Creators of ‘Brown Girls’ On A New Era Of Representation
The two were executive producers for the new web series, which follows the lives of four young adults of color grappling with the loss of their identity while living in Chicago. The show was written by Vincent Martell, Zac Payne and KB Woodson, and will premiere at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday night. Damaged Goods is part of new cycle of pilots and series presented by Open Television, a Chicago-based web platform for local artists.
Asghar and Bailey join Morning Shift to talk about their experience working on the new show, their latest projects in Chicago and LA, and the importance of representation and intersectionality in media and the arts.
What kind of show is Damaged Goods and what was it like producing it?
Sam Bailey: It’s really just kind of this like love letter to black and brown queer communities in Chicago, and it’s a community that we feel really attached to and are a part of and active in. So they made a show that kind of explores all of these different relationships and friendships and chosen family between these four roommates. And we got brought onto it early last year as creative EPs to help guide them as they were going through the web series process.
On the importance of authentic, intersectional storytelling
Fatimah Asghar: I think it’s really important for people of color to just have really nuanced humanities, and I think that’s something that Vince and Zac and KB really, really wanted to do — to show the struggles that exist in our communities in a very real way ... the writers wanted to convey a sense of realness and the authenticity when it came to these characters, which means not shying away from some of these darker topics.
Odette Yousef: These shows touch on intersectionality of multiple identities, as did Brown Girls … but in such an edgy and raw kind of way. What’s your take on why that’s the right approach?
Bailey: I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong approach, I just think it’s true to our aesthetics … we want to do something that feels very real but also has a bit of surrealism and play, because we’re still experimenting as artists. So not only are we telling this story about a bunch of these different identities, but I also want to give these creators room to play in their filmmaking. So I think that’s the reason why it’s raw and edgy, because it is 100 percent them … and if you stay true to it, there’s a level of authenticity that can’t be matched in Hollywood.
Breaking boundaries, reaching audiences through web series
Asghar: I think that the idea of a web series and the digital platform offered a sense of freedom. It was a way in which we didn’t have to ask permission for the stories we were telling … and really, it was because there was no other way. It was like we wanted to make content, we wanted to connect with our audiences, we wanted to get that out here.
And when we made Brown Girls, there was no kind of concept of we are making this in the hopes that Hollywood see it. We were making it in the hopes that our communities would see it. And so, I think that the priority has just been different. It’s not been a thing of like, we’re using the digital space to get into Hollywood. It’s been, we’re using the digital space to be its own platform and its own sense of authorship and ownership.
On their latest works in Chicago and LA
Bailey: Fati has another book out, Halal If You Hear Me, which I love. And I think we're trying to figure out the balance between being in LA and and being in Chicago and creating more 'mainstream' work and creating our independent work, which is very difficult. But it seems like every time I do, I lean more into the independent stuff ... so, I think there's a lot of projects in the making right now and hopefully we'll be able to share that with you guys real soon.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity by Stephanie Kim. Click the “play” button to hear the entire conversation.
GUESTS: Fatimah Asghar, executive producer of Damaged Goods and co-creator of Brown Girls
Sam Bailey, executive producer of Damaged Goods and co-creator of Brown Girls
LEARN MORE: Damaged Goods — OTV