Pooch Hall as Clay Jones in MEDIA (Photo: TV One)
In the upcoming TV One film, "Media," Pooch Hall stars as Clay Jones, the eldest son, and CEO of Jones Universal Media Properties (JUMP). Hot-headed and determined to succeed at any cost, Clay attempts to keep a tight reign on his family's empire in the midst of his mother's; founder Jackie Jones (Penny Johnson Jerald) interventions as well as his siblings' various indiscretions that lead to revenge, betrayal and a devastating tragedy. Brian White, Chrystee Pharris, Blue Kimble, Gary Dourdan, Stephen Bishop and Finesse Mitchell also star.
Produced my media mogul and Radio One founder Cathy Hughes, "Media" provides an inside look into just how ruthless family-owned business can be. I recently spoke with Pooch Hall about the upcoming TV One film which is also serving as a backdoor pilot for a potential series. We spoke about the film's parallels to "The Godfather" trilogy, playing a particular type of villain and what he has coming up next.
Aramide Tinubu: Hi Pooch, how are you?
Pooch Hall: I’m pretty good sweetheart, and yourself?
AT: I’m great, thank you. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today about “Media.”
PH: Oh sure, of course.
AT: Clay Jones is a very different character than Derwin from “The Game” or even Daryll from “Ray Donovan.” He’s quite unlike anyone you’ve ever played before; he’s very brutal and manipulative. How did you prepare for this role?
PH: It was really getting familiar with the material for one. And, I recognized the family dynamic because it felt so similar to “The Godfather.” I watched “The Godfather,” studied Sonny, and I recognized some of those elements in my character. I just really looked at that film and saw Sonny’s confidence and lack of fear as the eldest son, and I just tried to do my character justice as far making him believable and entertaining and having layers. Anyone can play a bad guy or a tough guy, but if it’s not believable, then no one is going to buy it. I’m also extremely family oriented, and I have brothers and sisters, so I just took from that.
AT: Certainly! Why did you decide to join the cast of “Media?” What was it about this project aside from those references to "The Godfather" that made you want to be a part of it?
PH: I’m a big fan of Mrs. Cathy Hughes and her story of starting from the bottom and working her way up; just seeing a strong Black woman in our community. When I first heard about this project I just thought, “Wow, this is so interesting.” I knew all of the work she’d put in because of her reputation so; I got the script, I read it and liked it. The role was something very different for me. That’s what really attracted me to the project.
AT: Mrs. Cathy Hughes also produced this film and she is a huge media mogul as you stated. She built Radio One, the biggest Black-owned broadcasting company in this country. What conversations did you have with her about her insight into the entertainment business?
PH: I think was is so interesting about it is, this is a world that a lot of people don’t really get to see, they certainly don’t get to see a lot of Black faces in it. Mrs. Hughes wanted to tell this story. During our research and having conversations with her and talking about her struggles and things that she went through, it was very easy to construct these characters in this story. She gave us a lot of insight in terms of making it a point to go after what we want and believing in ourselves and helping each other out. That’s the key.
AT: In “Media,” actors Brian White, Blue Kimble and Chrystee Pharris play your character’s siblings. What was it like to bond with them on set to create the sibling dynamic and rivalry that was present on screen?
PH: Blue and I actually worked on “The Game” together.
AT: Oh yeah, that’s right!
PH: He played one of the football players, and he was cuttin’ up then, he had a little star shine about himself. I also knew Brian from back in Boston in like 1999 or 2000. I knew Stephen because we did a commercial together and we worked on “The Game” together. I knew Gary Dourdan because we did, “Jumping the Broom” together and I knew Chrystee and Finesse in passing whether it was the NAACP or BET Awards. I also knew the director Craig Ross because we’d done a movie together. So, going into it, it was already like a family to me. It wasn’t anything new, and we bonded already having a friendship. Since Chrystee is such a strong actress and Blue is hilarious, we just made it work; we just became family.
AT: What about constructing the rivalry aspects of that sibling dynamic?
PH: This world is based on what their mother is allowing to happen. Clay being the oldest brother, and him being involved with the corporation and other things that may be more corrupt. Then, we have Brian’s character, the brother who is a prosecutor, so it’s a thin line for him. I think it’s also written so you see how Chrystee’s character because she is the only girl and she is a woman, gets the short end of the stick and it’s clear that she is not happy with that. So as far as that went, we made it work, but off the set, we love each other for real.
AT: The city of Atlanta plays a huge part in this film, it’s almost as if the city is a character on its on. We also saw several cameos from some of ATL’s most famed citizens. How did the film use Atlanta to showcase the idea of the American dream?
PH: Atlanta itself as you said is an integral part of the film. There are a lot of powerful Black people in Atlanta also, and a ton of Black people have congregated to Atlanta to make it big. It’s like Hollywood or New York. Our community is there, so I think that Atlanta in the backdrop for this project is important because what it does is, it shows that there is a community out there full of Black-owned businesses and we’re just giving a taste of that in the film. But, I love Atlanta, and I love filming there.
AT: From what I understand, "Media” is going to expand from the film to become a television series on TV One. Can you tell our readers more about that?
PH: I heard that the film is supposed to be going into a television series, so that’s exciting. I think that means a lot for the Black community because it shows that we have the content and we have stories to tell, and it’s not always, “Hey, I’m a basketball player. Hey, I’m a rapper.” This is Black owned businesses, millionaires who are representations of people who are real and who do exist.
AT: What’s next for you?
PH: Right now I’m currently filming the fifth season of “Ray Donovan,” and Brian is actually guest starring on the series this season. So we’re working together, so that’s exciting. My film, “A Dog’s Purpose” just came out and then I just was on “The Real” as a co-host which was so much fun.
AT: Yes, I did catch you on there.
PH: Yes. Now, I’m looking forward to the release of my film which was called “The Bleeder” with Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts, but it’s now called “Chuck” from what I understand.
AT: And you play, Muhammad Ali in the film is that correct?
PH: Yes that’s correct. So, that was such a blessing. I was the last actor to play Muhammad Ali when he was alive.
AT: Wow, that’s amazing.
PH: Yes, unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet him before he passed because the movie hadn’t come out yet but I was looking forward to meeting him, and Chuck Wepner who is in the center of the story is a technical advisor on the film. But, that was an incredible experience, to step into the shoes of The Greatest. I was just honored.
AT: Thank you for speaking with me about “Media,” Pooch this was a great convo.
PH: Thank you, flyy girl! (Laughing) If your readers would like to know more, they can be sure to follow me on Instagram at @iampoochhall.
AT: Thanks so much Pooch!
PH: Thank you!
“Media” will premiere on TV One tonight, Saturday, February 25, at 8/7c.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami