BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: ‘The Underground Railroad’ arrives on Amazon May 14

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By Bill Vaughan

Entertainment Writer

Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins returns to serve as showrunner and director of all 10 episodes of “The Underground Railroad,” an Amazon limited series based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel premiering May 14.

Newcomer Thuso Mbedu stars as Cora Randall, a Georgia plantation escapee in the antebellum South who discovers no mere metaphor, but an actual railroad full of engineers and conductors, and a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the southern soil.

Chase W. Dillon, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Pierre, William Jackson Harper, Sheila Atim, Amber Gray, Peter De Jersey, Chukwudi Iwuji, Damon Herriman, Lily Rabe, Irone Singleton, Mychal-Bella Bowman, Marcus “MJ” Gladney Jr., Will Poulter and Peter Mullan round out the cast.

To accompany his work, Jenkins took to Twitter to drop a 50-minute plus piece comprised of moving portraits of background actors from the production. “The Gaze” (at Vimeo.com) provides a window into the soul of the series and is accompanied by a self-penned essay.

In the “Moonlight” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” director’s own words: “What flows here is non-narrative. There is no story told. Throughout production, we halted our filming many times for moments like these. Moments where … standing in the spaces our ancestors stood, we had the feeling of seeing them, truly seeing them and thus, we sought to capture and share that seeing with you.”

“This is an act of seeing. Of seeing them. And maybe, in a soft-headed way, of opening a portal where THEY may see US, the benefactors of their efforts, of the lives they LIVED.

Much love to you. And so much love to THEM.”

FOR THE CAUSE: Billy Porter, Rita Moreno, George Takei and others are supporting the fundraising event “AIDS Walk: Live at Home.” It will be streamed live on CBSN and AIDSWalk.net on May 16.

Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald is a host of the benefit “Night of Covenant House Stars” to be streamed free May 17 on CovenantHouse.org, Amazon Prime Video, Broadway On Demand, Facebook, YouTube, WNBC and via TodayTix.

Confirmed participants include Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Williams, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, Marlon Wayans, Dionne Warwick, Jon Bon Jovi, Meryl Streep, Robin Roberts, Jon Hamm, Dolly Parton, Ryan Reynolds, Brian Stokes Mitchell and more.

CLIPPETTES: The 50th anniversary celebration of Alvin Ailey’s iconic female solo “Cry” brings a new dance film of this enduring work performed by company member Jacqueline Green. It will be available to watch at www.alvinailey.org and YouTube

Jazz at LACMA’s 30th season celebration continues May 14 with acclaimed singer/songwriter Lynn Fiddmont. RSVP for free at lacma.org

Also that day, renowned trombonist Craig Harris and Harlem Nightsongs with Kelvyn Bell are live from NYC’s Greater Calvary Baptist Church. Tickets are at Eventbrite.com

Dominique Fishback (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) has landed the lead opposite Samuel L. Jackson in “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” an upcoming Apple TV+ limited series adaptation of the best-selling novel by Walter Mosley …

Popular DJ, rapper, beatboxer, producer, photographer and philanthropist Derrick “D-Nice” Jones is the key speaker for “Oh Sh*T Moments” with “Cultural Architect” Iddris Sandu on May 15. Ohshtmoments.com has more info

Meanwhile, Joey DeFrancesco, drummer Billy Hart and tenor saxophone icon Houston Person will play classic jazz organ tunes with a restream the next night. Get your tickets at VanGelder.live

Redman has signed to portray the brother of his partner in hip hop Method Man’s attorney character David Maclean for the next season of the Starz drama “Power Book II: Ghost”

Charles Wright, leader of the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band, is having a funky old school party with Soul Train dancers, food trucks and a bar at The Regency West in Leimert Park, May 16 from 3 to 8 p.m. Be sure to give a listen to his new album “Taking It Back”

The history of the Los Angeles Lakers will be examined in a nine-part Hulu docuseries from filmmaker Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “The Equalizer” movie franchise) and team CEO Jeanie Buss due in 2022

Common, Danai Gurira (“Black Panther”) John Leguizamo, Ethan Hawke, Tayari Jones, Kevin Kline, John Lithgow and more are set for the group reading “I Love This Poem: A Celebrity” on May 20, 4-6 p.m. at litpartners2020.org/ …

Laverne Cox (“Orange Is The New Black”) will replace Giuliana Rancic as the new host of E’s “Live From The Red Carpet” and specials in 2022

DJ Jazzy Jeff and founding N.W.A. member/tech entrepreneur Arabian Prince are among the keynote speakers for the 35th annual Winter Music Conference going virtual for the first time May 20-21. Get details for the annual gathering celebrating music, technology, education and culture at www.wintermusicconference.com

Director Steve McQueen will follow his award-winning “Small Axe” anthology with another look at Black British history called “Uprising.” It will come in the form of a three-part BBC docuseries with each episode focusing on a pivotal 1981 event.

TASTY QUIP: “The current climate of our world has brought me to many realizations. Life is short and I’d like to spend my remaining time on earth being less hurried. Don’t see this as a permanent goodbye, by the grace of God, I will keep making more music and may show up at a special event or concert down the road.” – Iconic New Orleans singer/songwriter AARON NEVILLE (“Tell It Like It Is”) upon announcing his retirement from touring.

TC ON TV: May 14 – “Those Who Wish Me Dead” (HBO Max): Angelina Jolie is back! “Love, Death & Robots” (Netflix): Vol. 2 of the sci-fi anthology series that won the 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Short Form Animated Program. “I Am All Girls” (Netflix): A fact-based mystery-thriller about a 1980s sex trafficking syndicate operating in South Africa. “The Woman In The Window” (Netflix): Amy Adams stars in this psychological suspense drama with Anthony Mackie, Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman. “Mommy’s Little Con Artist” (LMN): With Jackée Harry! “Pride” (FX): A six-part docu-series chronicling the struggle for LGBTQ+ civil rights in America decade-by-decade. “Ready To Love” (OWN): This show has made the network No. 1 on cable Friday nights among African-American women and No. 1 of all nets, excluding news and sports, among African-American households. “Black Love” (OWN): “How Love Begins” opens the fifth season. “We Are Family: Songs of Hope and Unity” (PBS): Gabrielle Ruiz (“Crazy-Ex Girlfriend”); “America’s Got Talent” vocalist Rayshun LaMarr; and celebrated recording artist Nova Payton.

May 15 – “Iyanla: Fix My Life” (OWN): “An Open Letter To All Black Men” “Saturday Night Live” (NBC): Keegan-Michael Key hosts with musical guest Olivia Rodrigo.

May 16 – “Miss Universe 2021” (FYI): Mario Lopez and Olivia Culpo emcee the world’s biggest, most notable beauty pageant, where Zozibini Tunzi, the first Black woman from South Africa to win, will crown her successor. “Uncensored” (TV1): Features a final interview with DMX shot three weeks prior to his death. “Run The World” (Starz): A Harlem set series starring Amber Stevens West (“The Carmichael Show”), Andrea Bordeaux (“NCIS: Los Angeles”), Bresha Webb (“Marlon”) and Corbin Reid (“Valor”); with Erika Alexander, Stephen Bishop and Tonya Pinkins in recurring roles. “2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards” (MTV): Hosted by Leslie Jones with DJ Snoopadelic spinning. “Urban One Honors” (TV1): Gospel artist/radio host Erica Campbell and journalist Roland Martin host. “United Shades of America” (CNN): “Power of Protest” “Ziwe” (SHO): “Wealth Hoarders”

May 17 – “9-1-1” (Fox): Marsha Warfield and Cocoa Brown guest star in this episode.

May 18 – “Broken Harts” (Disc+): This engrossing two-hour film by Gregory Palmer (“Homicide City”) provides a closer look at the tragic story of the multi-racial Hart family that shocked a nation. A precautionary must-see that is both eye opening and jaw dropping. “black-ish” (ABC): Boyz II Men are featured in the season finale.

May 19 – “Life At The Waterhole” (PBS): A new three-part series that explores the daily drama of African wildlife at a unique waterhole rigged with partially submerged and weather-proofed cameras in Tanzania. Created by working with local Hadzabe and Maasai communities and hosted by renowned conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan alongside award-winning wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole.

May 20 – “Rebel” (ABC): Why aren’t more people watching this show based on the life of crusader and executive producer Erin Brockovich? The cast including Katey Sagal, Andy Garcia, John Corbett, Lex Scott Davis, James Lesure, Tamala Jones and Mo McRae is top notch.

IN MEMORIUM: “I revolutionized the South. Before ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy,’ white kids were not really interested in this music. People like Charles Brown and Fats Domino really only sold to the black community. But 10 months after I was in business, they were putting up ropes to divide the white and black spectators. But by 10 o’clock at night, they’d all be together on that dance floor.” – Famed R&B singer, author and entrepreneur LLOYD PRICE (“Stagger Lee,” “Personality”) who died May 3 at the age of 88.

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. Bill Vaughan may be reached at tastyclips@yahoo.com, via Twitter @tastyclips, or Instagram @tasty_clips.

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