Last weekend, the latest installment of the “Barbershop” franchise opened. “Barbershop: The Next Cut” has already grossed over $20 million. The comedy was co-written by Tracy Oliver, an actress-writer-producer who is making her mark on-screen and behind-the-scenes.
In an interview with The Root, Oliver spoke about how she and Rae connected. They met as students at Stanford, who “were always auditioning against each other.” “We were always the black girls waiting to find out who got the part,” Oliver recalled. She said that after some time, they decided to take matters into their own hands and team up “[i]nstead of being competitive against each other for that one part.” They collaborated on projects where a number of people of color would be cast.
Oliver explained, “[W]e knew that if we tried to pitch it to people no one would buy it because they wouldn’t understand it. It was one of those things you had to execute and put out there and prove there was an audience for it.”
When asked how doing it for themselves empowered the women, Oliver responded, “We changed the landscape of comedy, we really did, doing it ourselves.” She emphasized that “the landscape was so white” and there “was nothing for people of color on the air” — a “really cold climate.” So the pair “knew that if [they] tried to convince people that there’s an audience for something that’s like a black Tina Fey or a black Zooey Deschanel” — a character who was “quirky and nerdy and fun” — they wouldn’t find much success.
“The crazy thing about the Internet age is that you can bypass the gatekeepers of Hollywood and go directly to the people,” observed Oliver, who called the reception to the series “kind of surreal.” The viral sensation was reported on by major publications and viewed by millions of people within months. “We were getting better numbers than some cable shows online, and that was pretty crazy because we were doing it ourselves,” she said.