Written by | Ray Cornelius
A number of Atlanta tastemakers recently gathered for a private screening of BET’s new feature film, turned one-hour series Being Mary Jane. The event was held on Saturday, June 8 at the W Hotel in Midtown Atlanta and featured a very lively talk-back session with the series’ producer and writer, Mara Brock Akil.
Akil is best known for her work as creator and executive producer of the hugely popular series Girlfriends and the even bigger hit spin-off, The Game. She is also one-half of the successful producing team that brought us the hit romantic comedy, Jumping the Broom and the remake of the “Supremes-inspired” cult classic, Sparkle.
Now Akil is teaming up with BET again for a brand new female-anthemed series entitled Being Mary Jane that features Gabrielle Union as the title character. Originally titled, Single Black Female, Being Mary Jane focuses on the life of successful talk show host Mary Jane Paul as she juggles her professional and private family life and her endless search for Mr. Right.
After viewing the film, which was very well received by all the attendees, Akil talked to moderator Kelly Carter about what inspired her to create the show. Akil also expressed her sincere desire for the series to spark dialogue amongst other African-American women regarding issues of relationships, career, love and acceptance.
“There was something eventually around the 5th or 6th season of my show, Girlfriends that I was feeling was not completely true. I thought it was getting false that these four women would get together in a restaurant for every meal of their lives and share everything. That’s not true,” says Akil. “There are so many things that I don’t share with my girlfriends because you also don’t want them to tell you the truth. Because then you have to deal with the truth and a lot of times we are not ready to deal with it. If you notice in the film, the girl who sells Mary Jane the shoes knows more about her life than Mary Jane’s best friend, the doctor. But yet you have to come back to that best friend when you have problems. So I wanted to express things in a way that I think is true.”
Later, Akil went on to explain, “I also wanted to talk about the way we as women are affected by society, particularly Black women, and how we have to become liars about who we are. We don’t have the freedom to be who we are because we are constantly being judged and we (African-Americans) are judging ourselves the most. So we are living a life of lies and I kind of wanted to have a conversation about it. In addition, I wanted to create a platform to discuss what is happening to middle class America and why we are two paychecks away from poverty. I also wanted to address the complicated nature of love.”
Being Mary Jane will debut on July 2 at 10:30 p.m. on BET as a feature film and then return to the network in early 2014 as a regular series. Both the film and the series feature an all-star cast of supporting players including Omari Hardwick, Tika Sumpter, Latarsha Rose and acting veterans Margaret Avery and Richard Roundtree.
Check out some photos below from the screening including pics of yours truly along with a few ATL reality-stars, bloggers and City of Atlanta representatives:
Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta’s DJ Traci Steele and Mara Brock Akil with college friend Alvelyn Sanders
Reality-stars Victor Jacskon, Derek J with Nascar driver Nicole Lyons and UPSCALE’s Satchel Jester
The Kandi Factory’s Kwame Waters and RC with Stacii Jae Johnson of Black Girls Radio
City of Atlanta’s Tkeban Jahannes and CAU Professor Ken Capers
WXIA TV Anchor Karyn Greer and UPTOWN’s Ronda Penrice
RC with fellow ATL Blogger ‘Talking with Tami’
RC with actress Noree Victoria from TV One’s The Rickey Smiley Show
Click here to see the latest trailer for Being Mary Jane !
Photography Credit/Megan Alodie Photography