During my recent press junket to LA for the Thor: Ragnarok premiere I had the chance to stop into the ABC Channel building to meet with Bernard David Jones and Marcel Spears of The Mayor. The series stars Brandon Micheal Hall as Courtney Rose, Lea Michele as Valentina Barella, Bernard David Jones as Jermaine Leforge, Marcel Spears as T.K. Clifton and Yvette Nicole Brown as Dina Rose.
Catch it on ABC Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m./ 8:30 central #TheMayor
During my time at ABC, I was able to screen “The Filibuster” episode in which Courtney makes his first mayoral appearance at his old elementary school. Here he finds out that the music program is being cut and tries to veto the decision. Courtney being less than prepared for this mission gets schooled by Val on how to work the system so he can get the funding for the program.
My Take on the Show
The Mayor is an energetic and funny approach to local politics. It touches on real-life issues from a modern perspective. The entire cast is bound to make you laugh but also send a positive message to viewers about what’s important in today’s political landscape.
In our roundtable interview, there were many questions. With regard to the writing, we discussed what it’s like to work on a political show, addressing inequality in lower-income communities and staying family oriented. On character development we talked about Courtney’s character and his backstory, and whether or not Val and Courtney would ever hook up. We also learned about where you can find Courtney’s music and what it’s like working with comedy legend David Spade.
Here’s what Bernard and Marcel had to say about The Mayor and Politics
On taking on a politically flavored show at this time in our country’s climate:
BDJ: As artists, it’s kind of our duty, our job to be able to hold a mirror up to our country, our world and say, this is what’s going on. How do we fix it? What can we do to fix it? And I think our show is an awesome representation of what happens when somebody that has a heart for people, that understands community and unity, leads with love. How that can affect a community and you know, this guy, he has no political experience. He didn’t mean to win. He was doing what millennials do: trying to get some of that ka-ching.
But he didn’t stray away from the responsibility. He took it head on and I think that’s a good lesson for all of us. You know, all of America. If there’s something going in your neighborhood that you want to change, take leadership. Take ownership of your community, so I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to be some type of maybe a catalyst for mobility or, in your communities for some type of change.
MS: Yeah, I agree. It’s an opportunity for us as artists to provoke change and to inspire people and the thing is, when I was kid, people wanted to be the President – even if you didn’t want to be the President, that was the go-to answer if a teacher or somebody asked you and you want to give the answer that’s going to make your mom go, “Awww!” It was like, “I want to be the President of the United States of America.” You say that and people are like, aw, yeah, it can happen for you, kid.
Politics was a thing that you didn’t shy away from. It’s always been a topic that you don’t talk about at dinner, but it’s something that people weren’t afraid of. Now, I feel like people are so exhausted with it because you have to pick a side. It’s become so divided that we forgot that it’s a part of what makes this country great. I feel like us doing the show gives us a chance, in a fun way, in an approachable way, to really talk about politics in a way that can reach people so they aren’t afraid of politics anymore.
Also so people aren’t exhausted with it so much and they can really get down to what it’s about and what it’s about is taking care of the people around you. Like, really taking care of your community and making sure that you’re looking out for the next person. Whether you disagree on how to go about doing that, the end goal is always the betterment of the community.
BDJ: And I think what’s also special about our show is that we come from a non-partisan standpoint, so there’s no, “you have to be a Democrat” or “you have to be a Republican.” We don’t choose sides. We present what’s going on these communities and we offer solutions on how to fix it.
MS: Yeah, I’m learning a lot about it, too. Like, city politics: you have your big banner issues, but when you get down to how a city functions, everybody wants a road that they can drive on without a million potholes. Everybody wants clean water, so when you really get down to talking about those issues that affect the day to day operation of a city, I think everybody gets closer to the middle than even I thought in the beginning.
On the show addressing inequality in education in lower-income communities
MS: Jeremy (Bronson, the creator and Executive Producer]) doesn’t want this to be an issue-driven show, but he does want to talk about everything. He wants to be honest about it. For me, education is important because my mom is a teacher. It’s always something that I’m aware of growing up in an underprivileged community in New Orleans. Understanding that the school is funded by the tax bracket of the people around you.
I grew up in the hood, so we got hand-me-down books and stuff like that. That is always something that I’m thinking about and Jeremy is also somebody who has that in mind.
On the show staying family oriented
BDJ: It’s definitely a family show and I think that’s what’s important about our show and is special is that you can gather the family together, sit down and watch a show and then maybe discuss some of the issues that are happening.
Here’s what Bernard and Marcel had to say about character development:
On Courtney’s backstory in his role as The Mayor
MS: It’s the brainchild of Daveed Diggs and Jeremy, so it’s what happened when you got Daveed talking about growing up in Oakland and being a struggling rapper straight out of Brown and trying to figure out what to do and he’s doing theater and he’s doing pick-up gigs as an actor and he’s still doing shows and his band isn’t as popular, so they’re trying to figure it out and he was living with his parents.
And Jeremy really created a character that doesn’t really have the obvious skill set to be a politician, but still has an understanding by nature of how he grew up in a single parent household. Growing up with a lot of love, growing up in an underprivileged or underfunded community, by the nature of his upbringing, he sort of understands subconsciously or intrinsically, the things that the people in the community need.
On Courtney and Val hooking up:
BDJ: I think their relationship as we see it now is just strictly business and I think it’s important for young girls to see that: you can be in politics, you can be in an office where you run stuff and you don’t have to be anybody’s boyfriend, you don’t have to do that. I think that’s a stronger stance to take.
Here’s what Bernard and Marcel had to say about being on set, Courtney’s music, and David Spade
On being on set:
BDJ: Oh, it’s amazing. I mean, we have Yvette Nicole Brown. If you’ve ever met her, you’ve ever talked to her, you’ve ever seen her in anything…people are like “Yvette, we love you. We love you. We love you.” And I always say, Yvette, you know what, I hope that people love me the way that they love you and respect you, and she said, just be yourself and have a heart for people.
That’s been some of the best advice that she’s given, but she is literally like Big Sis. She’s like, “Don’t do that. Do that. Stay away from that. That right there, uh-unh.”
MS: Yvette helped me find an apartment. I was in New York at the time and then I went to San Diego. I was doing a play. She was like, I can go to the apartment. I can Face Time you and I’ll show you what it is. She is that kind of person.
BDJ: She helped pay for me to get to New York one time and she was like, “Well, I know where you work. You’ll give it back.” Then when I tried to give it back, she’s like, “Baby, just keep the money.” She just has a heart. That’s just her. When you see her in these interviews, it’s not Hollywood. It’s not fake. It is genuine. And Brandon, I mean, he’s such a great actor. He’s young, but his ability to be a leader, onscreen and off screen, is amazing.
I think we’re blessed to have a leader in Brandon. He’s wise beyond his years. He’s a great actor. Julliard trained. But he’s a great friend. We hang out.
MS: But it’s one of those situations too where I’m watching this young man grow into himself and taking on the position of being the number one and being the star of the show and really learning as he goes and being a servant leader and making sure that we’re all okay and taking care of us. I’m proud. It’s weird. I’ve only known him three years, but I feel like I’ve known him forever.
BDJ: And he’s under a lot of pressure. He’s the lead of an ABC show. The Mayor is the only comedy that ABC picked up this season and he’s the lead of it and he’s handling it beautifully.
MS: And Lea’s like the sister of the group. She got three new brothers that she loves but also doesn’t know if she wanted. The thing I like about our show or our cast, it’s a family. We have fun on set and the cool thing is the women are the pros in the situation, so…we make sure we look out for our girls, but they are bosses. Like, the women on this show are bosses. Lea’s been doing this for ten years. Yvette’s been doing it for twenty.
On purchasing Courtney’s music:
MS: Yes. It’ll drop the day before, so right now the first two songs have dropped. The song from the pilot and “Brokenomics” that we heard at the end of this from this episode. Each week a new song will drop until we get to the end. So, every week a new song that was produced by Daveed Diggs and his band. Brandon raps on it.
Features music performed by Brandon Micheal Hall and written by Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. New songs available every Friday preceding each episode through Apple Music and Spotify.
Listen: “Right Here” from “Pilot” aired Tuesday, October
Listen: “Brokenomics” from “The Filibuster” aired Tuesday, October 10
On working with David Spade, creepy or nah
MS: He’s actually way cooler in real life.
BDJ: He is way cooler. He is so sweet. He’s so like, “You guys are amazing. You guys are great. This show is awesome.” That’s David Spade. We were going to do ADR and ADR is where you go in and you do the vocal stuff that needs changing. So, David knew we were coming and he literally laid on the floor and we’re like, “David!” And he’s like, “I just wanted to get you guys.”
He’s great, man. From the first table read to now, he’s just been amazing. Very supportive. I went up to him, I said, David, you have a star on the Walk, the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s like, “yeah, you know, but you got to pay the upkeep and all that.”
MS: He’s legit. He’s like, he’s the coolest cat I’ve ever met. He’s so good at being like, really snarky. The stuff that he’ll come up with on the fly. He’ll be reading the page and then he’ll make a snide remark. Next thing you know, it’s in the script next time we get it. He’s so good. He’s sharp.
I truly enjoyed meeting Bernard and Marcel. They are both a ray of sunshine and have a lot of character. There is no doubt these two will be finding lead roles of their own. Check out The Mayor Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. EST/8:30 central