Vanessa Morgan is fed up with how black people are portrayed in the media.
And she should be.
Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale, took to social media to say she’s “tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people. Tired of us also being used as side kick non dimensional characters to our white leads.”
“Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show,” she continued, adding, “It starts with the media. I’m not being quiet anymore.”
We’ve seen many African American actors assume the very roles she mentioned, but one that stood out in particular was “sidekick” as it described the 28-year-old star’s character on The CW.
While Toni’s on-screen girlfriend, Cheryl Blossom (Madeline Petsch), is far from one-dimensional, Toni often lurks in the shadows until it’s time to prop up Cheryl. She rarely gets any screen time without her other half, she has no storyline outside of her relationship, and she’s lucky if she gets a few sentences in a scene.
This isn’t a fault of Morgan’s castmates, who she defended writing that her role “has nothing to do with my fellow classmates/friends. They don’t write the show. So no need to attack them, they don’t call the shots & I know they have my back.”
My role on Riverdale has nothing to do with my fellow castmates/friends. They don’t write the show. So no need to attack them, they don’t call the shots & I know they have my back. ♥️
— Vanessa Morgan (@VanessaMorgan) June 2, 2020
Toni Topaz has been reduced to a sidekick through absolutely no fault or her own, and being sidelined is not a reflection or her acting. And yet, she’s the one suffering, even noting that she’s the lowest paid regular on the series.
To truth of the matter is, Toni has been underutilized in a series that should be tapping into her potential as one of the only few women of color.
For this reason, Morgan has made it her mission to evoke change: “To my black fans, I have now made it my purpose to fight for us. To the six-year-old me who had no role model that looked like me on TV. This is for you. We aren’t your token black non-dimensional characters. This is being black in Hollywood. I will fight for YOU.”
Toni isn’t the only character suffering as the writers seem to struggle to find story arcs for many characters outside of the core four, but it happens more often to the female character than it does to someone like Kevin Keller or Reggie, two characters we’ve seen the series attempt to integrate into the storyline as much as they can.
This isn’t the first time the series has struggled to write storylines for a woman of color as the same thing happened to Ashleigh Murray, who plays/played Josie McCoy on the series for several seasons. Despite having her own musical group in high school, Josie and the Pussycats, there never seemed to be a compelling storyline for Josie, the character which many argue was the strongest, most realistic, and most grounded. It was a shame, and thankfully, the TV powers that be pushed her towards the Riverdale spinoff, Katy Keene, where she gets the shine equally amongst her diverse counterparts. That series is still led by a heterosexual white woman, but the representation on the series far outweighs that of Riverdale.
Murray has gotten to shine and be included in the cast the way she’s always been meant to; she’s no longer a sidekick to meet a quota.
Murray supported Morgan writing, “These are the ways we can implement real change. The beginnings of concrete conversations and plans of action that will mold our future for the better. We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for equal treatment.”
These are the ways we can implement real change. The beginnings of concrete conversations and plans of action that will mold our future for the better. We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for equal treatment. https://t.co/5IEK3iM81D
— Ashleigh Murray (@iamamurray) June 1, 2020
Morgan’s statements came on the heels of a since-deleted comment that claimed Murray was written off the series because she was a “diva” who refused to share the screen with others.
“You don’t know what the f** you’re talking about and don’t talk about my friend like that. Another thing i hate BLACK women being called DIVAS for sticking up for themselves. Maybe the show should write for her like the white characters,” Morgan responded.
The problem extends way past these two Archie Comic shows, however. It’s become all too common for shows marginalize black characters… The Vampire Diaries’ treatment of Bonnie Bennett (played by Kat Graham), one of the few character’s of color on the series, is a prime example.
Bonnie was technically a “core character” but never got the core character treatment. She was a strong-willed, selfless, and badass witch, but she was reduced to a character that was constantly forced to make sacrifices for her friends, put their needs above their own, and carry their pain.
A moral compass, fixer, and the only woman bold enough to call out Damon Salvatore, Bonnie had the potential to have some of the best and most powerful storylines, and instead, they always revolved around her besties, Elena and Caroline. It wasn’t about Bonnie as an individual, it was about how Bonnie could help them achieve greatness.
Bonnie was always the loophole, she lacked proper character development, and for a series that thrived on ships, she barely got a love interest until the very end. And even then, he was killed off leaving Bonnie to suffer in silence… again.
Bonnie held her own, but she never got her own.
We’ve seen this play out in other shows like Dynasty. Jeff (Sam Adegoke) and Monica Colby (Wakeema Hollis) could make great antagonists for Blake Carrington, and there is a lot of family drama to dig into when it comes to the Carrington’s and the Colby’s, but instead, they are reduced to having limited storylines that are constantly getting dropped and downplayed. The lack of direction was so evident that Monica has taken a hiatus from the series.
Even shows that are getting many issues right seem to fumble when it comes to representation and characters of color.
Season 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina started on the right track with Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) and Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) venturing to New Orleans to seek out help from a Haitian Voodoo Priestess in New Orleans. MarySue writes it best explaining that the scenes set up the exploration of African traditions before sidelining the storyline completely and watering down the character of Mambo Marie. The series aims to be inclusive, but it reduces its impeccable talent from Prudence, Ambrose, and even Roz (Jaz Sinclair), who is turned to stone for a lot of the season, seem to be there, to being sacrifices that allow white characters to shine and become more powerful.
It’s 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained more momentum and support than every before (tragically, due to the a heartless death of George Floyd, a black man, a the hands of a white cop), and while it may not seem like empowering black characters is something that tops the list of priorities, it should be. Representation starts at home and on our TV screens.
It’s past the time to make necessary changes in storytelling.
People want to feel represented, they want diversity, and they want relatable characters on shows that are well-rounded and representative of our societies. There’s no excuse.
And yes, there’s room if you write for people of color as human beings who are just as worthy of good storylines as their white counterparts.
Morgan’s voice was heard by Riverdale and Katy Keene creator, Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, who apologized and vowed to “do better,” and “honor her and the character she plays.”
“Riverdale will be part of the movement, not outside of it,” he wrote.
— RobertoAguirreSacasa (@WriterRAS) June 5, 2020
The intention should have been there from the beginning, but progress is progress. Let’s hope he keeps his promise.
‘Berlin’ Is the ‘Money Heist’ Spinoff We Never Knew We Needed
Berlin is the Money Heist spinoff we never knew we needed… but we’re so glad it’s almost here.
Since Berlin (Pedro González Alonso) was hands-down the most captivating (and problematic) character in the Spanish heist drama, fans always wanted to get to know more of him, especially after he sacrificed himself in the season 1 finale for his team, largely due to his terminal illness, redeeming himself in the process.
Quickly rising the ranks as a fan-favorite, the writers kept Berlin’s spirit alive in the following seasons via flashbacks, noting that he always had a hand in the planning of the heists, even if he wasn’t around to see them through. And it became more and more clear that there was an unsatiable thirst from audiences to explore additional parts of the character’s origin story; thus, a prequel to Money Heist focusing solely on Berlin’s prior escapades only made sense.
As seen in the later season of Money Heist, or La Casa de Papel, Berlin garnered even more intrigue when his son, Rafael (Patrick Criado) joined the heist. The former Electronics Engineer from MIT is Berlin’s prodigal son, whose only request was not to end up a thief like his father, also drew attention after entering a relationship with his father’s wife, Tatiana. It’s a lot to unpack, clearly, but it’s also proof that there was nothing boring or mediocre about Berlin’s life in the slightest, at any point.
So, again, it warrants a spinoff that digs even deeper into this complex, charismatic, and morally questionable character we’ve all come to love.
When he joined the Professor’s group in the series, he was already one of the most seasoned robbers of the bunch, having a plethora of experience mapping out and executing heists of ranging scales.
With Berlin: Money Heist, we’re not only going to get to see one of those previous heists in action, but we’re also going to get a sense of the man he was before attempting the biggest heist in history, which made him the beloved criminal we’ve come to know.
Capitalizing on the love already established for the series—one of Netflix’s most popular shows of all time—the prequel finds Berlin, in all his glory as Andrés de Fonollosa, the mastermind behind a heist targeting the biggest auction house in Paris to steal €44 million.
The series trails the planning of a new heist as he recruits his crew: “Michelle Jenner (Isabel) plays Keila, an eminence in electronic engineering; Tristán Ulloa (Fariña) goes into the skin of Damián, a philanthropic professor and Berlin’s confidant; Begoña Vargas (Welcome to Eden) plays Cameron, a kamikaze who always lives on the edge; Julio Peña Fernández (Through My Window) brings to life Roi, Berlin’s faithful squire; and Joel Sánchez plays Bruce, the relentless man of action in the gang.”
While it’s mostly an all-new cast, we’ll see a few familiar faces with Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri) and Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituno) appearing at some point, though it’s unclear what their connection is to the storyline. Is it possible that their paths have always crossed and Berlin was always on their radar way prior to the action at the Royal Mint?
We may not be getting the version of Berlin from the original series, but don’t fret, as the teaser trailer evidenced, he’s still as ruthless, dapper, and flirtatious as ever, meaning that they really did this character–and prequel—justice. The fact that it hails from the original showrunner, Alex Pina, is also a sign that it won’t let the fandom down.
“It’s a trip through the golden age of the character, when he robbed around Europe crazy in love,” Pina previously told TUDUM, adding, “That’s the most surprising, the comedy. You’re going to make people laugh a lot.”
Berlin in his prime, in love, and flexing his comedic bone? As the beloved criminal says in the trailer, “it’s all the things worth living for.”
The full synopsis for the series reads:
“There are only two things that are sure to turn a bad day into a great one: love, and a payday worth millions. They’re what keep Berlin going through his golden years, a time when he still has no inkling of his illness and hasn’t gotten trapped like a rat in the Spanish Mint. This is where he starts preparing one of his most extraordinary heists: making jewels worth 44 million disappear like some sort of magic trick. To do it, he’ll enlist the help of one of the three gangs he’s ever stolen with.”
Watch the Berlin trailer below:
Berlin arrives a few days prior to New Year’s Eve on Dec. 29, 2023, which means you’ll have plenty of time to binge watch while counting down to 2024.
To prepare, you can stream Money Heist on Netflix and read our coverage here.
7 Steamiest Moments on ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’
It’s been a month since The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2 wrapped up, and naturally, I’ve been replaying all of the best moments (read: the ones that give you butterflies) between Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah, to fill the void.
TSITP hinges on a love triangle between the two brothers and their longtime family-friendly, and when romance is the main focus of a young adult drama, well, you can anticipate that the series will have its fair share of hot and steamy makeout moments, along with plenty of heartbreak… more on that here.
With two seasons currently available to binge-watch on Prime Video—and we patiently await the third season—we’re breaking down all the steamiest moments on the show thus far.
Conrad and Belly Visit the Cousins House in the Winter
The moment when Conrad and Belly let their love totally consume them takes the top spot simply because of how intimately romantic and pure it is. Conrad showed so much care for Belly, making sure that she felt safe and ready. Nothing mattered except for the love and passion they felt for each other in that very moment; the world could melt away as they spent the evening together, cuddled up warmly by the fire. It’s one of the most pivotal Conrad and Belly scenes because it’s followed by so much anger and heartbreak as their relationship takes a nosedive and ends with an explosive argument at Conrad’s mother’s funeral.
Belly and Jeremiah Decide to Be Together
Okay, this kiss, was undeniably hot because it came from such a place of happiness and fullfillment. Belly knew what she wanted, and she went after it. They’d been skirting around their feelings for much of season 2, but there was nothing standing in their way anymore, so they both finally embraced their lust and completely gave themselves over to it. The little tug on his sweater indicated how crazy Belly was about him and how badly she wanted him, making everyone’s heart skip a beat while watching at home. The scene was delivered and executed perfectly by the duo (they understood the assignment)—but the Beyonce soundtrack simply elevated it into one of the most monumental romantic moments on television. It was a dream kiss, so even if you’re not Team Jeremiah, you couldn’t help but be completely enamored by this scene.
Belly and Conrad’s First Kiss on the Beach
There are so many romantic parts to this scene—the apology, Conrad’s honesty about needing and wanting Belly, and Taylor Swift’s “This Love (Taylor’s Version),” all culminating in the moment she’s dreamt of forever—the first kiss during a sunrise on the beach. After putting Belly through such an emotional rollercoaster through the whole season, Conrad made up for it with an absolutely perfect moment.
Belly and Jeremiah’s Makeout
With Conrad, it’s romantic and sensual, but with Jeremiah, it’s passionate, hot and charged. It’s almost as if Belly and Jeremiah cannot wait to get their hands on each other—and in this case, Jeremiah was waiting. He was waiting for his time with Belly to come, and when it did, he bared his soul to her about his feelings before they embraced in a hot and heavy pool makeout session that’s on every girl’s summer bucket list.
Belly and Jeremiah’s First Kiss in the Car
After Belly’s skinny dipping incident, Jeremiah and Conrad come to the rescue, but she makes it a point to go back home with Jere so she can apologize for ditching him during the volleyball tournament and to thank him for picking her up. In place of their usual playful vibe, there’s an intense chemistry that builds up to their first kiss. Sparks fly in a moment that feels both safe and right, because it’s Jeremiah, but also extremely hot and dangerous, because it’s Jeremiah. Jere checks in on her, proving that he values her and cares for her, while Belly boldly makes the first move, placing his hand on her chest, as her heart pounds in a way that indicates a strong and indescribable connection & attraction—it’s a sign that their romance-to-be was inevitable in season 2.
Belly and Jeremiah on Conrad’s Car
Listen, this scene did a lot of damage to both fandoms, in good and bad ways. They couldn’t hold off on those feelings anymore, simply embracing each other in the heat of the moment, but man, it was poor timing. Conrad walked in on them locking lips on his car, at his college, while he was taking a test. It wasn’t ideal, but it had to happen so that Belly and Conrad could put their relationship behind them (for now) and Jeremiah could finally, officially get his moment. Also, it continues on the “hot and heavy” trend for these two, and despite being Team Conrad, I can’t argue that I see the appeal of Jelly because of their raw and real chemistry and longing for one another.
Steven and Taylor Car Hood Makeout
When you’re young and in love, you make out on and in cars a lot, as evidenced by TSITP. Shortly after Belly and Conrad’s controversial car makeout, Steven and Taylor declared their love for each other in a cute lip-locking moment that came on the heels of a very vulnerable one; Taylor pushing Steven away because, for the first time in her life, she actually cared as much as the person she was in a relationship with. Not only are they both forcing each other out of their comfort zones, but their relationship built up to this moment organically, and it’s so adorable that we can’t help but ship them.
2023 Fall TV Schedule—16 Reality TV and Game Shows That Are a Must-Watch
The fall TV season is upon us, and with the ongoing strikes from the WGA and SAG-AFTRA putting many scripted shows on an indefinite hiatus, the schedule is leaning heavily on reality television and game shows.
Now, if you’re a fan of competition shows, this is music to your ears as it means that there will be plenty for you to watch throughout the fall and winter months.
We’re breaking down our favorite new and returning programs that have made it onto your 2023 fall TV lineup!
The Masked Singer – Sept. 10 on FOX
Season 10 of the reality singing competition already kicked off, unleashing its biggest name to date—spoiler alert—with Anonymouse unmasked as vocal powerhouse Demi Lovato. And there’s plenty more where that came from for the rest of the season, which includes the return of celeb panelists Ken Jeong, Nicole Scherzinger, Robin Thicke, and Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg along with host Nick Cannon.
Name That Tune – Sept. 19 on FOX
The iconic music guessing game is back in full swing as it resumes season 3. Contestants must compete to correctly identify the songs that are being played by the orchestra or band, sometimes with only a few notes to work with.
Kitchen Nightmares – Sept. 28 on FOX
Gordon Ramsey is back in the 8th season of the series, as he steps foot into restaurants and locales in desperate need of some saving. Throughout the 10 episodes, he will renovate 10 restaurants throughout the New York and New Jersey area.
The Voice – Sept. 28 on NBC
The popular singing competition enters season 24 with a new, yet familiar face, as country icon Reba McEntire replaces Blake Shelton alongside coaches John Legend, Gwen Stefani and Niall Horan, in their 8th, 7th, and 2nd season, respectively. Carson Daly also returns as host.
Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test – Sept. 28 on FOX
Season 2 is putting a new crop of celebrities to the test that’s unlike any other. It’s survival of the fittest as they attempt training exercises led by an elite team of ex-Special Forces operatives who are showing no mercy in the mountains of New Zealand. Celebrities taking on the task this year includeDez Bryant, Tyler Cameron, Savannah Chrisley, Blac Chyna, Brian Austin Green, Robert Horry, Erin Jackson, Bode Miller, Jack Osbourne, Tara Reid, Kelly Rizzo,Tom Sandoval, JoJo Siwa and Nick Viall.
Dancing with the Stars – Sept. 26 on ABC
Your favorite ballroom dancing competition is back with a handful of new celebrity contestants ready to hit the dance floor and show off their moves in hopes of winning the coveted Mirrorball Trophy. You can see the full list of contestants for season 32 here.
Celebrity Jeopardy – Sept. 27 on ABC
As Mayim Bialik takes a step back in solidarity with the union strikes, Ken Jennings taps in to host this season of the game show featuring celebrities putting their knowledge to the test.
Survivor – Sept. 27 on CBS
Entering its 45th season, veteran host Jeff Probst brings 18 castaways to Fiji, as the new season introduces risky elements to the competition for those who will battle it out for $1 million and the title of Sole Survivor.
Celebrity Wheel of Fortune – Sept. 27 on ABC
Pat Sajak (in his final season) and Vanna White will host the starry primetime offshot of American’s beloved game show, which will include appearances from All That’s Kel Mitchell, NCIS Hawai’i’s Noah Mills, Ghosts Danielle Pinnock, Gabriel “Flurry” Iglesias, Wednesday’s Luis Guzman and ’80s pop star Debbie Gibson, amongst many more, for its 4th season.
The Amazing Race – Sept 27. on CBS
Phil Keoghan hosts a supersized 35th season of the long-running reality-adventure series that finds 13 teams trekking the globe in hopes of landing the major $1 million prize, with the journey kicking off at the Hollywood sign and spanning a total of 23,800 miles, including the country of Slovenia for the first time. As usual, the teams that fall the furthest behind will get eliminated, while the group that makes it to their destination first will take the W.
$100,000 Pyramid – Sept. 27 on ABC
Michael Strahan jumps in as host for the 7th season of the word-association game show that finds a contestant pairing with a celebrity partner to solve the phrase before time runs out.
Golden Bachelor – Sept. 28 on ABC
Bachelor in Paradise – Sept. 28 on ABC
Favorites—and least favorites—from the Bachelor franchise get together in paradise for another shot at love in the 9th season. Jesse Palmer hosts as Wells Adams returns to the bar. Brayden Bowers, Brooklyn Willie, Jess Girod and Kylee Russell, Blake Moynes, Rachel Recchia, and more will hit the beach.
House of Villains – Oct. 12 on E!
The tagline iconicly states: “What if you put 10 of reality television’s most iconic and infamous supervillains together under one roof?” The series, hosted by Joel McHale, aims to do just that as it brings together 10 contestants considered villains like Jax Taylor, Omarosa, and Tiffany Pollard into direct competition for a cash prize and the title of America’s Ultimate Supervillain.
FBoy Island – Oct. 16 on The CW
After Max canceled the season after just 2 seasons, it’s getting a new life on The CW. It’s described as an “innovative and modern twist on the reality dating genre,” and finds three women in paradise joined by 26 men, with half who consider themselves “nice guys” looking for love and half as “Fboys” who just want some money. Can the romantic leads figure out whose who? The series is hosted by Nikki Glaser.
Weakest Link – Nov. 16 on NBC
You are the weakest link… goodbye. In its 12th season total, and third on NBC, the series hosted by Glee’s Jane Lynch finds 8 contestants who are strangers working together to bank the most amount of money in each round. They take turns answering general knowledge questions to build chains of correct answers, with incorrect ones breaking the chain and costing them. At the end, they vote to eliminate the contestant they deem is “the weakest” link.
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