‘American Soul’ Stars Talk Revisiting the ‘Soul Train’ Era for New BET Series

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The 10-episode collection airs Tuesday nights on BET.

BET's American Soul premiered Tuesday evening, kicking off a 10-part interval piece, set within the 1970s, detailing the lifetime of Don Cornelius -- not solely as host of the groundbreaking present Soul Train, but in addition as a pointy, media-savvy businessman and loving husband.

“My father all the time needed to do one thing on the large display,” says Don's son Tony Cornelius, govt producer of the scripted collection. “We’ve had writers write scripts for a Soul Train film. The scripts had been by no means actually ok in his eyes.”

Last week, BET invited NYC media to a screening of an prolonged sneak peek of American Soul. The collection merges fictional and real-life occurrences within the lifetime of Don Cornelius as he fought to construct the Soul Train model from the bottom up. There had been moments of triumph, anguish, injustice and elation inside just some minutes. Much of the group behind BET’s latest successes, together with The Bobby Brown Story and The New Edition Story, are concerned on this new collection as effectively, which Cornelius says was a significant factor in his choice making.

“It was sort of a match made in heaven,” he stated. “Through the management of [president] Scott Mills at BET and Connie Orlando [SVP of Music, News and Specials], we obtained along with Jesse Collins, one of many govt producers, together with Jonathan Prince and Devon Greggory, and we determined to not do a one-off, however a 10-episode collection.”

Singer/actress Kelly Price performs Brianne Clarke, one of many fictional characters based mostly on the truth of a tumultuous period. “My storyline represents the lifetime of the African-American household at the moment,” she revealed. “No two households are precisely the identical, however we cope with the battle that an African-American family could be coping with at the moment. So you see how the civil rights motion and the draft have an effect on my home. You see how the [Vietnam] battle impacts my home.

“I’m not a single mom, however I'm as a result of my husband is off at battle whereas I’m again at dwelling, holding it down, elevating the children, who're youngsters that need to turn into stars. ... I feel everybody is aware of a Brianne Clark.”

As for her personal reminiscences of Soul Train, the songstress says it was a way of delight and possession that stands out probably the most. “In my case, rising up within the initiatives of New York City, there have been a number of occasions the place we had been homeless, earlier than I turned an grownup,” Price remembers. “So this turned a fixture, a ritual and a cheerful reminiscence. Even if we didn’t have anyplace to reside or we had been crashing on anyone’s flooring, this was an hour each Saturday the place you may neglect about no matter was occurring. You may stand up on Saturday morning and neglect that you simply hadn’t had something to eat on Friday evening, that didn’t cease you from dancing with the dancers on Soul Train. It was simply figuring out that it was there and it was mine.”

Tony Cornelius revealed that his father’s shrewdness in enterprise, significantly along with his group, was from extra of a protecting stance than the rest. “Sometimes when individuals create one thing,” he stated, “They do give choices on your concepts, however he as soon as informed me that should you had been incorrect, he didn’t need you to need to take the blame for it. He needed to take the blame for it.

“He’d relatively or not it's his fault,” Cornelius continued. “He was very targeted and severe in regards to the selections [regarding the show].”

That kind of conviction and cemented self-assurance would depart an enormous problem for whoever was forged within the position of Don, however Sinqua Walls (Power, The Breaks) was devoted to determining who the host was as an individual. He revealed that part of his analysis included watching 100 episodes of Soul Train, along with each documentary that he may discover.

The first dialog Walls had with Tony Cornelius was about discovering “the essence” of who the person was, as an alternative of making an attempt to turn into him. “In step one, so far as speaking to Tony -- I all the time say that I’m simply so grateful that he’s part of this venture -- was simply to unpack the historical past of the person. You know, temperament comes from expertise and historical past, so for me it was actually about understanding who his father was in his life.

“From there,” Walls defined, “You can decide and pull and put colours in there as a result of you know the way the person would transfer and the place he would react that might be natural as a result of you then’re sitting in a second of volatility.”

The actor was only a child when Don Cornelius was on as Soul Train’s host, however he says that he remembers each little bit of what the present represented via the years -- even by means of all of the hosts thereafter. In truth, Walls has an thought about who he’d wish to see if the reside present is ever revived.

“Drake,” he stated, matter-of-factly, with out taking a breath. “Heck yeah. I’d say Drake, as a result of I simply assume he’s a really proficient particular person and I do know the hip-hop heads get into arguments in regards to the parts and the affect of Drake, however I feel he’s a sensible particular person, a sensible artist, and you already know Soul Train was all in regards to the efficiency.

“I'd simply like to see -- simply off of that video that he did with the Migos ['Walk It Talk It'] -- I’d like to see what he would do along with his Soul Train efficiency. The rebirth of Soul Train ought to embody Drake. Just just like the delivery of Soul Train was with Gladys Knight.”

American Soul airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on BET.