Interview: 'Almost 30' Perfectly Highlights The Humor In The Come Up

Marriage? Kids? Your first home? Yeah, a lot of us thought that's what we'd accomplish by 30. But if you're like most 20 something year olds who haven't, the Almost 30 web series hilariously illustrates you're not alone. 

Thirty is an in-between age.

Some of your friends are getting married, having kids or at the very least, running 10Ks for fun, while the other half measure their success by being able to make it through the work week without transferring money from their savings to their checking. If your life more-so mirrors the latter, than the Almost 30 web series is your new Nutella.

Directed by former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry, the series follows three roommates, Justin (Michael Moss), Dream (Sherial McKinney), Ricky (Ricky Smith) and their friends as they bring their 20s to a close and attempt to get their affairs in order for the new decade. Each episode brilliantly walks the line between nostalgic '90s entertainment references, and modern day nuances, while showcasing how almost 30-year-olds deal with...well, life!

VIBE chopped it up with the hilarious cast – barely making it through the interview because of all the real life LOLs – about the inspiration behind the show, what viewers can take away from it and why Almost 30 is basically the bees-knees.

VIBE: So, how did you guys come up with the premise for Almost 30?
Matthew Cherry: Well, Michael and I used to be P.A.s (production assistants) for a show called Girlfriends, and we realized there was a lot of laughter in the come up and in trying to make it, so from there it was born.

Brittany Richards: We all know the struggle of going into a new decade and feeling like you didn't get as far as you thought you were going to get. It's so relevant to the audience that's watching, with all the '90s references because it makes you feel nostalgic and while you're feeling depressed and a little overwhelmed at the fact that you're not where you want to be, you look at the show and you feel happy and can remember being a little kid.

For fans who aren't aware, this is a reboot, yes?
Cherry: At the top of 2013, we shot a couple of episodes. We did an original pilot called Almost Engaged and then our second episode was called Almost Roommates. Everything was good, but just being candid, being new to the web series space we over extended our resources, but we still received a lot of love. It was always something we wanted to get back to. So we did a reboot because we know the pilot received about 100,000 plus views. Plus, Giovanni's character (Rico) is new. I actually saw him on VINE. Giovanni came in, auditioned for the role and was perfect for it.

Giovanni Watson: Look at God, right in the face. Just mean mug him. [laughs]

Not mean muggin the lord. (Laughs) So Giovanni, explain your character, because in the show, you play Rico who is dating Dream and you're kind of a asshole.
Watson: I know people like Rico, so when Matthew gave me the breakdown of the character, I familiarized myself with P. Diddy. The thing about Rico is, he's an asshole, but he's a sweetheart at the same time. He's a sweet ass.

The Entire Cast: PAUSE! (laughs)

Watson: He tries to do right. He tries to be sweet. But his assholness is so strong. When things are good, Rico has a way of messing them up.

One of my favorite scenes is in the Almost Roommates episode is when Justin and Rick learn Dream is actually a Michael Jackson impersonator on Hollywood Boulevard. How did you all come up with that?
Sherial McKinney: I would dress up every year as Michael Jackson for Halloween and I showed Matthew pictures of me dressed up one year, and that's kind of how he got the idea. I remember Matthew cracking the hell up when he first saw the pictures. He just felt like it was too weird to not put into the show.

Cherry: Exactly, plus Sherial also has a really strong jaw line like MJ so.. (laughs) But seriously, we thought it would just be funny. In that episode [when she becomes Justin and Rick's roommate] and throws down the rent money, people think she's a stripper, but she's really a Michael Jackson impersonator.

Where do you all pull your inspiration from to turn real life scenarios--like the Almost Healthy episode where everyone's trying to get fit--into an episode?
Ricky Smith: A lot of them come from our personal experiences. In the Almost Healthy episode, the roommates perform an intervention because of my eating habits, but I really do eat a lot of meat and bacon. Thirty is that age. Before in your 20s, you could eat McDonalds, but 30 is a turning point, where you notice you're getting older. Even though we're all African-American and different ages, we all come from different backgrounds and diverse places. We've all had the struggle, you know? We've all had the janky car. Just being in LA and trying to "make it" we've all been on that struggle bus.

Is that the same approach you take when inserting all the '90s references?
Michael Moss: We'll think of something funny, or somebody will mention something and we'll try and work that in. We'll come up with something like the 'Boyz n the Hood' spoof in the Almost Healthy episode and we'll say 'Okay, how can we work this in?'  There's no rhyme or reason to it.

Smith: You still kind of want to be relevant and use things people know. But there can be a spot in a [script] where 'so and so says this' and then Mike or I'll say 'Well, how about we do this?' We're all kind of in the same age group, I on the other hand graduated from Morehouse with Dr. Martin Luther King (laughs) but seriously, if it works and it makes sense, we go with it.

While the show takes a comedic approach to what most 20 something year olds are going through, will you guys touch on serious topics?
Cherry: We always want it to be relatable. The biggest crux of the show is what can we do so that way when people watch, they see themselves in it? Our fifth episode is Almost Promoted. That episode speaks to when you're working this regular nine to five and you think that if you work hard enough, your work will be recognized and you'll just automatically be promoted. A lot of times as we come to find out in our 30s, that's not the case. We also touch on church, we have an episode called Almost Saved (laughs) which is going to be pretty classic. We also have one called Almost Out The Friend Zone that I think a lot of people can relate to.

Okay, last question: It seems like you guys have a lot of fun working together. Do you?
Watson: One thing I really appreciate about what Matthew does is that he gives  the whole cast a lot of comedic improvisational range.  A lot of crazy stuff happens on set all the time. My aim every take is to make my scene mate break character or the cameraman bust out laughing. It's a real relaxed good vibe on set.

How do you guys get through a scene?
Moss: Oh, we don't (Laughs)
Smith: That's why we only have four episodes because it takes that long (laughs)Cherry: The thing I love most about the cast is that they always give more than what's on the page. We always have the script and a lot of lines are written as is, But they always find a way to enhance it.

To watch episodes of Almost 30, CLICK HERE








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Pharrell's New Netflix Kids' Series Focuses On Importance Of STEAM Learning

Pharrell Williams is the executive producer of a new children’s show on Netflix that focuses on educating little ones on the importance of science, technology and current events.

“I got involved with ‘Brainchild’ because there is a desperate need to raise awareness about the importance of science with our youth, we must edu-tain,” Williams told Variety about his new series. The show is hosted by Indian-American actress and comedian Sahana Srinivasan.

Brainchild will use “interactive games, experiments and skits” to teach and highlight the “core concepts and principles of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).” It was co-created by Atomic Entertainment, and is billed as a spinoff of the Emmy-nominated show “Brain Games,” which aired on National Geographic Channel for seven seasons.

Williams and his i am OTHER production partner Mimi Valdes also discussed the idea of the show’s accessibility for teachers and students. Per Variety, “The curriculum is available without having to sign up or register for any account, and can be used at home or in the classroom to supplement existing tools.”

“It’s especially important to me to get STEAM-focused programming in front of minority communities,” Pharrell says of attempting to reach viewers. “That’s because at the core of the plight of children of color in this country is a lack of access to actionable education.”


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Prepare to have your minds blown 🧠⚡🌊💖💡🔬 I worked with the masterminds of Brain Games on a show that will empower kids by approaching STEM topics in a cool, new way and to provide anOTHER way into science. Thank you to our host @Sahana.j.shree, @AlieWard, Atomic Entertainment, @i_am_other and the @Netflix team. Brainchild OUT NOW on Netflix. #brainchild

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Jacquees Blames 'Hater' DJ Mustard For The Removal Of His 'Trip' Remix

DJ Mustard, the producer of Ella Mai’s “Trip,” is responding to reports that he was “hating” on Jacquees, who famously deleted his “quemix” of the aforementioned song. Jacquees visited the L.A. radio show Big Boy’s Neighborhood, where he discussed the controversy behind deleting his version of the popular track from the Internet.

“Really, DJ Mustard hated on me, no cap, that was crazy,” he told the hosts about the issues at hand. “I wanna work with DJ Mustard too, but that was a hating move.” The release of his popular version sparked rumors that the “Boo’d Up” musician was jealous of the 4275 artist’s success with his version.

Mustard, who founded Mai’s label 10 Summers, commented on Instagram about his feelings on the R&B star’s latest comments. "That n***a Big Boy said ‘it was really goin’ too!'” he laughed in a video shared to his IG Story. “You stupid ni**a," he continued.

Last year, Mustard wrote on Twitter that if a song that the artist doesn’t own is monetized, it’s stealing and “no one steals from 10 Summers.”

“This is simply a press or marketing plan, or some strategy to deviate from the narrative that Ella is breaking records left and right because the music she’s making is cutting through straight to fans at a rate people haven’t seen in years,” he continued. “Ella’s career started by doing covers and we support all her fans and fellow artists doing the same.”

To whom it may concern .

— Mustard (@mustard) September 26, 2018

I’m not going to blogs or any media outlets to address this Jacquees situation ima address it right here and after this we will never address anything like this again I’m just tired of people picking on @ellamai !

— Mustard (@mustard) September 26, 2018


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#PressPlay: #DJMustard responds after #Jacquees talks about his #Trip remix getting removed!! (SWIPE)—(📹: @bigboysneighborhood)

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'Black Monday' Becomes A Dramedy As Its World Flips Upside Down: Episode 9 Recap

Blair was Mo’s mirror in episode “295.” In this week’s episode, he internalizes Mo’s qualities, and now the reflection wants to take over the original’s life, like a scene from Jordan Peele’s Us. Some of the most analytically rich parts of this episode revolve around all the allusions to Blair assuming Mo's role after agreeing to go along with the Georgina Play, two months after Mo informed him of the rouse.

Blair flirts with Dawn – the woman Mo still loves – while sitting in Mo's desk chair as Mo walks in and sees them. He gifts all of the Jammer Group inner circle with replicas of Mo's custom-made Rolex and calls them “Molexes” with "f**k em all" engraved on them. It’s the latter mantra that, in a surprising twist, leads to Blair potentially ending Mo as we know him.

An early criticism of Black Monday was Andrew Rannells’ inconsequential portrayal of Blair in the first few episodes. After carrying a large number of scenes in last week’s episode, this week’s showcases his shining moment. One of the funniest scenes s when Blair stops himself from saying "it's all good in the hood," after glancing at Mo, before replacing "hood" with "municipalities." That’s a very artful way to say if he wants to be Mo, he’ll have to do more than speak like him. Consequently, Blair does just that in order to get Tiffany Georgina to go along with the Georgina Play.

The Agency Of Tiffany Georgina

Casey Wilson, who plays Tiffany, needs to star in a spin-off show if for nothing else than to see her do another interpretive dance routine to a remixed version of the national anthem like she did at Tiffany’s wedding reception. We predicted in our review of episode “243” that Tiffany would have a bigger hand in the Black Monday collapse than we originally assumed, and this episode brings our prophecy to life.

Tiffany admits to Blair in the final scene of the episode that she’s a lot to handle but poignantly justifies it by stating everyone isn’t as sure of themselves as she is. It’s in that moment we realized out of all of the characters with considerable screen time, Tiffany may be the only one who never lied about herself. The comments about smart “orientals” are vacuous and her obsession with social status is asinine, but they’re also genuinely Tiffany; Everyone else adjusts their morals and personality to fit whatever gets them money.

Tiffany also reveals that when she was in sixth grade, her parents prevented her from legally emancipating herself from them by giving her a cartilage piercing and a new credit card. In episode “243,” when Blair innocuously says he’s staying late at work to do “compliance,” Tiffany instinctively knew that meant illegally shredding documents because her family is wealthy. Tiffany’s parents had their own daughter kidnapped in last week’s episode to boost the company’s value and now their daughter plans to steal that very company from them. The Black Monday writers used the Georgina family this season as a commentary on how money can make anything transactional, even love and loyalty.

Just like with Mo, the Georgina family may be undone by a monster they created.

The Dramedy

In today’s age of television, shows rarely fit perfectly in one genre. Orange Is The New Black’s second season was nominated in the drama category at the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards, a year after its first season was nominated in the comedy category. This blurring of the artistic lines has created a new type of show that is equal parts drama and comedy: a dramedy. After the last two episodes, Black Monday has become more dramedy than comedy.

In the first half of the season, Black Monday was roughly 90% hilarious debauchery with the 10% of deep introspection reserved for the final minutes of the episode. Over time, that ratio began to even out until last week’s episode, which delivered the highest concentration of drama acting of the season. In this week’s episode, the double and triple crossings in Blair and Mo’s heated rivalry are more central to the episode than Keith’s hysterical attempts at tricking the SEC and Tiffany’s ridiculous wedding. Aside from Dawn and Mo forming a secret alliance, the episode concludes with Blair’s most intimidating piece of dialogue as he breaks down the illusionary world Mo has constructed for himself.

While episode “7042” is the most compelling episode of the entire season, so far, the move into dramedy has its drawbacks. There are still gems like Mo’s double entendre of “I’ve unearthed secrets, got winded and fired,” a play on the name of legendary funk band Earth, Wind & Fire, who released their 1987 Billboard hit “System of Survival” a month before the events in this week’s episode. But, the hijinks and absurdist humor that Black Monday is predicated on are more separated than in any other episode.

As a result of this shift into dramedy, certain jokes not only fall flat but feel out of place and tonally different than the rest of the episode. Keith referring to the ability to know who is gay as “Navi-gay-tion” would be amusing in almost any other Black Monday episode. Him delivering it at the end of this week’s episode, after a dramatic exchange between Dawn and Mo, felt cringeworthy.

Hopefully, there’ll be plenty to laugh about when everything comes crashing down in the season finale next week.

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