Every so often, when a new series is introduced, it is immediately compared to what people may consider to be the most related to that. This rings especially true for new sitcoms and comedies starring people of color. When NBC’s Grand Crew was first announced as a series surrounding the lives of a group of Black friends at a wine bar, there were so many comparisons to HBO’s Insecure and ABC’s Black-ish that it straight away was labeled as a “Black” show.
Creator and executive producer Phil Augusta Jackson, who worked on Insecure, just wanted to have a show that is inspired by his real life and not be compared to other series starring Black characters.
“It’s about a group of friends that hang out at a wine bar, and in real life, I hang out with my friends at a wine bar, the people that are in front of your screen right now,” said Jackson during the NBC TCA virtual event. “What I’m trying to do is just share my perspective, what I find interesting and funny. And, so, I think I based it on — that’s going to be what sets this show apart is just it’s coming from my personal point of view.”
Executive producer Dan Goor agrees and states there have been several series starring white characters that never were asked about what made these shows different or distinct.
“These are different stories about different people in different circumstances than Insecure or Black-ish,” Goor explained. “We all think those are good shows, but this is its own show that just also happens to have an all-Black cast.”
Echo Kellum, who stars as the romantic bachelor trying to find “the one,” said this is about a group of young professionals living in Los Angeles just trying to survive. “Phil wrote an amazing script and a lot of just really deep, fleshed-out characters in different ways than I’ve seen them, and I was very excited to get the opportunity to come and play any part on it. I would have been a grip on this show if I had an opportunity to do it. So that’s number one, but the character really connected to me in a lot of specific ways. As Phil said, it’s based [on] our friend group.”
The series itself is endearing and hilarious as the group of friends, who all convene at different wine bars in search for the “perfect” location. Each character has their own set of problems and have each other to fall back on in times of need. There’s the happily married guy Wyatt (Justin Cunningham), Noah’s upbeat sister Nicky (Nicole Byer), successful accountant Anthony (Aaron Jennings), Anthony’s roommate Sherm (Carl Tart), and new-to-the-crew divorcee Fay (Grasie Mercedes). Like many comedy series, there will be some tropes present like a bit where Black men don’t like crying in front of each other, but those kinds of moments don’t define the series.
Jackson sighed, “I feel like a lot of times there are certain tropes that get played out in the media with Black people, and we are put into a specific box where there’s an opportunity just to be shown as, like, slice-of-life, everyday folks that are just trying to figure stuff out, and so that’s why we — I think, with the characters that we have, whether it be Justin’s character — he’s playing Wyatt — like, a married guy, I would just like to see what it’s like for a married guy, who really enjoys his marriage, be in a friend group. And we’ve got a guy who is an accountant. I had a friend in college who was in finance and stuff like that. So, it’s really just about just humanizing the Black experience. And, again, I’m not trying to speak for everybody. I don’t think we are trying to speak for everybody with this show. It’s just, here’s a set of friends that exist in this specific part of Los Angeles, and, hey, they feel things just like everybody else. And that was, kind of, the goal, to go from there.”
That’s not to say that there will be some relatable Los Angeles stereotypes/tropes. In the first episode, Nicky reveals she ended a friendship because her friend moved to the westside — which is a real thing for Angelenos due to the horrible traffic conditions.
“Los Angeles is really the seventh member of [the group],” joked Tart.
Again, Goor pressed that the series will be relatable for not just people from L.A., but all over the country.
“It’s in the same way that I think of a show like Seinfeld or Friends, that are very New York-based, but can be enjoyed by everybody — what I’m saying is this show is as good as “Seinfeld” and Friends is what I’m saying,” joked Goor.
Jokes aside, Grand Crew holds its own without the multiple comparisons mentioned by many of the outlets present in the junket.
“This show has its own bones,” said Goor. “It doesn’t feel like the same kind of bar or the same kind of regulars showing up, but, obviously, it’s something we would be aware of and something we wouldn’t ever want to step on the toes of because it’s such a great show, which this show is better. It’s better than Friends, Seinfeld, and Cheers.”
“Dan, what are you doing?” Jackson questioned.
“Somebody is going to put that in their post and say, ‘This show is better than Friends, Cheers, and Seinfeld combined,” Goor teased. “And no one needs to know who said that.”
Jackson smiled and asked the group of press, “Whoever puts that in quotes, please put, ‘Dan, what are you doing?’ as my response.”
Grand Crew Special Preview premieres Tuesday on NBC 8pm / 7pm CT.