For “A Black Lady Sketch Show” director and producer Dime Davis, “we didn’t really set out to be an Emmy-nominated show. We just set out to do something that had never been done before, and I think that was our focus.” The HBO series nevertheless did earn three nominations, and Davis herself has two of them: Best Variety Sketch Series and Best Variety Series Directing. This is the first time Black women have ever been nominated in those categories (the show’s third nom is for guest star Angela Bassett). Watch our exclusive video interview with Davis above.
Setting that precedent with her nominations “is really incredible, but I feel like it’s so bittersweet,” she adds. “There’s a little sting with the honey if that makes sense.” Indeed, breaking that color and gender barrier highlights how few opportunities there have historically been for Black women in the industry, and how rare it still is. “Working on the show, it was literally the most freeing experience I’ve ever had because I’m working with my peers,” she explains. “I’m working with people who understand what we’re doing, not only on a creative level but on a historic and cultural level.”
In the directing category, she’s nominated specifically for her work on “Born at Night, But Not Last Night,” the season one finale. “It has a couple of my favorite sketches in it,” she says. That includes “Courtroom Kiki,” in which Black women are thrilled to be arguing a case with and against other Black women during a small claims lawsuit. Davis considers that segment “quintessential of the magic of the show.”
And the episode also shows Davis’s versatility behind the camera as it also includes the sketch “Get the Belt,” in which an obedient daughter tries not to get on her mother’s last nerve while sports commentators give the play-by-play. In “Courtroom,” she and the creative team “wanted to pull from stuff we knew like ‘Judge Judy'” with their visual style, while “Get the Belt” was “much more cinematic … To be able to put all this magic into this one show and particularly this one episode, I thought it was a really good way to show off the hard work the we put in.”
Woven through all six episodes of the first season are sketches in which core cast members Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Quinta Brunson and Gabrielle Dennis gather in a secure house while the literal apocalypse rages outside. “Of everything, those are the most grounded pieces,” says Davis. “In those, it was really all narrative, it was really about storytelling, and it was really about the emotions of like, holy shit, the world is gone! … Of course we didn’t know we were foreshadowing what’s happening now,” but despite that eerie life-imitates-art aspect of it, “those felt like home for me.”
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