The Blackest Questions

Talking comedy, history, and Black art with Diallo Riddle

Episode 18

Comedy Month at theGrio continues with a spotlight on the award-winning comedic writer, producer, and actor Diallo Riddle. Host Dr. Christina Greer is a massive fan of Riddle’s HBO hit South Side and the pair chat about the show’s successful run and its impact on culture. They also dive into Riddle’s history with Black art and talk comedy OGs Marlon and Damon Wayans.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 30: Diallo Riddle attends the Los Angeles Series Premiere Of IFC’s New Variety Sketch Show “Sherman’s Showcase” at The Peppermint Club on July 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:06] Hi, and welcome to The Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Doctor Christina Greer, politics editor at theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. In this podcast, we ask our guest five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present. So here’s how it works. We’ve got five rounds of questions about us Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, everything. And with each round, the questions get a little bit tougher and the guest has 10 seconds to get it right. If they answer the question correctly, they’ll receive one symbolic Black fist and hear this. And if they get it wrong, they’ll hear this. But we’ll still love them anyway. And after the five questions, there’ll be a Black bonus round at the end, which I call Black Lightning. Just for fun. Our guest for this episode is Diallo Riddle. Diallo is an actor well known for playing the character Stevie on the Netflix comedy series Marlon opposite Marlon Wayans. Riddle has also appeared on several seasons of HBO series Silicon Valley, as well as Curb Your Enthusiasm. Riddle, with his creative partner, Bashir Salahuddin, have created two critically acclaimed series on television, HBO Max’s Southside, which is my personal favorite, and AMC, IFC’s Emmy Award winning Sherman’s showcase. It’s a scripted musical variety sketch comedy show. Sherman Showcase is executive produced by John Legend, and it’s the stylish sketch show moves through its own groove and invites everyone to laugh along alongside A-list guests like Issa Rae, Common, Chance the rapper Quincy Jones and Lil Rel, just to name a few. And as an Emmy and WGA nominated writer, actor, showrunner and moonlighting DJ, Diallo has proven to be one of the most creative and multifaceted talents in the entertainment industry today. I am super excited to welcome Diallo Riddle to my show. Welcome to the Black Questions. Diallo Thank you so much for coming.

Diallo Riddle [00:02:00] Thank you so much for having me. And just because this is the Blackest, you know, the Blackest of the Black, I have to point out that we won the NAACP Image Award for directing an episode of your favorite show, Southside. Yeah, that was that. That was a highlight of my life.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:17] I’m one of those weird, creepy people that meets folks. And, you know, when when folks are like, Oh, what are you watching? I’m like, If you’re not watching Southside, there’s something wrong with you. You know, I become like one of those proselytizers where it’s like, you know, it’s it’s the year of our Lord, 2022. Are you watching Southside? All right. What temperature y’all want? Well, let me speak for everybody. 75, hurry up!

Diallo Riddle [00:02:39] This is fake.

Panama Jackson [00:02:40] Congratulations, Picasso. You just discovered our new line. A placebo thermostat gives employees the illusion of control.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:46] I think it’s such. And I’ve told you this before. We’ve known each other for a long time. I think it’s such a love letter to Black people, to cities, obviously, to the city of Chicago. But it’s like if you are from any city, first tier second tier, third tier city. It is such a beautiful love letter to all the different characters who live in a city and the shenanigans that ensue.

Diallo Riddle [00:03:08] Listen, I think first off, if you’re calling your city a third or fourth tier city, just get that chip off your shoulder. We got love no matter where you live. No, I think you’re absolutely right. One of our favorite movies, me and Bashir, both is coming to America. And in that movie, you saw Black people of every strata. And we always felt like that movie was also a love letter to the Black community. So I truly do believe that you hit it on it. You picked up on exactly what our mission statement is for that show, which is to show how life is like, not even necessarily in city versus country, but just in whatever Black community from, so, it can be the south side of Chicago. It can be southwest Atlanta, South Central LA, South Philly, South Bronx. You see the trend here. Black people like living south of the city. And we’re here for that. We point cameras south of the city. We’re like, they’re the Black people. What are they up to?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:00] I love it. I really do. I mean, I see myself in so many characters. I feel like I’ve met all these characters at some point in my life. And I think it’s so interesting that I hear that you love coming to America because obviously that’s my favorite movie. I could go, you know, if someone said, I can give you $1,000,000, if you can quote every single line from coming to America, I would take that bet. Right. I literally wrote a book called Black Ethnics, and it’s like an academic analysis basically of coming to America. That’s how much I love that movie and it’s like, I.

Diallo Riddle [00:04:28] Mean, every part of it’s good. And I feel like I feel like I’ve watched it enough times now where I can actually say pretty definitively it is like if somebody gave you the money for three half hour episodes because literally there’s like a very clear mark at the 30 minute mark where they leave Africa and come to America. And there’s a clear break and the 30 minute mark he’s settled into America. I think the middle 30 minutes of that movie is actually the funniest. And then there’s a where where he’s now pursuing his bride to be and then, like, you know, it’s just it’s so clearly structured and yet it’s just like a perfect little it is almost like, well, Wes Anderson is, I think, to like the white persona like that movie is to the Black persona. It’s like a heightened reality full of jokes. It was extremely well shot, actually, by John Landis. But I hear that Kim and Eddie got into like a lot of fights over over the editing of that movie. And I believe it because there’s some things I just convinced Landis could not have nailed about the Black community that I’m sure Eddie and Arsenio and all the other people working on that movie nailed, you know, there’s just some things they got so perfect.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:36] So perfect. And I think what’s so interesting is that Wes Anderson is my favorite modern day director.

Diallo Riddle [00:05:42] I know a lot of Black people who feel that way. And yet Tim Burton, some of my absolute favorite directors. I’m just going to say it there. You can count on one hand the number of Black people they have in their film. So that’s an issue. And that’s I think that’s the perfect segue way into season two of Sherman’s showcase, because in season two of Sherman’s showcase, we actually imagine what a Sherman McDaniel’s movie we like to say on our show that Sherman McDaniels is always ahead of his time. There’s a big trailer for a movie directed by Sherman McDaniels that Wes Anderson saw and then directed all of his movies based upon that trailer. But for us as creators, it was just an excuse for us to sort of wish fulfillment, sort of throw ourselves into a Wes Anderson film and sort of do the film that Wes Anderson can do because he never uses Black actors.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:33] So, yeah, I mean, I don’t get it. Films that are white with a capital H in the middle. Okay.

Diallo Riddle [00:06:40] So anyway.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:42] I want to talk about Diallo Riddle. Are you ready to answer the Blackest questions?

Diallo Riddle [00:06:46] Let’s get into it.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:47] Okay, let’s get started. Question number one, considered by many to be the greatest college football player of all time. This former American football running back played in the NFL for 12 seasons and is the Republican nominee in the 2022 race for a seat in the United States Senate.

Diallo Riddle [00:07:06] Well, my my blood went cold when you asked this question, because I am not the biggest sports guy. But I know this because I’m from Atlanta and by extension, Georgia by way of Athens. Herschel Walker, who, you know, growing up like there were few names that I knew in sports that loom bigger than Herschel Walker. There was there was there was Dominique Wilkins. There were a couple. But but Herschel was like such a hero when I was a kid. And to see him now, it’s just a man, you know? I don’t even know what to say about Herschel.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:38] I always say this about us. It’s you know, if I were a few years older, I really do think that we would be best friends because on this podcast, I talk a lot about how Dominique Wilkins was my favorite basketball player. Yeah, but so Herschel Walker is a freshman at the University of Georgia. He helped the Bulldogs win the 1980 championship. He was an all-American honors track and field. He won the Heisman in 1982. He broke a world record in the 60 yard dash and represented the U.S. in the 1992 Winter Olympics in bobsledding.

Diallo Riddle [00:08:06] What? I didn’t know that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:06] A 5th degree black belt in Taekwondo, he was went undefeated as a mixed martial arts fighter. He had a pro football career. He played for the Jersey Generals, the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. He’s got All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, and he’s been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder as a result of trauma he experienced in childhood and dedicated his life to helping others struggling with mental health issues. Well, he’s also the Republican nominee, where he has said some pretty egregious things about Black people and Black families. So I brought this up because I do know that you’re from Atlanta and I know that you love Georgia and you’ve been following Georgia politics quite well.

Diallo Riddle [00:08:44] You know, I don’t know if I can say I love Georgia. You know, I love Atlanta. I love it. Yeah, you know, I love Atlanta. And Athens is cool. I’ve never set foot in Savannah or Macon or Augusta, you know, like, you know, I did set foot in Dallas, Georgia. But that’s because my first job was as a teenager was at Six Flags over Georgia. It’s in the little city of Austell slash Dallas, Georgia. Georgia is interesting, man. I mean, like, at least Atlanta’s spreading out. Like as Atlanta continues to blossom, like we continue to spread out from the Atlanta metro area. But no, you know, that’s even interesting because I feel like some people supported the Georgia Bulldogs growing up the city folks I feel like we rooted more for Georgia Tech. just being honest, you know what I mean? So yeah, it’s just complicated. The relationship with Atlanta and Georgia is just a really complicated relationship. You know, there’s some really beautiful places in the rural areas. But nah, I can’t say that. You know, Georgia is obviously I’m from Atlanta for a reason. I never I never say, oh, I grew up in Georgia. That just sounds weird, right?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:49] Well, I think that’s so fascinating, though, because as someone who studies cities and I love cities because cities are basically where a lot of Black people live.

Diallo Riddle [00:09:56] I Love ordering Thai food at two in the morning. You know, that’s just me, right?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:00] There’s so many things that the city brings. But I do think that, you know, I always tell people all states are red states. It’s just do you have enough blue cities in your red state to flip the state, you know, every four years?

Diallo Riddle [00:10:09] Isn’t that crazy.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:10] I’ll say that. I mean, look at New York. I tell my students all the time, there are places in New York State I wouldn’t go to at 2:00 in the afternoon. And so, you know, you’ve got these blue centers in these massively red places. Now, do you follow Georgia politics or have you gone full, Calif?

Diallo Riddle [00:10:25] Oh, no, I listen, admittedly, I feel like I follow things sometimes because I you know, we you and I both know people who live and breathe in politics all day. So I know that I’m not. But but absolutely. I still follow it. Yeah. Let’s talk about Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Let’s talk about it.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:44] Oh, right. Okay. So before we get to question number two, we’re going to take a brief break with our guests. Diallo Riddle.

Panama Jackson [00:10:50] Witty, Honest, Entertaining, Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture debates you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard.

Diallo Riddle [00:11:05] And we’re back.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:06] I’ve got Diallo Riddle with me to play the Blackest questions. I’m so excited to have you here. Thank you so much for being here.

Diallo Riddle [00:11:12] And I’m so excited about that sponsor that we just listened to. I’m definitely going to throw some money their way.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:18] You’re the greatest.

Diallo Riddle [00:11:20] Okay?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:20] You’re one for one. I say let’s keep going. Question number two. You ready? Let’s rock and roll. Released in 2021. All of the major characters in this Western were based on real life historical figures. What film is this?

Diallo Riddle [00:11:37] The harder they come close. Oh, wait, the harder they fall. That’s right.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:43] I’m one of those people that just changes one word.

Diallo Riddle [00:11:45] I mean, I know the song too well. I know. I know the Jimmy Cliff song a little too well. Yeah. Like what a great, great movie I love everything about it. Was it Jesse Samuels who did this one.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:56] Jeymes Samuels.

Diallo Riddle [00:11:57] Jeymes Samuels. I’m so sorry, but I. I know a little bit about how long it took him to sell his vision, and he didn’t want to do it on the cheap. He wanted to do it with a with a big cast, with some big numbers. And really just just props to Netflix for giving him the chance to do that, because this movie is incredible. I love it so much. I love Black history. I love telling the truth about the Old West, which was far Blacker than you would ever know from growing up on the films of John Wayne and John Ford. You know, like, it’s just it’s a slice of American history that I think that I’ve been trying to tell since I’ve been in high school. I remember in high school, I wrote, like a short story about a. Union soldier, a Black Union soldier who became disillusioned during reconstruction and moved out west and sort of ran afoul of a of a really sort of gnarly character named Texas Collar and who was another, you know, Black guy who had served with him in the same division. But they got very separate ways in the Old West. And I just feel like, thank God nowadays every now and then, a legit Black filmmaker gets the chance to tell these stories with a budget. Because Lord knows, you know, it’s not everybody’s got a movie studio in their pocket with their phone, but like to actually produce a big budget film is sort of like the next frontier for us. And I think that that that movie was just outstanding.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:23] Well I mean you know, the harder they fall, which is so beautifully done. I mean, I’ve seen it so many times. Directed by Jeymes Samuel, who co-wrote the screenplay with Boaz Yakin. And so it’s the fictional characters in the film share their names with real life historical figures and you know, obviously here on the Blackest questions. I argue that Black history is American history, and it’s international history and it’s diasporic and we should all know it. So we’ve got Regina King as Gertrude Treacherous, Trudy Smith. We’ve got Jonathan Majors as Nat Love, a Tennessee man remembered as a skilled cowboy from South Dakota. We’ve got my secret boyfriend, Delroy Lindo, as the longest serving deputy U.S. Marshal in Indian territory, Bass Reeves. We’ve got Lakeith Stanfield, who’s Cherokee Bill Zazie Beetz who’s stagecoach, Mary Fields. And so Samuels, said that he hopes to call attention to how Black pioneers shaped the culture and history of the American West, but have since been cut out of its legacy, which, as you said, is so true. You know, you watch a lot of these movies, whether it’s about World War Two or whether it’s about the American West. And you’re hard pressed to find so many Black folks who served this nation, served other nations, and lost their lives to do so. And they’re just kind of erased, forgotten about.

Diallo Riddle [00:14:37] I mean, like, I love Steven Spielberg as a filmmaker, but I don’t even I get triggered when I hear mentions of Saving Private Ryan just because there were.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:45] Were nary a Negro in the.

Diallo Riddle [00:14:47] Film. It was Black soldiers at D-Day. And I just feel like, you know, how can you leave that out? So I feel like there’s so much correction that we need to to do. And by the way, Bashir and I are working on an on a Paramount feature right now, a feature for Paramount Pictures that I think will you know, it’s a lot of composite characters. I can’t say it’s even based on true characters the way that the harder they fall is, but like it does speak to a certain type of Black person who sort of like after World War One was done with the racism in this country and sort of struck out on their own. And it sort of marries our love of actual history with our love of, you know, the classic action adventures of, you know, Indiana Jones and Alan Quartermain and the Lost World and all those kind of like great the sort of defining types of the action adventure genre, because that’s another type of, of, of movie, a film genre that I just feel like there are not enough Black characters represented in.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:47] Oh, my gosh.

Diallo Riddle [00:15:47] I am very excited about that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:49] Whatever you and Bashir produce, I want to see it. I want to just indulge in it. And I know and I know in my soul that it’s going to be a series like Love Letter, and Historical Foundation for Black people. Okay. So let’s take a brief break with Diallo Riddle and we’ll be right back.

Panama Jackson [00:16:05] Witty, Honest, Entertaining. Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture debate you don’t want to miss also available wherever great podcasts are heard.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:21] Okay, we are back. I’m here with Diallo Riddle. Talking Black History, Black Movies, all the things. Thank you so much for joining me at the Blackest questions are you ready?

Diallo Riddle [00:16:30] Thank you for having me.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:31] For Question number three, you’re killing the game over here, by the way.

Diallo Riddle [00:16:34] I’m scared. The questions are about to get much harder.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:37] Just a just a skosh as one does. Okay, question number three, here we go. Let’s rock’n’roll. This African-American, modern, contemporary dance choreographer took his dance theater company on successful tours on every continent throughout the 1960s and eighties, solidifying his legendary status amongst the pioneers, Horton and Katherine Dunham. Who was he?

Diallo Riddle [00:17:01] I believe that’s Alvin Ailey.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:03] You are correct. That’s Alvin Ailey. Born January 5th in 1931 in a small town in Texas, Ailey began his dance training at the age of 11 by being exposed to classical, social and folk dances as well as new techniques of modern dance. His family moved to L.A. in 1942, and then in 1958, he formed his own dance company, and it was mainly composed primarily of Black folks, and they toured extensively both in the U.S. and abroad. And he started this when opportunities, obviously, for African-American dancers like himself were severely limited. And he created this dance style that was developed from his memories of growing up in the South and is careful observation of human movement.

Diallo Riddle [00:17:43] Wow. I did not know that part. That’s really cool. The companies signature piece.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:47] Yes. Revelations and has been in the dance theater’s repertory since 1960. And it’s a powerful early work by Ailey that is set to African-American spirituals and is considered a choreographic masterpiece. Sadly, Ailey died on December 1st, 1989, in New York. Now for me, Diallo Christmas season doesn’t begin until I see Alvin Ailey. Ever since I was young, it’s. Ailey is a must. Are you. You know, I know you come from a really artistic family. You know, your dad was a sculptor and a painter. You know, I know that your your grandparents are sort of, you know, spent some time in California now. Have you seen Ailey? And is that something that is kind of part I know you’re your partner was a former dancer and I know in in the arts world as well. Like, is that something that is part of your your foundation?

Diallo Riddle [00:18:39] Yeah. I think Black art in general has been there from the very beginning for me. I mean, like I my first some of my first memories as a child is sort of like running between the legs of like the adults at an art gallery opening. And like, you know, to me, the smell of art was like red wine, which is so funny to me because as a child, I felt like I was always around, like, silky clothes and red wine. And, yeah, you’re totally right. My wife is a dancer and choreographer. She’s actually the choreographer on Sherman’s showcase. So I feel like to this day, I’m still surrounded by, you know, ballet and contemporary and jazz and, you know, Fozzie and Dunham and, you know, these things are just sort of second nature for me through her. But I think that, yeah, I think that any time, you know, even as a writer, I always tell young writers who come up and ask, Well, how can I, how can I break into TV like you and Bashir? I’m always like, you know, to a certain extent, write what you know. Now some people take that as to mean. Right. You know, like in the case of Alvin Ailey, he’s interpreting movements that he saw as a child in Texas. But I would actually put out there that writing what, you know, doesn’t have to be quite so literal. You know, like George Lucas, you know, made a fortune writing about space and he’s not an astronaut. So how do you get. Well, it turns out he loved Flash Gordon serials from, like, you know, the material features from his youth. And he reinterpreted that in the seventies and made Star Wars. And I feel the same way about it doesn’t have to literally be like, Oh, I grew up on this block in New York, so I’m going to write a story that takes place on that block in New York. It can be that, I think to a certain extent shows like South Side Win because our writers being from Chicago are writing about the Chicago that they know the Chicago they haven’t seen on any other TV show. But if your thing is horror or if it’s detective stuff or like whatever, whatever really gets you going, then that is what you know. So when I say write what you know, it’s whatever you would probably do for free or whatever you’re just naturally interested in and just figure out your way of interpreting that through your art. That would be my advice to anybody trying to make it in this business.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:49] Oh, I think that’s such brilliant advice, too. I mean, because I think sometimes people are so literal and so they want to get trapped in sort of stuck to just like the exact story.

Diallo Riddle [00:20:56] Don’t end up in that listen there are enough, you know unfortunately most Execs in Hollywood still white they will definitely try and steer you towards the well what’s the Black version of this and I think one thing that Bashir and I even though everything we do like we said like I’m in America, it’s very Black, but it’s also decidedly in some ways not Black at all. Like, it’s some of the things some of the specific details are details that, you know, Black people and Black aware audiences will appreciate. At the same time, we’re really just writing humanity.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:25] Before we go for break, I just want to say, I think it’s season two, episode four or season two, Episode five, correct me which one? The the Ode to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for Black People. Episode four. Episode four I think that is a cinematic masterpiece because it’s a Black interpretation. And so many of us watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Growing up, and we love that movie. And no, there weren’t any Black people in that movie at all, even though there were.

Diallo Riddle [00:21:54] There were a few there. You. No, this it’s that thing where, like, you love something, but being Black, you’re also aware of its Black flaws. So in that movie, it’s like a great movie and almost like a movie, and you’re happy as a Black person, that they didn’t try and just throw some Black people in there. And then this group of Black people come out dancing during the parade sequence and you’re like wait a second, I’ve never I’ve been Black a long time. I’ve never done that with my friends. Right.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:21] Like we steal.

Diallo Riddle [00:22:23] Sometimes. It’s better if you just leave us out.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:25] Leave us alone.

Diallo Riddle [00:22:25] If you try and throw us in there and it’s wrong. It sort of takes me out of the movie for a little bit. They got me back in, but I did love that scene.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:32] The dancing’s there, the coco cola. And also, don’t forget, the guy is the parking attendant the Black Latino dudes who steal.

Diallo Riddle [00:22:37] I always thought they were Latino. One of them I actually. Okay. Fun fact in our episode of Southside, the young guy the young guy who falls out the car in our episode is the son of one of those guys from the actual Ferris Bueller movie.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:52] I’m so deep into Southside, I knew that fact. I was gonna let you tell it to our audience. But I knew that.

Diallo Riddle [00:22:57] I’m gonna stump you with something today i’m gonna stump you with.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:00] Something, I feel like you need to start a Southside Slash Coming to America podcast and bring me on and see how much I know.

Diallo Riddle [00:23:07] Well I think you’d blow us out. The first episode, we’d have nothing left to talk about you’re basically on set.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:12] I’m addicted. Okay, so we’re going to take a brief break and come on back with my guest, Diallo Riddle. And we’re back on the Blackest Questions thank you so much for joining us. Diallo Riddell is here with us and he’s doing so incredibly well.

Diallo Riddle [00:23:27] Three for three. I am getting a 100, 100% so far, just like in real school. Let’s keep it going.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:33] Let’s keep it going. And, you know, for our listeners at home, don’t forget, the whole purpose of this is to to learn something along the way. So you might be 0 for three. That’s okay. Black history is American history. We’re just going to we’re going to do our best. Okay. Okay. So question number four. You ready?

Diallo Riddle [00:23:48] Yep.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:23:50] This is the first Black owned architectural firm in the United States and is the oldest Black owned architecture and engineering firm in the country.

Diallo Riddle [00:24:03] Was it. Is it Paul Williams?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:09] No, it’s McKissick and McKissick.

Diallo Riddle [00:24:12] Oh, I did. I wasn’t even close to knowing this. Okay. Teach me something.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:15] So it was founded in 1905 by Moses McKissick, the third, and his brother, Calvin Lunsford McKissick in Nashville, Tennessee. And the McKissick brothers had building and design in their blood. Their grandfather, Moses McKissick, came to America in 1790 as an enslaved person. It was owned by a prominent contractor who used him as a builder. McKissic passed the trade down to his son, who in turn trained his sons. So the McKissick brothers became the first Black licensed architects in the southeastern U.S. and went on to design many homes, churches, schools and other buildings, including the Morris Memorial Building in Nashville and the 99th pursuit Squadron Air Base in Tuskegee, Alabama, which was the largest federal contract at the time ever given to a Black owned firm. And in 1990, Daryl McKissick, the granddaughter of Moses McKissick, the third, opened her own firm in Washington, D.C., the firm, which now has offices in Austin, Houston, Chicago, Washington, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Dallas has contributed to many significant civic projects, including the MLK Memorial and the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall. Oh, wow. So Black people everywher e, not just in culture, but we’re also building things that that are just part of sort of the literal American landscape. So you live in Atlanta or you live in L.A. You’re from Atlanta with some amazing architecture in both places. There are lots of obviously prominent Black architects who were groundbreaking in U.S. infrastructure and who often times go unnoticed. How do you think? You know, just knowing, I guess I’m trying to create a parallel between the work you’re doing in Hollywood, where you and Bashir are still breaking boundaries as Black writers and showrunners and creating opportunities for so many people in your field. How can we translate that to so many other fields? I mean, you’ve given us some great advice about writing what we know, but like what other kind of foundational generic advice do you have for folks? Who are trying to, essentially, be groundbreakers.

Diallo Riddle [00:26:09] Like architects for sure. And I always set out to build stuff that’s timeless and will be appreciated 80 years from now, long after we’re gone. So there’s that parallel. But I would be remiss if I did not mention that my grandfather, John Williams from John Wayne, John Riddle Senior, worked for Paul Williams. Paul Revere Williams, who is sort of like the and to me, he’s he’s just the master Black architect. So I bet you some of your listeners know this, but if you live in L.A. and some of our most iconic buildings were built by this Black architect, that’s the weird structure at LAX that looks like a spaceship. That’s the Beverly Hills Hotel with the sort of iconic sign homes from everybody from Frank Sinatra to Marvin Gaye. They’re all Paul Williams buildings. The man is like this is I joined the L.A. Conservancy in part to make sure that his architectural legacy is never messed with by people. You know, developers would just come in and knock down a home or knock down one of these classic Paul Williams buildings. And I’m proud to say that my grandfather, who studied architecture at USC, was one of the people who work for his firm. So I always even said before I even knew that, oddly enough, that if I wasn’t pursuing what I was pursuing, I would have pursued architecture. Because to me it’s very similar when you’re trying to build a house, it’s like essentially it’s like if you envision it, you want to build it, you want to make it real in the world. So nowadays I envision these movies and part of what we do is like we imagine what the set looks like, we imagine the location that we’re filming in because we’re trying to imagine this thing. And I think it’s very similar to a person who will see an empty lot or an empty field and sort of imagine, well, what goes here and how does it look? You know, I’m so proud that the Riddle family, is a part of the Paul Williams legacy here in Los Angeles.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:28:08] Oh, my gosh, I am so excited. And I’m excited for the prospect of one day I’ll be going to a Riddle fellow Salahuddin film. And knowing that you actually built the sets.

Diallo Riddle [00:28:22] You know what? You bring it up. I would love to find one if any of the Paul Williams theaters are still standing. Maybe we can do a premiere there. That would that would that would be coming full circle.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:28:32] Full circle. And the spirit of your grandfather obviously would be right there. That’s such a beautiful legacy. Okay. So we’re going to take a brief break and we’ll be right back with Diallo Riddle.

Maiysha Kai [00:28:44] Don’t forget, you can listen to theGrios Writing Black Podcast hosted by me, Maiysha Kai. This isn’t your typical writing podcast. We interview any and everybody that has anything to do with writing from comics to poets to authors to journalists to politicians and more. Remember, that’s Writing Black every Sunday, right here on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, download theGrio’s app to listen to writing Black wherever you are.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:16] And we’re back with our guests, Diallo Riddle. Thank you all so much for joining us at the Blackest questions.

Diallo Riddle [00:29:22] I’m not I’m not even 100% anymore, but I’m going to get this last.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:26] You’re not at 100%, but you’re doing incredibly well. And I hope our listeners are really appreciating sort of you sharing so many family stories with us as well. Okay. Final question before we go to Black Lightning. You ready?

Diallo Riddle [00:29:39] Yeah.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:39] Okay. Located in the central region of Ghana, it’s the oldest European structure in sub-Saharan Africa. What is it?

Diallo Riddle [00:29:49] European structure in sub-Saharan Africa. I think if we go with, oh, this is going to drive me nuts. I don’t I don’t have it. I don’t know this one.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:30:07] Well, hopefully our Ghanaian listeners snag this one. It’s St George Castle, also known as Elmina Castle. It’s about a three and a half hour drive along the coast from Accra. It was constructed by the Portuguese or the construction began in 1482. And originally, Elmina Castle was not built for the purpose of holding and treating enslaved people, but it was instead a trading post for gold other African goods. And so it’s from this trade that the name Elmina was derived from the Portuguese named for DaCosta de el niña de Oro, which is the coast of gold mines. And the 91,000 square foot behemoth, was one of the principal slave depots in the transatlantic slave trade for more than three years. And so when European powers began to invade the continent of Africa for enslaved people, Elmina became an essential stop on the slave route and a prison of sorts for captives. And so today in the town of Elmina, which is a lively, bustling hub, the castle towers above it. And it’s a painful reminder of the past. And so I’ve spent some time in Ghana. Have you been to the continent? Have you been to West Africa to travel around? Or has your work sort of kept you stateside? No.

Diallo Riddle [00:31:12] I mean, like it’s something I’ve never gotten around to doing. I’ve gone through airports there, but I’ve never gone to go there. And it’s something that I’m definitely hoping to fix pretty soon, but everything’s a lot harder when you have three small children, which I have. And just the idea of going to the idea of going from L.A. to San Diego seems very hectic. You know, just the kids are going to do what they’re going to do. It’s so funny you bring this up because I felt like I knew roughly what this was going to involve once you started talking. I feel like it had to be about trade. You and I met in some weird way through Harvard University and when I was a student there. Believe it or not, my my focus was on sub-Saharan trade. You know, I studied the but that was my part of African history that I that I truly appreciated because, you know, that was when things didn’t have to get so messed up. You know what I mean? Like, you know, when when the Arab states to the north were trading with the sub-Saharan states and they were, you know, trading for salt, for gold and, you know, like the fortunes of Timbuktu, like that was the stuff that I was really into, you know, sort of like that from Fez in modern day Morocco down to the to the, you know, to the kingdom of Mali. Like that was a really exciting time. And I love studying that stuff because, you know, like I said, that was before things went truly south. So it doesn’t surprise me. It’s something that represents sort of like a free exchange of ideas and, wealth, sort of becoming perverted and corrupted into, you know, a housing station for for human lives. You know, that’s very disappointing, but not surprising, unfortunately.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:54] Not surprising at all. Now, do you have a bucket list of places? I mean, I know you and Bashir have been going nonstop, not just the television shows, but, you know, various projects that you all are working on. You know, when you finally take a break and you have the Coming to America podcast with me and you have me on, when you, design you know some homes in L.A. and secure grandpa’s legacy for a whole bunch of things. When you have some time for some travel, whether it’s with the kids or not, what’s on your bucket list?

Diallo Riddle [00:33:28] I’ve spent so much time. First off, I just so you know I always tell my kids don’t call it a bucket list because you’re not going anywhere. But I think that listen, it’s a sore subject just because I have been trying to take just a week, just seven continuous days off since the beginning of the year. And it has not happened. And I don’t think I’m going to get that seven days off until Christmas realistically, because we have so much in the works between six new shows that we’re developing and two movie ideas. But that said, you know, I think South Africa is a big destination for me. I have a niece who’s studying abroad over there, and that just gives me just enough impetus to try and make it to South Africa. Admittedly, the kids are really into anime right now, so we we’ve sort of tried to figure out a way to get to Tokyo and so that they can sort of see the anime and the culture. I went to Tokyo when I was about 15 and it left a lasting impression on me, so that was high on the list. There is Bali because we have some friends who own a beachfront coffee stand there and I feel like that would be a great place to sort of turn off the phone, turn off the Wi-Fi and just, you know, veg out for a little bit. And then and then admittedly London, because I’m still sort of a listener of music, it bothers me that I was such an early adopter of UK grime and sort of what eventually became the UK drill music that’s taking over our current domestic hip hop. But I was never able to go over there. I haven’t been to the UK since probably about 15, maybe even closer to 20 years now. So that’s another place that I feel like culturally I would just want to go and see what people are doing now because you know, when you do something like Sherman’s showcase is really an excuse to, you know, sort of put out the music that you’re really into, right? And right now, I feel like it’s harder than ever with sort of the collapse of terrestrial radio. It’s really hard sort of knowing what’s the new music, what’s next. I can’t listen to the local power station or, you know, real FM and sort of get any sense of what’s happening other than like the latest Drake or Nicki Minaj song. And I just I feel like there’s another music. I feel like this decade got off to a weird start, but I feel like the music that will define this decade hasn’t been created yet. And it’s very interesting to me what that music will be because I sort of listen to music. I feel like music gives me like keeps my spirit young and I’m always into whatever new music is poppin. So that’s important to me.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:35:56] Okay. So we’re going to take a brief break and then when we come back, we’re going to play Black bonus round.

Diallo Riddle [00:36:02] Done.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:36:05] Okay. We’re back. Diallo, before I let you out of here, we’ve got time for Black bonus round. Now, this is what I like to call Black Lightning. I ask you just some brief questions and you just give me the answer that comes to your head. There’s no right or wrong answer. This is just about Diallo. You ready?

Diallo Riddle [00:36:21] Let’s do it. Okay.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:36:24] If you had to choose, is it acting or DJ’ing?

Diallo Riddle [00:36:30] Oh, man. I think it would probably depend on the project, but I think for right now, acting. I’ve DJ’ed music festivals. I’ve done a lot of the DJ’ing thing. And I think that, you know, there’s one project in particular that we’re working on that’s going to address in its own unique way, the mental health deficiencies in the Black community, the fact that so many of us don’t, you know, turn to therapy, the fact that so many of us don’t have jobs that pay for therapy. We have a project in that field that I will be acting in that I’m super excited and we’ve never tried anything like this before. So I think just the sort of like adventure of the unknown, I would say acting.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:37:16] Okay. I think I know the answer to this one, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Black Panther or Coming to America.

Diallo Riddle [00:37:23] And those are great movies. I mean, sort of hidden in your question, is Zamunda or Wakanda? I think Wakanda is way better. I think like I love coming to America, but Zamunda was kind of like a dictatorship. And I don’t know, like, you know, what happens if your sister ends up in the Wipers guild? Like, that’s terrible. So I don’t know.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:37:47] I don’t know, Diallo. I mean, listen, this is your time to answer these questions, but I’m a loyal citizen of Zamunda. I just feel like, Wakanda, you had all this technology, you didn’t help your Black brothers and sisters in the United States. I’m totally team Killmonger. I absolutely understand why he came back and had vengeance. So it’s like, you know, maybe I am, you know a wiper.

Diallo Riddle [00:38:06] Like, look, I hear all that. So you’re talking about you’re talking about Wakandan foreign affairs. But I would argue that Zamunda class inequity is also a problem. So maybe neither neither nation state is perfect.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:38:19] This is why we need a podcast.

Diallo Riddle [00:38:21] Yeah.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:38:22] This is why we need just a pure coming to America podcast.

Diallo Riddle [00:38:25] Hey, give me either side of this debate. I think a case can be made in either way in a good way. So, yeah, I’m totally down to debate, which is better because I’ve long thought like loving coming to America. But I’ve I’ve thought like, man, this place does not seem equal.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:38:41] It does not. Okay, here we go. This is a hot take. Best stand up comedian. Marlon Wayans or Damon Wayans?

Diallo Riddle [00:38:50] I don’t know. I don’t even know which Marlon would say for right now. I’m going to say Damon Wayans just because I feel like his specials, you know, they they they hit really big at the time. I feel like Marlon will tell you himself that he is still finding his his his voice and his way as a as a as a stand up. But I will also say that if we’re talking in the last 20 or 25 years, Marlon, by a long shot, I feel like Marlon has come out with at least two great specials in the last couple of years. And I think his next special, which I think it’s I forget the name of it, I think it’s called like God Loves Me, or something like that. I think it’s going to blow people’s minds. I think it’s going to actually put him at the top.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:39:35] I really like him as a dramatic actor. I mean, ever since Requiem for a Dream, I was like, I’m done. I am done. Let’s shut it down. Here we are. Okay. Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles?

Diallo Riddle [00:39:45] Stevie Wonder. And it’s probably generational, but. Stevie Wonder. Yeah.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:39:50] Okay. I have this Ray Charles, Betty Carter album that I’ll make sure I send you some.

Diallo Riddle [00:39:57] Send it to me. I’ll send you these unreleased Stevie Wonder B-sides that Quest Love gave me. And then then you’ll be like yeah Stevie.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:40:05] Okay. Oh, well, you know, listen, I’m team Stevie, but I do love Ray Charles. Okay. So reality guilty pleasure goes to Real Housewives of Atlanta or Real Housewives of Potomac?

Diallo Riddle [00:40:16] Atlanta, even though when Atlanta first started, I had an issue with it because I was like, this doesn’t seem like the Atlanta that I know. But what’s weird is that as time has gone on, Atlanta has started to copy the show. It’s really weird. And can I just put in a vote for I think I think Potomac admittedly, I watch them all, but I shout out to my friend Akeelah Green, who’s one of the funniest writers I know in Hollywood. We’re also big fans of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, if only because we love Garcelle. Which brings us all the way back to coming to America.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:40:52] Coming To America. Okay, quickly, someone comes to the DJ booth and requests nineties hip hop. What are you grabbing first?

Diallo Riddle [00:40:58] Tribe Called Quest is my first thought. Maybe then Wu-Tang here’s the thing about Wu-Tang songs. You can play them. Have not heard them in a club setting ever. A lot of times, especially now, because even when they were popular, they were not club song. So you get to hear them. But here’s what you don’t know. The DJ’s know the riza mastered those tracks in a very sort of grimy, sort of like fuzzy way. So they don’t sound amazing in the club. Like, they sound better in headphones. They were they were mastered to be played in, like, old Sony Walkman. And they don’t sound great in the club. Like the music is not like separated in the way that you would expect a club so be. Be prepared to work those E.Q. knobs like maybe you want to turn down the mids and pump the bass, but like, they don’t sound like you think they’re going to sound in the club.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:52] Just fair warning, well, that’s fascinating. Well my favorite. My favorite of the Wu Tang Clan

Diallo Riddle [00:41:55] I could talk about deejaying 90’s hip hop all day.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:58] Okay. Well, then I’m just going to call you and have you just walk me through the the brilliance that is Old Dirty Bastard’s solo album. I can talk about that all day long. I think it’s a masterpiece. Okay.

Diallo Riddle [00:42:10] Fantastic oh you talkin about return to 36. Return to the 36. Is that the one you’re talkin about the 36 chambers, the Brooklyn Zoo, perfect, amazing album. I go back and listen to the song Rawhide. Go back and listen the song Rawhide it is a slept on Gem from that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:42:26] I listen to his album from start to finish because I have it on wax, so I literally play the record because I think it’s that great.

Diallo Riddle [00:42:32] Yeah, that’s great. That’s the way it was meant to be heard.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:42:35] Last question before I let you out of here. Shrimp and grits or chicken and waffles?

Diallo Riddle [00:42:39] Shrimp and grits. I love shrimp and grits. The Riddle family. Half of us find our trace our lineage back to New Orleans. When I thought I was going to have a week off in September, I was like, Let’s go to New Orleans. Because, you know, I got I got New Orleans people in the family. So, you know, shrimp and grits all day.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:42:58] Shrimp and grits, all day. Well, Diallo Riddle. I’m so happy for you and Bashir. And the success of Sherman’s showcase, which is coming out October 26, season two and South Side. When’s season three coming out.

Diallo Riddle [00:43:13] Season three’s coming out later this year. I know the date. I’m not allowed to give it out yet, but follow me at Diallo on Instagram and I guarantee you you’ll be able to find the date that we drop season three of Southside. It’s an amazing season. You’ll get to know all the characters better. It’s going to be great.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:43:30] Thank you for listening to The Blackest Questions. The show is produced by Akilah Cedric, Jessie Vargas and Sasha Armstrong. I want to thank our guests for this week’s episode, Diallo Riddle And if you like what you heard, please download theGrio app and listen and watch many more great shows and share it with everyone you know.

Diallo Riddle [00:43:49] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. All the Black culture debates you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard.