“I think what the Academy did this week is a step in the right direction but it’s going to be a slow moving change because the Academy reflects in a large degree what the industry looks like,” said 2015 Oscar winner and Underground EP John Legend today at the Sundance Film Festival. In Park City for both the upcoming WGN America series and the Obama courtship pic Southside With You, Legend and his Get Lifted partner Mike Jackson dropped by our DeadlineNow studio on Saturday – click the above video to check it out.
With the absence once again of African-Americans among the Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress or Supporting categories in this year’s Oscar nominations, the fallout and boycotts and subsequent recently announced diversity moves by AMPAs, the poignancy of the busy Get Lifted’s projects and perspective cut straight to the heart of the matter. “For a certain type of film, the Oscar type of film, it’s kind of a narrow road and there don’t seem to be a lot of films featuring people of color,” Academy member Legend noted of the process itself. “The responsibility also falls on us to create great content for people who look like us and take control of the situation,” added Jackson.
With that philosophy, the March 9 debuting Underground details the bravery and dangers of the path to freedom that some slaves pursued in early 19th century America. The Baton Rouge-filmed series features an ensemble cast that includes Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge and Jessica de Gouw, among others. Created by Heroes alum Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, the drama has Legend and Jackson as well as Get Lifted’s Ty Stiklorius EPing. Akiva Goldsman, Joby Harold, director Anthony Hemingway and Tory Tunnell also serve as EPs.
Get Lifted’s other Sundance 2016 project, the Richard Tanne written and directed Southside With You debuts tomorrow. No surprise, the semi-fictionalized feature about the 1989 first unspoken date between young lawyers Barack Obama and then Michelle Robinson has attracted wide interest both at the fest and elsewhere.