Ms. Pat brings her unique brand of Black Mom representation to BET+
Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams and her show's co-creator are welcoming a new brand of representation of the Black mother.
With The Ms. Pat Show, comedienne Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams and co-creator Jordan E. Cooper are bringing a new brand of representation of the Black mother to BET+.
Don’t get it twisted, Ms. Pat is no Claire Huxtable — not by a long shot, if we’re honest. But Mrs. Huxtable wasn’t like many of the moms many of us growing up in the ‘hood knew. She was a unicorn image necessary to see represented at the time, in the 1980s, when negative and stereotypical views of Black families and Black women held center stage in American media.
Ms. Pat, the character, is at the other end of the spectrum — a former felon who sold crack, has been shot (twice) and has more than one child by more than one father. Yet, for all that imagery, she is successful in her chosen career as a comedienne, and she and her husband share a deep and thoughtful love.
It is an image that 30 years ago would have earned Williams protests led by civil rights groups, but these days, it is earning her critical acclaim and the love of fans, including TikTokers, who have made dozens of videos declaring her a hero, in whom they see the hard-fought success and love of their own beloved mothers.
We spoke with Ms. Pat recently after a clip of her show in which she learns her on-screen daughter is gay went viral, and the show’s viewership took off.
TheGrio: The reviews of your show are definitely mixed, but there are so many people who love you and say that The Ms. Pat Show and all of the characters truly represent them and their families. What do you say to that?
Ms. Pat: I say thank you. I say thank you for enjoying what took me five years. It took my team five years to get to you, to your TV, to be streaming … and that wasn’t easy. It was very hard work. So I’m glad I can come into your home and make you laugh constantly.
Sometimes I just scroll and watch little clips that people have shared of the show, and I’m like, ‘Wow, they’re really enjoying this show.’ I listen to people laughing in the back, and I’m reading the reviews. I mean, it let me know that all of the hard grind I went through for the last five years — it was worth something.
theGrio: Awesome! I’m like a Tami Roman stan now. What was it like working with her playing your big sister?
Ms. Pat: She was awesome. I didn’t know much about Tami before this. I didn’t know nothing about reality TV. When I found out she was a reality star, I was like, ‘No, I don’t want a reality star.’ This is my first acting gig, and I really wanted someone who can act. She came in to audition and stole the show, and we just gel together. And you can give her any words, and she can make it funny. I mean, she was a joy to work with.
theGrio: You said this is your first acting gig. What did you do to prepare? Did you take lessons?
Ms. Pat: Hell yeah, I took lessons! [Laughs] Listen, I had to learn how to read out loud again! I’m like, hey, I can act a fool, but I definitely had to learn how to act on TV.
theGrio: One of the executive producers of the show is Lee Daniels. He called your voice one that we’ve never seen on television and said the show was worth the fight. How does it feel to have such heavy hitters supporting you?
Ms. Pat: It’s amazing. I mean, Lee Daniels, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer. This show has been five years in the making, and Lee hung in there. Through three different writers and three different networks, but we got it done.
theGrio: The show definitely has some explicit language. Why was keeping it that real so important to you?
Ms. Pat: That was important to the show’s co-creator. He was like, ‘look, people want real stuff. They’re tired of this cookie-cutter crap. Let’s try to do something real.’ So was I scared? Yes. But, you know, you’ve seen the hundreds of sitcoms that came out in the last 10 years. They are all similar. So we wanted to do something different and shake it up, shake it around, shake it right. And we ended up shaking up the right people.
And that’s why we put “grown a** sitcom” on it. But, you can watch it with your kids if you cuss like I do.
theGrio: Speaking of kids, tell me about the kids who are your co-stars.
Ms. Pat: Vincent Swann plays Brandon James, Pat’s eldest son from a previous relationship. Brittany Inge as Ashley James, her second eldest. Briyana Guadalupe as Janelle Carson, the third child, an outspoken intellectual, and Theodore John Barnes as Junebug Carson, the baby of the bunch. All four characters are based on Ms. Pat’s real children.
Oh, I enjoyed all four of them. I enjoyed all four of them. It was a joy to cast each and every one of them. I think my favorite was Junebug. That’s the only one I cast on my own.
theGrio: What was it that made him different?
Ms. Pat: Well, my real Junebug is my favorite child. So I had to pick him out myself, and he’s a terrific actor.
theGrio: Ms. Pat! You can’t say you have a favorite child!
Ms. Pat: Every parent has a favorite. They just don’t say it.
theGrio: People are really flocking to the show and saying how you are just like their mom or their aunts. You are also sharing some life lessons. What do you hope people take away from the show?
Ms. Pat: I’m hoping they represent what goes on in other people’s house[s], and I was hoping that me doing these episodes would make them understand by showing them what I went through, even when I didn’t understand some things at the time. Like, my daughter really is gay; my other daughter really did bring a non-binary friend over my house one time and have to explain to me what that means. The episode where the baby daddy came back, I got my own personal power back in that episode in a way that I didn’t have it when it actually happened in my life.
theGrio: Another thing I love about the show is the portrayal of Black love between your character and her husband, Terry.
Ms. Pat: The co-creator really wanted to show Black love. We wanted to show these people who are middle-aged but still really love each other. This man loves his fat wife who isn’t a trophy. We wanted to show two people who really love each other, and the character (played by J. Bernard Calloway) is based on my real husband.
theGrio: So, how are things looking for a Season Two?
Ms. Pat: Well, just keep streaming it, cross your fingers, light a candle and maybe some incense for us.
Follow Ms. Pat on social media @comediennemspat, and check out her podcast, The Pat Down. The Ms. Pat Show is streaming now on BET+.