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{blackbabes} Venus Williams beats No. 1 Kerber in Miami Open quarters

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Venus Williams whacked a winner on her fifth match point, then spun and threw a celebratory fist toward her father, who watched from the front row while munching popcorn.

The taste of victory never gets old.

Venus and her dad have been coming together to Key Biscayne for 20 years, and she moved a step closer to her first title in the event since 2001 by beating top-ranked Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 Wednesday night in the Miami Open quarterfinals.

It was Williams' 15th career win against a No. 1 player, but her first since 2014.

Four-time Key Biscayne runner-up Rafael Nadal advanced to the men's semifinals by beating American Jack Sock 6-2, 6-3. Nadal's opponent Friday will be Fabio Fognini, who became the first unseeded player in 10 years to reach the men's semis at Key Biscayne when he beat 2016 runner-up Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2.

The tournament was once known as the Williams Open because of the way Venus and Serena dominated. Now Venus, seeded 11th and 36 years old, is in the semifinals for the first time in seven years.

Her younger sister, an eight-time Key Biscayne champion, is out with a knee injury. But their father and coach, Richard, is attending a tournament for the first time in nearly a year after battling health issues.

He watched the quarterfinal in the photo pit along the baseline.

"My dad is one of the loves of my life and the reason I'm here in this game," Venus told the fans, who responded with cheers.

Later she added, "He has always loved popcorn. We always ate popcorn together when I was a child. That's a great childhood memory."

Venus' opponent Thursday night will be No. 10 Johanna Konta, who became the first British woman to reach a semifinal at Key Biscayne by beating No. 3 Simona Halep 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2.

"She's living the dream," Williams said. "I've got a dream too."

No. 2 Karolina Pliskova will play No. 12 Caroline Wozniacki in the other semifinal.

Williams has enjoyed a resurgence this year, reaching the Australian Open final before losing to her sister. She took charge against Kerber when the German double-faulted on the final two points of the opening set, and broke serve twice more early in the second set to pull away.

Kerber saved four match points before Williams closed out the victory with a backhand winner.

It was a matchup of offence against defence, with Williams the more aggressive player, charging the net often.

"Sometimes I didn't quite get it over that line, but I kept going for it," Williams said. "I was aggressive, and that's when I play my best."

Kerber stayed rooted to the baseline and was on the defensive even when she served, facing 13 break points and losing serve five times.

She'll remain No. 1 next week despite her loss. She reclaimed the top ranking this month after Indian Wells, replacing the sidelined Serena Williams.

Venus improved to 61-13 at Key Biscayne, where she made her debut in 1997 and won the title in 1998, 1999 and 2001. She lives 90 minutes north in Palm Beach Garden and considers the tournament her hometown event.

She was the oldest woman to enter the draw but hasn't been taxed physically, winning every set in her four matches.

Nadal is playing Key Biscayne for the 13th time, making it his longest title drought at any tournament. He committed only 12 unforced errors against the No. 13-seeded Sock, rallied from a break down in the second set and improved his lifetime record against Americans to 60-9.

Fognini, 29, matched his best showing in an ATP Masters 1000 event. By beating the No. 2-seeded Nishikori, Fognini improved to 9-44 against top-10 players, and he became the first Italian man to reach a semifinal at Key Biscayne.

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{blackbabes} Grey's Anatomy's Kelly McCreary: 'Visionary' Ellen Pompeo's Debut as a Director Likely to Leave You 'Wrecked'

greys anatomy kelly mccreary interview season 13

Nothing would please Kelly McCreary more than if we didn't need a tissue watching Thursday's Grey's Anatomy, we needed the whole box. "I hope you'll be really wrecked," admits the actress, who plays Maggie, the Grey Sloan doctor struggling with her adoptive mother's dire prognosis. "No matter what a person's relationship is like with their parents, I hope that people will feel Maggie's journey deeply and empathize."

After learning just how serious Diane's condition is in "Till I Hear It From You," Maggie goes into "Be Still, My Soul" (ABC, 9/8c) weighed down by a mess of emotions. "She's terrified, she has a lot of regret about how she treated her mother [before she knew the truth], and there are some feelings of betrayal [since] she was left out of the loop," says McCreary. But "at heart, Maggie is an optimist, so she believes that she and her team can make her mother well again."

Which puts her on a collision course with half sister Meredith. "Maggie can not hear it when Meredith tells her that what she wants to work won't work," previews McCreary. "So she takes it out on Meredith. A part of what's really sad to watch [in the unfolding drama] is how the reality and seriousness of this situation is apparent to everyone except Maggie. Because of the rose-colored glasses that she wears and a certain amount of denial that she's in, she really can't hear it."

On screen, there for Maggie is pretty much all of Grey Sloan — including crush Nathan. However, the embrace between them that's been teased by the network's promos "has less to do with her affection for him," notes McCreary, "than it has to do with him helping somebody in need."

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Off screen, there for McCreary and the cast was first-time director Ellen Pompeo, aka Mer. "It felt natural" having her at the helm, says McCreary, adding that "she had a way of teasing out extra layers of emotion in not just the way that she was able to communicate with us actors. She also had really great ideas visually for how to enhance the storytelling in these spaces that we're so used to seeing already — the hospital room, the house — or to add symbolism by shooting from overhead or wanting the scenes to be lit in a certain way. She was kind of a visionary!"

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{blackbabes} Keshia Knight Pulliam's Divorce, Ed's GF Allegedly Asked About Miscarriage Drugs

 

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A friend of Keshia Knight Pulliam's estranged husband says Ed Hartwell's girlfriend made an ominous request about something to "cause a miscarriage" during Keshia's pregnancy.

The friend, Damia Ward-Henley, made the revelation in new court docs filed by Keshia in her divorce case. Damia describes herself as a friend of Ed and Tonya Carroll ... who she says Ed started dating while he was still married to Keshia. According to the docs, Damia says Tonya found out Keshia was pregnant in June 2016, and was very upset because she wanted Ed to leave Keshia.

In the docs, Damia says Tonya told her "she wanted to get something that would cause someone to have a miscarriage." Damia says she shot down the request and told Tonya and Ed to break off their adulterous relationship.

Keshia also filed docs saying she's worried Ed -- an ex-NFL player -- is unfit to care for their 2-month-old daughter because she's seen him take OxyContin. She says Ed testified in a lawsuit with the NFL that he's suffering severe physical and mental problems, and needs to take many drugs to cope.

She wants a court-appointed guardian to evaluate his parental fitness.

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{blackbabes} Venus Williams spends time with model ex

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Venus Williams, who scored big wins at the Miami Open on Sunday and Monday, is doing more than just hitting the courts while in the beachy city.

We're told the tennis star was spotted having dinner with her ex-boyfriend, model Elio Pis, at Fi'lia at SLS Brickell on Saturday night.

The pair began dating in 2013 and then reportedly split.

But their appearance made diners question whether Venus is "rekindling her relationship." "The two seemed to be enjoying each other's company," said the witness.

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{blackbabes} 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' Cast Reunited for 'Hilary' Charity

 

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Will Smith and the rest of the 'Fresh Prince' cast didn't just reunite to chat about old times, they did it to raise big money for charity ... TMZ has learned.

Karyn Parsons, aka 'Hilary,' tells us the luncheon -- with Tatiana Ali, Alfonso Ribeiro, Will, Daphne Maxwell Reid and Joseph Marcell -- went down Monday at Nobu in Malibu. Karyn says her castmates broke bread with a family from England that won a charity auction.

She says the money will support her organization, Sweet Blackberry, ... which makes educational animated shorts about African-American history. Karyn wouldn't say how much the Brits dropped for the all-star meal, but let's face it any meal at Nobu -- WITH Will Smith -- can't come cheap.

She added it was bittersweet because of the absence of James Avery, who died in 2013.

Pretty cool of the whole gang to donate their time.

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{blackbabes} ‘The Chi’: Sonja Sohn & Jenn An Set To Recur On Showtime Drama

Former The Wire star Sonja Sohn and Jen An have booked recurring roles opposite Jason Mitchell on Showtime's hourlong drama The Chi, from Lena Waithe, Elwood Reid, Common, Aaron Kaplan's Kapital Entertainment and Fox 21 TV Studios.

Created/executive produced by Waithe, executive produced/showrun by Reid and executive produced by Common and Kaplan, The Chi is a coming-of-age story that follows a half dozen interrelated characters in the South Side of Chicago.

Sohn will play Laverne, Brandon's (Mitchell) unpredictable and dysfunctional alcoholic mother with whom he shares a very strained and resentful relationship. An will portray Sarah, who grew up in the restaurant business, albeit a down market family one, and now runs her husband Steve's hip/urban diner (which her parents don't approve of) in Chicago's busy restaurant scene. She pushes a connection with Brandon (Mitchell) that is a mixture of attraction and power and could ultimately get them both in trouble.

Sohn, best known for her starring role as Detective Kima Greggs on all five seasons of HBO's The Wire, recently recurred on Hulu's Shut Eye, and Luke Cage for Marvel/Netflix. She is also currently directing and executive producing For The Love Of Baltimore, a full-length documentary for HBO. Sohn is repped by APA and More/Medavoy Management.

An just wrapped on the feature Cover Visions and has had recent guest appearances on The Mick, Grey's Anatomy and Life in Pieces. She's repped by Justine Hunt of Hines and Hunt Entertainment.

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{blackbabes} Serena Williams set for Madrid comeback

Serena Williams set for Madrid comeback

Serena Williams is set to make her comeback from a knee injury at the Madrid Open in May.

Williams has not played competitively since winning an Open Era-record 23rd grand slam title at the Australian Open in January.

The legendary American withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells this month, revealing that she had not been able to train due to a problem with her left knee.

Williams has been selective over which tournaments she has entered in order to give herself every chance of challenging for further major titles, but was on Tuesday included in the entry list for the Madrid Open.

The world number two's appearance on the clay in the Spanish capital, fitness-permitting, will give her an opportunity to gain some momentum ahead of the French Open.

Maria Sharapova, who will make her return from a doping ban in Stuttgart next month, has also been invited to feature in Madrid.

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{blackbabes} Venus Williams upsets Svetlana Kuznetsova at Miami Open

 

No. 11-seeded Venus Williams of the United States advanced to the quarterfinals of the Miami Open on Monday night by upsetting seventh-seeded Svetlana Kuznetzova 6-3, 7-6 (4).

Williams starting quickly, winning the first three games of the match and eventually serving out the first set.

The second set was more challenging. With Williams serving at 5-6, Kuznetsova had two set-point opportunities, but Williams fought off both to force a tiebreaker. Williams then fell behind 4-1 in the breaker before winning six straight points to claim the victory.

It was Williams' second straight win over Kuznetsova after the Russian won their previous five matchups.

Elsewhere, Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic defeated a top-10 player for the first time in 24 months, delivering a 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory over fourth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova.

Safarova fought to win a first-set tiebreaker before rolling over the world's No. 4 player from Slovakia in the second set. Her most recent Top 10 win was a victory over Germany's Angelique Kerber at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif.

Safarova was hampered by a bacterial infection that affected her playing ability over the past two years.

"It means a lot," Safarova said of the win over Cibulkova. "It feels great to be there again with the best players. Being able to beat them means my level is there again."

Safarova next faces 12th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. Wozniacki defeated sixth-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain, winning the first set 7-6 (1) before Muguruza retired due to illness.

"She's playing great tennis again," Safarova said of Wozniacki. "I think it's a little bit similar game to Dominika -- Caroline puts a lot of balls back. I have to be patient but play aggressive and again come up strong and try to go for it. I feel healthy now -- thank God! -- and I'll keep trying to push my limits more and more."

Meanwhile, Kerber, the top seed, advanced with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Japan's Risa Ozaki. The German hit 17 winners while dispatching the qualifier.

"She came through the qualies, she beat good players. I was ready for it," Kerber said after the match. "I talked with my team and I know that she's moving good and bringing a lot of balls back. I was trying to play my game and be aggressive."

Kerber faces either 11th-seeded American Venus Williams or seventh-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals. Williams and Kuznetsova met in Monday's late match.

Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova also was a straight-set winner, beating fellow Czech Republic native Barbora Strycova, the 15th seed, 6-1, 6-4.

Pliskova meets 26th-seeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the quarters. Lucic-Baroni of Croatia defeated American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 6-4.

Lucic-Baroni recorded a memorable three-set semifinal victory over Karolina Pliskova earlier this year at the Australian Open.

"It's going to be a really tough match; we both know each other really well," Lucic-Baroni said of the rematch. "I have my game plan and I'm going to try and stick to it and play well tomorrow. We'll see how it's going to look."

Third-seeded Simona Halep of Romania and 10th-seeded Brit Johanna Konta will meet in another quarterfinal.

Halep was a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 winner over 14th-seeded Australian Samantha Stosur, while Konta notched a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Spain's Lara Arruabarrena.

"I'm happy that I'm still here and get to play another match," Konta said. "I don't necessary believe in 'open fields,' because every single player in this draw is world-class. So every match is as tough as the next."

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{blackbabes} Samira Wiley marries Lauren Morelli in Palm Springs

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Samira Wiley married her love Lauren Morelli on Saturday.

The couple, who met on the set of "Orange Is the New Black," tied the knot before friends and family in Palm Springs, Calif., where they got engaged the year before.

According to Martha Stewart Weddings, both Wiley, 29, and Morelli, 33, wore custom-made Christian Siriano creations. Wiley, who celebrated her bachelorette party in Miami in early March, chose an off-the shoulder white number while Morelli opted for a lace pantsuit that came complete with a sweeping cape.

Wiley and Morelli wanted a confetti-themed ceremony and reception because they love Funfetti cake.

The ceremony was officiated by Wiley's parents. Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It" played during the recession up the aisle and the newlyweds made their big entrance at the reception to Justin Bieber's "Baby."

Their first dance as wives was highlighted by a blast of confetti.

The lovers have remained relatively quiet about their big day, but Morelli shared a photo from the wedding with the caption, "Wifey for Lifey."

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{blackbabes} Venus braves the weather to beat Brazilian, Vesnina stunned

 

(Reuters) - Venus Williams overcame windy weather and an unfamiliar opponent in Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia to reach the third round of the Miami Open on Friday.

After rain delays pushed her match well into the night, three-time champion Williams moved past her 20-year-old challenger 6-4 6-3.

The biggest upset of the day came when Elena Vesnina, fresh off her victory at Indian Wells, suffered a stunning 3-6 6-4 7-5 loss to world number 594 Ajla Tomljanovic.

Williams told the Miami Herald she struggled with the windy conditions.

"It wasn't easy out there, the wind felt like a gale force," she said. "I never saw her before. I didn't know what to expect. I'm very impressed with her game and determination, and that will take her very far." Top seed Angelique Kerber also prevailed in her evening match, beating Duan Yingying Duan 7-6(3) 6-2.

Croatian wild card Tomljanovic led 13th seed Vesnina 5-3 in the third set on Thursday when a thunderstorm halted play and returned on Friday to finish the job, sealing the victory on her third match point to move into the third round.

Vesnina, five days removed from the biggest victory of her career at the BNP Paribas Open, committed a dozen double faults in the two hour, 12 minute match.

French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, whose opening match on Thursday was also interrupted, fared better than Vesnina.

The sixth-seeded Spaniard trailed 46th-ranked American Christina McHale 6-0 3-2 when play was suspended on Thursday but staved off a match point in the tiebreak before emerging with an 0-6 7-6(6) 6-4 victory.

Romanian third seed Simona Halep was pushed to three sets by Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka before advancing 6-4 2-6 6-3, while seeds Timea Babos and Roberta Vinci were eliminated. American Madison Keys made quick work of Viktorija Golubic 6-1 6-2.

 

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{blackbabes} Ryan Michelle Bathe Joins Fox's Linda From HR Pilot in Recast

Ryan Michelle Bathe Linda From HR

Lauren Graham's new comedic sidekick is getting an extreme makeover.

In an 11th hour recasting, This Is Us' Ryan Michelle Bathe has replaced ER alum Angel Laketa Moore in Graham's Fox sitcom pilot Linda From HR, TVLine has learned.

The half-hour, single-camera project centers on Graham's Linda Plugh, an HR employee whose one bad decision throws her monotonous, unfulfilled existence into an exciting but dangerous tailspin of balancing her work life, her home life and a secret that could unravel everything.

Bathe takes over the role of Sierra, a mother of young triplets with whom Linda turns to for help. According to sources, the decision to reconceive the role came after the table read earlier this week.

On This Is Us, Bathe recurs as Yvette, the mother of Young Randall's friend as seen in flashbacks. The actress' credits also include Army Wives, Girlfriends and Boston Legal.

Up-and-coming writers Itai Grunfeld and Geoff Barbanell penned the Linda From HR pilot script and will serve as EPs alongside Tracy Katsky, Aaron Kaplan and Dana Honor. Sitcom vet Marc Buckland (My Name is Earl, Scrubs) will direct. The cast also includes White Collar's Tim DeKay and Happy Endings' Zachary Knighton.

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{blackbabes} Taraji P. Henson & Nia Long's Beef Started with Bloody Joke

 

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Taraji P. Henson jokingly asked Nia Long if she was on her period after she went nuts on a fellow cast member ... and that's what set off their raging feud on the set of "Empire."

Production sources tell TMZ ... Nia showed up late shortly after beginning her stint on the show, prompting one of the male actors to joke, "Damn, why are you on black people time?"

We're told that sent Nia into a rage ... chewing the guy out. The actor told her it was just a joke but she continued berating him ... and that's when Taraji fired back -- "What are you, on your period? Is it that time, girlfriend?"

Things got super heated ... and it set the tone for a relationship that was barely civil. Taraji has always been super protective of the cast and crew and everyone was in her corner.

TMZ broke the story ... the hair and makeup crew filed a complaint against Nia for mistreating them. She maintains the allegations are bogus.

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{blackbabes} Tamron Hall: My job at ‘Today’ doesn’t define me

 

There were "two types of people" who reached out to Tamron Hall when she announced her exit from the "Today" show.

"Some would call and say, 'Oh my God, are you OK?' And I was like, 'What happened? Who died?' and then there were other people who said, 'What's next?'" she told a crowd at the Women's Business Enterprise National Council's Summit Salute on Thursday.

"I don't want a friend who calls me saying, 'Oh my God.' It's a job. It doesn't define me. It doesn't determine what I do … how I treat people. I'm going to always look you in your face and say, 'Thank you' and 'Please' — and if you make me mad, a good cuss word — but in the end, a title can't define you. When your card no longer says anything beneath it, but your name, are you still you? Can you still savor the victory — the moment that you were able to take that dream? I never imagined that I would be on the 'Today' show."

Hall was the keynote speaker at the event. The "Deadline Crime" host recently teased an upcoming special she's working on, airing in April.

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{blackbabes} ‘Being Mary Jane’ Casts Raney Branch; Falk Hentschel Joins ‘The Alienist’

Raney Branch (Bones, The Originals) has booked a key recurring role opposite Gabrielle Union on BET's popular drama series Being Mary Jane. Created by The Game's Mara Brock Akil, Being Mary Jane follows the sometimes disastrous personal and professional life of news anchor Mary Jane Paul (Union). Branch will play Aaliyah Luckett, an up-and-coming force of nature. Aaliyah is a junior PR associate with the network's brand strategy firm, and she's been tasked with improving Mary Jane's Q-rating. Convinced that Mary Jane is a little too cool and unapproachable, Aaliyah sees it as her job to present Mary Jane to the viewing public as someone they'd want to watch reality shows like Real Housewives with. Smart, perceptive, and hip to a fault, she wants to boost Mary Jane's likeability factor — and if that means helping Mary Jane get a date, so be it. Branch previously recurred in Bones and The Originals. Additional TV credits include a lead role in TV One's Ringside, Grandfathered, Casual, New Girl and Chasing Life. She's repped by E Cubed Management and Brady, Brannon & Rich.

Falk Hentschel (Transcendance, White House Down) is set to recur in The Alienist, TNT's drama series that premieres in late 2017. Based on Caleb Carr's bestseller, the psychological thriller is set in 1896 New York. When a series of gruesome murders of boy prostitutes grips the city, newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt calls upon criminal psychologist — aka alienist — Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) to conduct the investigation in secret. Hentschel will play Biff Ellison, an extremely corrupt mobster who runs illegal brothels and bars in the city. His previous television credits include series regular roles on DC's Legends Of Tomorrow and Reckless. He also co-created a pilot currently in development with UCP, Blumhouse and FlynnCoPictures. Hentschel is repped by APA, Silver Lining Entertainment and Jackoway Tyerman.

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{blackbabes} Nia Long -- 'Empire' Hair and Makeup Lodged Complaint, Nia Threatened Suit

 

0322_taraji-henson-nia-long-and-terrence-howard-tmz-2Nia Long was such a nightmare on the set of "Empire" ... the hair and makeup folks lodged an official complaint against her, and Nia also threatened to sue the show over an improper goodbye ... this according to well-placed production sources.

Multiple people -- cast, crew and production people -- tell TMZ Nia was disrespectful and unprofessional throughout her run on the show.

We broke the story ... Nia and Taraji P. Henson were at war with each other because Taraji was irate over the way Nia treated the staff, and it got so bad producers were trying to figure out how to shoot scenes with the two of them where each actress did their part separately. It was so tense neither would speak to the other.

The various sources are scoffing at Nia's reps, who claim the stories about the actress are made up. Our sources say there were numerous incidents, but 3 are still vivid.

-- Our sources say in the history of the show the hair and makeup people have only filed one formal complaint for mistreatment ... and that was against Nia. The hair and makeup people say she was extremely disrespectful ... at times deciding she didn't like her look at the last minute and then chewing them out. The sources say there have been numerous guest appearances on the show -- "from rappers to Demi Moore, and no complaints were lodged against anyone but Nia."

-- Our sources say Nia was "habitually late." They say Taraji and Terrence Howard would sometimes be waiting on set for 30 minutes and Nia was a no-show. Producers would finally use a stand-in for Nia so Taraji and Terrence could rehearse a scene.

-- It is custom on the set when guest stars finish their last scene for the Assistant Director to call it out ... "This is (name of actor) last scene," followed by a "thank you" and applause. When Nia did her last scene, Terrence was having some sort of allergic reaction and his lip began swelling. The A.D. was looking for Benadryl when Nia left. It's unclear if the A.D. was distracted or just didn't want to thank Nia, but we're told as Nia walked out she told someone in production she was going to sue the show because the "goodbye" was in her contract. Production sources say it was not in her contract.

We spoke with one actor on the show who said the experience was so unpleasant they would never work with her again.

We reached out to Nia's rep, who said, "We stand by our comments this morning that Nia has always, and continues to be, a consummate professional on set. In respect to her working relationships with the cast, she came onto this project, in the first place, because of her long-standing friendship and professional relationship with Terrence Howard."

The rep went on to say, "We are not aware of any complaint, suit or case against her from anyone involved in the show, and we find the timing of all of these stories to be very suspicious, given that the series returns tonight."

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{blackbabes} Tika Sumpter Joins Casey Affleck In ‘The Old Man And The Gun’

Tika Sumpter

 Tika Sumpter, who starred as Michelle Obama in Southside With You, has been cast in David Lowery's The Old Man And The Gun, co-starring opposite Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Sissy Spacek and Robert Redford, who is attached to produce.

Based on a 2003 New Yorker article by David Grann, the pic follows Forrest Tucker (Redford), an outlaw with 18 successful prison breaks and a lifetime of bank robberies to his name. Affleck plays a detective who becomes captivated with Forrest's commitment to his craft, and the woman who loves him in spite of his chosen profession. Sumpter will play Affleck's wife.

Condé Nast's Jeremy Steckler and Dawn Ostroff are also producing.

Sumpter currently co-stars in Universal's Ride Along franchise with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart and in OWN's soap series The Haves And The Haves Nots. She's repped by WME, Brookside Artist Management and Franklin Weinrib.

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{blackbabes} ‘Unsolved’: Luke James, Aisha Hinds & Letoya Luckett Cast In USA’s Tupac Shakur Biggie Smalls Pilot

Luke James (The New Edition Story), Aisha Hinds (All The Way) and Letoya Luckett (Rosewood, Ballers) are set for key roles in Unsolved: The Murders of Biggie and Tupac (working title), USA's scripted true crime serial drama pilot that chronicles the major police investigations into the murders of rap stars Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

Written by Kyle Long (Suits), Unsolved, from Universal Cable Productions, is based on the experiences of former LAPD Detective Greg Kading (played by Josh Duhamel), author of the book Murder Rap: The Untold Story of Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations, who led multiple law-enforcement task forces investigating the murders.

James will play Sean "Puffy" Combs, the young and wildly successful founder of Bad Boy Records, the label of Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls. Hinds will portray Voletta Wallace, the mother of Biggie Smalls. Wallace talked to her son every day before his death and, ever since, has never stopped seeking justice. Luckett will play Sharitha Golden. In 1997, she was the estranged wife of Death Row records CEO Suge Knight and seemingly one of the only people at the time not intimidated by him.

In addition to Duhamel, they join previously announced cast members Wavyy Jonez as Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, Marcc Rose as Tupac Shakur, Jimmi Simpson as Detective Russell Poole and Bokeem Woodbine as Officer Daryn Dupree.

James, a two-time Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and actor, most recently starred in The New Edition Story miniseries. He's repped by ICM Partners and JME Management.

Hinds, best known for her role in Emmy-nominated series All The Way, can currently be seen in the upcoming second season of  Underground, and will also co-star in the 10-part event series Shots Fired. She is repped by Greene & Associates Talent Agency.

Best known for her recurring roles in Rosewood and Ballers, Luckett's credits also include Single Ladies, Treme, and the upcoming season of Greenleaf. An original member of Destiny's Child, Luckett is set to release her third album this year. She's repped by ICM Partners, Vincent Cirrincione Associates and Stone, Genow, Smelkinson, Binder & Christopher.

Emmy winner Anthony Hemingway (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) is set to direct the pilot and will executive produce along with Mark Taylor through their Hemingway | Taylor production company. Long also will executive produce. Kading is consulting on the pilot script and also will serve as co-executive producer.

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{blackbabes} Issa Rae Joins Bill Hader In ‘Empress Of Serenity’

Issa Rae, star of her HBO series Insecure, has been cast opposite Bill Hader in Empress Of Serenity, the directorial debut of Me And Earl And The Dying Girl author and screenwriter Jesse Andrews. Production is set to get underway in August on Andrews' script.

Hader is aboard playing Sheldon, whose elaborate plan to win back his ex-wife is upended when he is guilted into a monthlong mega-cruise with his widowed father. Rae plays Michelle, a reclusive kindred spirit in the cabin next door who becomes both the aid and the obstacle in Sheldon's plan.

The comedy is being produced by Stephen Chbosky alongside Mr. Mudd's Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith, the group which collaborated on The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Nathan Kahane and Joe Drake of Good Universe will executive produce alongside Mr. Mudd's John Malkovich. Erin Westerman is overseeing for Good Universe.

Rae is repped by UTA, 3 Arts Entertainment and Hansen, Jacobson.

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{blackbabes} Flash's Grant Gustin, Candice Patton Open Up About the Latest 'WestAllen' Development, Tears That Were Shed

Flash Barry Iris Engaged

The following contains spoilers from this Tuesday's episode of The Flash.

As The Flash's musical crossover with Supergirl drew to a close on Tuesday night, the CW series served up a coda that, as promised by cast members, was "beautiful" in every way.

Having been rescued from the Music Meister's alternate reality by the power of love, Barry returned to the loft and cued up one last tune — the ballad "Runnin' Home to You," which he sang to Iris before proposing anew, and successfully.

The re-proposal was "very, very sweet," Candice Patton told TVLine during our recent visit to the set. Couple it with "a beautiful song" penned by La La Land's Academy Award-winning Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and you get a moment that was "just simple and so romantic," the actress adds. "I liked this proposal better than the one that we've already seen."

Series lead Grant Gustin tells TVLine that Barry popping the question again was "really easy in a way," teed up as it was by such an apropos tune. "What I love about musical theater is that it really elevates everything. It makes you feel what we want you to feel in a more easy fashion."

Pasek and Paul — whom Gustin has known since they held a workshop at his college years ago — "wrote a near-perfect song," says the Flash star. "They clearly knew the background of the relationship and the characters," so much so that "I think it could be a theme song for Flash, honestly. I felt very lucky to sing it, and I think it did a lot of the work for me, in a way."

Perhaps, but there should be no discounting Gustin's performance during the emotional climax, while Patton with little effort reflected the look of a woman falling in love to a brand-new degree, as the ballad's beneficiary. "It did feel special to shoot," Gustin says. "No one had heard the song yet, no one had heard me sing it…. Candice had never even heard it [and] she was in tears after the proposal in the rehearsal. It got a round of applause from the crew, which doesn't happen. It was a special episode for everybody."

As for what's next for fiancé and fiancée, it's only understandable that actual wedding bells might be a ways off, while Team Flash continues to do what it can to keep the bride-to-be alive and all!

"The only time we really see wedding planning brought up, it's in the sense that we haven't been focusing on it," Gustin shares. "[Saving Iris] is obviously an all-consuming thing: How do we beat this? How do we prevent this from happening? So, we see Barry and Iris get back to their relationship, but it's tense. It's a hard time for both of them right now."

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{blackbabes} Venus Williams plays DJ at foodie event in Miami

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 20: Venus Williams arrives at the Citi Taste Of Tennis Miami at W Hotel on March 20, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

On Monday night across the causeway at the W Miami Hotel in Brickell, Venus Williams looked white hot in a halter top jumpsuit for her flashy appearance at The Citi Taste of Tennis.

The seven-time Grand Slam winner/designer (the younger sister of Serena Williams) wasn't just checking out the yummy eats from such top chefs as Aaron Brooks, Timon Balloo and Michelle Bernstein, Venus also played spin doctor along with the Fontainebleau's in-house DJ Mad Linx.

Among those in attendance: on court favorites Genie Bouchard, Sam Querry and twin hotties The Bryan Brothers. Numerous players are in town to compete at the Miami Open. Bernstein gave the identical siblings a cooking lesson.

Seems the guys are better with racquets than with kitchen utensils.

People.com reports Venus, based in West Palm Beach, has returned to the Washington Kastles, a franchise of World Team Tennis.

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{blackbabes} Thandie Newton faced ‘racism and sexism’ in UK castings

 

Thandie Newton is addressing the lack of roles for people of color in the UK. The London-born actress, who stars in HBO's "Westworld," said that due to British television focusing on period dramas, she can't work in her native country.

"I love being [in the UK], but I can't work, because I can't do 'Downton Abbey,' can't be in 'Victoria,' can't be in 'Call the Midwife,'" Newton, who lives in Los Angeles, told Sunday Times Magazine. "Well, I could, but I don't want to play someone who's being racially abused."

"I'm not interested in that, don't want to do it," she added. Despite a career that spans decades, Newton explained how it's "slim picking" for non-white actors when many series focus on events from the past.

"There just seems to be a desire for stuff about the royal family, stuff from the past, which is understandable, but it just makes it slim pickings for people of color," she explained, adding that she's had to overcome many other obstacles during her career. "I'm talented at what I do, but I've had to struggle against racism and sexism. But I'm glad of it, in a way, that I survived and overcame."

Newton currently stars in the BBC drama "Line of Duty" and will return for season 2 of "Westworld." She's also slated to appear in the "Star Wars" Han Solo movie.

The actress' remarks come weeks after Samuel L. Jackson questioned the casting of British actors in African-American roles and specifically calling out "Get Out" star Daniel Kaluuya.

Kaluuya responded to Jackson's comments by stating that he shouldn't have to prove he's black. "When I'm around black people, I'm made to feel 'other' because I'm dark-skinned. I've had to wrestle with that, with people going, 'You're too black.' Then I come to America, and they say, 'You're not black enough.' I go to Uganda, I can't speak the language. In India, I'm black. In the black community, I'm dark-skinned. In America, I'm British. Bro!" he expressed.

"This is the frustrating thing, bro — in order to prove that I can play this role, I have to open up about the trauma that I've experienced as a black person."

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