The hip-hop impresario told TheWrap he's spending his own money and time to integrate the entertainment business
The early hip-hop producer, Phat Farm clothing line founder and author of “Success Through Stillness” moved from back east to the West Coast earlier this year.
“I moved here, so I could meditate with my kids in the morning and take them to school,” Russell Simmons told TheWrap. That would be the calm before the storm.
Simmons is spending a lot of money and most of his time producing movies and television pilots these days. “Telling stories is my fulltime job now,” he said.
His goal? To integrate Hollywood. He believes Tinsel Town is stuck in a time of segregation. By that, he means movies aren't casting blindly and are only marketing to white or black audiences.
“You think in the last 15 years there was no black comedians or you think that they haven't been integrated properly?” he asked, referring to the '90s when Martin Lawrence, Cedric the Entertainer, Chris Tucker, and Steve Harvey were having their moments.
“J.B. Smoove got the part that 20 black 40-year-old comedians wanted,” he continued. “He got it, he's now a pop star. The rest of these guys are stuck playing for 10% of the population. There has been no integration since that period where everybody got a break.”
Simmons hopes to fix that. He says he has movie projects with every studio. Plus, he has a first-look deal with HBO. Sometimes he has investors, other times he finances his projects himself. They have diverse casts and up-and-coming (also read budget-friendly) young directors and writers.
This past Wednesday, he screened his new TV pilot, “The Big Leaf,” during the All Def Comedy Live Show at L.A.'s Inside Jokes Comedy Club in front of a lot of potential partners, including HBO.
The half-hour pilot follows two brothers, played by Tony Rock and Jo D Jonz (pictured above), trying to keep financially afloat by opening a marijuana dispensary in Venice, Calif.
“I'd like HBO to like it and put it on Cinemax or put in on HBO obviously, but you know, that may not happen,” Simmons said. “HBO has a personal deal with me, but also there's a lot a lot of buyers for a show like this.”
Simmons said that even though Hollywood is segregated, it hasn't been hard for him to make deals out here. He believes that when you show someone something, like what it's like to have integrated TV shows and film, that they see your point.
“A black resurgence in Hollywood doesn't mean anything to me,” he clarified. “It does mean something to a lot of the executives who will give more breaks to black leads in pop movies. But, I've seen five resurgences of black film. I worked with all that lots of times. A resurgence in black film is not what I'm after… integration in Hollywood, in staffing, in all those things… that's what I'm looking for.”