Editor’s Note: Contributing Writer Fawn Stone recently sat down with Jeanine Daniels, the co-founder of Black & Sexy TV, an online television network, for an interview. Here is a portion of that interview. The complete interview can be found at www.wavenewspapers.com.
Stone: For those who may not know, tell us what Black & Sexy TV is and what all the buzz is about.
Daniels: Well Black & Sexy TV is an online network where we’re basically creating images that we want to see of ourselves. Dennis Dorch, the chief founder of the network, created a movie called “Good Day to Be Black & Sexy” and after the movie was over he didn’t want it to end there. He wanted to continue the brand after he had garnered such a large audience.
And I met up with him and he told me he had this dream of creating a network called Black & Sexy TV and I immediately just jumped on. I was all for it, I loved the idea. As a storyteller and as a woman of color who is not used to seeing positive images of herself on TV, I was just completely excited about the idea. And that is what we are basically doing. Dennis, Numa, Brian and I, and all of the people who help us out, are basically creating what we want to see and telling our stories. Even though it’s called Black & Sexy TV, it’s not just about us being black, its about regular people doing regular things, and we just so happen to be black.
Stone: One of Black & Sexy TV’s hottest shows, “The Couple,” is in a development deal with HBO. How did that come about and did you ever dream that HBO would want to collaborate with you guys?
Daniels: Well it’s a funny story. When I originally created “The Couple,” I was living in the story I was writing about. I was just writing down all these little anecdotes about what happened to me when my boyfriend and I were living together and then I pitched the idea to co-creators and they were like let’s do it. So we shot it because it was fun and we thought it was a great idea and it made sense and it was relatable and we weren’t really waiting for anyone, anymore. At this point, we were just green lighting our own projects because we don’t have time to wait for people to say yes or no. We don’t want this or go through this long snail of a development trail. Let’s just do it ourselves. And so we did it. And when the executive of HBO contacted us, we were just ecstatic. They’re so great and they let us have so much autonomy and control over our project, it’s wonderful.
Stone: So you are a director, producer, actor, writer and manager. How do you do it all?
Daniels: Um, I don’t know. Well, I have a great team behind me at Black & Sexy TV and I have my own company Nine 27 Entertainment. There’s just great people behind me and if it were for those people helping me and pushing me and just being there with me in the trenches, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it all. But at Black & Sexy TV, my partners are amazing. They push me in ways I couldn’t even imagine and sometimes I fought it, but they told me you need to get out and produce, you need to act, direct. At first I was like oh no, but they kept pushing me and that prompted me to do better in every aspect. At Nine 27, when I started that company, I was really nervous because I was venturing into things that I kind of knew about but didn’t necessarily have the full range of knowledge, but my team was like let’s just do it!
Stone: Speaking of your company Nine 27, what inspired you branch out on your own?
Daniels: Well, I’ve always been an independent person and I’ve always wanted to do a lot of things. I like having my hands in a lot of pockets. It probably comes from me being a producer. But most of the time, I garnish street knowledge and book smarts and put them all together and you just become a jack of all trades, which gives me the ability to do so many things at once and as someone who is a creator, I never just want to do just one thing. I have to have my hand in multiple pots or else I just feel stuck.
Stone: What kind of upcoming projects can we expect from Nine 27 Entertainment?
Daniels: Well I love creating and I love storytelling and that’s always going to be my number one love. So I definitely want to create more projects other than based on things that I know. I love writing on things that I know. It’s a great way to get out all of the pain and heartbreak. I also want to branch into other projects that may not necessarily suit Black & Sexy TV, like sci-fi stuff. I’m a big sci-fi person at heart. And there’s also the music management that I do, and now that I’m managing artists that’s not something I would be able to do at Black & Sexy but I know I could do if I started my own entity. The artists that I’ve been working with came from a lot of music I’ve used. And they saw my hustle and grind and came to me saying I know you started this company and I heard you’re looking for people who want to work with you and I was like come on let’s do it.
Stone: There are nine African-American major studio films that came out last year. What does that say about the industry and where it’s headed, and the opportunities that are out there for black actors and filmmakers?
Daniels: I feel like Hollywood is taking note. They’re clearly watching and they’ve been watching for a really long time. They may not have acted on that but they have been watching for a really long time and the African-American audience is very loyal. Once you give them a product they want they will continue to watch it. And I think for a really long time, a lot of Hollywood wasn’t sure if we could continue to support our product and buy into it and support the market. But now they see that we will. I think now they are like, let’s get better writers, let’s get better directors, actors and tap into this market and see what we can do.
Stone: What do you enjoy more: Being in front of the camera as an actor or behind the scenes?
Daniels: Behind. I only go in front as a necessity.
Stone: What has your experience been as a black actor, producer, director in the entertainment industry?
Daniels: So far my experience has been very good. I have been well received, my projects have been well received but it all comes with an audience who’s hungry for this kind of content. So our competition is not that high because there isn’t a lot of great, great content out there and people who do produce it don’t have people who can find it. So our word of mouth has helped us propel further just because people like our content and talk about it. So our experience has been positive. Every now and then you get some haters.
Stone: You’re doing a wonderful job, along with your co-founders, creating good, quality content but what do you say about the shows that don’t exist anymore? The Cosby’s, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, where is this positive content and how can we get more of it on TV?
Daniels: That’s a good question and I honestly don’t know the answer. I don’t know why after successful shows like that, they would just say let’s not do it anymore. All I know it is up to us now, this generation, to put our foot down and just create it ourselves. And we’re not the only ones doing it. There are a lot of people out there taking that role on themselves and saying I’m going to create my own content. There are even actors who can’t get work who decide I’m going to produce my own stuff so I can work. So everyone is just kind of coming to this idea of let’s create it ourselves and as long as people start on that road, we will have content again. And then we will flourish on the air waves or the Internet or wherever. Media is changing constantly. Whether is Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, they are all producing their own original content as well. And its networks like HBO who are ready to take that risk and say hey, there is always an audience that will watch our content, let’s just start to feed them.
Stone: What advice would you give to an upcoming black actor or filmmaker?
Daniels: Take everything with a grain of salt. Not everyone is your friend and as long as you have a vision you have to keep going. Sometimes you have a vision in mind for a project and you really hope that everyone around you is supportive and they’re not and you have to slide that off and keep going. If anyone I know who had a project took to heart what someone said and the negativity, we wouldn’t have any projects. So that’s my advice. If you have a vision, just keep going.
Stone: Tell us when and where can we catch all of the shows on Black & Sexy TV?
Daniels: You can catch everything we do, at any given time at BlackandSexy.tv or you can go to YouTube and type in Black & Sexy TV, or if you Google us, you will find us.