Wednesday, July 18, 2018

James LaRosa

The “Hit the Floor” Interview
with Kam Williams


A Timely Tête-à-Tête with the Creator of Hit BET Series

James LaRosa is the creator, showrunner and executive producer of Hit The Floor. Not only does he run an all-female writers' room but he directed and appeared in several episodes this season.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, James knew at the age of 9 that he wanted to write for TV. He began his assault on Hollywood as an assistant to former Saturday Night Live writer Margaret Oberman.

He got his first break on the Dick Wolf-produced WB series D.C. From there, he wrote made-for-television movies for CBS, MTV and VH1, as well as pilots for ABC Family, MTV, NBC , Sony and FOX.

James earned a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2001 writing for MTV's Spyder Games. In 2007, he merged his passion for tennis and writing and began blogging and reporting for Tennis Chanel, Tennis Magazine and USA Today. He also co-wrote young adult novel The Academy: Game On.

A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, James currently resides in Los Angeles. Here, he talks about the new season of Hit the Floor. The show airs Tuesday nights on BET at 10 pm ET/PT.


Kam Williams: Hi James, thanks for the interview.
James LaRosa: Nice to speak with you, Kam.

KW: Congratulations on the fourth season of Hit the Floor. What inspired you to create the series?
JL: Thank you. Early in my career, I was writing what I thought people would go for and I didn’t like what I was doing, but you want to pay your bills and you want to launch things. You’d hear that a network was looking for a hospital drama or a certain kind of show and everyone would get the same message and everyone would develop the same show, and I was on that track. too. So I’d just finished a show that wasn’t my passion project. It didn’t feed me, although I had fun writing it. And afterwards, I needed some sort of a palette cleanser and I decided I’m going to just write this one show without paying attention to what people are asking for, or asking myself is this what’s hot and what’s selling, or what will my agent or the networks think of this. And I sat down and wrote an original pilot that hasn’t been made yet, but has gotten me every meeting I’ve had ever since. My career did a total 180 when I started writing what entertains me and what I find fun instead of stuff that was just for the paycheck, because that kills you.

KW: How would you describe the show in 25 words or less?
JL: Behind the scenes professional basketball through the eyes of the players, dancers and managers. It’s sex, drama, dancing, and sports!

KW: Have you spent a lot of time around any professional players and cheerleaders?
JL: Yes, I researched the show in order for the characters to be real, and I spent time speaking to players and dancers, and I definitely have my moles. [Laughs and looks around] They absolutely love the show because they watch it and know the stuff really happens. The best part is when I talk to a player or a dancer who I’ve never spoken to before and they ask, “Who have you been talking to? Are you inside the locker room hiding in someone’s locker or speaking into the big flower because you’re getting all the scoops." So when players spill all the tea, I’m there with a cup going, ”I’ll catch it, I’ll catch!”

KW: In the past, your groundbreaking series has explored a variety of timely themes, like LGBTQ issues. Can we expect it to continue to be on the cutting-edge this season, even though the show is moving from VH1 to BET?
JL: The short answer is "Yes." We will continue to value diversity on the show, LGBTQ issues for sure and many other issues. Whether it’s about gender or race, we’ve done all sorts of storylines and will continue do so 100% in season four. In season two, we had a storyline where one of our dancers got married to another of our dancers because she was undocumented and the marriage allowed her not to be separated from her kid. At the time, I was thinking “That’s interesting storytelling,” and then welcome to 2018 and look what’s happening. The bigger answer is that in today’s climate, it’s pure theater and we are all puppets and they’re basically pitting us against each other like little marionettes saying, "You hate this person and you hate that person because they’re taking this from you and giving it to them.” I’m not into that. So this show has as many different kinds of people as it can. They may try to push you off the balcony, they might try and steal your man or steal your position on the dance team, but everyone’s from the same world and on equal ground.”

KW: How many episodes will you write and/or direct this year?
JL: This season, I wrote three and directed four. In the season finale, I have six credits:created by, executive producer, writer, director, actor, and I also wrote a rap for one of the songs.

KW: Wow! How many episodes do you appear in?
JL: I act in three episodes.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
JL: My earliest childhood memory is using my imagination at about the age of 3 while playing with a Batmobile and a little blue Batman and a little yellow Robin.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
JL: My favorite dish to cook? Hmm... There’s a giant assumption in that question! [LOL] Well, I’m really more of a baker. I can bake a whole bunch of stuff: cupcakes and anything with sugar… I’m a sugar fiend. And I do it up, I'll put flower petals on it and all kinds of decadent embellishments. I really want people to eat it and enjoy. But as for cooking meals, if I was on “Survivor,” I would die.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
JL: Oh my God, aging!
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
JL: To completely change the political climate that we are in right now. I would love for people to open their eyes and get information from places that are legit and practice a little bit more of the kindness they would like to receive themselves. And a Lamborghini!

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
JL: Wow! Great question. Let me think… Where do you get your creativity from? I get it from my mom. When I was little, she would tell me these off the cuff little stories that were nonsense, but they were really entertaining. And because of her, I thought I could never be a writer because I could never be as quick as her. But the older you get, the more you work that muscle. You get quicker, you get more reference points. But my mother is no longer with me and so my instinct is to keep her alive, like by making her the question no one ever asks. She’s been gone for a couple of years now and she was a big fan of Hit the Floor, and the last conversion we had was after the season three premiere. She was very sick at that point and very weak, and she said “I just want you to know I know I saw it…” And that was the week she passed. So, I’m incredibly excited to be doing something she was excited about and to use the gifts she gave me, that I hope I’ve got enough of to keep her alive forever.

KW: I'm sure you will. Finally, as Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
JL: Let's see... [Begins pulling cards out of a compact wallet] Oh my gosh! Hold on… Okay, here’s a credit card, another credit card, ATM, driver's license, Starbucks card, health insurance card, another Starbucks card, auto insurance card, and another Starbucks card. So, anyone will tell you I’m over-caffeinated. The fact that there’s so little in my wallet is because I used to be a hoarder. I used to collect every issue of TV Guide, every issue of Entertainment Weekly and then it came to a point where I was like "It’s not cute” and I threw it all out, ten paper bags full, and it felt great. I recommend to anymore to just get rid of your stuff. [Whispers] And now I have this tiny little wallet with 3 credit cards and 700 coffee cards. You know I was really hoping there’d be something really nasty in my wallet, but yeah, that’s everything.

KW: Thanks again for the time, James, and best of luck with the new season.
JL: My pleasure, Kam.

To see a trailer for Hit the Floor, visit: https://youtu.be/UJrU96tNx24





The Equalizer 2

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Denzel Reprises Role for First Time in Grisly Vigilante Thriller

Although Denzel Washington has made about four dozen movies over the course of his legendary career, he's never reprised a role until now. In The Equalizer 2, the two-time Oscar-winner (for Glory and Training Day) returns to play Robert McCall again, a retired CIA agent who turns vigilante to dole out street justice on behalf of the downtrodden. 
 
At the sequel's point of departure, we find McCall undercover as a Muslim on a train bound for Turkey. He's successfully concluding an international Amber alert operation on behalf of a young girl kidnapped by her father. 
 
The setting soon shifts to Boston, where McCall works nights as a Lyft cab driver. An encounter with a mugger proves humorous when he beats the perp to a bloody pulp before insisting that the creep give him a five-star rating before exiting the taxi. 
 
The storyline sobers considerably, however, when McCall's close friend and former colleague, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), is murdered under mysterious circumstances. He eventually figures out that the hit was performed by a cell of rogue CIA agents, and vows to track down and exact vengeance on each and every one of them.

What ensues is a gruesome splatterfest designed to satiate the bloodlust of fans of the revenge genre. Director Antoine Fuqua does not disappoint in this regard, for Equalizer 2 ups the ante on the original in terms of both body count and gratuitous gore. 
 
Denzel again delivers as a relentless killing machine eager to execute any evildoers dumb enough to cross his path!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, drug use and pervasive graphic violence
In English and Turkish with subtitles
Running time: 121 minutes
Production Studios: Fuqua Films / Columbia Pictures / Escape Artists / Mace Neufeld Productions / Lonetree Entertainment / Sony Pictures Entertainment
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing


To see a trailer for The Equalizer 2, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyNJ3UrGk_I


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for July 17, 2018




by Kam Williams


This Week's DVD Releases

Traffik

I Feel Pretty

Rampage

Truth or Dare

Disobedience

Pitch: The Complete Series

Frontline: Trafficked in America

Frontline: Blackout in Puerto Rico

The Tunnel: Vengeance [Season 3]

Isle of Dogs


Friday, July 13, 2018

2018 #StevensStrong Prostate Cancer Campaign


Pienta_Cell_Image_background2018 #StevensStrong Campaign


 Organized by Dave and Mary Stevens

In 2018, to kick prostate cancer’s butt, we are once again supporting Dr. Ken Pienta at The Brady Urological Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine. Ken is my personal physician and friend. Over Dr. Pienta’s 25-year career, he has made countless discoveries that have changed the way we understand and treat metastatic prostate cancer. A global expert in the disease, he has demonstrated that investments of private philanthropy made to his research generate new data and an 18:1 return in new grant monies to fund further research.



Dr. Kenneth J. Pienta


Dr. Pienta’s laboratory needs $250,000 to purchase Nikon’s new microscope: The Eclipse Ti2.
Please help us reach our goal! But we won’t stop there. Beyond the $250,000 for the microscope, funds are needed for laboratory testing and experiments which require personnel and supplies.
Image result for Ti2-E Inverted Motorized Microscope

This microscope is the only one that allows us to watch a whole population of cancer cells as they grow or die in response to a therapy over time – for up to two weeks – something that is currently not possible. With this new technology, we are able to track thousands of individual cancer cells as they interact with each other and react to treatments, which will undoubtedly provide new insights into how cancer cells react to stress so that we can develop ways to defeat resistance. 





Please join us and consider supporting Dr. Pienta and this critical piece of technology.

·         To make a gift with your credit card online, visit: https://secure.jhu.edu/form/stevensprostatecancer

·         To make a gift by mail, make your check payable to ‘Johns Hopkins Medicine’ and send it to:

The Brady Urological Institute Development Office
Attn: Elissa Kohel
600 N. Wolfe Street, CMSC 130
Baltimore, MD 21287
*On the memo line or in an accompanying letter, note ‘Dave Stevens Campaign for Dr. Pienta’ or something similar.

·         To make a gift by wire or stock transfer, or if you have any questions regarding philanthropy at The Brady Urological Institute, please contact Elissa Kohel, Director of Development, at 410-955-8351 or ekohel1@jhmi.edu.

Johns Hopkins University / The Brady Urological Institute Tax ID: 52-0595110.
Gifts are tax-deductible in accordance with the Internal Revenue Code