Tahj Mowry talks ‘Welcome Matt,’ future of Viola Davis’ ‘Black Don’t Crack’ after ABC passes

The actor is opening up about his newest film, his battle with panic attacks and what's next for the Viola Davis-produced pilot 'Black Don't Crack'

Tahj Mowry is using comedy to tell the very real story of mental illness.

The former Baby Daddy star, 35, is taking on the role of Matt in his newest flick, Welcome Matt, which follows a 20-something filmmaker who suffers a traumatic experience that makes him deathly afraid to go outside. Because of his agoraphobia, Matt attempts to write, direct, and star in a feature film, from his apartment, while also seeing an in-home therapist.

Welcome Matt may be a comedy, but Mowry believes that the humor can be tool for the audience to see the importance of mental health, an issue that he revealed he has struggled with in the past.

“I think is so important, because, yes, this movie is funny,” the former Smart Guy star explained in an exclusive interview with theGrio. “Yes, it’s got Deon Cole in it. It’s got an amazing cast. The writer/director is the incredible Leon Pierce Jr. But I think my main goal with this film is to have people that go through anxiety and have bouts of depression, or have dealt with trauma and loss, to feel seen when they see this movie—especially in the Black community.”

Tahj Mowry attends the “Stranger Things” Season 3 World Premiere on June 28, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Netflix)

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“Mental health is barely spoken about as it is, but even more so in the African American community. I feel super honored and privileged to sort of be the face of that. Because when I read the script, I had never read anything like it. There’s never been a movie like this for us. I’m not saying it’s only for us, because everyone deals with this. …I just want people to know that I see them, we see them. I’ve struggled with panic attacks myself, so I know what it feels like.”

Mowry went on to address critics who may brush off Welcome Matt as a “Blacks only” film. According to the actor, the film is “colorless” and designed to touch all people who may be struggling to cope with mental health issues.

“When you watch it, yes, the cast is primarily Black, which is like, what’s good, let’s go representation,” Mowry shared. “But it goes deeper than that, you know what I mean? The way it’s written is not in your face, like ‘this is a Blacks only movie.’ Like it’s a film….it’s a sophisticated film with comedy, with drama, with realistic situations. I just hope that people get courage and feel seen, and just feel something when they see this movie.”

Mowry also dished on his newest series, Black Don’t Crack, executive produced by Viola Davis and Julius Tennon‘s JuVee Productions and Regina Hicks. The show, which stars Mowry, Tisha Campbell, Sherri Shepherd, Essence Atkins and Isaiah Mustafa, was filmed for ABC as a pilot series before the network ultimately passed on the project in May.

According to Mowry, ABC Signature is shopping around the show and the cast and production team are optimistic that the series will get picked up by another network or streamer.

“I think that’s the beauty of doing a show like this right? Because the studio loves it so much,” he explained. “That’s a blessing already because to have a studio that believes in a product so much that they’re willing to go, ‘No, we’re shopping this to everybody that we can.’ I’m personally excited to see where it lands.”

“I know that wherever it does land will be the home that it’s supposed to be at. But again, I’m so thankful to ABC Signature and Viola and Regina. I just know people will love this show so much. It’s got such heart and it’s funny as hell. Our chemistry together clicked instantaneously.”

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As far as working with the four-time Oscar nominated actress Viola Davis, Mowry said he was left starstruck and tongue-tied—a seemingly rare occasion for the former child star who has been actively working in Hollywood since the ’90s.

“First of all, I’m just honored to be in the same sentence as her. I’m just thankful. I’m grateful that she believed in me, that she blessed us all with her presence on set,” Mowry gushed about Davis. “I remember the first day she came to set. I think it might have been Essence that was laughing at me, or maybe like one of the PAs [production assistants] or ADs [assistant directors]. I was literally like a child. I was like, ‘Miss Viola, oh my gosh!’

“After we did our talk or whatever you want to call it, I went back to my dressing room like, ‘What the hell did I just say to her?’ She was so sweet. When we wrapped up filming, she was so amazing. We danced a little bit together, you know what I mean? She’s a breath of fresh air. She’s so beautiful in person and her spirit is amazing. I’m just honored to have been able to work with her and Regina Hicks as well, who’s the creator and the writer of the show. I was surrounded by good company and, like, GOATs in what they do.”

Fans can stream Welcome Matt now on YouTube, Google Play and Vudu, and watch theGrio‘s full interview with Mowry above.

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