Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams took a break from talking about education, health care and taxes Wednesday night to discuss romance novels, "Supernatural" and Maxine Shaw.
Actress Erika Alexander, who played attorney Maxine on Fox sitcom "Living Single" in the 1990s, spent 30 minutes with Abrams Monday night at Moonshine Post Production as part of Alexander's campaign to nurture and find creative talent for her production company Color Farm Media.
Abrams, in an interview afterwards, was all fan girl about Alexander’s strong-willed character.
“Maxine Shaw was the epitome of confidence, of grace and being the whole of yourself,” Abrams said. “Plus, the comedic timing of the actor. I went to a performing arts high school so I appreciated both the character and the action.”
She added, “There’s a scene where Maxine has to jump on a coffee table in the midst of a rant with the character Overton. The fact she could do the physicality, the humor and deliver those staccato lines all at once. That’s a consummate actor.”
Alexander, who was in earshot, said, “That makes me blush.”
“Living Single,” Abrams added, “understood the universality of African-American characters and the human experience but also had a very specific take that to me is exactly what we need at this moment. We can all have the conversation even if we don’t look the same. They were doing that in the mid-1990s when that was not the norm.”
Earlier, during her talk with Alexander, Abrams laid out some of her favorite shows, which were an eclectic mix. “I watch a lot of television,” she admitted, noting she gets by on four hours of sleep a night.
She cited "Star Trek Voyager" (1995-2001). Then she said NBC's "The Good Place," a comedy entering its third season. ("So funny, so smart.") She is currently binge watching back seasons of "Supernatural," having gotten into the CW's longest-running drama three years ago. (She is #TeamDean.) And she brought up a TNT Robin Hood-style show starring Timothy Hutton called "Leverage" (2008-2012). Later, she also name-dropped ABC's "Black-ish," starring Tracee Ellis Ross, who campaigned with her in May.
Abrams repeated her undivided support of the film and TV tax credits that have attracted hundreds of productions to the state of Georgia since they were enacted ten years ago.
She admitted she was skeptical of the credits at first. She was new in the House at the time. “It had to actually create jobs and opportunities,” she said.
So far, she said, that has come true as new studios and related businesses have built up in the state. She noted how Georgia has also developed a reputation from the folks in Hollywood as a good place to work. At the same time, she said she also wants the creative community in Georgia itself to take advantage of the credits, for more Tyler Perry’s out there to thrive.
Abrams, whose current book “Minority Leader” is an autobiographical introduction to her, used to be a romance novelist under the pen name Selena Montgomery back in the 2000s.
She originally offered up a spy novel but publishers “did not believe women read spy novels,” she told the audience. “They didn’t think men would read spy novels by or about a woman. Very few publishers were willing to publish novels with African American women as lead characters.”
So she adjusted and adapted for the environment. “I made my spies fall in love,” she said. “I was able to market it as a romance... Even though purity of our idea lays in our minds, sometimes reality has to bend to public will. That doesn’t mean you don’t get to do what you wan to do. It just means you have to delay the perfect thing immediately. That can be hard.”
She signed a terrible royalty agreement up front with her first publisher, out of ignorance. “You have to understand the business of my art,” she said, “as much as the artistry of my art.” By the time she got to HarperCollins, she said she had a decent deal.
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.