Photo courtesy of TVOne and Twitter
Cathy Hughes vision for a high-profile family in media was an idea she had years ago when she commissioned the writers of then hit drama show New York Undercover to come on board for the project. With likes of shows like Empire, Power and Star, Hughes’ “Media” finally makes its television debut. We caught up with Brian White and Penny Johnson Jerald to discuss their roles in the new movie Media which airs on TVOne February 25th.
Brian plays the character of Michael Jones the second eldest son of the Jones clan, a media dynasty family. When asked about the premise of the movie Brian had this to say, “It’s a little bit of Empire meets the Godfather. There is a bit of white collar, blue collar, corporate and street in the movie. We have shades and textures of people represented in this very real story of corporate America and I am excited because I have never seen a black family portrayed in corporate America, especially on the top end of corporate America and we are just coming off of eight years where we had a black first family running the free world and we have never seen a story remotely comparable to that and “Media” is the first and I am excited to be a part of the movie”.
And what was his experience working with Cathy Hughes and the rest of the cast? “It was great!” I never met Cathy before, and I had just gotten another project with producer Sheila Duckworth when she called to pitch the film. I was immediately struck because I was aware of Cathy Hughes but I had never met her and I didn’t know much about TVOne so I started to do my research and Cathy’s story is similar to my grandmother’s story. My family is from Topeka, Kansas and St. Louis, Missouri. My grandfather started with one mortuary and ended up with eighteen, a speed boat and a golf course as a black man in the 1930’ and 40’s. When my grandfather passed my grandmother was a single black woman who had to run all of those businesses and they still exist today. Looking at the Jones family and looking at Ms. Hughes personal journey as a single black woman creating several billion dollars’ worth of wealth in her lifetime and how that was accomplished, it just was a story I was fascinated with and wanted to tell the rest of the world so kids can understand… kids of color can understand. There are lots of families out there who look like what you aspire to be that look just like you so don’t think it hasn’t come before you and it’s not possible.
Brian has an extensive acting resume both on the small and big screen and we asked him what attracted him to playing the role of Michael Jones, “This role is not soapy or a comedy,” he says. “Media” is a first in portraying a white collar, black family. “It’s a cultural weight gain.” You can name ten billionaire black families off the top of your head whether it’s Beyoncé and Jay Z or Stedman and Oprah but we have zero TV shows that represent what those families might be like behind closed doors. I applaud Cathy Hughes for sharing a glimpse of what her journey and struggles were like to become a female billionaire in America. And if any young brown kid has a chance to become a billionaire they need these kinds of stories.
Upcoming projects for White include No Regrets (opposite actress Monica Calhoun, Sharon Leal, and Loretta Devine), Netflix film ‘Amateur’, and The List, a thriller which also stars (Columbus Short, Claudia Jordan and Damon Dash).
Asked about her role as matriarch Jackie Jones in the movie Penny first joked…
“I have never had anyone introduce themselves on the phone as twins <laughs>. She then went on to say that her character is powerful, admirable and brilliant and she is a prototype of Cathy Hughes. “I get to channel the best part of Ms. Hughes and then, of course, we get to fictionalize her journey.”
Her view on real life media…
Media is on the side of at least a great percentage of getting the truth told if it makes sense and in the same sense I think the downfall of media is that they don’t really quite get the truth told, and media not just in a journalistic way but also in television and entertainment. I think it’s time that we just tell the truth. Real life is far more interesting right now than fiction <laughs>.
Brain echoed a similar thought …” we have to get back to telling the truth. Explaining why people should tune into the movie “Media” because it is something new and that everyone is looking for something new! I have never in my entire life seen any story deal with and portrays the minority community in this way. Not in British films, African-American films or mainstream films so they will see something new and of quality on TVOne.
Penny says “not only is this a very important film to watch,” but you see it outside of the box which is not often seen that way, I think it’s an opportunity to extend an invitation to people who are not ‘quote on quote’ TVOne viewers to tap in to see a quality cast get together and kick some really good old fashion butt. “I think it’s brownie points and kudos to TVOne for taking on a project like this. It will definitely open up the demographics.”
Brian adds, “Amen! It should do for TVOne what Empire did for FOX”.
Executive produced by Cathy Hughes, “Media” stars Brian White, Penny Johnson Jerald, Pooch Hall (The Game and Ray Donovan), Denise Boutte (Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married and Meet The Browns), and Gary Dourdan and more in a movie about a media empire torn apart by warring families!