I was invited by Disney on an all expenses paid trip in exchange for my coverage of #ABCTVEvent and #TheMayor. All opinions are my own.
ABC has a brand new comedy THE MAYOR with airs Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c . If you haven’t seen the first 2 episodes you can catch up on Demand or on the ABC app.
While I was in LA, the other bloggers and I had the chance to screen an upcoming episode of The Mayor with 2 of the stars of the show: Bernard David Jones who plays “Jermaine Leforge” and Marcel Spears who plays “T.K. Clifton”. They play Courtney Rose’s best friends from high school. These 2 guys were so very nice in person, I mean, they took the time to hug each and every one of us individually. Such cool guys. It was fun being able to watch an episode with the stars. I loved seeing them laughing along with us.
After watching the episode we had the chance to ask them questions about being on the show and they had some really great insight so I wanted to share that conversation with you.
How do you feel about taking on a politically flavored show at this time in our country’s climate?
Bernard: I was gonna just say, as artists, it’s kind of our duty, our job to be able to hold a mirror up to our country, our world and say, this is what’s going on. How do we fix it? What can we do to fix it? And I think our show is an awesome representation of what happens when somebody that has a heart for people, that understands community and unity, leads with love. How that can affect a community and this guy, he has no political experience. He didn’t mean to win. He was doing what millennials do: trying to get some of that ka-ching.
Marcel: Trying to get the followers up.
Bernard: But he didn’t stray away from the responsibility. He took it head on and I think that’s a good lesson for all of us. All of America. If there’s something going in your neighborhood that you want to change, take leadership. Take ownership of your community. I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to be some type of maybe a catalyst for mobility in your communities for some type of change.
Marcel: Yeah, I agree. It’s an opportunity for us as artists to provoke change and to inspire people. I feel like people are so exhausted with it (politics) because you have to pick a side, pick a side, pick a side and it’s become so divided that we forgot that it’s a part of what makes this country great. I feel like us doing the show gives us a chance, in a fun way, in an approachable way to really talk about politics in a way that I feel like can reach people so that people aren’t afraid of politics anymore. So that people aren’t exhausted with it so much and they can really get down to what it’s about and what it’s about is taking care of the people around you. Like, really taking care of your community and making sure that you’re looking out for the next person. Whether you disagree on how to go about doing that, the end goal is always the betterment of the community.
Bernard: And I think what’s also special about our show is that we come from a non-partisan standpoint, so there’s no, “you have to be a Democrat” or “you have to be a Republican.” We don’t choose sides. We present what’s going on these communities and we offer solutions on how to fix it.
Is there a backstory to the Mayor?
Marcel: It’s the brainchild of Daveed Diggs and Jeremy, so it’s what happened when you’ve got Daveed talking about growing up in Oakland and being a struggling rapper straight out of Brown and trying to figure out what to do and he’s doing theater and he’s doing pick-up gigs as an actor and he’s still doing shows and his band isn’t as popular, so they’re trying to figure it out and he was living with his parents.
And Jeremy really created a character that doesn’t really have the obvious skill set to be a politician, but still, has an understanding by nature of how he grew up in a single parent household. Growing up with a lot of love, growing up in an underprivileged or underfunded community, by the nature of his upbringing, he sort of understands subconsciously or intrinsically, the things that the people in the community need.
What is it like on set?
Bernard: Oh, it’s amazing. I mean, we have Yvette Nicole Brown. If you’ve ever met her, you’ve ever seen her in anything…people are like “Yvette, we love you. We love you. We love you.” And I always say, Yvette, you know what, I hope that people love me the way that they love you and respect you, and she said, “just be yourself and have a heart for people”. That’s been some of the best advice that she’s given, but she is literally like Big Sis. She’s like, “Don’t do that. Do that. Stay away from that”.
Marcel: Straight up. Yvette helped me find an apartment. I was in New York at the time and then I went to San Diego. I was doing a play. She was like, I can go to the apartment. I can FaceTime you and I’ll show you what it is. She is that kind of person. Straight up.
Bernard: She helped pay for me to get to New York one time and she was like, “Well, I know where you work. You’ll give it back.” Then when I tried to give it back, she’s like, “Baby, just keep the money.” She just has a heart. That’s just her. When you see her in these interviews, it’s not Hollywood. It’s not fake. It is genuine. And Brandon, he’s such a great actor. He’s young, but his ability to be a leader, onscreen and off screen, is amazing.
And I think we’re blessed to have a leader in Brandon. He’s wise beyond his years. He’s a great actor. Julliard trained. But he’s a great friend. We hang out.
Marcel: We actually hang and I’ve known Brandon for three years now. He’s the one who called me and told me that I got this job. He wasn’t supposed to call me and tell me that. But it’s one of those situations too where I’m watching this young man grow into himself and taking on the position of being the number one and being the star of the show and really learning as he goes and being a servant leader and making sure that we’re all okay and taking care of us. I’m proud. It’s weird. I’ve only known him three years, but I feel like I’ve known him forever.
Bernard: And he’s under a lot of pressure. He’s the lead actor of an ABC show. The only comedy that ABC picked up [to premiere in the fall] this season and he’s the lead of it and he’s handling it beautifully.
Marcel: Straight up. And Lea’s like the sister of the group. She got three new brothers that she loves but also doesn’t know if she wanted.
The thing I like about our show or our cast, it’s a family. We have fun on set and the cool thing is the women are the pros in the situation, so…we make sure we look out for our girls, but they are bosses. The women on this show are bosses. Lea’s been doing this for ten years. Yvette’s been doing it for twenty.
Bernard: They are vets. And we’re like, what’s going on? I mean, just to be in the presence of such professionals [with] years in the business. From being like, relative newcomers to this whole thing.
What was the transition from stage to TV like for you?
Marcel: Being on stage, it’s live every night, as you guys know. You can do the show eight times a week, but for that audience, it’s their first time seeing it sometimes and that’s the only show that they’re going to get, so you have to recreate these performances. Doing this show, you get a chance to really craft your performance in a different way. It’s the same skill, but it’s a different muscle group. I get to see my performance and edit it or if I have an idea, if I have an ad lib, I know how to make that joke work, in real time, I get to [say] let me get one more take.
Are there any episodes coming up that you feel personally connected?
Bernard: For me, the episode that I connected to, that we’ve shot already, dealt with the boys having some sort of conflict and it just shows that even in the best friendships, or families, there may be times when you just don’t agree or you don’t like the way people handle things. Or you end up in a situation that’s not conducive to your friendship and you have to figure out a way to still love that person, but check them at the same time. And I feel like that’s life, you know. I’m excited for you to see that episode because it’s a different side of my character. It’s a different side of T.K. and Courtney.
Marcel: I kind of agree. That episode talks a lot about respectability politics and…Courtney is faced with a decision [to] either help his career or help his community and I feel like, as an actor, especially coming from, coming from the hood in New Orleans and going to Ivy League school like Columbia, I found myself in situations a lot where I felt like I had to choose between the people I loved and…what seemed to be the best thing for my career as an actor. Having that survivor’s remorse, that survivor’s guilt where you’re like, I’m in a position now to educate my family. I’m in a position now to help my family. I have a degree that nobody in my family has had before. What do I do with that information?
He is faced with honoring his family or helping further his career which could initially help his family, but it doesn’t always feel like that at first.
Will we see any singing or dancing with Lea on the show?
Marcel: She’s been saying you got to talk to Jeremy, so I’m just gonna say, her answer is you got to talk to Jeremy. But at the same time, she has a phenomenal voice and it just so happens that everybody on our show has musical talent and ability and once we figured that out, Jeremy was like, okay, I have to use this. I just don’t know where and when. So I feel like it’s coming. [We have to first] establish the world and then hit them with the musical. We can’t just jump off with it.
Bernard: It’s coming.
Does Courtney have music that can be purchased?
Marcel: Yes. It’ll drop the day before [the episode airs], so right now, we have the first two songs have dropped. The song from the pilot and “Brokenomics”. Each week a new song will drop until we get to the end. So, every week a new song that was produced by Daveed Diggs and his band. Brando raps on it.
Bernard: Yes. Until we get to Courtney’s mixtape.
Are Courtney and Val gonna get together?
Bernard: I think their relationship as we see it now is just strictly business and I think it’s important for young girls to see that: you can be in politics, you can be in an office where you run stuff and you don’t have to be anybody’s boyfriend, you don’t have to do that. I think that’s a stronger stance to take.
Marcel: He wanted to make sure that those characters were fully formed and that Val is the pro. That’s her world. That’s her arena and she’s not there to serve Brandon. She’s there to guide him because he has no idea what he’s doing. They have really good chemistry and it’s one of those things where it might inspire the writers to write something like that. [The character of] Courtney has had a couple of love interests on the show.
What does this show say for you to your younger selves?
Bernard: That your dreams can be actualized. You can actually have a dream, whatever that dream may be, if you work hard and you’re persistent, and you stay focused, it can come true. The world is literally available to you and no matter what anybody says, no matter what your situation is. You know, Marcel came from the hood. Patterson, New Jersey, and here I am all the way in Hollywood. Dreamed of it, wanted it, pursued it and God said, there you go.
Marcel: It’s one of those things to where visibility matters and representation matters and when I was a kid, I was watching Martin and Fresh Prince and I’m seeing these young Black men be themselves and be somebody that I recognize and be cool and be fun and be intelligent and be articulate – that’s not something that you see all the time outside of scripted TV.
If all I see on the media are people who look like me getting in trouble or getting in situations where they’re hurt, and things like that…it’s good, I feel, to see a show where Black men are lifting each other up and are thriving and are challenging what those images might be, so it’s one of those things that I feel like is super important and I’m honored that I get a chance to be a part of that.
And we have fun. We have fun and we do it in a way that I feel does not belittle our intelligence and we do it in a way that definitely could be inspiring to somebody like me.
Bernard: And I love also just to piggyback on that, the family aspect of our show. You normally see mom, dad, two kids and it’s great, you know, but that’s not the family unit on our show. Our family unit is a woman who had a child young, but she didn’t just raise him. She kind of raised two other guys and so what does that look like in a community? Just being able to see a different type of Black family on television is amazing and the fact that ABC said we’re going to take a chance and do that, that just speaks to the mindset of the head of this network.
Marcel: She raised his friends.
Bernard: And kudos to them for showing what we know in our communities. We know people like that, but how much does America know, so I think that’s been one of the blessings and the pleasures and the honor of doing this show is to show. Black men doing something positive, uplifting each other and then the family unit being slightly different.
Marcel: It’s something that I feel like is important.
Bernard: That everybody can relate to it.
What is it like working with David Spade?
Marcel: He’s actually way cooler in real life.
Bernard: He is way cooler. He is so sweet. He’s like, “You guys are amazing. You guys are great. This show is awesome.” That’s David Spade. We were going to do ADR, and ADR is where you go in and you do the vocal stuff that needs changing. So, David knew we were coming and he literally laid straight on the floor and we’re like, “David!” And he’s like, “I just wanted to get you guys.”
He’s great, man. From the first table read to now, he’s just been amazing. Very supportive. I went up to him, I said, “David, you have a star on the Walk, the Hollywood Walk of Fame”. He’s like, “yeah, you know, but you got to pay the upkeep and all that”.
Marcel: He’s legit. He’s like, he’s the coolest cat I’ve ever met. He’s so good at being like, really snarky. The stuff that he’ll come up with on the fly. He’ll be reading the page and then he’ll make a side remark. Next thing you know, it’s in the script. He’s so good. He’s sharp.
Like I said before, these guys are so nice and down to earth. Here is my photo with Bernard and Marcel. It was truly great to meet them.
Tune into ABC Tuesday nights at 9:30/8:30c pm for THE MAYOR!
Tonight’s episode of THE MAYOR – “Buyer’s Remorse” – As Courtney settles into his new role as mayor, he’s faced with a dismal approval rating as the citizens of Fort Grey express their lack of confidence in his ability to lead, as well as those on his own staff. He realizes that he needs to take an unconventional approach when dealing with Councilman Ed Gunt (David Spade) and comes up with a plan to quickly turn public opinion in his favor, on “The Mayor,” TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17 (9:30-10:00 p.m. EDT).