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

Shadow and Act By Jai Tiggett | Shadow and Act May 10, 2013 at 11:43AM

It was an effortless conversation, as you might expect. The two witty creatives who have a string of noted films to their credit (Drumline, ATL, Hustle & Flow, Something New, Hurricane Season, and others) could always be counted on to steer the conversation where it needed to go, and had lots to share about their experience making this film, and what they'll be tackling next.
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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. 

Peeples 1

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.

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Peeples opens in theaters today, May 10.

This article is related to: Exclusive


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