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Interview: Chatting w/ Anthony Hemingway, Lena Waithe & Ben Jones About Their New TV Project

Shadow and Act By Masha Dowell | Shadow and Act March 7, 2014 at 1:53PM

Interview: Chatting w/ Anthony Hemingway, Lena Waithe & Ben Jones About Their New TV Project
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Pictured above: Dijon Talton (Kendall), Kevin Phillips (Aidan) and Tuffy Questell (Marshall)
Pictured above: Dijon Talton (Kendall), Kevin Phillips (Aidan) and Tuffy Questell (Marshall)

When I think of the term, “Black Brotherhood”, as it relates to TV or Film, I instantly think of productions such as School Daze, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the Wayans Bros. There’s even an independent film that I saw ten years ago at the old Magic Johnson theaters in L.A. entitled, The Epicureans that displayed camaraderie among black men.  I often think of that film, if I ever want to imagine a reverse-gender version of Sex in the City.

However, fast forward to a few weekends ago, and I was introduced and invited to visit the set of Bros Before Hos, a TV pilot that hails from the producer of this year’s Sundance hit, Dear White PeopleLena Waithe, Redtails director Anthony Hemingway, and TV writer Ben Jones (Chasing Life on ABC Family).  The project is loosely based on Jones’ real life as a gay black man with his non-gay brothers. 

It stars: Dijon Talton (Glee), Kevin Phillips (Red Tails), Tuffy Questell (How To Make it In America), Dana Sorman (Harry’s Law), Nia Jervier (Dear White People) and Kristofer Gordon (Ryan Coogler’s short film, Fig).

Check out a behind-the-scenes video of the making of Bros Before Hos after the interview that follows. 

I approached covering this project with caution because of the title. Personally, as a woman, I find the phrase "Bros before Hos" off-putting. However, I was genuinely equally curious about the story behind the potential series

I sat down with the trio behind the project (Hemingway, Waithe and Jones) to further discuss:

Masha Dowell: Why was this specific project title chosen?

Ben Jones: The characters in this script have very real conversations with each other that are often very frank and in your face, which is what I also wanted in a title. I am also proud that we have two very strong female characters that I hope most women can connect to. If people form one opinion about the show based on the title, then we hope they’re pleasantly surprised when they learn the show is about something totally different.

Lena Waithe: The title to me is cheeky and grab the audience's attention. Not unlike "Dear White People". As a woman myself I'm not offended because I know the intent behind it. I also love titles that have a double meaning. I'm sorry, but to me there's nothing funnier than the idea of a gay man saying "bros before hos" it's meant to be a joke. And if folks don't get that, maybe this isn't the show for them. 

Pictured above: Kevin Phillips (Aidan) and Nia Jervier (Dana)
Pictured above: Kevin Phillips (Aidan) and Nia Jervier (Dana)

Masha Dowell: Do you wish to continue with projects geared toward black men?

Jones: Bros Before Hos isn’t a black story or a gay story – it’s a family story about three brothers, who happen to be black, and one who happens to be gay. I do have a particular interest in stories about the black male experience because I want to tell stories that reflect how I walk through the world. There seem to be more stories that deal with the interior lives of black women, but it’s hard to find stories that deal with the interior lives of black men. We’re either thugs or athletes, but there’s so much more to who we are that falls in between that spectrum. It’s ironic that in 2014, and even with a black president, one of the hardest things to be in this country right now is a young black man. So, yes, I am voracious about presenting images of black men that reflect our everyday humanity. Plus, I went to Morehouse, and I don’t want them to take back my degree if I’m not moving the needle forward.

Hemingway: Absolutely, this kind of material resonates deeply within both Mark [my producing partner] and I as African-American men, as production friendly filmmakers and as industry professionals.  We both know so many people, not just African-Americans, who question why there isn’t more programming that reflects the growing diversity of the American experience, so it’s incredibly satisfying to be a part of something that might otherwise be overlooked or ignored.  

Masha Dowell: How did you come on board the project as Executive Producer/Director?

Hemingway: I met Ben and Lena here in LA about 6 years ago and we became instant friends and supporters of each other's craft.  Over the years we continue to discuss the lack of support there is in our community and the need to help find a solution to that and be a part of the change.  Bros presented the perfect opportunity for us to "Not only talk about it, but instead BE about it' - we could be an example of how we as African-Americans can unite our talents, collaborate, have ownership and enjoy the process without being comparative or competitive.  So when Ben sent me the script I instantly shared it with my producing partner, Mark Taylor, who was mutually excited about the material.  We quickly agreed to come on board as Executive Producers under our banner HEMINGWAY | TAYLOR and I would direct.

Masha Dowell: You've done Dear White People and Twenties, which are slightly different in subject matter to Bros Before Hos, what made you want to do the project?

Waithe: They might be different in subject matter, but they all tell a story that I haven't seen before. "Bros Before Hos" is fresh and exciting. That's what made me want to come on board and produce the pilot presentation and ultimately the show if we get picked up. I love Ben's voice. And the story of a gay black man and his two very straight black brothers was one I wanted to be a part of. It's daring, funny, and sexy all at the same time. Which is a great combination. This is one of those stories that needs to be told. I'm just glad I was able to help bring Ben's vision to life. 

Pictured above: Dijon Talton (Kendall) and Kristofer Gordon (Mark)
Pictured above: Dijon Talton (Kendall) and Kristofer Gordon (Mark)

Masha Dowell: You guys have seemed to create a NEW collective of filmmakers in Hollywood. What’s the mission of the collective? Members? Upcoming projects? Any recent haps that we should know about?

Waithe: The collective came about organically, but it’s a small group of writers, actors, directors, and even casting directors who all have the same mission. To be great or die trying. We have a lot of projects that are in the development stage and as soon as we think they're ready we'll debut them to the world. The main thing folks should know about are THE TABLE READ SERIES where we table scripts and get feedback from fellow writers as well as our actors, and THE ASPIRING WRITERS INITIATIVE which we created to help up and coming writers write a solid script as well as give them a leg up when it comes to entry level jobs in the industry.

Jones: We also have an upcoming brunch series called, “THE NEW BLACK BRUNCH,” geared towards young people of color who work in the entertainment industry in L.A. It’s an opportunity to gather like-minded folks, in the business, in the same room, as a way to build community and to help each other with opportunities and projects. It will be hosted by myself, Lena Waithe and Ashley Blaine Featherson, and we plan to do this first one in the spring and another one in the fall, so be on the look out for that.  

Masha Dowell: The lead characters in DWP, Twenties, and now BBH are LBGT. Is this a focus of the collective?

Waithe: Writing LGBT characters is not the main focus of the collective. But it's not something we choose to shy away from. We're interested in telling our stories and the stories of those that are often left out or ignored. Because we're all a part of the LGBT community we want to make sure our community is represented, but every story we tell won't always have to be centered around a gay character.

Masha Dowell: What steps can our readers that are interested in the project take now to get this to network?

Waithe: They can make their voices heard by sharing the link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and send the link to their favorite bloggers. Studios and networks start to pay attention when the audience demands better entertainment. 

Jones: With the success of Dear White People and Twenties, we’ve learned that the best way to show networks or buyers the potential of our projects, is to put it out to the world and let the people speak for it – good or bad. Audiences have more power than ever, and we want to empower them to have a say in their entertainment. So we want people to share, share , share and comment!

The Bros Before Hos pilot will be released mid-March 2014.

Check out a behind-the-scenes video of the making of the series below:

This article is related to: Lena Waithe, Anthony Hemingway, Ben Jones


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