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L-R; Lady Gaga, Anthony Ramos; Clay Enos/Warner Bros.(NEW YORK) -- A Star Is Born is up for eight Academy Awards this Sunday, including Best Picture, but for one of the movie’s stars, winning isn’t everything.

Anthony Ramos, who plays the best friend of Lady Gaga’s character Ally, tells ABC Radio that the film’s effect on audiences matters more to him than any trophy.

"I think at the end of the day…you can win the most awards -- I mean, you could win every award -- but if people connect to it and people feel, that's what matters the most, honestly," the former Hamilton star says.

Ramos adds, "I'd rather win no awards and somebody's life get changed than me win a million and it just be, like, an Oscar-winning movie, you know what I mean?"

Maybe he won't have to choose one or the other. Tune in to the Academy Awards ABC Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET to see if A Star Is Born can be both a life-changing and Oscar-winning film.

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ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) -- Will Smith is bringing something extremely fresh to the children's book world.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Smith has partnered with HarperCollins and author Denene Miller for a new book series called Fresh Princess.

Inspired by Smith's character from his iconic '90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the three-part picture book series will follow Destiny, "a cool, energetic, and strong-willed girl who approaches every day with her own signature style."

That is, until she moves to a new neighborhood where nothing is "quite the same." But Destiny reacts by putting a plan into motion that finds her bringing "the fun to any situation."

“I couldn’t be more excited that the character I played for so long could inspire such a fun and empowering book for kids everywhere,” Smith said in a statement.

“I know all of my children would have loved Fresh Princess growing up, and being a father who raised a strong daughter, I know how important it is to see that type of strength depicted in stories."

He continued, "It’s what [my wife] Jada and I have always championed and shown our kids throughout their lives. I’m down to follow Destiny through her growth and adventures just as I had experienced the journey of the young ‘Will Smith’ as he danced, laughed, made mistakes, and created memorable moments on his road to becoming the Fresh Prince.”

Fresh Princess will be available on April 2 and is now available for pre-order.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures(LOS ANGELES) -- Oscar Sunday is almost here, and Sam Elliott is -- finally -- a nominee this year, for his work in A Star is Born.

The beloved character actor has been working in front of the cameras for more than 50 years, but he received his first-ever nomination for Bradley Cooper's adaptation of the Hollywood classic. 

Elliott is up for a Best Supporting Actor trophy Sunday night for playing the brother of Cooper's troubled musician character. Elliott tells ABC Radio that he suspected the film was destined for greatness.

"I think the odds were in its favor when you got Lady Gaga starring and you got Bradley Cooper, who's clearly, as we know him now, a brilliant filmmaker."

And even though A Star Is Born is Cooper's first film as a director, the showbiz veteran tells ABC Radio that he knew right away the Oscar-nominated actor had the goods.

"You know, I'd never crossed paths with Bradley before we did this film together, but in my initial meeting with him...I left there [knowing] that this guy's really a smart man," said Elliott. "And the way he talked, I suspected he was a brilliant filmmaker and he is -- there's no question about it."

Sunday caps a busy awards season for A Star Is Born, but the star wouldn't have it any other way, he tells ABC Radio.

"It's been an amazing ride, so yeah, totally enjoyed it," Sam says. "It's a slog, it's a lot of work, but to see the film recognized for what it is, and to see all that hard work on everybody's part pay off is a wonderful thing," he adds.  

Tune in to the Academy Awards ABC Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET to see if A Star Is Born takes home the gold.

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Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) -- Hours after returning to the set of his show Empire following his arrest for falsely reporting he was the victim of a politically-motivated hate crime, Jussie Smollett has been temporarily cut out of the show.

In a statement obtained by ABC News, the show's producers announce that they have removed his character from the final two episodes of the series' fifth season.

Signed by series executives including Lee Daniels and Brian Grazer, the statement opens by saying, "The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us."

It continues, "Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out."

However, the statement adds, "We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season."

The Empire star was arraigned on a class-four felony charge of disorderly conduct/filing a false police report Thursday and released on $100,000 bond. During his court appearance, Smollett maintained his innocence, denying he staged the January 29 attack. The actor claimed he was attacked by two men who hurled racist and homophobic epithets and put a noose around his neck, amd made reference to President Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

After Smollett's arraignment, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson told reporters that the "phony attack" was "orchestrated" by the actor "to boost his profile" amid "a salary dispute." 

Smollett was defiant upon his return to the set after being released --  TMZ is reporting he told castmates he "swore to God" that he didn't orchestrate the hoax.

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Marvel Studios(NEW YORK) -- With the Oscars only days away, Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan is already envisioning what it would mean for the blockbuster Marvel superhero film to win Sunday night.

"It would definitely set the bar pretty high," Jordan tells ABC Radio. "But, also to inspire and to motivate a future generation of filmmakers."

Although Jordan says it would be exciting to see the film win and light a fire in other black filmmakers to create similar narratives, the Creed II star says the film being acknowledged on Oscar night goes deeper than just inspiration.

"To embrace their culture, and embrace who they are, and where they come from," he declares. "No matter what they may be. And that, they won't feel shy or feel like they wouldn't get the media attention or the acknowledgement they may deserve."

Of course, considering the Marvel superhero blockbuster is nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Jordan -- who was lauded for his role as Black Panther's cunningly clever villain, Killmonger -- admits "only good things can happen" with his film being recognized.

"To be acknowledged for putting your hard work and for especially for something so personal, and you know, with your history and your culture, and your heritage, to get recognized at the highest level, would be, obviously, [a] big deal," he says. 

The 91st Academy Awards air Sunday, February 24 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Jussie Smollett's legal team apparently isn't happy with the way his case has been handled by investigators.

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," declares a statement issued by his attorneys Thursday afternoon, hours after Smollett was arrested and formally charged in Chicago for allegedly faking a hate crime against him last month. 

The statement goes on: "The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a mayoral election.  Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

After Smollett's arraignment, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson held a press conference in which he criticized Smollett, saying in part, "Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? ... How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?"  He further called the accusations "a scar" that "Chicago...didn't earn." 

The Empire star was arraigned on a class-four felony charge disorderly conduct/filing a false police report Thursday and released on $100,000 bond.  During his court appearance, Smollett maintained his innocence, denying he staged the anti-gay attack January 29, supposedly at the hands of "racist" supporters of President Trump.  Investigators say Smollett staged the attack to boost his profile, and his pay on Empire.

Speaking of Empire, Smollett returned to the Chicago set of the Fox drama after his court appearance Thursday.  While Fox has issued statements in support of Smollett in the wake of the initial attack reports, their most recent statement declares, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”

TNT didn't need much time to decide to postpone airing an already recorded episode of Drop the Mic featuring Smollett, saying in a statement to ABC News that they're "pulling the episode in the interest of not being exploitative of an incredibly sensitive situation. We are holding on airing his episode for now and we are replacing it with the Raven Simon vs Ron Funches and Joey McIntyre vs Joey Fatone episode.”

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Universal(NEW YORK) -- Here are the movies opening nationwide Friday:

* How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World -- The third and likely final installment in the How to Train Your Dragon series -- the film's being billed as "The Epic Conclusion" --  follows Hiccup, again voiced by Jay Baruchel, and his dragon, Toothless, as they discover their true destinies and test the strength of their friendship like never before. The animated film also features the voices of Cate Blanchett, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington and F. Murray Abraham. Rated PG.

* Fighting with My Family -- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson produced and makes an appearance in this biopic based on the 2012 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family. It follows the journey of professional wrestler Saraya "Paige" Bevis -- played by Florence Pugh -- from growing up in a household of professional wrestlers to winning the WWE Divas Championship in 2014. It also focuses on the the conflict with her brother, Zac, portrayed by Jack Lowden, who competed against her for a spot in the WWE and lost. Game of Thrones star Lena Headey and Vince Vaughn also star. Rated PG-13.

* Run the Race -- This faith-based sports drama, executive-produced by former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, follows a pair of high school brothers whose father abandons them after the death of their mother. Zach, an all-State high school football player -- played by Tanner Stine -- sees his promising college football career crushed by a devastating injury. His brother David -- portrayed by Evan Hofer -- laces up his track cleats to salvage their future and show what's possible when you believe. Rated PG.

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ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) -- Sure, "it's just an honor to be nominated," as many Oscars hopefuls will be saying this weekend, but being recognized by the Academy -- win or lose -- is an easy way for celebrities to scoop up a ton of freebies.

The gifts included in the nominees' SWAG bag this year includes more than $100,000 worth of goodies, according to Forbes -- though Distinctive Assets, the company that packages all the nominees' stuff, stopped counting after 2016, when the retail value of each was clocked at $260,000.

Among the goodies gifted by the company this year, Forbes explains, is a $40,000, 12-night Tanzania vacation for two, and a six-night and seven-day stay at Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu in Kauai, Hawaii.

However, that's not the only SWAG bag in town. Nominees, Oscar attendees, and presenters staying at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles get their own bag of goodies, too, and ABC Radio has learned that in addition to the myriad gadgets and anti-aging creams and other A-List bric-a-brac, included will be a $13,500 VIP "axe-throwing experience" offered by Kick Axe, New York City's first axe-throwing venue.

For that price, one would think you'd get the chance to chuck axes at real-life dragons, though a rep for the company says The VIP experience includes one-on-one training with an "axe-pert," and a private party.

The establishment's founder and owner Ginger Flesher-Sonnier noted in a statement, "We look forward to hosting many of them for a bout of post-award-season stress relief...To be selected to be included as the gift celebrities are given in their hotel room at the Four Seasons is very axe-citing for the growing company."

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Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago judge set Jesse Smollett's bond at $100,000 on Thursday and ordered him to surrender his passport, hours after a Chicago Police Department press conference, where Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson blasted the Empire star, saying that Smollett's alleged staging of a hoax attack was a "publicity stunt...to promote his career."

Standing before Cook County Circuit Court Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke, Jr., Smollett appeared steadfast. He's repeatedly insisted that the attack was real and that he is a victim.

When first assistant state attorney Risa Lanier told Lyke that the actor had picked up the two brothers who authorities say he hired to carry out the attack, and showed them the location of where he wanted it to take place, Smollett shook his head in disagreement.

When Lyke told Smollett that the allegations, if true, are "utterly outrageous," the actor nodded his head in agreement -- adn did so again when Lyke said the noose detail was the most despicable part of the alleged scheme.

The judge also ordered pre-trial monitoring of the actor, and ordered him to stay away from the two brothers with whom he'd allegedly conspired.

At the Thursday morning press conference, a visibly angry Johnson called out the actor for betraying his race and his city with such an incendiary false claim.

"Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Johnson said. “I am left hanging my head asking ‘why?’ Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?"

Johnson told reporters that Smollett staged the attack -- after sending himself a threatening letter to Empire's studios --  because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."

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ABC(NEW YORK) -- After a nearly three-month extended hiatus from her daytime talk show due to health issues, Wendy Williams is set to return to her namesake show next month.

The news of her return came on Thursday via a statement from the show's production company, Debmar-Mercury, which was posted on the Wendy show Instagram page.

"Wendy Williams is an incredible talent with the most unique voice in daytime," the statement read. "We can’t wait to welcome her back to her iconic purple chair on the set of her show on Monday, March 4th."

The statement continues, "We so appreciate all of the guest hosts and panelists who filled in for Wendy during this time. These people are, and always will be, true family to the show. And we want to thank all of the loyal and supportive fans who have been with us for 10 years now."

The statement also included a special note from Wendy.

"Salute to Debmar-Mercury for believing from the start and thanks to my staff for tirelessly holding it down for me," it read.

As previously reported, Williams hasn't returned to her show since it went on a holiday season hiatus in December. In mid-January, she first revealed that that she'd be delaying her return due to a fractured shoulder and "complications regarding her Graves’ Disease that will require treatment."

Since then, the show has been airing repeats, as well as original episodes with a variety of guest hosts.

According to the announcement, the show will air repeat episodes during the week of February 25th and will then return with original episodes starting on Monday, March 4th.

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© 2019 Pop Media Group LLC. All rights reserved(NEW YORK) -- On the new Pop TV series Flack, Anna Paquin plays Robyn, a publicist who cleans up high-profile messes but can't seem to clean up her own messy life.

Paquin, who also serves as a producer on the U.K.-set series, says her character's "amped-up" life mirrors the craziness of her chosen profession.

"As we all know, news cycles and the Internet happen instantaneously, so there's no time to sort of think of things too much or dwell on things too much, the actress tells ABC Radio. Decisions have to be made immediately, crises have to be averted five minutes ago.

"[Robyn] also runs on sort of a crazy clock herself, just as far as some of her... let's say, pastimes and less, uh, PG habits, Paquin continues. "So she's a pretty amped-up person, sort of, already."

Paquin says she she jumped at the chance to bring the story to the screen on a smaller network, where she could have creative freedom to bring this flawed character to life.

"I really like being involved from start to finish on something that I'm working on," she says. "At this point, if I care enough about something to want to be in it, I probably wanna be more involved on the production side."

Flack marks another new chapter for Paquin, who won the 1993 Best Supporting Actress Oscar at 11 years old for her role in The Piano. With the Oscars airing this Sunday, Paquin remembers her genuine reaction to winning at such a young age.

"A picture's worth a thousand words," she says. "So the absolutely shocked facial expression and speechless thing was pretty much...that's what was going through my head: nothing. Just like, 'oh wow.'"

Flack premieres tonight on Pop at 10 p.m. ET.

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Chicago Police Department(LOS ANGELES) -- Celebrities are reacting to the arrest of Jussie Smollett, who's been charged by Chicago PD with filing a false police report.  The Empire star falsely claimed he was attacked on January 29 by two men shouting racist and homophobic epithets.

Tyler Perry took to Instagram, writing, "I have personally spoken to Jussie, and he is adamant that he’s telling the truth. Also, everyone that I know who knows him says that he is not the kind of person who would make up such a horrible and awful thing. Yet the evidence seems to state otherwise.

He added, "I’m lost for words. To stoke fears and raise racial tensions is wrong in every situation on ALL SIDES! Yet my prayers are still with him and his family and our Nation. CAN WE PLEASE STOP THE HATE!"

Octavia Spencer reposted Perry's words, and added some of her own.

"I’ve been trying to find the words and @tylerperry is elegant with his thoughts on this," she wrote. "I’m seriously at a loss for words."

Yvette Nicole Brown insisted her support for Jussie remains unchanged.

"I’ve been vocal about this situation & my love for Jussie & his entire family," she tweeted. "I will continue to hope for the best for everyone involved as things continue to unfold. And I, like all of you, will watch them unfold. But believing victims is always the right choice."

However, Ice Cube's son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., voiced his frustration with Smollett, saying his claims could have led to actual violence.

"What upsets me about this Jussie situation is that people were genuinely worried about you man," he tweeted. "And the things that you said happened could have led to some serious outcomes. People were prepared to fight for you bruh. Things coulda got ugly...... and you made it up."

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Paramount Pictures(LOS ANGELES) -- If you thought Elton John's upcoming biopic Rocketman, described as a "musical fantasy," would only focus on the positive parts of the legendary star's life, a new trailer indicates otherwise.

The trailer, which runs for about two-and-a-half minutes, shows Elton's transformation from an unknown musician named Reginald Dwight into an outrageously dressed full-fledged rock star. We also see him struggling with substance abuse and the pressures of fame, and there's a reference to his secret relationship with his then-manager and lover, John Reid. 

We also see a montage of career moments, as well as life events, including his ill-fated 1984 marriage to recording engineer Renate Blauel.

In one scene, Elton, played by Taron Egerton, is wearing one of his more over-the-top outfits, when he's confronted by Bernie Taupin, played by Jamie Bell. 

"Don't you just wanna just sing without this ridiculous paraphernalia?" asks Bernie.

"People don't pay to see Reg Dwight!" sputters an angry Elton, wearing faux plumage that would make a peacock blush. "They pay to see ELTON JOHN!"

However, he quickly apologizes a moment later, meekly touching Taupin's arm. "I'm sorry."

Knowingly, his longtime writing partner replies, "I know." 

Rocketman will be in theaters May 31.

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(The Monkees, Peter Tork foreground) Mike McLaren/Central Press/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Peter Tork of The Monkees has died at the age of 77, according to a post on the musician's official Facebook page.

"It is with beyond-heavy and broken hearts that we share the devastating news that our friend, mentor, teacher, and amazing soul, Peter Tork, has passed from this world," the note reads.  A spokesperson for The Monkees' record label, Rhino, confirmed Tork's death.

Born Peter Thorkelson in Washington, D.C., Tork began playing music in the New York City folk scene during the early 1960s after dropping out of college. In 1965 he moved to Los Angeles, where, at the urging of his friend Stephen Stills, he tried out for a role in a new comedy TV show about a fictional band inspired by The Beatles.

Peter was hired to star in The Monkees alongside Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith, and the show became a huge success, as did the music the group recorded with the help of seasoned professional songwriters and session musicians.

Known as the "Prefab Four," The Monkees sold millions of albums thanks to the hit TV series, which ran through 1968 and won two Emmys. Tork played bass in the band, and contributed a few songs and occasional lead vocals to the group. Among the songs he's featured on are "Words" and "Shades of Gray."

Peter left The Monkees in 1968, but reunited with the band -- minus Nesmith -- for a successful 1986 reunion tour and a 1987 album, Pool It!. From the late '80s until 2017, Tork would take part in a variety of Monkees reunion treks. He also contributed to studio that albums the band released in 1996, 2016 and 2018.

Tork also had a music career outside of The Monkees: He released a 1994 solo record and several albums both with his band Shoe Suede Blues and with singer/songwriter James Lee Stanley.

In 2009, Tork revealed he'd been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the head and neck, and reported that he'd been successfully treated for the disease. This past November, Peter reported on his Facebook page that he was dealing with an unspecified health issue.

Tork is the second Monkees member to pass away, following Jones, who died of a heart attack in 2010 at age 66.

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Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) -- Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson blasted Empire star Jussie Smollett in an emotional press conference on Thursday, revealing that the actor sent a threatening letter to himself, and paid two men to stage an attack against him, as a "publicity stunt...to promote his career."

An angry Johnson said, "Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," adding that Smollett orchestrated the attack because he was "dissatisfied with his salary." According to HuffPost, he earned $65,000 per episode.

Smollett told the police, and then ABC's Robin Roberts, that on January 29, two men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him before they tied a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him.  Smollet also claimed the assailants used the phrase "MAGA country," a reference to President Donald Trump's "Make American Great Again" slogan.

But as detailed in the press conference, police work revealed that the "racist assailants" were two brothers of Nigerian descent, who were paid $3500 by Smollett to stage the phony attack.

Johnson, who spoke not just as the city's top cop, "but as a black man in Chicago," wondered aloud at the presser, "Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? ... How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?"
 
Johnson called the accusations "a scar" that "Chicago...didn't earn."

Smollett turned himself in at 5:15 a.m. local time and was charged with a felony for making a false police report.  He faces several years in prison for that charge.  But sending himself the letter -- which was filled with a white powder that turned out to be crushed-up Tylenol -- would likely bring further charges, authorities explained.

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