|A Huey P. Newton Story: Biographies|
Roger Guenveur Smith
Roger Guenveur Smith (actor/writer) has created an astonishing range of work for the stage and screen. A Huey P. Newton Story, Smith's signature solo performance, has been internationally acclaimed, awarding him the coveted Obie Award for its sold-out off-Broadway engagement.
A Huey P. Newton Story, the film, is the latest in Smith's extraordinary series of collaborations with director Spike Lee. Smith has essayed a gallery of memorable characters in Lee's School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Get on the Bus, He Got Game and Summer of Sam. Among his many other film credits are the recent hit Final Destination, Eve's Bayou and cult favorites, King of New York, Deep Cover, Tales From the Hood, Panther, Poetic Justice and John Singleton's latest feature, Baby Boy.
Television viewers are familiar with Smith from his starring roles in BET's Incognito, directed by Julie Dash; USA Network's The Color of Courage, with Lynn Whitfield; and series such as Oz, All My Children, New York Undercover and A Different World. Other recent films for television include Campbell Scott's Hamlet and The Warden. Smith is currently shooting the New Line feature All About the Benjamins opposite Ice Cube and Mike Epps.
For the stage, Smith has also created and performed the award-winning Inside the Creole Mafia, Frederick Douglas Now, Christopher Columbus 1992 and Blood and Brains. He directed the coast-to-coast Radio Mambo, starring the California performance trio Culture Clash. The New York Shakespeare Festival, Mark Taper Forum, Arena Stage, Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago) and the Barbican Centre (London) are among the many prestigious institutions that have presented Smith's work.
In the past decade, Spike Lee (director) has established himself as one of Hollywood's most important and influential filmmakers. Most recently, he completed his thirteenth film, Bamboozled, which stars Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tommy Davidson and Savion Glover. Other films include Summer of Sam, Girl 6 and Get on the Bus. These movies follow some of his most critically acclaimed films, Malcolm X, Clockers and Do the Right Thing.
In 1986, his debut film, the independently produced hit comedy She's Gotta Have It, earned him the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the Cannes Film Festival and set him in the forefront of the Black New Wave in American Cinema.
School Daze, his second feature, not only was highly profitable, but also helped launch the careers of several young Black actors. Lee's timely 1989 film Do the Right Thing garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film and Director Awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Jungle Fever, Mo' Better Blues, Clockers and Crooklyn were also critically well received.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Brooklyn, Lee returned south to attend Morehouse College. After graduation, he returned to Brooklyn to continue his education at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in Manhattan where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in film production. Lee then founded 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks based in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, where he has resided since childhood.
In addition to his achievements in feature films, Spike Lee has produced and directed music videos for a variety of artists, and produced and directed a number of commercials starring various celebrities and on behalf of numerous brands.
Lee is also involved in documentaries and sports programs, having completed the Emmy -- and Oscar -- nominated documentary 4 Little Girls for HBO and receiving an Emmy Award for his piece on Georgetown's John Thompson.
Ever moving into new areas, Lee has combined his extensive creative experience into yet another venture. Partnering with DDB Needham, he has created Spike/DDB, a full-service advertising agency that will concentrate on the urban/ethnic market.
Luna Ray Films
Luna Ray Films is a bi-coastal production company currently developing a diverse slate of film, television and theater projects. A Huey P. Newton Story is their first production. With Newton, Luna Ray orchestrated a diverse group of partners -- including Spike Lee, Huey Newton's heirs, PBS, the National Black Programming Consortium, KQED Public Broadcasting, the Ford Foundation and the African Heritage Network, among others-- into an unprecedented creative and business collaboration.
Steven Adams (producer) is a native Californian, and prior to A Huey P. Newton Story, he presented the world premiere of "A Huey P. Newton Story" in association with Magic Theatre and Oakland Ensemble Theatres in 1995. Since then, Adams has presented "Newton" across North America and Europe, including the Public Theatre in New York and the Barbican Center. "A Huey P. Newton Story" has received Obie, Helen Hayes Audelco, NAACP and Barrymore Awards, as well as two Drama Desk nominations. Adams' other film and television credits include two seasons of The Culture Clash Show for Fox; III Gotten Girls, an independent feature starring Djimon Honsou; and the award-winning short The Confession, which has competed in 18 festivals. Adams also co-produced Faces on Mars for director Jane Spencer (Little Noises, Sundance 1993). Other award-winning theatre credits include Charlayne Woodard's "Pretty Fire," which garnered two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards (LADCA) and three NAACP Awards; "The Cock and Bull Story," also honored by the LADCA; "Radio Mambo," which took New York's prestigious Bessie Award; and "Inside the Creole Mafia," which took three NAACP Awards and won an LA Weekly Theatre Award.
"Everything is negotiable" might well be the motto of Bob L. Johnson (producer), deal-making strategist behind the stage and film productions of A Huey P. Newton Story. Johnson, a longtime colleague of Smith, possesses a varied background, including stints as an entertainment attorney, music industry senior executive, Internet entrepreneur and theatre producer. Known as an artist-friendly executive, Johnson has worked with a long list of both established and emerging talent, ranging from Macy Gray to Marla Gibbs. Formerly a senior executive for Atlantic Records, Johnson oversaw west coast operations during Atlantic's reign as the number one recording label during the mid 90s. Johnson, a classmate and longtime colleague of Smith, has produced several award-winning stage productions, including "A Huey P. Newton Story" in association with Smith and Steven Adams. Johnson began his film career as a casting director for the HBO series First & 10.
A longtime activist, Johnson has served as legal counsel for several prominent entertainment industry nonprofit organizations, including Children's Action Network, The Environmental Media Association and Rock Against Drugs, among others. Currently, Johnson is a member of the board of directors of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Rock The Vote and The Creative Coalition. He is also a founder and co-chairman of the board of directors of LA Works, an affiliate member of the City Cares of America nonprofit volunteer community service network.
Most recently for television, Marc Henry Johnson (producer) has arranged the financing, production and distribution of A Huey P. Newton Story. Currently, Johnson is engaged in the development of the original feature length film, Didn't He Ramble, inspired by the life of New Orleans jazz legend Buddy Bolden, to be helmed by the Emmy Award-winning director Charles Dutton. Last year for television, he produced The Awful Truth, for which he received an Emmy nomination with director Michael Moore for Bravo and A Love Letter to New York, featuring Joy Behar, Heavy-D, Tommy Tune, Danilo Perez and Gordon Parks for PBS. Also for PBS, he was a consulting producer on Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey and Through One City's Eyes, a documentary about the civil rights movement in Milwaukee. Other television producing credits include programs for Turner Broadcasting System, the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, PBS, German VOX-TV, South African Broadcast Corporation and Trinidad & Tobago Television.
For film, Johnson was a producer on a feature film entitled Coyotes, winner of the Best Feature Film Award at the 1999 Savannah Film Festival and an audience favorite at the 1999 Palm Springs Film Festival.
A former associate professor of film studies at Columbia University, Barry Alexander Brown's (editor) involvement in A Huey P. Newton Story is a continuation of a long collaboration with Spike Lee. Since 1988, Brown has edited eight of Lee's films: School Daze (1987); the Oscar-nominated films Do the Right Thing (1989) and Malcolm X (1992); Crooklyn (1994); He Got Game (1998); Freak, the 1998 Emmy Award-winning presentation of John Leguizamo's one-man stand-up performance; Summer of Sam (1999); and Kings of Comedy (2000). In addition to serving as editor on these projects, Brown is also credited as 2nd unit director on Malcolm X, He Got Game, Summer of Sam and Kings of Comedy. Brown also served as the sound editor for She's Gotta Have It, Lee's 1986 breakthrough feature film that won the Cannes Film Festival Young Cinema Award and an Independent Spirit Award.
Outside of his work with Lee, Brown served as editor for Salaam Bombay! (1988), a film which won the Golden Camera at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991). Brown has also edited music videos for Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Public Enemy and Arrested Development, among others, plus numerous theatrical trailers.
Ellen Kuras (director of photography), two-time recipient of the Sundance Film Festival's Best Dramatic Cinematography Award, has worked as director of photography for directors including Spike Lee, Tom Kalin and Mary Harron, and for commercial directors Mark Pellington, Jason Harrington, Walter Kehr and John O'Hagan. She most recently finished work on Ted Demme's recent film Blow, starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. Her feature film credits include Bamboozled, Summer of Sam, The Mod Squad, I Shot Andy Warhol, Unzipped, Postcards From America and Swoon. Her television credits include If These Walls Could Talk (Segment 1952) and A Century of Women. Documentary credits are 4 Little Girls, Poverty Outlaw and Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia.
A professional jazz saxophonist for nearly 20 years, Branford Marsalis (music soloist) most recently received a Grammy award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group, for Contemporary Jazz by the Branford Marsalis Quartet. Contributing to his family's legacy in jazz and attracting a legion of fans since his first album, Romances for the Saxophone (1986), Marsalis was thrust into the general public's consciousness through his high-profile gig as bandleader on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno from 1992 to 1995.
Marsalis has lent his musical talents to film through numerous soundtracks. Marsalis served as the composer for such films as Goosed and Without a Pass and contributed to the soundtracks of Sneakers, starring Sidney Poitier and Robert Redford, and Spike Lee's Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing and School Daze. Additionally, Marsalis has celebrated his craft through his participation in such special presentations as Motown 40: The Music Is Forever, The Best of Disney Music: A Legacy in SongPart 1, The Music Tells You and Jazz at the Smithsonian: Art Blakely & The Jazz Messengers.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wynn Thomas (production designer) graduated from Boston University and began his career in production design at New York's Public Theatre under the aegis of the late Joseph Papp. He then served as resident designer for the Negro Ensemble Company for two years before moving into film.
Thomas apprenticed with Oscar-winning production designer Patricia Von Brandenstein and soon became an assistant art director on such films as The Cotton Club, The Money Pit and Brighton Beach Memoirs. He received credit as art director on the Orion feature film Best Secret and the PBS American Playhouse production Medal of Honor Rag, before being chosen by Spike Lee as production designer for Lee's groundbreaking first feature, She's Gotta Have It. Thomas served as production designer on seven more Spike Lee films, including School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Crooklyn and He Got Game. Other directors for whom Thomas has designed films include Tim Burton (Mars Attacks), Barry Levinson (Wag the Dog), Harold Ramis (Analyze This), Beeban Kidron (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar), Robert De Niro (A Bronx Tale), Edward Norton (Keeping the Faith), and Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind). He also designed the NBC miniseries Witness to the Mob, directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan.
Brooklyn, New York-based Marc Anthony Thompson (composer) provides the score, featuring guest soloist Branford Marsalis. Intimately familiar with the project, Thompson provided live sound design for the touring stage production, for which he received an Obie Award and a 1997 Drama Desk nomination. Thompson continues to collaborate with Roger Guenveur Smith, as they have begun work on "Iceland," a stage piece commissioned by the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.
No stranger to contributing to film, Thompson wrote the musical score for director John Shear's Urbania (1999) and co-wrote the song "Don't Grow" for the film Twin Falls, Idaho (1999) with musician/producer Stuart Matthewman. His experience in the film industry made him the ideal choice to host the Sundance Channel's four-part series Sonic Cinema (2000), a look at the world where music videos meet film. Thompson's video for the song "My Mom" (from Black Music, the 1998 debut album by his collective, Chocolate Genius) was featured in the program. Thompson is recently completed his latest Chocolate Genius release, godmusic.