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Interview: Tina Gordon Chism and Stephanie Allain Talk 'Peeples,' New Projects, and Changing the Black Image on Screen

by Jai Tiggett
May 10, 2013 11:43 AM
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Peeples Poster Half

Jai: Did you have a personal connection to the story?

Tina: Yes, the movie is really about a family accepting each other for their flaws, their secrets, their challenges. In my family, we have Saturday breakfast wrap-up and we talk about literally everything. It makes some of my friends cringe because it's like you're on a therapist couch. So at the time I had this boyfriend that had a perfect, beautiful family on the outside, but once I got to know them I realized there were all these family secrets.

I'm very much like Wade Walker in the movie, who just talks about whatever's going on. If it's between you and me we’re going to hash it out and anybody in the family can hear about it. We profess our love, our dislike, whatever. So I'm Wade Walker for sure. I come into this family where nobody talks about what's really, really going on. And as I was doing an autopsy on my relationship I realized that was funny to me, that a family can exist that's like blindingly gorgeous, super successful, but they’re a family in denial.

Jai: What else can we expect from the film? Highlights?

Tina: With this movie, the jokes are there, but you also just get a very literate family. They celebrate something called Moby Dick Day. And you buy into the fact that this is a well-read family where the father is super passionate about Herman Melville and they really passionately engage in a celebration of this American holiday.

Stephanie: This is why I love Tina's writing. Because she does all this research, she finds out that the town that we've set the thing in, Sag Harbor, was featured in Moby Dick. It's another fresh idea. Oftentimes our movies are set around Christmas, or this holiday or that. This is a new holiday - Moby Dick Day. And it's so funny!

Tina: One man fighting for his place with another man's daughter. And they have a square-off moment in a celebration called Moby Dick Day.

Stephanie: There’s also the music. That’s another difference between our film and a lot of others.

Tina: What happened was, I was obsessed with Diana Ross, and obsessed with what it would be like to be Diana Ross' child. I thought it would be interesting if [Grace’s] mom was like a former Supreme or like Donna Summer. So I came up with the character Daphne Peeples. But then I realized that all this music had to be in the movie. There had to be a classic hit that sounded real, that people would like now.

And then I saw Craig do this YouTube video called Let's Get Sexy. He's playing the piano and he's so funny. So then I was like, maybe Craig's character should have something to do with music. Now there's two characters that sing and dance. Then also, in my family and I'm sure in a lot of African-American families, every teenager wants to be a rapper. They have an aptitude for science or math or whatever, but what do they want to do? Rap. Drove me crazy. And I got so tired of meeting this character in my own family - the kid that has so many smarts but wants to be a rapper – that there was the third character, Simon Peeples, who's a robotics expert but raps in his bedroom.

Stephanie: So then we realize we have to prerecord these songs for the movie before we start shooting. And I happen to be married to an amazing guy who is an amazing songwriter [Stephen Bray].

Tina: So when I would come over to talk about the story and characters, Stephen would chime in – “You should listen to this song,” or “It will probably sound like that,” or "Maybe with Tyler Williams it would be rap but with a little rock influence because he's a little more street punk."

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  • NO BRAINER | May 11, 2013 10:22 PMReply

    "Changing the Black Image on Screen"

    Really? Delusions of grandeur.

  • Campbell | May 11, 2013 9:17 PMReply

    Enjoyed the read.

  • Katie | May 7, 2013 11:22 AMReply

    this mos def not my thing. Imma pass. I like films with complexity. It just too simple and trite for me.

  • donnadara | April 22, 2013 5:49 PMReply

    I was going to skip this based on the trailer, but now I think I'll give it a chance.

  • EP | April 22, 2013 1:38 AMReply

    The trailer looks like some'ol BullSh*t, the dialog sounds like it was written for a 14 year old, and the comedy looks horrible....No disrespect to the Actors, they have to with what they have to work with.

  • CC | April 22, 2013 11:56 AM

    "With a child's heart go face the worries of the day. With a child's heart Turn each problem into play. No need to worry, no need to fear, just being alive makes it all so very clear. That's with a child's heart nothing can ever get you down" ~Stevie Wonder

    Mr or Mrs EP, please slow down and take a deep breath. I am not a 14 year old but sometimes I go to the movies to be entertained. If living with a child's heart for that period of time, relieves my pain and worry, I don't care what you say. Me and my baby are going to this movie. And, we will continue singing Stevie's song...

    Love, love is welcome
    As a sunny, sunny day
    No grownup thoughts
    To lead our hearts astray
    Take life easy
    Easy like a child
    So gay and care free 'Cause with a child's heart nothing can ever get you down

  • Booker T. Mattson | April 20, 2013 4:56 AMReply

    Stephanie Allain rocks.

  • Sheneith H | April 19, 2013 9:45 PMReply

    :-) I look forward to seeing #Peeples this Mother's Day Weekend. Thanks!!!

  • CareyCarey | April 19, 2013 9:07 PMReply

    So round, so firm, so fully packed, so free and easy on the draw...

    Well, I'm sure Sergio is old enough to recognize those words from the 40's Lucky Strike commercial, but for those who are in the dark, let me explain. Lucky Strikes is a cigarette, but...

    While reading the post, those words expressed my exact emotions. I'm serious, I've always loved these extended interviews, they go beyond the superficial fluff that's normally associated with "selling their film" interviews, and this one didn't fail me. So round, so firm, so fully packed, so free and easy on the draw.... oouuuweeeee "Some where to rest my aching mind, where there's no time, your love just divine. Heaven must be like this, it must be like this"

    Okay, I'm not an Ohio Player so I'll stop singing their song, but I loved this interview.

    First, Stephanie mentioned how she becomes hooked on a project... "I’m emotionally engaged. I have a physical reaction - my heart beats fast, I'm really excited, and that's how I know"

    Well, I am hooked, I am going to see the movie. Yeah, the entire interview gave me a picture, a nuanced image that emotionally engaged me. In essence, they convinced me that me and mine will have a fun night out at the movies.

    It wasn't anything in particular that hooked me like a catfish swallowing a dew worm, I just think I felt their conviction, dedication, honesty and professionalism. Nor does it hurt to have a great cast who I believe were perfectly cast, not to mention their stellar acting credentials. That reminds me, who said matching Kerry Washington with Craig Robinson is like putting caviar on pig feet? Please, I totally disagree. I mean, look at Jay-Z and Beyounce, it happens. And as Sergio said, for all of us ugly guys, it keeps hope alive. Hey, I wonder if Tina and Stephanie have ugly men? :-) I know Stephanie said her husband can play the piano, but...

    But moving on... I loved how both women did their due diligence. I laughed when Tina said Stephanie came with a Power-Point presentation. And Tina didn't come on the half-step.

    "She [Tina] wasn't talking to me like a writer. Tina was creating this world that was already full-blown. She was talking about the wardrobe, the production design, the set design, the tone of the comedy. Her vision was crystal clear for the piece."

    That's what I'm talking about. Although someone could say they're "plugged", they didn't take each other for granted. So they sat down with their minds set on BUSINESS. That reminds me of their take on the business of television. I found the following to be very interesting and insightful:

    "with television there's no pay wall, and it's so accessible. Those characters are in your home every day. And those gatekeepers guard that influence much more adamantly than I estimated... you have to balance out what you're trying to win in terms of pushing black images forward, balancing what the studio might expect of you and sliding in the things that you want to deliver. The excellence level has to be so high because what you might want to slide in, in terms of your messaging to whomever, it's scrutinized."

    In short, this whole post was a thrill... so round, so firm, so fully packed! 3 black women doing the dang thang - to the highest degree. Bravo!

    I know one of my stops on Mother's Day weekend.

  • Ali | April 19, 2013 6:46 PMReply

    I don't have to read the article I can tell from the promos that this movie is NOT going to change the images on the screen in the same way that "Something New," "Love Jones," "The Best Man," or "Think Like a Man," did. ... I buy the family as upper-middle class and all, but the story premise is plain stupid. And, I'm certainly not buying that Kerry Washington's character would be attracted to Craig Robinson's character. He's extremely average and in real life they only way the two of them might -- and that's a big might -- be together is if he were loaded with $$$$. So, I'll be skipping this one.

  • Donella | May 10, 2013 4:54 PM

    Er... maybe Craig Robinson's character is good at... thangs. You know? LOL

  • ALM | April 19, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    "What I love about it is that they actually really look like a couple".

    That is truly a matter of opinion. Maybe their coupling will work when I see the film, but I don't believe them as a couple at the present time. I should have picked Chris Tucker or Blair Underwood, etc.

    Also, can you all start including Soundcloud players for these longer interviews? It is much more user friendly to listen to an audio file when you have this much content.

    Nice thorough job Jai.

  • Jai | April 19, 2013 6:27 PM

    Thanks! We post audio at times, but I'm a writer to the core and prefer to do interviews in print ;)

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