Joe Morton, the accomplished actor riveting viewers with his portrayal of Papa Pope on ABC’s “Scandal,” is enjoying a new role as the toast of Broadway. He is drawing raves for playing legendary comic-activist Dick Gregory in “Turn Me Loose,” a new play which counts John Legend as a producer, at New York City’s Westside Theatre.
For the performance Tasty Clips witnessed, Morton sizzled while captivating an audience that included actress-singer Suzzanne Douglas (who just wrapped the musical “Happy Yummy Chicken” with “Orange is the New Black” stars Taryn Manning and Diane Guerrero), “Banshee” co-star Frankie Faison, Jay O. Sanders (“Blackspot”), broadcaster Jacque Reed with former New York Giant Carl Banks, and the Rev. Al Sharpton with radio giant Tom Joyner.
“Dick spent about three hours with us working on timing and authenticity,” Morton said when asked if the play had Gregory’s blessings. Remarkably, Morton, also known for roles in “Brother from Another Planet” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” nails various phases of the 83 year-old’s career sans make-up or props.
Opening night brought out Gregory and Legend, as well as Wesley Snipes, Mehcad Brooks (“Supergirl”), Dule Hill (co-starring with Katherine Heigl in CBS’ “Doubt”), Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Amirah Vann from “Underground,” director Kenny Leon, Cassandra Freeman (“The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story” and Netflix’s “Luke Cage”), Sirius/XM host Mark Thompson, and Stephan Lang (who has three more “Avatar” films, another season of “Salem” and the thriller, “Don’t Breathe” on the way).
MILESTONE: The 50th birthday of legendary singer Johnny Gill was celebrated last weekend with a private bash at a Bel-Air mansion. Friends like Cedric the Entertainer, Debbie Allen, Eric Benet (riding a new single, “Sunshine”), Nicole Murphy, Rocsi Diaz, Joe, Luke James, Shaun Robinson, Jill Marie Jones, Nichelle Turner, Yvette Nicole Brown and Phillip Bailey were in attendance.
One of the “50 Shades of Johnny” evening’s highlights found a powerhouse trio of Smokey Robinson, Jeffery Osborne and Kenny Lattimore serenading enraptured “Real Housewives of Atlanta” stars Cynthia Bailey and NeNe Leakes, sporting a flattering new do.
Meanwhile, “Empire” star Bryshere Y. Gray was like glue to New Edition as he studies Michael Bivins, who he’ll portray in a BET three-part miniseries. Wood Harris, Duane Martin, Michael Rapaport, Faizon Love and Tank have just been added to that one.
WHO GOT DIBS?: A hush-hush first screening of the Tupac biopic “All Eyez on Me” was held on the Warner Bros. lot May 16 with a select few suits including L.A. Reid in the room. If WB decides to pass on the film, look for a distribution battle between Universal and Lionsgate. Advance word is that the Benny Boom-directed film is excellent and they hope to have it ready for release by Pac’s birthday in September.
CLIPPETTES: Big Freedia’s music video for “I Heard,” from her upcoming summer album, will premiere exclusively on the Fuse TV app for one week starting May 25, later segueing to the network on June 1.
Master P’s new song, now available for download, is titled “Dominque Wilkins,” described as a musical tribute to the iconic Atlanta Hawks basketball player …
May 28 finds R&B fave Jaheim celebrating his birthday with a live performance at The Savoy; and Mali Music at The Lyric …
The new Defining Courage exhibition opens May 28 with a free festival in the Little Tokyo district. Kanye mentor & Grammy winner Malik Yusef, jazz saxophonist Michael Paulo, The Rev. Shawn Amos and others are listed at www.GoForBroke.org …
Barrington Levy headlines the landmark 30th annual Jazz Reggae Festival at UCLA on May 30 from noon to 6 …
The Regent Theatre is hosting a screening of “Under the Cherry Moon” on June 2 followed by an all-Prince after party with a tribute by DJ Spinna. It’s free with a RSVP to dola.com/cherrymoon.
LIVE FROM 30 ROCK: Tasty Clips was among the early risers witnessing in person the season opener of the “Today Show” Summer Concert Series featuring a gyrating Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. He gave a stellar preview of his Puff Daddy & the Family Bad Boy Reunion Tour with full band, dancers and hit makers Mace, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss, 112, French Montana and Lil’ Kim.
Later that evening, which happened to be Busta and the late Notorious B.I.G.’s birthday, Diddy turned it up a notch at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center by bringing out Jay Z, Nas, Rick Ross, Mary J. Blige and Usher. The crowd-pleasing event hits The Forum on Oct. 4.
TC ON TV: May 29 – “Carmichael Show” (NBC): This episode titled “President Trump” serves as the season finale.
May 30 – “Live with Kelly” (ABC): Jussie Smollett co-hosts with Mariah Carey guesting. “Roots” (Lifetime/A&E/History/LMN): The new adaptation of Alex Haley’s novel runs for four consecutive nights.
May 31 – “Maya and Marty in Manhattan” (NBC): Ms. Rudolph and Mr. Short will also be joined by “Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson for this live variety show.
June 1 – “Cleverman” (Sundance): This Aussie import set in the near future is a startlingly original sci-fi drama rooted in Aboriginal mythology.
June 2 – “Lip Sync Battle” (Spike): Shaquille O’Neal vs. Aisha Tyler
PARTNERS: Industry execs, advertisers and media types crammed New York City’s Lyric Theatre last week to hear a major announcement at the Univision Upfront. The network, already the acquirer of web entities The Root, The Onion, Uforia, and parts of the El Rey and Fusion cablers, has a powerful new ally: Netflix. They will team to co-produce a boundary-breaking 2017 drama series, “El Chapo,” based on the notorious criminal’s life story. As part of the agreement, Univision will be the first U.S. network to air full seasons of Netflix’s original series “Narcos” and “Club de Cuervos” respectively.
TASTY QUIP: “Well, it definitely won’t be blacker than ‘Coming to America’ because that’s the blackest movie of all time. I think we should look at it for being just a really good movie instead of being a ‘really black movie.’ Don’t limit ourselves.” – ANTHONY MACKIE to ABC Radio’s Karu Daniels on speculation Marvel’s “Black Panther” with Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and possibly Lupita Nyong’o, directed by Ryan Coogler, could be the biggest and blackest film ever.
“Tasty Clips” is an entertainment column published in The Wave to update readers on the activities and accomplishments of black celebrities and artists in television, in music and at the movies. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be reached on Twitter @tastyclips.