Mr. President, Where’s The Love For ‘First Family’?
4 months ago
Success, opportunities for black actors depend on all possible exposure
Oh, no he didn’t!
President Barack Obama hosted a private screening with the cast and crew of NBC’s “1600 Penn,” on Wednesday, a new comedy about a dysfunctional white family living in the White House. The comedy, which premieres at 9:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, features Bill Pullman as President Dale Gilchrist with Jenna Elfman as First Lady Emily. It was co-created by one of Obama's former speechwriters, Jon Lovett.
Try as Obama may to act like he is "down with the cause," he didn't extend the invitation to the cast and crew of “The First Family,” a sitcom about a well-to-do black family living in the White House. Entertainment Studios has garnered a 104-episode syndication deal for the show, which premiered on a number of CBS stations last fall.
Although the White House screening of 1600 Penn was closed to the press, NBC’s sitcom likely will benefit from the news and his former speechwriter's involvement.
The well-known struggles that plague many black Hollywood actors and show producers have been well-documented. They need work. Additionally, there is the challenge of bringing positive representations to major network lineups and movie studios. Besides, the African American unemployment rate remained the highest in the nation last month, at 14 percent.
"First Family" creator Byron Allen, who is black, has championed his ability to assemble a large cast of veteran and up-and-coming black actors and secure a hefty investment in the show’s production.
“Most people don’t build six rooms for a pilot – you just don’t,” Allen said in a promotional interview before last fall’s premiere. “You don’t have a cast of 18 people – you just don’t… We don’t have a budget. Our budget is, ‘the very best.’”
"First Family" is loosely based on the Obamas, the first blacks to occupy the White House. Christopher B. Duncan of “Jamie Foxx Show” fame, stars as the fictional president who assumed office right after President Obama. The show follows the commander-in-chief who stumbles through balancing the duties of office with the demands of parenting four children, being a loving husband and dealing with in-laws. Kellita Smith ("The Bernie Mac Show") portrays the First Lady. Jackee Harry, Marla Gibbs and music icon Gladys Knight also are part of the cast.
The show is nothing like "1600 Penn", in which the premiere episode shows Secret Service agents rescuing first son “Skip” after he started a fire at his college fraternity house.
"We really wanted to dissect what it meant to be a family in the most extraordinary of circumstances - and what's more extraordinary than being the First Family?" said "1600 Penn" co-creator Josh Gad in a press interview last month.
It’s no secret that many black actors and actresses have long complained about the lack of opportunities in Hollywood. The younger set are particularly plagued by being underutilized, 33-year-old actor Anthony Mackie said.
"It's frustrating that the movies I want to make I haven't been able to make," Mackie told the Los Angeles Times. He was interviewed for a 2011 article about discrimination against younger black actors. "Orlando Bloom was given 15 opportunities after 'Lord of the Rings.' Black men are given no opportunities."