When viewers tune in to the second season of Harlem, this drama about four ambitious best friends Comedy (playing Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Jerrie Johnson and Shoniqua Shandai) In New York life, they will discover something deeper The Stuff: A Candid Discussion About Mental Health. Ahead of the SCAD TVfest panel in Harlem, show host Tracy Oliver discusses how the events of the past two years have affected The writers room and found her way into the show — and teased what she’s up to for the upcoming Girls Trip sequel.
Since A lot has happened since the first season of Harlem . What is the most different feeling this time?
I’m starting a show at , we broke down the entire first season before the pandemic. When we got together to write season two, we were in a new reality, and it felt phony to make a lighthearted season. Many of us deal with mental health issues and find it difficult to get motivated to write.
Is there anything that can come directly from that new mindset?
Quinn’s [Byers] entire storyline. If someone had told me before the pandemic that we were going to tackle depression in comedy, I’d have said, “That seems a little dark.” My comedy tends to be broad and funny. I wrote it like this on purpose. But myself and other writers have been dealing with depression from time to time, so we decided to find humor in it and channel our hardships into the show.
Many people open Harlem, or your other items to boost your mood. How do you elevate your mood?
Dancing is good for me. I wear ratchet hip hop exclusively. But what I will say is that I wish more people would do lighter, more interesting content. I think the reason something like Top Gun does so well is because people just want to escape reality and there isn’t enough material to do it. Watching TV and movies shouldn’t feel like work.
Who do you envision as the target audience for this show – who are you writing about?
When I was writing Girls Trip, I asked [producer] Will Packer How real can I be, how real can Black be? His advice was to write as specifically as possible about my experience, because you can’t grow your audience without first understanding your core group. If you try to please everyone, you will get no one. I came to Harlem with this mindset: Let me find women of color, who live in Harlem, or who love NYC. That’s why we work so hard to support Black businesses and make sure those around us feel the love.
You expanded your storyline geographically in Season 2 – do you have a destination wish list?
It all comes down to budget. In my wildest dreams – and maybe at some point I’ll have the chance to do this – I want them to go to Europe. But that’s expensive. We picked Puerto Rico this season because it felt like a way for them to get out of the meta in a way that we could achieve.
Is it fair for you to infer and say like this Currently working on
Girls Trip 2
IS THE ULTIMATE FANTASY FULFILLMENT?
Yes! I feel like we’ve met people in Vegas or Miami. I want to be able to take us to places where we wouldn’t normally be on screen. The decision [to set it in Ghana] came from, what was the biggest wow factor? We haven’t really seen a film like this set on the continent – I’ve been trying to push the boundaries.
Do you have a shooting day?Harlem is particularly memorable?
was probably filming one of the scenes from their trip to Puerto Rico. We were on the water and it was 2am and everyone was freezing. But it’s a beautiful shot, and the last of the season. In a way, that feels like a completion, which is what this episode is all about: cleansing, healing, and transformation. This is the art of imitating life.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.