Writing Black

Take a Look Inside One of TV’s Biggest Shows’ Writers’ Room With ‘This Is Us’ Writer Eboni Freeman

Episode 10

Maiysha Kai sits down with the writer for one of TV’s biggest shows, “This Is Us,” screenwriter and producer Eboni Freeman. The two discuss her journey to getting to the TV screenwriting industry, what it was like writing for one of the biggest shows in the past 10 years, and how she brings her identity and life experiences to the writing room.

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Maiysha Kai [00:00:06] Well, hello, Grio fam and welcome back to another episode of Writing Black. You know, I’m excited by all the people we feature on this podcast, but this one is I’m sure it gets me in the feels. All right. You know, I was a huge fan of “This Is Us” from the time it came on to the last episode. And we have one of its writers here, Eboni Freeman, who, you know, actually, I shouldn’t just say writer. You’ve been a story editor. You’ve done so many you’ve worked in so many capacities with this, you know, groundbreaking hit show. 

This is Us [00:00:40] Oh, night. Just breathe. Come on, now, breathe. I would just wish that I could make time standstill. I know. Time after. Sometimes you picture. It’s the first time in 36 years you’ve said the words “He’s my brother.” You said. 

Maiysha Kai [00:01:06] So thrilled that you’re here with us. I think you might be the first screenwriter that we’ve had on the podcast, which excites me as well, because TV is such a big part of my life. Always has been since I was a kid. So we’re going to jump right in. Is it true I was looking at your IMDB page and is it true that this was like your first major gig? Like being on “This Is Us”? 

Eboni Freeman [00:01:32] Yes, that is very true. I basically was my first after writing gig. I was previously before that I was working for Fox Sports for like it was almost ten years before I broke into the business. I had been writing pretty much since I had graduated undergrad at the University of Michigan. I’m from L.A. originally, so I moved back to L.A.. I was like, I’m going to make it as a writer. And, you know, I thought it was going to be like one year, maybe two type thing. And it just, you know, it takes time. And yeah, I started out writing features and then transitioned just like, you know, I thought, you know, I wanted to be mostly a feature writer. Eventually, you know, got really interested in television because of what was happening in television at the time. You know, there was like scandal and how to get away with murder. And I just felt like the stories that I wanted to tell were more suited or it was happening more in television. And so yeah. And moved into that space and got into the Sundance episodic lab in 2016, 2018, got the gig on “This Is Us.” So that was like the trajectory. 

Maiysha Kai [00:02:51] I mean, that’s a tremendous trajectory, though. That’s a big deal. Especially because I mean I mean, this was “This Is Us” was already on in 2018, I believe. Correct. So you knew what you were walking into. So the fact that you were getting hired to be on an already hit show is a big deal and says a lot about your skill. You know, one of the things that always struck me about “This Is Us,” and I think, you know, when I look at like the fan base, like the fan base that I know, the Black fan base that I know, I think we all agree is that this is a storyline that could have easily kind of sat in that pocket of like, you know, especially in the treatment of Black characters, could have sat in that pocket of like white savior stories, you know, with this Black child adopted by this white family. And yes, obviously, everybody on the on the show has has their storyline. But what attracted you to this particular show? Like, what what was it about? I mean, obviously, aside from the fact that it was a hit, but what what excited you about the stories that you would be able to tell with these dynamics at play?  

Eboni Freeman [00:03:56] I mean, I think, you know, I joined in season three at the beginning of season three and I was actually, you know, a huge fan of the show before I went in for the meeting. And, you know, writers know, like a lot of the times you go out for staffing gigs and it’s like, Shoot, I’ve never even watched it. Let me catch up with seasons. One, two, three, four, five. You know. But I actually went into the meeting, I didn’t even need to prep in that particular way because I had been keeping up. I was a super fan. I know knew the characters. And I think the reason why I was such a fan was because I you know, it’s just one of those shows where they’re telling stories that really just I had never seen told before. Like there was a story with Deja and hair loss. And I’ve experienced hair loss myself. And I remember watching that scene when Beth is doing her hair and helping her cover a bald spot. And I was just blown away like it literally made me sob because I had never seen that on television before. 

Speaker 4 [00:05:09] How long have you had these patches? You know, my sister Rene gets them, too. These areas where the hair doesn’t grow. What she has is called alopecia. 

Eboni Freeman [00:05:25] So I think when I joined the show, it was just so exciting to be able to, because what you find out when you get on staff is that, you know, a lot of these stories come from the writers. You know, these are our personal lives. These are. That’s why it feels so true and so real. And so I think that’s what’s so cool about it and why it has, you know, impacted a lot of people the way that it has. 

Maiysha Kai [00:05:51] You know, I love that you said that you didn’t even have to prep for the interview in that same way because I felt the same way prepping for this interview. I was like, I don’t know. I just want to talk to the show. I want to talk about you know, I want to talk about you. I want to talk about the show. I want to talk about, you know, what what what stories did you were you excited to help craft during that, you know, that end of that run? 

Eboni Freeman [00:06:14] Yeah. I mean, during the end of the run, I think for all of us, it was it was just about like we had a lot of things that we had set up. We have a lot of, you know, loose ends that need to be tied together. And so, you know, I was really excited to see how we move from because, as you know, we go from, you know, all the way into like 2032 in the future. So there’s a lot of like ground to cover as far as getting to that point. And I think, you know, it was very cool to be able to revisit Beth’s dancing story. I didn’t I didn’t at the time going into the final season, you know, I didn’t know that that was something that Dan Fogelman, the creator, had been thinking to do. So that was really cool to be able to just kind of see, okay, how did she sort of get to that Debbie Allen esque figure of this studio in the future, you know what I mean? And so it was cool that we got to finish that story out. And yeah, I mean, it’s just I feel like, you know, I feel like we landed, you know? 

Maiysha Kai [00:07:31] You know, I have to say, it was it was nice. Yeah. It was not a disappointing ending. You know, sometimes you’ll see a show and it was, you know, you’re like, oh, you know, you left them all in a good place. And I actually misspoke a little bit cause I really meant the remainder of the run because, you know, in that period that that four year period that you were with the show, it’s like, you know, so much happened. I mean, one of of course, the the most striking storylines to me was, you know, always Randall’s kind of search for his identity. His family. But then also, you know, one of the things my producer was pointing out is like, you know, one of the things that’s so cool about a series, you know, like we speak to a lot of people on this show and, you know, a lot of people who write books, for instance, you know, that’s a there’s a lot of character development that goes on there, but it’s an arc. And it’s like, you know, there’s a start, you know, there’s a beginning, there’s a middle, there’s a finish, and obviously there’s an arc in a series as well. But, you know, when you’re stretching this out over years and years with these characters and you’re living with them and you’re living with their extended families and bringing more friends and family and like tell me a bit about like that experience of like growing with these characters.  

Eboni Freeman [00:08:46] I mean, I yeah, I think it’s it is interesting because when you are creating the television show, like the thing that you want to do is create, of course, the great characters excuse me, interesting characters and storylines where you can have, you know, every single season, you can have stories to tell. And, you know, I think that was also the reason why Dan Fogelman decided that, you know, I know a lot of people didn’t want the show to end, but I think it was the right time for its end in season six because especially the kind of show that we have, you know, after a while, it’s like if you’re not we’re not breaking up anymore marriages. We’re not you know, we don’t want to go crazy with in sort of manufacturing drama and sort of kind of messing up the, you know, what was great about the characters just to have more story. Right. So I think it was great to have this. Not a lot of shows know when they’re going to end. Sometimes, you know, as we know, shows get canceled. 

Eboni Freeman [00:09:53] And so I think it was very cool to be able to know. We pretty much knew by the end of season three that it was ending on season six and we had, you know, some time to set some things up. But, you know, every season stuff changes. We go into the room and at the beginning of every sort of new season, we spent quite some time sort of blue skying where we think these characters are going to go, what their arcs are going to be that season. And so things ebb and flow and change. I think, you know, you have an idea of like, for instance, that final episode that was pretty much shot. A lot of those things were shot in season three because of the kid, you know, the kids actors, obviously, they’re going to grow and change and can’t stop them from like their voice is changing and deepening. And so, you know, that final episode, I think he had a very clear idea of what that would be. But as far as, you know, where Randall was going to end, you know, where Kevin was going to end up. Like there was a lot of back and forth for many seasons on which woman Kevin was coming up with, you know? 

Maiysha Kai [00:11:06] Yeah. 

Eboni Freeman [00:11:06] Well, that stuff is like that’s what I think is really cool about TV because, you know, that stuff changes. And one season it’s like, no, it’s really good. It’s going to be Sophie and it’s going to be Sophie. And then, you know, the whole Madison thing and the twins thing. So I think it has a lot of room to to grow and change. And I think that’s one of the great things of a great showrunner and creator is, you know, being open to to that having me having a vision and a blueprint, but also being open to the writers in the room and the discussion and how we’re all feeling about, you know, about everything. 

Maiysha Kai [00:11:46] So let’s take a break. We are going to come back with more Writing Black. 

[00:11:52] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for news, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:12:20] Welcome back to Writing Black. We are going to continue our conversation with Eboni Freeman. Yeah. And, you know, like as you as you noted, a lot of the reason people respond to the show is because they had never seen anything quite like that before. But there were so many related, relatable moments. And as we know, life is messy, right? It’s messy. It can be complicated. It’s not always linear in the way that we think it is. And you were talking about people really bringing their experiences to the table. Would you share with us some of the experiences you brought to the table during your tenure with the show? 

Eboni Freeman [00:12:56] Oh, yeah. Well, I think one of the biggest ones was so our “Little Island Girl,” part one. That’s so I have a dance background. And when you know, Dan, at the time that I joined the show, they really want it to you know, they have been doing sort of those backstories of some of the characters. We learned a little bit more about their origin stories. And I know like a lot of people were itching to see like Beth’s back story. And so it was very much like on the agenda as season three. Let’s show Beth’s origin story. And Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Beth, she has a dance background. And so it was sort of and this was decided, I think, before I got there that she was going to have a dance background, but there was no other thing about it. Just dance. Okay. Just generally dance. 

Eboni Freeman [00:13:55] Now I get in the room and this is my first season, right? And at the beginning when I got hired, you know, I how it works, you get like a 20 week contract. Then they decide whether they’re going to extend you for 20 more weeks. They tell you that you may or may not get to write a script. So you’re kind of sort of proving yourself in these first few weeks. And so as soon as we got to the Beth’s story, I’m like, no one else in the room had any sort of dance, experience, background, anything. So I just sort of like start pitching my life story like I was a dancer primarily in ballet. My mom put me in it when I was like six or seven and just like I started talking about how it was to be, you know, a Black girl in this white space, predominantly white space, and just, you know, just this, the struggles with that and and that sort of morphed into what that story became and how she had this dream and how, you know, and her relationship with her mom. 

This is Us [00:14:58] You are not going to give up years of training. You’re going to stick to the path you chose and you will be the best. I’m strong because of you. If you really want this, I’m still with you. But you’re going to have to work ten times harder. 

Eboni Freeman [00:15:12] That was like directly my ladies in a very specific way. So yeah, that and that got me the episode. So I was pitching in the room. The showrunners came in, Isaac and Elizabeth, and they go, You know, well, Eboni is right writing this episode, because none of us know what we would be doing at all. And yeah, so that was how I got my first episode. 

Maiysha Kai [00:15:40] That’s amazing. And we have you to thank for that storyline. And that was that storyline kept evolving. And I think, you know, as you said, like her relationship with her mother, even, you know, like there was the frustration and the and the and I think for any of us creatives, you know. 

Eboni Freeman [00:15:55] Yeah. 

Maiysha Kai [00:15:56] A lot of us have had, you know, careers that we follow that haven’t really panned out the way we thought they were going to be. I mean, I was a musician before I was a journalist. Right. You know, and I think like that that to me, it rang so true in the way that, again, it wasn’t linear. You know, she had a dream. It was the timing wasn’t right all the time. You know, there were challenges. They were letdowns. They were, okay, I’m not doing this anymore, okay? I can’t do anything else. I have to go back. You know, I thought that that ring so true to creative life. Yeah. And so thank you. So let’s take a break. We are going to come back with more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:16:47] Welcome back to Writing Black. We are going to continue our conversation with Eboni Freeman. But I also think, like, you know that and yes, Susan Kelechi Watson. If I’m not mistaken, Debbie Allen was one of her mentors, obviously. You know, Phylicia was Phylicia Rashad was her played her mother. And I think that that dynamic particularly. You know, not to get all like I mean, obviously all mother daughter relationships are different. But I do think that, you know, I found it relatable having, you know, a mother who’s, you know, in one hand, you know, my best friend. Right. But also, you know, our mothers challenge us. They. They that is that is their job, right, to show that we’re okay and how, you know, we really got to see her humanity. I mean, she ended up having an arc of like her humanity that’s so cool to me. So, yeah, this being your first gig, what would you say that like this, you know, you kind of rose through the ranks in the show and got to play a lot of different roles, it seems. What would you say that your takeaway was from from this experience of of being on a show, this expansive. 

Eboni Freeman [00:18:06] Wow. Just as a writer. 

Maiysha Kai [00:18:08] Or as a yes. As a writer, like gross growth wise, like. In what ways do you feel like it stretched you and coming up as a writer. Yeah. 

Eboni Freeman [00:18:18] Yeah. I mean, I, I really did grow. I mean, really initially grew as a writer on the show because I mean, like I said, it was my first ever staff writing gig and I was on it for four seasons. And I think that, you know, you learn so much because the great thing about a show like that is you are with writers who have been in the business for 15, 20 years, you know, and so we have you know, one of the writers on the show, he was, you know, Mr. West Wing. He had written on The West Wing and had his own many of his own shows. You know, also, a lot of these writers have have had their own shows as well. And so you just you know, number one, you learn how to, I think, write, you know, sort of authentic characters. I think especially with “This Is Us,” I really, really learned how to write in a way that just felt authentic, felt like where we were really getting to those emotional moments, like we were really making sure that that stuff paid off. I felt like I really learned how to do that on the show, really just sort of getting to like A to Z with the character in a way that was like the most realistic on how it would happen, like in life. 

Eboni Freeman [00:19:45] And I, you know, I learned a lot of first of all, just the other great thing about the show is and not every show is like this, but not only do we write, you know, not only do we break the story and write the episodes, but when it was your time, when it was your episode, you had the you had to produce the episode. So yeah, so that experience, I mean from, you know, meetings with the director, tone meetings, concept meetings, wardrobe, I mean, your hands casting for, you know, the day players, the other, you know, you’re on set the whole time you are seeing you are making sure you know our job on set is to make sure because you know, there’s different directors in TV that come in every episode and we’re there to, you know, make sure that we sense we know what needs to, you know, why we wrote something and what emotions and what takeaways we need to have. We are on set to make sure that we get those performances that we need and get, you know, what we need for that, not just that episode, but we know what’s going to happen a couple of episodes later and obviously the director doesn’t know that. And so all of that, that experience has just been so invaluable there. You know, I know some writers who have been writing for a while and they’re like. You know, I haven’t gotten to be on set at all, you know, because I just that’s just how shows work. 

Maiysha Kai [00:21:16] It sounds like another education altogether. It sounds. And, you know, you like, went to, like, college all over again for another year. It’s like, that’s amazing. So let’s take a break. We are going to come back with more Writing Black. 

[00:21:30] TheGrio Black Podcast Network is here and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for news, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:21:59] All right. Let’s dig back into it. Welcome back to Writing Black. I mean, I don’t think we’ve seen this kind of excitement in Black stories since maybe the 90s. Early aughts. You know. Some of us are old enough to remember that. You know. And I think now, you know, it’s not so. You know, even then, you know, it was much more like sitcom. That kind of thing. 

Eboni Freeman [00:22:23] The UPN and. 

Maiysha Kai [00:22:25] Yeah, this is a low time. I mean, we’re getting to write, you know, these really nuanced and imperfect characters who are not there for comic relief, for, you know. What advice do you have, if any, two writers trying to get into the game now? Because I know there are so many. 

Eboni Freeman [00:22:46] Yeah. Oh, my gosh. You know, I was just I have this conversation a lot with, you know. Yeah, of course, like with other writers. And, you know, it’s crazy because you wish I always wished that I had a more concrete way of saying because any other career that you would go into, it’s like, if you want to be a lawyer, it’s going to be hard. And it doesn’t mean that everybody is going to make it to that point. But there is a clear path on how you became a lawyer. 

Maiysha Kai [00:23:19] Right. 

Eboni Freeman [00:23:20] The path is there. And I think with breaking into this business as a writer and I, you know, everyone’s a really is no clear path. And but I think that the things that I can say to do that I think were were really helpful for me and that I think I got a little bit later on in my ten year journey to writing. I didn’t really get it until maybe the last half of the journey maybe was that, you know, obviously you’re writing you’re you’re you’re you’re trying to continually work on your craft and be ready for when that door opens, when that part when you can, you know, hand off that script. But I think, you know, you’re working on that pilot or that feature. Write a story. Write stories that are authentic to who you are as a person because. A show runner who, number one, when you write stories that are authentic to who you are or authentic to your experiences, and that doesn’t mean that it’s like autobiographical or anything of that nature, but it’s like if I meet someone and they were like worked in a psychiatric ward for like 20 years, like, oh, my gosh, why aren’t you writing a pilot about a psych ward nurse? Like, you know what I mean? 

Maiysha Kai [00:24:39] I would watch that show. 

Eboni Freeman [00:24:41] You’re right. You’re right. It would be good. Number one. 

Maiysha Kai [00:24:44] Right. 

Eboni Freeman [00:24:45] Number two, you lived it. So you’re going to write it in a way that somebody who’s reading it is going to be like, whoa, like this feels super authentic, specific, and it’s probably going to be you know, you’re going to write it really well because, you know, you just have that lived experience. And so the other thing is, you know, your point of view, your you know, you always hear you want to show your voice, your writer’s voice. And so I think that’s going to come through as well. And so when a showrunner is getting your script for a show, that’s what they want to see because they’re staffing their show. Obviously, anyone that comes across their desk is going to be technically know the craft of being a writer. But it’s about your experiences, it’s about your point of view. Like, what are you going to bring to that writer’s room or that feature film script that you are telling this story for big time studio or whatever? What are you going to bring to it that’s different than the next person? And I think that’s that’s really what makes all the difference. And that’s really when I got that, when that clicked, that was really what changed the game. Like, it really did. It changed the game and it made my stories, the things that I was writing, it made people take notice. So that would be my biggest. 

Maiysha Kai [00:26:09] Listen, I think that’s a great advice. I mean, we’re always hearing about like write what you know and that. Yeah. Toni Morrison quote. But I think like you just kind of broke it down in a way, but I actually really appreciate it. So let’s take a break. We are going to come back with more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:26:54] Welcome back to Writing Black. We are going to continue our conversation with Ebony Freeman. Who are you loving in the space right now? Like who, who what of your contemporaries in the space? And I know that there are many who what narratives have excited you recently. What you know what what is exciting you right now. 

Eboni Freeman [00:27:13] Yeah. I mean, gosh what’s great is there is so much TV. I mean, there’s so much TV and it’s almost like there is no way to keep up with it all. But it’s also good that there’s so much TV, because there’s work and there’s, you know, opportunity. And there’s been a lot of things that I’ve been enjoying. I think while this I think it’s been this year, I mean, indeed this year. But one of my favorite shows this year was Yellowjackets. I just I just love the whole concept. I love stories about women and it’s like teenage girls. Soccer team. Plane crashes. So you have, like, Mean Girls. 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:56] Slash Lord of Flies, right? 

Eboni Freeman [00:27:57] Yeah, Lord of the Flies. I mean, you know, it’s also like it’s character. Like, I mean, I love anything that’s, like, rooted in character. And I think Yellowjackets balances that really well with the other sort of plotting stuff happening. I really loved I was surprised at Apple TV’s Severance was another one. Like, I didn’t think it was going to be like my kind of show, but it’s just great storytelling and it’s it was very original. I think it’s based off of a book. I’m not totally sure, but and I think like, P-Valley is doing it. Katori,. 

Maiysha Kai [00:28:40] Listen. 

Eboni Freeman [00:28:40] Katori Hall. 

Maiysha Kai [00:28:42] I wasn’t yeah, I wasn’t ready for that when that was when I was slow, too. I’m going to be honest. 

Eboni Freeman [00:28:46] Okay. Yes. 

Maiysha Kai [00:28:48] My boyfriend got me back into it and all of a sudden I was like, how have I not? I want to see it every day. 

Eboni Freeman [00:28:53] Yeah, yeah. Like Katori Hall is such a I mean, see, the freaking award winning playwright and I met her once, a long time ago, but I think she is doing it right now. She is an amazing writer creator. I’m like super excited to see. I’m sure there’s something else in the works already with her and in the TV space. And she was also a Sundance episodic alum where, you know, in the first the first year. So yeah, those are a couple of things I think that I’m watching and I’m really loving and enjoying. And like I said, it’s just literally like so much. 

Maiysha Kai [00:29:36] Well, you know, this is I mean, you know, you’ve given us so much to work with, but I do need to know what what’s next for you? You know, how do you you know, you’re coming off of this as as you’re I know you’re heading back into the writing room probably momentarily. What’s next for you? 

Eboni Freeman [00:29:52] Yeah. So let’s see. I doing a lot of development, so I’m developing a television show with Amazon now. So I’m currently doing that and I’m also in a well, I with that I’m in a writer’s room for a a show that that robot is producing based on a book called My Glory Was I Have Such Friends and so I’m excited about that too. One of the writers on This Is Us who’s like, Fantastic, Julia Brown nailed it. This is her show. And so she was so gracious to bring me on. And we just like the writers room is fantastic, just super smart women. And so I’m currently doing that and I think, you know, in the future I also just want to I’m kind of getting back into my feature writing roots and so working and developing in that space as well. So hopefully you’ll hear more from me in the feature space soon. 

Maiysha Kai [00:31:00] I have no doubt that we will, but I’m really glad that we got to hear from you today. On Writing Black. Eboni Freeman, thank you so much for joining us and telling us the story of “This Is Us” and I can’t wait to see how your story continues to unfold. 

Eboni Freeman [00:31:15] Thank you so much. This is so great. I’m happy to be able to speak with you. 

Maiysha Kai [00:31:20] Me too. So let’s take a break. We are going to come back with more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:31:39] Welcome back to Writing Black y’all. You know, this Is usually the time in the podcast where I talk about Mai favorites. You know, M.A. I. Favorites. But, you know, TV is such a different medium than, let’s say, books or, you know, other, other things. You know, this is something that, you know, we experience often at the same time as a community. And so I thought it would be fine for us to have a community chat about what we’re watching and also let you meet some of the people who make this show happen. My co-producers, Albert Parnell and Camille Cruz are joining me to discuss what we’re loving in TV right now. Hey, guys. 

Camille Cruz [00:32:23] Hey. 

Albet Parnell [00:32:24] Hello. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:25] I know I struggled to get you guys to do this with me, but, you know, I can’t just sit here and talk about TV by myself. What are you watching these days? Like, what are you loving? What have you loved recently? And what’s exciting you specifically in Black television right now? 

Camille Cruz [00:32:38] For me, what I am finishing with Issa Rae’s Rap Shit on HBO. I was just excited to see, you know, a different side, like Issa Rae behind the scenes and to see, like, some of the things that she’s thinking and, you know, just another side to her. It was a fun show, you know, and I it was just nice to see and if it really is like based off the City Girl’s story, it was interesting to see how they came together because that wils. Yeah. So that was nice. You know, I’m proud of to see proud to see like just Issa Rae’s trajectory. So that’s been like really cool to just watch her whole evolution. So yeah. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:19] I mean, I have to say Issa Rae is like the ultimate like glow up when we talk about like awkward that the arc from Awkward Black Girl to you know where we are now. I have to admit, you know, I I’m going to be showing my age here so hard. I tried to get into Rap Shit and I was like, this is like the TV equivalent to me of like walking into an Urban Outfitters at this age. Like, I was like, oh my God, I’m too old. And then, like, I don’t, I don’t it’s not landing. I can’t I can’t fit it. Albert. How about you? What have you been loving? 

Albet Parnell [00:33:52] I’ve been on the All American spin off. There’s a, you know, the TV show all-American about the high school football player. But there’s a spin off to that with this, I forgot her name, but she’s a tennis player and she goes to HBCU. And I’ve been watching that. I’ve been up on that. I was like, Oh, that is. I was like, This is pretty cool. 

Camille Cruz [00:34:16] Yeah. 

Albet Parnell [00:34:19] It’s still All-American. It’s all-American homecoming. There we go. 

Camille Cruz [00:34:22] All- American homecoming. Yeah. 

Maiysha Kai [00:34:23] You know, it’s it’s interesting. You know, I I’m a big TV watcher, which, you know, is probably why if you asked me that question, I kind of traveling, but like stuff I kind of loved recently, you know, the stuff I love. I feel like nobody else likes, but I don’t know. I didn’t. Okay, so I did watch a show about sports recently. I got into Winning Time on HBO. That was like a thing that I got into. I was obsessed and I thought like, the casting was really ridiculously good. I was like, I was in it. And, you know, the limited series thing is, is a tricky thing because it’s like you fall in love with the show, like I fell in love with like I May Destroy You, right? And I fell in love with Lovecraft Country. Um, so that’s always really tricky for me, but I just like Eboni. I am a huge fan of P-Valley like. In ways that I did not think I was going to be when I started out. You know, you just trying to support. I’m hooked, I’m hooked. And now let me ask you this. Did either of you it was either of you as “This Is Us,” fan, were you were you. I mean, I’m a super fan, but like, were you a “This Is Us” fan?

Camille Cruz [00:35:31] Obsessed. 

Maiysha Kai [00:35:32] Okay. I was like, that scared me for a second there, Camille. 

Camille Cruz [00:35:36] I was obsessed with “This Is Us” really and truly, like, waiting. That’s the only show that I knew the day it came out. I knew the time it came out. I’m ready and I’m waiting to watch it. Hearing Eboni talk about the dance scenes and like that, that my dearest daughter, I forgot the actual title of the episode. But yes, hearing her talk about those, it really took me back to like sitting there watching it because seeing those type of stories, she’s so right, seeing those type of stories. I love when they got into this back story, even like Caribbean. Yeah. You know, because there has been a lot of like Black more Black American storytelling happening. But now we’re even getting in some more layers in like the diversity of Black people in general and how different, like Black Caribbean and like Caribbean American, which is all, you know, a slightly different history and you know, path then like Black American. So just seeing and a show like “This Is Us” on prime time television, you know, sharing these type of stories. It was just. Love life. Amazing, amazing. And something that all my whole family could watch we could all relate to. So it was just so nice to see like, you know, her parts in it and to hear how passionate she was about it just as much as us watching it. So that’s like, super cool. 

Maiysha Kai [00:37:03] Albert, how about you? 

Albet Parnell [00:37:05] I, I did watch. “This Is Us.” 

Maiysha Kai [00:37:09] You cried. It’s okay. 

Albet Parnell [00:37:10] You know, let me just say no. I loved it, but I watched “This Is Us” for I wanted to see how the father died. Right? 

Maiysha Kai [00:37:20] Jack. 

Albet Parnell [00:37:20] Like I wanted to see it. Yeah, I want to see how Jack died. So I was really into that. Stories like how did this happen? And then I found out how it happened. I was like, All right. I’m done. I came here for an answer. 

Maiysha Kai [00:37:34] So much more happened. 

Camille Cruz [00:37:36] So much more happened. 

Albet Parnell [00:37:37] But I literally wanted to see that and I got it. And I was satisfied. I was like, I’m here at my heart was fulfilled. It was there. 

Camille Cruz [00:37:46] They made you wait a long time for that, though. You had to watch a couple of seasons to get. 

Albet Parnell [00:37:50] Yes, you had to think that he died four times before he actually died. 

Camille Cruz [00:37:57] If you like this episode, this is it. I know what’s going to happen this episode. And then nothing. 

Albet Parnell [00:38:02] Nothing. 

Camille Cruz [00:38:02] Got room for something else. 

Albet Parnell [00:38:05] I honestly thought he was going to pass away when he was drinking and driving. And I was like, Oh, that is. You can’t. I was like, That’s just going to be a bad message that you could drink and drive and not die. Right. I was like, so he has to pass away. But not he didn’t. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:18] And in the end, it was a crock pot and a dog. 

Camille Cruz [00:38:21] I know. 

Albet Parnell [00:38:23] It was. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:24] And I’m I’m going to be honest, I blame Kate. I do. I do. 

Camille Cruz [00:38:29] Kate. I don’t even want to get into how much Kate has stressed to me the whole the whole show. But times I’m like, Katie girl, Katie girl. 

Albet Parnell [00:38:43] I blame Kate as well. I’m like, I would of, granted I blame Jack, too, because I would be like, hey, mad dog only got five more years to live anyway. So it’s it’s not it’s not that important. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:55] Yeah. I mean, like, look, we didn’t joke on This Is Us for days. But I do think, you know, to Camille’s point, like this was one of those bonding moments. I don’t I think, you know, with this predominantly white cast, or at least initially, I would not have expected us to latch on to as much as so many of us did. And I’m so glad exist and I’m so glad that they really had representation in that room the way they should have and really encourage those writers to tell their stories. I know for me, the the storyline that always stuck out to me the most was Randall’s adoption story and his really actually his quest for his parents. Adoption is a part of my family and my extended family. So, you know, that narrative really hit home with me, particularly with his mother. You know, when we finally close that loop, I thought was just amazing and poignant and beautiful and I sobbed like a freak. So I have to, you know, and listen, it was a it was a cathartic show. I cried. I okay. I cried a lot. 

Camille Cruz [00:39:53] But I cried a lot. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:56] A lot watching the show, you know. But at the same time, I’d be mad whenever there was like a presidential address on because I’d be like, I got to spend my night with Trump. No. 

Albet Parnell [00:40:05] I got would say the one that stuck out to me was just going to be answering. One is when the mom is when they did the flashback, Randall was a kid and she went up to the Black family, actually know how to do Randall’s hair or how to cut his hair and stuff. And I was I. I was like, I know there’s a lot of times I see little Black kids walking around. I’m like, just come to me. I can fade you up nicely. So I was like, so I, I understand. And I have a lot of friends that, you know, have mixed kids and their, their moms come to my wife and ask them, like, what do I do with this? Like, I have no idea how to how to deal with this. So it’s like, you know, they had a lot of real, real life situations in there. 

Maiysha Kai [00:40:52] Yeah. I mean,. 

Camille Cruz [00:40:53] So real. 

Maiysha Kai [00:40:54] That nuance was so was what made the show win for such a long time and let it go out on a high point. And thank you guys for helping us go out on the high point on this episode and, you know, letting our listeners also see the talent behind the scenes instead of just seeing me all the time. So thank you, Albert and Camille, for giving me your two cents on TV. And we’ll see you next week for another episode of Writing Black. Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts. 

Maiysha Kai [00:41:28] Hey yo fam, it’s my issue. Kai, host of Writing Black on theGrio Black Podcast Network and I have a little treat for you. Not only has Writing Black been blessed to have as a guest acclaimed actor Omar Epps, but Omar and his publishers Delacorte Press have a little treat for you. That’s right. Omar is giving away signed copies of his debut YA fiction Nubia: The Awakening, co-written with Clarence Haynes to some lucky subscribers. But you heard that right, subscribers. If you want to get your hands on a signed copy of Omar Epps, why a debut you’ve got to subscribe to Right in Black. You can subscribe on the on theGrio Black Podcast Network or anywhere you find your podcast, but you got to post it. You got to take a screenshot, post it and tag us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. That’s right. You got to do it. Subscribe to Right in Black wherever you listen to your podcast and tag theGrio Black Podcast Network. And you too can have a personally signed copy of Movie of the Awakening by Omar Epps himself. So hit that subscribe button. Do it. You know, you want to don’t you want to spend Sundays with us? Come on, you love Writing Black and we love you. 

Dr, Christina Greer [00:42:46] You’re watching The Blackest Questions podcast. With Christina Greer. In this podcast. We ask our guests five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. 

[00:42:58] Okay, so this is a trick question. 

Dr, Christina Greer [00:43:00] We’re also going to learn a lot about Black. History, past and present. 

[00:43:04] Beautiful. I learned a wonderful fact today. Great. 

Dr, Christina Greer [00:43:06] So here’s how it works. We have five rounds of questions about Black history. The whole diaspora. Current events, you name it. With each round, the questions get a little tougher. 

[00:43:16] Oh, you got me. You got me. Let me see. Let me see. 

[00:43:20] I have no idea. 

[00:43:21] I knew you were going to go there Dr. Greer. 

Dr, Christina Greer [00:43:23] Subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcast and share it with everyone you know. 

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