Al Thompson Brings Harlem to the Web With 'Lenox Avenue'

Monday, 01 October 2012 11:58 Written by  iamrogue
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Al Thompson Brings Harlem to the Web With 'Lenox Avenue'

With a plethora of critically acclaimed series on the air, it's commonly asserted that we're in the middle of a television renaissance, where long-form storytelling can eclipse the narrative possibilities of theatrical films.  Even if this is a golden age for television, though, the medium has inherent strictures that can prove limiting. 

Al Thompson is stepping around those strictures and limitations with Lenox Avenue, his innovative new dramatic web series.

Thompson is probably most familiar as an actor, having appearing in films such as Love Don't Cost a Thing, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Conspiracy X, as well as lending his voice to animated shows like The Cleveland Show and Family Guy. While he stars on Lenox Avenue alongside Dorian Missick (Southland), Ryan Vigilant (Gossip Girl), Lauren Francesca (Louie), and Michael K. Williams (The Wire), Thompson is, in fact, the director and executive producer on the series.

Lenox Avenue is the latest project from ValDean Entertainment, Thompson's production company, which previously produced the acclaimed web series Tilt-A-World and Johnny B. Homeless.

This endeavor on the cutting edge of digital distribution is particularly close to Thompson's heart, as he reveals in a new interview with Brennan Williams of Huffington Post.  "The foundation of where it all comes from is with myself being born and raised in Harlem, and kind of seeing the transitions of what Harlem has been going through," Thompson says. "Especially being in Manhattan, a lot of times in film and television shows you never really get to see Harlem in its extension of Manhattan. You’ve seen it a little bit as far as New Jack City, Sugar Hill, or New York Undercover and that was pretty much it. I really felt it was time for Harlem to have its own TV series."

"It comes from a lot of different places," Thompson explains of the influences on Lenox Avenue.  "Some are from old school television of what’s really missing today and what are some of the things that I want to see on TV. It’s like, 'What are some of the things that would entertain my mother, my sisters, or my brother that would be really cool.' And then I get inspired by a lot of other artists from seeing what they’re doing. So it comes from so many different places."

Creating a web series allows for greater control and self-reliance than a television series, as Thompson says, "For me, my motto is if you create a digital series on the internet the studios can never cancel you. They don’t really give TV shows a chance, considering all of the money that they put into for a pilot. You’ll see four episodes and then it disappears. And I think the biggest thing is showing what today’s world represents."

The online approach also enables Thompson and his crew to create a more accurate reflection of the New York neighborhood he knows so well.  The director says, "The world is no longer marketing in strategic check boxes, where’s it like, 'Oh, we have a white person here, check. We have an Asian person here, check.' It’s more of a universal situation, where we have these characters in the series who are living, working, and playing in Harlem and they’re not going downtown any more. We have a multicultural aspect to it."

"For me, even though this series is created by me, it’s not my series," Thompson says.   "And I genuinely mean that. This series is for all the people who are not happy with what they’re seeing on network television or film, and seeing projects that don’t speak to them."

For more on Lenox Avenue and his next digital series The Realness, head over to Huffington Post for the full interview with Al Thompson.

Be sure to stay tuned to iamROGUE and ValDean Entertainment for an official Lenox Avenue launch date.

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