Three’s A Crowd: Should Alicia Pursue Gio — And Not Mike — On Are You The One: Second Chances?

Alicia notoriously came between not one but two Are You the One? couples (Kam and Edward and Hannah and Ozzy) — and the New Jersey native is up to her old tricks on Second Chances.

During the series’ premiere, Alicia was quick to trade in her PM Mike for Season 4 token hothead Gio.

“I think me and Gio are very similar,” Alicia admitted. “If me and him were in the same season, honestly, we might have been a perfect match together.”

Hey, you toss 10 kinda-sorta couples in a house together with an abundance of booze and beds, and scientifically compatible pairs might get cozy with other folks…

Cue Gio — who coincidentally tried to come between Stephen and Julia — planting one on Alicia right in front of Mike, following his streak-fest through the winners’ suite.

Poor, heartbroken Mike. Doesn’t the Staten Island resident (and his chesticles) deserve a shot at love too? After all, he did sweetly refer to Alicia as “the hottest girl in the house.” Or is Alicia right to “follow her heart” and pursue forbidden fruit of seasons past — aka Gio — despite having perfect-match potential with Mike? Sound off in the comments, and watch more developments surrounding this Second Chances trio Wednesday at 9/8c!

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The Price Of Neverland

The ranch where Michael Jackson built Neverland is up for sale again. The carnival rides were removed long ago, some of them bought by the Queen Mary, a historic docked ship and tourist attraction in Long Beach that brings out the “Sinister Swings” for Halloween. The wild animals were relocated, with tigers Thriller and Sabu moved to The Birds star Tippi Hedren’s wild big cat preserve in Acton, California. The flamingos expatriated to a New Jersey zoo. Sadly, the whereabouts of the elephant named Gypsy that Michael received as a gift from Elizabeth Taylor are unknown.

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Bubbles, the chimpanzee that Jackson adopted from a Texas research hospital in the 1980s, is still alive. Bubbles famously lived with the star — first sleeping in a crib at the Jackson family compound in Encino, then moving with Michael to Neverland — and accompanied him on the Bad world tour. Their public appearances together throughout the ’80s fueled Jackson’s growing reputation as an eccentric. After making the successful leap from child star to the world’s biggest celebrity, he was veering further into his personal obsession with youth and whimsy. Tabloids branded him “Wacko Jacko,” and a 1988 Jeff Koons sculpture of MJ and Bubbles in porcelain kitsch style added to the idea of him as a fragile weirdo.


Jackson was sensitive to the criticisms he got from the media snipers who lambasted his friendly relationships with Elizabeth Taylor and Bubbles alike. In 1987’s “Leave Me Alone,” he addressed the rumors directly, pleading with the public for a little privacy. The video, a stop-motion animation of a log flume ride through his funhouse-mirrored existence, joked about some of the unsubstantiated tales about his life — including the one that said he’d bid on Joseph “The Elephant Man” Merrick’s bones after seeing David Lynch’s film about Merrick, and that he saw parallels between himself and the hyperintelligent Englishman whose deformed physical appearance led to fame as a Victorian circus freak.

In his early teens, Jackson was transplanted from Gary, Indiana, to the tony Los Angeles suburb of Encino, in the San Fernando Valley. He lived at the Jackson family’s one-acre compound there until the year of “Leave Me Alone,” when, at nearly 30, he started looking at properties in the Santa Barbara area. Jackson had accumulated a large menagerie of animals that were outgrowing the Valley house, and he wanted a place that could also house his collection of snakes, llamas, birds — and, of course, Bubbles. After checking out a few other ranches for sale, he fell in love with the 2,700-acre property known as Zaca Laderas Ranch, where Paul McCartney stayed while the two filmed the video for their duet “Say Say Say.”

The ranch, originally developed by golf course magnate William Bone in 1977, featured a 13,000-square-foot French Normandy–style chateau. Jackson purchased it for $17.5 million (down from Bone’s asking price of $60 million) and set about turning it into a facsimile of his real dream home, Disneyland — installing carnival rides and a small train depot that is a near-exact replica of the one at Disneyland Park. The flowers at the entrance to Jackson’s home spelled out “NEVERLAND,” in place of the ones in Anaheim that form a Mickey Mouse face.

Jackson’s issues with his own physical appearance manifested psychologically long before they became obvious to the world. He reportedly underwent his first rhinoplasty in 1979 after injuring his nose during a dance routine, and he was diagnosed with the skin-pigment condition vitiligo in the ’80s. He had follow-up nose jobs throughout the decade, but denied them to the press at first, claiming that the changes in his face were strictly the result of puberty. One theory went that he wanted to alter his appearance so as to stop resembling his father, Joe Jackson, whom Michael would later accuse of physical and emotional abuse. Another theory is that Jackson was affected by a potent cocktail of body dysmorphic disorder, unfettered access to revolutionary new surgeries, and nobody around to advise him against them. As with so much else about him, Jackson’s relationship to his blackness and his outward appearance was — and is — the subject of endless speculation.

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Like many stars who lose access to any real privacy outside their homes, Jackson chose to build a compound where everything he could possibly want would exist. Unable to step outside of Neverland without being monitored, and afraid of being documented unflatteringly, he made it so that he never had to leave the house. But naming the property after the place where Peter Pan and his Lost Boys lived as eternal children proved to be a bad choice, as Jackson was increasingly dogged by rumors that he sexually abused boys. The carnival rides and theme-park style of the property became seen as a trap Jackson used to lure kids, particularly vulnerable, impoverished, or sick ones, to stay at his remote, lavish estate.

There was always a darkness lurking underneath Jackson’s fairy-tale life. His lifelong identification with Peter Pan was tinged with the macabre undertone of the original story: Peter Llewelyn Davies, the real-life child who inspired Scottish author J.M. Barrie’s early-20th-century writings, grew up to become a troubled man who eventually committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. There are interpretations of the Peter Pan story, too, that see Peter as an eerie psychopomp who lures children to leap out of high windows to their deaths, with Neverland as the promised afterlife.

For Jackson, idealizing the myth of the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was tied to the feeling that he had been robbed of a normal childhood when his stage father pushed him and his siblings into performing as a way to escape crushing poverty. That they succeeded so spectacularly allowed Jackson money and power with which to approximate an idyllic, carefree childhood world of climbing trees and spending hours playing aimlessly — experiences he’d never had as a child whose free hours were spent rehearsing.

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Like Elvis Presley before him, Jackson’s ascent to unparalleled heights of pop fame ultimately made him isolated and paranoid. Neverland, like Elvis’s Graceland, was mocked by outsiders for its baroque tackiness, but Jackson saw it as a world he could mold to his own frozen-in-childhood internal tastes — equal parts Peter Pan and Richie Rich. And as long as he remained behind the gates, no one could see or judge him. When the rumors began to circulate that the children whom Jackson brought in for playdates were being played with in more nefarious, sexual ways, some suggested that Jackson himself felt and acted like a child. His fixation on childhood and innocence only intensified as he himself aged, defying conventional maturation.

In time, the childlike home Jackson built was plagued by the consequences of its lack of grown-up supervision. Bubbles allegedly started a fire at Neverland in the early ’90s by playing with matches, but he was not banned from the estate until 2003, when Jackson decided the chimp posed a risk to his young son, Prince Michael II. Rashida Jones recently spoke about being bitten by Bubbles as a kid while hanging out with her dad and MJ in the ’80s. As an adult male chimp, Bubbles proved too aggressive to handle, and Jackson entrusted care of the chimp to an animal sanctuary in Sylmar.

Forcing a great ape to live a quasi-human life is abusive. In 2004, Bubbles was finally relocated to a more appropriate home — the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida — and the chimp who reportedly always hated cameras has embraced retirement from the public eye. He is now 33 years old, and his keepers were quoted a few years ago saying that he has become “huge and ugly,” but “now has a ‘sweet’ character and likes painting and listening to flute music.”

Although Bubbles didn’t get any of Jackson’s inheritance and the animal sanctuary depends on donations, it seems like a relatively happy ending for an animal that was kept in an unsuitable environment for decades against its will, after narrowly escaping becoming a lab-testing subject. According to one 2009 story, “Bubbles also spends much of his time sitting quietly in trees with his best friend Sam, a 40-year-old chimpanzee.”

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Michael moved out of Neverland after he was acquitted in his 2005 trial for alleged child sex abuse. He went first to Bahrain, which his brother Jermaine Jackson later admitted is also where Michael likely would have moved if he had been convicted. Michael lived there as a guest of his friend Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, but the friendship fell apart after Jackson reportedly recorded but failed to release a Hurricane Katrina benefit single the sheikh had written called “He Who Makes the Sky Gray.”

So Jackson relocated again, this time to Ireland. By this point, despite his criminal acquittal, his reputation had been tarnished beyond repair by the allegations and the public sense that something was likely deeply rotten in Neverland. While he always retained a large, worldwide fan base that would not accept the possibility that Jackson was a sexual abuser, many other fans came to accept that loving MJ’s music and Jackson himself were two entirely different things.

Around the late 2000s, Neverland Ranch was shut down and put up for sale — Jackson was delinquent on paying back loans adding up to $270 million. The estate sat untouched and unbought, fully permeated at last by controversy instead of fame. It was foreclosed in 2008, and Jackson transferred the title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company LLC, not clearing his debt but netting him a $30 million payoff. Neverland’s artifacts — memorabilia from his decades-long career, plus a strange trove of things purchased by a rich star who seemingly bought everything the Sharper Image catalogue ever sold — were scheduled to be auctioned off in April 2009, but an increasingly unwell Jackson canceled the auction before it took place.

Eamonn McCormack/WireImage

The following year, Jackson planned to embark on the This Is It comeback tour with 50 sold-out shows in London. He had begun rehearsals with choreographer director Kenny Ortega at the Staples Center when he entered cardiac arrest at his new L.A. home. Dr. Conrad Murray was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering the anesthesia and anti-anxiety drugs that killed him. Jackson’s body was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.

To reach Neverland, you take California State Route 154, which runs through the Santa Ynez Mountains. The highway connects the wealthy beaches of Santa Barbara to the California wine country where the movie Sideways took place. Route 154 is a paved-over version of the original San Marcos Pass, and it feels so rickety and rugged when you drive it that it’s not a surprise to learn it was originally a stagecoach route from the 1840s. It’s known for being dangerously narrow, and car headlights are required even during the day.

The road takes you past the manmade Lake Cachuma, built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in the 1950s. At a nearby state park, you can find some of the oldest cave paintings in California, created by the native Chumash people long before white settlers arrived and attacked. Weekenders on trips out from Los Angeles take 154 to quaint tourist spots like the Danish-styled Solvang and Buellton, the home of Pea Soup Andersen’s. At the top of the Santa Ynez mountains is another famous isolated ranch compound belonging to a polarizing cultural figure of the 1980s: Rancho del Cielo, the vacation home of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

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Now rebranded as Sycamore Valley Ranch, the Neverland property is deep in the Santa Ynez Valley, far away from the tourist towns and not visible from the main road. The flowers that spell out “NEVERLAND” remain, despite the rebrand. So do the train depot and tracks, although the train has been sold off — any buyers will have to provide their own train. There’s also a movie theater, a dance studio, and countless guest houses.

While the lurid history of Neverland might put off potential buyers, the fact that Jackson lived here is still a lure to some. There were rumors in 2015 that Kanye West wished to purchase it as a home for himself and Kim Kardashian. Instead, they bought an enormous compound in the West Valley area of Hidden Hills. Bone originally developed the property that became Neverland with the intent of turning it into a country club, and now that the price has been slashed, ending up as a golf course or vineyard is the land’s most likely fate. The ghosts and rumors will keep away some but not all people with $67 million to burn. Even with the new name, the Neverland area will always feel somewhat like Jackson’s mausoleum. When enough big money is in play, there is no part of California whose violent, contentious history cannot be redeveloped into another green world.

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Gorillaz Drop Four New Songs And Animated Videos From New Album Humanz

At long last, Gorillaz — Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s genre-defying animated band — has returned to announce its first album in six years. Humanz will arrive on April 28, and marks the official follow-up to 2011’s The Fall.

The exciting announcement comes with four new songs: “Ascension,” featuring a fiery Vince Staples; the passionate call to arms “We Got the Power,” featuring Jehnny Beth; “Andromeda,” a spacey cut with a playful verse from D.R.A.M.; and “Saturn Barz,” featuring Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan. The latter track also received a wild video in which the animated crew explores a surreal haunted house (a 360-degree virtual reality version of it is available on YouTube).

Albarn premiered the new tracks on BBC Radio 1, where he spoke about the upcoming album’s narrative, saying, “The album kind of came from this dark fantasy. Just imagine, the weirdest, most unpredictable thing that changes everything in the world. How would you feel on that night? Would you go and get drunk? Would you stay at home? Just watch TV? Would you talk to people?”

Along with the featured artists on the four newly released tracks, Humanz also boasts features from Mavis Staples, Pusha T, Danny Brown, Grace Jones, De La Soul, Kelela, and more. The album’s standard edition spans 14 tracks, with the deluxe edition tacking on five bonus cuts. See the full tracklist below.

Humanz track list:

1. “Ascension” ft. Vince Staples

2. “Strobelite” ft. Peven Everett

3. “Saturnz Barz” ft. Popcaan

4. “Momentz” ft. De La Soul

5. “Submission” ft. Danny Brown and Kelela

6. “Charger” ft. Grace Jones

7. “Andromeda” ft. D.R.A.M.

8. “Busted and Blue”

9. “Carnival ft. Anthony Hamilton

10. “Let Me Out” ft. Mavis Staples and Pusha T

11. “Sex Murder Party” ft. Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz

12. “She’s My Collar” ft. Kali Uchis

13. “Hallelujah Money” ft. Benjamin Clementine

14. “We Got The Power” ft. Jehnny Beth

Deluxe edition:

15. “The Apprentice” ft. Rag’n’ Bone Man, Zebra Katz, and RAY BLK

16. “Halfway To The Halfway House” ft. Peven Everett

17. “Out Of Body” ft. Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz, and Imani Vonshà

18. “Ticker Tape” ft. Carly Simon and Kali Uchis

19. “Circle Of Friendz” ft. Brandon Markell Holmes

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Zayn’s And PartyNextDoor’s New Song Will Make You Want To Skip Straight To Summer

We’re only two days into spring, but Summer ’17 is already here, if Zayn has anything to say about it. After getting sultry with Taylor Swift on “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” the former 1D member has returned with a summer-ready new single.

On “Still Got Time,” Zayn and Toronto rapper PARTYNEXTDOOR trade reassurances over a laid-back groove drenched in tropical vibes. “Just stop looking for love, girl you’ve still got time,” they casually croon over smooth production from Frank Dukes and Murda Beatz. The only groaner from this otherwise chill-as-fuck vibefest is PND’s verse, which plays off that awful pick-up line about wearing a shirt that’s “boyfriend material.” Go ahead and shrug that off, though; the rest of it’s a certified jam.

“Still Got Time” is the first single from Zayn’s upcoming sophomore album, due out — appropriately enough — this summer.

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The Untold Story Of D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty’s ‘Broccoli’

Broccoli, the vegetable, is usually very polarizing: You either love it or hate it. “Broccoli,” the song by D.R.A.M. featuring Lil Yachty, however, is pretty universally beloved. Almost one full year after its initial release, the song has gone four times platinum, racked up over 300 million streams on Spotify, and earned both D.R.A.M. and Yachty their first Grammy Award nominations. But the making of the iconic bop was something its stars barely discussed — even with each other — until MTV News caught up with the pair ahead of their performance at the 2017 Woodies.

“It was like fairy dust,” D.R.A.M. explained. “It just happened — poof!”

“The crazy thing is: I did the verse in six minutes and then I left, and then D.R.A.M. pieced the whole thing together,” Yachty said of the recording process. “He just sent it to me the next day as a rough, and it was done.”

It sounds a little far-fetched for a song as earwormy or as critically and commercially successful as “Broccoli” to have appeared out of thin air, but the more Big Baby and Yachty retell the experience, the clearer it becomes that the pair barely discusses the song — both during its creation and after it became a veritable hit.

At one point in the interview, Yachty asks D.R.A.M. how he came up with the hook. “It was whatever popped into the top of my mind at the time,” D.R.A.M. answered, adding that what ended up on the recording was even the first take.

“I never even knew that,” Yachty added. “We never talked about it. It was like a forbidden thing we never talked about.”

With little back-and-forth but huge success from the collaboration, it’s clear the pair has chemistry, and they know it, too. When pressed on whether they would team up again in the future, they agreed, it’s “inevitable.” The timing of a “Broccoli”-style reunion is what’s more unknown.

“I mean, we never know,” Yachty elaborated. “If I ever feel the need to put him on something. If he ever feels the need to put me. Anytime he calls me, I pick up. Every time I call him, he never declines the call. It’s not no fake B.S. Whatever it is, whenever we need something, if we’re in the same area, it’s easy, it’s nothing.”

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The Unstoppable Gina Prince-Bythewood

Shots Fired, TV’s most direct response to Black Lives Matter this spring, begins by flipping your expectations. In small-town North Carolina, a shell-shocked black cop (Tristan Wilds) stands a few feet away from the unarmed white suspect he’s just gunned down. Premiering tonight (March 22) on Fox, Shots Fired is an ambitious attempt to fuse the prime-time murder mystery, the zoom-out storytelling about institutional corruption made famous by The Wire, and explorations of several issues at the heart of the BLM movement, like school segregation and prison privatization — in just 10 episodes. Directed and co-written by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the pilot is stylish, dense, and exhilaratingly good.

If anyone can pull off the formidable challenge that is Shots Fired’s dizzying aspirations it’s Prince-Bythewood, who created the drama with her husband, Reggie Rock Bythewood. Her forte is breathing pulsing, yearning life into traditional, even stodgy, genres. Love Basketball, her 2000 coming-of-age romance between two young basketball players, made Slate’s Black Film Canon, which encompasses nearly a century of cinema. Her most recent film, Beyond the Lights — another romance, this time between a pop singer and a cop, both struggling to forge identities outside the paths their parents have laid out — headlined one of the New York Times best films of 2014 lists. The Secret Life of Bees, from 2008, feels like Prince-Bythewood’s least personal work — it’s the only one of her films not to star a young black woman, centering instead on Dakota Fanning’s preteen character finding her “real” family amid a trio of African-American sisters during the civil rights era. Still, the solidly received drama gently bucks against conventional narratives about oppression by showcasing black female agency, creativity, and sensitivity via winsome performances by Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Sophie Okonedo.

Given her unassailable track record, it’s frankly a little crazy that Prince-Bythewood’s not regarded as a filmmaking Queen Midas by now. That may change with Shots Fired and her highly anticipated next movie, an adaptation of Roxane Gay’s kidnapping novel An Untamed State. The writer-director is loyal to her leading ladies: Her Love Basketball lead, Sanaa Lathan, enjoys Shots Fired’s meatiest role as combative investigator Ashe Akino — Prince-Bythewood’s most complicated heroine yet — while her Beyond the Lights luminary Gugu Mbatha-Raw will star in An Untamed State.

Love Basketball hinges on one of the most unusual seduction scenes I’ve ever seen — which happens to sum up Prince-Bythewood’s creative alchemy. Lathan’s professional baller challenges her childhood sweetheart (Omar Epps) to a one-on-one game in his backyard for his heart. He’s engaged to someone else, but you can see his entire body relax and his resistance melt as she opens her heart to him — and he gives in to fate. Both Love Basketball and Beyond the Lights end with its male leads watching their lady loves kick ass at their jobs — on the court and onstage — in poses of romantic pride and admiration that we somehow never, ever see any other male character inhabit in any other movie.

Make what you want to see — that age-old cliché seems like goddamn gospel when applied to Prince-Bythewood’s heartfelt work, which always feels personal, even when not strictly autobiographical. Each project is an invitation to get to know the director better and to take inspiration from her creations. Like her old-fashioned yet contemporary-feeling romances, Shots Fired claims plenty of familiar elements: the mismatched detectives (Lathan’s streetwise investigator and Stephan James’s straitlaced DOJ lawyer), the discovery of a second murder that holds the key to solving the first (this time, a young black man executed by a white cop), and a throng of neighbors and community leaders who want to do the right thing — and are quickly persuaded to do otherwise. And yet, under Prince-Bythewood’s tutelage, all these tropes feel warm and alive again.

In an open and wide-ranging discussion, Prince-Bythewood spoke to MTV News about Shots Fired as an “autopsy” of Ferguson, how her experiences as a transracially adopted child and a young woman during the LA riots shaped her views on racial inequality, and the supreme importance of female swagger.

[This interview has been edited and condensed.]

MTV News: How did Shots Fired come about?

Gina Prince-Bythewood: We have two boys. After [George] Zimmerman was found not guilty [of killing Trayvon Martin], [we] had to explain to our older son, who was 12 at the time, how that could happen. Instead of hugging and consoling him, my husband pulled out a documentary about Emmett Till and showed it to him and started to talk about how the justice system works in this country — and how it often doesn’t. From that conversation, our son wrote a short story about Trayvon Martin going to heaven to meet Emmett Till.


Prince-Bythewood: That short story ended up in Hour 5 of Shots Fired, so he was actually the first writer on the show. [After Zimmerman’s release], Reggie and I really had a desire to say something. And then Ferguson happened.

We think of [Shots Fired] as almost an autopsy of Ferguson that shows the events from every street in the house. And, in dealing with these two murders [of a black victim and a white victim], we show the ways that communities and the media deal with victims differently based on race.

Right. Shots Fired starts with the initial crime, then broadens its canvas to survey the town and its widespread police corruption. Why was that structure important to you?

Prince-Bythewood: When these things happen, there’s the victim, there’s the family, there are the police, there are the politicians, and there is the community. Everybody is affected. Everybody has a point of view. We really wanted to dig into that and get to know all these different people that are changed by it. That’s what we were most hoping to achieve: empathy for all of these characters and [conversations] about our criminal justice system, which is broken on every level, from the street all the way up to the highest level of government. Obviously, really high now.

You’ve been very open about your adoption by white parents. Do you think that, being adopted by white parents and living in a predominantly white town like Monterey, California, you grew up with a different sense of the police than you have now?

Prince-Bythewood: I would not say a different sense of police. I mean, growing up the way I did, it was tough being one of only a few black people in the town and in school. What my upbringing got me is never feeling completely safe emotionally. Never knowing when something racial was going to pop off based on how I look. So that’s something I’ve carried with me personally and is reflected in my work.

You went directly from film school to the writers room of A Different World, the popular Cosby Show spin-off. Can you talk about that experience?

Prince-Bythewood: In film school, I knew I wanted to be a director, but I found out pretty damn quickly that nobody was just going to hand me a script to direct. I was so fortunate to get the opportunity to be a writers’ apprentice on A Different World. It was my favorite show. So to go from watching Dwayne and Whitley to writing for Dwayne and Whitley was incredible.

A Different World was run by black women, Debbie Allen and Yvette Lee Bowser. [Lead writer] Susie Fales-Hill was a hero of mine, because she was 28 when she was running one of the top shows on television. Going to work every day and seeing [black women in charge] made that normal to me.

Reggie was hired a week apart from me, so we met [in the writers room] and became best friends pretty quickly, and ultimately got married.

You must have been in LA during the 1992 riots. Next month is the 25th anniversary, and unfortunately, we’re still dealing with so many of the same issues of police brutality against black men and boys that sparked that anger and violence.

Prince-Bythewood: Yes. That was probably the first time I was truly struck by inequality. The fact that [the LAPD’s beating of Rodney King] was all there, on video, and [the officers] still got off — it was shocking to me.

When the verdict came down, Reggie and I hadn’t started dating yet. The [Different World] staff was separated at that point, and I just felt like I needed to do something and be in the community, so I drove down to First Union Church, and it just so happened that Reggie had done the same thing. We found each other there. We needed to hear something; we needed direction. The pastor at the time told us all to go home and read a book. That was not what any of us needed to hear. We still talk about that today — the fact that we’re artists who view art as a weapon [by] speaking to what’s going on. And the fact, yeah, that we’re still dealing with that same thing. It continues to happen, it continued to happen while we were shooting, and it’s going to continue to happen until something changes. We hope Shots Fired can spark a conversation.

What was it like working with Sanaa Lathan again after 15 years?

Prince-Bythewood: Sanaa and I are really good friends. We met on Love Basketball and butted heads a lot during that for various reasons that we laugh about now. She’s an incredible actor. For Shots Fired, Reggie and I thought about who could embody Ashe. She’s complicated and flawed and fascinating to us. She also has to [convincingly sell the line], “I’m every guy’s type.” Sanaa can bring all of those things, yet has this innate vulnerability that makes you care about her no matter what her character is doing.

Ashe is very different than Sanaa: Ashe is a fighter, though Sanaa would joke she’s a lover first. We put her with these two teachers who teach MMA, and she worked with them not only on the physicality, but also to get into the mindset of a fighter. And with a running coach. If a woman on film is supposed to be tough and athletic but she can’t run, it drives me nuts.

Do you see similarities between her character in Love Basketball and her character here?

Prince-Bythewood: If Monica went into law enforcement [laughs] and things turned out differently with Quincy, she might’ve become Ashe. There’s definitely similarities. Ashe, even though she’s not an athlete, embodies an athlete’s mentality, [even in] her relationship with her daughter. She puts posters of Serena [Williams] in her daughter’s room, because that’s somebody that she wants her daughter to be inspired by. Both have that swagger, but also that vulnerability that they keep to themselves.

Can you talk about that swagger? It’s been many years since Love Basketball, but Monica has remained such a singular character. I still don’t see characters like her in movies, maybe because people are afraid to show or humanize female athletes, especially female athletes who are proud of their talent.

Prince-Bythewood: My parents put me in sports when I was 5 years old, and they put my sisters in sports. So that’s what I grew up with, that mentality: “It’s OK to want to be the best. Aggression is good.” You have to have that little walk on the court or down the track. I love to put that into my female characters, because I don’t think enough girls are taught that at a young age. That’s why Serena is such a hero for me, because she’s got such incredible swagger, and it’s earned, and she can teach us that it is a good thing. The fact that she has been denigrated and called cocky — I mean, she’s the best in the world! I hope [my work] can inspire other women to have that swagger and believe that they can have it all.

It sounds like you also have a lot of swagger.

Prince-Bythewood: I’m very shy. But as a director and [especially] a female director, absolutely: How I used to walk on the court is how I walk on set. And I have to — I mean, I’m controlling 150, 200 people, and everything is on me. But sports also teaches you that it’s about the team, and the better your teammates are, the better they make you.

Another recurring motif I see in your work is that you have a lot of tough mothers. In Love Basketball, Monica clashes with her feminine-housewife mother (Alfre Woodard). In Beyond the Lights, a young singer feels exploited by her momager (Minnie Driver). In Shots Fired, Ashe loves her young daughter fiercely, but tends to scare her with her hair-trigger temper. Why do you think you’re drawn to these difficult mother-daughter relationships?

Prince-Bythewood: In the films that you mentioned, it was about a girl trying to ultimately — you want the love and respect of your parents. That comes from being adopted, and feeling like I was given up. My parents are amazing. When I said I wanted to go into film, they didn’t understand it, but they were incredibly supportive. [But] growing up, I absolutely did have that feeling of, “Wow, somebody just gave me up.” That was infused in The Secret Life of Bees [too] — the protagonist wanting unconditional love from her [dead but much-imagined] mother.

But for Shots Fired, it was important for Reg and me to show a lot of different women. The cast is filled with incredible female characters and actors from all different walks of life, but ultimately, each has their own strengths, and it was important for Reg and me to put that out into the world. [Mother of the slain teen] Shameeka’s [DeWanda Wise] strength actually comes from the women in Reggie’s family, who struggled but always had dignity and made sure that their children had better. The governor [Helen Hunt] is a woman who achieves the highest level of power that a woman can get — well, we won’t go into that. Ashe, who is completely different from them, finds her strength in a whole different way. And then [Officer Beck’s] wife [Clare-Hope Ashitey]: Her strength is trying to protect her family as it’s imploding after her husband is accused of murdering a teen. It’s about giving women strength and putting that onscreen.

Are you still working on the film adaptation of Roxane Gay’s novel An Untamed State?

Prince-Bythewood: Absolutely! I cannot, cannot, cannot wait! Roxane and I are cowriting the script. It’s an incredible, incredible story.

The story — about a woman who is kidnapped and tortured and raped — seems darker than anything you’ve worked on, maybe even more than Shots Fired. What drew you to the project?

Prince-Bythewood: Well, on the surface it’s absolutely darker than anything I’ve done. Yet ultimately, it ends hopefully. It starts as an incredible love story — how do you repair a fairy tale — and that’s what I was drawn to. Not only that, but the bigger themes: what’s happening in Haiti, and how women are often at the brunt of conflict and world conflict.

I met Roxane when she hosted a screening of Love Basketball. She asked me to read her book, An Untamed State, and I was in the middle of something and knew I didn’t have time. Out of respect for her, I said I’ll just read 20 pages to say, “Hey, I read it.” But I could just not put it down — it was so visceral. The story left me physically breathless. I thought, my god, if I could make a movie that makes an audience feel the way I feel, it would be incredible. I saw Gugu in it. I called [Roxane] up immediately after and said, “I gotta make this.” She [had] wanted Gugu [too].

We’ve talked a lot about what I’ve found as common threads in your work. What do you think are through lines in your projects?

Prince-Bythewood: Characters that inspire, that people will aspire to. I want my work to always be hopeful, in the end. You’re giving me two hours, and, in [Shots Fired’s] case, 10 hours of your life. I don’t want you to ever leave something I’ve done feeling worse than when you came in. I hope the work can be aspirational, and aspirational doesn’t have to be corny at all.

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Lauren Jauregui And Her Rumored Ex-Girlfriend Get Close In Gorgeous New Pics

Last November, on a sunny day in the swamps of New Orleans, Lauren Jauregui served look after look for a gorgeous editorial called “Bare With Me.” It’s an apt title, because the photo shoot features Jauregui rocking, among other things, a super sheer black dress that’s every bit as stunning as the woman wearing it.

Malibu-based photographer Nicole Cartolano spoke to MTV News about the shoot, which starred Jauregui — who came out as bisexual last year — and her then-girlfriend, Lucy Vives.

“Both girls trusted me to photograph them together as sort of a coming-out, but they were nervous how their families would respond and the publicity they’d attract, especially from the Latin American community,” Cartolano said, adding that Jauregui is from Cuba and Vives is from Colombia. “‘Bare With Me’ is a compromise which allowed us to describe what Lauren called ‘love in the 21st century.’ We felt like the way that these photographs are presented are very disarming, sensual, and empowering all at once. And they’re not provocative or with ill intent. … It was important to use their voices to show the world that this is OK, this is acceptable, in the gentlest way possible.”

Cartolano said the photo shoot was “magical” and described Jauregui and Vives’s chemistry as “very loving.”

“You could tell that they’ve been best friends for a very long time. They’ve known each other since high school. And they dated on and off for a few years. So they’re good friends over everything else,” she said, adding that even though the girls are no longer together, they’re happy that the photos have been released.

“They agreed, and Lauren said this: that it’s a reminder of a really good moment in time. Because at the time, they did really like each other. And it was a very good memory,” Cartolano said.

Wardrobe stylist Kassey Rich also shared a photo of Jauregui and Vives from the shoot, which shows the two women getting close on a dock. Cartolano — who only uses film photography and does not retouch any of her photos — called it one of her favorites, saying, “I really like that shot because for me it was even more than a love story. It’s both sisterly and maternal. It’s comforting in a sensual way — there’s a difference [between] sexual and sensual.”

She added, “I did not stage that, I did not tell them to do that. A lot of the moments were very real. Very candid.”

See the rest of the photos on Cartolano’s website right here.

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Kendrick Lamar Hints At Album Number Four With A Cryptic Instagram Post

What is Kendrick Lamar up to?

A year after releasing Untitled Unmastered, a compilation of B-sides from the To Pimp a Butterfly recording sessions, the rapper has cleared out his Instagram save for one image: the Roman numeral IV.

That’s Roman for “four,” for those of you who don’t recognize it from Beyoncé’s wedding tattoo. And it’s a pretty good sign that a new K. Dot album is imminent.

Kendrick has three albums under his belt to date: Section.80; Good Kid, M.A.A.d. City; and To Pimp a Butterfly. What else could that number mean except that LP4 is on the way?

A good Instagram purge is also generally a reliable indicator of new music; Radiohead pulled a similar move last year shortly before announcing their album A Moon Shaped Pool. It’s also a good sign that Kendrick is set to headline Coachella next month, where he might be airing out some new tunes.

So far, that mysterious IV is all we have to go off of, but keep your eyes trained on Kendrick’s social media.

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Love Or Friendship: Will Romance Blossom For Telizza And Her Catfish?

Will Shai be bae, or will Shai be cray?

That’s the question Max asked on tonight’s episode of Catfish when he and Nev were called to aid Chicago resident Telizza, who was in an online relationship with the aforementioned Shai. As Telizza explained, she’d just ended a four-year relationship when she received a random Facebook message from Shai; before long, the two young women fell in love without ever having met.

But, alas, Telizza explained, this was uncharted territory for her. That previous four-year relationship? It was with a guy. Thusfar, Shai was the very first girl Telizza had fallen for, and she’d only told one of her pals she was now into women. Still, she knew it was time to finally express her sexuality.

“I thought about this a lot,” the 18-year-old told Nev and Max. “I haven’t even told my mom, but in order to live my life how I want to, I have to first admit it.”

In addition, she knew, she had to meet Shai — but that wouldn’t be easy. Finally, however, after jumping through a few flaming hoops, Max, Nev and Telizza faced Shai in her hometown of Brooklyn. But the person standing before them was actually a young woman named Makeda, who sheepishly explained why she created the faux Facebook account.

“It was for my ex-boyfriend — to catch him cheating,” she said. “Then [Telizza and I] started talking, and it got out of control. I just did it because it felt right at that moment.”

When Max if she had “feelings” for Telizza, Makeda gave a devastating one-word answer: “No.”

But Nev wasn’t buying it — and turns out, he was right. The next day, Makeda phoned Nev and said she wanted to speak with her online companion — and eventually answered truthfully when Telizza asked, point-blank, “Are you into me?”

“Yes,” Makeda responded. “I’m into you.”

She then apologized for her lies the day before. “I’m sorry — I was scared,” she said, revealing that never before had she been able to talk to anyone about her sexuality because her family and friends were “judgmental.”

For her part, Telizza was pleased by Makeda’s interest — and when Nev asked how she wanted to proceed with the relationship, she answered, “I think we should talk more and just have a friendship and build upon that.”

So far, so good: When Nev and Max videochatted with Telizza just two months later, she reported that she and Makeda were still in contact — and were beginning to feel like “more than friends.”

But will the two go the distance? Will their relationship blossom into love? Share your thoughts on Telizza and Makeda, then be sure to catch another Catfish on Wednesday at 8/7c.

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Robert Brian Clark From Catfish Has Died

During tonight’s Catfish installment, MTV paid tribute to the late Robert Brian Clark, who appeared on the second season of the long-running docu-series. The MTV cast member (who was referred to as Brian on the series) died at the age of 33 in a motorcycle accident near Birmingham, according to a local report.

Brian appeared on a 2013 installment after love hopeful Jesse contacted Nev and Max about finally meeting the former marine after three years of communication. When the two — who met on Facebook through a mutual friend — interacted in the flesh, Jesse learned that Brian’s photographs were legitimate, and their attraction was immediate. However, a catch-up session revealed that the two had ultimately decided to not pursue a relationship (you can watch a recap of their story in the clip below).

We offer our condolences to Brian’s family and friends.

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