Interview: 'Almost 30' Perfectly Highlights The Humor In The Come Up
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.
Moss: Oh, we don't (Laughs)
To watch episodes of Almost 30, CLICK HERE