Tracey Edmonds shares wisdom on producing films, raising kids and finding love: 'A woman can have it all'
Quality, in Hollywood, equals box office dollars—and, in the case of scripted and reality shows, it means ratings. Specifically when it comes to entertainment produced with black audiences in mind, the definition of quality is fraught with anxiety about how best to represent the race.
With critics lambasting Tyler Perry’s soap operatic Christian message movies with the same fervor as Shaunie O’Neal’s bottle-and expletive-hurling Basketball Wives franchise, Edmonds acknowledges the “different level of criticism that takes place with projects of color.”
She expounds, “For example, in a white mainstream film, if you had a character that is kind of an eff-up[,] he’d be called a ‘slacker.’ [You] see that kind of character a lot in Judd Apatow movies.” Edmonds says slackers don’t go over well in black films. “Those types of characters are labeled as a negative stereotype; and then you get critiqued, and then you have all the different organizations attacking your films. It’s a tricky road to walk.”
But Edmonds has become adept at walking tricky roads. In May, news hit the blogs that she has teamed up with O’Neal to produce a film based on things Shaunie witnessed while married to former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.
“I really wanted to do it,” Edmonds clarifies, “because I find this big lights world of professional sports, and how it impacts relationships and friendships, a really fascinating world that’s never been properly explored in a film until now.” Sure to rake it in at the box office, Edmonds pre-empts critics’ assumptions about the project at the gate.
“The press has been incorrectly reporting that Shaunie and I are producing Basketball Wives: The Movie as if it’s a derivative movie from the TV show. That’s not the case. [It] has nothing to do with the TV show.” Edmonds continues, “Elizabeth Hunter who wrote Jumping the Broom is actually writing the script with us. All of the characters in our movie have layers and dimensions. And there are going to be a lot of surprises and twists and turns in the story.”
Oh, and there will be drama, too!
“Obviously, people do enjoy conflict,” Edmonds notes. “The reality of reality shows is it’s a guilty pleasure and the people that are watching… to see fighting… to see arguing… they like to see conflict. The networks know that and so they encourage that, but as a producer, what you need to do to be responsible [is] try to find the balance.”
Of course, finding balance can be complicated. “I know when I produced [the BET reality series] College Hill, we had a couple of episodes where the kids organically got into fights.” Edmonds says fans responded most favorably to the blows. “Those were our highest-rated episodes.”
The opposite was true of the more-socially conscious episodes. “We’d have a trip where the kids might go to a historical slavery museum,” Tracey revealed. “Those were our lowest-rated episodes. And the networks know that. So, again, they push you, the producer, to give them the conflict that they need to keep the ratings up because ratings mean advertising dollars.”
In spite of the pressures, Edmonds understands the need to weight the deck of black stories with positivity. “It’s really important that the world see the triumphs of African-Americans, and not just our struggles and our conflicts. It’s really important that we get more positive depictions [showing] the same variety of experiences that mainstream characters are afforded.”
For Edmonds, variety means ultimately being able to show the china with the cracks. By way of example, she describes one of her upcoming projects. “I’m developing a scripted TV show for Fox right now that’s loosely based on my life,” she begins, “about a single mom trying to raise two boys,” while facing “the struggles of juggling a career, raising kids, and trying to date.”
Tentatively titled Trophy Life, Edmonds is well aware that even the most golden award is subject to tarnishing. “Life is not going to be perfect for anyone, whether you’re male or female.”
Despite this, Edmonds believes “a woman can have it all.” But “having it all,” Edmonds adds, means accepting that difficulties in life will come. Plus, you must define for yourself what “it all” really means.
“To me, having it all means having inner peace and happiness, and I believe that a woman can attain that. She can have a fulfilling career, and she can have children, and she can have a happy personal life, but,” Edmonds admits, “there are going to be some imperfections there, and hurdles from time to time and you just have to expect that and embrace all that comes with it.”