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Urban Movie Channel (UMC)

Written by Rebecca Hu, Arpita Kumar, Maya Houston, Sam Bailey and Julia Bales, co-directed by Aaron Covington (co-writer of Creed) and Julia Bales, and executive produced by Adaptive Studios, Minimum Wage follows the lives of its five employees as they adjust to changes in management and panic ensues among the staff members. In the first episode of the series, Mr. Lee appoints his son, Jordan (John Yuan), to the role of manager for his restaurant, Lee's Burger Block. Meanwhile, Ayana (Halleta Alemu), disappointed by Mr. Lee's decision, struggles to find contentment in her position at Lee's. However, when her YouTube video goes viral, she gets the spark she desperately needs to see her current struggles in a different light. As the series progresses, each episode highlights the backstory of a different team member. Along with John Yuan and Halleta Alemu, the ensemble cast of up-and-comers also includes Gabriel Brown, Alma Delfina, and D'Lo.

"Our goal has always been to highlight emerging and diverse voices and Minimum Wage is the perfect showcase of that. We are thrilled for Rebecca, Arpita, Sam, Julia and Maya, who are all first-time TV writers, and excited the series has found a home on UMC," says Deniese Davis, COO and Co-Founder of ColorCreative.

Perrin Chiles, CEO of Adaptive Studios adds, "We are always looking for diverse stories and unique points of view to bring to life-- even better when you can bring those narratives to life with partners like ColorCreative and UMC."

"We are proud to premiere Minimum Wage on UMC, and credit Adaptive and ColorCreative for cultivating this exciting project," says Angela Northington, GM & SVP of Content Acquisitions for UMC. "Our aim is to provide a streaming platform for diverse talent and collaborative work such as this, and we could not be more elated to be a home for the series."

In addition to Minimum Wage, UMC also adds another quality drama series this month with the UMC premiere of the award-winning police procedural, 19-2, from sister channel Acorn TV. Referred to as "One of the best cop dramas ever" (Tribune News Service), the Canadian series follows Adrian Holmes (Arrow, Elysium) and Jared Keeso (Elysium, Falling Skies) as partners in the Montreal Police Department who must put their differences aside as their lives intertwine professionally and personally. An English-language remake of a popular Quebec show, 19-2 has been nominated for several Canadian Screen Awards, among which the series picked up wins for Best Dramatic Series (2016), Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (Adrian Holmes 2017, Jared Keeso 2015), and Best Direction. Catch the full first season now on UMC. Subsequent seasons of 19-2 will be added later this year and in 2018. Available at as well as on a variety of devices, UMC is the first premium subscription streaming service that showcases quality African American and urban entertainment across all genres from RLJ Entertainment (NASDAQ: RLJE).


Award-winning Actor Robert Guillaume Dies at 89

Family members, friends and fans are grieving the loss of television and stage icon Robert Guillaume, who died on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Guillaume, 89, is survived by his second wife, Donna Brown, a son and three daughters.

“He was a pioneer and what he did with his role as [Benson DuBois] was give him integrity,” said actor, director and producer Shiek Mahmud-Bey, who wowed critics earlier this month at a New York Film Festival with his proposed new television series, ‘The Inner Circle.’ “What could have been just another servant or symbolically subservient minority, a butler role, he gave the world an extraordinary insight and exposed us to a human being. The invisible became viable and we all loved it.”

Anyone who watched “Soap” knew the brilliance of Guillaume, said Mariann Eperjesi-Simms, who hosts the Facebook page, “The Classic Movie Group.”

“‘Benson’ wasn’t exactly as brilliant as ‘Soap,’ but most things in this world aren’t written to that much perfection. He was a fantastic actor who deserved a lot of recognition,” Eperjesi-Simms said.

Born Robert Peter Williams in St. Louis in 1927, Guillaume began his acting career in the early 1970s when he made guest appearances on “Good Times,” “Sanford and Son,” and “The Jeffersons.”

However, his recognition and place in popular culture was cemented when he portrayed Nathan Detroit in the first all-Black version of “Guys and Dolls,” which earned him a 1977 Tony Award nomination.

Later, Guillaume earned the distinction of becoming the first African American to sing the title role of “Phantom of the Opera,” doing so alongside a mostly, all-White cast.

Still, it was his role as Benson DuBois in the soap opera satire “Soap,” which also starred Billy Crystal, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Robert Urich, that made Guillaume a legend.

“The minute I saw the script, I knew I had a live one,” Guillaume said in a 2001 interview. “Every role was written against type, especially Benson, who wasn’t subservient to anyone. To me, Benson was the revenge for all those stereotyped guys who looked like Benson in the 40s and 50s [movies] and had to keep their mouths shut.”

The character’s popularity grew so much that it led to a spinoff called, “Benson,” which lasted eight seasons and earned Guillaume an Emmy Award.

“I always wanted kids of any background to understand the characters I’ve portrayed were…that the solutions they found were true and possible,” he said on his official website. “It has always been important to me to stress that there was no diminution of power or universality, just because my characters are African American.”

That resolve has always been appreciated by his peers and those who followed his career.

“I remember the ‘head [n**ger] in charge’ scene with Morgan Freeman, where he didn’t use his position to castrate another Black man on film,” Mahmud-Bey recalled of the 1989 hit movie, “Lean on Me,” that starred Guillaume and Freeman. “There was a disagreement and they got it out and agreed to disagree without division. That scene spoke volumes, because it makes you see how silly and easy you could lose someone important in your life over ego and small things.”

Mahmud-Bey continued: “As artists, we have a responsibility to be honest, not different, and that’s what Robert Guillaume gave us and we loved every bit of it.”

Guillaume, who won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for his role as the voice of “Rafiki” in “The Lion King,” steered clear of Hollywood’s demeaning Black stereotypes and sought quality roles in which he could evoke his characters’ humanity, according to his obituary at

Though today he’s remembered widely as a comedic actor, it was the musical theater that was Guillaume’s first love and gave him his entry into the acting world, the obituary said.

That entry took place in Cleveland, Ohio, where, after completing his education in the music school at Washington University in St. Louis, he joined the Karamu Theatre and debuted in their production of “Carousel,” reported.

In the audience for one of those “Carousel” performances was Oscar Hammerstein II, the critically acclaimed playwright, who penned the book and lyrics for the musical.

According to, “It was an auspicious start, and Guillaume soon made his way to Broadway, where he both toured and appeared on the Broadway stage.”

Later, Guillaume would portray Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie “Prince Jack”; he also starred as Frederick Douglass on the TV miniseries “North and South.”

“In 1992, Guillaume and his wife, founded the Confetti Entertainment Co., creating read-along books for children with Guillaume’s voice as narrator,” the obituary said. “In 1995, the Confetti Entertainment books were transformed into the HBO series ‘Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child.’ Narrated by Guillaume and featuring a cast of other stars, the series’ 39 episodes retold classic fairy tales with a multicultural focus.”


Fats Domino, Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer, Dead at 89

Fats Domino, the rock pioneer who inspired Elvis Presley, the Beatles and countless other superstars, died Wednesday at his home in Harvey, Louisiana. He was 89.

Mark Bone, chief investigator for the Jefferson Parish coroner’s office, told NPR that Domino died of natural causes.

Born Antoine Domino, the “Architect of Rock ‘n’ Roll” enjoyed a career spanning five decades that included more than 25 gold singles and 65 million records sold. His massive vault of hits includes “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walking,” “Ain’t That a Shame” and “I’m Walking to New Orleans.”

His unique playing style and unmistakable voice helped Domino to produce the first rock ‘n’ roll record to ever sell more than 1 million copies with the 1949 hit “The Fat Man,” a song he both produced and co-wrote.

Billy Diamond, his road manager, referred to him as “Fats” because the name was a symbol of importance, according to Domino’s website.

In 1986, Domino received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. On November 5, 1998, at the White House, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts from then President Bill Clinton.

By their own admission, Domino’s influence played heavily in the careers of Presley and the Beatles. Domino reportedly was held in such high esteem that Presley refused to answer to his popular moniker, “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” when Domino was present.

As in a 2004 interview with AXS, Domino recounted the first time he met Presley.

“I was playing at the Flamingo Hotel [in Las Vegas] and I went to his room and played for him. He used to call me ‘Mr. Blueberry Hill,’” Domino said. “I remember him telling me, ‘You know, Fats, I’m opening up tomorrow but when I first came here I flopped.’ I guess the first time he didn’t do good at all, but after he got back there it was all good because I was working there too, and every night it was sold out.”


In 1969, Presley returned to live performances after joining the military and when a reporter referred to him as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” during a press conference, Presley pointed to Domino, who was in the room, noting that Domino was “one of my influences from way back.”

Domino’s influence on the Beatles was noted when Paul McCartney wrote “Blue Monday,” a 1958 hit in which he credited the New Orleans native.

Domino was married to Rosemary Hall for 60 years and the two had eight children.

“Fats Domino, another gift from New Orleans,” Rev. Jesse Jackson tweeted in tribute to Domino. “An entertainer and caring man, he gave us many thrills on the ride to freedom.”

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