‘Respect’: Aretha Franklin biopic adds Mary J. Blige, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans and more to cast

ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) — The forthcoming Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul, has tapped some heavy hitters for the cast.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald, Tituss Burgess and Mary J. Blige have all been added to the film.

They join previously announced cast members Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Marc Maron, Tate Donovan and newcomer Skye Dakota Turner.

Whitaker has been cast as Franklin’s father, The Reverend C.L. Franklin, while McDonald will play Aretha’s mother. Wayans will play Ted White, Franklin’s abusive first husband, whom she married at 19. Blige will play legendary singer Dinah Washington, while Burgess will play The Reverend Dr. James Cleveland, known as “The King of Gospel Music.”

Turner, who played young Tina Turner in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, will star as young Aretha. 

As previously noted, the biopic stars Hudson as Aretha and will follow the singer’s rise to superstardom, from her childhood singing gospel in her father’s church to her emergence as one of the most powerful and influential voices in soul and R&B. The movie will also examine Franklin’s impact on the civil rights and women’s movements.

The film, penned by screenwriter and producer Callie Khouri, will be directed by Liesl [LEE-suhl] Tommy, who in 2016 became the first black woman ever to receive a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Play, for Eclipsed.

Respect will also include a variety of Aretha’s most famous songs, including her classic rendition of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “Think.”

A release date for Respect has yet to be announced.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 21 Oct 2019

‘Star Wars’ actor Daniel Logan thanks fans — and Jeep — after surviving ugly California wreck

Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — “Thanks to Jeep for keeping me alive.”

Those words came from grateful actor Daniel Logan — who played young bounty hunter-to-be Boba Fett in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, and voiced him on the small screen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars — following a nasty rollover wreck in Tustin, California on Friday.

One of Logan’s friends took photos of the scene of the accident. The pics show Logan’s grey Jeep Grand Cherokee resting on the driver’s side, windows smashed, and the 32-year-old actor bloodied from scrapes, sitting shaken on the curb.

“So glad the Force was with him,” noted the friend, who added, in reference to Boba’s warrior race, “[Y]ou can’t keep a Mandalorian down.”

In a subsequent video recorded Saturday, Logan addresses the camera, wearing a neck brace, thanking fans for the words of support. “And a special big thank you to Jeep for keeping me alive,” he said. “And also to the Tustin Police Department and Fire Department department…You guys took such good care of me…”

He added to fans, “Like Boba Fett, there’ll be another bounty ahead, don’t worry.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 21 Oct 2019

13 years later, soldier meets students who wrote him letters while he was in Iraq

iStock(STILLMORE, Ga.) — A U.S. Army brigadier general who became unlikely pen pals with a group of kindergarten students when he was deployed in Iraq drove more than six hours to surprise those students, who are now high school seniors.

“It was a great relief for me to say thank you,” Army Brigadier General Vincent Buggs told Good Morning America. “Everyone is always saying thank you to me for my service but it meant more for me to be able to say thank you to them.”

Buggs, who lives in Tampa, Florida, was deployed to Iraq three times in the early 2000s, including one deployment that lasted nearly one year.

During that time, he became pen pals with a group of kindergarten students at David Emanuel Academy, a small private school in Stillmore, Georgia, a town of less than 1,000 people, through a winding path that started at his college’s alumni office.

Buggs stayed in touch with the alumni office of his alma mater, Georgia Southern University — a college about 30 minutes from Stillmore — to help maintain a sense of normalcy while he was deployed, asking about how the football team was doing and what was happening on campus.

During one conversation, a woman in the alumni office told Buggs that her niece’s kindergarten class was doing a project with a gingerbread man to learn more about world geography. She asked if he would want to take pictures of the gingerbread man in Iraq, according to Sandra Mosley, the woman’s sister-in-law and mother of a student in David Emanuel Academy’s kindergarten class.

“He did better than that,” Mosley recalled of Buggs. “He wrote a whole story about how the gingerbread man had stolen a camel’s water and how important water was to the region and how hot it was even there. He just went above and beyond.”

“Maybe a month or so after all of that he emailed me and asked how the project came out and I told him it was great and that the students really enjoyed the story of the camel,” she said. “Then he asked for their names and he had flags flown in Iraq for each of them and he sent those to all the kids.”

The act by Buggs was such a big deal that a photo of the students holding their American flags was published in the local newspaper. It also started a pen pal relationship that has lasted for more than a decade.

The class of 13 students began sending Buggs notes and care packages. Buggs sent the students notes and treats from wherever he was stationed around the world over the years.

“I remember he would always send Kinder chocolates and that was so exciting,” said Jenna Mosley, the now-17-year-old daughter of Sandra Mosley.

For Buggs, the notes and care packages from the students meant even more to him, helping him get through his hardest days in Iraq.

“They were just probably doing a school project but it meant so much to me,” Buggs said. “When you’re sitting in your [bunker] by yourself and you’ve been deployed a few months and the loneliness is there, the letters from home, you get them and it changes your perspective of what you’re dealing with.”

“Your mind forgets what’s going on around you and have tunnel vision going through these letters,” he said.

Buggs, who has served in the military for nearly three decades, had tried for several years to travel to Stillmore to meet the students in person but said the timing never worked out.

This past weekend he was traveling to Georgia Southern for alumni weekend and decided to make a stop in Stillmore to surprise David Emanuel Academy’s senior class, which includes six students from the original kindergarten class.

“I was so surprised that he came back to see us,” said one of the students, Boslie Boots, 17. “I did not think I would have such an impact on a person but it was so special to hear about how we’ve helped him over the years.”

“I never thought through the years that we’d affected his life as much as we did,” added Jenna Mosley. “He said letters from us would turn his day around.”

The meeting proved unexpectedly emotional for Buggs, who said he wanted to convey to the students the impact they had with their seemingly small acts of kindness.

“For me it was like everything from that time period when I was deployed came back in an emotional rush, the missions we were going through and them writing me,” Buggs said. “I had a surreal moment of remembering the stressful times and how humble and happy I was to get a letter from them.”

Buggs also spoke to the students about their future plans, encouraging them to say not “I hope” but “I will,” according to both Boots and Mosley.

Buggs said he hopes that the students, and everyone else, take away a big picture message that they can make an impact in the world, whether it be kindness to deployed soldiers or first responders or teachers or just their next door neighbor.

“American kindness is I think one of the greatest things we have in our country and it’s not spoken enough of the small things that people do to make a difference in other people’s lives,” he said. “Everybody can make an impact and do something positive.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 21 Oct 2019

“It is a duty”: See Olivia Colman grappling with a changing U.K. in final trailer for ‘The Crown’ Season 3

Netflix(LOS ANGELES) — Netflix has released the final trailer for the third season of The Crown, and in it, we see Oscar-winner Olivia Colman under strain as Queen Elizabeth II.

Season three sees the Queen’s kingdom rapidly changing, from the Cold War through the Space Age, and into the challenges of the late ’60s and ’70s.

A cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin'” illustrates that point.

As Colman replaces Claire Foy as Elizabeth, Helena Bonham Carter now plays Princess Margaret, replacing Vanessa Kirby in the role.

“This country was great when I took the throne,” Elizabeth laments to Margaret. “All that’s happened on my watch is the place has fallen apart.”

Margaret responds cooly, “It’s only fallen apart if we say it has. That’s the thing about the monarchy: We paper over the cracks.”

“We have all made sacrifices,” Elizabeth states at the trailer’s close. “It is not a choice. It is a duty.”

This season also stars Tobias Menzies as Prince Phillip, Erin Doherty as Princess Anne; Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles; Ben Daniels as Lord Snowdon; Jason Watkins as Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Charles Dance as Lord Mountbatten.

Emma Corrin has been cast as Princess Diana, but she won’t be introduced until season four.

The Crown Season 3 launches globally on Sunday, November 17.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 21 Oct 2019

“It is a duty”: See Olivia Colman grappling with a changing U.K. in final trailer for ‘The Crown’ Season 3

Netflix(LOS ANGELES) — Netflix has released the final trailer for the third season of The Crown, and in it, we see Oscar-winner Olivia Colman under strain as Queen Elizabeth II.

Season three sees the Queen’s kingdom rapidly changing, from the Cold War through the Space Age, and into the challenges of the late ’60s and ’70s.

A cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin'” illustrates that point.

As Colman replaces Claire Foy as Elizabeth, Helena Bonham Carter now plays Princess Margaret, replacing Vanessa Kirby in the role.

“This country was great when I took the throne,” Elizabeth laments to Margaret. “All that’s happened on my watch is the place has fallen apart.”

Margaret responds cooly, “It’s only fallen apart if we say it has. That’s the thing about the monarchy: We paper over the cracks.”

“We have all made sacrifices,” Elizabeth states at the trailer’s close. “It is not a choice. It is a duty.”

This season also stars Tobias Menzies as Prince Phillip, Erin Doherty as Princess Anne; Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles; Ben Daniels as Lord Snowdon; Jason Watkins as Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Charles Dance as Lord Mountbatten.

Emma Corrin has been cast as Princess Diana, but she won’t be introduced until season four.

The Crown Season 3 launches globally on Sunday, November 17.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 21 Oct 2019

Chicago mayor begs teachers to return to classrooms amid ongoing strike

martinedoucet/iStock(CHICAGO) — The mayor of Chicago is asking for the city’s teachers union to stop the strike while continuing negotiations.

This comes as the strike in the country’s third-largest school district enters its fifth day.

Disagreements over pay, benefits and class size are among the top concerns that prompted the strike, which started on Thursday, Oct. 17. Monday marks the third day of school missed as a result of the strike.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wrote a letter Monday to Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey, calling for the teachers to return to the classrooms while negotiations carry on.

“While we have made progress at the bargaining table, it is unclear that we can reach an agreement today given the current pace,” Lightfoot wrote in the letter.

“The students and families of Chicago cannot afford to be out of school for any longer, which is why we are asking you to end the strike and encourage your members to return to work while bargaining continues. As someone who is concerned about the success of our students, we hope you see how necessary it is to reopen schools at this time,” Lightfoot wrote.

Lightfoot went on to give specific examples of the impact the strike will have on students, from a canceled college fair to the prospect of a prestigious football team being ineligible for the state playoffs, if the strike isn’t resolved by Tuesday.

For its part, the Chicago Teachers Union posted various videos of multiple strikes happening across the city Monday.

The CTU did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment about Lightfoot’s letter, but there is slated to be an update on the negotiations Monday afternoon.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 21 Oct 2019

Trump: US never agreed to protect Syrian Kurd allies ‘for the rest of their lives’

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) — “We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,” President Donald Trump said while speaking to reporters at the White House for over an hour during a Cabinet meeting Monday afternoon.

“We have a good relationship with the Kurds, but we never agreed to protect the Kurds. We have supported them for three and half to four years. We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,” Trump said.

Trump has been fighting back against bipartisan criticism for his decision earlier this month to pull U.S. troops out of northeastern Syria, allowing Turkey to attack the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurds and seize control of the area.

Trump also told reporters that a negotiated “ceasefire” was holding despite some “skirmishes.”

He continued defending his position Wednesday saying that this is decision is “much better for humanity.

“Where’s the agreement that we have to stay in Middle East for rest of civilization?” Trump said.

Trump’s comments came as U.S. forces leaving Syria were headed to Iraq even though Trump had said he was bringing them “home.”

He said Monday they would be going to “other parts” before coming back and when asked if he would support leaving a small number of troops in the region, Trump said that outside of securing oil that “there is no reason for it.”

“I don’t think it is necessary, other than that we secure the oil,” Trump said. “It is in a little different section, but we need to secure the oil.”

Trump added, “the other region where we have been asked by Israel and Jordan to leave a small number of troops is a totally different section of Syria, near Jordan and close to Israel.”

The White House on Thursday announced that the U.S. and Turkey reached an agreement to “pause” Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a buffer zone.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday defended the “ceasefire” that he and Vice President Mike Pence brokered with Turkey, which expired Tuesday, and responded to criticism from both Kurdish fighters and Republicans on the Hill, on ABC’s This Week.

Despite the deal having taken effect on Thursday, eyewitnesses reported that shelling continued through Thursday night and into Friday morning.

“The administration and the president’s decision has undermined every single one of” America’s interests in Syria “and I think has done so in ways that we’re going to regret for a long time,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Thursday after the agreement was announced.

“We put out a joint statement which we think will really save lives. It’s worked so far,” Pompeo said on Sunday, adding that he had just received a report from his senior advisers that indicated that there is relatively little fighting still in Syria.

But since the release of a joint statement between the two NATO allies, critics from across the political spectrum have panned it as a capitulation to Turkey or a vague resolution that does not fully address the crisis now unfolding in northeastern Syria with the departure of U.S. troops.

When challenged by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, saying, “The Turks said they got everything they wanted,” When challenged by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, Pompeo responded, “I was there. It sure didn’t feel that way when we were negotiating.”

“It was a hard-fought negotiation. It began before the vice president and I even arrived in Ankara,” he said. “We achieved the outcome that President Trump sent us to achieve.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 21 Oct 2019