AASC Tribute to 3

A Celebration of African American TV Directors

May 15, 2014 An African American Steering Committee Event

On May 15, the African American Steering Committee (AASC) presented a special evening honoring the careers of esteemed Television Directors Debbie Allen, Eric Laneuville and Stan Lathan. The experiences of these three multiple award-winning Directors add up to over a century of Guild membership during which they have helmed episodes of iconic and groundbreaking episodic series such as Grey’s Anatomy, Hill Street Blues, and E.R. as well as acclaimed movies for television, specials and reality programs. 

Eric LanuevilleFollowing a VIP reception in the Guild’s Los Angeles atrium, the proceedings moved into DGA Theater One where DGA President Paris Barclay welcomed the capacity crowd audience. Barclay also introduced AASC Co-Chair Carl Seaton who spoke about the history and goals of the Committee before introducing the first guest speaker of the evening, Director Thomas Carter who was there to speak about his friend Eric Laneuville. Also on hand to honor Laneuville were Producer/Director Ian Sander and Actor/Director Salli Richardson-Whitfield, who introduced a retrospective clip package of Laneuville’s work before the honoree took the stage himself to say a few words.

A native of New Orleans, Laneuville began his career as an actor after moving to Los Angeles and landing roles in series such as Room 222 and The White Shadow and features such as The Omega Man and A Piece of the Action. His first directing assignment came on the series St. Elsewhere and he went on to direct 20 episodes of that critically-acclaimed series. During his more than 30 years as a director, he’s helmed 200 hours of television including episodes of NYPD Blue, My Wife and Kids, ER, Blue Bloods, Grimm and NCIS: Los Angeles. He is the recipient of two DGA Awards for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series for episodes of L.A. Law in 1989 and I’ll Fly Away in 1991 and received DGA Award nominations for episodes of NYPD Blue in 1993 and Lost in 2007. He also earned an Emmy® Award in 1992 for an episode of I’ll Fly Away, in addition to other Emmy nominations for L.A. Law and Dream On. He has been a DGA member since 1984.

Debbie AllenThe second part of the evening was introduced by AASC Activities and Events Subcommittee Co-Chair Abdul Malik Abbott who introduced Actress Viola Davis who served as the first speaker honoring Director Debbie Allen. Following Davis in her tribute were Actor James Pickens, Jr., and Actress-turned Script Supervisor Nicole Rubio who introduced the retrospective clip package of Allen’s work.

In a career that spans three decades, Allen earned three Emmy Awards®, a Golden Globe®, five NAACP Image Awards, a Drama Desk, an Astaire Award (for Best Dancer), and the Olivier Award for her vast body of work. She also holds four honorary Doctorate degrees and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A native of Houston, Texas, Allen’s long list of directing and producing credits include episodes of shows such as FAME, Grey’s Anatomy, A Different World, Everybody Hates Chris, Stompin’ At The Savoy, Polly, That’s So Raven, Cool Women, Quantum Leap, The Fantasia Barrino Story, and Scandal. She has been a DGA member since 1983.

Stan LathanAfter Allen spoke a few words from the stage, AASC Co-Chair Jeff Byrd introduced Producer Russell Simmons, the initial guest speaker honoring Director Stan Lathan. Also taking the stage to honor Lathan were Actor/Comedian Dave Chappelle and Director John Singleton who presented Lathan’s clip package before the honoree took the stage.

One of the original directors of Sesame Street, Lathan is one of Hollywood’s most prolific director-producers of television and film. His resume contains such iconic shows as Sanford & Son, Roc, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, Cagney & Lacey, The Waltons, and Frank’s Place. He also directed the pilots for many popular sitcoms including: Real Husbands of Hollywood, The Soul Man, Martin, Moesha, The Parkers, The Steve Harvey Show, Amen, and South Central; as well as executive producing and directing Dave Chappelle’s highly successful comedy specials Killin’ Them Softly and For What It’s Worth and Cedric The Entertainer’s HBO special Taking You Higher. In 1990, with partner Russell Simmons, he launched HBO’s groundbreaking Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam and in 2003, Lathan and Simmons won a Peabody Award for their Def Poetry series on HBO. Lathan is also the recipient of 2004 Diversity Award and the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors; and has received five NAACP Image Awards. He has been a DGA member since 1972.

The climax of the evening saw Allen, Lanueville and Lathan together on the stage where they engaged in a lively conversation about their work and careers moderated by Director Bill Duke, after which all three honorees were presented with  commemorative crystal plaques from the Committee presented by AASC Activities Subcommittee Co-Chair, Nicci Freeman.

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