LAST week on Underground

If you missed the latest episode and don’t like spoilers, this isn’t the post for you.

Most shows that cover serious subjects avoid giving children a lot to do. Certainly, when I’ve seen programs depict slavery, the majority of screen time is given to adult actors, while the kids appear merely for minutes, if not seconds. However last Wednesday, Underground flipped this ratio. There are several young performers on the show. Each of the last episode’s acts focused on how one of them was affected by his or her circumstances.

James’ story grieved my spirit. No longer T.R.’s playmate, the show opened with Sam and Ernestine preparing him to begin life as a field slave. Over the course of his scenes, you could see young James transform. As the reality of slave life sunk in, everything about him changed–even his posture. My heart broke when his mother, Ernestine, acknowledged the truth about her youngest child: Before his first day in the cotton fields, he didn’t even realize that he was a slave.

Ben’s segment didn’t deal with slavery. Instead, we picked up where we left off in the previous episode. He and his father, August, went to find his mother. (You might remember that she’s a patient in a mental hospital…) Eventually they located her in a nearby forest. These scenes brought to mind stories that I’d heard about healthcare before the modern age. I felt Ben’s frustration over his mother–a woman who is lost to him, yet very much alive.

Little Boo broke my heart. Moses’ death (seen in flashbacks) has left her all alone. Thankfully, Elizabeth found her, and they were able to spend a few precious moments together. Her fear and struggle over whether or not to trust a stranger really resonated with me. I can only imagine what the real Boos of her day endured.

I won’t spoil this next part in great detail, but by the end of Henry’s scenes I couldn’t help but wonder if he’s okay. In “Cradle”, his dialogue revealed an interesting note about his backstory. Period dramas that discuss slavery usually stick to tales of slaves born either to their parents in bondage, or sold away. I can’t remember one ever referencing a slave born on a breeding farm.

T.R.’s scenes revealed the end end of his friendship with James–with powerful acting by both Maceo Smedley and Toby Nichols. I also noticed a glimpse of something else. Remember the scene in the pilot when T.R. was sticking green beans up his nose? I thought,”What a harmless brat!” Yet as always, Underground‘s writers aren’t here for viewers’ assumptions. I can still hear T.R.’s last line. In spite of his initial good intentions, I believe we’ve witnessed the beginning of his heart being hardened.

Other elements that caught my eye:

Did they use modern music in “Cradle”? I couldn’t tell you. I was too much in love with the sound of the children’s choir. Kudos to Underground’s music supervisors for including their voices.

All of the children’s scenes left me thinking, and in the wake of T.R.’s scenes, I couldn’t help but ask the unanswerable: How many slaves’ lives were ruined by the whims of their owners’ children?

My next question relates to the preview for tonight’s episode:

Why do Tom and Ernestine want Sam’s departure to remain a secret? Is it because of the Reverend, or something else? If I didn’t believe otherwise, I’d think Sam was Mr. Macon’s son.

Mic Fright?

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Source

Dear Reader,

I thought I’d give you a bit of an update on one of my projects—the claire.she.goes podcast. I’ve been working at it sporadically over the past few years, and I’ve been thinking about taking things to the next level.

If you were at last month’s Paris Lectures event, you already know some of this story. If not, bear with me.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about my podcast. A little while ago I decided that I wanted to engage in dynamic storytelling. One way of doing that is to include interviews on my show. I felt inspired to start a series, but hit a huge roadblock.

Something happened shortly after I began booking appointments. I recorded my first interview, but things didn’t work out.

Firstly, I had a technical issue. My setup was somehow off, and only my side of the conversation got recorded. Secondly, something significant went on that I couldn’t ignore. It was a Friday when I tried to record that ruined interview. Would you believe that as soon as I pressed record, I started to develop a pain in my chest?

It didn’t leave me until over 24 hours later.

After that, I cancelled the other interview that I had planned. I decided instead to focus on email-based conversations.

And yet…In spite of my body’s behaviour, I knew what I wanted and STILL want to achieve.

I put my game face on and went to Paris Lectures. It was a special evening. Normally presenters are invited to chat in front of the audience and share information about their pet projects. However, in the weeks before I showed up, folks were allowed to submit to present in front of their peers. I was one of them.

I spoke about my podcast—my dreams, but also my discomfort.

That night, I felt inspired to start interviewing some of my town’s locals. We have a lot of very talented, interesting people around. I figured, ”Why not?!?”

I began to reach out and emailed a few folks.

At first, I felt fine.

THEN, as I started to think more seriously about making arrangements, something uncomfortably familiar happened. I began to feel sick to my stomach.

I realize thanks to editing you might not be able to tell, but when I record my shows, I’m very, VERY nervous. In spite of this, a part of me is determined. I believe I have something to offer the world of podcasting. Hence, my physical reaction doesn’t make any sense. Not even to me.

So what am I doing about it?

Moving forward.

Last week I recorded an interview and I survived. I think it helped that I told myself over and over again, ”It’s just a conversation, Claire.”

Because really, that’s all a good interview is. A conversation.

As I edited my latest episode, I felt myself becoming critical.

You could’ve been more confident, Claire. Why’d you have to laugh so hard?!?

On and on I could have gone, but in the end it means nothing. Especially in light of where I now stand: At the threshold of possibility.

Really. In spite of any lingering sense of fear, I feel like I could talk to anyone!

I’m a great writer. I can become a great interviewer.

What else have I learned…?

Don’t be afraid to look your dreams in the eye. Give them the attention they deserve.

Also, in your journey as a creator, give yourself room to grow. I firmly believe that can only come by owning your awkwardness and accepting your limits…

So you can CRUSH them.

Nicole Beharie Deserves Better

Have you seen this?

Video via Nicole Beharie Daily

Shortly after I pressed “PLAY”, I almost started to cry. I definitely started to think.

As a fan, I realized how selfish I’ve been. I don’t want to let Nicole Beharie’s Abbie go. But you know what else I don’t want? For Ms. Beharie to have to put up with an abusive work environment.

One of the women in the video used the word “toxic”. I can only imagine what Nikki went through, but I have a feeling that the anecdotes that have been swirling around are only the tip of the iceberg.

Nicole Beharie,

Thank you for inspiring the girl inside of me to keep on dreaming.

Since I’ve been talking about what I want in a TV show so much these days, how about what I want for someone else…?

Photography by Indira Cesarine

Image Source

I want Nicole Beharie to wake up any given workday with a sense of fullness in her heart, knowing she’s going to spend time on material she enjoys, with colleagues and BOSSES who know and honour her worth.

If the people at Sleepy Hollow or FOX couldn’t give that to her, then shame on them.

Crane’s Angels?

I know, I know. Another piece on Sleepy Hollow‘s relationships. Sorry.

After I asked about her, Jamie from Black Girl Nerds referred to Betsy Ross as “another Katrina”. Back in the day I’m pretty sure I snarked about her on Twitter. However in retrospect, I actually understood why Katrina existed. She was there from Sleepy Hollow’s beginning. She was Crane’s wife. Although the middle of Season 2 left me cold, its bookend episodes didn’t really bother me.

But Betsy Ross? What’s the point of her character? That’s my question as I watch Sleepy Hollow‘s 3rd season. Her presence has given me a really bad impression. In every season of Sleepy, were we going to be introduced to yet another of Crane’s historically-relevant girlfriends? TPTB almost had me thinking that eventually Crane was going to come to my neck of the woods for a tryst with Laura Secord. Luckily that idea fell apart…Because I realized she was from a different era.

Not that I blame the writers and producers for trying to give Crane a love interest. I mean, it’s a shame. If only he had an intelligent, hard-working, gorgeous woman to talk to…

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In all seriousness, I’m not a hardcore Ichabbie shipper. However, there’s an affectionate dynamic between Abbie and Crane. TPTB’s intentional avoidance of pairing them together–depicting them as obviously in love but not physically affectionate–seems odd. (And when I say “odd”, I’m being generous.) It simply doesn’t make sense.

 

No Chance for Romance? A word about Ichabbie.

The possibility of their paring isn’t the only reason I watch Sleepy Hollow, but I think it’s time I addressed the elephant in the room.

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^From lissinator.tumblr.com.

I’ve recently gotten caught up and watched every episode of Sleepy Hollow*. In my honest opinion Abbie’s scenes with Danny, and Crane’s scenes with Zoe aren’t believable. Their so called “relationships” seem like a contrivance. On the plus side, their interactions have given me the answer to one of the SleepyHeads’ eternal questions: Why can’t the leads fall in love?

It isn’t that TPTB didn’t want Abbie and Crane to be romantic. They just didn’t want them to be romantic with each other. Given the characters’ history and chemistry, I can’t help but wonder why that is.

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Just kidding. I don’t wonder. But overall, I have yet to hear an answer that doesn’t sound like an ignorance-driven excuse.

To some extent I get it. There’s a natural concern about a show going straight to hell once its lead characters cross the line from friends to lovers. But things don’t always have to be that way. Programs like Sleepy Hollow aren’t improvised. Every line and story arc are planned.

I feel silly that this has frustrated me, but honestly, it has. Do Sleepy Hollow‘s writers and producers really need an example of how to avoid well-worn cliches?

Lucky for them, I’ve got one.

Let’s look for a moment at another show that I enjoy: Underground. If ever there was a trope-laden genre, it’s a slave drama. Yet in every episode the series’ plot and characters defy expectations.

Uniqueness in storytelling doesn’t come about by accident. It’s clear to me that TPTB at Underground have consciously decided not to give in to their genre’s conventions.

Concerning the idea of Crane and Abbie being in love, the show’s latest showrunner said that a potential romance between the two

cheapened the deep, abiding love [that Crane and Abbie shared]; a love very few people obtain in their lives.” (emphasis added)

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It’s sad. Apparently, the people who work on Sleepy Hollow only know folks who are bitterly divorced and not happily married.

Now, I’m single and I realize that I may be speaking of modern day unicorns. Yet I know people my age and younger who have fallen in love—TRULY in love—and managed to stay that way. Depicting the nuances of such a relationship isn’t unrealistic. Real life includes real love. Warts and all.

I’ve been seeing series’ leads fall in love since Scarecrow and Mrs King. As I tried to say earlier, nothing on a TV show happens randomly. Written together, Abbie and Crane have always been charming and witty and wise. A television romance is only as cringe-worthy as a show’s staffers choose to make it.

*Edited – When I first wrote this post, I had seen about 2.5 seasons worth of episodes.

Ghost in…The HELL!?!

If ever I needed proof that Hollywood doesn’t understand audiences, this is it.

This video has to be one of the most condescending things I’ve ever seen in my life. Every statement was…I don’t know.

What’s the word for the intersection between a lie and an excuse?

The title alone had me reeling.

“If You’re Mad About Ghost in the Shell You Don’t Know How the Movie Industry Works”

Au contraire, mon frère.

The reason I’m furious is because I know all too well how it works. I couldn’t believe my ears. I mean…

“We lost Lucy Liu…”

As I said on Twitter

What happened? Did she DIE?

I wrote a response to this video that I have since erased. The best revenge is not a lengthy rant. The best revenge is working on my own writing, so that one day it will be produced.

 

“Hollow” Hope?

*Apparently this post’s title was a sign. Only a few hours after I published it, I learned about Nicole Beharie’s latest role.

Over the weekend I read this article. Well, not all of it. I skimmed my way over to the section about Sleepy Hollow.

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Take a look:

Fox has Sleepy Hollow, which recently ended its third season with a shocking finale that saw one of its leads die. While nowhere near the ratings highs of the first season, Sleepy Hollow has a following, logs solid DVR gains, and, because of the famous underlying property, the series makes money for Fox internationally, so getting to four seasons would be financially beneficial for the company.

While Sleepy Hollow is on the bubble, there had been positive signs, and I hear the studio has been doing contingent staffing moves to be prepared in case the series is renewed.

 

That blurb may contain industry gossip, but it warmed the cockles of my slowly-aging heart. As much as I love Abbie Mills, showbusiness is still a business. The decisions made at Sleepy Hollow affect its studio’s bottom line. It hurts me to think that that’s the only reason someone at Fox might be reconsidering their actions.

Ultimately, though, I’m content with the idea of things being rearranged. Sometimes a business has to change its staff in order to improve.

In my opinion, a staffer’s ability “get” a show should be taken just as seriously as their professional qualifications–if not more. Their decisions can end up affecting TPTB’s end product, for better or for worse.

Also, as a fan, it’s hard not to notice something about Sleepy Hollow‘s actors.

That video is one of many. From what I’ve seen, the SH cast adores each other.

It’s easier said than done. But I find it hard not to wish TPTB could capture the same level of synergy behind the scenes. Hell, forget synergy. They just need people who have respect for the program’s vision.

*This post has been slightly edited to clarify my thoughts.

This week on Underground

Log line: Innocence is lost when children are forced to face the harsh realities of the world.

My first impression? I love the kids on Underground. I can’t wait to see what’s revealed as this episode shows us more of their talent.

Also, I wanted to talk for a minute about the characters as a whole. I really love the fact that none of them seem to embody the tropes that you’d normally associate with a period slave drama. Whether it’s Rosalee’s ingenuity or Noah’s determination, the protagonists make me proud. (Don’t even get me started on Pearly Mae! I still miss her.)

Underground marks the first time I’ve seen slaves not merely depicted as slaves. Instead, they’re just what folks who work on the show have called them: Enslaved  human beings. I’m inspired by their passion. They remain strong and ambitious in their pursuit of freedom.

And then there are Underground‘s villains. From his first scene the last episode, I couldn’t help but give Tom Macon a double take. Usually slave masters are shown as being one-note, evil people. This makes sense; I can’t imagine showing someone who owns human beings in a positive light.  But in episode 6, I was taken aback. “Is it me,” I wondered,”or is this man the most insecure person I’ve ever seen?”

I look forward to watching Mr. Macon unravel. Or die.* Whichever comes first.

 

*I’ve kept my eye on the cast’s social media accounts. The man who plays Tom (Reed Diamond) is used to being killed off.