Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
NBCUniversal at Essence Festival and the American Black Film Festival
Every year, the Black community converges on both festivals to gather and celebrate Black content.
American Black Film Festival
At ABFF, NBCU held the first public screening of the upcoming NBC fall drama “Found.” This twisty and timely drama follows PR specialist Gabi Mosely (Shanola Hampton) and her crisis management team as they search for missing people from marginalized groups who do not typically receive widespread media attention, as she was once one of the forgotten ones. But unbeknownst to anyone, this everyday hero is hiding a chilling secret of her own.
The premise of “Found” shines a spotlight on the harrowing statistic that in any given year, more than 600,000 people are reported missing in the U.S. Of these reported cases, more than half of the missing people are people of color, too easily neglected by the system.
Following the screening, “Found,” stars Shanola Hampton, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and Gabrielle Walsh sat down with Kathleen Newman-Bremang from Refinery29 Unbothered for a riveting conversation about the twists and turns in the series as well as the importance of using media to find missing people from underrepresented communities.
In a Refinery29 Unbothered article about the panel, Shanola Hampton expressed: “[I loved] being able to play a complex character who you think has it all together and she’s a boss and then you see that she too has trauma. That’s our theme. Trauma has no look to it. It does not discriminate. How each person deals with trauma is different. You get to see that in Gabi Mosely.”
The Peacock comedy “Killing It” also had a presence at the festival. Leads Craig Robinson and Rell Battle spoke about their series in an in-depth discussion moderated by Associated Press entertainment writer Gary Gerard Hamilton. They broke down the first season in a clips-and-conversations style panel and discussed the show’s central theme about how achieving the American Dream is highly dependent on the socio-economic background of the individuals pursuing it. They also previewed an exclusive new clip from the upcoming second season.
Jeanne Mau, Senior Vice President of TV Programming Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at NBCU, introduced both panels as well as presented the Best Series Award to “I Was a Soul Train Dancer” at the Best of ABFF Awards alongside Comcast’s Keesha Boyd.
NBCUniversal returned to EssenceFest, one of the world’s largest celebrations of Black culture and the largest festival in the country per daily attendance.
Talent from across our entertainment networks participated in five panels at the Essence Film Festival representing Peacock’s “Bel-Air,” NBC’s “Found” and hit Bravo series, “Married to Medicine,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard.”
“Bel-Air” breakout star Jabari Banks spoke on the “Leaders of the New School” panel alongside fellow actors Dominique Fishback (“Swarm”), Jacob Latimore (“The Chi”), Joseph Sikora (“Power” franchise)Amber Stevens West (“Run the World”). They shared how they navigate relationships on set as leads of their respective series.
Later, Shanola Hampton (“Found”) and Cassandra Freeman (“Bel-Air”) participated in Essence Film Festival’s signature panel about the movers and shakers in the industry which provides space for top TV and film talent to explain how they adapt to the ever-changing entertainment business.
Jimmy Akingbola (“Bel-Air”) sat on the “International Focus: Lords of the Underground” panel alongside fellow Brits, Daniel Ezra (“All American”) and Aml Ameen (“Boxing Day”) where he spoke about the challenges and opportunities of transitioning his career from the UK to the US.
“Found” showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll joined comedian Gina Yashere (“Bob Hearts Abishola”) for a special Nigeria Day panel. They shared their respective journeys of how they broke into television as well as their desire to continue building relationships with Nollywood talent. The conversation was moderated by Toyosi Etim Effiong.
On the last day of the festival, three showrunners from unscripted and scripted shows participated in an insightful panel called “The Nuts and Bolts of Running the Show.” James Knox (“Married to Medicine”), Lorraine Haughton-Lawson (“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard”) and Nkechi Okoro Carroll (“Found”) broke down their day-to-day responsibilities on a show including budgeting, story-shaping, and other skills necessary as a contemporary showrunner.