Originally filed Tuesday, July 10, 2018 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
To be honest, I never followed or watched “Hit the Floor” when it was on VH1. I barely noticed when the network abandoned scripted programming a couple of years ago and sister Viacom cable network BET picked it up.
But BET brought many of the cast members to Atlanta last week and aired some teaser moments from the upcoming fourth season at Regal Atlantic Station for its hardcore fans. The original VH1 incarnation drew solid ratings, at least the first two seasons.
The soapy, sexy drama focuses on a fictional dance team attached to a professional Los Angeles basketball franchise. James La Rosa, the show’s creator, said this was his first-ever trip to Atlanta. I sat down with him after a panel discussion. He promises the eight-episode season will be more of the same, though perhaps even a little steamier since it will air later at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, starting July 10. (And Dean Cain fans? He’s back, too.)
Here are excerpts from our talk:
AJC: So why are you doing this screening in Atlanta?
La Rosa: On Instagram, they give you metrics. Who follows what in what cities, gender, age. My biggest cities are New York, L.A. and Atlanta. I’m so excited because we don’t get a chance to see our fans like this.
AJC: They asked some really great questions during the Q&A.
La Rosa: Totally lovely. And the love goes both ways. They see that. A lot of them are part of the [Derek] Roman Sister Wives!
AJC: What happened at VH1?
La Rosa: We’ve had an interesting journey. First season, every episode went up in ratings except one. Second season we did even better. Then the network changed direction. We were never canceled. Nobody ever said that. We were waiting in 2016. Then our option lapsed. A month or two later, BET picked us up. By then, we had destroyed all the sets, given all the wardrobe to charity.
AJC: Did BET want to change anything to the show?
La Rosa: What was very cool about their approach was, ‘We don’t want you to be anything but who you are and what the fans love. They’ve always loved the show themselves. We’re bringing a new kind of storytelling to BET. I don’t know if they’ve mined this type of drama so much to this point, which is exciting and fun.
AJC: BET has a heavily female audience. Do you think they’ll respond well to this show?
La Rosa: Yes! It’s an all-female writing staff except for me. and completely directed by women season one. I know this sounds cheesy since every show says this but we are family in terms that we love each other. To work on a show about sex and sports is fun. Most of the staff are returnees. In my writers’ room, everyone is respected. Everybody listens. There are no cliques. Nobody meets behind closed doors to bitch. The stuff that is said in there is so raw and real. I saw so much support in the room in a way I didn’t in a mixed or all-male room where you’re trained to eat what you kill. Everyone was gracious and lovely and put together some killer stories.
AJC: You had 10 episodes per season on VH1, only eight here. How does that impact the story arcs?
La Rosa: There is no fat... When you see the final moment of the season, it’s nuts. I pride myself that the show can make you say, ‘Holy s***!’ Every episode has a cliffhanger, even before every commercial break. It takes a lot to keep my attention. I need this show to go from dance to sports to sex to romance to drama to comedy.
AJC: You lost a couple of regulars along the way [Taylour Page and Adam Senn].
La Rosa: We wanted them all back but those actors chose to do other things. None of the others who stayed took a pay cut. I wanted to reward those who came back. They make up more than half the cast. I wanted to make sure I gave great stories to McKinley Freeman, Logan Browning and Katherine Bailess as a thank you.
AJC: You were able to add four more cast members including this guy from Atlanta Cort King.
La Rosa: He’s a sweetheart. He has a soul. He’s a big team players. The cast adores him. He plays Pax, this rookie. He is someone who you could say is the innocent coming into Devils’ Arena. It’s basically purgatory for everyone’s soul. How do you get through the gauntlet? People transform either in a great way or a hideous way. Pax sees the baller life. It’s big and loud with lots of women. You could crash and burn fast.
AJC: What else can you tease about the upcoming season?
La Rosa: We really had an opportunity to go, ‘Okay we need a new baller. How do we see him interact in this world?’ We also had a whole other world with our Inside Sports Network. This is our version of ESPN with its own set. For Lionel [Jodi Lyn O'Keefe], this is her domain. She snagged it from Oscar [Don Stark] and gets to be the boss bitch again. We get this awesome new reporter played by Kristian Kordula. Cool energy. These characters are my dolls and I play with them in different ways. How can I screw this person’s life up even more? We have this writers room with all these women thinking, ‘What kind of psychological trauma can I inflict?’ There’s a sadistic side of me that likes to mess Jelena [Logan’s character] up. What can I do to Derek? I even appear in a few episodes. He’s a reporter who knows a lot of secrets. He’s useful for people to do some digging and cause trouble. I’m a vault of everybody’s sin!
AJC: Do you already have future seasons planned out if BET renews the show?
La Rosa: I have five, six and seven in my head. BET has been phenomenal. We’ve created certain storylines that have not been their bread and butter. This show will be groundbreaking for BET. We’re telling stories in a way that is very inclusive. We’re not being preachy. Gay people are hooking up like everyone else. It’s normalized.
I also spoke with Cort King, a Salem High School graduate from Conyers who had played basketball competitively in high school. He worked for a bit in Atlanta doing theater and commercials, then went to Hollywood four years ago. This is his first regular role in a TV series. In preparation for the role, he added 15 pounds of muscle, knowing he’d have to shed his shirt a time or two. He had no compunction doing so. He loves the complexity of his character. “He wears his heart on his sleeve,” King said.
“Hit the Floor,” returns for season four on Tuesday, July 10 on BET