Cedric the Entertainer stars in the new TV Land hit, “Soul Man,” which premiered as the second-highest rated premiere on the newly rebranded network. In it, he plays Boyce “The Voice” Ballentine, an R&B superstar (most famous for his hit song “I Wanna Have Sex With You”) turned preacher. The series revolves around Boyce accepting his new calling, his new job as pastor of his father’s old church and his family’s reluctance to give up the rock star life for proper church family duties.
I’ve had the opportunity to watch a few episodes and it’s pretty solid. I’ve criticized Reed Between the Lines for being too stiff and Let’s Stay Together for trying too hard, but I think the writing staff on Soul Man has tapped into a formula that works. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and really leans on Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash’s (who plays his wife, Lolli) innate comedic timing and nuance to pull off some of the jokes. I could do without the laugh track but hey, I won’t nit-pick too much.
Recently BMWK got a chance to sit down with the stars of Soul Man. Along with Cedric and Niecy, we were able to hear from John Beasley (who portrays Boyce’s father), Jazz Raycole (who plays Boyce and Lolli’s feisty teenage daughter, Lyric), Wesley Jonathan (the wise-cracking younger brother, Stamps), as well as director Stan Lathan and executive producer and Cedric’s longtime business partner Eric Rhone. Read what they had to say about their new hit show:
On the development of the show:
Cedric: I liked what TV Land was doing, which was traditional TV sitcoms. For me, coming from a world of stand-up and from my introduction to television with The Steve Harvey Show, it was something I identified with and something that I really wanted to do.
I liked the idea of exploring things that reflect our community. We introduced the character [Boyce the Voice] on Hot in Cleveland and from there we started to develop the show. We wanted to show this man was married, that he was a family man.
However, when you get a calling, it doesn’t mean that everyone is down for the changes. We wanted to depict a real family that’s going through these transitions. We are people who are loving each other, trying to get better and grow.
On selecting Niecy Nash as wife “Lolli”:
Cedric: You needed to have someone who felt real to people. I wanted an actress who represents natural beauty but is glamorous in a TV way. She was already well loved; it was just an ideal choice.
On working on the show:
Niecy Nash: I love my job. Who doesn’t want to be gainfully employed? But coming to work every day is a gift. I enjoy my TV family. It’s amazing working with Cedric. I say all the time that I got a husband, an ex-husband and a TV husband””I have more husbands than you can shake a stick at. My first husband was a pastor. So I’m very familiar with my character.
When people talk about the show, I love the comments like, “I watched with my kids.” We haven’t had “appointment TV” around a predominately black cast in such a long time.
John Beasley: I love coming to work; I’m usually here two hours early. When I walked into the room, I had all the confidence that I would walk away as the father of the show. Our director, Stan Lathan, who I trust explicitly, is a real treat.
Wesley Jonathan: Everyone knows Stamps is a fool. He only makes sense to himself. I really had no idea what Cedric and the network were looking for. I just used my instinct to figure out what he should be like.
Jazz Raycole: Lyric is the typical teenager and I love the dynamic of her going from a rockstar kid to being in a Christian family. The writing was unique and funny. I’d have to echo everyone else and say that I love coming to work. We have an incredible cast.
On the creative process:
Stan Lathan: Over the past several years, I’ve seen a rise of African American comedies that aren’t positive. I could complain about it, but I knew if the opportunity came, I could do something to turn that tide. We go for the funny, but we want to walk away from each show with as much of an uplifting effect as possible. We seem to be pretty successful at that.
Eric Rhone: There’s not a lot of African Americans who are executive producers in this business; we really need more. If you film a pilot and it doesn’t test well, it won’t even get out to the public. But TV Land gave us a pilot and 11 episodes. We have to have more of our faces in the rooms when these business decisions are being made. We need to show that there is value in African American programming and in African American movies. We have to get people behind the scenes.
Do you see Soul Man as being the new Cosby Show?
Cedric: Early on we started to get some of those comparisons. I have no problem with that, especially if I can end up with Cosby’s money. (Laughs). The Cosby Show was appointment television. When you think of a show that’s been removed from TV almost 20 years, and people still use it as a benchmark, that’s incredible.
To Niecy: What’s it like working on this sitcom versus Reno 911 or Clean House?
Niecy Nash: Clean House was hosting, Reno 911 was an improv show, and Soul Man is a traditional sitcom and I love them all equally because Mama loves working. I completely understand Lolli and I understand her look. I get it because I lived it.
Are you interested in representing African Americans or as a representation of American life as a whole?
Niecy Nash: Most of the black women who look like me are very mean on TV right now. The brown girls are getting a bad rap. I’m happy to give viewers another option.
How do we change it so youth embrace some of the more positive shows that are airing now?
Eric Rhone: I think it’s room for all types of shows. This reminds me when gangsta rap came out and how it was negative toward women and you see how rap has evolved [to include different styles]. I think it’s the same thing with TV. It will evolve. In 10 years, we will be talking about a new genre [other than reality TV]. We have to continue to do what we do and do it well.
At BMWK we’re primarily focused on positive images of black love and marriage and Soul Man certainly qualifies. Do you feel any pressure to provide that image of a loving couple, particularly since we don’t see it that often or is it something that just happened organically with the show?
Niecy Nash: I asked Cedric, “What kind of husband and wife do you want to show? What do you want to depict here?” Because in so many sitcoms they’re the butt of each other’s jokes. It’s kind of contentious. I’m in love with love. I want to show a woman who loves her husband and a husband who loves his wife. I’m happy that our kids get to see people who look like them loving each other. I’m excited to be a loving wife both on and off-screen.
Cedric: It was loosely based off my own relationship. My wife and I have been together a long time and we are loving toward each other. I definitely didn’t feel any pressure, but I thought it was necessary to represent that image. It would take real good acting to pretend like we don’t like each other. It’s easier to show that joy.
BMWK family have you checked out the new show Soul Man on TV Land? What do you think? If not will you give it a try now?