Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
July 30, 2015

Oscar Grant's Mother Tells Church 'Our Lives Matter'

When I visited Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, N.J. on July 19 and heard Johnson speak, six years after her son's death, it wasn't a dramatization of events it was real life. A mother poured her heart out to a congregation, which understood her pain.

Cop Pleads Not Guilty In Killing Of Sam DuBose

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

We Weep For African Lions. But What About Black Lives?

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Public Still Can't See The Eric Garner Grand Jury Records, Court Rules

Athena Image
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images

Activists Want To Know Why An ICE Officer Is Back At Work After Fatal Shooting

Athena Image
Facebook

#BlackLivesMatters Co-Founder ‘Mortified' By O'Reilly's 'Anarchistic' Comment

County Removes Confederate Flag, Replaces It With Another Confederate Flag

Walton County Confederate Flag
Michelle Uhlfelder

4 Huge Ways Obama Spoke Up For Women On His Historic Kenya Trip

Athena Image
SAUL LOEB via Getty Images

Boy, 8, Is First Child Ever To Receive Double Hand Transplant

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Black Trans Inmate Ashley Diamond Alleges New Sexual Assault

Athena Image
Getty Images/Vetta

Sandra Bland Memorial In Ottawa Defaced With Racial Slurs

Sandra Bland
Facebook/Black Lives Matter - Ottawa Coalition

Jail Defends Procedures Amid Scrutiny Of Sandra Bland's Death

Athena Image
Pat Sullivan/AP

In Just A Few Days, These Girls Designed Apps To Make Studying More Fun And Fight Bullying

Black Girls Code Hackathon
Twitter: Kimberly Bryant

Black Students In The U.S. Get Criminalized While White Students Get Treatment

Athena Image
Hemera Technologies

New Footage Of Sandra Bland Released

Bland
Courtesy of Bland family, File

This App Could Help Combat Racial Profiling During Traffic Stops

Athena Image
Courtesy of Mbye Njie

There Have Been 132 Pro-Confederate Flag Rallies Since The Charleston Shooting

Athena Image
Credit: Associated Press

Country's Youngest Convicted Killer Gets Released

Athena Image
Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today
Global Black Voices
 

Kenyan Artist Makes Unique Eyewear Out Of Recycled Electronics

Athena Image
Cyrus Kabiru

The Complicated Problem Of Race And Special Education

Athena Image
FREDERICK FLORIN via Getty Images

White House: Criminal Case Against Darren Wilson Closed For Good

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

North Carolina GOP Chair Ties Hillary Clinton To The KKK

Athena Image
Sean Rayford via Getty Images

Rapper Styles P Opens Up About His Daughter's Suicide

Athena Image
Stephen Lovekin via Getty Images

Black 'Harry Potter' Characters Aren't Just Beautiful -- They're Revolutionary

Racebent Hermione
dellbelle39.tumblr.com

Elisabeth Hasselbeck Suggests Sandra Bland Could Have Used Cigarette As A Weapon

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sheriff Where Sandra Bland Died Says There's No Racism In His County

Athena Image
Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

Ralkina Jones Dies In Jail In Cleveland Suburb

Ralkina Jones Ralkina Jones Dead Ralkina Jones Dea
WOIO

Bobby Brown Speaks Out After Daughter Bobbi Kristina's Death

Athena Image
Getty

Instagram Restricted Sandra Bland Hashtag To Block Hate Speech

Athena Image
Jonathan Gibby via Getty Images

Snoop Dogg Claims Swedish Police Racially-Profiled Him

Athena Image
Duane Prokop via Getty Images

Progressive Group Incorporates #BlackLivesMatter Into Endorsement Process

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sandra Bland Wasn't The Only Woman Abused By Male Cops In Texas

Athena Image
Jonathan Gibby via Getty Images

Democratic Senate Field Shaping Up To Be Most Diverse Ever

Athena Image
Getty/AP Images

Celebrities Honor Bobbi Kristina Brown On Twitter And Instagram

Celebrities
Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

Jim Crow-Era Folk Artist Captures The Haunting Ways We Envision Death

Untitled Date Unknown 75 X 55 X 45 Unfired Clay Al
Untitled Date unknown 7.5 x 5.5 x 4.5" Unfired clay, aluminum foil, human teeth Photograph by Marie Catalano Courtesy of Thomas E. Scanlin Collection

Autopsy Planned For Bobbi Kristina Brown

Athena Image
Getty

Loretta Lynch: Sandra Bland Case Highlights 'Frustration' With Police

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama Jokes About Birth Certificate During Kenya Visit

Obama Kenya
Thomson Reuters

Here's Why We Don't Hear About More Unjustified Police Shootings

Athena Image
Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Black Trooper In Powerful Viral Photo With White Supremacist Reveals What Really Happened

Leroy Smith South Carolina White Supremacist Race
Rob Godfrey/Twitter

Hundreds Mourn Sandra Bland As Questions Remain Over Her Death

Athena Image
Jonathan Gibby via Getty Images

FOLLOW HUFFPOST

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    3. View all RSS feeds

Queen Latifah And Mary J. Blige To Join NBC's 'The Wiz Live!'

Mary J Blige Queen Latifah
AP

Son Of Imprisoned Rapper Mac Phipps Says 'It's A Good Feeling' Dad May Be Home Soon

Mac Phipps
Sheila Phipps

The Weeknd Is Literally On Fire In 'Can't Feel My Face' Music Video

The Weeknd Cant Feel My Face
Apple Music

Jay Pharoah Opens Up About His Painful Battle With Depression

Jay Pharoah
HuffPost Live

Raven-Symoné Was Told What To Eat As A Child Star After 'Getting Fat'

Ravensymone
ABC

How Excusing Tyga And Kylie Jenner's Relationship Validates The Sexualization of Young Girls

Athena Image
Mike Windle via Getty Images

New 'Daily Show' Host Trevor Noah: 'I'm A Connoisseur Of Racism'

Trevor Noah
Comedy Central

'Empire' Costars Grace Gealey And Trai Byers Engaged

Ap
Grace Gealey Trai Byers Engaged

New York Summer Camp Gives Homeless Children A Chance To Just Be Kids

Athena Image
Homes for the Homeless

What You Need To Know About 'Independence Day: Resurgence'

Independence Day
20th Century Fox

Jaden Smith Walks Around Italy With A Giant Mug In New 'Scarface' Video

Jaden Smith Scarface
490tx

7 More Documentaries To Stream On Netflix

Nina Simone
Radical Media

Tyrese Gibson Calls Out 'White' Radio Stations For Being Racist

Celebrities
Jemal Countess via Getty Images

Danielle Brooks Shows Off Body Confidence With Gym Selfie

Danielle Brooks Body Confidence
Instagram

Rihanna Was Reportedly Blocked From Playing A Free Concert

Athena Image
Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images

Police Officer Shares Meal With Homeless Man To Make Him Feel like 'Just Another Person'

Police Officer Ocala Police Department
TiAnna S. Greene/Facebook

100 Queer Characters Of Color Who Show Why Media Should Diversify

Athena Image
Katy Winn/Invision/AP

Coco And Ice T Are Expecting Their First Child Together

Athena Image
Ilya S. Savenok via Getty Images

Dionne Warwick Remembers Bobbi Kristina Brown

Athena Image
Larry Busacca via Getty Images

The Moment Charlamagne Tha God Stopped Defending Bill Cosby

Charlamagne Tha God Huffpost Live Charlamagne Tha
HuffPost Live

Patriarch Of Musical Jackson Family Suffers A Stroke

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

These Photos Prove Iman Is More Fierce And Flawless Than Ever!

Iman
Iman/Instagram

Paul Mooney On Cosby's Legacy: He Got His 'N****r Wake-up Call'

Paul Mooney
Courtesy of Jill Newman Productions

‘Empire’ Star Derek Luke Slams Followers For Criticizing Wife's Race

Actpr Tavern On The Green National Board Of Review
Matthew Peyton via Getty Images

'Key & Peele' To End After Current Season

Athena Image
Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

Charlamagne Tha God Weighs In On The Accusations Against Drake

Athena Image
Rich Fury/Invision/AP

50 Cent Ordered To Pay Additional $2 Million In Sex Tape Case

Athena Image
Andrew H. Walker via Getty Images

Nicki Minaj And Taylor Swift's Drama Is Officially 'Over'

Athena Image
Larry Busacca via Getty Images

Being An Athlete Isn't Just About Playing Sports, And It Shouldn't Be

Athena Image
ASSOCIATED PRESS

7 South African Fashion Brands That Will Make You Swoon

Thula Sindi
Thula Sindi

'It Takes Us' Photo Project Shows Survivors Of Gun Violence

Athena Image
Joe Quint

The Problem With Asking Football Players To Act Like White Guys

Athena Image
George Rose via Getty Images

Naomi Campbell Will Face-Off With Lady Gaga In 'American Horror Story: Hotel'

Athena Image
Jemal Countess via Getty Images

J. Cole Joins Janet Jackson In New Video For 'No Sleeep'

Janet Jackson J Cole No Sleeep
YouTube

Kandi Burruss Is Pregnant, Expecting Child With Husband Todd Tucker

Ama
Jason Merritt via Getty Images

Tweet



A graduate of Princeton University and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Shelton credits Bill Cosby, Spike Lee and Paris Barclay, among others, for teaching her the ropes in the industry.

BlackVoices.com recently caught up with the highly creative writer-director, who spoke about how she landed an internship working on the monumental film 'Do the Right Thing,' the first time she met Bernie Mac and where she was when she found out she was nominated for an Emmy.


BlackVoices.com: Congrats on your recent NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series for 'Men of a Certain Age.' Your work has been recognized by the NAACP before. What are some of your fondest memories of working with the late Bernie Mac?
Millicent Shelton: Bernie was a great guy. The first time that I met Bernie, before I started directing an episode, I walked into his office and said, "Hi, I'm Millicent Shelton, and I'm directing the next episode." And he said, "Who are you?" And I said, "I'm directing the next episode." And he said, "Says who?" [laughs]. And I said, "The producers" [laughs]. And he goes, "No one talked to me." And he goes, "What have you done?" And I told him. At the time I had mostly done music videos and one feature film. And he goes, "Don't like music videos." And then he said, "Where are you from?" And I said, "St. Louis." And he goes, "I'm from Chicago. I don't know if I like people from St. Louis."

Throughout the whole episode -- it was an episode featuring Anthony Anderson -- the two of them would just rip on me. Anything that had to do with a joke, Millicent was a part of the joke. At the very last day of shooting, at wrap, Bernie came up to me and said, "I like you. You have thick skin." And then he hired me again. Bernie was a great guy. It was a tremendous loss. He was a caring guy and I loved working with him. When he found out I was pregnant and he saw me, he said, "I gotta see those babies when you have them." And I literally had the kids about four months before he passed away. Bernie didn't forget you. He's one of a kind.



BV: In 2009, you received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for directing an episode of '30 Rock,' making you the first African American woman to receive a nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series. Where were you when you found out you were nominated?
MS: When I found out, I was doing 'Ruby and the Rockits,' a multi-camera show for ABC Family. I was in my car driving and playing 'I Got a Feeling' and singing really loud. And I get at the studio and get out the car, and the A.D. says, "Congratulations." And I said, "For what?" We walk into the stage and she pulls out this big printout for all the Emmy nominations and I look at it and I see my name, and I was like, "You've got to be kidding me." It was very shocking. I feel really honored to be nominated. I think I was in shock until the awards ceremony was over.

BV: You started off directing music videos. In 1991, you directed Salt-N-Pepa's video for 'Let's Talk About Sex.' Would you say that was one of the most important videos of your career?
MS: I do think that is one of the most important videos in my career because, at that time, the effect AIDS was having on the black community was really starting to come to the forefront. No one had really addressed it. I heard the song, came up with a concept and I talked to them about it. I told them that I think we should address safe sex and we should address AIDS. We had a really great conversation. After we shot the video, we did an AIDS campaign. We did a town hall meeting with Peter Jennings and we did an AIDS PSA. It became something that really did speak to a community and open a lot of eyes.

But there are a lot of videos that I remember fondly. I remember doing my first Aaliyah video, 'Back and Forth.' Right before we shot the video, they had the huge earthquake in L.A. A couple of days before we were supposed to shoot, R. Kelly promptly got on a plane and flew back to Chicago [laughs]. We had to find a new location. But it was fun. It was great working with Aaliyah. It was her first video. She was really young. She wore the sunglasses because she was a little shy. You're talking about another very special person; that was Aaliyah.

BV: Bill Cosby was a mentor of yours early on in your career. What did you learn from him?
MS:
I worked as a production assistant in wardrobe on 'Do the Right Thing,' and I worked as a production assistant in wardrobe on 'The Cosby Show.' The wardrobe department was right next to Mr. Cosby's office. I would go in there and talk to him. During hiatuses, I saved my money and started working on a short film. Every time I would have a little bit of it cut, I would go in and show it to him. And he would give me comments. He gave me really harsh constructive criticism, but it was great.

He was good in helping me find who I was as a director and sort of letting me see what a director needs to be. When he looked at my films the first time, he gave me really straightforward criticism. He made me make decisions. That's a big thing for a director to learn.

BV: How was it working on 'Do the Right Thing'?
MS
: I was greener than green. I was before green [laughs]. When I got to 'Do the Right Thing,' I had just graduated from college. I had no idea how I was going to get into the entertainment industry and I had no inroads.

Spike's brother David had gone to school with one of my older sisters. And my sister called and said, "David's brother is doing a movie." So Spike was known as David's brother [laughs]. I sent a cover letter off to Spike, and when I graduated and got back to St. Louis, I put a call into the office, and they put Spike on the telephone and he said he wanted to meet me. Luckily, one of my graduation gifts was a trip to Puerto Rico and I had a layover in New York. So, during the layover, I went down to Brooklyn and had a meeting with Spike. At that point, I think I had been offered a job in D.C. for something like $200 a week. Spike offered me an internship on 'Do the Right Thing,' and he said, "If you take that job in D.C., it's going to be the biggest mistake of your life." So I said, "When do you need me back here." He said, "Two days." I went back to St. Louis and told my parents I was going to work on 'Do the Right Thing,' and I was going to live in New York, and I was leaving in two days. It was an amazing experience.

I was walking down the street with Ossie Davis on one of the first shooting days. Halfway down the block he was just Ossie Davis, and then the other halfway he changed into Da Man, his character in the film. His posture. Everything changed. I had never been exposed to an actor that great before.

I don't think people give Spike as much credit as he deserves. One of the things that he was insistent upon was making sure that he had people of color in his crew. That little bit of effort is all it takes to open a way for a lot of people to get their foot in the door and make their own way.

BV: Speaking of women in the industry, there aren't too many women directors in Hollywood, especially black women, relatively speaking -- Gina Prince Bythewood is one, Debbie Allen, Julie Dash, Kasi Lemmons. Do you feel that you have had some obstacles to overcome in your career, and if so, how did you overcome them?
MS
: I never really had obstacles to overcome in my career. My first film did not turn out well, and I was put in director jail. It was a really difficult time, but in retrospect, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It made me really commit to being a director and making it work. I made a choice to go into television. I shadowed an African American director, Paris Barclay, who has won two Emmys. I hung out on TV sets with him and learned the craft of directing television. And another director that I followed was David Nutter. Literally, it took me three years to get my first break, which was on an episode of 'Barbershop.'

It is a boy's network, so, as a female, you sort of have to figure out where you fit in. It's challenging because it's just not set up for you. It would be easier if it was ideally just based on the quality of your work, but that's not how this industry works. There is bureaucracy behind it.

My advice for budding filmmakers would be learn your craft, know the industry, because that's one thing that got me in trouble. I really didn't know the ins and the outs. My advice for female directors is if you're not secure in your craft and in your vision, you are liable to sway, and sometimes you shouldn't. The other thing I would say is that you have to persevere. It's not going to be easy. Don't ever give up.
Tagged as: Emmy awards, EmmyAwards, film, millicent shelton, MillicentShelton, music videos, MusicVideos, NaacpImageAwards, Spike Lee, SpikeLee, women directors, WomenDirectors
Email This

Comments: (1)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 1
More on Black Voices

Follow Us

Most Commented Articles

Daily Drama

The Best Clips From TV's Hottest Shows


More Daily Drama >>

Bossip

feed

The Urban Daily

feed
Around the Web