Join the Cast of Tough Love on Valentine’s Day for the Season 2 Finale!

Hopefully after reading my interview with Tough Love cast members Devin Coleman and Will Strong, you’re all caught up with the show. This Valentine’s Day, you have the chance to attend the red carpet premiere with the cast members downtown for the premiere of the season 2 finale! Check out the info below:

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Make sure you RSVP and if you’re not caught up, do it now!

The Spotlight: Binge-Worthy Series “Tough Love” Returns for Season 2

I’ve been a fan of Black & Sexy TV for a while now, from “The Number” to “RoomieLoverFriends” I’ve always appreciated the opportunity to see people of color represented in the media without being the token “best friend” or “thug.” Enter one of their most recent hits, “Tough Love”  which was a 2016 NYC Web Fest Official Selection. The series follows a group of friends trying to navigate the New York City dating scene and it is absolutely addictive. I found myself yelling at my screen, I was so involved. (My husband might say a little too involved…)

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Photo Courtesy of Frank Publicity

I had the opportunity to speak with Devin Coleman who plays Darius and Will Strong who plays Lance and is a South Bronx native, to converse about the show and its characters.

What separates “Tough Love” from other shows about dating in NYC? 

Devin:  When I run into someone who watches the show, they can identify with someone [from the show]. A lot of times, the shows I come across about New York City, it’s very one-dimensional, single focus storyline. In “Tough Love” they’ve highlighted six individuals and their problems with relationships and going into the first season, you have why people are together and now you get the background as to why they’re like this. …They’re more relatable, they’re more understandable.

Could you discuss the importance of seeing professional people of color represented in the media?  I think that’s one of my favorite things about the show is that these are all working professionals, so while they may be going through their own personal issues,  they’re on their game, professionally. 

Will: Well, nowadays, everything is whitewashed. There are very few black shows on television and the ones we have are again, watered down. Things that are going out now, like “Tough Love”, it’s a positive show, it just brings light as to ‘we can do this as well.’

Devin: As far as my experiences with the industry and how this came a part is that as socially specific as it is at times, it is relatable across all races…The great thing that “Tough Love” does is that it’s a show that you don’t have to paint people in this idealistic way. [Looking back at other shows] parts that minorities play are cliché and in a corny sort of way-

Will: Yes, stereotypical.

Devin:  …We touch on current topics, but it’s not just the cliché stereotypical way that a person is going to played on the show.

Will: When I first saw season one…I fell in love with the show. I was like, wow this show is really dope, so when I had the opportunity to audition for it, I jumped on it. It’s an amazing cast and Roni and Caleb. The show is just amazing and I think it’s going to grow and do amazing things.

How much is Darius’ personality influenced by being from the Bronx? 

Devin: When Darius was originally given to me, it was just written as he had a gangster persona and find out that the writers were from L.A. and their gangster wasn’t “New York gangster” and I thought the term gangster was kind of … it wasn’t outdated, but it wasn’t something just looking at the character description, it was something I could see in New York. When I started to think about how Darius was in relation to the  many different places I’ve lived inside New York City, there’s something about how quietly flashy, but cocky the guys in the Bronx were and that is what it became…There was so much that went into it that I saw in the streets so it was kind of bringing everything that I saw together and creating Darius and…adapting that over and over.

Any upcoming projects? 

Devin: Outside of Tough Love, I’m in another project called Timeless Guilt, the movie that’s out, it’s actually a spinoff with a new production, new cast. It’s a web series that will starting filming next month. Outside of acting, I founded a nonprofit called Balanced Hope and I work with the mental healthy community, adults and children with chemical imbalances…We’re actually branching out into the Bronx spring time this year. We’re going to be doing something with ACS in regards to them doing something to bring awareness to the mental health community. A lot of the information can be found at www.balancedhope.org.

Will: I’m working on a play called Thoughts of a Colored Man. Taye Diggs is producing it. I’m also working on another web series called Mistakes. I have a feature film coming out in May.

Tough Love season 2 is currently underway. Check out the trailer below:

The Spotlight: Meloncholy Hendrix

I’m really excited to share this Spotlight feature with you because as you know I love the arts and even more specifically I love people of color in the arts. Read below to check out my interview with Bronx artist Meloncholy Hendrix:

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                                                                     Picture courtesy of Meloncholy Hendrix

On your gallery site, you mention that you are heavily influenced by form and many of your drawings feature the female form specifically. Could you elaborate a bit on why that is and why it is important for a variety female forms to be represented in art?

Form really…is ever changing so, you can’t ever own the concept of it because it will have changed already. I guess what I’m saying is, simply, I love the beauty of change. Woman’s form is especially important because of how society views it. Magazines and other forms of media can make it difficult for different female body types to be accepted. So I believe in art it’s important for all shapes and sizes of woman to represented equally. I try to do that as much as possible.

How would you say living in the Bronx has influenced your artwork?

Well, living in the birthplace of Hip-Hop has many perks. The best is the creativity. The Bronx thrives off of creativity. I’m constantly surrounded by different kinds of music, dance, especially street art. The colors and sounds soak in deep in my mind. I always see pieces of it when I create. It’s like leaving bread crumbs in my work leading onlookers to where I come from.

What insight do you hope viewers gain for viewing your work?

That’s actually a tough one. Well more than anything I want them to freely ingest a new kind of style. Take a different insight into pen and ink art. See pen and ink art as seriously as painting or sculpting. Also, a new outlook on women. Not only as artist but, in art. For us to be taken more seriously. Especially black women in art.

What are your thoughts on the growing art scene in the Bronx?

I swoon at the fact that there is art growing out of my beautiful borough. I’ve been starving for it for so long and finally being feed is amazing! I think it’s long overdue for the Bronx to rise from the ashes of New York City’s past. Other sections of NYC are bring back the creativity like Brooklyn and The L.E.S. I hope the momentum doesn’t stop.

What do you think is missing or could be improved in the Bronx’s art scene?

What’s missing the most really is coverage. I’m always online and such checking the pulse of the art world and I don’t see the mass documentation of Bronx’s art scene as they do Brooklyn’s and Manhattan’s. It’s disappointing. I want more media outlets here to show our great and beautiful talent.

What are your top 3 favorite places in the Bronx?

EASY! Bay Plaza because of course, it’s a shopping center. I have amazing memories of going there. Van Cortlandt Park. It’s vastness and beauty Is breath taking. Oh! I love hiking there as well with my Fiancé. Last but not least, City Island because, well, seafood.

Any upcoming project or events we should look out for?

Yes, I’m being featured in a RawArtist showcase called RAW:NYC Presents:Glimpse. It’s July 23 from 7:30pm -11:30pm. It’s being held at the HighLine Ballroom. To buy tickets to come see my work they can go to www.rawartists.org/mellybells. I encourage all to come out!

The Spotlight: Director Don Capria

This week, I had the opportunity to interview Don Capria, the director of a new film entitled, Eulogy, which will be shown as part of the Queens World Film Festival this Friday, March 20. at 8 pm at The Secret Theater. The entire cast has been nominated for Best Actor in a Short Narrative. Entirely shot in the Bronx, the film follows the story of Zef Celaj, who is currently serving time for a crime his brother Martin committed. Upon discovering his brother took his own life, Zef travels home to his Bronx community to deliver a eulogy at Martin’s wake.

Photograph by Alexander Richter Don Capria, Darenzia Elizabeth, Kaves

                                 Don Capria, Darenzia Elizabeth, Kaves; Photograph by Alexander Richter

Check out the interview below:

What drew you to the Bronx for this film? 

I am originally from Westchester, N.Y. I have a lot of family and friends in the Bronx and I worked in the area we filmed for a few years.  I’ve been to the building we filmed in many times before and it feels like its own world within the city. I remember reading in one of my books on screenwriting that a location for a script should not be any location, but the only location you can use. This place felt like that.
The Bronx’s Albanian population has grown significantly in recent years, and plays a role in your film. Why do you think that is?
I grew up around a lot of Albanians in high school and stayed close with them years later. While I don’t know a lot about the number of immigrants in the area, I do know a lot about my friends and the people they know. They are a small but tight knit community, and that was what I hoped to display in this short.

What are some of the benefits of filming in the Bronx? Did you encounter any challenges/struggles of filming in the borough? 

It was a very easy experience production wise. I was really sick during filming so that was the biggest challenge for me. It’s 90 percent interior shots but overall I think filming in the Bronx is a smart move for filmmakers in New York. You have the urban landscape and may not have to deal with high traffic areas if you chose the right locations.

What do you hope audiences take away from Eulogy?

I hope it feels real to them, and in some way they can identify with the characters on the screen. I want to make movies that take extraordinary circumstances that actually happen in life and translate them poetically onto the big screen. I want people to think about something after they watch a film that reflects something in their own lives and not worry about the lives of people that have no real bearing in their world.

 

Are you working on any other projects that we should be on the lookout for?  

I am currently in development of a project I wrote and will also direct – a dark drama with the same tone as Eulogy. It is a prison movie called Valhalla, and we signed up actor Lillo Brancato (A Bronx Tale/ Sopranos) to play the lead role. We will shoot in New York, hopefully by the end of 2015. I also have a biography coming out in June based upon the life of New York mob icon Joe Colombo. I wrote the book with his oldest son Anthony Colombo.

The Spotlight: John Henry Soto

For this edition of The Spotlight, I interviewed Bronx  filmmaker John Henry Soto. Keep reading to learn more about his new television show “Pitch” set in the Bronx!

 

Which neighborhood in the Bronx are you from? How has it inspired the setting for your new show “Pitch”?

I grew up in the Hunts Point area of the South Bronx. On Southern Blvd, Bryant Ave, Westchester

Ave and Aldus St. I was raised by my grandparents and my grandma liked moving. 🙂 The corner

bodega to me was always a place of comfort because everyone knew who you so no matter what might

be happening outside, in there you were cool. If you needed to find someone you would walk in and

yell, “Hey! Have you seen Tito!?” It was effective. The idea for Pitch came to me because I love

detective shows. From Columbo, Baretta, Magnum PI to Monk, SVU and everything in between. I got

good at figuring out who committed the crime and really enjoyed that element. But, I always noticed

that very few shows would ever venture up into the Bronx. I decided to not only venture up there but

have the character live and work there too. Having him work in a bodega in the Bronx seemed

perfect.

How has the neighborhood responded to the filming of “Pitch?”

“Well a few interesting things happened which I thought were great. During our initial scouting for

bodegas to shoot in, we were having trouble looking for a place that had character and didn’t look

gentrified. When we finally found a place I walked in and it was the same owner and he recognized

me! It’s was great and we knew we had our spot. Then came the day of shooting a test scene and word

got around the neighborhood that they were “Shooting” in the bodega! So people gathered to find out

we were shooting a film and there was no violence in the store. I guess that’s one of the unfortunate

realities that someday I would like to eradicate about the Bronx. But on the positive side, the

neighborhood did gather to support the store so that was good.”

Tell us a bit about the main character Pitch. As a writer, I put a bit of myself into all of my characters. Does Pitch have any of your characteristics?

Sure. As you mentioned, I think anytime you’re writing it’s inevitable that part of you gets infused

within your characters but also for me it’s more fun to try to add characteristics that are a little more out

there. For example, Pitch isn’t shy about approaching anyone or asking anything from anyone and I’m

like that but writing for an evil politician can be even more fun. Pitch grew up in the South Bronx with

the hopes of becoming a police officer. Unfortunately for him his short stature made it difficult for him

to pass the physical exam needed to get through the academy so he failed. He then began working for

his father’s bodega and solving crime on the side. He got so good at it that his best friend, who did

become a cop, comes to him for help time to time. The police chief and other officers do not like Pitch

because he’s rather arrogant about how good he is and they are threatened. It’s a fun character with

many layers that we hope to explore for at least 6 seasons. 🙂

What are your top three favorite places in the Bronx?

I love the building I grew up in. 1058 Southern Blvd. I hope to get permission to shoot there someday.

It’s a big classic pre-war building with great character.

Botanical Garden is amazing. I grew up going there and it was always shocking to me that we were in

the Bronx.

There’s a bakery on Southern Blvd that I use to go to when I was a kid and it’s still there. I just went

there a few weeks ago and had an amazing cup of coffee with a Cuban sandwich. Love it. But as I

walk around my old neighborhood I find so many places that I really love and the memories are what

keeps me motivated to bring this show to life in a big way.

Now that the show has gone into pre-production, what are the next steps? Are you working on any

other projects?

Right now I just completed a new script and turned in to the production company No Name Brand

Films. We’ve already shot part of another script which we have used for marketing purposes. The new

script will be shot in its entirety and we will be casting for that soon. We really want to generate

excitement behind the show and tell as many people as possible. I’ve spoken to Councilman Fernando

Cabrera, got a Twitter reply from Senator Espaillat and News 12 the Bronx will be doing a story once

we go into production. That’s just a few of many more. The excitement is building and we hope to get

rolling soon.

As far as projects, I’m always working on something. I have a new web series titled Write in Bayonne

about a writer in the small town of Bayonne, NJ and all the characters he runs into. I’m always writing

for a few internet sites and auditioning. Keeping busy with the things you love is a key to success in

my opinion. I always love helping other artists so I teach guitar and help actors anyway I can. I’m

always available for that.

The Spotlight: Emily Angell

This month’s spotlight is on singer and songwriter Emily Angell, of Bronx Battle of the Boroughs Winners Emily Angell and the MK47s. 

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What part of the Bronx are you from? What do you like about the neighborhood? 
My drummer and I live in Woodlawn, I work in Riverdale and my bass player Cristina grew up in Morris Park.  I love the community feel of it while still being part of NYC and having access to all the amazing things that go on in the city.
 
Has the Bronx played a role in your development as a musician? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely.  I sing in and around Woodlawn and I love the live music scene in our neighborhood.  But the crowds are tough, so you really have to be on your A-game (and know how to handle those less sober than you)! I’ve had to step outside of my comfort zone and really get into playing for hours on end.  Its such a fun experience to bring an eclectic mix of music to a new crowd… they never know how to handle me at first, and then we all end up being best friends at the end of the evening.
 
What was it like competing in the Battle of the Boroughs? 
Battling for the Bronx supercharged my love for playing with my band.  The MK47s were downright giddy waiting to go onstage, and that was one of the most fun parts… the rush of walking out to the crowd together.  Having our friends, family, and about 300 people in the Greene Space in addition to the thousands watching online was awesome.  It was a joy to bring our music to all of those people and to feel the love and support.
 
What are your top three favorite places in the Bronx?
I enjoy kicking it at the Rambling House in Woodlawn, biking through Van Cortlandt Park, & brunching (that’s word… right? 😉 at the Tin Marin in Riverdale
 
What’s next for the band? Are there any new projects or shows we should look out for?
There is a LOT in store for both for me as a solo artist as well as with the MK47s.  We’ve been writing new material that’s completely taken on a life of its own, so stay tuned for the latest EP dropping in the fall.  I will say it’s got a little bit of a pop/bluegrass thing going on.  I’m constantly recording new material as a singer/songwriter, and am in the midst of a website rebuild.  Our fans can stay up to date on the latest by visiting emilyangellmusic.com as well as liking us on facebook (facebook.com/emilyangellmusic) as well as following me on twitter @emangellmusic.  Rock on Bronxites! :*

The Spotlight: The Veggie Mobile Market

This month’s Spotlight is on The Veggie Mobile Market. The brain child of food justice advocate Tanya Fields, the veggie mobile market will offer fresh produce to neighborhoods that don’t have access to them or have access to poor quality produce. Check out the video below to find out more information and how you can help make this a reality!

 

Pictures from South Bronx Unite’s Will Sing for Food fundraiser event for The Veggie Mobile Market will be up on my Facebook soon!