History repeating: The Lavender Tube on 'Manhunt,' 'Chisholm,' '3 Body Problem' & more

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday March 19, 2024
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Anthony Boyle as John Wilkes Booth in 'Manhunt' (photo: AppleTV+); <br>Regina King as Shirley Chisholm in 'Chisholm' (photo: Netflix)
Anthony Boyle as John Wilkes Booth in 'Manhunt' (photo: AppleTV+);
Regina King as Shirley Chisholm in 'Chisholm' (photo: Netflix)

We're in unusual and fractious times, politically. But our current era is far from the only inflection point in U.S. history. One of the most fractious periods was the Civil War.

Though it was only four years —from April 1861 to April 1865— nearly three-quarters of a million soldiers were killed in action, and another quarter million died of disease from the terrible conditions and lack of vaccines. An entire generation of young men was decimated. This extraordinary time in America was one of incalculable flux and social upheaval culminating in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.

It is this period that is the backdrop for Apple TV+'s "Manhunt," based on the book "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer" by James L. Swanson.

Tobias Menzies in 'Manhunt' (photo: Netflix)  

"Manhunt" is fabulous. The seven-episode series is edge-of-your-seat compelling and the performances are extraordinary. The story evolves in the hours before and after that incalculably unforeseeable event: When President Lincoln (Hamish Linklater) and his wife Mary Todd (Lili Taylor) went to a play at Ford's Theater after the war had ended and "the Union had been saved."

Make no mistake, this is not some dry NatGeo/History channel docudrama. "Manhunt" is a fast-paced thriller that interrogates every aspect of the drama of the time and the event of the assassination. The series moves seamlessly and disturbingly between different characters on that night that would change history.

The focus of the drama are the actors, John Wilkes Booth (Anthony Boyle) and one of Lincoln's key advisors, Edwin Stanton (Tobias Menzies). When Booth shoots Lincoln in the head yelling it's for the South, he then jumps from the balcony, shouting "Sic Semper Tyrannis," and flees into the darkness.

Booth is then on the run, helped by two co-conspirators: the doctor who treats him, Samuel Mudd (Matt Walsh) and another man, Lewis Powell (Spencer Treat Clark), whose role is revealed as the series develops. In addition, there's a pivotal player in Mudd's former slave, Mary Simms (Lovie Simone), who Mudd still treats as if she were still owned by him.

Mary is a focal point of the drama because she represents what the war was fought for: Nikki Haley may have forgotten, but "Manhunt's" writers did not end slavery and free several million slaves.

Creator, writer and showrunner Monica Beletsky ("Fargo," "The Leftovers") situates the stakes as Lincoln and Stanton understood them. Reconstruction and Reparations were pivotal to the survival of the nation post-slavery and post-war. That's what all the mayhem was over: so that people like Mary Simms could have the life that they deserved, so that they could be free and so that the nation could begin to heal from the horror that slavery had layered upon everything.

"Manhunt" is breathtakingly good as both history and a cautionary tale. And Menzies, an Emmy winner for "The Crown," is absolutely mesmerizing. With Patton Oswalt, Josh Stewart and Glenn Morshower, all fantastic performances.

King as Chisholm
Regina King has long been one of our favorite actresses. The multiple Emmy winner is uniquely versatile and good in everything, as we have written here time and again over the years. (www.ebar.com)

Now King has taken on the iconic Shirley Chisholm, just in time for Women's History Month in Netflix's new original film. In 1972, Chisholm, the first-ever Black congresswoman, launched a trailblazing campaign to become the president of the United States, the first woman to run on a major party ticket.

When you think about how this was a half century ago and how the prospect of another Black woman, San Francisco's own Kamala Harris, possibly ascending the top spot in the nation, has white people —including many white male pundits— in a tizzy, it makes Chisholm's bold move all the more incredible, as we detailed recently in our politics hat. (www.epgn.com)

King, of course, embodies the role. And when she says to a crowd, "All you've got is your one vote," you get chills. Don't forget that dictate.

Directed by the masterful Oscar-winner John Ridley, "Chisholm" costars Lance Reddick, Lucas Hedges, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christina Jackson, Dorian Crossmond Missick, Amirah Vann, with André Holland and Terrence Howard.

Body language
Sci-fi isn't our thing, but "3 Body Problem" is unmissable. Based on the Chinese novel, "The Three-Body Problem" by Liu Cixin, the Netflix series drops March 21.

Ye Wenjie (Rosalind Chao and Zine Tseng) is an astrophysicist who saw her father brutally murdered during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Later, she was conscripted by the military because of her scientific background and sent to a secret radar base in a remote region. Her fateful decision at the base echoes across space and time to a group of scientists in the present day, forcing them to face humanity's greatest threat.

Zine Tseng in '3 Body Problem' (photo: Netflix)  

It also stars the great Benedict Wong, whose defense of Marvel "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" co-star Xochitl Gomez went viral after the teen got massive homophobic hate trolling for her role as America Chavez, a gay teenager who has the ability to jump between universes.

Gomez, who was only 14, said of her character who was banned in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, "It's a big deal that America is in this movie. It's just huge. And I'm just so happy that Marvel has stuck to it and kept the scene in there. And it's just pretty crazy that I get to be the one who plays America. Although, yes, my name may be circled within hate and stuff but it's okay."

Wong said, "There's a real level of shame for all those trolls that are cowards not to actually put their face [out there], and they should feel a deep shame of what they're doing."

Wong added, "Let's all just play nice. Let's all just enjoy what we are representing. It's sad that fans in that country won't get to see this. But all we are doing is radiating representation, voicing the voiceless. And that's all that we can do; represent people so that they can be seen."

The "3 Body Problem" cast talks about the story, which was also a 30-part Chinese series several years ago. It's all good. The cast includes Jovan Adepo, Eiza González, John Bradley, Alex Sharp and Jonathan Pryce.

Dump on Trump
Now that the worst kept secret of who would be the presidential candidates is over and we don't have to pretend to wish Nikki Haley could oust Donald Trump as the GOP nominee, it's time to accept the reality that a legit Bond villain could take the White House again.

At his rally in Dayton, Ohio on March 16, Trump said that if he loses it will be a "bloodbath." He also said that some migrants are "not really people," and we know from history what happens when an autocrat dehumanizes whole groups of people. It never ends well. www.npr.org)

NBC's Seth Meyers has totally eclipsed Jon Stewart as the late-night comedian to watch for Trump takedowns. His "Closer Look" segments are both hilarious and terrifying and his humor reminds us that when he was head writer for "SNL" it was fabulously funny.

This week he detailed how Trump's lawyers argued that the case against him for stealing classified documents should be thrown out, even after a key witness came forward and revealed shocking new details about the suspicious behavior he saw at Mar-a-Lago.

Then Meyers showed us how Trump gave himself the nickname "Honest Don." You cannot make this stuff up. It's comedy gold, but it's also possibly the last days of the republic, so laugh or cry?

Station to station
ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff series "Station 19" features two bisexual women who find each other, have steamy chemistry and are hot AF, Italian OB-GYN Dr. Carina DeLuca (Stefania Spampinato) and Lieutenant/Captain Maya Bishop (Danielle Savre). Their hotness is so pervasive that Savre is learning Italian in real life for more on-screen verisimilitude.

Stefania Spampinato and Danielle Savre in 'Station 19' (photo: ABC)  

The final season for "Station 19" begins this week and all the promos are showing Maya and Carina in the shower, so here's that iconic scene. When Carina's visa was about to expire, Maya proposed. But Carina got scared and took off. Her ex, Gabriella had to talk her down. Carina went back to Maya and this happened: "What I know is I want to be in this beautiful mess of a changing world with you. Please, please, bambina — marry me?"

Insert all the heart emojis. If you want to see more of this lez-bi romance, "Station 19" airs Thursdays on ABC and all the time on Hulu.

X exed
So the gay creator of "X-Men '97" got fired mere days before the series premiere, and we still don't know why as Marvel isn't saying. Beau DeMayo created the Disney+ show "X-Men '97," which premieres March 20.

Beau DeMayo (photo: Instagram)  

In an exclusive, The Hollywood Reporter says DeMayo was getting prepped for press to promote the series, had "completed writing duties" for the show's second season and even planned on attending the Hollywood premiere of the show. (www.hollywoodreporter.com)

"He was even discussing loose ideas for a third season with members of his team," THR says, before he was fired. Cast and crew of the series were informed of his firing and his company email was deactivated. DeMayo's various social media accounts, including Instagram, have been deleted. It's a wild story and we want to know why a Black gay man was canned right after he did all the work but before he could share in the kudos. What the what?

Lemon exed by X
Speaking of Black gay men getting fired, Don Lemon, whose tiff with CNN got him fired after 17 years, is now in a tiff with Elon Musk. Though to be fair, who isn't in a tiff with Musk? Lemon agreed to a show on Twitter/X, as we reported here last month, but Musk didn't like the debut interview Lemon did with him, so he's breaking the contract which he says was never real anyway.

Elon Musk and Don Lemon  

In an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett March 13, Lemon shared video excerpts from the 90-minute sit-down, in which Lemon asked Musk questions on a myriad of issues and told Burnett that, "Elon publicly encouraged me to join X with a new show, saying I would have his 'full support.'"

Lemon said that he "took Musk at his word that he was interested in working directly with diverse voices." Not that diverse, apparently.

Musk, who's the biggest internet bully with his 150 million followers, compared the gay Lemon to Willy Wonka brat Veruca Salt. Insert eggplant emoji here.

CNN details how Lemon pressed Musk on hateful content and his meeting with Donald Trump. It gets ugly. And it's far from over, as Lemon is considering a lawsuit. www.cnn.com)

So, for all the drama, across time and space, you know you really must stay tuned.

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