Will Packer Talks ‘Roots’, Racism in Hollywood and More on 'ESSENCE Live’

On this week’s episode, Will Packer stops by to dish on his ‘Roots’ remake, facing racism in Hollywood and upcoming projects, ‘Blackish' star Miles Brown schools us in old school vs. new school dance-off, two teams fight to be crowned winner in our first throwback trivia game and more!

ESSENCE.COM May, 19, 2016
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[MUSIC] Today on Essence Live, it is Throwback Thursday. Will Packer dishes on why his Roots reboot is needed now more than ever. I have an old school, new school dance off with Miles Brown from Black-ish. Tyler James Williams reenacts the classic scene from Friday. And we're gonna play our very first edition Of throw back tribute, yep that's right and that should be good. For right now, lets go back in time for the hot list, and check out the biggest stories you were buzzing about back in the day. So, remember that scene in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story that showed O.J.'s defense team changing all the decor in his house to make it look more ethnic so black jurors could relate to him? Now, how true was that? Well, back in 19 In 1996 OJ's lead attorney Johnny Cochran told the San Francisco Gate, "I never ever went out there to look at any photographs or take anything off the walls. That was not even an issue with us. Judge Ito went through asking the housekeeper was this photograph always Always here? Or saying, "Cut that fireplace off." Whatever the staff did, they never discussed it with us. But, that scene where F. Lee. Bailey tricks Christopher Darn into having O.J. try on the gloves, Cochran admitted that was true, saying, quote, "Trial is war." In April of 2002 a young singer from Long Island New York had three top 10 songs on the Billboard charts simultaneously and sold over 500,000 copies of her debut album. Which featured this hit. [MUSIC] Yep I'm talking about Ashanti, since then she's sold over 27 million records world wide and was recently honored by the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest selling debut artist ever. Now, while Ashanti was breaking musical records, the rise of YouTube and social media proved that you didn't need actual talent to sing. Remember this? Rain. Some stay dry and others feel the pain. Chocolate [MUSIC] I need it to make it stop. Now, 2007 video by Tay Zonday spurned for over 4200 covers and to date, get this, has over 108 million views. That's ridiculous. But next up, I speak with Hollywood producer Will Packer about how he is making old school new again with the reboot of the epic TV saga, Roots. It's Thursday, May 19th and Essence Live starts now. [MUSIC] If you're just tuning this in, this is Essence Live, the best damn digital talk show if we must say so ourselves. Remember to use the hashtag Essence Live to join the conversation or email us anything, anytime at essencelive@essence.com. Okay, coming up we're going to play our inaugural throwback trivia game where two teams vie for the title of throwback King and Queen. Plus, I'll face off with Black-ish star Miles Brown to see who has the best dance moves. But first, I recently sat down with Hollywood producer Will Packer to talk about why he wanted to remake Roots Check it out. This is probably the thing that I'm most proud of, the most fearful about, the most important thing I've done, and the hardest. Why fearful? You know, not fearful for me personally but other people are fearful of what this could mean. This is a project that already has a legacy. True. It's iconic. It's been done, the story has been told. So what I get a lot is, why would you re-tell Roots? Why go back and possibly mess that up? And, the answer to me is simple. Because it's time. Because Cuz there's a whole generation of people that don't know the story. Because you think you know it, and a lot of times people go yeah I get it, Roots, I understand. I know the story, slavery, yeah. But no, that's not it. If we're really going to move forward as a people, and as a people I mean black people, the black community and I mean as an American As a movement. Yeah. If we are going to move forward, we actually have to know from whence we came. We have to look at it with an unflinching eye at some of the harsh atrocities, some of the more amazing Think think. We have to look at it and be honest with ourselves as a country about what our roots are. Definitely, definitely. And you mentioned that so many people were saying why would you want to touch this Roots, it's so iconic. And then you have films such as 12 Years a Slave. Yes And other Pieces from that period where sometimes our community can give a little backlash, like why are we telling that story? Right. So given the black lives matter movement. Yes. So much is happening in our current climate. Yes. What type of connection are you trying to make with Roots and what's happening present day. What's interesting is that so much is happening now. You bring up BLM, and of course we're still Sufferings, the reverberations, of what happened in the 1800s. The manifestations of the fact that this country was built on a [INAUDIBLE] of slaves. When you look at some of the systemic oppression that happens now, it is directly related to our journey. And we need to know what that journey is. We need to know. When we have things that happen and there's social protests or sometimes violent uprisings. Mm-hm. And there are angry youth. Black boys, black girls in the streets. They need to know that they came from warriors. They need to know that they are the product of survivors. They are, in their DNA, in their blood- Mm-hm. Are people who were in Africa and survived being sold into the middle [INAUDIBLE] and survived that incredible journey. To become slaves in America and survive that all the way through. They are descended from survivors. Mm-hm. And a lot of times I think that we don't really know and understand what that means and the weight of that. And I think that. If we all did it would affect the way that we approach some of the challenges that we have in today's society. Most difficult scene from roots for you? There are couple of rape scenes and that's very challenging. Any depiction of rape is very tough for me personally for Any civil, moral person. But, it was authentic. We kept it real. We needed to, we head to. And you just mentioned, you haven't been in Hollywood, as you say, too long. But you've kicked a lot of ****, taken a lot of names in the box office. You've done a large amount of work. ****, I've kicked ****. Can we curse on Essence Live? Yeah let's go on and say it. How's that work? Let's go on and say it. Does it get bleeped? I don't know what happens. It's okay. We're in a safe space. You're doing okay. But, you kicked the door down, and you're doing some great work. Thank you. So, I have to ask have you experienced racism and can you share any of that. No question. What can you share with us about it. Maybe particular experience or something like damn this is real in Hollywood. You know what's interesting is that Hollywood is one of the most liberal industries. In the world. Yet there is no question that it is a system that people of color, and just minorities in general, have not been able to reach the highest levels. That is because it's a club and it's a closed door club in many aspects. So for me just the fact that. I am one of very few black producers to have had the success that I've had. I would love to attribute it to just how great I am you know and just everything Thing that I do well. But the reality is that there are other people out there that should have that shot and should have the opportunity and haven't had it yet. Mm-hm. Now for me, it was about being independent. It was about starting off and being successful without Would. That's how I got the attention I wanted. Build it and they will come type of mentality. Absolutely, that's what worked for me. But there are a lot of people out there that are banging on those doors and there shouldn't be just one Will Packer. There should be four, five, six, seven, eight, you know? But until that happens, I'm going to try to keep blazing the trail. Try to keep working with up and coming film makers and letting them work on my sets. Mm-hm. Hiring up and coming actors and writers and directors. And hosts. Absolutely. Yes. What is that? That's my hair. I have a ponytail. In my head, I have a ponytail. Really? And you flip it. I do. Yes. It makes me feel good.>> You know what? Do it. It works for me. [LAUGH] I am not mad at all. And now I heard Think like a Man is coming to TV, is that true. The Think like a Man TV show yes. It was sold as a product, myself, Steve Harvey, and Tim Story the director still don't know exactly when where and how but yes. It was, you know, did you like the movie? Yeah, I did, but you know, that's tricky. Whenever films transition to television, or vice versa, TV to film, it can get a little- So there's this movie called Uncle Buck. Do you remember that? I do recall Uncle Buck. Okay, so, I have made that into a TV show. Mm-hm. And it is starring Mike Epps and Nia Long. And it is the small screen re-telling of- The film. Mm-hm. Absolutely. It's hilarious. It works. We got it right. It airs on ABC this summer and so sometimes when you do it right, it's a good thing. So basically you saying you ain't never scared. Is that what you're trying to say? Well listen. You can't be in my seat. You can't be scared. I go hard. I have to. You have to be fearless. If you're going to go and you're going to tackle iconic titles like an Uncle Buck and even real iconic titles like Roots, you can't go in timid. You can't go in afraid of doing it right or not doing it right. You just got to go and give 100 10% period. Mm-hm. You can't worry about what people say. Right. People saying what you should do or shouldn't do. You'd be home. If somebody is telling what you should or should not do then they are holding you back, period. I like that. Yes. That's a tweetable. Y'all should tweet that, @EssenceLive. It is. We need a hashtag. Give me a hashtag to put at the end of it. Hashtag. Stay at home. #staywoke. #beathome. #flipyourponytail. [LAUGH] I also have to ask you because you're Essence family, as you've met your wife at Essence festival and proposed. You kidding me? I love Essence This best found. Loveliness is best, I met her, I don't know what year it was now. 08 or 09, it was a long time ago. Honey. And if she asks you remember. He remembers. Yes. And I was down there with Idris Elba. And she was down there with the company that he was. She there with Coors Light. Coors Light was hosting a boat cruise, Idris Elba was the host. And so we both ended up on this boat and Idris got off and her company got off before it sailed, but she and I both We're trying to get off before the boat actually left the dock because we were going to go on, do our thing, and then leave. We hadn't met each other. We both got stuck on the boat. Now, that's destiny. That's universe. We got stuck on the same boat that we were trying to get off of. Driss was going with his crew, her company and her coworkers left. We both ended up on that boat, met on the boat. And then you saw her like this? Four years later Mm-hm. I saw that she didn't want anything to do with me, and we're gonna keep it real. She was not thinking about me, cuz a lot dudes on the boat, they were all trying to holler at her. My wife is fine, she got it going on. And you know, a lot of people- She don't think about me. It's okay though, it's okay, cuz that's all history. I want her over Absolutely. That's all history. And a lot of folks now come down to Essence Festival trying to find love. Do you have any tips for the men? Is there? Is there? Do you have any tips for them? For the men? First of all, it's a big party. It's a good time, okay? You have to try to stay sober on Bourbon guys, you're not going to catch what Think you gonna catch after four hurricanes. [LAUGH] Because after four hurricanes you're gonna catch something, but in the next morning when you wake up it ain't what you thought it was. [LAUGH] So, my advice to the guys is that go slow, okay, go slow. Go on Bourbon, but don't go hard. Go to the concerts and the convention center. That's where the good one's are. Mm-hm. The quality women at Essence are in the convention center. They collecting all their little free bags and listening to the Iyala seminars. That's where they are. Then you can go where the records are on urban. [LAUGH] And get drunk later. [LAUGH] This is official Essence [UNKNOWN]. I'm lying. It's not official. Essence has not endorsed any of this. But you're definitely. Up in gems. That's a gem. I'm Will Packer, I'm just saying. So, just write that down. I'm just saying. Yes. Will Power Packer, thank you so very much for joining us on Essence Live. I had a ball. Is it over, are we done? It is over but you can come back any time. This was fun. I want to come back. You can come back any single time. I definitely want to come back. Thank you. Roots, Memorial Day weekend. Definitely, and in the control room they're saying, can you bring Idris with you? [LAUGH] [LAUGH] But watch Roots. A&E Televsion Network. A&E, Lifetime, History, it is going to be simulcast. It's really important. A lot of people are waiting to see if this is going to be successful from a ratings standpoint. And it will be. It will be. I challenge us to support this. It definitely will be. Right now, I'm joined by Miles Brown who you know from the hit show Blackish. Yes. I hear you're quite the dancer. Yes. I fancy myself the dancer. Alright. Alright. So we're going to have to have us a little challenge. Okay. So some old school and new school dances, their names are going to appear on this screen right behind me. Okay Let's see what you got. Let's drop the music. [MUSIC] The running man. Okay That's my generation. You got it. Get it. Get it. Go. Up. This is like house party, house party. Okay, that was good cardio actually. That's good cardio. Okay, let's see what the second one is. The Quan. And I have to drop my head too? Uh-huh. See my knees don't go that low anymore. You got it. Flap the hands, it's all in the hands. The Bernie. The Bernie, let's get it. Can I bounce with it? Yeah. Or is that messing it up? I just have to keep it equal rhythm. Yeah. Okay, that works for me. All right. The Milly Rock, let's get it. [LAUGH] [LAUGH] Don't hurt them. And he changed the level! Next one, The Dougie. I know you can Dougie. Get it. The Sprinkler, The Sprinkler! I don't know The Sprinkler. The Sprinkler, it's like a Like what do you call it, like this, or? Yeah. You gotta clear a space to do the sprinkler. Yeah. Cuz you could take somebody else out. The Stanky Leg. Stanky Leg? This I can do. Do the Stanky Leg [INAUDIBLE] Slow motion. Miles, you know what? I need to keep you on speed dial for dance moves. Tootsie Roll. This is our last one? Tootsie Roll, I know this one. You know the Tootsie Roll? No I don't. Now I personally like to break into one leg at a time, cuz you have to warn the people that it's coming. Kinda rock the side to side with it. Mm-hm. So Miles, I mean, can you freestyle for me a little bit? All right. I hear you got some moves. {MUSIC] I'm going to learn how to do these things. I feel like you have to be young and flexible to do this. Ah!>> [APPLAUSE] That was awesome, thank you so much, thank you so very, very much for coming, I had so much fun. Join us for more Essence Live, up next, Miles Brown [INAUDIBLE] Let's get it. Be sure to tune in. Don't go anywhere. More Essence Live coming up next. [MUSIC] Hi, I'm Taraji P. Henson. What's up, y'all, Chaz. Hi, this is Trai Byers. I play Andre Lyon. And I'm Jussie Smollett AKA Jamal Lyon. You are watching Essence Live. Essence Live. Essence Live. [MUSIC] Nothing, nothing what you want? I need to borrow your car right quick. Cat what's that? What you gonna borrow? Some sugar, some ketchup you? You want to borrow my car. Hell no. No, no, no! Get the hell on. Well let me borrow a joint You need to borrow a job, you broke ****, always trying to smoke somebody's [BLEEP]. You get the hell on Felicia. I'm going to remember that. Remember it, write it down. Take a picture. I don't give a [BLEEP]. [MUSIC] Craig? [MUSIC] Bye Felicia. [MUSIC] You are watching Essence Live. I'm your host, Dana Blair. And welcome to our first throwback trivia game. Now, if you've ever watched game shows and thought Why are there no questions about the movies, music, and pop culture moments I know and love? Well, this is for you. We've got two teams ready to battle it out for the titles of Throwback King and Queen. I'll start to my right, go ahead and introduce yourselves. My name is Shamika and I'm representing Harlem. My name is Percell and I'm representing Brooklyn. And we are Purple Rain. Okay, they got a high-five and a handshake. All right, and to the left, you are? Courtney, representing Queens. Nicole, and I'm from Jersey. And your team name? Mo Money Mo Problems. Hey! All right, okay, so I'm sure everyone here thinks they have what it takes to win? Absolutely. My name is Dana. I'm representing Louisiana, and here are the rules. Okay, we've got three rounds. Each increasing in difficulty. You'll face off with someone from the opposite team and then we'll rotate so the next team member has a chance to go. To answer the question you must ring the bell. However, if you answer incorrectly the other team will have a chance to answer and steal that point. Each question is worth one point and whichever team has the most points at the end of the game, wins. All right? So Courtney and Shemeeka, you're up first, keep your hands on the edge of the table, no cheating Courtney. All right, ready? Okay, here we go. Multiple choice, round one. What is Moesha's little brother's name? Miles Damn Okay, somebody took their ginkgo biloba. All right, here's number 2. Which of the following did Antoine Dodson not advise you to hide? You wallet. Your kids. Your wallet. That's right. Correct. All right, number 3. Ready? On Living Single who did not live in the building? Max. Okay. Alright. She fast. Well apparently. She fast as something. Some people did their research before they came to the show. She half lightning. Alright, number four. What liquor was also the middle name of Lovita on The Steve Harvey Show? A, courveisier. [SOUND] Hennessy. [SOUND] That is incorrect. Let me finish reading the answers. A, courveisier. B [MUSIC] Alize, or C, Hennessy. Alize. That is correct. [SOUND] They stole the point. You are- That's my little cousin's little name. [LAUGH] Gosh. You should see [INAUDIBLE] 's face, he's ready for the next one. She is hopeless in this game. Okay, next question. I mean, she's fast. There's always one. [CROSSTALK] She's fast. There's always one who has to come interrupt. Let's not slow her down. You can't hold her back! Did you see Lemonade? [LAUGH] She's saying. Stop playing. Which singers dated in the early 2000s? A, Christina Aguilera and Shaggy. B, Justin Timberlake and [SOUND] Britney Spears? [SOUND] Okay. All right here. What's up, lightning Everybody know Justin only technically have like one boob but we aint even gonna talk about it. All right, next question. Common is performing at this years Essence festival. Which NWA member did he have beef with in the early 90's? A, Ice Cube. B, Dr. Dre, C, Easy-E. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] Can you repeat that? No. Like a spelling bee. Like a spelling bee. I'm going to say Dr Dre. Wait, wait, other team has a chance to steal. Ice Cube. [NOISE] That is correct. Could you use that in a sentence The sentence. Look, I'm not talking to you. Next one, which group did not make a song called "Girlfriend". A, Da Band. B. B2K. C. N'Sync? Da Band. That is correct. [SOUND] Yes. Sorry, bro. I see y'all really y'all are into this. I like this! Okay. Which artist had the first number one rap single in the '90s? A, Kriss Kross with Jump. B, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Baby Got Back. Or C, Vanilla Ice, [SOUND] Ice Ice Sir Mix-A-Lot. That is incorrect. Or c, Vanilla Ice, "Ice ice baby"? I just hope this is right. Is it Vanilla Ice? It is correct. See that? I know it hurts your heart. It did. It gets in your spirit. [CROSSTALK] I know, I know. Okay, in which move does the main character say when you think of garage., think of Akeem. [SOUND] That was just part of my finger. Okay, okay. Let them know. Coming to America. That is correct. Hey. Let's get serious [CROSSTALK]. Do you work here? Here's the final question. What was the original name of Facebook? A? The Facebook, I'll take that one. Okay! What's up? All right? I mean the [UNKNOWN] So that was the end of round one. The score is tied. It is 5 and 5. All right, so now we're gonna move in around to our lightning round. This next group of questions, they don't have any clues. The goal is just to answer as many correctly before the clock runs out, Y'all ready? Ready. Okay, control room, they're gonna put some time on the clock. [SOUND] Here we go. Name all four characters from the TV show Girlfriends. [SOUND] I didn't watch that show. Lynn, Toni, Maya, Joan. Correct next question. Which singer did Kobe Bryant take to prom in 1996? Brandy. In Boyz in the Hood what college did Tre plan to attend in the fall? Morse No, incorrect Where? USI? No, incorrect, nobody gets the point, its Morehouse. Keep your hands on the corners people. According to Andre's 3000's Hey Ya you have to shake it like a what? No A Polaroid picture Yes, correct. Come on, lets [CROSSTALK] Did he just bop to the whole song? What does BBM stand for? Big Black and, no, what? Wrong. You have a chance to steal. BBM. Blackberry Messenger. Next. Finish the lyric, Oo-chee wally wally Oo-che bang bang. According to The Lox, the keys to life are money>> power, respect Okay. Put your hand on the thing please. On Sister, Sister, what phrase did the Mowry twins always tell That counted. You're going home Roger. I said it though. Okay, we'll throw that one out. We're gonna give another one. [SOUND] All right. Spell rapper Chamillionaire's name. [SOUND] C-H-A-M-I-L-L O-A-R-E? Wrong. C-H-A-M-I-L-L-I-O-N-E? Wrong. Okay, last question, round two. Y'all riding real dirty. From the film Lean on Me, finish the line. We don't want a good principle! We want- Mr. Clark. That's it. All right One more. What did Johnnie Cochran say you must If the glove don't fit you gots to quit. Nope If the glove don't fit you gotta acquit Technically neither one of you got it right. You must acquit. Whew okay round two. Really really Really stressful. The score is Purple Rain, 10. And Mo Money Mo Problems, 6. Aw. This is getting good. But it's time to start our final round of Essence Live Throwback Trivia. And this round is the toughest. It's just one question, but it's worth 50 points if you answer it correctly. But here's the catch. If you get it wrong, the other team automatically Gets the points and can win the game. Again, whoever has the most points at the end wins. Got it? Got it. Okay, so I'm gonna give you the category. You'll pick one person to represent your team and go head-to-head with a member of the other team, all right? So before you confer, the category is 1996 Hip hop. You have ten seconds to decide who will play for your team. Got it. Wait. [CROSSTALK] Okay, you all ready? Are both sides ready? [CROSSTALK] It's Shamika? It's me again. Hi. Let me guess, trash-talking Courtney? You going for your team? I am. Okay, so it's Courtney and Shameka. She fast. All right, so remember, if you hit the bell and answer incorrectly, 50 points will go to the other team. I'm going to play a clip, you'll get to see in program here, and you have to finish the lyric. Please allow the clip to finish before you hit the bell. Okay. Okay. All right, so here we go, roll the clip. [MUSIC] My pinky's in there. Your pinky is in there, [UNKNOWN] pinky is in there. My pinky, look at my pinky. Where your pinky at? Cuz [CROSSTALK] Control room, what do you say, control room? You wanna do it at the same time? She said Shameka's first Aww how y'all see that? What control room camera y'all got? Shameka what's your answer? What was the last lyric? I can't tell you. I know it was it's my dying aunt bell and you're Alice Put your vote in my ballot, you missed that part Nope, nope, nope, nope she had the right answer. I got it. Okay let's see if you're right [MUSIC] Hey. [MUSIC] Right. [LAUGH] Okay final score is Purple Rain 60. Mo Money Mo Problems. Just six? I mean bye y'all. [CROSSTALK] That 50 making it real. You know what I mean. Y'all don't play by our rules? [CROSSTALK] That means purple rain wins the game. Congratulations and you are now the king and queen of throwback trivia. We don't have any money or nothing like that for you but. We have really nifty-shnifty crowns. Nice. And tiaras for you. Wait let me dress you up real proper like. Real proper like. And we got some confetti. Can you put your crown on for me, sir. You're a little tall for me. You're a little tall for me. We're gonna **** this out. Wait, no. We're gonna **** this out real nice. Real nice. Is your head too big for the crown? It might be, but you know, it's okay. It's okay? You're gonna wear the crown and you're gonna rock it? Yeah. You're gonna rock it with style and grace? All right. Thank you so much each and every one of you for joining us. Don't worry we're all winners here at Essence Live. And if you live in the New York area you might to participate in throw back trivia. Email us at ESSENCELIVE@ESSENCE. COM for details. More Essence Live up next. Hi I'm Nicole Sanchez. It's Tinisha S. I'm Nikita Banks. I'm Janelle. And your watching. Essence Live. Essence Live. Essence Live, peace out. You're watching Essence Live and it's time for our throw back black girl magic moment of the week. It comes from December 1998 when Whitney Huston, Kelly Price and Faith Evans performed their hit song Heartbreak Hotel. At the Billboard Awards. [MUSIC] Wanna see Faith and Kelly perform live? I know you do. They'll be at this year's Essence Festival Love Premiere Premiere event for R & B. We've got nightly concerts plus daytime seminars with everyone from Iyanla Van Zant to Fajah Parks so get your tickets now at essencefestival.com. All right if you missed any of today's show stick around for the replay, it will air shortly. And you can watch our clips anytime, cuz I know you wanna watch them all day every day on essence.com's video section or by subscribing to our channel on YouTube. Next week it's kick off of summer with bathing suits and it will make you look fabulous no matter what your shape or size. So make sure you tune in right here same time same place. I'm your host Dana Blair and I will see you next week.