The Internet is proving to be the new frontier for quality Black programming. With the success of Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl and shows like Brothers With No Game, Milk + Honey and others cropping up all over the web, there’s a new hope for re-defining how African-Americans are portrayed onscreen. This is due in large part to the young, gifted and talented Black writers, actors and directors taking their fate in their own hands and putting out quality scripted series online. Take Al Thompson for example: his new web series Lenox Avenue premiered this morning at LenoxAveSeries.com and he’s already garnering rave reviews from viewers on YouTube.
Thompson, a 30-something native New Yorker whom you may remember as Nick Cannon’s bully in Love Don’t Cost a Thing, not only stars in this grown and sexy webseries, but also wrote, directed and produced the project as well. His motto: “It’s time for more of us to become owners in the creative digital space.” Read on to find out more about the series, Thompson’s motivation and what you can expect from the upcoming nine episodes.
So, tell us, what is Lenox Avenue all about?
The show is about three friends living in the “New Harlem.” They’re guys doing their thing in the Obama generation — characters, you don’t often get to see. You know the type of guys that have good credit, that want to be in relationships or you know want to get married and have children. Unfortunately, its something that you don’t get to see depicted in TV and film and it should be because there are plenty of guys that exist like that but you don’t really get an opportunity to see that, especially with a multicultural cast.
Describe the three main characters.
Each of the guys are in different stages of their relationships. Dorian Missick’s (Southland) character has been with his lady for quite some time and is at the point where he’s trying to figure out the next steps in his relationship while competing with his girlfriend’s overbearing father. Then there’s Ryan Vigilante, who plays Vaughn, who is in a homie lover friend situation where he’s been unofficially seeing a woman that he’s also been friends with for years. Then some things happen that give him a bit of a wake up call. You know how some guys like to wait until the fourth quarter to make decisions. And my character Owen is that real attractive guy that has his stuff together in a financial sense but has this blind handicap when it comes to women. He doesn’t quite know what to say because he’s used to the ladies approaching and talking to him.
Harlem is a character in itself. What does the neighborhood contribute to the series as a whole?
Being born and raised in Harlem, I really wanted it to have its own series in a sense, especially with all the positive changes happening there. There’s a resurgence of Harlem being cool again and a place that’s hip, especially in light of all the young professionals living in Harlem. And although they’ve always been there, we’ve never really had an opportunity to hang out in Harlem until the last two or three years. So in addition to the episodes, the site will also include featurettes highlighting Harlem hotspots and locations where we shot the series.
What motivated you to release the series online?
It was really just the answer to how do you create interesting and compelling content that doesn’t exist on television or in film and what kind of elements are missing? Dealing with the web, you also have an immediate response. You can literally build your own audience with your own hands through social media, Facebook, Twitter and now Pinterest. And there are people who naturally want to see content like this but you have executives that feel like nobody wants to see this or think Black people don’t do this or that. And putting the show out there yourself online is a way to get your point across and take action and control of your career.
What are your thoughts on the future of TV since so many of us are tuning in to the web?
It’s an interesting and exciting time. We’re witnessing the the reinvention of television with the fusion of the computer and the TV. It allows more control as far as viewership is concerned and what the people want to actually see and want to be entertained by versus what is just promoted and pushed in front of them. The aspects of being able to watch things on demand, and again that immediate response factor allows you to find where the holes are immediately where people are responding and where they’re not. And there are people like myself, who embrace that and actually listen to the fans and communicate with them. It’s a big difference in watching a product of a big network and viewing the product of an individual that you can actually reach via Twitter.
Log on to LenoxAveSeries.com and take a peek at Thompson’s mature new series and let him know what you think by tweeting him @AlThompsonInc.
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