NEW YORK — Fresh off his co-starring role in “La La Land,” John Legend is trying another medium: virtual reality.
Legend will executive produce and lend his voice to the title character of the upcoming Baobab Studios series “Rainbow Crow.” The production company was to announce Legend’s involvement Tuesday. The first installment of the series is to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month.
“A lot of the attraction to the project was being involved with a new technology that’s just emerging as a new medium for creative talent,” Legend said in an interview.
Inspired by Native American folklore, “Rainbow Crow” is about a bird “with the most dazzling plumage and mellifluous voice, who, after the planet turns dark and cold, must journey far from home to bring light back to the world.” Says Legend: “It’s about love. It’s about inclusion. It’s about community.”
Though virtual reality remains a nascent art form, Baobab has emerged as an early leader. One of its first two VR “experiences,” ”Invasion!” was nominated for an Emmy and is to be adapted into a feature film. “Rainbow Crow” is directed by Eric Darnell, co-founder and chief creative officer of Baobab.
Oscar season is still fresh on the mind of Legend, who called the Academy Awards finale “surreal.”
“At the end of the day, the voters voted for ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Moonlight’ was a deserving film,” says Legend. “It was a beautiful film that I loved, personally, and I’m happy for the team that created ‘Moonlight.’ And I’m also happy for our incredible team with ‘La La Land.'”
Legend is also producing the WGN America series “Underground,” about slaves and abolitionists in the years before the Civil War. He recently taped a guest appearance as Frederick Douglass. At a Black History Month event in February, President Donald Trump appeared to be only somewhat familiar with the abolitionist and author, calling him “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.”
“We filmed it last year when Obama was still president,” says Legend. “We had a president who actually knew something about black history — and American history for that matter. If the president sees me in the street, he might think I’m him.”
Music, though, remains Legend’s “primary role,” he says. “And I don’t see that changing.” In June, Legend goes on tour to support his latest album, “Darkness and Light.” As he begins preparation for the tour, politics are on his mind.
“I think about all of what’s going on in the world,” says Legend. “I also know that people want a night full of love and human connection, so I want the show to be inspiring and positive for people.”