Sometimes, I Hate Being Right

Issa Rae...with her fine self.
(Thanks, Tracy Oliver!!!)

The great and beautiful Tracy Oliver emailed me this today, and I want to start off with an excerpt before I dive in.
Last night, a few of my castmates -Issa Rae (J), Sujata Day (CeCe), Madison T. Shockley III (Fred), and Tristen Winger (Darius) came to my apartment to shoot a scene for the next "Awkward Black Girl" episode. Hours after we wrapped the shoot, we stayed in my living room passionately discussing the future of "ABG" til 3am. The topic of discussion: Should "ABG" stay on the Web or go to television?

Six months ago, that answer was emphatically television. I distinctly remember sitting in coffee shops with Issa, strategizing ways to reach potential producers, executives, and networks that may be a good fit for "ABG." We were even writing an extensive treatment for the series, visualizing how the characters and storylines could be adapted into a half-hour comedy.

I'll admit it. The prospect of "ABG" on television is enticing. The thought of millions of people sitting around their flat screens watching a weekly version of the show is pretty exciting. The thought of an African-American female lead with dark skin and a short fro starring in a mainstream comedy is downright revolutionary.

...

The only problem is, we don't live in a perfect world.

"Replace" Sujata Day???
Television today often doesn't reflect the beauty in diversity, in front or behind the camera. The numbers of writers and directors of color working in television are dismal. The numbers of female writers and directors of color are even worse. According to a recent DGA study, white males directed 77% of all television episodes for the 2010-2011 season, while women of color directed just 1%.

When looking at these statistics, the reality of selling "ABG" to a network lends itself to many questions. Who will become the showrunner(s) and will they understand our vision? How many writers of color will be staffed? Will we able to maintain our current cast? How much creative control will we have over the content?

To answer these questions, Issa and I sat down with a television executive from a prominent network. In short, his response confirmed our worst fears. He felt that in order for "ABG" to become more mainstream, the entire cast would need to be replaced. His suggestion for the lead character, J, was a long haired, fair-skinned actress who looked more like a model from a rap music video than an awkward black girl.
Recast Tracy Oliver???
There's not enough, "Oh, hell no" in the world.

First of all...called it.  Second, of all, I hate it when I'm right sometimes.  There's always this hope that yes, a show like this can transition from web to television successfully, with its cast and creativity intact.  But in the end, it's just that - hope.

Someone explain to me why we need to replace...anyone, from ABG?  Seriously?  Tracy Oliver and Issa Rae?  Seriously?  Sujata Day and Lyman Johnson - are we for real?  For real?  Boss Lady?  Fred?  Baby-Voice????

First of all, these aren't "just" a bunch of friends who got together; go to YouTube and IMDB and look these people up - they're actors.  They're professional.  And they look great.  Not to mention, J & White Jay are that rare, well-written BW/WM couple who make me not want to hurl.

Wish. You. Were. Me.
Lyman Johnson has the inexplicable ability to look better in every new episode.  I swear; every time he comes onscreen, he always appears better-looking than I remember.  I kinda feel ticked we didn't actually get to see him kiss J; we just got that tantalizing lean-in.

Lyman's as worthy as, say, Stuart Townsend or even Tom Felton, and coming from this bar, you know how serious that is.

Hollywood really sucks, people.  Talk about being out of tune with a consumer base; isn't that, like, economic suicide?  Oh, wait...never mind; I forgot how much they just don't care.

What the hell is next?  Some Hollywood producer's going offer to put Ktown Cowboys on the big screen...so long as he gets to defile the entire cast like they're doing with Akira?

Comments

  1. It's like you wrote this script yourself, Ankh. Word for bloody word. Damn.

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  2. This news about Akira is making me log the fuck off. I refuse. I loved Akira. This is different from the Speed racer nonsense because even though dude was supposed to be Japanese he definitely didn't look like it the first time I saw the cartoon. But they LOOKED Japanese in Akira. Yeah their eyes were a little big but they just looked Japanese. For them to turn around and cast that foolio from Tron Legacy? Ugh. Their names are Tetsuo and Kaneda how are they anything other than Japanese? Argh! I'm mad bro. Real fucking mad.

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  3. ANKH, I always said you was a mind witch. Can you give me the winning numbers for the next Mega Millions?

    I'm glad Issa and Tracey went and heard what we all knew directly from the source, and they can move forward in knowing that they'll have to remain on the web. It's not worth it to get ABG to TV; the show would be gang-raped, gutted, and left out for vultures to pick at the carcass. And Issa & co would be left with nothing.

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  4. "Their names are Tetsuo and Kaneda how are they anything other than Japanese?"

    I could say the same thing about two very brown-skinned Inuit animated characters in a certain movie adaptation.

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  5. Pepp.

    Akira is going to go the way of "The Last Airbender". They're going to cast white guys to have Japanese names like Tetsuo and Keneda. If that isn't a sign that something's off, I dunno what is.

    By the way, Ankh, you did called it, and it's no secret that it will be whitewashed if any of the mainstream studios get their hands on the series. That's why I will remain independent with my own...

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  6. @Issa and Tracy and co. In case you're reading this, I know how disheartening a meeting like that with the TV execs can be but remember, this changes nothing. You all began the web series to begin with because of the state television is in.

    That exec only confirmed what we all already knew. I would propose continue to do the series and maybe if possible reach out and connect to other successful web series folks: KTown Cowboys, Felicia Day of the Guild, Jon Cho of the LXD and maybe see what's worked for them and they can also learn what's worked for you all. TV is not the only game in town now, and there is iTunes and Netflix streaming, if you all can hit that, that would be a victory there.

    The fact that you've got people supporting the series like this, means you've got something special here and none of us are going away so don't give up.

    "Lyman's as worthy as, say, Stuart Townsend or even Tom Felton, and coming from this bar, you know how serious that is."

    Girl, you already know, he's made my elite list of Menz who can hit it 24/7, 365.

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  7. I am so sorry. I would have put this show on my TiVo.

    Now that I know about it, though, I'll definitely watch the web episodes.

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  8. It’s all about whiteness. It’s about white empathy with regard to the show’s appeal to the mainstream. White-think has no room for hue, or any deviation from the norm. Moreover, should the story offend white sensibilities; revamp- recast and get rid of the offending material. All other priorities (black actors, culture and plotlines) are secondary.

    Don’t expect empathy from whites in Hollywood. Don’t expect those in positions of power to lend an empathetic ear, or show the least bit of interest unless whites figure prominently in your project. If anything be very careful; because I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something eerily similar on the airwaves in the near future. The creators of Awkward Black Girl bear the burden of proof, so I would advise her to protect their property!

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  9. "If anything be very careful; because I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something eerily similar on the airwaves in the near future. The creators of Awkward Black Girl bear the burden of proof, so I would advise her to protect their property!"

    I agree. If there is one thing I've learned from watching movies and tv shows all these years is that many love jumping on a winning, original concept, and dead-horsing the hell out of it - often without giving reference to the source material. Ladies and gents, make sure your intellectual property rights are iron-clas (if they're not already). Go J.K. Rowling* on asses if you have to!

    *My hat's off to that woman. She doesn't play when it comes to her bread and butter, no sir!

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  10. On TV, the show would go from "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl" to "The Misadventures of White Jay and His Token Black Friends"

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  11. Hey, longtime lurker deciding to comment.
    Issa Rae and "ABG" is an inspiration to me as a black female film/TV student wanting to get into the narrative storytelling and I look forward to seeing her come to my university next week.
    That all said I am not surprised by this at all and being one of the few black people, let alone black females in my film classes, things might not change fast enough. In fact this whole situation reminds me of this video on how selling your idea to TV will go:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xU57gP0Kzw

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  12. Welp, I saw this coming so I can't be too upset. It is kind of disheartening though, as a black female writer.

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  13. *Something is occuring to me* Hollyweird is a machine creating crap to keep white people brain dead with superiority complexes. Hollyweird will take ANY story and rework it to fit this criteria.
    POC filmmakers: stay the hell away from HAnollyweird by any means necessary A

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