no-chaser funnyman who died Wednesday afternoon at the age of 57 after a private battle with leukemia, pulled off the seemingly impossible. Indeed, the older brother of Eddie Murphy, a once-in-a-generation comedian and record-breaking film star, would not have been blamed if he rode the red leather tails of his sibling’s career.

Yet, Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories sketches were central to Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central gem: The tales of a coke-fueled, slap-happy Rick James and Prince the hoops god serving pancakes to his vanquished and confused foes are eternal. Murphy also became a successful touring comedian. “It’s been a riot,” he told me during a 2013 interview when asked about his move to stand-up.

Of course, Murphy, who flashed his trademark toothy grin as if he were in on the joke, was not oblivious. He’d heard the whispers: that he was piggybacking off Chappelle, as well as his brother. “All the people that have been wondering if I could pull this off, and wondering if it was real,” he said, “that’s human nature.”

Charles Quinton Murphy was a very self-aware person. “I’m not going to make a fool of myself,” he said, “or besmirch my brother’s legacy. Before I started doing stand-up, I knew I had what it takes to develop an act. I went to clubs with not many people there and I just worked on it, man.” That’s the legacy of Charlie Murphy: hard work. Which is why it’s not surprising that there has been an outpouring of heartfelt tributes.

“We just lost one of the funniest most real brothers of all time. Charlie Murphy RIP,” posted Chris Rock, who recruited Murphy to portray the all-too-gangsta Gusto for 1993’s cult comedy classic CB4. Fellow comedian D.L. Hughley glowed about Murphy: “After every gig, he rushed home to be with his kids. He died with gigs on the books.” Oscar-nominated director Spike Lee, who cast Murphy in some of his most acclaimed work — including 1990’s Mo Better Blues, posted on Instagram: “My Late Brother-The Very Funny Charlie Murphy … Rest In Power.” And actress Gabrielle Union praised him as a “kind, sweet, funny man.” Murphy’s wife, Tisha Taylor Murphy, died of cervical cancer in 2009. He is survived by his three children.


The irony, of course, is that early on the acid-tongued, Brooklyn-born maverick wanted no part of the entertainment business. He seemed content with having served in the U.S. Navy as a boiler technician and just trying to figure things out. Even after Eddie became the biggest comedian and movie star on the planet, Charlie, who was honorably discharged in 1983, took on a more supportive and protective role in Eddie’s legendary entourage. He was security. But Charlie was watching and learning.

You could see the progression. A bit role in 1989’s Harlem Nights led to parts in The Players Club (1998) and Roll Bounce (2005). Sure, he mostly played the hated bully, but he did it with a knowing wink. By the time he became a featured player on Chappelle’s Show, his deft and thoroughly engaging ability as a storyteller was on full display.

“I’m not going to make a fool of myself. Or besmirch my brother’s legacy.”

Eddie’s big brother was now more than just a member of a Hollywood clique.

“Let me put it like this,” he explained to The A.V. Club back in 2010 of his newfound celebrity. “I’m at the Four Seasons Maui, and yesterday I was with Joe Rogan. We were standing by the pool, and the waitress came over and she said, ‘We’re getting these paparazzi in the bushes right now filming you guys. We’re going to get them out of here.’ And I thought, ‘You know what? I’ve made it.’ ”

But Murphy — who co-wrote the screenplay for Eddie Murphy’s 2007 Norbit, which grossed $159 million — liked to prove to himself and his peers that he could thrive without a net on the often brutal stand-up circuit. Although his 2010 Comedy Central special I Will Not Apologize was uneven, he continued to perfect his craft. The jokes and timing got sharper. The gigs became more diverse and interesting … and bigger. There was voiceover work for The Boondocks and 2012’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was a recurring role on Cartoon Network’s criminally underrated Black Jesus. At the time of his death, Murphy was part of the all-star The Comedy Get Down tour, which also featured George Lopez, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and Hughley. It was a powerful affirmation that the stand-up he’d worked on so consistently was ready for prime time.

Comedian Charlie Murphy performs during his appearance at The Ice House Comedy Club on December 4, 2013 in Pasadena, California.

Michael Schwartz/WireImage

“A comedian’s job is so dangerous,” he said in 2012. And then two days before his death he tweeted, “Release the past to rest as deeply as possible.” Yes, Charlie Murphy could have been just Eddie’s big brother. But where was the glory in that?

Charlie Murphy dies of leukemia at age 57 Eddie Murphy’s older brother is known for roles in movies and ‘Chappelle’s Show’

Before Chappelle’s Show, a lot of people had no idea who Charlie Murphy was. The thought of Charlie, Eddie Murphy’s older brother, being an actor and comedian was almost a joke in itself. He created a second career through that Comedy Central program, and on Wednesday, TMZ reported that Murphy died at age 57 after a battle with leukemia.

But long before he was telling True Hollywood Stories of legend, Charlie was another dude trying to make it in L.A. He had roles in several black movie classics, including Harlem Nights, Mo’ Better Blues and Jungle Fever, but his breakout role was with Chris Rock in CB4. Charlie also co-wrote Vampire in Brooklyn, another film directed by Eddie, as well as 2007’s Norbit. Charlie Murphy also appeared in 1998’s The Players Club, directed by Ice Cube.

His role as a writer and cast member on Chappelle’s Show transformed him from a famous person’s family member into a household name. It was his stories that kicked off the resurgence of love for Rick James and the infamous Prince basketball story. Those were his actual life experiences, forget the bits. In many ways, Charlie was much easier to like than Eddie because he seemed so much more real.

Charlie was the funny dude on the basketball team in high school. He was the brother at work you wanted to talk trash with about sports. Charlie was a real one.

He brought the phrase “habitual line stepper” into our lives. Don’t forget that. He was also directly responsible for “game, blouses.”

Being completely honest, I had no idea he was sick. I’m fairly certain most people didn’t. But he managed to do the one thing that’s nearly impossible in today’s media landscape that will always be impressive to me: He made a name for himself that wasn’t directly tied to Eddie. I’m sure there’s an entire generation of people who still don’t know they’re related. And understandably so.

A while back, Uproxx broke down his five greatest sketches. But the thing about Charlie Murphy is that he never really seemed to be out of character, no matter what role he was playing. Which is what made him so dope.

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He told stories about meeting the greats. I wonder if he knew he’d become a legend himself.