The Cast and Creator of ‘Harlem’ Talk About the First Season of the Prime Video Series
Stars Meagan Good, Jerrie Johnson, Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai, and Tyler Lepley join creator, writer, and executive producer Tracy Oliver to talk about their new streaming series.
‘Harlem’ is a new comedy series on Prime Video about four best girlfriends living in Harlem NYC. The series was created by Tracy Oliver, and features Meagan Good, Jerrie Johnson, Grace Byers, and Shoniqua Shandai as the stylish and ambitious women that the show follows. Tyler Lepley plays a former flame of Good’s character, and all of these talented folks spent time talking to Moviefone about their new series.
First, Meagan Good and Jerrie Johnson talk about how much fun they had on set.
Moviefone: So, let's talk ‘Harlem.’ Listen, I can truly appreciate a real sisterhood. These ladies had each other's backs, genuinely. They were there for one another, through their wins and their losses. Or I would say lessons actually, right?
Jerrie Johnson: Yes.
MF: So Meagan, Camille is a professor, but I would say that she learned her most valuable lesson through her life's journey. So what is something that Camille could teach us?
Meagan Good: Oh gosh. What I love about Camille is that she's hopeful. She's always hopeful. Something can get her down and she can get really disappointed and hard on herself and feel a little bit crazy. And then she always resets her mind and goes, "You know what? It's okay. I got this. I'm going to figure it out, and it's going to be great. And no matter what, it's going to be fine." You know? I love that about her, because I think that we all, at some point, need to take that approach. Because we do get down on ourselves, and we do get hard on ourselves, and we do get really discouraged.
And being discouraged can cause depression and all kinds of stuff. And I think we need to have the mindset of, you know what? It's always going to always be okay, and no matter what. And we will figure it out. And it's okay to not know and not have the answers for a minute and to walk this thing out called life. So I think that's what I've learned most from Camille, and I hope that it's something that the other people take away as well.
MF: So Jerrie, if you can give Ty any advice based on her love life, her passions and careers, what would you say to her?
Johnson: I would tell her that she can be a little bit more vulnerable. I think her heart chakra may be a little blocked. Yeah.
Good: She's cold as ice.
Johnson: (Laughing) Oh!
MF: That's good. This series, it just seems like it was so much fun to film. What was it like with everyone on set?
Good: Like this. Just absolutely ridiculous. One second, we're praying, the next second, we're twerking. Just, one second, we're singing Lloyd's, "Lay It Down," and songs from, what is the movie called with Robert Townsend and Leon?
Johnson: Oh yes, yes. ‘Five Heartbeats.’
Good: And then we're singing, ‘Dreamgirls,’ and she's doing Effie's part and there's just so much going on. And it's so wonderful, and such a breath of fresh air, because it's not always like that. And with TV, it's different. It's not a race, it's a marathon. You got to pace yourself. And there's nothing more wonderful than coming to work, and you're excited about the role you get to play, and you're excited about the people you get to play with, and you genuinely love them, and you genuinely pray for each other, and hold each other down, and confide in each other, and pour into each other, and love on each other. And then you leave set, and you go do that in the real world with the same people.
Good: t's really special and wonderful.
MF: That's beautiful.
Johnson: There was a moment where I was sick and Meagan was on FaceTime with me, while I'm in the hospital. And Devon came in and prayed over me, and I'm, "You gonna sit here with me while I'm in this hospital?" And she's, "Yes. I want to make sure you are okay." And I think it's just a testament to the kind of people that were hired to be on this show. These women, we know what it costs to be nasty. We just know that we don't have to do that. We're not in competition with each other. We're actually in flow with each other. We're actually building with each other, and that makes us all rise to the occasion.
Johnson: So the set was a good old time.
MF: That's great.
Good: You ever see that picture? It's an animated meme where you see the woman, here, put your foot here, and you go like this, and then they go like that and the person pulls them up. That's what it's like every day on set.
Next, Grace Byers & Shoniqua Shandai discuss the challenges their characters face in the first season.
Moviefone: So Grace, what is it about Quinn that did not allow her to give up on her passion despite the ups and downs of the business?
Grace Byers: Oh, I think that there is a very pure part of Quinn. And honestly, I believe that this lives in all of us where we are born and built to love, we're born and built to connect. I think that's why whenever we disconnect, it's so difficult because it takes no time to fall in love with someone or to express love with someone or to really feel a comradery or a closeness to someone, but it takes forever to disconnect. And so I think that Quinn really zeros in on and amplifies that desire and that need for love because I believe that she truly feels like it's a core part of her identity. And I think without love or without the hope or idea of love, I'm not sure that she would even know who she is. And I think that that's all of us, just in this world as human beings.
And so I really love that about Quinn. I love that no matter what, she will pursue that love. She will go for that love. And she won't ever stop chasing after that because I feel it truly is the strongest kind of energy that can permeate throughout the world.
MF: Absolutely. Absolutely. Shoniqua, I love Angie.
Shoniqua Shandai: Thank you.
MF: She's so vibrant and real, she's the type of girlfriend everyone needs in their circle.
MF: Yeah. So, what challenges would you say that Angie faced when it came to her career, her love life, her passions?
Shandai: Yes. I think the challenges she faces in her career and her love life are actually very similar. Angie almost had it. She was looked at somewhat as successful in school and always had this trajectory of being the star, getting exactly what she always wanted. And she suffered this disappointment that completely rocked her world, that came out of nowhere. And now she's doubting everything while also putting up this outward persona of, "I got it together. I'm cool." But inside, she doesn't know whether it's going to come. She doesn't know whether it's possible for her. And it's the same thing I feel like in love. She has these relationships that are almost impossible to keep together. Almost setting herself up to know that, "This won't last because then it won't hurt me. It can't disappoint me."
And I think really her biggest journey is going to be healing from that. And also beyond that, getting the confidence. As much as she's outwardly confident, it's having the confidence to trust in something she can't control. Which is, "I can't control whether people receive me or not musically. And I can't control whether of people receive me in love, but I'm going to go for what I deserve," in spite of always feeling like she is deserving. She is a big old complexity.
Shandai: Yeah. These complications.
Byers: We all are. That's the truth.
Tyler Lepley talks about his character, Ian.
Moviefone: So, let's talk about Ian, because Ian comes in, and he shakes some things up.
Tyler Lepley: For sure.
MF: So, give us some insight on your character. Who is he, and what is he about?
Lepley: He's about finding who he is. He's about finding his purpose. On one hand, he's this very gifted, creative, studied chef. He's studying under a world-renowned chef to try to find out his passion and how it's going to come to fruition. He is a very passionate, driven person, whether it's about his work life or his love life, which, really, where we meet him at, he's left in conflict between the two. And he's like all of us in the sense that he's just a man trying to find his way. He's in the process of trying to figure out who he is and where he stands. That's how we're introduced to Ian.
MF: So, Tyler, if you could give Ian... If you could give him any advice about his career or relationships, what would you say to him?
Lepley: First, I would say, "Ian, pull up a chair, I want to have a talk with you." I would say, "It behooves you to chase your passion." We're not here to settle, we're not here to pay a couple bills, and then just croak out. At least in terms of how I feel, not to take it too deep. But, you're right. Even though you're going through some obstacles, and you're going through some conflicts that may feel negative, you're right on the path you're supposed to be.
And you'd be surprised, if you just take a few more steps, what it's going to bring back to you. In terms of your love life, let's figure out what your priority is first. Is it finding who you are, or is it making your girlfriend happy? And, based upon your answer, we can figure out if you're in the right space. So, I believe, based upon watching your 10 episodes, that your answer is your passion. So, then, we may have to try to revisit this, or put it to bed as is, because the secondary can't come before the primary.
MF: Wow. That's good. Do you think he would listen to that advice?
Lepley: I don't know. Ian's like myself, we're a little hardheaded. He might not listen, but I think even if he didn't listen, he would feel that though, because, even as we watch the show, that's what he does. He chases his passion, as opposed to letting the passion go and letting his dreams go, and then just sitting here in a space that he already knows. So, I think he would... As a matter of fact, I'm going to change my answer. I think he would end up listening.
MF: So you were surrounded by amazingly beautiful, talented women. I mean, what was it like? What was the experience on set, working with everyone?
Lepley: What I realized is that... I had a hunch that it was going to be like this, but you look on the outside, and they're all so beautiful, but then to work with them, the beauty is on the inside. It really resonates from the inside first. They're all, I mean... It's just such a... I used this analogy earlier. They're just like... I know it's about two, but they're really like four peas in a pod, and to see them play off each other and to watch their bond, to watch their sisterhood, it's inspiring. And to have them be so welcoming, to open their arms and have me be a part of this, not just on the script, but in real life too, it's just a treat, man. It's just been a blessing to be around those ladies. And I learned a lot from them on set, as an artist, and it was a great thing to be able to work with them, but it was even a bigger treat to be able to build a friendship with them off of set.
Series creator, writer, and executive producer Tracy Oliver shares her inspiration for the show.
Moviefone: How did the concept of ‘Harlem’ come about, and why Harlem?
Tracy Oliver: Well, it came about just from real life and the stuff that I was looking at the time was showing New York. ‘Girls’ was really popular, and ‘Broad City’ was really popular, and I love those shows and have so much respect for the creators. I just didn't see myself and I didn't see a lot of black and brown people in New York represented. And just in general, over the years, I've just noticed New York doesn't have a lot of diversity, and it shows when they're set there and Harlem almost never was getting shot in comedies, in particular.
It just was, they would shoot it every single neighborhood in Manhattan, except for Harlem. And for me, I just always felt I was kind of home in Harlem, even though I'm not from there. I just felt it was a place that I belonged and it was beautiful. And it was a rich history there. And I just wanted to give it some love, to give the residents and the people of Harlem who are so special some love. And I wanted to do that way back in the day because there was just nothing like it. And yeah, so it just came from a place of love for me. Because I enjoyed my experience there, and it was a really magical time.
MF: I love that. And the cast was great too. Definitely, great cast. Everything definitely came together, and I could definitely foresee a lot more seasons of ‘Harlem’ to come. So I'm excited for that.
Oliver: Oh, I hope so. Fingers crossed!