Charlamagne tha God, Nicole Brown, Reinaldo Marcus Green, and Danielle Lawson were among the talented creatives who attended the annual African American Film Critics Association Awards on Wednesday night, honoring some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest.
Charlamagne, whose show The God’s Honest Truth was recently renewed for a second season at Comedy Central, served as the host of the night’s festivities.
“We’ll be back this summer,” he told Deadline of his Season 2 return. “There were a lot of learning curves in the first season that we picked up on and now we’re working on making everything better.”
Charlamagne credits the success of his show and that of films like King Richard and The Harder They Fall on the industry allowing “Black people to lead.”
“For too long, you had white executives in these rooms trying to make Black decisions. And it’s been the same thing for women, the LGBTQ community, and so forth,” he said. “Anytime anybody wants to do things for a community, you have to let that community lead. What you’re seeing here tonight is the result of letting Black people lead.”
AAFCA president Gil Robertson echoed a similar statement.
“This year is another great example that quality projects featuring people of color and themes that reflect our communities are yielding box office numbers,” he shared. “A very important part of our DNA is our partnership with other organizations representing other diverse communities like NALIP and CAPE. We support one another and make sure we provide avenues that will allow us all to shine.”
Nicole Brown, President of TriStar Pictures, accepted the Cinema Vanguard Award on behalf of Sony Pictures’ Motion Picture Group. She spoke about shifting the conversation in Hollywood from diversity to normalization.
“We are here! This is the world we live in. Diversity is not a trend,” Brown said. “People want to see themselves reflected and that’s what we’re celebrating. I’m so glad that Black excellence and Black storytelling isn’t just a one-off—it’s here and it’s not going anywhere. I can’t wait until we don’t have to discuss diversity anymore. It’ll be such a beautiful thing.”
Brown also shared a quick update on the Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody, with Naomi Ackie leading the cast.
“We are finished shooting and what I can say is that it’s extraordinary,” she revealed. It’s such an honor to her and her legacy. Naomi’s portrayal is incredible. We had a huge search all over the globe and she is the one who captured [Whitney’s] spirit the best. Clive is so excited. The estate is so excited. She’s just magnificent.”
Green was honored with the night’s emerging director award for his work on King Richard, a family film centered on Richard Williams, father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams. The film is nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for Will Smith.
“We have to make the quality products and the people will come,” he said. “It’s up to us, as well. Of course, there are gatekeepers, and we have to change that narrative, but we are doing what we can to ensure we hold ourselves to a high standard. And with [King Richard], when I think of the epitome of Black excellence, this is it.”
He added, “Our Oscar nominations are a beautiful start, and it’s a testament to the strength of the film, and how people are responding to it. We’ve set the bar high and I want to keep going. Awards are great but it’s really about telling authentic stories in an authentic way. I’m going to continue doing what I love and breaking down those barriers.”
An important element for success is learning from those who paved the way, according to King Richard star Lawson. Her costars Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, and Saniyya Sidney were feted as AAFCA’s Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Breakout Actor, respectively.
“Mr. Will and Ms. Aunjnue showed up to work on time and ready to learn,” she said. “They had all their lines memorized and just brought so much to the table. As a young actress, that really inspires me. I see them and I know that’s what I want to do. I want to be like them. They create such a positive atmosphere to be around.”
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