Starz comedy ‘Survivor’s Remorse’ tackles colorism in next episide

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

“Where them yellow bones? / I don’t want no Black b*tch / I’m already Black / Don’t need no Black bitch.”

It’s 2016, and those are real rap lyrics. In the latest controversy to hit the Twitterverse, a Florida rapper (ironically) named Kodak Black lets us know exactly what he thinks of women who don’t pass the paper bag test. He’s just one example of how colorism is alive and well today.

It’s part of the reason Sunday’s newest episode of Starz’s hit comedy ‘Survivor’s Remorse’ will tackle the issue head on, putting its characters in uncomfortable positions to face hard truths about the way black people, particularly women, are pitted against each other in the name of skin-tone.

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In a new episode titled “The Photo Shoot,” Missy (Teyonah Parris) attempts to hire a dark-skinned model for NBA baller Cam’s photoshoot. Her efforts to defy the status quo get undermined when the model is unavailable and gets replaced with a light-skinned model Trina, played by VH1 Hit the Floor actress, Logan Browning.

The switch causes friction between Missy and Trina, resulting in tensions at home and on the set when Missy does something drastic to make her point.

The episode’s director, Victoria Mahoney, tells theGrio that shooting the episode was a powerful experience, which went beyond the typical “light-skinned vs. dark-skinned” debate.

“It was of great interest to everyone involved that no one was right and no one was wrong,” says Mahoney.  “It was so beautiful to watch each of them land very crucial thoughts that unraveled the other person’s point of view. What I enjoyed about shooting this scene is it appears in truth by the time they are done, there is a middle.”

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Mahoney’s own presence on the set as a director and woman of color was a testament to how important it is for women of color to tell their own stories.

“Women of color are misunderstood, full stop,” says Mahoney. “We haven’t had a chance in storytelling, art, photography, science and math, in education, history or literature to tell our stories.”

Mahoney credits friend and award-winning filmmaker Ava Duvernay for passing her name along to “Survivor’s Remorse” show-runner Mike O’Malley in the search for the right director who could bring depth to the discussion.

“So, when I show up on set and I’m the director of an episode about colorism, something gets to happen in a way, little tiny nuances that are protected and cared for and honored.”

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Although the episode centers on Missy and Trina as black American women, Mahoney says the conversation extends beyond one group.

“Colorism doesn’t belong to black folks. It occurs in the Jewish community, the WASP community, Latin community; it occurs worldwide for a number of reasons.”

That’s part of why I was eager to approach this, because anyone who clicks that episode on will find some aspect of their family, friendship or workplace,” says Mahoney.  

“Hopefully we can open up the lens a bit and find the space where our own experience is validated not by someone else’s opinion but by our own being.”

‘Survivor’s Remorse’ episode “The Photo Shoot” airs Sunday, August 14, on Starz and Starz On Demand.