LOOK WHO’S NEXT Interview: Ashlee Danielle & Jarred Solomon of Uhuru Now Web Series

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With 2017 drawing near, a slew of new web series are ready to make a big impact and one of them is Uhuru Now. Set in New York City, Uhuru Now “follows six college students attending Lorenzo Jason University (LJU) while seeking purpose in their lives. Whether they’re finding truth, trust, vulnerability, or themselves, each student is in search of something.  As they embark on the journey to find their place in society as young black men and women, they join LJU’s Pan African society ‘Uhuru Now’ which allows them to explore the social issues they’re forced to face daily.  As all six learn to adjust to new territory while balancing their relationships, identity, and new-found freedoms, they are striving for one common goal – to use this platform to discuss much needed change and growth in this country.  Each Uhuru Now meeting compels the characters to re-evaluate how they think and relate, as we sit back and watch their personal relationships unfold.”

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Premiering in summer 2017, this interesting web series currently has a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo with 13 days left for anyone to help contribute. Uhuru Now stars co-creators Ashlee Danielle & Jarred Solomon, Aaron Johnson, Carmen Noelia, Barbyly Noel, and Brandon Mellette, as well as Steven Strickland, Shameeka Bromfield, and Jacqueline Springfield. Check out my recent interview with Ashlee & Jarred about Uhuru Now, how they got started in acting, and more below, as well as the official teaser.

-How did both of you get started in the acting?

Ashlee: I was a Communication Arts major at St. John’s University, and I took an acting elective just for fun. Originally I planned on being a singer/songwriter but as soon as I took my first acting class I was enamored by it. My teacher than told me about a program St. John’s was having at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and that I should audition. After that the rest is history. 

Jarred: I have always been fascinated by actor’s abilities to embody a different person’s life for the purpose of telling a story.  After graduating high school, I was able to pursue my career in the way I always wanted to. Wanting film and TV to be my main focus, I was reluctant about initially being cast in theater productions but quickly came to love theater.  Since then, I have gradually moved into more film and TV roles, and have recently been exploring the production side of the business.

-How did Uhuru Now come about?

With all of the things surrounding Black Lives Matter and police brutality, we bonded over these issues and the relationship dynamics between men and women. Through this, we realized there is an empty space in the realm of telling the stories of millennials and how it affects us. Once we established that the premise of the show would surround the idea of an on campus Pan African organization, we created the six main characters and began the writing process.

-How did the title come about?

Uhuru is the Swahili word meaning freedom. The title and show is inspired by a Pan African organization called Haraya that Ashlee was a part of while attending St. John’s University. Haraya is the Swahili word meaning pride. The coalition allowed her and the other African American students on campus to speak on the social issues that were happening daily, giving the students a platform to be heard.

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-What would you both say is the difference between Uhuru Now and other projects(series, web series) focusing on the lives of college students?

It represents a demographic that is not often talked about or shown on television. There is often a poster image of the college experience that is not necessarily true for all black scholars. Our experiences are unique, especially when attending a predominately white institution. It also raises questions about issues that are not typically addressed in this format. Black scholars face a lot of adversity socially and emotionally in these spaces. This show is the outlet to explore these complexities.

-After the IndieGogo campaign is over, what do you both hope to accomplish with the show??

The Indiegogo campaign is to help with production of season one of Uhuru Now. After season one is complete, we plan to make a film festival run with the series and continue with the development of the show. We definitely would not count out the amazing possibility of a deal with a network or online entity.

-What do you hope viewers will get from the show?

We hope they find security in knowing that their stories are being told as honestly as possible.  Giving them a sense of relief that there is something for them and by them. We also want to give them the ability to receive and understand perspectives that may be different from their own, and mirror their sentiments to their peers. Millennials do not often have many safe spaces to express their perspectives or views without their ideas being dismissed or disregarded. While addressing important issues, like colorism, mental illness in the black community, misogyny, patriarchy, and the black lives matter movement, we acknowledge the different journeys these six characters are on.

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-What advice would you both give to someone who wants to get into acting/writing?

Be true to yourself and learn to navigate the high and lows of this type of career. If you are interested in acting, start by taking a few classes, and identify why you want to be an actor. The business of acting will be tough at times, but constantly reminding yourself of why you’re doing it will get you through. As far as writing, putting our ideas on paper first helped us a lot. An outline of the premise and where you see each character going will drive the writing process.

-What is next for Uhuru Now?

The journey has just begun! After our IndieGogo campaign(bit.ly/UhuruNowCampaign) is complete, we will dive deeper into pre-production, continue to develop the script, and begin rehearsals. In the months of March and April 2017, the show will be filmed and it will premier in the summer of 2017.

VISIT Uhuru Now’s official website, FOLLOW the show on Twitter, LIKE the show on Facebook, and FOLLOW the show on Instagram.

Photo Credit: Uhuru Now/Ashlee Danielle/Jarred Solomon

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