Danai Gurira might be one of the strongest and most important voices in American Theatre today. The playwright’s production of Eclipsed gathered thunderous applause and approval from both critics and audiences when it premiered off Broadway at the Public Theater last year and subsequently, it moved to Broadway’s Golden Theatre, where it has received just as much positive buzz. This marks the second New York show in a year for Gurira, who also stars as Michonne in the AMC television series, The Walking Dead. Her other hit show, Familiar, received an extension at Off Broadway’s Playwright’s Horizons before closing on April 10th. [Read more…] about Theater Review: Danai Gurira’s Powerful “Eclipsed”
The 88th annual Academy Awards will be taking place live this coming Sunday night on ABC. Will this finally be the year that Leonardo DiCaprio wins an Oscar for his role in “The Revenant”? Will Lady Gaga steal the show again with her Oscar nominated song “Til It Happens To You”? One thing is for certain, around the country and in NYC there will be several parties being thrown for this once a year soiree. So what is a good example of a great place to view this event? Why not try the beautiful Manhattan Cricket Club, which is nestled in the heart of the Upper West Side on W. 79th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam.
[Read more…] about VIP Oscar Viewing Party at The Manhattan Cricket Club
It is rare in this day and age, to find someone talented enough to be considered to be a triple threat. D. Woods is someone who is a strong contender to be that particular kind of entertainer. Already known for her musical prowess and dancing ability, the talented Massachusetts native is keeping her buzz loud and strong by starring in the new feature film “Blackbird”. Alongside Academy Award winning actress Mo’Nique, D. Woods shines in a breakthrough role about acceptance in yourself and others that will no doubt put her on the forefront of who is next in the acting community.
Beautiful, humble and sweet, D. Woods sat down with me recently to discuss her involvement in “Blackbird”, as well as her beginnings in the theater, influences that she has gotten to know and worked with, and what her future plans are outside of all the fab things she is doing right now. Take a look.
A lot of people know you from music obviously, but you are now dabbling in acting. Do you have a particular preference?
Well, I grew up in the theater actually. It was dancing first, then musical theater came after that, and finally it was the music industry. I have never really separated the art forms, especially with musical theater you do all at the same time and that is how I was trained to do it all- dancing forms, singing, acting, delivery, musicality etc. It all comes together for me, I am just now able to do projects that are more visible and show my acting talents but I’ve been on the stage doing acting throughout my life. Now I’m on screen so you are being introduced to a whole other side of me!
It is safe to say that your background in music that we have come to know is R&B based. A lot of people feel as if that particular genre has been dead for quite some time, what is your take on it?
I think because of the way records are selling or not selling, and everyone is trying to appeal to as many people as possible and want the largest demographic, that is where a lot of artist get into this EDM/Euro or Pop N’ B type feel to wherever they think is going to sell. I do believe that there are a lot of artists that are true to R&B, I just don’t put myself in a box however. I do whatever the music tells me to do, so it might be rock influenced or feel more cinematic, you know what I mean? It might be trap or ratchet, but then I might do R&B harmonies and vocals, its whatever I want to play with. I think there are a lot of audiences out there that want a true musical experience whether they are going to an R&B show and they are getting a little gospel thrown at them, or maybe some rock as well in the way that the band switches up the track that people know and love from their recording into the live show. I think the live performance is the best and a lot of R&B singers are the ones that can give you a true live performance as opposed to some overdubbed, autotuned track where they just hit play and walk out.
Growing up, you had to have influences that got you into the entertainment field that you are in today. Do you have any in particular that standout?
Yes, of course! I’ve met a lot of people that I didn’t expect to meet, or that I watched and know so much about their work and having a conversation with them is weird because I don’t want to have a fan moment or weird them out. I got to work with actress Lynn Whitfield on a musical called “Rebirth” and being in rehearsal with her everyday made me think of “The Josephine Baker Story”, which would just freak me out. I thought she was Josephine Baker when I was little! She comes from a generation that had that triple threat feel to it, so that was definitely a great experience working with her.
Working with Mo’Nique was big, because we saw her evolution from a comedienne to a comedic actress to working her way up to winning an Oscar and now she is an executive producer on top of all of that. So working with her was just fantastic. I watched a lot of fantasy movies growing up, so whenever they redo “The Wiz” I definitely want to partake in that on some sort of level. I met Quincy Jones a while back and pretty much told him, “I LOVE the soundtrack to The Wiz”. I mean, this guy has worked with everyone from Duke Ellington & Michael Jackson, the soundtrack to “The Color Purple” and so much more… but that is what I saw when I met him. The Wiz.
So the movie “Blackbird” just got released to stellar reviews. What is your involvement in it?
“Blackbird” is a coming of age story, centered around a character named Randy Rousseau who is played by Julian Walker. He is our breakout star. He is straight up novice, like Julian is still in college right now. I remember he was doing homework while on set! When I read this script, I found out the character finding himself and coming to terms with his sexuality but at the same time trying to live up to the expectations of his family, community and church. I play one of his friends in high school named Leslie Crandall whom he also feels like he has to live up to in his group of people around him. I feel with “Blackbird” at the base of it, it is all about acceptance and love. Loving yourself, accepting yourself, hopefully the people around you love you and accept your choices and are supportive but its trusting that voice inside in being who you want to be.
Following up on that, what would you say if someone was reading this article and having a hard time coming out to their loved ones or had something they want to share with people around them but fear backlash?
I would say, just be who you are. You will be so much happier at the end of the day. If the people around you don’t accept you, there is a pool of people that you can find who can become your family, circle of friends and ultimately your support system. I have a non-profit mentorship program called “Foolish Dreamers” and one of the main things that I tell the high school students is “You have to get the squares out your circle”. I can’t take credit for that, it was Future, but I thought it was so real because the people around you have to support your dream and choices so that you can be the best person that you are. If you are trying to be somebody that you are not, you are not being true to yourself, fair to yourself, and ultimately what you can bring to the world.
I recently saw you on an episode of Bravo’s hit show “The Real Housewives Of Atlanta” where you and her went to back to your old high school. A lot of people know you from the reality world already, so would you consider going back to it?
I’ve been asked many, many times but it has to be under the right circumstances. I’m still trying to get that dark cloud from over me as it is hard to make a first impression for the second time. If you are introduced the wrong way to the general public you have to re-educate them so that gives them the opportunity to throw away the perception they may had of you and what you had presented at that point. At the end of the day- the networks and everyone else has their own agenda, question is- can I get mine? I haven’t felt comfortable with doing it yet so as of now no.
Besides “Blackbird”, what other fabulous projects doing you have coming up in the future?
I’ve partnered up with Patrick Ian-Polt & Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions and my independent label to produce the soundtrack to “Blackbird”. The first single came out Tuesday, shortly after the movie’s release, called “Find Your Way”. It is written by myself and produced by Simon Illa, another long time collaborator of mine. It was a song inspired by the film, and then we have the songs in the film that will all be on the soundtrack.
Anything else you want to add Miss Woods?
You can follow me on social media at YaGirlDWoods on everything! My main site is missdwoods.com and I have a single out right now called “Ur Tattoo” featuring Paul Wall. Paul is seriously president of Texas after all this time. We performed at SXSW and couldn’t even walk down the street, it was crazy.
Thanks so much for sitting down with me!
You are very welcome!