GIVEAWAY: advanced screening of EMPIRE on December 9 (Philly, PA)

Empire (photo: FOX)

Happy Wednesday MMT Family!  Are you excited about the new FOX drama EMPIRE from Oscar nominated director Lee Daniels and Emmy award-winning writer Danny Strong? Well the show’s premiere doesn’t air until January, but 25 lucky winners and their guests will get to screen it next Tuesday night here in Philly – Mr. Daniels’ hometown.

Want to put your name in the hat?  Make sure you 1) are subscribed to this website and 2) send an email to with the subject line “EMPIRE” and your full name in the body. All winners will be notified by Sunday, December 7.

Checkout the synopsis and show trailer below, and get more info about EMPIRE at the official website here.

Good luck family. Until next thought, Thomasena

EMPIRE synopsis 

From Academy Award nominee Lee Daniels (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Precious”) and Emmy Award winner Danny Strong (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Game Change”), comes EMPIRE, a sexy and powerful new drama about the head of a music empire whose three sons and ex-wife all battle for his throne.

LUCIOUS LYON (Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard, “Crash,” “Hustle & Flow”) is the king of hip-hop. An immensely talented artist, the CEO of Empire Entertainment and a former street thug, his reign has been unchallenged for years. But all that changes, when he learns he has a disease that is going to render him crippled and incapacitated in a matter of three years. The clock is ticking, and he must groom one of his three sons to take over his crowning achievement, without destroying his already fractured family.

Save the best for last: a recap of MusicMoviesThoughts 2013 highlights

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Well MMT Family, this is the last post of 2013.  Can you believe how fast this year went?  And what a great year it has been! I was able to share some really great interviews, including Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler,  The Sapphires director Wayne Blair, The Purge producer Jason Blum, The Best Man Holiday writer/director Malcolm D. Lee, and interviews with Lee Daniels’ The Butler cast Yaya Alafia, Cuba Gooding Jr. and director Lee Daniels himself.  I also met several of my faves and “mentors in my head” including Cathy Hughes, Smokey Robinson, and Berry Gordy.

And don’t even get me started with the cool Twitter mentions and thanks received from major films/companies, independents and several of my industry faves, including Debra Lee, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Anika Noni Rose, Omari Hardwick, Lisa Lisa, and Will Downing!  In addition, I’ve received feature promotion on for several of my stories, which helped to introduce MusicMoviesThoughts to a whole new audience.  It has indeed been a great year, to say the least! 😉

I am so very thankful for all of the support, comments, and thank-you emails sent to me for the giveaways, promo items and screening passes received.  It is my absolute pleasure to share my passion with you and I look forward to sharing even greater things in 2014.  And lastly, but certainly not least, thanks so much to Michael Tozzi of and Monica Lyons of Sista Pics for their wonderful contributions and support.

Well that’s it for me family!  Until 2014, Thomasena 🙂

Happy 2nd Anniversary MusicMoviesThoughts!

Happy Anniversary image

Guess what MMT family?  The site is two years old today!  I am so elated, for several reasons. First, I am still coming down off my birthday celebration high from last week (and yes, I saw that staff takeover post!).  Next, I remember typing out my wish list last year this time, which included increased celebrity interviews and giveaways.  Since that time, I’ve been able to do awesome movie screening giveaways, including passes to this summer’s hottest movie “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” And speaking of The Butler, I’ve not only interviewed director Lee Daniels, and co-stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Yaya Alafia, but a host of directors, producers, actors and singers; including history maker Ava Duvernay (Middle of Nowhere), Academy award hopeful director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), and my favorite solo interview to date, the legendary actor/director Charles Dutton (The Obama Effect).

We’ve also given away great DVD’s and movie soundtracks to many of the 1,055 plus followers the site has amassed, and we’ve created a new Facebook page to interact with our fan base.  I am on cloud nine thinking about what has happened, and can’t write out this year’s wish list fast enough!

I want to take time again this year to thank several persons who have invested time and support of the site.  I am very thankful to Allied-THA for their continued support in partnering with the MMT site for movie screenings.  I also want to thank our new photography partner, the talented Monica Lyons, and her company Sista Pics (check out the Lee Daniels’ The Butler Philly premiere, Yaya Alafia and Yusuf Muhammad posts for examples of her greatness!).  I want to also extend a thank you to Michael Tozzi and, LaVern Cameron, Rel Dowdell, Nakia Stokes, Mike D. and the Reelblack family, LeAnne Lindsay, and Pat Garcia for the support they’ve extended. Heads up MMT family, you will want to remember the name LaVern Cameron because her book, Ascent From Obscurity, is soon to be released and it is a powerful read.  You might also recognize the name of the editor (hint, hint) but more on that later!

Lastly, I want to say thank you to each subscriber of MMT, the Facebook page, and those who follow the blog via Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.  Because I value your opinion, I am asking each of you to take a brief minute and share your feedback, thoughts, etc. about this site on the attached contact form.  I am really interested and look forward to receiving your input to help with the wish list for this year. 🙂

Thanks again family!  Until next thought, Thomasena

Lee Daniels’ The Butler: a quick review and discussion with Lee Daniels and Cuba Gooding Jr.


Back in July I had the distinct privilege of sitting at a round-table interview with Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious, Monster’s Ball) and Academy Award winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire, Red Tails), who were in town to promote the upcoming movie Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  This “inspired by a true story” film has been widely received and garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.  I’ve personally received several emails, from last night’s screening giveaway winners, and each one of them was filled with emotionally charged statements that sang praises for this film.

As I was preparing to screen the movie a few weeks ago, I was still coping with the recent Zimmerman verdict, and the racially charged reactions that ensued, and appreciating the timeliness of a movie like Fruitvale Station being released.  And my spirit was still in “fighting mad” mode. How appropriate it was for me then to view the story of Cecil Gaines; who in the Daniels’ film is portrayed by Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland).  Cecil Gaines is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served in the White House under seven presidential administrations as a butler.  His position, and its corresponding demeanor, puts him at odds with his eldest son, portrayed in the movie by actor David Oyelowo (Red Tails, Middle of Nowhere); and his commitment to his job/role helps to introduce conflict into the Gaines family dynamic in more ways than one.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler serves as a pertinent reminder of those whose contributions to the struggle aren’t as frequently discussed or highly regarded.  The film is powerful in its display of the quiet resiliency of the main character, and in Daniels’ remarkable ability to help the audience connect to each character’s truth.  I can’t readily name one film, of recent memory, that took me through various emotions while viewing, and this film accomplished that feat with ease.  There were several persons who left the press screening I attended with tear-filled eyes; some joyful, some with pride.  It is definitely that kind of film.

(l to r, standing) Lee Daniels, Alex Gibson, Le Anne Lindsay, Thomasena Farrar, (l to r, seated) Cuba Gooding Jr., Yaya Alafia
(l to r, standing) Lee Daniels, Alex Gibson, Le Anne Lindsay, Thomasena Farrar, (l to r, seated) Cuba Gooding Jr., Yaya Alafia. Photo courtesy: Le Anne Lindsay (Tinsel & Tine)

What a pleasure it was then to sit with both director (Daniels) and one of the stars of the film (Gooding Jr.),  who were also joined by talented co-star Yaya Alafia (see her full interview in August 13 post), at the posh Rittenhouse Hotel to ask a couple of signature questions.  When you’re part of a round-table time is of the essence, we were only given approximately 15 minutes combined, hence the couple of questions! So listen to the audio below (warning some profanity), and take note of Lee Daniels’ response to my sharing my favorite Lee Daniels’ film!  Shout out to my co-panel Le Anne Lindsay of Tinsel & Tine, and Alex Gibson of the Philadelphia Film Society, and to Brian Chacon for helping with the audio edit.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler opens this Friday, August 16 nationwide.  The film is rated PG-13 and I highly recommend it for ages teen and above (and maybe those tweens who can process mature language and violence).  Stop back and share your thoughts after you see it.

Until next thought family,  Thomasena

A chat with ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ co-star Yaya Alafia

Yaya Alafia at "Lee Daniels' The Butler" Philadelphia Red Carpet Premiere (photo: Monica Lyons at Sista Pics Photography)
Yaya Alafia at “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Philadelphia red carpet premiere (photo: Monica Lyons at Sista Pics Photography)

Back in July, I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Yaya Alafia, formerly DaCosta, whom faithful reality television viewers may remember as first runner-up from season 3 of America’s Next Top Model (2003).  Since then, the talented actress has been seen in various films and projects, from 2006’s Take the Lead to this year’s breakout independent hit Neil Drumming’s Big Words with actor Dorian Missick. Ms. Alafia was in Philadelphia to promote the film Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in which she portrays Carol, a Fisk University student, turned Freedom Rider, turned Black Panther during the tumultuous Civil Rights movement.  We discussed everything from her preparation for her role in the film, to her musical preferences.  Coincidentally, I’d viewed “Big Words” the day before I screened the Daniels’ film, so there was an unexpected (on my part) question that I needed to ask first:

MMT: One of the things that surprised me watching “Big Words” was that you sing!  Is that something you enjoy showcasing or will we see that again on the screen?

YA: It’s not something that I have focused on until this point, so we’ll see.

MMT: Have you trained at all or are you just naturally gifted in that way?

YA:  I am not naturally gifted in that way, it just sounded really good in the movie! (laughs)

MMT: Your character in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” goes from peaceful, protesting Freedom Rider to a more militant character.  Was there a different level of preparation for each?

YA:  I was just with Carol the whole time.  I’ve had experiences where there was that transition, from a more innocent to a more fierce outrage.  And I make choices everyday, (meaning) there is a situation, there’s something that needs to be checked but how do I do it.  And so the earlier Carol was more naïve, maybe more graceful, and the latter was “I’ve had enough” and she was justified. All I had to do was tap into that outrage and there are a lot of opportunities everyday, both in the news and the world, for a person of color (to use).

MMT: This movie has such a large ensemble cast, was it intimidating to share screen time with Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oyelowo?

YA: I wouldn’t say intimidating, I would say exciting and inspiring!  I’ve been super blessed from the beginning of my professional career. My first job was with Alfre Woodard and Antonio Banderas (Take the Lead), and then I was on a TV show with Vanessa Williams…

MMT: Which I loved you in Ugly Betty, have to mention that!

YA: Thank you (smiles).  And I’m not going down this list to brag, but to (acknowledge) I’ve been nurtured, in my young career, in the company of all these amazing people.  I did theater with Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Leslie Uggams, so just feeling welcomed and having these stars tell me special things that boost your confidence as a young actor.  At the beginning of my career, I didn’t even call myself an actor.  I was a young person who finished college and was trying lots of different jobs, but acting was always my passion.  To be encouraged to own it and, as one of these (actors) said, “take your seat at our table”  was wonderful.  So when I was cast, I was like this is huge.  Even though I’m not in scenes with Clarence Williams III or Robin Williams, to be in the same film is amazing.  It’s humbling, but it was very inspiring.

MMT: Okay, I’m going to switch gears a bit.  I always ask something for my music fans, so if you could portray any artist/musician, past or present, who would it be and why?

YA: I don’t know if this is the ultimate answer but the first person that comes to mind because of the timing, and the fact that everybody keeps saying I should because of what I look like, is Whitney Houston.   We thought about that before she passed; but after people were anxious wanting to honor her legacy and make a film.  I don’t know if anyone’s doing it, but that’s definitely something other people have told me, and it’s now in my head like “yeah, I could do that.”

The beautiful Ms. Alafia also mentioned that she has a love for older music, including standards, and admires singers from the likes of Sarah Vaughn to Chaka Khan.  Like her versatility in song, she has been multifaceted in the projects she’s carefully chosen.  It is the mark of a woman who stands completely confident in and is aware of her gift, and its social impact.  As a fan, I look forward to continuing to watch her light shine.

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” opens nationwide this Friday, August 16.  Yaya Alafia can also be seen in “Big Words,” currently in limited release (go to official movie website here or and in the upcoming film by director Andrew Dosunmu “Mother of George,” which is set to open on September 13.

Check back Wednesday for my interview with director Lee Daniels and star Cuba Gooding Jr. 🙂

Until next thought family, Thomasena

GIVEAWAY: win passes to screen Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Philly, PA)

Lee Daniels' The Butler (courtesy of The Weinstein Company)
Lee Daniels’ The Butler (courtesy of The Weinstein Company)

MMT Family, you knew I was going to hook you up with this one right?  Allied-THA has granted passes to screen The Weinstein Company’s “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” here in Philly, PA next Tuesday night (August 13).  I know you’ve seen the trailer and read the synopsis if you follow this site, and trust me you do not want to miss this film!  With a magnificent ensemble cast, the movie stars Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr. and the list goes on.

To put your name in the hat, send an email to with the subject line ‘The Butler’ and your full name in the body.  All winners will be notified by this Saturday.  Want to increase you chances of winning?  Then make sure you are signed up to follow this site (see sign up on the right) or have liked our sister Facebook page here.

I’ve added the trailer again below, just because I think it’s great, and for your convenience. 🙂  Okay family, good luck!

Until next thought, Thomasena

Philadelphia welcomes home native son for premiere of ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’

photo by: Monica Lyons at Sista Pics Photography
Cuba Gooding Jr., Yaya Alafia, and Lee Daniels at Philadelphia red carpet premiere of Lee Daniels’ The Butler
photo by: Monica Lyons at Sista Pics Photography

Hey Music Movie family!  What a treat I have in store for you in a couple of weeks, when I’ll share interviews with Lee Daniels, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Yaya DaCosta Alafia, who were all in town last Monday for the movie tour and première screening of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”  But until then, allow me to share with you a link where you can see great pics of the aforementioned, and get a “bit of news” from the red carpet.   A huge thank you and welcome is extended to MMT’s new photography partner, the beautiful Monica Lyons of Sista Pics Photography.

You can check out that article by clicking here, and you can see more of Monica Lyons’ photos at this link.  You can also read a synopsis of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and watch the official trailer below.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

Lee Daniels’ The Butler synopsis

Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of 20th century America, Academy Award® nominated director Lee Daniels’ (PRECIOUS) historical epic LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER tells the story of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), who serves during seven presidential administrations between 1957 and 1986. Inspired by Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election” about the real life of former butler Eugene Allen, the film begins in 1924 with a young Cecil living in the fiercely segregated South and facing the tyranny of the region’s prejudices. After years spent working in a hotel, Cecil is discovered by a White House employee, which leads to landing the opportunity of a lifetime: a job as a server at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There, Cecil becomes a firsthand witness to history and the inner workings of the Oval Office as the civil rights movement unfolds. At the same time, he and his volatile but loving wife (Oprah Winfrey) must grapple with the rebellious spirit of their son Louis (David Oyelowo) whose tenacious hunger for activism and equal rights often puts him in dangerous situations – and at perpetual odds with his father. While Cecil remains fiercely committed to his duties at the White House and to providing for his family, his determination leads to increasing tensions between him and his anti-establishment son. Through the eyes and emotions of the Gaines family, Daniels’ film follows the changing tides of American politics and race relations; from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to the Freedom Riders and Black Panther movements, to the war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal, Cecil experiences the effects of these events as both an insider and a family man. With an incredible supporting cast that includes John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and Robin Williams, LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER is a story about one man’s resilience, the growth of a nation, and the power of family.

The Importance of Now

Hey there Music Movie family!  How has 2013 been treating you so far?  Did anyone watch the Grammys or BET Honors earlier this month?  How about the Oscars last Sunday night?  I managed to catch all three, and a few of the other award shows, although this month has been extremely hectic for me.  In addition to travelling out-of-town to finish up a book edit,  I loss a very dear friend, and learned of the deaths of two others, earlier this month.  Coping with the deaths of loved ones is something we all must face at some point and, while it seems quite tragic when they leave at a young age or without warning, is a reminder of the precious importance of now.  What are those things in life you are passionate about but keep putting on the back burner?  What is that one thing you want to do but haven’t yet stepped out on faith to attain?

blackfilmavatar-300x300Local filmmaker, Reelblack founder, and friend Mike D. (Philly Boy and Ladies and Gentleman, Jordan Rock)  recently stepped out on faith and started an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds towards completion of a feature-length documentary on the state of African-American film called Black Film Now.   Let me further clarify – Black Film Now will be the FIRST full length documentary on this subject, and will include rare interview footage including chats with Spike Lee, Kimberly Elise, Kevin Hart,  Kerry Washington, Lee Daniels, Ava Duvernay, and Haile Gerima just to name a few.  I’m excited for Mike and the making of this film and I encourage everyone reading to share and support this campaign.  You can watch the video below and go to  to donate.  Every amount counts, and for just $10 your name will be added to the end credits as a thank you for your support.   How cool is that?  There are 13 days left in the Indiegogo campaign, but after that you can check my blog roll (to the right) and click on the Reelblack link to get info on how to support.

Although it’s hard to understand the losses, I’m grateful for the reminder that I must appreciate now more.  Thank you Mike D. for being a current example of the power of now, and for the passion you exude to bring good Black film to the masses.  To Bridgette and her family, and to the memory of Karen and my dear friend Shelice, I simply say God is still in control.

Until next thought family, Thomasena