Today In Women’s History Month: Creator Of ‘Let’s Stay Together’ Talks Pitching To BET, Diversty On TV
Jacque Edmonds Cofer has years of experience as a TV writer and producer. She is currently the brains behind BET’s popular Let’s Stay Together but has brought other iconic shows to television like Moesha, Martin and Living Single. We caught up with her in honor of Women’s History Month and got her to dish how she ended up pitching Let’s Stay Together to BET, the key to creating a successful show and why it’s still hard to find diversity on the tube.
How did Let’s Stay Together come about?
I had written what’s called a spec script a couple of years ago based on my relationships with my husband (a financial professional) and when I heard BET was open to scripted programming I submitted it and they loved the script and they wanted the characters to be a little bit younger and we made a couple of other changes and that’s what became let’s stay together.
You started out in the corporate world, so how did you make the transition to TV?
I was interested in a corporate job at Disney and when I did some research about it I heard about their writer’s fellowship program so I wrote the first script I ever wrote, submitted it and got accepted so it was just my destiny.
Why was it important for you to pitch a scripted show as opposed to going in the reality TV direction?
Because I like story telling, there are obviously some really good reality TV shows out there and when it’s a reality show it’s existing characters but when you create characters you get to create scenarios and you get to steer them in the direction you want them to go in and it’s fun.
Where there other networks considered besides BET?
We had some interest from a couple of other networks but it never really got that far I don’t think that they understood the concept and the meaning as much as BET did, particularly because it was about African American relationships and I think that BET wants to encourage families and partnerships and that sort of thing.
It’s interesting you say that about other networks not understanding functional African American relationships working on TV. It’s something Bill Cosby was vocal about having to deal with when he was pitching The Cosby Show. Why are black people still struggling when it comes to getting people to understand that we’re not a monolith and can work in various situations on TV?
You mentioned reality shows and most of those franchises thrive on assumptions, all the way to Intervention, which is clearly about dysfunction but a lot of the other reality shows⎯Teen Mom⎯that’s what they’re high lighting and we want to show the good side of that and that there are a lot of us who are thriving and successful and looking to build relationships.
Let’s Stay Together has been on for a while but talk about show for people who may have no idea.
It’s a romantic comedy and it’s about two couples, the women in the couples are sisters and one couple is engaged and first season they’re planning their wedding, and the other couple has been married for a few years, they have twins who are babies and they’re all at different stages of getting to know each other and we deal with not only the romantic couple relationships or the single women out there looking for a relationship, we also deal with the sisters’ family relationship.