Tag Archives: comedy

01Apr/22

Grand Crew Cast Talks Representation, Relationships, and Why They’re More than Just a Black Cast 

Watch via these Stream services: NBC/Peacock/Hulu

Cast: Echo Kellum, Nicole Byer, Justin Cunningham, Aaron Jennings, Grasie Mercedes, and Carl Tart

From writer/producer/director, Phil Augusta Jackson (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) and creator, Dan Goor (also “Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) comes a new comedy that proves life is better with your crew. 

Synopsis: This group of young professionals are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles, and they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to “wine down” and unpack it all. There’s Noah, a hopeless romantic too eager to settle down; Nicky, a go-getter in real estate who’s adventurous in romance; Sherm, a low-key genius who plays the dating odds; Anthony, whose true love is his career; Wyatt, who’s relieved to be married and out of the dating scene; and Fay, who’s recently divorced and looking to start fresh in LA. And just like wine, their friendship gets better with time.

Grand Crew cast: (left to right): Justin Cunningham, Nicole Byer, Echo Kellum, Grasie Mercedes, Carl Tart, and Aaron Jennings. 

Issa Rae’s popular series, Insecure, recently aired its last episode, posing the question “What Black-led series will be the next to have genuine relatability to the Black community?” My answer is Grand Crew! Not only is the series Black-led, but it’s mostly a male cast. Something not commonly seen on television. Grand Crew is a show about Black people navigating everyday issues where drugs, police, and violence are not the main focus. Taji Mag was able to talk to the cast and producers of the show to discuss the importance of having shows like Grand Crew on television. 

Representation is Everything 

When asked about the show being the next big hit like Insecure, Jackson said “Anybody that is saying it’s the next Insecure…I think that’s very flattering. I do think that the shows are very different [though]. I think highly of Issa Rae and Prentice as a team and as leaders behind the scenes. I was able to learn so much from them about the craft and the business. You know, like how to run a room and every job that I’ve had working with Dan on Brooklyn‘, too.” Jackson also added “As far as those comparisons go, we are not setting out to replace Insecure, especially after having worked on the show. I knew how special that show was. I think, tonally, the show’s different. I think the point of view is different. It does take place in Los Angeles, but it’s also a different part of Los Angeles.” 

What does the cast want people to get out of the show? Grasie Mercedes stated, “I would love it if people watch the show and are inspired to create more characters like this; to create more shows like this that just show different black, different Latin, different Asian, different people’s of color experiences, and not try to put us in these monolithic boxes that we are constantly portraying over and over again.”

Grasie Mercedes and Nicole Byer

Justin Cunningham added, “[With] the majority of black characters or diverse cast or diverse crew or diverse producers, whatever the makeup of the show, we can start to open our eyes to what is possible and not try to place labels or limits. Not to say what something should or should not be in society’s eyes, but what things could be. This could be a show that is just about people who happen to be Black and has Black themes. But there are people who go through the same things and themes in the show.”  

Grand Crew cast: (left to right): Echo Kellum, Carl Tart, Justin Cunningham, Nicole Byer, and Aaron Jennings

The Actors on Their Characters

With part of the show exploring the dating lives and relationships of the characters, I had to ask what advice would the actors give their characters? When asked what advice Nicole would give to her character, Nicky, she said, “I would tell Nicky to keep doing what she’s been doing. She’s pulling them in and getting dates. She’s getting what she wants. She’s having the relationship she wants. I would tell her to not dim her light for anybody.” 

For Noah, Echo stated, “I would definitely tell him to be true to himself. Don’t try to force anything. Let it come naturally and really take your time with love. Because the truth is that if love doesn’t come from within, it can’t come from anywhere else. To do yourself justice for the rest of your life, I think you have to deal with yourself, love, and aspects of yourself before you can brag now.” 

Grasie Fields encourages her character, Fay, to continue to be “open to love”, especially after being divorced. “It hasn’t discouraged her from finding love again. And I think she believes she has a good relationship with her ex-husband. Maybe we’ll see him, if we continue to be able to do the show, in a future episode. But I think she’s very open to love”, Fields says about Fay. 

Noah, Fay, and Nicky all have unique ways of approaching dating, and the audience has seen some development towards a season finale that has everyone wondering with whom they will end up. Part of the reason why we need a season 2! 

Black Masculinity

One of the things I love about the show is its coverage of Black masculinity. Wyatt, the level-headed voice of reason in the group, is a stay-at-home husband. He isn’t ridiculed or insulted because of the arrangement he has with his wife, his situation is normalized by not focusing on his status. 

When asked how Wyatt embraces his masculinity, Justin exclaimed, “How does he embrace his masculinity [while] being a stay-at-home husband? By vacuum cleaning the floor as perfectly as possible, by cooking meals as an expert like Gordon Ramsey would. That’s it. It’s fabulous. It’s great. I think that because that’s part of myself (as I’m [also] a perfectionist in that sense), I’m gonna do my best to be good at whatever I’m doing. I’m going to find joy in whatever I’m doing.”

Episode two of the first season, titled “Wine and Serendipity”, I found to be very funny because it addressed the topic of men crying and one of the characters, Sherm, talked about how he doesn’t cry. The episode even poked fun at how some men perceive that being caught crying is worse than being caught naked, a notion that is tested when Wyatt is caught naked in the bathroom by Sherm and, indeed, was more concerned about being caught crying.

Aaron Jennings, Carl Tart (center), and Justin Cunningham

When asked what would make Sherm cry, Carl Tart said, “The only thing that would make Sherm cry is the LA Clippers winning a championship. That would make me cry.” Tart added, “I have a $10,000 Clippers crystal ball sitting in the cart online now for when they win a championship.” “Yeah, by the time the Clippers win a championship, you’ll have enough money to buy the Clippers”, Aaron Jennings jokingly replied. 

Aaron Jennings and Carl Tart as Sherm and Anthony have great chemistry as roommates. Various episodes have resonated with me and brought back memories of my experiences with a roommate. When I asked them what sports duo they could be compared to, Carl responded “I’m going to say their relationship is like two teams at odds. This is the Lakers versus the Clippers. Sherm and Anthony are like those two teams. We share a home like they share a home court.” Aaron jokingly replied, “It’s like greatness versus mediocrity. Lol!” 

The Take-Away 

I love the fact that the show explores some of the very same topics my friends and I have discussed and they utilize a group chat, which my friends and I have also used. If you are a fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Living Single, or other single-camera comedies like those, you will love this show. I do, however, find a few moments where the dialogue is not authentic, or at least not relatable to me and my friends. Then again, dialogue is difficult to write. 

With the lack of representation and exploration of the dynamics of the Black community on television, Grand Crew is considerably one of the better shows to watch. With a helluva cliffhanger, an awesome cast, and more room for relatable content, we all hope to see this series renewed beyond season 1…and hopefully beyond a season 2! Tune in to NBC Peacock to catch the first season of Grand Crew.

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.