Tracy Oliver (‘Harlem’ showrunner) on her show’s ‘magic’ casting, in which we see ‘the full breadth of black beauty’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“What’s the New York that I lived in and that I loved? It’s Harlem,” declares creator and showrunner Tracy Oliver about naming her Amazon comedy after the place she loves so dearly. “It just had such a cultural impact for me. The style, the music, the people, everything about it has a rich history. And so when you say you live in Harlem or you’re from Harlem and if you just say the word Harlem in New York, it has like a connotation to it that just gives a lot of people joy,” she explains, adding for our recent Q&A, “and so, I couldn’t think of another word that really captured the essence of the show more than using the city itself.”

We talked with Oliver as part of Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022 Emmy Awards contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

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“Harlem,” which Oliver created and executive produces, centers on four girlfriends in their thirties (stars Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai and Jerrie Johnson), exploring the ups and downs of love, life and the pursuit of happiness. The Amazon comedy is a poignant and sharply written contemplation of how personal and professional relationships, careers, culture and the occasional existential crisis shape us as we in make our way in the world.

Good plays the central character Camille, who wants to win over her faculty boss Dr. Elise Pruitt (Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg), while also struggling with complicated feelings for her ex (Tyler Lepley), who is engaged to someone else. The freshman comedy has scored an impressive 95% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with the site’s critical consensus noting that the series “is a delight that is often wise about friendly foibles, aided by a terrific cast whose snappy repartee immediately shines.”

“In ensemble comedies, the casting is everything,” Oliver says. “You just have to nail the chemistry between everybody,” she adds. “I saw that magic happen and I was like, ‘OK, I feel like we found every single person’ and what I also liked about them, and it wasn’t deliberate, but they all were different shapes and sizes and complexions. You got to see the full breadth of black beauty.”

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