Tag Archives: black creative

10Dec/21

American Auto’s X Mayo Says Martin Lawrence and Living Single Are Her Inspirations for TV Comedy

X Mayo

From eighty dollars and a suitcase to Emmy award-nominated writer, X Mayo has always had a knack for entertainment. With her new NBC show, American Auto airing on December 13th and Amazon comedy special Yearly Departed premiering on December 23rd, X Mayo is giving audiences much-needed laughs into the new year. The South Central native took time out of her busy schedule to chat with Taji Mag to talk about her new show, her love for comedy, and her homage to Living Single. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): When did you fall in love with comedy? 

X Mayo (XM): When I was 8 or 9 years old, I acted with a dance theater company. I wasn’t sure what was classified as improv, comedy, or sketch at that age. All I knew about was performing and dancing, no specific category. During a performance of Cinderella, I was acting as one of the evil stepsisters with another little girl. The girl’s afro wig fell off on stage because we all had costume afro’s in the play. I came on stage and pulled my afro off, and yelled at the audience, “Stop laughing at my sister!” The audience laughed so hard. It was all instinct, and I wanted to protect her too. The little girl was mortified because we were dancing to fucking Mozart, and my improvising was not supposed to happen. I wasn’t sure what I did, but once I got backstage, the experience felt terrific, and all I could think was, “I want to do that again.”

X Mayo’s Inspiration

DDF: Who was your favorite comedian growing up? 

XM: Martin Lawrence. He is one of my top 5 favorite comedians. He was just a fucking idiot when he performed on his show, Martin. Martin reminded me of a lot of my cousins and many people I grew up with, and I loved how he played so many characters on his show. That show still makes me laugh so hard to this day. 

Starring in American Auto

DDF: What made you take this role?

XM: Justin Spitzer created it, and he has worked on hit shows like The Office. I thought to myself the opportunity to work with him. I just love the character. Dori is not just an assistant or some minor character; she’s three-dimensional. I love the fact that she cares about Catherine, and the writers wrote her not to play small, which gave me free rein to do my thing and not worry about being restricted. 

DDF: What is it like during the table read? 

XM: I am extroverted-introverted, so I was like, “Fuck, I want to be in the room with you all!” I feed off energy. Anna, John, and Humphrey were all improvisers, so they made me really want to do the table read in person. I loved that we, as the cast, could get feedback directly from the studio. I could feel all this good energy during the table read, which made me think this show would be a hit.

X Mayo

DDF: How much input did you have on your character Dori? Did you come up with the pink braids?

XM: I definitely had some input because she was initially written to be a 50 years old white woman from the midWest and a grandmother, which I am none of those things! I talked to Justin, and I got to speak to the writers. After my audition and shooting the show, the writers definitely curtailed Dori to fit my voice.

DDF: Who came up with Dori’s pink braids? 

XM: I auditioned in braids, but they weren’t pink, but they were pink at the table read. Justin Piltzer (Creator/ showrunner) and Jeff (executive producer/writer) decided at the table that the pink braids fit the character. Throughout the entire season, you’ll see Dori’s hair change. I grew up watching Living Single and, to this day, I think it’s one of the greatest depictions of uniquely different Black women ever! So my homage to Regine (played by Kim Fields) is Dory’s hair change. That’s not just a trait of Dori, but Black women in general, and I change my hair a lot. I told Justin, “I know you like the pink braids, but next episode, the hair has to change.” and he was ok with it.

DDF: Were there any obstacles shooting this show? 

XM: Just this thing called COVID. That was the only obstacle. We made adjustments, wore our masks, tested three times a week, sanitized our hands, stayed six feet apart, and I went to my trailer more often so I could take my mask off to breathe. So, I wouldn’t say it was an obstacle, it’s just the new normal, and we want to keep everyone safe, which is totally fine. 

X Mayo Self-Reflecting

DDF: Did you learn anything about yourself after playing this role? If so, what? 

XM: I learned that it is essential to prepare. So I knew I needed to punch up my jokes on the side before I came to work. Because the cast was so kind and collaborative, I would punch up jokes for other people and pitch things to them. I just wanted the best possible product, not to say that my jokes or ideas are the best, but maybe they can take part of my suggestion to make it work for them. 

I also learned the director would always pull me back; they would encourage me to do my thing but guide me. I come from a theater background, so I would be concerned that I was overacting when I was not. I am just used to playing for audience members in the last row of the theater. I would play small in some scenes, but the director would work with me to get me where I needed to be. 

DDF: Can you explain, “If my momma asks, I am in school for nursing?” in your bio for Instagram?  

XM: Ha! I switched up my bio. It was my filler until I changed my bio to promote American Auto and Yearly Departed. I put that because my mom is super supportive, but she is like “Mija…” because my mom is Mexican, “Mija, I love what you are doing, and I am so proud of you. But if anything fails, you need to have a degree.”

Anybody in my fucking life that has had any achievement or success. My mom is like, “Mija, you know why Dorian got that job? Because he has a degree. You know why Ashley has a fiance? Because she went to college. Mija, you know Joy got a house? Because she went to school. 

I am like, “what are you talking about?” Lol. If my mom saw someone get a reservation ahead of us, she would be like, “They probably have a master’s degree.” That is why I put that quote because if mom asks what I am doing? I am going to school for nursing.

X Mayo
X Mayo as Dori (American Auto) Photo courtesy of NBC

DDF: What do I have to say about haters/negative energy?

XM: I don’t have haters. I have people that count my blessings and prayers. I don’t think people want what I want, I think they (haters) focus on what they don’t have, and I don’t address negative energy. I stop it in its tracks if it ever tries to come my way. 

DDF: How would Dori handle it? 

XM: It depends on who the hater was. If it were someone she worked with like Wesley, Dori would have a conversation with him, and she’s going to keep that shit he did to her in her back pocket and whip it out when she needs it. Like, “No, you are giving me a Porsche. Remember what you said; you are giving me a Porsche.” 

Final Thoughts from X Mayo

DDF: What do you think the audience will get out of this show? 

XM: These are a group of funny-ass people that work at this place. Sometimes you will hate them; sometimes, you’ll love to hate them. A lot of laughter, fun, and you’ll want more. 

Catch X Mayo as Dori on American Auto, airing Tuesdays on NBC 8/7c and streaming on Hulu. You can also watch her on Amazon Prime’s Comedy special Yearly Departed streaming now.

American Auto: From the creator of Superstore comes a new workplace comedy that takes the wheels off the automobile industry. Set in Detroit, the corporate executives of Payne Motors are at a crossroads: adapt to the changing times or be sent to the junkyard. Shaking things up is the new CEO, whose leadership, experience, and savvy is only slightly offset by her complete lack of knowledge about cars. Luckily, her team has some of the best minds in the business – when they aren’t fighting or trying to outwit each other. From the corporate office to the factory floor, the crew of Payne Motors is driving home the laughs.

13Apr/21

Newcomer Kyra Jones is Ready to Evolve Like Issa Rae

Unapologetic, blunt, and intersectional are the words to describe the rising filmmaker, Kyra Jones. She has recently won multiple screenwriting competitions (Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition 2020, ScreenCraft Virtual Pitch 2020), is working on a feature (Got to the Body), writing other projects, modeling, and participating in activist work all while working a full-time job… during a pandemic. I could tell after meeting her at the 2020 DC Black Film Festival that she would be someone to keep an eye on and was I right. The day before our scheduled interview she was staffed on season two of the hit Hulu series, Woke. Luckily for me Kyra still had time to tell Taji Mag what life is like as an up-and-coming artist. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): When did you fall in love with filmmaking? 

Kyra Jones (KJ): I always really loved film and television. I started off as an actor in high school. The only reason I got into acting was because my mom wanted me to have an extracurricular activity. My friend told me she was trying out for the school play and told me I should try out too. So she dragged me to the audition and I ended up getting the lead. 

I didn’t become a screenwriter/filmmaker until I was about to graduate from college. I was studying theater at Northwestern with the intention of acting. I was one of four Black students in my class of 100 theater majors. The theater department isn’t diverse at all. Needless to say, I did not have a great time with my experience. Within the material we were reading, there were no real roles for Black women. The roles were the usual stereotypical roles like maids, nurses, etc. I was like, “ We (Black people) do more than this.” 

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

I know I want to tell stories and I know I want to be involved in art and media. I always liked writing and I was the type of person that could type a good 8-page paper in a few hours. So I was a strong writer in that regard but I never tried to do anything like creative writing or screenwriting. 

In my senior year I realized I should have been a filmmaker, it was too late at that point but I tried to take as many classes as I could. So, you can say I fell in love with screenwriting/ filmmaking my senior year in college. 

*After Kyra graduated her career was sort of in limbo. Her fellow classmates were doing internships, working for production companies, and making the connections needed to succeed after college. She struggled to get an internship because she had made the decision to become a filmmaker her senior year. Since she wasn’t having much success, she went back to acting. 

It wasn’t until the Right Swipe came along. My writing partner and I did not intend on writing a web series we just serendipitously came up with an idea. From there we decided you know what, this is a web-series. This would be the first time I stepped on set for something that I wrote and it was the first time I said to myself ‘this is for me.’

DDF: What do you think you bring to the writer’s room of Woke? 

KJ: I was definitely not expecting to make the writers room for Woke. I was so excited but, when I officially become staffed, I had so much shit to do in order to get ready. I had a full-time job and had to take leave, I had to try and get my ducks in a row in such a short amount of time. I’m just grateful and still shocked. I may have to turn off my camera to cry once the first meeting is over. 

The Woke team is really excited to have me and thinks I will be a great addition to the team. I think my social justice background will be useful, especially for a show called Woke. I think bringing a more nuanced, intersectional perspective to the show, the Woke team will be interested to see what I will bring to one of the queer characters, Ayana (Sasher Zamata).  Plus I’m funny. The Woke team had to read one of my pilots before they approved me and they thought it was funny. I can throw in a few jokes here and there, I think I am funny.

“Progressive art can assist people to learn what’s at work in the society in which they live.”- Angela Davis

DDF: Issa Rae had “Awkward Black Girl” and then later had Insecure, is there a possibility we could see a version of “The Right Swipe” in the future? 

KJ: There will not be another version of the Right Swipe. I do intend on having my own TV show one day. There is already interest in a pilot that I wrote and I am really excited about it. It has some similarities to the Right Swipe. 

DDF: Who are some of your favorite filmmakers? 

KJ: Barry Jenkins, Ava Duverna, Donald Glover, and Beyonce. Lemonade and Black is King are both so good. I know she had a huge team on those projects but the fact there were so many directors and they were one cohesive vision, means Beyonce had to have communicated the vision to the creatives. 

Kyra stated Go to the Body is in the process of getting named talent, developing the budget, and looking to shoot next year with an expected release date to be 2023.

DDF: What women inspire you? 

KJ: Inspired by my grandmother, she is not a filmmaker but she really inspired me. She is very unapologetic and unafraid. I love Issa Rae, she is pretty much inspiration to everyone. And Michaela Coel. Black women everywhere inspire me.

“The discussion of representation is one that has been repeated over and over again, and the solution has always been that it’s up to us to support, promote, and create the images that we want to see.” – Issa Rae

Make sure to check out the current work of Kyra. Also, be sure to be on the lookout for her work on season two of Woke and her feature film, Got to the Body. I look forward to seeing more Black artists like Kyra provide the perspectives and voices needed for everyone to enjoy entertainment.

22Apr/20
BlackAF

#BlackAF is Barely a Black-ish Carbon Copy

I am always rooting for black creatives and try my best to support them, but in this case, I would be doing a disservice if I did not give my honest review of #BlackAF. Famous producer/writer Kenya Barris delivered a series that lacks the lure and realism of his other successful projects. Don’t get me wrong, I like Black-ish and a few other of Barris’s projects but this series fits into the category of “Nah, I’ll pass.” 

“The very definition of ‘blackness’ is as broad as that of ‘whiteness,’ yet we’re seemingly always trying to find a specific, limited definition.” – Issa Rae 

Acting Be Like…

I understand the series is loosely based on the life of Kenya Barris, but I find it hard to believe that Black wealthy people act like this… Maybe my opinion is influenced by the fact that I only personally know a handful of wealthy Black people. Out of those Black people, none of them act like the family in #BlackAF. If there is a family that exists as the one portrayed, I am pretty sure they would not be as extreme. 

I do like the moments where the family supports each other whenever an outsider tries to attack, like with the white couple in the first episode. Besides a few moments within the first few episodes, there are not many moments I find relatable or compelling to finish the first season.  

Because Dialogue 

As I have become introduced to the screenwriting world, the most daunting task as a screenwriter is writing dialogue. All the top screenwriters have agreed that mastering dialogue is very difficult, so I can imagine writing the dialogue of Black people can pose as an obstacle.

Still, I don’t know any Black people that talk the way the characters talk. I assume the approach is to be as authentic as possible but there needs to be a bit of adjustment. The way in which Kenya talks to his assistant is definitely not believable. If that is the case, that person is a terrible human being.  

“ Contemporarily, we struggle with people worried about representation sometimes. It’s a burden, as artists, that we take on that limits the work. It limits the characters people play. It limits the roles they want to do.” – Dee Rees

The Barris Act or Lack There Of…

From the very beginning of episode one, I became annoyed with Barris’s acting and just found his performance to be too whiny. I understand the character is frustrated with stereotypes and wants to be seen for who he is, but there is a better way to portray this. Take Al Bundy for example, Ed O’Neil portrays him as whiny at times but not to the point where he becomes annoying. 

I think Barris could’ve easily picked someone else to play the character better and with a more compelling delivery. Similar to the way he chose Anthony Anderson to play the father on Black-ish. In all honesty, I think that is what makes Black-ish a more watchable show. The actors that portray the characters in Black-ish, combined with the writing, make Black-ish great. 

In the end, #BlackAF is a rated R version of Barris’s hit show Black-ish, just not as engaging. I wish I could speak differently considering the amount of backlash #BlackAF got last year during one of its first showings. There’s wishful thinking that the series will improve and become the next big hit for the Black culture. I hope that the Black community continues to get opportunities to show diversity within the culture and share stories many people can relate to, vanishing the stereotypes place upon the Black community. Watch for yourself on Netflix.

11Sep/19

How Ardre Orie Is Changing Black Literature

With the loss of literary great Toni Morrison, the world looks to many great authors who can create inspiring works as she has – talented authors like Ardre Orie. She is an author, playwright, ghostwriter, and Black creative who has worked with many high profile clients and told many moving stories. Taji Mag got to speak with her about her career and her inspiration for writing.  

“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Dapper Dr Feel ( DDF): When did you write your first book? 

Ardre Orie (AO): I wrote my first book at the age of 10 when I was in elementary school.  At this age, I was one of those students that talked a lot and my teachers were thinking maybe we need to give her something else to do. My teachers gave me a special assignment, the opportunity to create something, anything from drawing, painting, etc.

DDF: What was your book about? 

AO: I decided to write a book about women in my neighborhood and how they were examples of excellence. I thought they would be great role models to the young women in my community. 

I completed the book and then got it published. Next, I hosted a book signing, I invited the press/media, and I had a big article in the newspaper. It was pretty amazing because I had no idea that is what I would be doing as a career 30 years later in life. 

Ardre Orie

DDF: What was the next book you wrote? How did you develop it? 

AO: The second time I wrote a book, I resigned from my job as an assistant principal at an elementary school in Florida. After that I relocated to Atlanta with my family. I made the decision to take a leap of faith into entrepreneurship. 

As I pursued this goal, I had not gone to school for entrepreneurship and it was a learning curve for me. I started a non-profit organization where we taught entrepreneurship and leadership skills to young ladies. We were servicing 500 families of women and children. 

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” – Lorraine Hansberry

DDF: When did your non-profit start and what was your next move? 

AO: 2009 is when the non-profit started, the economy was not doing well as this was during the recession. I thought to myself, I really need to be selling something, to really make a profit. I had all these women and girls and, with that, I decided to create a cosmetic line. It consisted of lip gloss and lipstick. I knew I had an audience that loved that, so I started to make the products. This placed me in the makeup, beauty, film, and entertainment industry in Atlanta. At this time, Black Hollywood was forming in the area. 

Ardre OrieDDF: What made you come up with a cosmetic line? 

AO: I started to notice that there were a lot of women that were concerned with self-esteem and I wanted to be able to get this message out about these products. The name of my products were called I Love Me, but I didn’t have the budget to advertise the company traditionally, so that had me look at what I had in my hand and what I had available to me, and that was the ability to write. So I decided to write a book that only showcased women and their different stories, but it would also serve as a marketing tool for this cosmetic line to promote it. That is how the book evolved, it was out of a need to market a product, to market a message, to market a brand that I was creating.

DDF: You had a unique way of advertising the book, tell me about that? 

AO: While developing the book, I enlisted 21 women and teens. I hosted a casting call. I got the women to come to Atlanta to have a makeover, particpate in a photoshoot, then I interviewed them and I turned around and wrote the book and their stories as if I was them. This was my introduction to ghostwriting. I remember what I did for my book when I was 10. I studied the industry after that book; it was successful. I had a signing at Barnes and Noble and then I started to receive calls for writing. 

DDF: When did you start seeing yourself as a ghost writer? 

AO: One of the first clients was from VH1. They had a show coming out and they wanted to know if a book could be made in a short amount of time. The book did well and so did the show.  I started to receive more calls after that via word of mouth from VH1, MTV, We TV, Centric, etc. This is when I started to understand that I had found my niche as a ghostwriter. 

DDF: How do you approach your work as a ghostwriter? 

AO: As my career as a ghostwriter progressed along the way, I developed my processes and how I approach situations. The most important thing is that I grew up in a home with a counselor – my mother was a counselor for 35 years. It was through her, I learned how to listen very well. I learned to not only listen to the words but to also the delivery, the emotion attached to those words, and the yearning of their souls. 

DDF: How are the working relationships with you and your clients during a project? 

AO: The reason why my clients say “That’s what I was trying to say but I didn’t know how to verbalize it!” is because I try to listen deeply within them. Like what motivates them, what drives them, I am trying to understand their pain, trying to understand the things that make them truly happy, how they find true joy, the things that cause them pain along their journey. I try to pay attention to things that just deal with words. I approach all projects like that no matter if my client is a man, woman, child, etc. There is no difference in the process, but each person’s story is different. 

Ardre Orie

DDF: How did you get your second book published? 

AO: When I went to publish my second book, I was doing research and I looking up companies to help me get published. The first quote I got was for $10,000 and this included me doing the writing myself. I was like oh my gosh, I just walked away from a career that took me ten years to build. I am married and have children and that amount of money is nothing just sitting around for me to spend for that kind of project. In that moment, I thought that I would never become an author even though I know that I can write, I have a story to tell, and I know that this project can help other people. That was very disheartening to me, it caused me to do a lot of research about the industry. In doing that, I found a second company that cost $6,000, which was still a stretch, but I made the decision to make an investment in myself because if I don’t make an investment in myself, then how can I expect anyone else to do the same? 

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston

DDF: What is the origin of your publication company 13th and Joan? 

AO: After I started to learn more about the industry, I soon started writing theatrical productions and screenplays because my creative juices were starting to flow. All this content flowing from me and I realized that I could create this content and it wouldn’t cost me a dime to create. It was the same thing in elementary school. It was then that I decided I needed a company that is about the promotion media, especially for stories of color.

We publish everybody, 13th and Joan does not discriminate when it comes to the content we produce, but I just realized there is no home for people of color to tell it with some sauce on it. We believe that our books use correct grammar, sentence structure, and that our projects are in alignment with the industry standard for well-edited books, but we want to be able to add flavor to our books. We provide stories that mainstream told us that there is no market for. 

My research is what lead me to understand that there was not a black-owned publishing company. Some of these companies that do exist, have been in existence for over 95 years. If you trace back 95 years, you can clearly explain why we weren’t having our own publishing companies.

“A thing is mighty big when time and distance cannot shrink it.” – Zora Neale Hurston, 

DDF: Out of all the books you have written, which is your favorite? 

AO: I have so many favorite books that I have written but there is one that touched me. The author was so in love with the finished product that he wanted to add my name as a co-author of the book. The author’s name is Thomas McClary (Rock and Soul: Thomas McClary Founder of The Commodores). Lionel Richie, also one of the founders of the Commodores, was discovered by McClary. Richie was playing an instrument and not singing, McClary is the one who encouraged Richie to sing. They founded this group at Tuskegee University and they were Motown royalty.  He also was the first person to integrate schools in Lake County Florida. We had to do over 60 years of research for the book. Through that, I learned a lot about history. 

DDF: Why is this book so special? 

AO: It is very special to me because we were able to tell his life story, achievements, and all he had to overcome as a Black man during a difficult time. I am proud to give the story to any Black boy or man to show them what they are capable of.

Follow Ardre Orie on Instagram or Facebook and be sure to visit her website!