Numa, can you share a bit about what goes into casting for a Black & Sexy show?
NP: I really enjoy the casting process. It’s a very good feeling when you come upon a great talent who really breathes life into a role that never even existed before. For example, Shayla Hale, she’s our leading lady in Roomieloverfriends. We found her through the audition process. Her distinct charm is all her own and she holds her own against Andra Fuller, who plays Jay on the show. You could tell that they were great for one another and that magic happened in the very first reading they did together.
So, when that happens, you just have to go with it because it’s one of those destined things. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Andra actually crashed the audition. He happened to be at another casting, which was taking place next door, and saw the line of Black actors waiting for us. He poked his head in and asked if he could read for the role, too. We said yes. The rest is history. Together Shayla and Andra’s chemistry make the show what it is today.
We cast using traditional casting calls in the industry trades. We utilize the talents of casting directors such as Natasha Ward, and we keep our eyes peeled for any other talents that are out there. While we do scour for talent in shorts, plays, showcases, YouTube videos – we also have a standard set for what type of performer we’re looking for. We gravitate to actors who come across as real people first and foremost and, in addition to that, are individuals, which is a big thing for us.
We really desire uniqueness, which is also a quality being authentic and being a real person. An understanding of improvisation and humor and the bravery to approach intimate scenarios are also winning factors for when we seek new talent.
Are there any plans to create opportunities for shows and performers outside of the Los Angeles area?
DD: We have considered this for both New York City and Atlanta, where a large part of our fan base resides. These also happen to be places that are full of great opportunities, not only for performers, but for productions as well. As we grow, our hope is that those considerations may become more real.
The team is open to collaboration if it creates tangible stories for Black & Sexy TV. With multiple shows that are smashing and smanging into one another – how do you plan out tropes and storylines before going into production?
DD: We identify the energy within the series early on, yet we’re not afraid to change direction in the middle of the series, if necessary. We have a bird’s eye view upon the Black & Sexy world. It’s an organic process and perspective from the character’s point of view and it enables us to seamlessly execute and cross over storylines and characters.
We all have degrees of separation between us and often know the same people though we may or may not be aware of it yet. The background stories of both parties add to the layers of the new story, often time blowing people’s minds wide open in the conversion.
YouTube continues to be a great place for original programming, yet Hollywood is actively looking at Black & Sexy TV series to bring onto the mainstream. Is there any update to HBO developing The Couple for cable subscribers?
BSTV: We’re still in development. HBO takes their time and we’re okay with that.
What are some of the most rewarding perks that you both have experienced in the six years since first releasing A Good Day to be Black and Sexy?
BSTV: Each other [laughs]. Joking. Not really. No, really. Really [laughs]. We’re a couple. We’re a family business. Our children act in our series. That right there is a perk! But, there are other perks, such as we have our own business. We don’t work a traditional 9-to-5. We’re 24/7, Black & Sexy TV, and we are serving the community. We are able to be creative and make money at the same time. We eat off of our art.
We also have a really great team that came together because of the movie. Our creative partners and fellow co-founders, Brian Ali Harding and Jeanine Daniels, are living, breathing perks. The film brought us all together at different points in our lives for different reasons. It’s not easy to find a creative and cohesive group such as ours, but just like magnets, we were all attracted to each other with the film at the center.
Alongside our brain trust, our entire support team including editors, producers, assistants, and writers are simply incredible. Seeing all this growth while providing jobs in this industry is all very rewarding! It’s also very encouraging when our viewers recognize us on the streets and tell us to keep going.
The company recently changed their model to include a pay-per-view for special viewing events and season finales. What inspired this method and how do you see this move impacting your development as a business?
DD: The first inspiration was the need to generate regular revenue. The original mode for our company was to have our audience supporting us via crowdfunding, which was not sustainable. Numa originally had the idea for us to start selling season finales of our series. We brainstormed and found that the timing was right because the market for self-distributing independent films online was becoming extremely popular. Companies like VHX, Vimeo, Chill, and others were building and marketing platforms that were an alternate to YouTube.
Selling the season finales was part of a long-term plan to pave the way for monthly subscriptions. Every time we have released a pay-per-view event we have learned from our audience what works and what doesn’t work. We now have five under our belts and we are slated to launch our monthly subscription service February 2015. We are continuing to work with VHX on developing this. Internally, we’ve been billing ourselves as the “Black Netflix,â€ although we are very broad and niche, it’s about having curated content at your fingertips.
In addition to your credits with Black & Sexy TV, you are also a writer, an actress and artist in your own right. Can you talk about your own personal aspirations and share with us the progress for the Lorraine Hansberry biopic?
Thank you for asking, Kevin… I’m in a really good place where I feel I have found how all these parts of myself fit together. We are often told to just do one thing, but that’s never been me. I’ve been an entrepreneur and an artist since I was a child. Finding ways to make money from my creativity has almost been an instinct of mine since childhood when I was writing custom poems and selling them to my classmates at nine-years-old.
My personal aspirations are very much in line with the network – to continue playing the roles that excite and suits me as an actress. To continue writing and nourishing writers for our platform and exhibit my visual art to the Black & Sexy audience it great and can serve as an introduction for those who aren’t aware. Regarding the Lorraine Hansberry project, the script is still in early development, so there’s not a lot to report, but I’m looking forward to having more updates soon.
With such a healthy audience and an array of avenues to develop future projects – could we ever see a Black & Sexy licensed program created for a streaming service like Amazon or Netflix? How big can these ideas of telling original stories geared towards African Americans truly become?
BSTV: There are many opportunities with third party companies in our field and we are exploring them. Our priority is always how to continue to grow the company that we own and created. We know that our stories are relatable worldwide. We know that our culture has and will always be a leader. We know that this is the avenue where we want to continue to invest our time, talent, and resources. We know without a doubt that it is substantial and sustainable.