By Shaquille Woods, Contributing Writer
Her artistic vision created some of television’s most groundbreaking series. Titles such as Girlfriends, Being Mary Jane and The Game, highlight her ability to tell stories reflecting the black experience. Mara Brock Akil spoke to the Los Angles Sentinel Newspaper about her new romantic drama series Love Is.
The show, which premiers on the OWN Network, draws inspiration from her relationship with her husband Salim Akil. The couple produces and directs the show together.
Akil’s career started from humble beginnings. She described her first job as a production assistant.
“I started from the bottom, which was great! You’re literally the low man on the totem pole. I was the link between the writer’s office and the stage. You get to see the entire structure from that point of view. Now since I’m a showrunner, I know everybody’s role.”
Love Is brings a different endeavor than her previous projects. Akil never intended to produce the show. The idea started from audience interactions.
“It actually came from trying to answer a sincere question that was asked from me. There would be moments where people would ask me how do I manage to handle it all,” said Akil.
“Joan in Girlfriends represented that character that I was exploring creatively about the question. Can women have it all? People thought I did. I’ve had conversations with my audience, more specifically black women, leading the conversation.”
This sparked a journey to create something vulnerable. She explained the importance of sharing her authentic relationship experience.
“Every project is vulnerable because your name is on it. Not just for me but also for the people I care about. People can see the reflections. I’m not putting my art out just for judgment. I’m putting it out their for conversation but in that space you will come across judgment. There is a vulnerability to that,” Akil explained.
“The images you are seeing in Love Is are the images that I had in my head 20 something years ago but I did not know how to execute it. My goal was to take my own story and be that bold with it. I’m so happy to have a partner that trust me even at his own most vulnerable state.”
Love Is tackles sensitive topics from relationship hardships to co-parenting. In a powerful scene, main characters Yuri, played by Michele Weaver, and Yasir, played by Will Catlett, created an intense scene involving parenting.
“The show gives voice to the challenges of co-parenting. The complexities of the absentee father are something that I wanted to show. I was very scared and nervous about that because everyone in that scene had to be fully represented. I never believed anyone was a bad guy because that image has been exploited time and time again,” said Akil.
“…for societal reasons, for historical reasons, or possibly the trauma we experienced, our children are launching into their lives with deficient because of our own baggage. I think if we can open that conversation up a little we can reach each other.”
Love Is shines light the authenticity of black love. The characters, the settings, the drama, all convey the reality of what love encompasses.
“I really believe love is achievable in all aspect of our lives. From the personal journey, to the romantic journey, the friendship journey, if we define and design it for ourselves we will achieve that reality. It will come with a lot of effort with stumbles and starts to eventually develop,” said Akil.
Love Is has been renewed for a second season on the OWN Network. Check local listings for more information.