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Actor Danny Masterson Charged With Three Counts of Rape

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  • Danny Masterson was charged with three counts of rape and could face 45 years to life in prison if found guilty.
  • Allegations against him have been public for years, though Masterson has repeatedly denied them. In 2017 he lost his job on Netflix’s “The Ranch” after the LAPD opened an investigation into the claims. 
  • Masterson is a Scientologist, and his accusers claim the Church of Scientology pressured and threatened them into keeping quiet.
  • Leah Remini, actress and former member of the church, said that the charges against Masterson are just the beginning of what the church is covering up.

Masterson Charged

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that actor Danny Masterson was charged with rape on Wednesday.

Allegations against the “That ’70s Show” actor have been floating for several years. In 2017, it was revealed that the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating the matter, resulting in the actor getting fired from “The Ranch” on Netflix. He is now facing three counts of rape by force or fear. 

According to a statement from the D.A.’s office, Masterson was accused of raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December of 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April of 2003, and another 23-year-old woman between October and December of 2003. Those crimes all took place at his home, according to Reinhold Mueller, the Deputy District Attorney of the Sex Crimes Division who is prosecuting this case. 

As part of their investigation, the LAPD looked into two other sexual assault allegations against him but declined to press charges. They cited insufficient evidence for one case and the statute of limitations for the other. If Masterson is found guilty of three charges against him, he could face a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison. 

Masterson was arrested and booked on Wednesday afternoon, records from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department show. He was released later that day after posting a bond of $3.3 million. His arraignment is set for September. 

Masterson Defends Himself

Masterson’s attorney, Tom Mesereau released a statement defending his client against the charges.

“We’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify,” Mesereau said.

“Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out. The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.”

Masterson has also repeatedly denied the allegations as they have surfaced. When they cost him his job on “The Ranch,” he released a statement calling them “outrageous.”

Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit,” he said at the time. “I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.”

He was fired in December 2017, just a few months after the fallout of the claims against convicted rapist and film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein’s fall resulted in the rise of the #MeToo movement, as well as a reckoning of the way women are treated in Hollywood.

Reports of Cover Up From Scientology

Masterson’s case has made regular headlines largely in part due to his relationship with the Church of Scientology, of which he is a prominent member. Some of the women who have come out and accused Masterson were also Scientologists at the time of the alleged assaults. 

In 2017, Tony Ortega, a blogger and journalist who frequently writes about Scientology, reported that some of Masterson’s victims said that the church had pressured them to keep quiet about their claims. In some cases, they say they were punished by the church for speaking out.

His report stemmed from several LAPD documents he obtained. In one, a woman only identified as Victim A said the church threatened her after she reported the case to them. 

“They threatened me that if I ever told anyone or reported him to the police that I would be declared a ‘suppressive person’ and lose everything and everyone,” she said. “Then they put me on a massive ethics program as punishment. My rapist was not punished at all. They didn’t even call him to talk about it. I ended up breaking up with him two months later.”

The women also claimed that the LAPD was “compromised” by its relationship with the Church of Scientology. Victim A said there were known “leaks” in certain branches, and added that a detective acknowledged that “some LAPD officers are very friendly with the church of Scientology.”

The Church of Scientology has denied ever pressuring these women to keep quiet. These claims, however, were brought up again in 2019 when four women sued Masterson and the church, claiming they had been stalked and intimidated after reporting him. This lawsuit was first reported on by Variety, which wrote that the women had allegedly been followed by agents of the Church of Scientology. One plaintiff said she was chased in her car by two people filming her. Shortly after, her dog inexplicably died after suffering from “traumatic injuries to her trachea and esophagus.”

The women also reported facing online harassment, being targeted for credit card fraud, and having their home security systems hacked. Another plaintiff said she had been followed and photographed, even while on vacation, and that her teenage son’s window was smashed in the middle of the night. The food truck she owned was also vandalized. 

Leah Remini Responds

Allegations of corruption and threatening behavior against the Church of Scientology are nothing new. Much of this gained national attention when actress Leah Remini, who used to be a Scientologist, left the church and dedicated much of her life and career to exposing its inner workings. Her series “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” won several accolades, including Emmy Awards.

Upon learning about the charges filed against Masterson, Remini celebrated on Twitter 

This is just the beginning Scientology, your days of getting away with it is coming to an end,” she wrote. 

Remini also shared a piece that Ortega published on Thursday morning titled: “How will Scientology react to Danny Masterson being charged with rape?” In the piece, Ortega spoke to Mike Rinder, who used to be a senior executive of the Church of Scientology International but left the church more than a decade ago. 

“They have to be careful. If they throw him under the bus and alienate him he could cause a lot of trouble for them,” Rinder said. “They might want to keep him close so they can keep all their stories straight. There are many, many people who have their fingerprints all over this, as the first place the rapes were reported was to Scientology and they did everything possible to ensure it did not get reported to the authorities.”

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (New York Times) (Associated Press)

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Zendaya, John David Washington, and “Euphoria” Creator Film Secret Movie During Coronavirus Pandemic

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  • “Malcolm & Marie,” a new picture starring Zendaya and John David Washington was completely written and shot during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced most productions to halt in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
  • The film was written and directed by “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, who began the project after Zendaya asked him if he could pull off a quarantine movie.
  • The cast was under strict safety precautions and underwent a two-week quarantine on location before filming. While filming, sanitation, social distancing, and other measures were also taken. 
  • This comes as Hollywood is working on its plans to open up again, a complicated task made even more difficult by growing coronavirus cases.

Film Shot in Secret

Zendaya, along with John David Washington and “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, secretly filmed an entire movie during the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to a report from Deadline, the actress called Levinson after production for season 2 of “Euphoria,” which she also stars in, came to a halt over concerns regarding COVID-19. She asked if he could write and direct a movie during quarantine and just six days later, he churned out a script titled “Malcolm & Marie.”  Levinson then brought Golden Globe-nominated Washington on board to co-star in the feature alongside Zendaya. 

Shooting began on June 17 and wrapped up on July 2, according to Deadline’s exclusive. The film was shot at the Caterpillar House in Monterey County, California, where shooting on private property was allowed at the time. The house sits on 33 acres of land, providing plenty of space between the crew and the outside world. 

Safety Measures Taken

Levinson, Washington, Zendaya, and other producers on the project worked with lawyers, doctors and industry unions to make sure they were following COVID-19 safety precautions while on set. Deadline said that the cast and crew quarantined in Monterey for two weeks prior to shooting.

During that time, everyone wore masks, social distanced, had individual dwellings, rehearsed in the parking lot, and ate in designated spots with food only prepared by chefs who were also quarantining. No one was allowed off the property, no physical contact was allowed, and no more than one person was allowed in a room at the same time, unless those people had been quarantining together. 

Cast and crew were tested at the start and end of their quarantine, and the film kept to a relatively small crew. Only 12 people were allowed on set at a time, and had to wear personal protection equipment when in contact with actors. Physical distancing was required as much as possible. 

Production offices worked remotely and there were increased sanitation measures for those on set. Surfaces were cleaned, frequent hand washing was required, and people were not allowed to share things like keys or phones. 

Hollywood and Coronavirus

This comes as production fell last quarter by 98%, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Because of this, Hollywood is anxious to find a path forward with filming. Some bigger productions, like “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which is set to resume filming this month, will have large budgets devoted to sanitation. 

However, that picture is filming in the United Kingdom. Movies filming in the United States have to battle growing coronavirus cases, which could severely delay reopening plans.

Christopher Miller, a writer and producer behind hits like “The Lego Movie” and “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” warned that these increased cases could throw the industry further behind.  

Right now, Hollywood could look to “Malcolm & Marie” as an example of how to shoot a film while in quarantine. While it was completed in secrecy and details are still scant, projects designed to be completed in some form of isolation could be the answer. 

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The Hollywood Reporter) (IndieWire)

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Lady A, Formerly Lady Antebellum, Sues Black Blues Singer Lady A Over Rights to Use Name

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  • In June, the country group Lady Antebellum renamed itself Lady A, dropping the word “antebellum” due to its association with slavery. However, a Black blues singer named Anita White noted that she had been using “Lady A” professionally for more than 20 years.
  • After a Zoom call between all parties, it appeared that they agreed to coexist, but White later said she felt the band’s camp was trying to erase her after seeing their draft agreement. 
  • On Wednesday, the band sued White for the right to use the name after claiming she demanded $10 million dollars as part of a draft settlement agreement. 
  • The band claims they trademarked the name in 2010 without opposition and are not seeking monetary damages or asking for White to stop using the name, but want all parties to coexist.

Country Band Rebrands 

Lady A, the country band formerly known as Lady Antebellum, is now in a legal battle with a Black blues singer named Anita White, who is known professionally as Lady A. 

Discussions over the use of “Lady A” have been going on for about a month now, so let’s take a look at how the issue started.

After nationwide protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people unjustly killed by police, people all across the country have been forced to confront systemic racism and their roles in perpetuating inequality. In response, there have been widespread changes, from TV shows removing scenes with blackface, to brands pulling logos that many deemed offensive.

The country band joined in on that movement, dropping “antebellum” from their name over its ties to slavery.

On June 11, bandmembers Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood said they would officially go by Lady A. At the time, the group said, “When we set out together almost 14 years ago we named our band after the southern “antebellum” style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us…southern rock, blues, R&B, gospel and of course country.”

“But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this world referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery. We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our heart’s intention, but it doesn’t change the fact that indeed, it did just that.”

Anita White Blindsided 

But soon after, Anita White came forward to say she had been using Lady A as a stage name for over 20 years and was blindsided by the country band’s announcement. Her fans reportedly bombarded her with the news that her name has been solen, and in an interview with Rolling Stone, the 61-year-old singer said the band hadn’t reached out to her before making their decision. 

At the time, she called it ironic that they were changing their name in support of racial equality while at the same time taking another name from a Black performer. She said she would not stop using the name and called their failure to reach out “pure privilege.”

“They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it,” she added. 

“It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them.” 

Discussions Take Place 

After facing questions about White, the band admitted that they were not aware she was already using the name and planned to reach out. 

Then on June 15, they shared an image of a Zoom call with White that seemed to suggest they had reached an agreement. “We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come,” the band wrote at the time. 

White tweeted out a similar message, however, shortly after the chat, she told Newsday, “I received a draft agreement from the Antebellum camp. I’m not happy about [it] yet again after talking in good faith… Their camp is trying to erase me and I’ll have more to say tomorrow. Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”

Lawsuit 

Tensions escalated Wednesday when the band sued the singer for the rights to use the name. According to the lawsuit, the parties involved had agreed to coexist, with the band agreeing to support the singer’s musical career. It even says they had plans to collaborate on a song together. 

However, the band says talks fell apart when “White’s new counsel delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand.”

The group said in a statement, “Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.”

“We are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.”

The suit outlines the band’s history with the name, saying they’ve used Lady Antebellum and “Lady A” interchangeable since around 2006 or 2007. The filing reportedly included documents of the band’s website and other reports demonstrating their use of the name. 

According to the suit, the group applied to register “Lady A’ as a trademark in 2010. It was officially registered in 2011 and reportedly received no opposition at the time.   

The suit says White never applied to trademark or register the name “Lady A.” The legal filing also doesn’t ask for White to stop using the name, or for any monetary damages. Instead, it says, “Plaintiffs simply wish that the parties continue to coexist.” 

Reactions 

Backlash against the group came swiftly following news of the suit, with people now questioning if the intentions behind their initial name change were genuine. 

One user wrote,  Lady Antebellum changing their name to Lady A to show solidarity with BLM only to SUE AN ACTUAL BLACK ARTIST who already has that name is performative wokeness at its BLEAKEST.”

Even though the group filed for a trademark, some think it’s still not a good look for them to file a lawsuit against a Black artist over the name. Some argued that they should just pick something else. 

Still, there are many who view White’s request for $10 million as extortion and believe the band was trying to come to a peaceful resolution. 

Meanwhile, others believe it’s likely a defensive move on the band’s part to get legal approval for use of the name in case White decides to sue them. 

White, for her part, simply tweeted, “No Weapon formed against me shall prosper” following the news, but has not commented much further. 

Either way, it seems like the bands attempt to avoid controversy with their name has now brought along just that. 

See what others are saying: (CMT) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Entertainment Weekly) 

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Halle Berry Apologizes for Considering a Transgender Role in an Upcoming Film

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  • In an Instagram live interview Friday, Halle Berry mentioned that she was considering taking the role of a transgender man, while repeatedly misgendering him by using “she/her” pronouns. 
  • Some responded with anger, but many asked her to reconsider and educate herself on trans issues. 
  • People specifically asked her to watch Netflix’s “Disclosure,” a documentary that explores trans representation in Hollywood and the real-world implications trans depictions have on the trans community. 
  • Halle apologized Monday, promising to promote better representation both on and offscreen. Her apology was welcomed by fans, GLAAD, and “Disclosure,” which thanked her for listening and learning. 

Berry Considers Taking Transgender Role 

After a weekend of backlash, education, and conversations about transgender representation, actor Halle Berry announced Monday that she is no longer considering plans to play a transgender character.

The backlash against Berry first appeared Friday after she took part in an Instagram live interview with hairstylist Christin Brown. In that stream, Berry talked about possibly cutting her hair short again for a potential new film project, saying, “I’m thinking of playing a character where the woman is a trans character, so my hair is gonna have to be – she’s a woman that transitioned into a man, so my hair is going to be really shaved.” 

“I want to experience that world, I want to understand that world. I want to understand that character. I want to deep dive in that in the way I did ‘Bruised,’ Berry continued.

“This world, who this woman was is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next acting role.”

“It’s really important to me to tell stories, and that’s a woman, that’s a female story actually– it changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that,” she added.

Internet Asks Berry to Reconsider 

When people caught wind of this interview, people took issue with her remarks and the idea that a cisgender woman would be taking on such a role.

This isn’t exactly a new point of debate. For instance, Scarlett Johansson came under similar scrutiny in the past when she initially accepting the role of a transgender man for the film “Rub & Tug,” which she later walked away from after backlash. 

However, in Berry’s case, people were also upset by her lack of knowledge about the transgender community, noting that she repeatedly misgendered the character by using “she/her pronouns.”   

Still, while some people responded with anger, a lot of people took the approach of asking her to educate herself on trans issues and reconsider taking that role. Many actually asked her to watch Netflix’s new documentary “Disclosure,” which is executive produced by Laverne Cox. That film takes an in-depth look at Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people to help understand the real-world implications they have on the trans community. 

On Monday, the official Twitter account for the documentary even shared a clip from the project, writing, “Today is a good day to remind people that casting trans actors in trans roles is more than about opportunity.”

Then it directly addressed Berry in another post, asking her to watch the film “to understand how cis actors like yourself acting in trans roles has major cultural consequences offscreen.”

Others continued sharing similar messages, including the film’s director Sam Feder, who added, “Often people don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s ok!” 

Halley Berry Responds 

By Monday evening, Berry responded with a statement posted to her social media pages apologizing for her remarks and adding, “As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.”

She explained that she was grateful for the guidance and critical conversations that have taken place over the last few days, adding. “I will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera.” 

Berry Thanked for Listening

Berry’s statement was received very well, with a lot of people thanking her for being willing to engage in dialogue with others and responding with a statement so quickly. 

Similar sentiments came from the documentary’s account, which thanked her for listening and learning. 

GLAAD also tweeted at Berry, saying it was pleased that she had listened to the concerns of transgender people, adding, “Other powerful people should do the same.” 

Still, Berry has faced some criticism from those angry with her for apologizing, as some believe there should more flexibility in Hollywood about who can play what roles. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro for instance called her statement “performative wokeness.” 

But that is a point the film’s Twitter account hit on Monday when it first addressed Berry’s initial comments. At the time, the account tweeted, “In preemptive response to the critique that all artists should be able to play any role.@Lavernecox “I think if all things were equal, then [yes]. But all things are not equal.”

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Insider) (Vanity Fair

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