‘Harlem’ cast and creatives on season 2, representation in television

Meagan Good, Jerrie Johnson, Tracy Oliver and more caught up with theGrio ahead of the second season premiere of Prime Video's hit series.

“Harlem” is back! The popular series from Prime Video returns for a second season, reuniting fans with Camille (Meagan Good), Tye (Jerrie Johnson), Quinn (Grace Byers), and Angie (Shoniqua Shandai). TheGrio caught up with the cast and series creator Tracy Oliver for the premiere of the new season, breaking down the inspirations behind the series, updates on the characters in season two and the power of representation in television.

Like last season, “Harlem” follows four girlfriends in Harlem, New York, as they navigate the highs and lows of their professional and personal lives. Oliver told us the series “came out of a place of wanting to see New York” the way that she saw it and lived it, referencing shows like HBO’s “Girls,” which, while she enjoyed, was a New York City-set show light on the Black and brown representation, to say the least.

Prime Video's "Harlem" Season 2 Exclusive Los Angeles Screening
(L-R) Mimi Valdes, Tyler Lepley, Jerrie Johnson, Grace Byers, Tracy Oliver, Meagan Good, Shoniqua Shandai and Juani Feliz attend the world premiere of Netflix’s “Your Place Or Mine” at Regency Village Theatre on Feb. 2, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Arnold Turner/Getty Images for Prime Video)

“I always loved Harlem, I lived there, and I just thought there’s something so vibrant and culturally rich and beautiful about the people here and the experience of living here,” she explained. “I think the excitement from the audience is that they too feel like, ‘OK, we have a New York show that we can be seen in.'”

Speaking to this positive audience response from the first season, Shandai told us, “So many different types of people came up to me and saw themselves or related or found something funny, and I think that’s just a testament to brilliant writing and nuanced characters … you can find a bit of yourself if it’s just a reflection of humanity.”

The series, as the cast members detailed, is filled with layered and nuanced characters, leading to layered and nuanced representation, especially with the LGBTQ+ characters on the show.

Johnson said, “There are so many different versions of self that people can see through us women, through the men that are in it … the nuance of what sexuality looks like and in some shows I think that can be a very rigid thing. Like you have the queer character and that’s the queer character, and also that queer character is only queer.”

The second season portrays many characters exploring their sexuality, having both straight and queer relationships regardless of their past dating experience. This reflects Johnson’s friend group and peers, she told us. “To me, that’s what my life has been like, my friend’s life has been a reflection of things being able to move and shift in that way. I think people can see that and feel like, ‘Oh, I am a little piece of all of these people.'”

With the introductions of their characters out of the way, season two allowed “Harlem” to spread its wings and push these women to new places in their lives.

Good told us, “With this season, it really is exploring, ‘OK so what’s happening in life right now for them? What are they experiencing?'” She added, “For us it was really fun to see each one of these characters on a journey of self-discovery and learning who they are, learning who they are not … we’re having very real conversations with characters that people do see themselves in.”

“You get to see a little bit more of the backgrounds of each of these characters,” Byers teased. “More of their past, more of their history and how it has informed where they are today.”

She continued, “The more that you understand about where they’ve come from, the more you get why they do what they do or don’t do in these circumstances. That’s one of my favorite things about season 2, it really is going to a deeper place with these characters.”

“Harlem” is streaming now on Prime Video.

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