The network is definitely zigging while others are zagging. It’s debuting the show at 8 p.m. this Saturday. (”Finding Happy” will be available on the subscription-based Brown Sugar streaming app as well.)
“I grew up watching John Hughes movies like ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Pretty in Pink,’ ” said Kendra Jo, the showrunner and writer of all 10 episodes. “I really loved that era of storytelling. I really want to show Black people just being every day people, how we go to the store or church or work. We’ve suffered a lot in this country with Black trauma. Every time you turn around, oh my goodness, we need to laugh. I feel like that can be revolutionary.”
She hopes Yaz and her friends and family are relatable, that the situations she places them in connect with viewers. She wrote many of the characters based on her own circle of people she knows.
“Yaz is a Black woman who hasn’t found her magic yet,” Jo said. “There’s a lot of pressure to have Black Girl Magic. Some of us haven’t figured it out and that’s okay. She may not be hitting all her marks but she wants to. There’s something about her that’s endearing. She loves her family. She loves her cousin who is like her sister.”
At the same time, Yaz sees people on social media having kids and families and she feels despair. And at work, she wants to be a radio host but is stuck at a low-level job due to lack of confidence. She also has a tendency to worry too much about what other people think.
Simone, who has never been a lead in a series before, embodies her insecurities as well as her charming attributes. “She was our Black Lucille Ball,” Jo said. “She was great with the physical humor.”
Fellow producer Reesha Archibald noted that Simone, despite not being a trained actor, “dedicated everything of herself into that role. She always knew her lines. She executed flawlessly.”
And while “Finding Happy” might remind viewers of Issa Rae’s recently completed award-winning HBO comedy “Insecure,” Jo said “Finding Happy” is more multi-generational with meaty storylines set up for Yaz’s sassy sugar-loving aunt (Kim Coles of “Living Single” fame) and her overbearing mom (Angela Gibbs, daughter of sitcom legend Marla Gibbs).
Coles, in a separate interview, said she was thrilled to see a show with such a singular vision. “I love that one African American woman’s job was to create the entire arc of the show,” she said. “Each character came from her head and heart. It was fun and easy to do. She captured our quest to find the best version of ourselves so beautifully.”
Archibald was also involved with another successful Bounce TV show set in Atlanta “Johnson,” which debuted last year and focuses on four 30-something Black male friends trying to figure out their lives. That show aired its second season over the summer and has generated solid ratings for Bounce.
“Hopefully, ‘Finding Happy’ will encourage people to build courage to walk away from situations that don’t serve them well,” Archibald said.
IF YOU WATCH
Debuts 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, on Bounce TV and available the next day on the Brown Sugar streaming platform.