‘Lenox Avenue’ Creator Talks Depicting Multicultural Men Who Actually Want to Marry
This is a good start. If there were more shows like this and Awkward Black Girl actually on television, I’d have a whole different view from what I have now.
Al Thompson, the creator of the new web series Lenox Avenue, discussed his inspiration and aspirations for the show. Thompson, who’s also a lead actor and director for the series, spoke on the importance of a multicultural presence in entertainment, and how he thinks Lenox Avenue harkens back to a heyday of people of color on television. Additionally, Thompson shared what his show has to contribute when it comes to “colorblind content” and seeing more positive representations of men–especially in a multiracial sense–who don’t shy away from commitment and family. (To check out the series yourself, visit LenoxAvenueSeries.com, or find out more about it by tweeting Thompson via @AlThompsonInc on Twitter.)
24Wired.TV: What would you say Lenox Ave is in a nutshell?
Al Thompson: Lenox Avenue is a digital series that I created. I wanted to create something that really doesn’t exist in television platforms or film platforms, but should. A project that was not only multicultural but really highlighted today’s man, as far as guys who are already doing their thing, guys who have positive relationships, and guys who basically have good credit and want to have families and want to get married. Things we don’t traditionally get a chance to see.
24Wired.TV: What inspired the show’s set of characters?
Thompson: A lot of it was people that we all know. We all have that friend who is getting engaged. We all have that friend who is trying to figure things out in his current relationships, to do the right thing, but needs the guidance from his boys. A lot of it is people who are very relatable but, again, we don’t get an opportunity to see a lot. Usually, when you see men in a multicultural sense, in TV and film, they’re usually being made fun of. They’re always running around, they don’t want to get married, they don’t want to have children–almost like they’re in fear of it. But in fact, we have friends–and everyone does–who are the total opposite of that.
24Wired.TV: The first episodes have been pretty sexually explicit, right off the bat. How comfortable was that for everyone?
Thompson: Everybody’s definitely professional. We do everything on a closed set. And the overall mindset was, we wanted to really have that Showtime, HBO feel that you see in a Sex in the City, or in a Hung, where you get an opportunity to see the sexy side of multicultural relationships and dating. And more importantly, love.
External image24Wired.TV: How many seasons do you have in mind for Lenox Avenue?
Thompson: Well for me, it’s pretty unlimited because this series isn’t really my series. It’s really a series of the people, the fans and the supporters. They are the true fuel to this project. I almost like to call what we do the Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods of web series–just grown organically for the people. No pesticides, no MSG. If people are really into it and Tweet about it, Facebook it and all that stuff, we’ll go as long as the people are excited and want to see more.
24Wired.TV: Can you tell us any hints about what we can look forward to this season?
Thompson: A lot of it is really getting to know our three main characters, Vaughn, Owen and Sellars. But also getting to see a nice introduction of females that enter their lives. Whether it’s just in a friendship sense, or relationship–getting to meet some really fantastic female characters, and fantastic actresses.
24Wired.TV: Why was diversity important to you for this series?
Thompson: Diversity was really important because that’s the world that we live in today. We have a black President that’s going into his new term. And the world is very different than how it’s portrayed in television and film. Almost in a sense where TV and film have not caught up to what is happening in the real world. It could be that maybe they don’t want to, because obviously they’re fueled by brands and advertisers. But we’re in a day and age where black kids skateboard, where white kids wear baggy clothing and rhyme–and they actually do it well. It’s a whole different realm we’re living in. We’re not just a nation of checkboxes where it’s like, “Okay, we’ve got Asian Guy, we’ve got one black guy, we’ve got four white guys, okay, we’re covered.” That’s not the world we live in now. Black guys have white best friends. Some black females have Asian best friends. It’s a whole different melting pot mentally, now.
24Wired.TV: Why did you choose Harlem to tell this story?
Thompson: I’m a tad biased, because I was born and raised in Harlem. I felt like Harlem was a prime area that was ready and overdue its own series. We’ve seen it Above the Rim, we’ve seen it in New Jack City, Sugar Hill, things like that. And television-wise, we saw it a little bit with New York Undercover. But Harlem has not really had its own true series, and I wanted to give that gift to my birthplace.
External image24Wired.Tv: Were some of the series you just mentioned influences for yours?
Thompson: In the sense of, “Why are there not more projects that are shot or set in Harlem?” Definitely was always a fan of New York Undercover. Being born and raised in Harlem, seeing the locations that they would shoot in–it was great for me at a young age. It was always cool to see your home on television. But for me, it was like, “Why is there not more of that?” Being that you have filmmakers and producers like a Chris Rock or a Spike Lee or Nelson George who highlight Brooklyn all day. Other than in the musical sense, Harlem has not really been highlighted too much.
24Wired.TV: What do you want people to get out of Lenox Avenue?
Thompson: My mindset floats around what I like to call colorblind content. I was always inspired growing up by the intrepid amount of series that we had back in the day, whether it was The Cosby Show, A Different World, Living Single, Martin, Fresh Prince–you know, there were so many shows that were multicultural on the air, and there were not just black people watching these shows. They were extremely colorblind. People didn’t refer to each other as a race. People were just having a good time. That’s what foundation I come from with TV and entertainment–where you can sit down and you can watch an episode and just enjoy yourself. And I want people to have that experience with Lenox Avenue.