Denzel Washington to receive New Dramatists' 2018 Distinguished Achievement Award

ABC/Heidi Gutman(LOS ANGELES) -- Denzel Washington will join the likes of Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, playwright Edward Albee, and Meryl Streep as the 2018 recipient of the New Dramatists' Distinguished Achievement Award.

According to Deadline, Washington, who's headed to Broadway this month to star in The Iceman Cometh, will be presented the award at New Dramatists’ 69th Annual Spring Luncheon tribute May 15 in New York.

The Distinguished Achievement Award goes to individuals who have made an outstanding artistic contribution to the theatre community. Two-time Oscar-winner Washington won a Tony in 2010 for his Broadway performance in August Wilson’s Fences. He directed and reprised his role in the film version of the play in 2016.

"Mr. Washington has earned his career status through hard work and excellence,” said Emily Morse, artistic director of New Dramatists, in a statement. “He’s a professional actor who continues to pursue artistic and career challenges, like undertaking the plays of August Wilson, an alumnus of New Dramatists, and Eugene O’Neill.

Morse added that Washington is, “a respected, consummate artist, and for this reason we wish to honor him at this year’s luncheon.”

The Iceman Cometh begins previews March 22 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. It officially opens April 26.

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"Black Lightning" stars Nafessa Williams and China Ann McClain discuss the show's "realism," which "hopefully can spark change" 

CW - 2018(NEW YORK) -- On the CW's Black Lightning, Nafessa Williams and China Ann McClain are manifesting their own unique superhero powers.

As Anissa and Jennifer Pierce, the daughters of high school principal-turned-superhero Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning,  the sisters are following in their father's footsteps and seeking their own brand of justice.

But unlike other superhero shows, Black Lightning doesn't necessarily focus on the heroes battling aliens. The villains on the show are social issues such as gangs, gun violence, drugs, sex trafficking, corrupt politicians, racism and racial profiling.

For McClain, who plays Jennifer Pierce on the series, the show offers an authentic picture of what's really happening today.

"The show came at the perfect timing," McClain tells ABC Radio. "Like, there such crazy stuff going on in society right now. So to be able to play these characters and tell the true story of it feels real."

According to McClain, one of those "real" experiences occurred during the first episode, when Jefferson's character was stopped by police and "slammed up against his own car in the rain."

"Police just hits home for you. And that's how we started the show, and that scene really represents our entire show and what we're going for," she explains. "We're going for the realism and we're not trying to shy away from it."

Williams, who plays Anissa Pierce, agrees and offers thanks to the series creators, Mara Brock Akil and her husband/producing partner, Salim Akil.

"We love them, and we knew that, taking on these roles, we could trust them with them being authentic and really telling the stories that our communities are interested in hearing about," she says.

"Telling the stories that hopefully can spark change...not just in our community, but with the world."

The CW's Black Lightning airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

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"The Crown" producers apologize for pay gap between male and female leads

Netflix/Robert Viglasky(LOS ANGELES) -- Recently, news broke that Claire Foy, who plays Queen Elizabeth in Netflix's The Crown, was making a less-than-queenly salary when compared to Matt Smith, who plays Prince Phillip.

The outrage led to a petition for Smith and the streaming giant to pony up the difference.  Now, the disparity has also led to an apology from series producers, Left Bank Pictures.

The actors "have found themselves at the centre of a media storm this week through no fault of their own," the lengthy mea culpa reads in part, also noting, "we at Left Bank Pictures are responsible for budgets and salaries; the actors are not aware of who gets what, and cannot be held personally responsible for the pay of their colleagues."

The producers' statement also said they "understand and appreciate the conversation" about wage parity and are "absolutely united with the fight for fair pay, free of gender bias, and for a rebalancing of the industry’s treatment of women, both those in front of the camera and for those behind the scenes." 

The statement concludes: "As company policy we are engaged in conversations with [equality groups] ERA 50:50 and going forward are keen to talk to Times Up UK; organisations which are working to ensure all women have a voice."

The Crown executive producer Suzanne Mackie had suggested last week that Smith was paid more because the former Doctor Who star had more experience, but then said that no longer will apply, adding, "It’s really important for the Queen to be paid more."  However, Tuesday's statement does not directly say that the Foy-Smith wage disparity has been addressed.

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John Oliver's spoof of VP Pence's bunny book sells out 

HBO/Eric Liebowitz(NEW YORK) -- Last Week Tonight host John Oliver's spoof of Vice President Mike Pence's illustrated children's book is a smash.

Oliver's children's book A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo is a takedown of the Pence family's real kids book about their pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo's Day in the Life of the Vice President.  Oliver's book, advertised on the website BetterBundoBook, has totally sold out, necessitating the need for second printing.

For the record, it's even out-selling the original book.  While Oliver's book holds Amazon's #1 slot, the Pence book is ranked fifth.

The HBO show host made the announcement on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Tuesday.

Oliver's book, which flames the VP for his views about homosexuality and alleged support of so-called "gay conversion therapy," is about Marlon Bundo, a bunny who falls in love with and marries another male rabbit. 

The host first announced the book on Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight and encouraged viewers to buy it to "p**s off Mike Pence."

The book topped Amazon's bestseller list nearly immediately after it became available. Celebrities flocked to the project, with likes of Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, RuPaul, Ellie Kemper, and John Lithgow lending their voices to an audio book version.  

All proceeds from Oliver’s book benefit AIDS United and The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people ages 13–24.

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"Fresh Off the Boat" star Constance Wu loves playing a character with "no filter" and watching her on-screen kids grow

ABC/Image Group LA(LOS ANGELES) -- Constance Wu plays the no-nonsense, no-filter mom, Jessica Huang, on the ABC show Fresh Off the Boat. But just because she wrangles three boys on the show, doesn’t mean she takes on the mom role on set.

“Not at all,” she laughs. “I actually treat them like they're professional actors and I think that's actually helpful because people often behave the way you treat them and so they are quite professional.”

She adds that the kids all have their parents on set with them, so they don’t need a second mom. But when it comes to the most rewarding part of the job over the past four seasons, for Wu it’s been watching the kids grow.

“It's been really rewarding for me to watch the kids and how much they've grown as actors and as people,” she says. “They're just really good kids, they're kind to each other, they're interested, they're curious, they're positive and it's kind of great to see that.”

As season four comes to a close tonight, Wu teases that we’ll see Jessica finally completing her book and attempting to get a blurb from her favorite author, Stephen King.

“It's kinda fun playing a character who has no filter,” Wu says. “I think most people in life have a little bit of filter. But she's very free to be exactly who she is.”

While the show has yet to be renewed for season five, Wu has faith in its future.

“Honestly, I think our writers are so tremendous and they've come up with such great ideas and such great storylines that I would trust whatever they wanted to do with the show,” she says. 

The season finale of Fresh Off the Boat airs tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

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"Game" on! NBC orders 6th season of "Hollywood Game Night"

Ron Batzdorff/NBC(LOS ANGELES) -- NBC's Hollywood Game Night has been renewed for a sixth season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The game show will return for 13 episodes with Emmy winner Jane Lynch back as host, pitting ordinary people against each other in classic party games -- with celebrities along for the ride to lend a hand.

At stake is a cash prize of $25,000.

Last summer, the show ranked #1 in its time slot. No premiere date has been announced yet for the forthcoming season.

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"The Voice" recap: Battles begin with Adam Levine winning a three-way fight to steal one of Kelly Clarkson’s artists

Trae Patton/NBC(LOS ANGELES) -- It was the first night of the battle rounds on The Voice Monday, as teammates went head-to-head for the right to advance to the next stage in the competition. The evening culminated in Adam Levine winning a three-way fight with Alicia Keys and Blake Shelton to steal one of Kelly Clarkson’s artists.

Each coach enlisted the help of a guest adviser during rehearsals: Julia Michaels for Team Adam; Trace Adkins for Team Blake; Shawn Mendes for Team Alicia; and Hailee Steinfeld for Team Kelly.

Here are Monday's highlights:

Jamai, and Sharane Calister, representing Team Alicia, went head-to-head against each other on “Mercy,” by her team adviser Shawn Mendes, who urged them to put their own spin on it. Alicia, addressing the camera, said both artists were “killing it,” but the winner of the battle would be the one who best conveyed the emotion of the song. That ended up being Calister, who advances to the next round. Jamai was sent home.

For her first battle of the night, Kelly paired 14-year-old Brynn Cartelli and Dylan Hartigan, 21, on Taylor Swift’s “Ready for It,” and challenged them to give the pop hit a “swampy feel.” For Kelly, the competition came down to a battle of nerves, and which singer could control his or hers the best. Following the performance, Kelly chose Brynn for her “cool vibe.” Cartelli advances to the next round.

However, Dylan’s run isn’t over yet, as Blake pulled off a last minute steal, grabbing him for his team.

Shelton’s Jesslee Stuart then faced off against Kyla Jade on “One Last Time,” by Ariana Grande. Blake, addressing the camera, explained that Jesslee had “a powerful rock edge,” while Kyla had an incredible, huge voice, although the former backup singer needed to step up and be the star. The victory, said Shelton, would be the singer who “blew the roof off the place.” Blake gave the round to Kyla, who moves on to the knockouts. Stuart was sent packing.

Rayshun Lamarr and Tish Haynes Keys, representing Team Adam, battled on “Sweet Thing,” by Rufus, featuring Chaka Khan. Adam called putting the two powerhouse vocalists together “the worst and best decision he ever made,” but quoted his former Voice colleague Pharrell Williams, who said “Talent finds a way.” Adam named Rayshun the winner, for his range and emotion. He advances in the competition.

Tish also advances though, now as a member of Team Kelly, whole stole the singer.

Alicia’s second pairing of the night, Christiana Danielle and Shana Halligan, dueted on Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.” Mendes talking to the camera, noted that Christiana had an incredible tone that immediately drew him in, while Shana had one of the most unique voices he’d ever heard. Following the battle, it was Christiana who advanced to the knockout rounds. Shana was sent home.

Clarkson’s final pairing of the night was Jackie Foster and D.R. King, who went head-to-head on Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times,” which she explained, complemented their big voices. Kelly, addressing the camera, predicted the battle would be a tossup, and she would most likely have to “pray” when it came time to decide. Clarkson ultimately went with King, who advances in the competition.

That touched off a three-way battle for Jackie, between Adam, Alicia and Blake. After each coach finished pleading his or her case, it was Adam’s argument that Foster “was up there alone,” as far as he was concerned, and needed someone “who continues to feel that way” moving forward that convinced Foster to pick him.

The battles continue Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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The Weinstein Company declares bankruptcy, pursues sale

TWC(NEW YORK) -- The Weinstein Company filed for bankruptcy on Monday night, according to Variety. The news comes after months of accusations of sexual misconduct against co-founder Harvey Weinstein.

The movie company is looking to be bought by Lantern Capital, which is entering a "stalking horse bid."

“The Board selected Lantern in part due to Lantern’s commitment to maintain the assets and employees as a going concern,” the Weinstein Company said in a statement. “The Company hopes that this orderly sale process under the supervision of the Bankruptcy Court will allow it to maximize the value of the Company’s assets for the benefit of its creditors and other stakeholders.”

The Weinstein Company will reportedly be sold to Lantern for around $300 million to $320 million. 

The board also states all employees are now released from their non-disclosure agreements, allowing them to speak out about the allegations. 

“No one should be afraid to speak out or coerced to stay quiet,” the statement reads. “The Company thanks the courageous individuals who have already come forward. Your voices have inspired a movement for change across the country and around the world.”

Co-founder Harvey Weinstein led the independent powerhouse with acclaimed films like The Artist, Django Unchained and The King's Speech before stepping down amidst the sexual abuse allegations.

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"Stranger Things" cast members earn significant pay raises for Season 3

NETFLIX(NEW YORK) -- The Upside Down is about to get a whole lot fancier. 

After two successful seasons, Netflix is reportedly rewarding the cast of its supernatural series Stranger Things with massive pay raises, according to The Hollywood Reporter

The young cast, comprised of Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp and Caleb McLaughlin, were earning around $20,000 an episode. Going into the third season, the actors will now make $250,000 per episode -- a nice income for a bunch of teenagers.

The supernatural thriller considers its adult actors, Winona Ryder and David Harbour, as top tiers, and will pay them $350,000 an episode. Meanwhile, actors Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton and Joe Keery, who play older teenagers, will make $150,000 an episode. 

A specific pay raise for the breakout star of the show, Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, has not been revealed yet, but sources speculate it is closer to the top tier, at $350,000 per episode.

Although the streaming service does not release viewership numbers, Stranger Things is one of the most watched series for Netflix, earning a Season 3 renewal in December.

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Sing it with feeling: "American Idol" judges look for emotional connection in latest round of auditions

ABC/Mark Levine(LOS ANGELES) -- American Idol nearly went to the dogs -- quite literally -- Monday night during another round of auditions, but a few emotional performances really turned things around. 

As Lionel Richie said early on in the episode, the judges were looking for “the real note,” not just “the right note.” They wanted chills and goosebumps. Some contestants delivered, and others didn’t.

Here’s a rundown of some who delivered:

Brandon Elder, 22, Arab, AL: Brandon nearly brought the judges to tears with an original song he wrote for his adoptive mother after she passed away from breast cancer. They felt the emotion in his songwriting and voted a unanimous yes.

Dominique Posey, 26, Birmingham, AL: The judges were looking for chills and they got it with Dominique’s soulful rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “Song for You.” They all advised him to quit his job as a legal secretary and sent him off with a golden ticket. 

Amalia Watty, 28, Brooklyn, NY: She came to New York from the Caribbean in order to connect with the father she barely knew. While she shared her dad’s passion for music, their reunion didn’t go as planned. Her audition -- singing Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” -- had a happier ending, and she got sent through to Hollywood.

Genavieve Linkowski, 18, Goodrich, MI: Genavieve, the oldest of 10 children, wowed the judges by performing Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up on Us” at the piano. Lionel compared her to a young Celine Dion

Kenedee Rittenhouse, 19, Checotah, OK: Kenedee scored major points with Katy by wearing a cute dress. She also scored some points from being from Carrie Underwood’s hometown. Her rendition of Carrie’s “I Told You So” didn’t grab the judges right away, but she followed it up with Katy’s “Firework” and they put her through. Lionel and Luke later surprised Katy by giving her the dress Kenedee was wearing as a birthday gift.

Victoria McQueen, 15, East Point, GA: Talk about destiny! Victoria was born on June 11, 2002 – the same day the original American Idol premiered on television. A lot to live up to be, but lucky for her, she can actually sing. Her bubbly personality and powerhouse rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing” got her three yeses.

Taryn Coccia, 17, and Peyton Coccia, 20, Nashville, TN: Older sister Peyton was content to play guitar in the background and let Taryn have her singing moment, but the judges got both sisters to audition and they both ended up making it through. Hollywood Week just gained a little sibling rivalry.

Samothias, 20, Wheaton, IL: He caught the judges’ attention with his unique hairdo, then kept it with his rendition of Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey.” Lionel even compared him to Prince

Cody Martin, 26, Louisville, KY: He came out singing “Happy Birthday” to Katy Perry and the judges put him through right then and there. OK, so it wasn’t exactly goosebumps-inducing, but it was pretty funny.

Marcio Donaldson, 28, Compton, CA: Perhaps the most emotional story of the night belongs to Marcio. As a kid growing up in Compton, he was put into the foster system. When his week-old nephew, Rashad, was about to face the same fate, Marcio took him in and is raising the baby as his own. He brought baby Rashad to his audition and sang “Jealous” by Labrinth. “It’s not technically perfect, but it’s real,” Luke said. Marcio accepted his golden ticket through tears of joy.

And here are some who didn’t quite connect with the judges:

Audriana Bolton, 20, Portland, OR: Audriana attempted “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, but fell short of meeting the judges’ expectations. She also nearly broke their eardrums when she attempted a Mariah Carey-style “whistle tone.”

Britney Holmes, 28, Frisco, TX: As a vocal coach, Britney was technically perfect in her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” But the judges were looking for more than just the right notes and didn’t feel connected to her performance. She was sent packing. 

And then there were the dogs:

Here’s why you should never bring a dog on an audition. One unnamed contestant brought her peekapoo with her and let’s just say the dog lived up to its name. Each time the poor girl started to sing, the dog decided to relieve itself on the floor. Needless to say, the girl did not make it through -- but she certainly made a lasting impression.

There were even more dogs to be had as Katy Perry celebrated her birthday on set. Lionel, Luke and Ryan surprised her with a room full of puppies and had her own dog, Nugget, pop out of a giant cake. 

The final rounds of auditions continue Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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