Today In Women’s History Month: Creator Of ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ Other Popular Sitcoms Gives Young TV Writers Tips
What do you want people to take away from the show in general?
That not all relationships are about strife and trouble and that there’s a lot of fun to be had and it’s definitely worth trying to stay together.
People seem to be responding well to it so will there be a season two?
I see a season two. We’re already talking about where we take it from here but we’re not in danger of running out of stories to tell. This season, we had the younger sister taking a “mancation,” she’s doing it to get more in touch with herself and what she really wants in a relationship so after we come back we’re gonna see her exploring that whole world and defining relationships and who she wants to be with.
What lessons did you learn from working on other shows that you were able to apply to Let’s Stay Together?
On the creative side I think how to have strong, well-defined characters. Obviously on Martin and Moesha, we definitely had those characters. You also want to have those characters that people can relate to. I think we’ve achieved that as well. And then on the business side, to have a tight knit team and make sure that everyone has a good experience working together—the casting crew—it’s a comedy, so we always want to keep it light hearted and fun and I think that spirit comes through, through the camera to the audience.
Going back to the lack of diversity on TV, why do you think TV execs aren’t quite responsive yet to black programming after all these years?
I had an interesting e-mail dialogue with a TV critic about that a couple of years ago because when I was growing up, there was Sanford and Son, there was The Jeffersons, there was The Cosby Show and it’s not new. Those were all on NBC, TBC—major networks—they were nominated for Emmys and so what happened was that white people stopped finding black people entertaining [laughs], it has never happened before. And I think as the TV universe has expanded, the mainstream networks are almost becoming dismissive because networks like MTV and Disney, you have diverse programming and you have diverse casting so for some reason the network executives are ignoring the piles of money that African Americans and Latinos have to spend and that’s good for BET and Univision and Telemundo to pick it up but I don’t understand the short sightedness of the networks. And like I said, I had this dialogue with a movie critic and he didn’t get it either but he put it very well, which was, most of the executives at these networks are not people of color and when they are, I know that they have trouble translating to their bosses and the decision makers why this programming will be successful.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers and other creative minds when it comes to breaking into TV?
It’s a very difficult business to break into in general so I would say just strive to make your product as excellent as you can and that means take courses, read books, read your TV history and the different types of TV programs and the different genres. You have to know this stuff inside and out, you have to understand the aura very well before you can play around with it so you should aspire yourself to understand the different forms of TV programming and then once you got that down put your spin on that. That’s what the executives and decision makers who get to read your stuff will respond to.
Lastly, what else are you working on?
My husband and I have a faith based film production company and we are developing three film romantic comedy genre for features. And so we’re hoping to—in between Let’s Stay Together—get those off the ground throughout 2011. That’s another space where there’s a huge audience for family related films that the whole family can enjoy and we’re gonna work to fill in that gap.