Emmy-nominated web series Tough Love starts with the real-life love of its creators, Caleb Davis and Roni Simpson (a.k.a. the soon-to-be Davis). Their show, which is in its second season now, follows six 20-somethings, all with different backgrounds, trying to survive New York, and thus unfolds the drama centered around friends, careers and relationships.
Tough Love stands alone as the only all-Black series in the category for Outstanding Digital Daytime Drama Series nominated for the 44th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, and that in itself is worth talking about. But after BET.com chopped it up with Caleb and Roni, who are tying the knot in June, about the well-deserved honor, we realized that the story behind the lens deserved equal shine.
On their inspiration for creating Tough Love…
“Initial inspiration came from an Instagram I started called @BlackLoveExists, created to highlight Black couples. I was getting lots of followers on there, and when I reached about 10,000 I was like, lets create a series for these followers so that they could see more Black couples on screen. We had already been wanting to create something similar to the old Black classics like Love Jones, The Wood, The Best Man, but ours ended up having a lot more drama as I began writing,” explains writer/producer Roni.
“We’re originally from Los Angeles, and as a filmmaker, Caleb had been wanting to film New York City because it just has such beautiful backdrops. So we just came together with his filming, and knowledge and skills, and my writing, and just did it independently.”
On the difference between finding love in Los Angeles vs. New York…
“We’ve been together for like six years now, so just hearing different family members' and friends' relationship situations, and I would say the main difference between dating in New York and Los Angeles is that our friends actually go on dates in New York. There’s a lot of just casual dating. In LA, it takes forever to even get asked on a date. I think the dating scene is a little more consistent here. But as far as finding love, and actually finding that person, I think it’s probably equally as difficult [laughs],” says Roni.
On working with your significant other…
“When I comes working with Roni on set as my fiancé, I personally think it’s, it’s healthy. And I also recommend to a lot of my friends that are in relationships, to find some type of project to work on together. You know, just put together both of your skills and see what you can create. But I think it’s healthy because it puts you guys in a situation where, number one, you guys are both passionate. You have to do teamwork, and you learn about each other really quick when it comes to emotions because emotions are going to be really high. You get to see the good and the bad and the ugly right away. But you guys figure out how to push forward as you would push forward when things arise in the relationship. You also find a new level of happiness between the two,” says director/producer Caleb.
Their advice to other couples who are creatives and want to work together…
“Compromise. A lot of the things that apply to us when we’re working on projects together just apply in our relationship in general. It’s always like a give and take. A lot of times when we’re on set together, I’ll feel really strongly about something and he may feel the opposite but sometimes he has to just give a little, and vice versa. Also, letting the other person control their own lane. They’ll be times where I’ll jump in on set, he’s the director, but I’ll jump in and start directing the cast. And there’s times when I’m writing the script, or he’ll be on set with my script trying to eliminate lines, and I’m like, ‘No! We need to keep those lines.’ And if we have an issue, push each other to the side and just compromise. Because we’re both very passionate about our work, but we both just want the best for the show,” says Roni.
On art imitating life…
“I don’t want to give any spoilers away as far as the actors in the show getting married and engaged, but we definitely want to explore that area because that’s like the next level. Our goal is to actually show these, these relationships mature, but we don’t want to pinpoint who may or may not get married just yet,” Caleb explains.
(Photo from top: Brian Harris)
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