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The University of Southern California’s (USC) School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) announced the creation of the John Singleton Lounge during a special screening of the series finale of FX’s Snowfall — Singleton’s final work — on the campus Thursday night. Set for location outside of the dean’s office suites, the seating area will be decorated with posters showcasing the work of the late filmmaker and USC alum who also co-founded the school’s African American Cinema Society while he was a student there.
“I want to thank John for being my son, and I want to thank John for listening to me and allowing me to guide his life,” said Singleton’s mother, Sheila Ward-Johnson, in opening remarks during the event, which was one of a series of screenings SCA has held throughout the 2022-2023 academic year as part of a yearlong celebration honoring the Academy Award-nominated director.
Referencing a 2019 interview in which Guy Torry, who worked with Singleton on his 1993 film Poetic Justice, stated “he got it all in” when asked about the screenwriter and producer’s death at the age of 51, she added, “He did get it all in, so I thank him for getting it all in.”
Ward-Johnson received a standing ovation from the crowd inside the Ray Stark Family Theatre at the behest of Snowfall’s Michael Hyatt, who attended the event with her castmates Gail Bean, Carter Hudson, Isaiah John, Amin Joseph, Angela Lewis and lead star Damson Idris, who expressed gratitude prior to the start of the festivities.
“It’s a huge privilege to even be invited, and to be a part of the magnificence and excellence that is John Singleton’s slate of art is an honor,” Idris told The Hollywood Reporter. “What I always wanted to accomplish with this character and with this story was to touch the people and to leave a piece of art that my kids and my kids’ kids could watch. Something that’s for us, for the culture, that we could enjoy and that young kids can be inspired by,” he said of his portrayal of Franklin Saint over the course of six seasons.
Also in attendance was novelist Walter Mosley, who shared that Singleton personally asked him to join the writers room for Snowfall in 2016 and would routinely give jobs to former acquaintances he’d run into in his old neighborhood after they’d get out of jail.
“He said, ‘If you can keep the job, you can have it,’ Mosley said. “That was his thing, and he did that every fucking day. It wasn’t like he did it now and again. He did it with me and he did it with people all the time because that’s where he lived, that’s who he was and that’s what he did.”
Following the screening, Mosley along with the cast and showrunner Dave Andron, who co-created Snowfall with Singleton and Eric Amadio, and production designer Tomas Voth participated in a 45-minute panel discussion led by one of USC’s John Singleton scholars, Kevin Maxwell. It was during this conversation that Hyatt echoed sentiments similar to those conveyed to THR before the event about what it meant personally to work with Singleton, who died ahead of the release of the show’s third season.
“He was the one who taught me the importance, the necessity of saying, ‘Fuck you, no, that’s not the way it goes,’” Hyatt shared. “John did that. And because John did that, this story is here and we stood by and made sure that even when he wasn’t here, the right story was told.
“He taught me that my voice was necessary. Not only that you have a voice, but that it is imperative that you use it because otherwise you ain’t got shit to say,” she added.
Hyatt, who early in her career performed in a Broadway production of Ragtime and was well known for her role as Brianna Barksdale on HBO’s The Wire, has portrayed Franklin’s mother Cissy Saint since the start of the series in 2017. As she thinks about her next role, Hyatt is adamant about carrying Singleton’s spirit of with her.
“Since this has ended, I have allowed myself to be bold enough to say, ‘I don’t just want everything. I don’t just want anything. I’m going to pick and choose because now I have my voice,” she said. “I’ve heard it. I’ve seen its power and now that I’ve been taught, there’s no going back.”
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