The Mayor on ABC is a hilarious new comedy starring Brandon Micheal Hall as Courtney Rose, Lea Michele as Valentina Barella, Bernard David Jones as Jermaine Leforge, Marcel Spears as T.K. Clifton and Yvette Nicole Brown as Dina Rose. Bernard and Marcel joined me and a group of bloggers invited by ABC to screen the “The Filibuster” episode and then answer some question about the new series.
“The Filibuster” – Courtney makes his first mayoral appearance at his old elementary school and discovers that their music program, which helped changed his life, is in danger of being eliminated. Val educates Courtney about how he needs to “work the system” in order to provide the school with appropriate funding, and they work together to outsmart Councilman Ed Gunt (David Spade). Meanwhile, Jermaine proudly embraces his new role as communications director, as Dina pushes T.K. to realize the significance of his job as director of Constituent Services, on “The Mayor.” Watch it now!
The Mayor on ABC
Tonight on “Buyer’s Remorse” –
As Courtney settles into his new role as mayor, he’s faced with a dismal approval rating as the citizens of Fort Grey express their lack of confidence in his ability to lead, as well as those on his own staff. He realizes that he needs to take an unconventional approach when dealing with Councilman Ed Gunt (David Spade) and comes up with a plan to quickly turn public opinion in his favor.
Bernard David Jones as Jermaine Leforge, Marcel Spears as T.K. Clifton
How did you get involved with the show?
Bernard: Well, I started with auditioning. My agent me the casting notice and I was like, okay, cool. I read the script, and I said, I have to be a part of this. I don’t know how I’m gonna do it, but I need to be a part of this. It was so amazing. The script was so funny. It was topical. It was current, and I was just like, man, I need to do this.
Marcel: Got to get in there. It was the same for me. Like, I feel like I auditioned in New York and I feel like every young brother in New York that could halfway sing, and kind of rap was in that audition room. Like, it happens a lot. We see each other, and we’re like, what’s up…I originally auditioned for [the role of Courtney Rose], and they were like, ah, it’s not quite a fit because Brandon went in and apparently free-styled for like, an hour. He killed his audition because we auditioned at the same place and so the casting director was like, ah, but we got to find a place for Marcel.
How do you feel about taking on a politically flavored show at this time in our country’s climate?
Bernard: I was gonna just say, as artists, it’s kind of our duty, our job to be able to hold a mirror up to our country, our world and say, this is what’s going on. How do we fix it? What can we do to fix it? And I think our show is an awesome representation of what happens when somebody that has the heart for people, that understands community and unity, leads with love. How that can affect a community and you know, this guy, he has no political experience. He didn’t mean to win. He was doing what millennials do: trying to get some of that ka-ching.
Marcel: Trying to get the followers up.
Bernard: But he didn’t stray away from the responsibility. He took it head on, and I think that’s a good lesson for all of us. You know, all of America. If something is going on in your neighborhood that you want to change, take leadership. Take ownership of your community, so I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to be some maybe a catalyst for mobility or, in your communities for some change.
Marcel: Yeah, I agree. It’s an opportunity for us as artists to provoke change and to inspire people. The thing is when I was a kid, people wanted to be the President – even if you didn’t want to be the President, that was the go-to answer if a teacher or somebody asked you and you want to give the answer that’s going to make your mom go, “Awww!” It was like, “I want to be the President of the United States of America.” You say that and people are like, aw, yeah, it can happen for you, kid.
And politics was a thing that you didn’t shy away from. It’s always been a topic that you don’t talk about at dinner, but it’s something that people weren’t afraid of, and now, I feel like people are so exhausted with it because you have to pick a side. It’s become so divided that we forgot that it’s a part of what makes this country great. I feel like us doing the show gives us a chance, in a fun way, in an approachable way to talk about politics in a way that I feel like can reach people so that people aren’t afraid of politics anymore.
So that people aren’t exhausted with it so much and they can get down to what it’s about and what it’s about is taking care of the people around you. Like, taking care of your community and making sure that you’re looking out for the next person. Whether you disagree on how to go about doing that, the end goal is always the betterment of the community.
Bernard: And I think what’s also special about our show is that we come from a non-partisan standpoint, so there’s no, “you have to be a Democrat” or “you have to be a Republican.” We don’t choose sides. We present what’s going on these communities, and we offer solutions on how to fix it.
Marcel: Yeah, I’m learning a lot about it, too. Like, city politics: you have your big banner issues, but when you get down to how a city functions, everybody wants a road that they can drive on without a million potholes. Everybody wants clean water, so when you get down to talking about those issues that affect the day to day operation of a city, I think everybody gets closer to the middle than even I thought in the beginning.
Is this going to stay a family-friendly show?
Bernard: It’s definitely a family show and I think that’s what’s important about our show and is special is that you can gather the family together, sit down and watch a show and then maybe discuss some of the issues that are happening. I know a lot of you guys have kids if not all of you; so it’s those issues like going to a music program. Saying hey, my kid is a part of that, and it works well for him. Or we need to keep that or just having a safe space for children in our episodes I think it has been very family oriented, but we do talk about real stuff, and we don’t shy away from the real stuff. But we do it in a way that’s, I think copasetic to a family environment.
Marcel: Yeah, this is one of those shows that you can sit down as a family and watch. It’s one of those shoes that your kids can grow into like; they watch an episode now, they don’t catch everything. They watch it again when they’re a little older and, and they see things that they never understood or didn’t comprehend. It’s definitely something that I feel like because of the design of it and because of the nature of the show, it’s something that can reach everybody in some way.
What is it like on set?
Benard: Oh, it’s amazing. I mean, we have Yvette Nicole Brown. If you’ve ever met her, you’ve ever talked to her, you’ve ever seen her in anything…people are like “Yvette, we love you. We love you. We love you.” And I always say, Yvette, you know what, I hope that people love me the way that they love you and respect you, and she said, just be yourself and have the heart for people.nAnd so, that’s been some of the best advice that she’s given, but she is literally like Big Sis. She’s like, “Don’t do that. Do that. Stay away from that. That right there, uh-unh.”
Marcel: Straight up. Yvette helped me find an apartment. I was in New York at the time, and then I went to San Diego. I was doing a play. She was like, “I can go to the apartment. I can FaceTime you, and I’ll show you what it is.” She is that kind of person. Straight up.
Bernard: She helped pay for me to get to New York one time and she was like, “Well, I know where you work. You’ll give it back.” Then when I tried to give it back, she’s like, “Baby, just keep the money.” She just has a heart. That’s just her. When you see her in these interviews, it’s not Hollywood. It’s not fake. It is genuine. And Brandon, I mean, he’s such a great actor. He’s young, but his ability to be a leader, onscreen and off screen, is amazing. And I think we’re blessed to have a leader in Brandon. He’s wise beyond his years. He’s a great actor. Julliard trained. But he’s a great friend. We hang out.
Marcel: We hang, and Brandon is one of those people like – I’ve been knowing Brandon for three years now. He’s the one who called me and told me that I got this job. He wasn’t supposed to call me and tell me that. But it’s one of those situations too where I’m watching this young man grow into himself. He’s taking on the position of being the number one and being the star of the show and learning as he goes and being a servant leader and making sure that we’re all okay and taking care of us. I’m proud. It’s weird. I’ve only known him three years, but I feel like I’ve known him forever.
Bernard: And he’s under a lot of pressure. He’s the lead of an ABC show. The only comedy that ABC picked up [to premiere in the fall] this season and he’s the lead of it and he’s handing, handling it beautifully.
Marcel: Straight up. And Lea’s like the sister of the group. She got three new brothers that she loves but also doesn’t know if she wanted. The thing I like about our show or our cast, it’s a family. We have fun on set, and the cool thing is the women are the pros in the situation, so…we make sure we look out for our girls, but they are bosses. Like, the women on this show are bosses. Lea’s been doing this for ten years. Yvette’s been doing it for twenty.
Are there any episodes coming up that you feel personally connected?
Bernard: For me, the episode that I connected to, we’ve shot already. It dealt with the boys having some conflict. It just shows that even in the best friendships, or families, there may be times when you just don’t agree, or you don’t like the way people handle things, or you end up in a situation that’s not conducive to your friendship. You have to figure out a way to still love that person, but check them at the same time. And I feel like that’s life, you know. I’m excited for you to see that episode because it’s a different side of my character. It’s a different side of T.K. and Courtney.
Marcel: I agree. That episode talks a lot about respectability politics and…Courtney is faced with a decision [to] either help his career or help his community. I feel like, as an actor, especially coming from, coming from the hood in New Orleans and going to Ivy League school like Columbia, I found myself in situations a lot where I felt like I had to choose between the people I loved and…what seemed to be the best thing for my career as an actor. Having that survivor’s remorse, that survivor’s guilt where you’re like, I’m in a position now to educate my family. I’m in a position now to help my family. I have a degree that nobody in my family has had before. What do I do with that information? He is faced with honoring his family or helping further his career which could initially help his family, but it doesn’t always feel like that at first.
What does this show say about you to your younger selves?
Bernard: That your dreams can be actualized. You can have a dream, whatever that dream may be if you work hard and you’re persistent, and you stay focused, it can come true. The world is available to you and no matter what anybody says, no matter what your situation is, you know, Marcel came from the hood. Patterson, New Jersey, and here I am all the way in Hollywood. Dreamed of it, wanted it, pursued it and God said, there you go.
Marcel: It’s one of those things to where visibility matters and representation matters. And when I was a kid, I was watching Martin and Fresh Prince, and I’m seeing these young Black men be themselves and be somebody that I recognize and be cool and be fun and be intelligent and be articulate. That’s not something that you see all the time outside of scripted TV.
If all I see on the media is people who look like me – I don’t want to get too emotional – people who look like me getting in trouble or getting in situations where they’re hurt. Things like that…it’s good I feel to see a show where black men are lifting each other up and are thriving and are challenging what those images might be. So it’s for your eight-year-old and your twelve-year-old, it’s one of those things that I feel like is super important and I’m honored that I get a chance to be a part of that.
And we have fun. We have fun, and we do it in a way that I feel does not belittle our intelligence, and we do it in a way that definitely could be inspiring to somebody like me.