What happened to Black TV?
SHELAH: "What do you mean?"
JON: "Like A Different World, Living Single, The Cosby Show, The Parenthood, Martin."
SHELAH: "I know, right. I feel like we used to see so many shows with full black casts just being -- people. Living lives."
JON: "We should write a show."
SHELAH: "A TV show? I've never written in TV format before."
JON: Laughs loudly. "Me neither but we could figure it out!"
I had a conversation just like that a little over a year ago with my dear friend and collaborator, Jon. Jon is an LA-based producer who specializes in sketches, one of the most well known is the Denzel Parody skit starring KingBach. I knew Jon would be able to produce a quality pilot, and he knew I had writing experience, so we decided to create our dream show, The Academy.
The concept started out as a web series that we were going to pitch in a short format of 3-5 minutes to WhatTheFunny, a company of The Wayans family. Then we decided our show was too big for 3-5 minutes so we began writing 10ish minute episodes and that went on for a few months. We finally settled on a dramedy that centers around Nicole (me!), a brand new school counselor/psychologist who returns back to her high school alma matter in Miami on a special assignment from the county to rid the school of an out of control drug problem.
We held auditions in LA and had tons of name actors come out, people we both recognized from film, TV and even a few ex-R&B singers. I was honored by how many people believed in our script and what we were doing for Black TV. It's not a Black show in the sense that race is not the content of the show, the content of the show is what's going on at the school and in the life of Nicole and her peers. But just seeing Black people on screen in a variety of roles, living lives that don't center around their Blackness is huge. It says that Black people don't only exist as spectacles, we have quotidian experiences too. And the characters on the show are so diverse, that our show adds to the multiplicity of Black images on TV -- which in my opinion is a step in a more tolerant, informed and open minded state of TV.
Our shoot in LA was amazing, I even lost my phone and had a complete stranger return it! Yay nice people! Here are some pics from the shoot. Jon pulled together a professional production and I know it's going to be a very impressive product. Several times during the shoot actors would come up to me and say, "thank you so much." And I was like, "shit -- don't thank me, I was just happy to be writing." LOLZ
I will keep you posted on progress. We are editing the pilot now so we can pitch it to Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO and a few other networks for pilot season.