Motivated Hollywood multi-tasker smashes stereotypes with new series in legendary anthology magazine Dark Horse Presents, February 22, 2012
Los Angeles, CA – Feb. 22, 2012 – Actress and writer Erika Alexander has been a showbiz traiblazer, changing perceptions of what it means to be black and a woman today. She starred for five years on the hit Fox comedy Living Single, winning two NAACP Image Awards for best actress. She also starred in the groundbreaking The Cosby Show on NBC and the gritty Showtime series Street Time. On the big screen, she sent Denzel Washington back in time in Tony Scott’s Déjà Vu and most recently toplined opposite Benjamin Bratt in the controversial, critically-acclaimed independent feature La Mission.
Now she brings that trailblazing spirit to the world of graphic novels. It started with a remark from a Hollywood studio head. Erika and her husband, African American screenwriter Tony Puryear (Eraser), both major sci-fi fans, were in the mogul’s office pitching a science fiction film with a black lead. He stopped them after two sentences. “Black people don’t like science fiction” he said. “It’s because they don’t see themselves in the future.”
Stunned by the casual racism of the remark, the pair left the office fuming, but Alexander didn’t just get mad, she got motivated. That night she sat down with Puryear and her brother, writer Robert Alexander and together they sketched out an ambitious story world set in the future.
Today Concrete Park, Erika Alexander’s first comics project, appears in Dark Horse Presents #9 from Dark Horse Comics, the premier independent comics publisher. “Concrete Park is about hope in a hopeless place” Alexander says, “it’s about race, it’s about violence and tribalism and hunger. It’s also about beauty, that proverbial ‘rose in Spanish Harlem.’ Though it’s set on another planet, it’s about our world right now. It’s the kind of story science fiction was made for.” She adds “it’s a perfect fit with Dark Horse Presents, the legendary anthology comic that served as a launch-pad for challenging work by the biggest names in comics, including Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) and Mike Mignola (Hellboy).”
“I’m thrilled Mike Richardson of Dark Horse “got” Concrete Park” Alexander says. “His record of success in finding and nurturing the best and brightest talent in comics speaks for itself.” Richardson says, simply “I love this strip.”
Concrete Park is a dark and provocative near-future story. It takes place in a turbulent mega-city on a distant desert planet (think Cairo or Rio in space). Young human exiles from Earth must fight to make a new world there. They are “young, violent and ten billion miles from home”. In its ambitious scope, it resembles nothing so much as George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, but with favelas and aliens, cops and cyborgs, ghettos and gangs instead of castles and armies.
With her extensive travels in Africa and her long-time advocacy for at-risk youth and women’s and girls’ issues, the fight to make the future is a theme dear to Alexander’s heart:
“The comment from that studio head really got me revved up on several levels” Alexander says. “First, I love sci-fi. My writing heroes are giants of sci-fi who happen to be African American like Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany. The biggest geeks I know are Sam Jackson, Will Smith and Rosario Dawson. Secondly, and more importantly, you wanna tell me about the future? Blacks and other minorities in this country and poor people all over the world live in the future. Our past may be pain, our present, precarious, but the future? The future is free.”
About Erika Alexander
When famed producers Merchant and Ivory discovered her at 15 in a tiny theater in Philadelphia and cast her as the lead in their film, My Little Girl, they launched Erika Alexander on a remarkable journey. She went onto tour the world in Peter Brook’s epic The Mahabharata with the Royal Shakespeare Company and to star in NBC’s The Cosby Show. Erika starred for five years as fan favorite “Maxine Shaw” in the hit series Living Single, winning two NAACP awards for Best Actress. She won raves as the on-the-edge parole officer in the acclaimed Showtime drama Street Time. She recently recurred on the USA drama series In Plain Sight. Her film work ranges from indie faves like Steven Soderbergh’s Full Frontal with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts and La Mission with Benjamin Bratt to burly sci-fi blockbusters like Déjà Vu with Denzel Washington.
Active in a range of causes, Erika was a national surrogate for Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign, and a 2008 William J. Clinton Foundation delegate to Africa. She is also an advocate for at-risk youth and for women and girls, speaking around the country and raising money on their behalf. She is married to screenwriter and Concrete Park co-creator Tony Puryear and lives in Los Angeles.