Tracy Oliver on ‘Harlem’: ‘Writing the show I wanted to see’

Harlem is a fun show looking at four 30-somethings in the historical Black neighbourhood negotiate love and careers (not so much labels). “A few years ago, I was looking at what was on television, and thinking to myself that I did not see myself and my group of friends there,” says creator Tracy Oliver over video call from New York, USA.

Also Read | Get ‘First Day First Show’, our weekly newsletter from the world of cinema, in your inbox. You can subscribe for free here

“I thought to myself, I can either complain about it, or sit down at my laptop and write the show I want to see.” Oliver did just that and sent the script to her team who loved it but could not quite figure out who in the marketplace would buy it.

The idea just sat on Oliver’s laptop till Girls Trip came out. The 2017 comedy starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith was a critical and commercial success. “Suddenly, there was proof that stories about friendship between women of colour could be marketable.” Oliver said the movie proved these stories were accessible to a wide group of people and not just a niche audience. “That is when I revisited the script and it became a project.”

Fab four

The four friends in Harlem are anthropology professor at Columbia University, Camille (Megan Good), hopeless romantic and fashion designer Quinn (Grace Byers), genius app developer Tye (Jerrie Johnson) and aspiring singer Angie (Shoniqua Shandai). In addition, Whoopi Goldberg plays Camille’s boss, Elise Pruitt.

Tracy Oliver on ‘Harlem’: ‘Writing the show I wanted to see’

Oliver met all the cast individually. Singling out Megan Good as the most surprising casting, Oliver admits initially not seeing her as Camille. “She will say this too, as she has never taken on a role like this. When we sat down in person, I thought, ‘she is kind of quirky’. I thought there could be something there. And then, I kid you not, I asked her if she would be willing to do her hair like Camille so that Amazon could see it. And she did! It took eight to 11 hours to do her hair like Camille’s and she did it just so Amazon could see her as the character. I have never seen someone be that dedicated to get a part.”

She’s got the look

Working with costume designer Deirdra E. Govan helped her figure out the palate for the show, says Oliver. “The two of us sat down and made mood and inspiration boards for each of the characters.” While admitting that Govan had more incredible ideas than her, Oliver says, “We definitely wanted to make sure the colour palette was bright and bold. That is something that everybody has noticed about the show so far. It was deliberate. I felt like we wanted to put colour everywhere, including the posters. While being true to each character’s individual style, they would still have a bright, bold colour that you see throughout the show.”

Harlem is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 1:18:44 PM |

Next Story