What happens when someone totally unqualified gets elected to office, thanks to his ability to connect with certain audiences? That’s the premise of ABC’s “The Mayor,” about the rise of Courtney Rose (Brandon Michael Hall), a 28-year-old aspiring rapper who runs for mayor to boost his music career — and becomes the reluctant leader of his small town as a result.
However, Courtney is a good guy who is genuinely interested in helping his community, something star Yvette Nicole Brown hopes will be inspirational for everyone. “I think that we have the ability on this show to show what happens when someone gets elected who doesn’t know what they’re doing — but they have a heart for people and what that looks like,” Brown said. “And I hope that it becomes aspirational for, um, other people who have a job that they’re not equipped for.”
“The Mayor” made its official world premiere at SeriesFest in Denver, and Brown (who plays Courtney’s mother Dina) said via a Skype Q&A that the show’s political focus was a big draw for her in considering the role. “I live on MSNBC and CNN, and I feel like we’re in the fight of our lives as a nation and maybe as a world — a fight for kindness and for caring for others.”
“Our job as artists is to hold a mirror up to society and see how we can find a way to create the change that needs to happen,” Hall added. “The best way to do that is with a show on a network [like ABC] that’s huge and is going to reach a lot of people.”
Hall also mentioned that executive producer Daveed Diggs is “a very busy guy,” but has been involved in the original music for the show, even lending a few tracks of his own. The hope is for Diggs to write a new song for every episode, depending on schedule.
Brown noted that show creator Jeremy Bronson’s resume not only includes stints writing for Jimmy Fallon, “Speechless” and “The Mindy Project,” but years working on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball.” “So he has a political background as well, and in the meeting I took with them we talked about politics for a good hour,” she said.
That said, the plan is not for “The Mayor” to push the tone too dark. “We’re a political show but we’re also a positive show — I want people to know that Courtney Rose is the mayor of this city but it’s not a preachy show. We will talk about things that matter, especially things that matter within the black community, because he is a young black man going through this process, but it’s going to be a show that’s accessible to all,” Brown said. “So I don’t want anybody to think that anyone’s personal politics are going to be injected into the show in a way that keeps people from enjoying it. It’ll be a comedy with heart.”
In fact, while the pilot does feature a political debate (including a cameo by David Spade) and an election, the words “Democrat” and “Republican” are never mentioned.
“I don’t know if the goal is to ever reveal [what party certain characters belong to],” she said. “I think if we do that, it gets a bit too preachy and partisan. I think that there’s good folks and bad folks and good motives and bad motives and that’s not any one party over another, everybody’s trying to find their way and some people are doing it with grace and kindness and some people are doing it from a selfish perspective. I don’t think that’s based on whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, so I don’t think there’s a reason to ever specify, I don’t think that’s what matters.”
Finally, when asked what Brown looks for in a potential new series, she had a relatively simple answer: “It’s a comedy with heart — I wanted to be clear about that,” she said. “One thing ‘Community’ and ‘The Odd Couple’ and ‘The Mayor’ have in common is that they have heart — they’re coming from completely different areas, but there are people there that you root for. So I always look for that and always look for there to be some sort of lesson in the pilot so the characters grow.”
In a year when TV shows that take politics seriously are a little hard to take (sorry, “House of Cards”), depicting a universe where heart and politics aren’t mutually exclusive might actually work to “The Mayor’s” advantage.
“The Mayor” premieres this fall on ABC.