Happily Ever After has almost become folklore in today’s dating age. Tenderness has been replaced with technology and doting upon one another now goes down in the DMs. Whether or not the grass is greener isn’t the problem plaguing this generation’s love life, it’s that everyone can now peruse multiple lawns simply by opening an app.
A like may lead to a follow, a follow to a direct message and if the conversation goes stale, the cycle begins anew with different participants. Some are sincerely looking for affection, while others are are just looking to be looking.
There was a time when the rules of engagement were simpler and people were more patient. Love has always been a risk with no guarantee you’d get your time, effort or heart back, but during these yesteryears there were less hoops to jump through, less small talk to get past and more of a willingness to begin forever.
Or so the old-heads say.
Partners in life, crime and television Salim and Mara Brock Akil decided to show what courtship was like sans retweets, shares and likes. In their new OWN series Love Is___, viewers are transported back to the ‘90s where they meet Nuri, a Los Angeles transplant with dreams of becoming a television show writer, and Yasir a native from The Bay who hopes to one day direct movies. The two couldn’t be more different and have an awkward first meeting at a cafe. Then during a chance encounter a year later they begin their rocky road to forever.
But if you’re looking for a perfect love story, beloved, this show may not be for you.
Loosely based on Salim and Mara’s own relationship, Yasir, which is Arabic for “rich,” lacks the material accoutrements that demonstrate wealth, while Nuri in the year since their initial meeting has earned a career, a car and a home, proving she’s “arrived.” Their uneven yolk spawned a lively conversation about success during a roundtable discussion with Mr. and Mrs. Akil, as well as the show’s leads, Will Cattlet and Michelle Weaver.
Reporters from VIBE, HelloBeautiful, The Root, Shadow and Act and Essence were on hand to query the motivation behind the show and challenge the idea and definition of what love truly is.
Love is…what? Across the board.
Mara Brock Akil: Love is achievable if you define it and design it. It really is that simple. We are challenged and complex human beings and we bring that into relationships, but it is very much achievable if we design it and define it for yourself.
Salim Akil: Love is sovereignty. Love is being able to decide for yourself what that is. I think oftentimes we get caught up in what love looks like for our friends, our relatives, our parents or whatever definition of it you use, but you have to define it for yourself. So I think ultimately when we talk about this show, we don’t want people to see it as some sort of blueprint, ‘Oh, well do it like that.’ We just want people to see it as permission to define it for yourself.
Will Catlett: Love gives no reason, that’s how I define it.
So yeah, you meet Yasir broke, but you know when he’s sitting on that couch he ain’t broke no more, and that’s why everyone wants me to write a book because they want one of those and I’m telling you how I got one.-Mara Brock Akil.
What does that mean?
Catlett: Love is love. It doesn’t play by your rules and it’ll teach you about love, so it gives no reason for you to put any expectations on it. It just exist as it is.
Michelle Weaver: Love is a journey. When you choose to do life with someone, whether their your friend, your family or your partner in crime and you go through the highs and the lows, you choose to love them through everything. I guess you just have to make sure you choose the right person.
Do you think your show will give men like Yasir who don’t have all their sh*t together some breathing room? Because I am fully prepared for Twitter to tear Yasir apart.
Mara Brock Akil: Tear him apart? Really?
Yes. When viewers watch Love Is_, do you think they’ll be able to empathize with a man who does not have ish together?
Salim Akil: Yeah, I do. I think because we’ve talked about it a lot. We’ve written about it a lot black men don’t have their sh**t together, but if you look at Yasir he really does have his sh*t together.
Salim Akil: He may not have the accoutrements of what it looks like.
What does that word mean, sir?
Salim Akil: It means he may not have the job just yet or the car. He may not have the bank account, but his f**king priorities are clear. He loves hard, He’s trying to take care of his son. He’s trying to go out in this world and become something. He’s met this woman and he’s trying to commit to her, but he’s not going to commit to her at the expense of someone he’s known for years.
Love is sovereignty-Salim Akil.
He’s expecting that woman that said that night I love you to love him. If you say you love me then me closing this door should not end that. You should allow me the opportunity to come back to you and tell you why I close this door in your face. So if you look at this journey, he is willing to sacrifice all the accoutrements of having your sh*t together in order to be who he is. I would rather f**king live in my car then you feel like Ruby, then you feel like I’m using you.
So when you say ‘I think it’s time for you to move out’ he’s not trying to play some game and say ‘Well let me stay this long’ he just says, ‘Cool’ and then when he comes back and she’s in trouble he doesn’t say ‘Well, you f**ked up.’ He says ‘Let me help you because I’ve told you’re beautiful.’ That what I’m hoping Yasir’s character does is redefine the notion of having your sh*t together. Any woman that looks at Yasir, the character of Yasir, should want that in his life, whether he has a bank account or not because what that says is this is a man who’s going to stand by me in the tough times.
Weaver: I agree because I dated a guy for years who didn’t have money and he said he loved me and he made these promises, but the character was missing. It wasn’t me being with someone who didn’t have his stuff yet, because we came together on the same level with nothing and I actually surpassed him. He didn’t step up his character. It wasn’t that I need him to have money, I need his character to be there and that’s one thing Yasir has. He has the groundingness of who he is, and what’s beyond money, and what you give someone is beyond money. Anyone can buy you a car. Anyone can have a nice apartment. What happens when all of that is gone? That’s what love is.
It’s sad but they’re going to over simplify him and they’re going to make him out to be, excuse my language, a f**kboy, when he’s not.
Salim Akil: What’s a f**kboy?
You don’t want to know. [Laughs]
Mara Brock Akil: Well the beautiful thing is there’s 20 years, and there’s history. Part of that is inherent in accepting, like love, everybody for exactly who they are. So because you know, however they got there they’re sitting on the couch 20 years later what it should do is let you lean back and be an observer and not try to anticipate what’s going to happen. But it gives you a piece that we actually haven’t had in our storytelling to know that we make it, and we belong in the future. We belong in the present.
That is revolutionary in and of itself, taking up the space. However we got there and asking everyone to come on the journey. So yeah, you meet Yasir broke, but you know when he’s sitting on that couch he ain’t broke no more, and that’s why everyone wants me to write a book because they want one of those and I’m telling you how I got one.
Catlett: I just think it’s interesting how you brought up the “f**kboy” and you brought up how Twitter will do this and do that, but it makes me think for the women or men who are watching this what are you deciding to see? Because if you’re really seeing Yasir and you’re really looking at him then you will see something totally different when he looks at Nuri.
I always say the 90s were authentic. It had an authenticity to it, and you can see even now people are trying to slowly get back to that and that’s what we’re doing with this show. It’s authentic. It’s real. You can feel it.