DeVoe: BET miniseries tells ‘authentic’ story of New Edition
ATLANTA (AP) — New Edition’s ascension to the top of the charts in the 1980s was meteoric.
They sold millions, but turmoil was as integral to their story as their hit records. From the departure of Bobby Brown to other internal rifts to financial difficulties, the drama involving New Edition is as legendary as the band itself.
While it wasn’t great for band chemistry, it’s great for storytelling — and the many twists and turns of the group are well detailed in the group’s biopic, “The New Edition Story,” a three-part miniseries airing this week on BET.
“This is the real story about us,” said Ronnie DeVoe, a founding New Edition member. “There’s no holding back. This story is authentic.”
New Edition — DeVoe, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant and Ricky Bell — were one of the originators of the modern-day boy band, rejuvenating the teen music scene in the mold of The Jackson Five with hits like “Candy Girl” and “Mr. Telephone Man.” They maintained success after puberty and laid the foundation for groups like New Kids on the Block, the Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men.
But the group weathered plenty of conflict: Brown’s erratic behavior during a concert tour got him kicked out the group. Tensions grew after Brown was replaced by Johnny Gill.
Brown found success as a solo artist with the 1988 hit “Don’t Be Cruel.” Gill and Tresvant had their own solo careers, while Bell, Bivins and DeVoe created their own group, Bell Biv Devoe, and soared with their 1990 debut album, “Poison,” which went quadruple platinum.
The film ventures into the early beginnings of New Edition, formed by the childhood friends in a Boston housing project. It stars Woody McClain as Brown, Bryshere Y. Gray (of “Empire”) as Bivins; Elijah Kelley as Bell; Grammy-nominated singer Luke James as Gill; Algee Smith as Tresvant; and Keith Powers as Ronnie Devoe.
Each member of New Edition, along with choreographer Brooke Payne, worked with the actors for two weeks before filming the project.
The idea of the biopic first surfaced in 2005, but it took several years for each New Edition member to agree on creating the film.
Some of the wait was on Bobby Brown. But shortly after the group reunited for their 30th anniversary tour in 2011, he eventually signed off to co-produce the film. (The group has had several reunion concerts over the years.)
“That was the first time we all toured together since 1996,” Bivins said. “So it started with touring again and having the brotherhood, that camaraderie. I’m sure at that particular time, Bob was like, ‘Man, let me put my individuality to the side and hop onboard.’ I think it had something to do with us getting together around that time.”
Bell Biv Devoe continues to tour and record music. The group will release their fourth studio album, “Three Stripes,” on Friday, a day after the miniseries concludes.
Over the years, each member of New Edition has made peace with one another. All six most recently toured in 2014, and Bivins expects them to reunite again, at some point.
“The good thing about New Edition, it’s so much depth with this group. With Bob moving around earlier on in our careers and having so much success, then Johnny, Ralph and Bell Biv Devoe, it gives us kind of room to breathe,” he said. “It somehow comes back to New Edition. ... It’s always in our face whether we like it or not. It’s going to comeback around. It’s just a matter of time.”
Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mrlandrum