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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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Stephanie: Tina would know exactly what she wanted, but he would concretize it by giving her things to listen to. The other fun thing is that Tina would start lyric writing, and that's how we came up with "Drawers on the Floor" and "Speak It, Don't Leak It" and all these really funny songs. 

We play music a lot at our house and it's one of those fun things that you do as a family, where everybody picks up an instrument and you crowd around the piano and you start singing. And that's actually what happened on set. The place where we were shooting had a grand piano in the living room overlooking Long Island Sound. And Craig is a musical genius who can play anything from any era just by hearing it. Between every take he would sit down at the piano and they would just be singing. And it was during the holidays so it would be Christmas carols, fun ditties from commercials, anything. It was just another high-energy artistic expression of this family.

My theme for this movie is "get your smile on," because there's just a warm, fuzzy, fun time that you have when you see the movie, and I think it really does translate from the set. So the music was like the other character in the house. When anybody had their [musical] moment, everybody was very supportive. It was Tyler's day and he learned all the guitar licks for the song. Craig had to learn his. Epatha had to go into the studio and lay down her tracks. And then David Alan Grier got into it and was like "Where's my song?" And we had to get something for him. The only person who didn't have a song was Kerry.

Tina: Kerry was like, "I need to dance to the last number."

Stephanie: So then the last song is a number where everybody dances. It's just another way to manifest the talent of everybody involved and it leaves you feeling good and giddy, and it was super fun. I just can't wait to do it again.

Tina: I’m telling you, the sequel is Daphne in Vegas. Or Atlantic City.

Stephanie: We want to get back out there and do it again. And we've already got a couple things bubbling up.

Jai: Such as?

Tina: Stephanie has many things, she’s a busy woman. But she and I together are doing a thriller I wrote called Inheritance. It's set up at Sony with DeVon Franklin.

Stephanie: And we're pitching a TV show, because we're going to take over TV. We need another smart black family on TV.

Jai: What's it going to take to get that?

Stephanie: It's always about good material. It's about a good story. I think it's also about creating a situation that is familiar but has a new entry point.  So that's what we’re trying to do.

Tina: It’s interesting, because 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. There’s a strategy for everything and 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.

So with television you have to up your game in every category. 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. To Stephanie's point, it is heightening your material and making something so irresistible that people can't turn it down, because they know they’re going to get numbers from it. It's been a learning experience. It's going to require a lot of diligence, and we're just starting. But it has to be conquered.

Stephanie: And I think Tina's sensibility - I mean she started at The Cosby Show - so she has this mainstream, but true to her own outlook, point of view. It doesn't frighten people but it challenges them, and I think that's what people want.

So life is good. We're excited about our release date. It's Mother's Day weekend and everybody should come out and see this movie. We complain a lot about stereotypes, about the lack of, there's not this, there's not that. So we're giving you Peeples, people. Come on out.


Peeples opens in theaters today, May 10.

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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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