Mike Epps, Wanda Sykes and Kim Fields open up about authenticity, humor on ‘The Upshaws’
The talented trio are revealing what real-life experiences made it into the show and who was initially apprehensive about joining the cast
Mike Epps, Wanda Sykes and Kim Fields have brought their comedic talents together for laugh-out-loud experience in Netflix’s sitcom The Upshaws.
The hilarious trio star as Bennie Upshaw (Epps), Regina Upshaw (Fields) and Lucretia Turner (Sykes) in the streamer’s newest offering, which follows Bennie and Regina as they navigate their blended, working class family in Indianapolis.
The duo are parenting their two young daughters (Khali Spraggins and Journey Christine), their firstborn son (Jermelle Simon) and a teenage son (Diamond Lyons), whom Bernie fathered with another woman. Along the way, the couple also have to deal with Regina’s sassy sister, Lucretia.
Epps, who was born and raised in Indianapolis, said that he could see details from his own life reflected in the show. The 50-year-old Next Friday star told theGrio exclusively that filming the sitcom was “so real sometimes that I would get upset.”
“The baby mamas definitely made it on there,” Epps joked. “[Indianapolis] is where all the baby mamas at. But that’s what makes the show authentic, and new and fresh. I ain’t never seen a dude with a bunch of baby mamas on TV—not a sitcom. Wanda and Kim were able to capture that good story. In the beginning, I came in the room and Wanda had me in there like I was in an interrogation room. She was asking me all these questions.”
“I was like, ‘Okay, we had a good conversation. Then I came back, it was in the script. Sometimes it was so real that I would get upset,” Epps said with a laugh. “I ain’t gon’ lie, a couple of times I’m like, ‘These women must got a camera on me or a private investigator. How they know all this real stuff?’ This stuff ain’t even on the internet.'”
He concluded, “Sometimes writers, they write from a base that we all know this guy. I’m coming in, signing up as an actor and I’m like, ‘How you know me like that? But wait a minute, Mike. It ain’t that they know you like that. They are writing from something that everybody can relate to.’ It’s a bunch of Bennies around the world.”
According to Sykes, who is an executive producer on the show, the creative team purposed to include an untraditional family in an effort to appeal to people who may also be navigating this unique dynamic.
“We started off saying we want to do a funny show,” the 57-year-old comedian told theGrio in an exclusive interview. “Also the shows that we grew up on, they were authentic families. You could relate to them. I think that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to show a family who’s going through some stuff today, and to show what that looks like, and that it’s just part of what people are going through right now. I think it is very important and I’m glad we were able to touch on that.”
Fields, meanwhile, said that she initially was apprehensive about taking the role, sharing that she “wasn’t trying to do another sitcom” after starring on Facts of Life and Living Single. It wasn’t until she read the script and realized that her character, Regina, was more than just the typical “sitcom mom” that she jumped at the project.
According to Fields, Regina is woman trying to find acceptance in a challenging situation with her partner.
“My entry point wasn’t so much being the mom,” she explained. “It was really about being this woman in this role, who is married to Bennie Upshaw and who is the mom of these daughters. I really loved the fact that she was not like a character I played before. I wasn’t trying to do another sitcom. I wasn’t trying to be basically a housemate in another sitcom.”
“[It’s about] doing characters and work that I haven’t done before. This definitely felt like that. I hadn’t played this woman before, who was ’bout it. Who was clearly ride or die with her man, but it seemed like that ride or die is tested every damn 10 seconds. How that constantly manifests itself and the process to get to acceptance. Because a lot of time you don’t accept a lot of what your family is dealing with, or that they choose to do, but you are accepting them because of your love for them.”
“My character loves hard and strong,” she concluded. “I felt like there was so much of that, that was relatable. On top of feeling overlooked and feeling like you still have to go and do something else to better yourself for somebody to see your a**. So all of those things that life throws at you, you have to laugh at it. You have to find some humor in it, so it doesn’t kill you or make you kill somebody. I definitely feel like they just captured everything so well.”
The Upshaws is now available to stream on Netflix.
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