Tag Archives: Essence Atkins

A Look Back at Half & Half

Last weekend, Twitter was ablaze with talk of the 30th anniversary of the premier of the iconic A Different World.  Fans watched and live-tweeted their favorite episodes while reminising about the impact the show had on a generation of TV viewers. The show produced many stars including Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, and Jade Pinkett-Smith.  Another A Different World alum is writer and producer Yvette Lee Bowser.  After A Different World, Bower went on to executive produce another classic black sitcom that also recently celebrated a milestone anniversary.

Half & Half

On September 23, 2002, Half & Half premiered on the now defunct UPN.  The series focuses on a pair of half-sisters who are attempting to build a relationship while living in the apartment building owned by their father. The series stars the ageless Rachel True as Mona, the older, more level-headed sister and  Essence Atkins as Dee Dee, the younger, more sheltered spoiled sister. The cast also includes the mothers, portrayed by television legends Telma Hopkins and Valerie Pettiford as Phyllis and Big Dee Dee and Obba Babtunde as Charles Thorne, Mona and Dee Dee’s father.  Chico Benymon and Alec Mapa round out the cast as Spencer, Mona’s best friend/coworker and Adam, her assistant.

Half & Half

Half & Half was my everything.  My 22-year-old self LOVED the dynamic between the sisters. And as a twenty-something, recent college graduate, I found myself drawn to the show.  I tuned in to experience the sisters’ journey of discovery as they tried to navigate their careers and dating while balancing family/daughter/sister duties. I could relate. My Monday nights were all about Girlfriends and Half & Half.  But whereas Girlfriends was where I wanted to be, Half & Half was my reality.

Half & Half

While I loved all of the characters on the show, Mona Thorne was my favorite.  She was an OG Awkward Black Girl.  Her eclectic taste in music, her boho fashion sense, and her hilarious relationship with her mother reflected my life at the time (sidenote: I am still convinced that Phyllis  Thorne is based on #MyMomBarb). Mona helped me embrace my quirky and awkward self. Mona was also a natural hair, curly girl icon for me.  Her curls were ALWAYS popping!  I didn’t realize it at the time, but seeing Mona’s natural hair helped me embraced my own. She represented a different kind of black girl magic. The kind my younger self desperately needed to see.

At it’s peak, Half & Half was the fourth highest rated on UPN.  However, when UPN transitioned to The CW, the show was axed before the start of the 2006 season.  The untimely demise of Half & Half left a hole in my Monday nights and my soul. For over a decade I have wondered “Who did Mona choose..Chase or Lorenzo?” But alas, that question will remain one of televisions great unanswered questions.

You can catch reruns of Half & Half on BounceTV.  Fifteen years after it’s birth, it remains one of my faves.

Seven Sistas of Film, 2013

2013 has been an amazing year for film.  And theses women have given us some amazing, fun, heartbreaking, and memorable performances. These performances run the gamut in terms of genre. Below are my seven favorite sistas of 2013.  Enjoy!


Essence Atkins as “Kisha” in A Haunted House

RS Essence A.

I have been a fan of  Essence Atkins since she was a teen on the sitcom Smart Guy.  And I LOVED her as little Dee Dee on the cancelled- too- soon series  Half and Half.  So I knew that she had comedic chops.  But it takes a true comedic talent to hold their old against one of the Wayans and Essence does JUST that. She was definitely one of the highlights of the film.


Halle Berry as “Jordan” in  The Call

RS Halle B.

In the film Halle plays a Los Angeles 911-operator who is traumatized and guilt ridden after she makes a fatal mistake during a call. Six months later she receives a similar call and is determined not to make the same mistake. Halle gives a solid and compelling performance.. She excels as a woman on the verge of losing it.  She shines in the role and handles it with the necessary restraint and emotion.


Monica Calhoun as “Mia” in The Best Man Holiday

RS Monca C.

It’s hard to stand out in an ensemble cast. But Monica Calhoun manages to do just that in the highly anticipated sequel to 1999’s The Best Man.  This time around Mia is happily married to Lance and the mother of four children.  She gathers the gang back together for a Christmas celebration at her palatial home.  Mia and her situation serves as the catalyst that brings the group together. Monica’s performance is subtle, emotional, and tugs on the heart strings.


Danai Gurira as “Adenike” in Mother of George

RS Danai G.

I was pleasantly surprised by Danai Gurira’s performance as Adenike. She immersed herself in the character.  Danai’s portrayal of a women torn between traditional Nigerian customs and American culture, being a devoted wife and an independent woman  is nuanced.  She displays a level of vulnerability and  depth that allows you to feel every emotion she goes through.


Deborah Mailman  as “Gail” in The Sapphires

RS Deborah M.

The Sapphires tackles issues of race, the Stolen Generation of Australia, and  family. The film is based on the real life story of a group of Aboriginal women who are discovered at a talent showcase and transformed into a soulful group who travel to sing for the American troops.  As the eldest sister in singing quartet, Deborah Mailman portrays Gail with equal parts protective love and  sarcastic wit. Her performance is quite impressive.


Lupita Nyong’o as “Patsy” in 12 Years a Slave

RS Lupita N.

I was completely moved by Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years A Slave.  While Chiwetel Ejiofor is the heart of the film, Lupita’s Patsy is the soul.  Her performance is heartbreaking and soul stirring.  In the pivitol scene where Patsy endures a rather excessive punishment, your heart literally stops in the moment.  Lupita’s strength and courage as an actress is compelling and captivating. She humanizes Patsy in a way that is palpable.


Oprah Winfrey as “Gloria” in The Butler

RS Oprah W.

Oprah Winfrey only appears on screen every blue moon and when she does it is a treat.  Her performance in The Butler is no exception. As the alcoholic wife of the the butler, Oprah paints a  multi-layered portrait of a woman who wants to support her husband but has her own issues to work through as well.


What else gave a memorable performance this year?  Who is your favorite sista of cinema for 2013?

Cinema in Noir – A Celebration of Female Friendship

In honor of Women’s History Month, on this week’s episode on “Cinema In Noir” my co-hosts and I discussed our favorite films that highlight positive relationships between women.

Here are a few of my picks:

 Clueless (1995)

In 1995, Cher, Dionne, and Tai were the crew I most wanted to be down with.  I wanted to be rollin’ with the homies and hang out at parties in the valley. The girls of Clueless, played by Alicia Silverstone, an ageless Stacey Dash, and the late Brittany Murphy, were the epitome of cool to my 15 year old self. Despite the flightiness and superficiality of high-school, the friendship between the three girls was real. Forget Josh, Dionne is Cher’s true soul mate.

 Our Song (2000)

Lanisha, Maria, and Joycelyn are three friends who share a love for music. It is through them playing in the community band and their friendship with each other that they are able to traverse the very real personal issues they are facing. The friendship between the girls is not perfect.  But that is what makes it so real.  The relationship is evidence that through good and bad, true friendship endures. Also, the movie marks the feature film debut of a young Kerry Washington.

Deliver Us From Eva (2003)

Technically Eva, Kareenah, Bethany and Jacqui are sisters (played by Gabrielle Union, Essence Atkins, Robinne Lee, and Meagan Good, respectively).  But one of the recurring themes in the movie is how much Eva wants her sister’s friendship and how she values that almost over love. The Dandridge sisters are the best of friends, much to the chagrin of their husbands and boyfriends.  They have special codes that refer to specific situations and they even share a special song.  And for me, a girl who doesn’t have sisters but always wanted them, I really love the dynamic between the women.  They love, support, and respect each other unconditionally.

What are your favorite films that feature friendship between women?

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