Judi Shekoni and Tracey Heggens star as sisters in new Twilight movie

The Twilight film franchise finally introduces Black vampire sisters from an Amazon coven in their latest series “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” (Parts 1 and 2).

According to an interview with Twilightish, the Amazon clan is led by the beautiful, 5’10”, Judith “Judi” Shekoni, a Brit of African and Spanish heritage. She’ll play the juicy part of Zafrina, the leader of the glamazons. One of her sisters will be played by “Things Fall Apart” and “Medicine for Melancholy” alumna, Tracey Heggens, whose character is named Senna.

Both films are in post-production, and Part 1 of “Breaking Dawn” is set for release this year (2011).

 

Kasi Lemmon’s southern roots inspire her career

Filmmaker Kasi Lemmons was recently interviewed by WIP (Women’s International Perspective) author Miss Majek. In the interview Ms. Lemmons shows readers a glimpse of how her southern roots (Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama) helped her to develop her new classic film, EVE’S BAYOU, a film about an upper middle-class, Louisiana Creole family’s life through the eyes of it’s middle daughter, Eve Batiste, during one long, hot summer.

Ms. Lemmons also gives us a perspective of being a young, African American woman navigating the staged theater world and the filmmaking industry.

When asked about her advice for Black women filmmakers, she states:

I would advise them to be prepared to bring their “A” game. I’d tell them to work at the highest level of their ability. If they work hard and they are prepared, luck will come their way, because luck is the love child of preparedness and opportunity. Whatever they do, they should do it well, so if someone opens an opportunity for them, they are ready and prepared to take it. Also, I’d say they shouldn’t give up because I find that many women of color are easily discouraged, sometimes even before they start.

Read the entire interview at Women’s International Perspective

OBITUARY: Jazz musican, singer and actress Abbey Lincoln dies at 80

The phenomenal, multi-talented pianist, singer, actress and activist Abbey Lincoln passed away at the age of 80 years old.

Known in her later years for her Civil Rights activism, she was often compared to another firebrand jazz artist, Nina Simone. Abbey Lincoln, however, did not start as a musician or singer.

Her talents were first noticed by the Black press as a fashion model who graced Black magazines in cosmetic ads. Her beauty often distracted people from taking her seriously, especially when she transitioned her career from model to actress.

Her first role was in the highly acclaimed, independent film “Nothing But a Man,” starring alongside fellow actor Ivan Dixon –an actor later known for his work on television’s “Hogan’s Heroes.” Ms. Lincoln’s understated portrayal of a privileged Black, middle-classed school teacher in a rural, country town who falls for an itinerant migrant worker with big dreams propelled her to other roles, including the lead role in “For the Love of Ivy,” co-starring Sidney Poitier. She continued acting until she fell in love with Bebop pioneer and jazz drummer and activist Max Roach, in the late-1950’s. They soon married, and her career was changed to one of activism and jazz.

They divorced in 1970, but Ms. Lincoln continued her music career, influencing other musicians and creating music that was played well into her career. She was also introduced to a new generation of admirers through a short monologue in Les Nubians song “Makeda” and had songs featured in films such as “Drugstore Cowboy.”

She also had small roles in later films, including Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues.”

According to the New York Times, she had no children, but is survived by two brothers and a sister.


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Gabourey to Host SNL on April 24

Shut up, Howard Stern, seems to be the reply to his nasty remarks against “Precious” star Gabourey Sidibe. In March, the caustic and raunchy radio host made some hurtful and, some say, unnecessary quips about Gabbie’s weight, calling her, “the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen.” Sadly, Howard Stern’s sidekick –and bulge battle victim– Robin Quivers, jumped into the mob fray and railed against Oprah Winfrey for, “telling an enormous woman the size of a planet that she’s going to have a career.”

The comments generated a firestorm on the airwaves, as celebrities and the public “weighed in.”

Jamie Foxx is the latest celebrity to join in defense of the novice actress, and blasted Stern last week on his own show, Foxx Hole. According to daily celebrity gossip blog, The Dish, the Oscar-winning actor stated:

“I hope that this feud gets us hot, because Howard hasn’t really made a big splash in a long time.”

One of Jamie’s co-hosts even chimed in against Quivers and stated, “Quivers has a lot in common with Precious, she was overweight, she was once black.”

To Ms. Sidibe’s credit, she will be starring in Showtime’s “The Big C,” alongside Laura Linney. And as one big finger to Howard Stern, she will be hosting SNL on April 24, 2010.

Be sure to check it out! Send yourself a reminder at HitFix!!

Read more at NY Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/2010/04/01/2010-04-01_gabourey_sidibe_set_to_host_saturday_night_live_reports.html

Who Rocked the Oscars? Take the Poll!

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There’s something to be said for Oscar(tm) fashions… the competition is usually fiercer than the actual award ceremony!

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Sisters came out in glamorous and fabulous dresses that were sophisticated, tasteful, and beautifully structured. When it comes to the Oscars(tm), Black actresses seemed to have a more flavorful flair than some of their peers –good or bad.

In 2002, Halle Berry set the standard for dreamy, higher end couture that made all of the press notice that we are gorgeous, too!

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This year was a standout year, and curvy sisters ruled the runway!

Unlike the unflattering, shapeless, and drab plus-size dresses of the past, these actresses found a happy medium in the plus-size realm.

What was the trend?

Flowing trains! It seemed like almost every actress had a clueless actor stepping all over her dress, including the gorgeous George Clooney fumbling over her royal highness’ train, Queen Latifah. During the Red Carpet event, E! Channel’s Ryan Seacrest pulled Queen over for an impromptu interview. Less than 30-seconds into the interview, George Clooney stepped and tugged on her train like some tipsy frat boy. All ended well when Clooney profusely apologized and was genuinely clueless to the latest Oscar(tm) dress trend.

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The other trends ranged from soft, muted pastels and ombres, to an on-going favorite of bright, rich, jewel-tones –which look fabulous on darker skin tones!

Judge for yourself! Who rocked it?

Mo’Nique at the Paramount in Oakland April 3rd

For all of you fans of Golden Globe-winning actress and comedienne Mo’Nique, she is scheduled to appear at the Oakland Paramount on (my birthday!) April 3, 2010!

[picappgallerysingle id=”7635814″] Tickets go on sale February 26, 2010, and everyone’s buzzing about buying tickets early because she’s a favorite for an Oscar(r) at this year’s Academy Awards for her caustic role in the Oscar-nominated film “Precious.”

Stay tuned as more information comes in!

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Alvin Ailey’s Judith Jamison Preparing to Move On

For all of you danceophiles and balletomanes, you’ve watched that quintessentially American modern dance company, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (click link for videos and more!), flourish, wane, and then flourish again over its 40 year history. The company started in 1969, under the leadership and artistic vision of dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey. His company was revolutionary for its time because: 1) there were virtually no modern dance companies with Black dancers, 2) he used Black dancers in his company and 3) though the dance vocabulary was strictly from the modern genre, he infused the dances and the body language with Black vernacular themes and movements.

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From his company, Judith Jamison became the Ailley’s version of a prima ballerina. She was not the usual dance type of that time (or this), which was short, waif-like, and, invariably, white –or passably white. Ms. Jamison was tall and lithe, curvy, and dark-hued. She was also a strong, aggressive dancer who attacked each movement. Audience members seemed to understand that her dance was speaking to a much larger issue than just movements.

[picappgallerysingle id=”2622406″]Mr. Ailey created a dance to highlight her essence and her long limbs, and it became a standard dance for the company, and can still be seen today. She performed the solo Cry, which was supposed to be a piece within the larger dance called Revelations. Her performances brought audiences to their feet, and her fierce dancing spoke about the struggles and life of a Black woman –a topic that was never approached previously.

The Ailey company also produced such renowned dancers as Carmen De Lavallade and Masazumi Chaya, in addition to Ms. Jamison.

Unfortunately, in 1989, Mr. Ailey passed away. The company faltered while it tried to get its foothold. There were struggles regarding the direction of the company, and who should lead. During that same year, Ms. Jamison became the Artistic Director of the company.

Under her direction, the company grew, and continued Mr. Ailey’s vision, while also acquiring a new, state-of-the-art facility on West 55th Street.

According to AOL Black Voices, the company has been seriously searching for a new director for the past three years. Ms. Jamison is trying to gradually move on, while she is committed to a seamless process of knowledge transfer. From the same article, she states, “This company is about past, present and future, and I’m seriously reaching into the future,” she shared. “I am not going be around here forever. I want 50 years more for this company, and while I am here, I really want to do this process.”

Regardless of who they select, the vision of Ailey has been in capable hands for 20 years. Hopefully, the vision will continue, as will the spirit of Alvin Ailey, himself.

Actress Alaina Reed Hall Dies of Breast Cancer

Over the weekend, TV actress Samaria Graham delivered some sad news that actress Alaina Reed Hall passed away. Mrs. Hall played Ms. Graham’s TV mother on the hit television series “Blossom.”

Mrs. Reed –a stage, film and television actress– was well known for her roles on “Sesame Street” (as Gordon’s little sister, the photographer), and her recurring roles on “227” and “Cleghorne.” Mrs. Hall was 66 years old. She will be sorely missed.

(Re-post from AOL Black Voices – http://www.bvnewswire.com/2009/12/22/alaina-reed-hall-actress-dies-breast-cancer/)

Alaina Reed Hall, the beloved actress who starred on ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘227’ after appearing on Broadway, lost her battle to breast cancer on Dec. 17 at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 66.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Reed Hall was diagnosed with a terminal form of the disease in 2007.

Following her humble beginnings in the 1974 off-Broadway production ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road,’ the Springfield, Ohio, native joined ‘Sesame Street’ in 1976, where she played a professional photographer named Olivia.

In a 2004 interview, Reed Hall described the pivotal role as “the best job I ever had.”

Looking for Talent!! Conscious female rappers/artists/dancers/poets, etc…

———————–
DISCLAIMER: This event is NOT sponsored or hosted by the IBWFF. This is a re-post. As with any audition or casting call announcement, you are strongly encouraged to use your best judgment in attending an audition or casting call. It is your responsibility to contact local authorities if you suspect illegal activities, exploitation or violence from the hosts, attendees or other parties in attendance
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DEADLINES:
**PLEASE APPLY BY JANUARY 5TH, 2010 FOR SPECIAL CONSIDERATION**
**LAST DAY TO APPLY IS JAN. 12TH, 2010**

Are you a FEMALE MC with a slick flow, crazy style, and great stage presence? Or are you a FEMALE VISUAL ARTIST, SPOKEN WORD POET, or DANCER? Are you also politically conscious and inspire others through your work?

If so please apply for Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen, Vol. 3: Back To Our Roots, Environmental Justice, Education Equality

We are looking for conscious female rappers/artists/dancers/poets, etc… Who are interested in performing on:
Saturday March 6th, 2010
at Hostos Community College
in the Bronx
for
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen, Vol. 3: Back To Our Roots, Environmental Justice, Education Equality

If interested please apply by:

  1. Going online to www.mhhk.org
  2. Click on “Vol. 3: 2010”
  3. On the left hand side of the page you will see the link “Participant Application
  4. Click that link, and apply!

Please email hiphopkitchen@nullgmail.com if you have any questions

**PLEASE APPLY BY JANUARY 5TH, 2010 FOR SPECIAL CONSIDERATION**
**LAST DAY TO APPLY IS JAN. 12TH, 2010**

Description of the Event:
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen Volume 3, Back to Our Roots, will be honoring International Women’s Month by shedding light and creating awareness on Environmental Injustices and Educational Inequalities and their impact on women of color.
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen will bring together women of color educators, students, environmentalists, djs, emcees, b-girls, poets, visual artists, dancers, healers, pastors, organizers and activists. We will come together through a hip hop showcase to express our solidarity with women’s rights!

The South Bronx is a community that has been in constant resistance, seeking justice in education and the environment. It is a community resisting pollution, asthma, toxic wasteland, and budget cuts for art, music, and gym programs. It is a community that lacks access to healthy fruits and vegetables, adequate health care and after school programs. The South Bronx’s need for reproductive and sexual health education is highly reflected in its high levels of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.
In place of access to healthy alternatives, the South Bronx has an over abundance of jails and prisons.

However, the South Bronx is not lost. It has experienced a period of healing through leadership guided by community organizations and collectives. This leadership has lead to the creation of new parks, food co-ops, recycling programs, and successful cultural community centers. We have won many amazing victories as a community!
Join us as we fuse our energy, our politics, our ancestry, our traditions, art, song and dance into a brew for Environmental Justice and Education Equality.

Turn Up the Heat and Let the Soul Simmer, as We Stir this Soup for the Hip Hop Soul!

SAVE THE DATE

Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen, Vol. 3: Back To Our Roots, Environmental Justice, Education Equality
When: Saturday, March 6th, 2010
Where: The Hostos Center for Arts and Culture
450 Grand Concourse (at 149th St.) Bronx, NY
(Main Theater)
Time: TBA (most likely 2-5pm)
This event is FREE and open to all ages.
for more information about the event, please
visit our website @ http://www.mhhk.org
or email hiphopkitchen@nullgmail.com

Kathleen Adams and Lah Tere, Founders of Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen

Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen (MHHK) is a multifaceted hip hop event designed to showcase women artists, especially women of color. MHHK serves as a social justice community-organizing platform that educates and empowers women of color on issues that impact their lives, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice. Our mission is to create a dynamic interactive exchange and safe space for all women of color to express themselves through their art.

Janelle Monae makes an appearance at MTV’s Woodie Awards

ATLien Janelle Monae has been rocking the scene lately making a number of appearances at such underground events as New York’s Afro-Punk Festival, and elsewhere.

In 2008, she was featured in Interview Magazine as an up-and-comer. However, most folks may recognize her –in a less alien appearance– from fellow ATLiens OutKast’s movie IDLEWILD, even appearing on the soundtrack. Like creative, independent funkstresses before her, Miss Janelle has run across a lot of stereotypes that try to impede her progress as an artist. According to her Interview Magazine feature, she states, ““It’s unfortunate that a lot of people think African-American female artists are monolithically R&B this-or-that …I don’t have to do anything by default.”
Janelle Monae Presents "The Soul Collective" In 2009, was re-imagined and reworked to her current persona as a renegade alien who’s in love with an earthling on her creative album “Metropolis.” The incredibly lush orchestration of Ms. Monae’s music are a wonderful accompaniment to her lilting, bird-like vocals that are reminiscent of Edith Piaf and Marilyn McCoo, all wrapped up in one funky, Mothership package! On Friday, December 4, 2009, Miss Janelle appeared on MTV’s (literally) hot mess of an award show, the Woodies. Nominees –which included Ms. Monae– were selected by college students, who are the barometers of cool.
Not only was Ms. Monae nominated, but she even let her funky android out to present one of the awards!

Miss Janelle isn’t finished, and her epic album has more to go! Also, check out her label Wondaland Arts Society.

Grace Jones Redux

Though some of these sisters may not even know who Grace Jones is, they all still embody the inimitable style of the daring Disco-era diva.

In the 1970’s and 80’s Grace Jones (A VIEW TO A KILL, BOOMERANG) was the “It” Girl. She was in every cutting edge art, fashion and music magazine, and was on the A-List for every disco in the world.

A native of Jamaica, Ms. Jones made her mark in the fashion-world, and soon broke apart the accepted standards of feminine beauty. She was bold, brash and regal, though many accused her of playing into the hyper-sexualized imagery of the Black woman.

Her style is still avant-garde, but it was her closely cropped, natural hair that made her sultry face stand out in the crowd!

Grace Jones performs at Matthew Williamson's H&M event in New York wearing a very high-cut outfit showing her unkempt bikini line!! Her unique style turned off a lot of mainstream people, including many in the African American community, who just didn’t understand her commitment to art and style. Little did many of us know that she was light years ahead of her time! Her spirit embodied such independent past divas as Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, and others! Check out these 21st century divas who are sporting Ms. Jones’ spirit with funky, cutting edge, short do’s! 2009 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals Rihanna heads for home after a busy night of performing, eating sushi and partying at the Mahiki nightclub 2009 Soul Train Awards - Arrivals The National Hip-Hop Team Launches Vote 2008

Wanda Sykes Kicks Off Her New Show on Fox

On November 7, 2009, comedienne Wanda Sykes kicked off a brand new, late-night talk show which aired on Saturday night. It’s aptly named “The Wanda Sykes Show.” Sykes show replaces the long running “MadTV” and the short-lived talkshow “The Spike Ferestein Show.”

Wanda joins a surge of talkshows that are cropping up to possibly be front runners –or at least contenders– to replace talkshow queen Oprah Winfrey. Whether Ms. Sykes leaves her current role on “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” or just keeps a minimal recurring role, is left to be determined.

Like her predecessor Ellen DeGeneris, Syke’s talkshow comes within a year of her coming out as a lesbian. The show doesn’t avoid the topic, and Ms. Sykes actually refers to her “wife” in her opening skit. Hopefully, this will be a new opportunity for Ms. Syke’s career, and we wish her the best of luck!

Are you interested in being in the studio audience?

You can be a member of “The Wanda Sykes Show”‘s studio audience! Shows are available for the following dates:

  • Fri November 13, 2009 6:00 PM
  • Fri November 20, 2009 6:00 PM
  • Fri November 27, 2009 6:00 PM
  • Fri December 4, 2009 6:00 PM

Go to http://www.ocatv.com/shows/show/274 to apply! (Just click the date of your choice.)

Sesame Street’s 40th Anniversary

If you’re younger than 45 years old, then PBS perennial “Sesame Street” is probably a huge part of your youth. “Sesame Street” was a huge change from

19th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards

Sesame Street alumna Tatyana Ali

Raul Julia

Sesame Street alumnus Raul Julia

baby-boomer children shows in that: 1) It was set in the inner-city, and not the suburbs; 2) children of every hue were represented; and 3) the neighbors on “Sesame Street” looked like the integrated neighborhoods that most post-integration Americans were looking for.

Desiree Casado

Desiree Casado

"Sesame Street" 40th Anniversary Temporary Street Renaming

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Sonia Manzano

Sesame Workshop's 7th Annual Benefit Gala

Sesame Street alumnus Roscoe Orman

“Sesame Street” was also one of the first children’s shows to feature African American, Puerto Rican, and Caribbean kids and adults in the 1970’s who weren’t junkies, living in violence-plagued communities, or cracking jokes about “honkies.” People on this show actually spoke to one another, shared front stoops, and sang happy songs that anyone was welcomed to sing with them.

So here’s those vanguard neighbors who helped to usher in Elmo, Takalani, and others who brightened our day… especially the ever hopeful and sensitive Big Bird!

Bella Italia… Sisters rock Milan Fashion Week!

Which Janet Jackson outfit rocked it for you?

Spotted throughout Milan were Janet Jackson, fashion mainstay Naomi Campbell and runway rocking Chanel Iman.

Janet looks fresh and ready to re-enter the entertainment world, as she was spotted at the fashion show of two icons: Georgio Armani and Versace.

Ms. Jackson went from slinky to nice girl, as she wore fresh taupe colors in a preppy ensemble that included menswear-inspired trousers.

Queen Latifah interviewed by HipHopDX.com

Media mogul Queen Latifah has really made herself into something. We’re just waiting for her calling to Broadway, but whatever she chooses, she cannot –and refuses– to fail!

When she first came on the music scene, she was often overlooked, and like most rappers who are female, pushed into the background of a “crew” of rapping men and booty-shaking women.

Call it timing mixed with skill, but Queen “Dana Owens” Latifah was able to maneuver the rap field by keeping it real smart. She didn’t buckle under the narrow definition of a “female rapper,” and she, and a battalion of other vanguard women, took rap over with pure beats and rhymes. Riding the wave of “conscious rap,” she was a regular in the Native Tongues group, along with Monie Love, a Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, De la Soul and others.

Queen Latifah took her skills to another level and went into producing, heading her own label (The Flava Unit), singing, acting (she starred in the Academy Award®-winning musical “Chicago”), and starring on the hit television comedy “Living Single.”

Read her interview on HipHopDX.com!

Queen Latifah Sues for Appearance

According to Open Entrance, box office star Queen Latifah filed a lawsuit in Manhattan against Perfect Christmas Productions for not paying her $275K for her 2007 film cameo in Perfect Holiday, which she co-produced. The film starred Gabrielle Union and Terrance Howard.

Eartha Mae Kitt: January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008

"Just because you are different does not mean that you have to be rejected." --Eartha Kitt

The incredible Eartha Kitt passed away due to colon cancer on December 25, 2008, in New York City.

Ms. Kitt was an “acquired taste” for many who couldn’t reconcile her personal roots with the persona she carefully developed. She feigned an indescribable accent that many in the United States thought pretentious and intentional. However, few knew much about her accomplishments in entertainment outside of her unique rendition of “Santa Baby,” and her appearances as Catwoman on the hokey “Batman” television series in the 1960’s.

Eartha Kitt rarely held back and was sometimes painfully truthful. Her straight talking offended some, but as a woman who was truly “self made,” she didn’t feel the need to censor her beliefs, her background or her feelings.

I can clearly remember an interview where she was asked why she didn’t date Black contemporaries of her time, i.e., Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, et al., where she looked the interviewer dead in their face and replied (straight-faced), “Well, all the white women had them.” Ka-zing! (For the record, she did date some of these actors, who eventually made their own choices, but never had the same question posed to them.)

This same quick response resulted in her being –in her own words– “blackballed” in the United States by the Johnson Administration. In 1968 when she responded to a question about the Vietnam War from first lady “Lady bird” Johnson, she responded, “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” According to the New York Times, the remark reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Ms. Kitt’s career. Ms. Kitt looked at it more philosophically, and was quoted as saying, “When the people who are responsible for our country ask you a direct question, I expect them to accept a direct answer, not to be blackballed because you are telling the truth.”

Ms. Kitt was “global” before it was considered en vogue, and was able to speak four languages, and sang in seven; she was most fluent in French. She was also one of the original dancers in renowned dancer and anthropologist Dr. Katherine Dunham’s dance company. It was while touring with Dr. Dunham’s company, that Ms. Kitt “jumped ship” in France, a decidedly smart move since her popularity as a cabaret performer flourished in Europe.

Newer generations remember Ms. Kitt in campier roles like Lady Eloise in Boomerang, starring alongside Eddy Murphy. Ms. Kitt is survived by her daughter with real-estate developer Bill McDonald, Kitt Shapiro, and two grand-daughters.

Her original spirit will be sorely missed…

Other links:

Eve’s Bayou Meagan Good is Busy, Busy

Hollywood can’t get enough of the gorgeous Meagan Good, who has three films in the works! Best known for her work in Stomp the Yard, Roll Bounce, and the haunting Cicely in Eve’s Bayou, Ms. Good will star as Luba in upcoming production of Saw V…or better known as, the never-ending-story. (Saw is the horror franchise that just keeps on giving…even when you ask it to stop.)

Not to be outdone by the grossness of Saw, she will add another creepy flick to her repertoire and star alongside everyone’s favorite leading man, Idris Alba (“The Wire”) in The Unborn, set for release in 2009.

Idris and Meagan will play two characters helping Gary Oldman (who plays a rabbi), to save a young girl’s life from the slow possession of a child who died in the holocaust. Keep your eye out –and the other one in– for Ms. Good!