‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Director Barry Jenkins on Why Showing Vulnerability Is ‘a Sign of Strength’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

This story about Barry Jenkins and “If Beale Street Could Talk” star KiKi Layne first appeared in Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

Barry Jenkins wrote and directed one of the most beautiful films of 2016 in “Moonlight,” which won him the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won breakout star Mahershala Ali an Oscar as well.

Two years later, with another virtually unknown actor ready for her star turn, he is back with “If Beale Street Could Talk,” an adaptation of James Baldwin’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name. He wrote the screenplay before he even had the rights to the film, and cast Chicago theater veteran KiKi Layne as a young woman whose soulmate and fiancé Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.

Why this project, and why now?

BARRY JENKINS: The now part of it is tricky because it originated five years ago when I started the script for “Moonlight” and the script for this at the same time. So it doesn’t feel so much like now as just like finally closing the door on this period that was started so long ago. I’ve always loved James Baldwin’s work and when I read “Beale Street,” the best aspects of Baldwin are all kind of bound up in this really organic way in the story of Tish and Fonny, which is also the story — I’m gonna get like really highfalutin — of America.

Also Read: Golden Globes Shatters Diversity Record: 4 of 10 Best Picture Nominees Have Non-White Directors

You saw upwards of 300 actors for this film. Why KiKi?

JENKINS: I was tired, man. She was the last person I saw. [Laughs] Nah. When I write a script I don’t have an idea in my head of what the actor looks like, and because of that I’m always open to somebody coming through the door and showing me who this character is. I had seen a lot of women before KiKi’s tape came in, and I didn’t know physically what I was looking for, but I knew emotionally that I was looking for a duality of experience, somebody who’s both a girl and a woman at the same time. That was what I saw KiKi bring to Tish.

KiKi, was it intimidating to work with Barry post-“Moonlight”?

JENKINS: I’m curious to hear the answer.

KIKI LAYNE: There definitely was some added worry, stress, anxiety, all of that. I just had to ride the waves of feeling really confident and feeling, “I’m here, I earned this” and those moments of questioning myself, like, “What is gonna happen in this scene with Regina King, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue [Ellis], Mike [Michael Beach]?” I didn’t want to be the weak link, you know? And that definitely was a concern sometimes.

JENKINS: My one concern with you was always about the unfair scrutiny that you were going to receive being the next newcomer in the wake of the previous film. I felt like that was unfair. I think you handled it very damn well, because it’s a lot to deal with. The work is one thing and it’s enough to deal with, and then you’ve got to deal with all this other shit, the noise that has nothing to do with the work.

Also Read: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Review: Barry Jenkins Delivers Stunning Romance With Aftertaste of Injustice

Barry, I wonder if you felt pressure because, man, you adapted James Baldwin — that text is dense and provocative and fierce and so interior.

JENKINS: Yeah, for me to be doing anything involving James Baldwin was just a crazy concept. It took a while to get used to it. But you can’t be working out of fear. And so the original draft was, “Oh, s—, this is James Baldwin.” Once we got on set, it wasn’t James Baldwin, you know? It was KiKi Layne and Stephan James. It was James Laxton, Mark Friedberg, Annapurna, Plan B. I think Jimmy [Baldwin] would have given his blessing. He’d be like, “Oh, this is y’alls. I’m gonna go sit over here, smoke a cigarette and have a drink. Y’all come hit me up when it’s done.”

So much of your films are about the tone and the actors being able to ooze that tone. How’d you manage to dial in on that with limited time?

JENKINS Everybody working on this film probably saw “Moonlight,” so they understood the tone, the feeling, the silences, the way the camera’s gonna linger. They were prepared for all those things. I’m just trying to create the space for these folks to be as comfortable as they need to be and to feel like they have the freedom to deviate from what I’ve written or from what we’ve decided.

Also Read: Regina King SAG Awards Snub Sparks Cries of ‘Category Fraud’ and ‘Dopey Goons’

KiKi, what did you learn from Tish? Is there anything that surprised you?

LAYNE: I had to learn that Tish is very much a strong black woman. I just had never seen a strong black woman portrayed in that way. I had to get past some of my own hang-ups about what it means to be vulnerable, what it means to let people hold you and be there for you.

JENKINS: Because vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it’s a sign of strength. It’s like, “I’m OK with you helping me. I’m admitting I need help right now.”

LAYNE: That’s the thing — I don’t think that’s the common way of thinking about vulnerability.

JENKINS: The thing I’ll say about making this film after “Moonlight” that was very heartening for me was people pointed out in “Moonlight” that they hadn’t seen a depiction of black male masculinity and vulnerability in quite this way. I feel like the women in that film were also going to certain places. But I think it’s so clear in this film that it feels like something that was left on the table has now been completed. So it’s lovely to hear you say that.

To read more of TheWrap’s Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue, click here.

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‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Actor Colman Domingo on Why James Baldwin’s Work Still Resonates

Read on: Variety.

Colman Domingo says he enjoys pursuing a wide range of projects. Between writing recent musicals about Donna Summer and Nat King Cole and starring in Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the multihyphenate mu…

‘Fear The Walking Dead’s Colman Domingo Lifts The Lid On AMC Adaptation Of Stage Play ‘Dot’

Read on: Deadline.

Fear The Walking Dead star Colman Domingo said that he is “mining the pilot” of his adaptation of stage play Dot for U.S. cable network AMC.
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‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Showrunners Break Down the Season 4 Finale

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead for the “Fear the Walking Dead” Season 4 finale!)

Season 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead” has come to an end, and boy, was this season a doozy. From losing major characters like Madison [Kim Dickens] and Nick Clark [Frank Dillane], to meeting some new favorites like John Dorie [Garrett Dillahunt] and journalist Althea [Maggie Grace], showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg have led fans on an emotional 16 episodes.

In the finale, we saw Morgan [Lennie James] overcame Martha [Tonya Pinkins], a villain in which Chambliss and Goldberg say Morgan saw a bit of himself.

“The thing that I think ultimately made us go the route we did with Martha was the fact that we wanted a villain who Morgan, and all the other characters, could really understand and who, in any other world, these characters could have become,” Chambliss said. “Morgan knows if he had not had the right people enter his life –if he had not had Eastman enter his life, if he had not returned to Rick and the rest of that group, if he had not met Dorie in 401 — he very well could have been in a place very similar to Martha.”

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’: Alicia ‘Becomes More Her Mother’s Daughter’ in Water-Logged Episode

See below for our Q&A with Chambliss and Goldberg about the Season 4 finale — from how on Earth Morgan survived all that walking to what to expect in Season 5.

TheWrap: Why did Morgan ultimately change his mind about going back to Alexandria? 

Ian Goldberg: You know, I think it was sort of an accumulation of factors, but I think that the sort of final and biggest motivating factor for Morgan was his experience with Martha. We see in 416 that he comes to understand Martha in a whole new way. He’s known her over the back half of the season, he’s seen a lot of similarities between the two of them. We see that play out in this episode, but I think one of the things that really hits him, and he says this to the rest of the group after he buries Martha is, she needed help and there was no one who stopped to help her when she really needed it. And I think that that really affects Morgan and sort of recalibrates his whole approach in his thinking about Alexandria, because he realizes that there are people around here that need their help. It’s that combined with the existence of the river mill, what he knows about Polar Bear and Polar Bear’s philosophy — and Madison you know, and what Madison — who’s someone Morgan never knew but he’s very much taken to heart her philosophy, through Alicia, through June, through Strand, people who were there with her, and Morgan realizes he can affect more change by staying here by helping people in need in this area and continuing the legacy of Polar Bear, the legacy of Madison, and making a new legacy all their own that the group is all going to be part of moving forward.

Why choose to have a villain for the back half like Martha, instead of Big Bad characters like we’ve seen before?

Andrew Chambliss: I think there were a couple different reasons that kind of led us to arrive at Martha as the villain for the back half. In the first half of the season, we had had the Vultures as the villains, and they were a group, so we wanted to try to do something that felt different than that. But the thing that I think ultimately made us go the route we did with Martha was the fact that we wanted a villain who Morgan, and all the other characters, could really understand and who, in any other world, these characters could have become. You know, it’s as Morgan says to Dorie, in the scene around the camp when he’s going to sneak away at the end of the night, Morgan says, I was her. Morgan knows if he had not had the right people enter his life –if he had not had Eastman enter his life, if he had not returned to Rick and the rest of that group, if he had not met Dorie in 401 — he very well could have been in a place very similar to Martha. So it really felt like it was interesting to have someone who was a mirror image to Morgan, who was someone who didn’t want to take over the world, but someone who was just dealing with some really internal trauma that has been with them for the few years of the apocalypse.

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’: Lennie James Says Morgan Finding Out Rick Is Gone Would Be ‘Devastating’

At the end of the episode, Althea [Maggie Grace] kind of surprises everyone by offering to use her tapes as a source for finding people who need help. She tells everyone she has “layers.” What can you say about her journey since we’ve been introduced to her, and will we find out more of her backstory in Season 5? 

Goldberg: Althea’s story is one that we’ve also been very excited to tell this season. One of the things that really excites us about Al as a character is she’s someone who, from the moment we met her, we saw that she had a very strong drive, a very strong reason for being, and goal in this world. She’s doing the same thing that she’s doing now that she was doing before the apocalypse, which is collecting people’s stories and getting to the truth. We’ve seen this season just how much that means to her, and how far she’s willing to go to get the story. But I think you see in episode 416, a new side to Al, a bit more vulnerability, and I think it’s rooted in what Martha says to her at the beginning of the episode when she sort of questions l’s motivation for getting these stories. And sort of, that really weighs on Al, especially when she’s, after she’s been poisoned and she’s sitting in the truck stop and she’s re-watching all those tapes of people who she interviewed, and you see what an emotional impact that has on her and the regret that she has for not doing more to help those people. That all she did was collect their story and move on. And I think that, it becomes a huge part of Al’s redemption that we see the beginnings of at the end of this season by offering up her tapes as a starting place for the rest of the group to help people in this area. But I think in Season 5, a lot of our characters are going to be seeking redemption. Al’s one of them. And the other that we’re going to see in Season 5 is that her relationship to collecting stories and to the truth itself, is going to gain in complexity, let’s just say.

She also knows who Ezekiel is — was that a callback to something before ever meeting Morgan?

Chambliss: She knows who he is, that was a callback to the interview she had with Morgan in Episode 401, when he was telling her about the places and that there’s a king and he has a pet tiger.

Sarah and Wendell have been more fun, new characters introduced this season. Will we see them in Season 5?

Chambliss: Ian and I are huge fans of Sarah and Wendell as characters, and also huge fans of Mo [Collins] and [Daryl Mitchell] as actors, so we very much want them to be part of the group going forward, and we see at the end of 416 they’re in that little convoy that drives out into the world. So you know, and the other thing is Sarah’s got some beer to brew. She wants to keep Jim’s memory alive. So I’d say people can expect to see some more of those two.

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Star Jenna Elfman ‘Moved’ by ‘Potent’ Season 4

Morgan goes through so much in this episode. How does he just physically survive it?

Chambliss: Lots of protein, peanut butter protein bars.

Goldberg: And lots of determination.

Chambliss: But look, the whole kind of design of that sequence was all about showing just how far he had come. In 401, we saw him walk halfway across the country, driven to get away from people, and then it’s now that we see him with an injury in his leg, after having been in a car wreck, finding kind of the drive, the will, the fortitude to push through all that pain, all that physical discomfort, to get back to people. So it’s really about marking kind of the changes his character has taken over these past 16 episodes.

Also Read: Is Morgan Going to Bring ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ Together?

Even more reports have been coming out recently about spinoff series, maybe even movies, and how the “Walking Dead” universe will expand. Have either of you been in conversations for more spinoffs?

Goldberg: You know, we’ve really just been focused on “Fear.” Andrew and I are huge fans of the Walking Dead universe, so we’d love to see it expand far and wide, but for now, we’ve really been focused on “Fear.”

Chambliss: We’ve got Season 5 to make.

The Season 4 finale has a pretty feel-good ending. Did you want to give audience a happy ending or was this more to set up Season 5?

Goldberg: It was very much our intention to end up in a positive place. The whole goal that we set out with at the beginning of the season was to tell stories about characters going from dark places to a place of hope. And we were very excited to be able to tell optimistic and hopeful stories set against the backdrop of what can often be a pretty bleak world, and to show that hope can not only survive but it can thrive, and it can bring people together. And that’s what the journey of this season has been about, and that’s you know, very much going to be part of next season as well.

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‘Assassination Nation’ Review: Verve Carries the Day in Scattershot Satire

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Its story couldn’t be more contemporary — what happens to a small community when people’s online secrets start getting exposed — but “Assassination Nation” is clearly the product of artists with a deep background in old movies. The plotline recalls “Le Corbeau” (that 1943 Nazi-occupation classic about a French village torn apart by poison-pen letters) by way of “Jawbreaker,” and the red, white and blue split-screens will tickle both fans of Godard’s “Made in U.S.A.” and Abel Gance’s “Napoleon.”

And even if the somewhat scattershot “Assassination Nation” might not wind up being as well remembered in cinema history, audiences may nonetheless forgive the film’s shortcomings because of its sheer verve and chutzpah. Whatever faults lie in the script by writer-director Sam Levinson (“Another Happy Day”) get swallowed up by the flash and dazzle of his direction and the editing by Ron Patane (“A Most Violent Year”).

For popular girls Lily (Odessa Young, “A Million Little Pieces”), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Bex (Hari Nef, “Mapplethorpe”) and Em (Abra), all is as it should be in their quaint suburb of Salem (Yes, Salem.) They’ve got students and teachers alike wrapped around their finger, and adult men stare agape when they walk down the street in formation.

Watch Video: ‘Assassination Nation’ Full Trailer Is Straight-Up Bonkers

But early on in the film, someone hacks into the mayor’s computer and releases all his personal info, revealing that this conservative “family values” candidate likes cross-dressing and having sex with other men. He responds to this revelation by shooting himself at a city council meeting.

The next victim is Principal Turrell (Colman Domingo, “Fear the Walking Dead”), a sympathetic figure who nonetheless gets hounded out of his job after the release of some unkind emails and his online porn choices. The revelations keep coming, turning friend against friend and revealing all manner of indiscretions — including Lily’s sexts with her married babysitting client Nick (Joel McHale) — and by the time Lily is accused of being the hacker, Salem gets whipped up into a paranoid frenzy, with everyone wondering whose secrets will be revealed next.

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“Assassination Nation” certainly has style to burn, from the wardrobe color choices to the intensity of the action. (There’s a heart-stopping moment in which Em’s mom Nance, played by the great Anika Noni Rose, fends off a home intruder as cinematographer Marcell Rév (“White God”) shoots entirely through the windows from the outside.)

But Levinson has still created such a recognizable-enough reality that when the story goes to extremes, it feels like the movie’s going off the rails. An evil sheriff tells the girls that the FBI traced the hacking from Lily’s house, and when Em quite rightly asks, “Then why aren’t they here?” the film never has an answer, since that would get in the way of mob frenzy and vigilante justice.

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The central quartet of actresses is terrific, carving out individual characters even in a film that’s often more interested in them for their visual iconography than for their inner lives. (It’s notable that even when they are surrounded by chaos, these women always have each other’s backs.) Nef’s Bex, in particular, is the kind of teen we haven’t seen much yet in the movies: a transgender character played by a trans actress, Bex is completely self-possessed and utterly comfortable with both her gender and her sexuality. She might have to deal with the mercurial and unreliable nature of the teen-boy libido, but Bex is nobody’s victim.

It’s always apparent what “Assassination Nation” is going for, and it more often than not fulfills its ambitions, and the hits more than make up for the misses. It’s not going to tell audiences anything they don’t already know about human nature and social media and hidden inner lives, but it explores all of those ideas with visual ferocity.



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‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Review: Barry Jenkins Delivers Stunning Romance With Aftertaste of Injustice

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

For his follow-up to the Best Picture winner “Moonlight,” director Barry Jenkins delivered a vivid and deeply romantic adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel “If Beale Street Could Talk” on Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival.

The film is a bold and elegant celebration of young black love in the face of a Harlem rife with police corruption. The leads, Canadian actor Stephan James and newcomer KiKi Layne, received a standing ovation alongside Jenkins after credits rolled at the Princess of Wales theater.

Stephan and Layne play 19-year-old Tish and 22-year-old Alfonzo (Fonny, for short), lifelong friends whose soul connection is so pure that Jenkins paints it as divine — even as the sociopolitical climate of their time threatens to tear them apart.

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Tish is a good girl from a hardworking Harlem family, represented in salt-of-the-earth performances from Regina King, Colman Domingo and scene stealer Teyonah Parris (“Chi-Raq,” “Mad Men”).

When we first meet her, Tish must break the serious news that she’s expecting Fonny’s baby to her own blood and the snooty women of Fonny’s nuclear family. Not only are the lovers unwed, Fonny is currently behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit.

It’s a violent sex crime committed against a woman he does not know, in a neighborhood far away. A crime for which he has a two eyewitnesses corroborating his alibi, and only a racist cop as a witness for the prosecution. To say nothing of the fact that he vehemently denies it, and the whole of these characters spend the duration of the film agonizing over the impossibility of the event.

But there he sits behind glass, pining for his love and the child that grows within her. Tish, too, becomes bound by the financial strain of his defense, the judgment of her mother-in-law, the physical stress of holding down a job and surviving a turbulent pregnancy. She navigates this as a young black woman in an historical moment that does not want her to succeed. That does not want her to be visible.

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“Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the black neighborhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy,” wrote James Baldwin, as shown on a title card before the film begins.

“Moonlight” showed us how shame, abuse and isolation evade individual circumstances, “Beale Street” shows us in gorgeous and saturated detail how powerful discovering love can be — and how long it lingers through trials and degradation.

In their moments walking the streets, apartment hunting or having sex for the first time, composer Nicholas Britell gives Tish and Fonny orchestral string pieces so haunting and poignant that one pull of the bow feels like hours playing inside these intimate images.

Also Read: Barry Jenkins Will Direct Every Episode of Amazon Studios’ ‘Underground Railroad’ Adaptation

Their glances, light touches, their smiles, even their squabbles and mundane chores are breathtaking. These moments are purposefully and justly given reverence by Jenkins, who after the premiere said “Moonlight” told the story of the family he had and “Beale Street” was the family he dreamt of.

It’s there in this work, that dream. “Beale Street” is not inclusive, it is transcendent.

The tragedy here is what befalls Fonny and so many men like him, in the 70s and now. A broken system cannot provide the happy ending worthy of such epic romance. It feels like a purposeful gut punch from Jenkins, how deserving his lead characters are of happiness and how completely unrealistic it is they would find it.

“We’re not 19 and 22 anymore,” Tish observes at the end of the film. “We can’t afford to be.”

It leaves a bitter taste, wondering how many love stories and other human triumphs are untold because their heroes are behind bars — or on the other side of the glass waiting to lift the phone and reach the other side.

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‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Star Jenna Elfman ‘Moved’ by ‘Potent’ Season 4

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The second half of the fourth season of “Fear the Walking Dead” kicked off on Sunday after the show’s summer hiatus, and star Jenna Elfman spoke with TheWrap about how AMC’s spinoff of “The Walking Dead” will be taking a thematic approach that we haven’t seen much of on either show much: a glimmer of positivity.

“A big thing in the second half of this season is as each character explores who they are we see how much being affected by other people helps — and being affected by gestures of help — one’s ability to come to understand who they are themselves,” said Elfman, who plays June, a character who was introduced in the second episode of Season 4. “And we are going to see that kind of ping pong effect of humanity of individuals and how that defines who they are in a group and how a group setting defines who they are as individuals.

“We’re going more toward that place of potential hope and potential optimism, and how you work backwards from there. We’ve had so much hostility and so much pain and loss.”

Also Read: You Can Watch Next Week’s Episode of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Right Now

We discussed a big scene in next week’s episode — which AMC Premiere subscribers can watch now — that Elfman says kind of sums up how the rest of this season is going to go. Don’t worry, we won’t spoil it here for those who haven’t watched yet.

The next few episodes will show us what each of the cast members gets up to in the hurricane that hit at the end of Sunday’s episode, starting with Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) this coming week. Alicia, of course, doesn’t like Charlie all that much because Charlie murdered her brother brother Nick in the first half of Season 4.

“There’s that moment where I think Alicia sees herself in Charlie. There’s that key, heightened moment, that I will not give away, but they’re in that basement and I think there’s that moment where Alicia is looking at Charlie and realizes Charlie’s pain as a child,” Elfman said. “And Alicia, as a child of Madison, and all the loss she’s been through, realizes that they actually have a lot of common. And there’s the defining moment for Alicia, of how is she going to treat this person who mirrors her.

Also Read: Is Morgan Going to Bring ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ Together?

“Everyone’s going to have some of those moments where we start seeing mirrored versions of ourselves in others and that becomes a little bit of a wake-up call, and we go one way or we go the other.”

Elfman said she was impressed by this direction that “Fear the Walking Dead” is going in Season 4.

“I’m quite moved by the second half of the season. I think it’s kind of potent. And I think it’s potent in terms of the whole ‘Walking Dead’ universe, where this fourth season will end up,” she said. “Can there be optimism in the apocalypse? Can that exist? And how could that possibly exist? What point of view opens the door to that. How to not live a hostile existence in an apocalyptic world? Can it be?

Elfman described this arc — which looks like it will largely involve the main cast facing off against the elements in a more basic survival scenario, rather than human foes in the more typical “the real monsters are people” stories typically told in “The Walking Dead” — as a sort of fundamental exploration of human nature.

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Showrunner: Alicia Needs to Figure Out if ‘She Can Fill Madison’s Shoes’

“It explores, in my opinion, the makeup of who we are to each other as human beings,” Elfman said.
“I don’t know if you can go more basic in terms of human relations than this element that we start to explore and the door that that opens possibly, potentially, for us on this show.”

As for Elfman’s character specifically, June at the end of the mid-season premiere was trapped in Al’s SWAT vehicle as the hurricane really began to pick up, with June starting to panic a little bit because John Dorie (Garrett Dillahunt) is out there somewhere looking for Charlie. Elfman said that Al (Maggie Grace) and June’s big episode will come in the fourth episode of this half-season, which was directed by long-time “Fear” cast member Colman Domingo.

Elfman didn’t want to spoil what’s coming for June, but she did talk a bit about where her head is at as things start to go bad again after a period of relative peace where she settled in with Dorie and Charlie in a schoolbus.

“I don’t know if she trusts herself yet because she’s in a brief idyllic situation on the bridge with Dorie, but nothing like that lasts very long,” Elfman said. “When someone’s in a calm, safe environment they tend to return a little bit more with who they are. But faced with some stress, who do they become? Has she recovered enough to be who she truly is, who she was. Is that gone? Is it lost forever?”

As for what was probably the most talked about part of the mid-season premiere — when Morgan (Lennie James) declared his intent to return to Alexandria and invited everyone to go with him — Elfman noted that June has not yet expressed an opinion about that prospect and maybe doesn’t have a fully formed opinion on it yet because she’s still getting used to being comfortable in a group setting.

“I think she needs to understand the herself and the John Dorie of it all first,” Elfman said, pointing out that June doesn’t really have a handle on their relationship just yet. “I think that’s her first thing she’s gonna have to face.”

“Fear the Walking Dead” airs Sundays on AMC at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

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(Some spoilers ahead for the season 4 mid-season premiere of AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead”)

Ever since the creative powers that be behind “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead” first teased last year that a character would be crossing over between the two shows, fans have been wrestling with what exactly that could mean for the future of the two shows.

Morgan (Lennie James), the character who literally walked out of “The Walking Dead” and into “Fear” after the most recent season of the main show, may have teased how deep this crossover is going to go in the season 4 mid-season premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead.”

Also Read: You Can Watch Next Week’s Episode of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Right Now

As the episode began, Morgan declared that he wants to leave Texas and head back to Virginia and reunite with his old pals back home. He even tries to get the remaining “Fear the Walking Dead” cast to go with him, though only Al (Maggie Grace) accepts the invitation, with the plan being that they’ll drive back in Al’s armored SWAT vehicle.

Of course, it looks like Morgan’s plan is going to be delayed a little bit by the main conflict of this half of the season. Not with other people this time, but with the elements — a hurricane has slammed Texas, and it’s putting everybody into a new sort of survival situation.

So it seems like we’re going to have to wait at least until the end of this season before we find out what actually becomes of Morgan’s plan to return to Virginia. Will he still want to go after the storm passes? Will he even still be alive? Will whatever happens during the hurricane make the others want to go with him?

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Trailer: Nature Takes Over in the Second Half of Season 4 (Video)

One of the popular fan ideas since the crossover was first teased was “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Waking Dead” won’t just continue to do crossovers, but will actually merge at some point, and this would certainly be a way to do that. Of course, “Fear” has been renewed for a fifth season by AMC so it doesn’t look like it will be folded into “The Walking Dead” in the near term, though they could end up running in parallel with characters crossing over between them more liberally, like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe of the CW’s Arrowverse.

The showrunners have been cryptic about it because they don’t want to give away what’s coming. Though the way overall “Walking Dead” overseer Scott Gimple answered a fan question at Comic-Con about potential future crossovers (“I would never tell you in this moment but I really want to”) makes us think that at minimum the two shows will continue to interact in some way.

For now, we’ll have to just wait and see, but the fact that Morgan is already bringing up the idea on the show of trekking with his new group of pals back to Virginia has our imaginations running wild for how this shared universe is finally starting to take shape.

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You Can Watch Next Week’s Episode of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Right Now

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The second half of season 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead” is finally underway after the summer break, with the mid-season premiere airing on AMC Sunday night. But you don’t have to wait to watch the next episode — you can, in fact, watch it right now using the new AMC Premiere streaming service.

There are some caveats to this, of course. First, you need a qualifying TV subscription the same way you would to watch anything on AMC.com or in the app. And then you have to pay a subscription fee of $5 a month for the Premiere service.

And you will need, depending on what TV Service you have, the appropriate device for streaming. On AT&T U-verse, for example, you must use the AMC app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Android or Amazon Fire TV in order to use AMC premiere — you can’t just use the service on AMC.com. You can find out the requirements for your service on AMCPremiere.com right here or in the AMC app.

Also Read: Is Morgan Going to Bring ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ Together?

In addition to this early episode of “Fear the Walking Dead,” the five bucks for AMC Premiere also gets you commercial-free viewing of all on-demand content from AMC, as well as more episodes than you would normally find from their free on-demand library as Premiere is, essentially, AMC’s proprietary streaming service.

Whether or not you think that’s worth it is up to you, but if you’re looking to get next week’s episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” right now, that’s your only option.

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‘Assassination Nation’ Full Trailer Is Straight-Up Bonkers (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The first full-length trailer for the buzzy Sundance acquisition film “Assassination Nation” has dropped, and it’s all sorts of bonkers.

“This is the story of how my town, Salem, lost its mind,” says the narrator. “When 17,000 people’s texts and emails get leaked, people get really weird.”

“Assassination Nation” follows four teenage girls in a quiet town who become the focus of worldwide attention when their personal information is leaked by a hacker.

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The thriller stars Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Bella Thorne, Nill Skarsgard, Hari Nef, Abra, Colman Domingo, Joel McHale and Anika Noni Rose. It was written and directed by Sam Levinson and produced by David S. Goyer, Anita Gou, Kevin Turen, Aaron L. Gilbert, Matthew J. Malek and Manu Gargi.

“Assassination Nation” sold to Neon and the Russo Brothers’ production company AGBO for $10 million at the Sundance Film Festival, marking one of the biggest sales of the festival.

Also Read: Bella Thorne Has Worked Every Day Since She Was 6 Weeks Old, Plus 4 More Things in Vogue Doc (Video)

“You may kill me, but you can’t kill us all,” says Young’s character at the end of the trailer.

Watch it above.

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‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Star Colman Domingo Joins Fox Searchlight’s Noah Hawley Film

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EXCLUSIVE: Colman Domingo, whose character is one of the few surviving originals on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, has come aboard Noah Hawley’s formally titled Pale Blue Dot sci-fi drama, joining Natalie Portman, Dan Stevens, Jon Hamm, and Zazie B…

‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Star Colman Domingo Says Answers Will ‘Come to the Light’ in Midseason Finale

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

All the timeline jumping back and forth in “Fear the Walking Dead” Season 4 is about to make a lot more sense, according to star Colman Domingo.

In fact, the two timeline structure will end in the midseason finale, and Domingo says that the reason he, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Luciana (Danay Garcia) are so “vicious” in the second timeline “will come to the light.”

“It is a groundbreaking episode,” Domingo told Entertainment Weekly of the midseason finale. “A lot has been going on with all of the time jumps and now we’re going to come to a culmination of all the reasons why the story had to be told in that way — why Alicia, Luciana, and I are as vicious as we are. All the reasons will come to the light.”

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Star Garret Dillahunt Teases Fans With Lauren Cohan ‘Crossover’ Pic

“I think it’s a nice, tricky conceit where you probably meet our characters one way, and you have to figure out how they got that way,” Domingo told TheWrap in an interview before Season 4 premiered, when discussing the different ways time is used this season to tell the story. Now’s the time to figure it out.

Domingo added in the EW interview that when he watched the episode, he “had an ugly cry.”

“There are some disastrous things that will happen and it’s going to be gripping and it’s going to change the course of the show forever.”

The midseason finale of “Fear the Walking Dead” airs Sunday, June 10 on AMC. 

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‘Summer’ Broadway Review: It’s Winter for Queen of Disco Donna Summer

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Donna Summer might actually have had a more dramatic life than Fanny Brice, if Broadway musicals are any evidence. In “Funny Girl,” Brice becomes a star and marries a gambler who embarrasses her by going to jail.

In “Summer,” which opened Monday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, Summer becomes a star, marries and divorces a guy who beats her up, remembers being sexually abused by a pastor as a teenager, finds herself dependent on little blue pills, attempts suicide, finds Jesus, insults her homosexual fan base and diddles herself while writhing on the floor to simulate orgasms for her first hit single, “Love to Love You Baby.”

For that last bit of business, Summer does ask that the men in the recording control booth look the other way so she can jerk off in private. She doesn’t ask anyone in the Lunt-Fontanne to look the other way.

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The many traumas in Summer’s life receive one scene each, with the exception of the abusive husband and the pills. They get two each. In other words, the book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff doesn’t develop so much as it lists. Interspersed are the many songs the singer made famous before her death in 2012. Since “Summer” is very much a concert, the songs don’t help to tell the story. They do help to break up the monotony, not that the music itself is in any way varied.

Summer complains about being called the Queen of Disco. Back in the late 1970s, she feared that dance music was doomed, so reinvented herself with “Bad Girls” and “She Works Hard for the Money,” which sound just like disco classics. It’s not much of a creative trajectory that takes an artist from “Love to Love You, Baby” to “Hot Stuff.”

What brings much-needed variety to “Summer” are the extraordinary singing voices of the three actresses who portray the star at various stages of her life: LaChanze, Ariana DeBose and Storm Lever, who is double-cast as one of Summer’s three daughters. DeBose plays the star in her heyday, while LaChanze gets stuck narrating the show, playing Summer’s mother and doing most of the explaining for the star’s younger born-again self.

Also Read: ‘My Fair Lady’ Broadway Review: Lauren Ambrose Would Even Wow George Bernard Shaw

Which brings us to the Summer’s debacle with her gay fan base. The book of “Summer” blows off her comments about AIDS by turning them into a blithe “Adam and Steve” joke. In fact, ACT-UP and others boycotted the singer’s concerts. It was yet another example of someone using religion to flex her moral superiority.

Visually, “Summer” provides a few gems. Although Robert Brill’s sets and Sean Nieuwenhuis’s projections are fairly bare-bones by Broadway standards, they offer a glimpse at the portraits Summer painted during her semi-retirement. Who knew the singer was the Margaret Keane of German expressionism?

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The chorus of “Summer” is female, at times all done up in the kind of male drag that might have sent the real star into one of her religion-inspired meltdowns. Those performers, decked out in Paul Tazewell’s costumes, give the show a nice retro music-video look, as choreographed by Sergio Trujillo under the direction of Des McAnuff.

Unfortunately, Trujillo and McAnuff’s handling of the three Donnas looks downright lame. Three little white boxes keep popping up from the stage floor, raising each performer a few feet higher or letting each of them sink out of sight at the switch of a button. Those mechanics are an apt metaphor for the show itself.

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What You Need To Know About That Big ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Season Premiere Twist

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

(Spoilers ahead for the season 4 premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead”)

So here we are, at the much anticipated crossover event between “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead,” and it was a hell of a doozie.

For most of the episode, the original main cast of “Fear” was nowhere to be seen, instead focusing entirely on Morgan’s (Lennie James) long journey away from Rick and co. until he met up with a couple other new characters, played by Garret Dillahunt and Maggie Grace. But the episode focused entirely on those three until the very end, when the old cast finally appeared.

And when they showed up, hoo boy, what a re-introduction. Strand (Colman Domingo) and Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Luci (Danay Garcia) ambushed the new people, looking all dirty and gross. They’re basically bandits, and it looks like they’ve been through the ringer.

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Cast: ‘You Might Be Surprised Who the Villains Are’ in Season 4 (Video)

The key to understanding what’s going on there is knowing how season 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead” is structured. It’s not a straightforward narrative this time, but instead this season will feature parallel stories. What we saw in the season premiere represents the beginning of one of those stories — next week, you’ll see the beginning of the other, which will explore how exactly Madison’s crew ended up all haggard and terrifying.

The parallel plots will likely play out through the entire season of “Fear the Walking Dead” — though that’s just a guess, since I’ve only seen the first two episodes. For however long it lasts, though, it seems like a pretty novel concept. And, yes, the mysterious flag that Morgan and his new friends encountered will be very important next week and beyond. But, again, I’ll hold my tongue from talking about it any more for the sake of not spoiling you. But, rest assured, we’ll talk about this more next week.

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‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Cast: ‘You Might Be Surprised Who the Villains Are’ in Season 4 (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Fear the Walking Dead” Season 4 has some surprises in store, and it all has to do with figuring out who the new baddie will be.

“I like the way we’re re-examining what a villain is,” star Colman Domingo told TheWrap in an interview ahead of the Season 4 premiere on Sunday. He said that even the Clark family and company could be seen as the bad guys if viewed from a different perspective.

“I think that… if you’re following the villain’s point of view to the story, and their way into our community, we could be seen as the villains,” Domingo said.

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’: Get Your First Glimpse of Morgan in Season 4 Trailer (Video)

“Yeah, you might be surprised who the villains are this season,” cast newcomer Garret Dillahunt added.

“In our world, there’s no such thing as being a villain,” Danay Garcia (below) said. “It’s the apocalypse.”

Of course, the buzziest news around Season 4 is the addition of  “The Walking Dead” star Lennie James to the cast. Garcia said it was “really exciting” to see the fan-favorite Morgan join the “Fear” universe. But Morgan isn’t the only new addition: Dillahunt’s John will also play a recurring role, as will Maggie Grace’s Al and Jenna Elfman’s Naomi.

Also Read: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Season 4 Is ‘Absolutely Something That New Fans Can Jump Right Into’

“When you’re adding new characters — no matter what — there’s going to be some friction. There’s going to be some drama. There’s going to be many things they bring to the show,” Domingo said. The new characters will mark the biggest change from previous seasons, Domingo, Garcia and Dillahunt agreed.

“Our universe has had to expand, because our show has always been a family drama with some walkers to get in the way,” Domingo said. In the upcoming season, he explained, “we’re catching up in many ways. We’re catching up as characters, we’re catching up in our universe and we have to expand, and we have to meet new people whether those are comrades or foes.”

Watch the full interview above.

“Fear the Walking Dead” Season 4 premieres on AMC Sunday, April 15 after the Season 8 finale of “The Walking Dead.” 

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‘First Match’ Review: SXSW Audience Winner Wrestles With Real-Life Struggles And Comes Out A Winner For Netflix

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Against the field of all narrative films at this year’s recently concluded SXSW, Netflix’s small but worthwhile First Match emerged as the winner of the Audience Award competition. That seems appropriate since this engaging film about a largely abandoned young African American girl who joins the boys wrestling team at her Brooklyn high school is about someone who triumphs against all odds. But as I say in my video review above, it doesn’t follow the typical pattern of…

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‘First Match’ Filmmaker & Cast Champion Strong Representation Of Women In Coming-Of-Age Wrestling Film — SXSW

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In Netflix’s forthcoming drama First Matchrising star Elvire Emanuelle plays Monique, a teenage girl from Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood who builds a tough skin through all her years of foster care. After reaching out with her estranged father (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) she decides that wrestling is the only way to connect with him — but she isn’t wrestling other girls.  She’s wrestling boys…and she’s really good at it. The Emanuelle and Abdul Mateen joined us in the…