Family Time, a TV comedy featuring actor Omar Gooding and created by Bentley Kyle Evans (Jamie Foxx, Martin), will premiere tonight, June 18th, on Bounce TV, the nation’s first-ever over-the-air broadcast television network for African Americans. Martin Luther King III and Ambassador Andrew Young serve as the co-founders and board of directors for the network, which is available in 75% of African American households.
Family Time follows the Stallworth family, who move from working class to middle class after a chance encounter with a winning lottery ticket. Gooding, who plays Anthony Stallworth, spoke with me about the network’s place in history, the show’s themes, and a very special jazz film he hopes will be released soon.
Family Time premieres tonight at 9:00pm ET.
S&A: How does it feel to know you’re a part of history with Bounce TV being the first TV station for African American people in terms of broadcast television?
OG: It’s very exciting being an African American myself and being a part of a historical movement like this. You know, it’s the first scripted series so I’m very honored and proud that they chose us, along with Uptown Comic hosted by Joe Torry which is the series immediately following ours on Monday, June 18th. It’s my first time, well actually it’s my second time actually working with Bentley Kyle Evans who is the creator of Jamie Foxx and Love That Girl that was on TV One. And I did tons of sitcoms growing up, Smart Guy, Hanging with Mr. Cooper, and so forth. So this is a chance to get back into television and see if I still have my comic timing down, and we pushed right away. Every script was waiting for me and we shot 6 episodes in a 5-day span. And being a producer on the show myself, it’s fun to see the ins and outs on both sides. It’s a great little product here.
S&A: Can you describe what viewers can expect, and give us an overview of the show?
OG: The character I play is Anthony Stallworth. He has a wife and two kids. My wife is played by Angell Conwell, and my son is Devin who is Bentley Junior, and his sister Ebony who is played by Jayla Calhoun. And they all live in the hood, and we’re the average, working class African American family, and I’m a construction worker. One day I get off work, go to the liquor store and get a six pack and a lottery ticket and wind up being the winner. So we move out of the hood. You know, we don’t want to move too far and we go to Windsor Hills and start a new life there.
The kids don’t really like the house, but I’m obviously enjoying it so hey. So we have a bunch of different situations dealing with the new neighbors and dealing with old family, and you know what happens when you win some money. Everybody pops up out of the woodworks for a little piece. It’s a situational comedy and I look forward to working more on it and making at least 100,000 more episodes.
S&A: The scenario seems really relatable to everyday people. I saw the tagline when I was watching some of it, which is “From The Hood to All Good,” and I wanted to know what’s your take on that. What does that mean to you in terms of the show.
OG: From the hood to all good. Not that things weren’t good in the hood. But I think it’s a catchy tagline about bettering yourself by any means necessary and here’s it’s by winning the lottery. So if you can get your family out of a situation that may not be all positive to a situation that’s more all good, then you should be able to relate to that. And for the comedy, we don’t deal so much with ‘we’re from the hood and we moved to a better place,’ it’s just that you moved to a different place, and it’s a place that my wife grew up in so I hope she would enjoy it. So, it’s more of that.
S&A: And I see that in the show you’re starring with Angell Conwell who you also starred in Baby Boy with. Are you in a relationship? I recall reading that-
OG: (Laughs.) No, no. We dated for a couple of years. And I actually knew her before we did did Baby Boy and we’re still very good friends. When I heard she was cast as the lead opposite me, I was very excited. It’s great to work as friends and I know her ins and outs as an actor so our natural comic timing really helped in the show.
S&A: I was just watching an episode of the show and it seems to feature a lot of issues that are relevant to African American audiences and other audiences- economic issues, cross-generational issues, some things dealing with homophobia and sexuality in this really light, accessible manner and I wanted you to talk about how the show stands out in handling these issues in its writing?
OG: It does and I don’t think we go over the line at any point. We touch on it here and there. My sister-in-law in the show is a lesbian and my kids are growing and we’re trying to have that talk with them about certain things and they’re like “Dad, we got the internet, what are you talking about?” We’re parents in a sense that we’re not way out of touch with what’s going on. I think Family Time does a very good job of touching on these subjects in a manner where it’s funny still. It’s not awkward. It’s out there, make a few jokes about it, and move on. And I’m looking forward to feedback on the show to touch on other subjects. We’ll do that.
S&A: When you were presented with the idea for the show, what were your initial thoughts?
OG: I read the script and it was great. I was laughing out loud. It starts with the writing for me, but like you were saying earlier, for it to land on Bounce TV, it was such an honor. And we’re going back to the old school with the laugh track, live audience, and it’s on a network for African Americans. Of course we want to play on major networks as well, but it’s an honor to start here.
S&A: You’ve done a mixture of film roles and TV. What are some of the differences you noticed? Do you prefer one or the other?
OG: I do it all. I do music and get my hip hop on, and it’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of down time. I’m always reading different scripts on different sets. I was out in Miami shooting a film called The Percentage so it’s back and forth. For this, we did 6 episodes in 5 days and you could just imagine how long it would take to film a whole season. So, for me, I’m down for whatever. Whether it’s a sitcom or comedy film. I worked on a film called Christmas in Compton that comes out next year starring myself and a host of other talented actors, or a drama like The Percentage starring myself and Ving Rhames and Camron.
S&A: Can you talk a little bit more about those projects?
OG: Yea, Christmas in Compton is a comedy about a guy that works at a Christmas tree lot, but he’s also a music producer so he’s trying to better himself and move out of the hood. He’s from Compton and he gets his break by discovering a group by the name of Sugar stuff, and what he tried to do is give them a record deal but he’s not very business savvy so he’s raising money to buy the group back from this crooked record producer.
I also have a film called Bolden, which is about Buddy Bolden and is a jazz film. It is the story of Buddy Bolden, the original king of jazz in New Orleans and the amazing thing about that is they’re really taking their time in putting that one out. There were a couple people on Family Time who were asking “Is Bolden ever coming out?” and I was talking to the director, who’s a big jazz head, the other day and he said it was just taking it’s time and money’s not a problem. He’s not being rushed by anyone. I play a character in it by the name of Willie Cornish who was Bolden’s best friend and band leader and I kind of take you through the narrative and I’m older, and it was the first time I did the aging makeup and had to be 60 years old. I take you around through the world of jazz and getting gigs. And the lead in the film is Anthony Mackie. We’re really excited about that so I hope he puts it out. Put it out, man! (Laughs)
S&A: It sounds really amazing. Thank you.