The USC Clique Makes Hollywood Feel Like Home
Two decades in, friendships formed through cinema only grow deeper.
They’re writers. Producers. Actors. Directors. Individually, each one of them has name recognition in Hollywood. As a group, though, they have another identity: The USC Clique.
From Dreamworks Animation to Fox TV, these Trojans have the entertainment industry covered. Lifelong friends, they bonded in the mid-1990s through USCs African American Cinema Association. Twenty years on, the 17-member group has spawned three happy marriages, 16 children and hundreds of screen credits.
Since we graduated college, we have been each others friends, husbands and wives, cohorts, collaborators and fiercest protectors, says Dayna Lynne North 95, head writer on the VH1 series Single Ladies. Through it all, weve stayed as tight as we were when we hung out in Webb Tower or Regal Trojan.
The club grew out of USC Professor Todd Boyds popular course on race and gender in cinema. We wanted to expand on that and keep the conversation going, North says.
Association leaders organized special screenings, guest lectures and panel discussions about issues in black cinema. Once they staged a basketball tournament with the cast of Boyz n the Hood. Memberswho were mostly, but not exclusively, cinema or theater majorspartnered creatively as well. We held lights in each others short films, painted sets for each others plays, stage managed and starred in each others productions, North says.
Today all the Clique members have successful careers in the entertainment world, whether its Brooklyn Nine-Nine producer Prentice Penny 95 or Los Angeles Times Calendar section writer Jevon Phillips 93, MPW 96. Even though everything has changed, nothing has changed, says North, whose writing credits include the television series Veronica Mars and Lincoln Heights.
The group gets together for poker tournaments, board games, karaoke nights and, naturally, Trojan football. Each summer theres a rowdy July 4 picnic at Cochran Ranch, the Valencia, California, home of producer Yolanda 93 and writer-director J.D. Cochran 93. Come Thanksgiving, the Cochrans welcome Clique members staying in town for the holiday.
The Clique is home. Its family. Its dogged, unrelenting, unapologetic honesty. Its a plethora of opinion and a love of debate, says Yolanda Cochran, executive vice president at Alcon Entertainment, whose production credits include the movies Transcendence and Dolphin Tale.
In Hollywood, youre up or youre down, North says. One day youre working, then youre not working. One minute youre being celebrated on the red carpet, the next minute the phones not ringing. Yet what has been a constant is the love and support and faith that we all have in each other.
Actor J. August Richards 96 notes that its tough to make friends in the industry. The friends I made at USC are still my closest, says Richards, currently in ABCs Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I cant imagine surviving in this town without them.
The USC Clique
- Voice-actor JAMES MATHIS 96 starred in the VH1 series I Hate My 30s. Hes voiced characters for Marvels The Avengers and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, among others.
- NICHELLE PROTHO 92 is currently vice president of Sander/Moses Productions (TV) and COO of its sister company, SLAM (digital). Credits include Reckless and Ghost Whisperer and the films Loveless in Los Angeles and Undercover Brother.
- Actor JAMES LESURE 95, known for his role as Mike Cannon on the hit series Las Vegas, recently starred in TBSs Men at Work. Credits include the films Loveless in Los Angeles and the TV shows Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and Alias.
- J.D. COCHRAN 93 is an independent editor and director whose feature credits include Paved with Good Intentions.
- EDU BLACK 93 freelances in production with the NFL Network, among others.
- Producer-turned-writer MARK HASLETT 95 wrote the original draft of The Last House on the Left. Television writing credits include SyFys Helix.
- CHRISTINE LOJKO HASLETT 96 is a film editor at DreamWorks Animation SKG, with credits including How to Train Your Dragon, Rise of the Guardians and Home.
- JEVON PHILLIPS 93, MPW 96 is a staff writer/producer for the LATimes.com Calendar section.
- Actor-turned-writer TERENCE PAUL WINTER 96 has been a supervising producer on Castle.
- Writer TALICIA RAGGS 94 was co-producer on NBCs Ironside, with past writing credits on Commander in Chief and Saving Grace.
- Childrens author KYMBERLI WINTER is currently working on her first adult fiction novel. Previous childrens works include Clyde the Cloud Who Always Cried.
- Showrunner DAYNA LYNNE NORTH 95 is currently co-writing a miniseries for OWN. She recently served as head writer on the third season of the VH1 series Single Ladies. Writing credits include Lincoln Heights, Veronica Mars and Any Day Now.
- Executive producer PRENTICE PENNY 95 recently won a Golden Globe for his work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine after stints on Happy Endings, Scrubs and Girlfriends.
- YOLANDA T. COCHRAN 93 is executive vice president at Alcon Entertainment, maker of such films as Prisoners, Transcendence and The Blind Side.
- Actor J. AUGUST RICHARDS 96 was a fan favorite on Angel and Raising the Bar before his breakout role as Deathlok on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He also stars in The Lottery and Girlfriends Guide to Divorce.
- Entertainment executive ANGELA NORTHINGTON 95 oversees content acquisition for the multiplatform music network startup Revolt TV.
- Actress TANEKA JOHNSON 94 has had recurring roles on ER, Chicago Hope and Any Day Now, as well as guest stints on Castle, CSI and 24.