The ‘What’s N.O.W and Who’s Next in Hollywood’ panel during the inaugural ESSENCE Film Festiva was an eye-opening and enjoyable experience for attendees at the 2022 ESSENCE Festival of Culture. The ‘N.O.W,’ in the name of the panel title stood as an acronym for ‘New Original Works,’ and the discussion featured a collective of new Black creatives that are sure to take Hollywood by storm.
Panelists Brandee Evans, Nico Annan, Halcyon Person, Skyh Alvester Black, Nicole Amarteifio, Jerrie Johnson, and Mekhai Curtis all showed incredible enthusiasm for the future of their careers in Hollywood and for the general future of Black creatives in the industry.
When asked what drives them, each panelist had a different answer, but all seemed to collectively be looking ahead. Halcyon Person, writer of the Netflix animated series Karma’s World, spoke about her inspiration and ideas behind crafting a show for kids that tackles difficult topics. Person revealed that she was inspired by Grammy-winning rapper, actor and entrepreneur Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and his daughter, Karma Bridges, and wished to create something that helps educate children and gives them the tools to learn and teach future generations how to deal with all forms of adversity.
Brandee Evans, who stars on the hit show P-Valley, said she hopes to show that she has—and always has had—what it takes to act in various roles despite people wanting to put her in “a box.”
When the questions changed to difficulties they have faced in their careers, Before The Vows director Nicole Amarteifio simply stated, “You’re going to hear a lot of ‘No’s’ in the beginning. However, according to Amarteifio, what helped her on this journey was leaning into her family, friends, and even strangers, and asking for help despite knowing that things may not go her way.
During the final moments, panel members were asked what their sustainability plan would be for the future. Sky Alvester Black, producer and actor best known for his roles All the Queen’s Men and Sistas, stated that he’s taking an “executive route” to ensure his stability in the industry. Black also emphasized the importance of being involved in every aspect of his career as a creative, which he believes will allow him to create a legacy he can be proud of for years to come.
Power Book III: Raising Kanan star Mekai Curtis detailed that his version of maintaining his career was one that sustains and “creates a togetherness for everybody.” He considers people such as Adam Sandler—who bring their friends along for success—to be incredibly strong in morality and their ability to give everybody the spotlight.
Nicco Annan, who also stars on P-Valley, helped to wrap up this panel with these words of wisdom for anybody looking to take on something as big as a career in Hollywood: “Know your ‘why.'” According to Nico, when we consider success in any format, while it is lovely to receive accolades and awards, nobody should simply live or pursue a goal just for the likes of others; but rather because they are genuinely passionate about whatever they’re doing and know why they’re doing it.
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