Mark Doering-Powell interview: ‘Grown-ish’ cinematographer
The Freeform series “Grown-ish” doesn’t really do “special episodes,” but viewers of the “Black-ish” spinoff were treated to an unforgettable two-part episode in Season 4 about the aftermath of the police killing of an unarmed Black man.
Cinematographer Mark Doering-Powell – who shot both episodes and was nominated for an Emmy Award for the concluding 22 minutes, called “Put Your Hands Where Eyes Could See” – says the goal was to mix the typical “Grown-ish” visual style with more photojournalist techniques to capture scenes of protest and civil unrest.
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“The three times that you see protests are approached very differently,” Doering-Powell tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview during our Meet the Experts: Cinematographers panel. “The challenge is how do you make these fit into our world and I’m quite happy with how that turned out. But that was probably most of our discussion on on on this episode is how to how to make that fit and of course, knowing that it would be an entirely different tone for us.”
The episode opens with a campus protest that appears almost ethereal before being broken up by a police curfew. From there, the show’s main characters – including actress Yara Shahidi, who plays Zoey – split, with some continuing on to other protests while some simply go home and continue the conversation about racism in America.
“One thing I love about the show is that it’s not preachy,” Doering-Powell says, pointing out that after the initial protest breaks up, the characters are comfortable cracking jokes. The cinematographer, a four-time Emmy nominee including now twice for “Grown-ish,” also credits show executive producer and co-showrunner Jennifer Rice-Genzuk Henry, who directed the episode, for really finding the right balance.
“She is truly a visionary. She comes in, she has a bit of a lookbook that she shares with us, which really helps,” he says about working with Henry. “Jenny, no matter how much chaos is around her, she’s very calm. And she’s just very methodical in a way and just gets through it and finds the pieces that she needs. And she’s a great leader that way on set and I think also the cast loves her and I think they responded to her and gave their best. I think really being able to prep this with her and with the visual references that we discussed and try to not make it a very special episode, letting it fit into our world was really what made this work.”