New Edition. Picture: Supplied

There are few more successful and widely recognised African American R&B groups than New Edition. Since forming in 1978, they’ve produced several impressive albums together, broken up and gotten back together several times, and over the years formed other successful sub groups and solo careers.

They’ve pretty much seen and done it all, and now their story is set to be told through a three-part mini-series called The New Edition Story. This new series will play on BET (DSTV channel 129) over three nights from March 24 to 26. The series has already debuted to rave reviews all around the world and has been hailed as an authentic retelling of the singular group’s action packed careers. 

The series follows the original five members – Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe and Ricky Bell – from their days as starry-eyed boys to their rise to the top of the charts. The talented cast features Algee Smith (Ralph Tresvant), Bryshere Y. Gray (Michael Bivins), Elijah Kelley (Ricky Bell), Keith Powers (Ronnie DeVoe), Luke James (Johnny Gill) and Woody McClain (Bobby Brown).

The series marks a new height for upcoming star Woody McClain, who plays Bobby Brown. McClain has been making waves in the entertainment industry since signing on to Kevin Hart's production company, HartBeat Digital in 2015. When he took the leap of faith of moving to Hollywood in 2012 to pursue a career in entertainment, McClain says he envisioned playing major roles such as this. “I've always known I wanted to be an entertainer of some sort,” he said. “This is why I did so many after-school activities (sports, band, dance etc). So now I can finally share my many talents.”

The main cast were all required to record their own vocals, allowing for McClain to show off his vocal range. It also added another level of authenticity to the show. 

“It just made the whole project that much more special and I think that's why everyone connected with the characters.” It required that McClain do his research and really immerse himself into the role. He thrived on this experience. “It was such a great experience because I had the pleasure of working with Bobby Brown himself and got to spend time with his wonderful family. That was my brightest moment.”

His biggest challenge in playing this role was having to portray an intoxicated Brown as he has never personally been exposed to drugs.

A well-versed student of music, McClain was a big fan of Brown and the group’s music even prior to the show. Meeting them and interacting with them regularly took this level of respect to another level. “I didn't know the group personally, so I didn't know what to except. But when I got the opportunity to meet the fellas, it felt like I was talking to my uncles. They took us all in like family.”

In learning about the group, he was particularly intrigued by how they “put in so much work for years” yet only got paid a small amount of money for their work. “But they never gave up,” he said. “And they made a great career by not giving up on their dreams. The brotherhood these guys had was unbreakable. No matter what happened they were always family and cared for one another.”

The New Edition Story will air as an exclusive six hour, three night event on the 24th, 25th and 26th of March at 9:50pm on BET (Dstv Channel 129).

THE NEW EDITION STORY: EPISODE BREAKDOWN

Part One – Friday, March 24, at 9:50pm

The year is 1978. The city: Roxbury, MA, just outside of Boston. Eleven year old Bobby Brown convinces some friends (Ricky Bell, Mike Bivins, and Ralph Tresvant) to perform in local talent shows in an attempt to win money (and girls). Once the group is formed, they convince a hot local manager, Brooke Payne, to turn them into talent show winners. The boys are eventually discovered by music impresario, Maurice Starr, who signs them to a record deal. 

They add a fifth member, Ronnie DeVoe, and their debut song Candy Girl hits #1 on the charts. Gary Evans, a manager from NYC, promises them a better deal, bigger stardom, and more money. When the boys get a new deal with MCA Records in L.A., things get off to an inauspicious start when MCA president Jheryl Busby, underwhelmed by his new signing, pushes them to deliver a hit album or else.

Part Two – Saturday, March 25, at 9:50pm

It’s 1984, and New Edition is in L.A. recording their second album. Ralph, fully aware of the resentment from his bandmates, requests more parts for them to sing. The album is a huge hit; but Bobby’s behaviour gets more erratic and outlandish while on the road. Eventually tensions erupt, and the group dynamic takes a pivotal change – the boys vote to kick Bobby out – and New Edition is never the same. 

Soon Ralph decides that he wants to go solo, leaving remaining members Ricky, Mike, and Ronnie stunned. Mike, the group’s de facto leader, adds R&B singer Johnny Gill to the group. Everything comes to an ugly head when the group meets to record their next album.

Part Three – Sunday, March 26, at 9:50pm

New Edition’s “Heartbreak” tour is an incredible success and the group is soaring high. Bobby, who has his own hit album Don’t Be Cruel, starts off as their opening act. But he soon eclipses them, becoming one of the biggest stars in R&B music. 

By 1990, all the members have launched hugely successful solo careers – even though there’s tension bubbling under the surface between them. A few short years later when most of the guys are up to their ears in debt, they agree to do a reunion album and tour with all six members, including Bobby.

 

 

This should be New Edition’s rebirth, but things immediately get off to a bad start. In the aftermath, all six members go their separate ways, trying to navigate life after New Edition, leaving little hope to maintain the brotherhood they once shared.

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