“I’m ready to get my immortal on!”
That’s what actor Reno Wilson said between takes while shooting the last webisode for From Cape Town with Love Friday in Newport Beach—which stood in for Cape Town. The scenes, starring and directed by Blair Underwood, were about a private detective-slash-bodyguard named Tennyson Hardwick.
But the ghost of My Soul to Keep and Dawit, my African Immortal, hovers.
Blair has been trying to get a My Soul to Keep film mounted since 1998. Years ago, he shot beautiful footage in Lalibela, Ethiopia, to try to pave the way. He and producing partners Nia Hill and D’Angela Steed of Strange Fruit Films set it up at studio before my 6-year-old son was born. But when a film is stuck in development, it’s hard to get it moving. Hollywood’s waters are difficult to navigate for everyone—but especially for black projects.
Once, I ran into a bestselling author who’s had films produced from her books—my heroine! When I chirped that I’d moved to Southern California to have a greater role in adapting my books, she grabbed my shoulders and said: “Don’t do it!”
Trust me, I understand why she felt that way.
“You’re really loving this, aren’t you?” Blair said to me today on the balcony of the beachfront house where the scenes were shot.
“Like a kid at Disney Land,” I said.
Cameras were rolling. Actors were reciting lines. In today’s scenes, Tennyson Hardwick meets Sofia Maitlin, an Oscar-winning actress who hires him as a bodyguard when she visits a township to adopt a South African baby. Their meeting sets the novel into motion.
My husband, Steven Barnes, and I wrote the screenplay for the webisodes only weeks ago—milliseconds ago, in Hollywood Time—and today, we watched our characters play their cat-and-mouse game exactly the way we imagined it.
The webisodes will appear soon. Special Tags inserted in the next printing of the novel will help smartphones find them on the internet. Other platforms in the webisodes’ future include the iPhone and iPad. We’re trying to pioneer with technology too.
Where does it all lead? Greater book sales? A movie? It’s impossible to say.
For me, it was good enough to enjoy the beach and the sun while the cameras rolled.
(From Cape Town with Love will be published May 18). Want to see more PHOTOS? Check out the Tennyson Hardwick Facebook Fan Page.