The Golden Globes was proof that strong leading women of color took over our screens in 2016 (Hi Viola! Hi Tracee!). Despite the current climate, we are choosing to believe this is a good omen for the future. So the question now is, who will represent this year? Our bet is on Brown Girls, a Chicago-set web series that follows Leila, a queer South Asian-American writer, and her bestie Patricia, a sex-positive Black musician. Ever since the trailer dropped last fall featuring a scene of the pals giving their gay friend some sage advice about how he should stop eating dirty butt, the Insecure and Broad City comparisons started to trickle in.
That’s saying a lot considering both are easily cult classics of this generation, but the ladies of BG are ready to live up to the hype. BET.com was fortunate enough to chop it up with series creator Fatimah Asghar, as well as the show’s stars Sonia Denis, who plays Patricia, and Nabila Hossain, who plays Leila. Get to know the women that bring the badass duo to life.
Gems like dirty butt banter are the things true friendships are made of, which makes sense since Brown Girls is based on a real-life friendship. Fatimah, or Fati as she likes to be called, loosely based the series, which is directed by Sam Bailey, on the adventures and misadventures of her and her own bestie Jamila Woods (who just happens to oversee the music for the show).
“You know how you get really excited to, like, watch a show with a friend or something and you sit together and your like, ‘That’s me! That’s us!’ There’s almost been no times where that has really happened for us,” Fati explained. Sadly, this sentiment rings true for many WOC these days.
“When I think of our friendship — it’s so beautiful and so strong, and, like, we’re just kind of there for each other all the time regardless of anything. And often, when I see women of color in the media or on television, they’re usually tearing each other apart. I wanted to emulate that feeling and the feeling of the community that we are a part of,” she continued.
The two met in college and the rest is history. After finishing school, Fati moved from Massachusetts to Chicago, where Jamila is from, and stayed there for the next five years to essentially be close to her friend and create great art together. That they did, pulling plenty of inspiration from the city’s surroundings for Brown Girls.
Fati speaks highly of Chi-Town. “I think it’s very much a Chicago neighborhood story and feel," she said. "We really tried to highlight that while shooting…We shot in Pilsen, which is a super great neighborhood. It’s an artistic area with lots of history. You know, just a really rich history of art and people who have come out of that neighborhood. The apartment of Leila and Patricia is in Pilsen. We have a lot of shots of people waiting at bus stops and just walking around the city in the streets.”
To know BG’s Leila is to know Fati in a way. Nabila’s connection to her character is a genuine one since Leila is a direct depiction of the show’s creator, with whom, as she put it, she has had the luxury of being friends with since childhood.
“She’s a writer. She’s quirky. She’s unabashedly herself and she always has been,” she said of both the character and creator synonymously. “If I told you stories, I mean I could go on for days and most of it probably did make it to Brown Girls, but there’s so much more to where that came from.”
And as for Patricia, the yin to Leila’s yang, Sonia described her as just as relatable.
“She’s going through a lot of the same things many young women go through 'cause she just got out of a really serious relationship and is kind of trying to figure out her way from that," she explained.
Sonia also broke down what exactly it means to be sex positive. “I’ve gotten questions like, 'What does that mean?," she said. "'Like does she have a lot of sex?' And it could mean that, but it also means that you’re into consensual sex between two adults, whatever that looks like, as long as it’s healthy and no one is doing anything against their will.”
Their dynamic is endearing and in many episodes you’ll see the more headstrong Patricia protecting a wide-eyed Leila. To sum up their relationship, this is the type of feel-good friendship you’ve been waiting to see from two racially different but equally charismatic women onscreen.
Yes, the ladies are fans of Issa Rae’s hit HBO show, Insecure. Fati in particular is a huge fan.
“I love Insecure and I love Issa. Like I think she’s incredible. She’s a pioneer in the field of web series to TV show and I love watching Issa kind of take on the world, is just seeing her do it on her own terms like you know really tell stories that are important and that are not like main stream stories,” she gushes.
Their little web-series is also getting compared to the likes of another HBO show, Girls. Fati has repeatedly been asked if BG is a direct response to Girls. Well, she’s actually never even watched it, but has heard from disappointed friends who don’t consider the show to be at all inclusive.
“It’s a show that’s very white, and like very—you know, they're in New York and there’s never people of color. How can you live in New York and not have that?! In that sense, I absolutely think that the show was created as a response to shows like that—that erase women of color, black and brown. And that kind of devalues us. Like we’re not interesting, super full, and rich characters,” she proclaims.
Sonia, who enjoys watching Girls, has similar feelings, “There are a lot of scenes where I see Lena [Dunham] and her friends in situations where I’m like if I went there it would be completely different for me just because of my color or even like the socio-economic status.”
When it comes to BG, their overall goal is for their audience to just feel represented while serving up some laughs (and maybe some tears). But even if you aren’t a person of color or a woman, the show's situations hit across the board.
The Future Is Female (and Brown)
While chatting with the ladies, Fati confirmed that she’s already writing season 2 of Brown Girls, to which Sonia and Nabila let out simultaneous shrieks of joy. Apparently, this was something previously mentioned to them during a cast party that involved a lot of drinks, so the excitement is rehashed all over again. The entire scenario seems like inspiration for a future episode, speaking to the show’s authentic nature. When asked if getting picked up by a network would be a dream come true, Fati’s response was, “You know, we don’t want to lose a lot of creative control over the show. We want the show to be our vision still but it would be amazing if it was picked up by a network so that more people could see it.”
In addition to all the brown girl magic, she promises outrageously hilarious scenes that make the whole dirty butt quip seem very PG. “That’s like the clean version of some of the stuff that ends up happening.” With more shameless comedies taking over the silver screen, a big network deal could be on the horizon sooner than they think.
Season 1 of Brown Girls is available to stream on Wednesday, February 15, on Open TV.
(Photos from top: Brown Girls, Megan Lee Miller)