Mara Brock Akil’s ‘Being Mary Jane’ is a Good Look for BET
Yesterday, I attended the Chicago screening for Being Mary Jane, BET’s latest original series, written by Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends). I was pleasantly surprised at the good time I had, so lemme tell ya about it.
I won’t give away any plot points you can’t find out in the show trailer so no worries about essential spoilers here.
Being Mary Jane stars Gabrielle Union as Mary Jane Paul, a successful talk news show host and overall lady about her business. Her success has made her the family cash cow and it’s a role she begrudgingly accepts because blood is thicker than greenbacks.
Meanwhile, she’s failing on the love front because she can’t seem to find the partner she wants, coming home to an empty house with no tea for her baby fever. She’s smart, successful and single. But she’s ready to settle down and find her a real lifelong boothang.
It’s not an untold story by any means but Being Mary Jane actually does a really good job with blowing the dust off. It was funny without trying and it was easy to connect with the character of Mary Jane because her struggles are real.
Gabrielle Union was great as MJ, not just because she plays sassy better than most but she has this girl next door quality that worked for the character. Powerful but painfully lonely, and sick of being the person everyone leans on without someone she can lean on herself. I think we all know a couple of MJs (or we might be her ourselves).
The character had more depth than Miss Attitude ALLATAHM so I appreciated that (she had some real breakdown moments). You know those “Omg I’m gonna cry but I’m not going to because I can’t but why are my eyes raining right now against my will?” moments. MMHMM.
I liked the fact that she had relatable relationships with the folks in her life (like the one with her brother who is Team Bad Decisions). There’s a scene where she finds out her teenage niece is pregnant and she goes OFF. She storms in a room where her entire family is sitting and goes “I love you guys. I really really do. But there are too many damn kids in this family and not enough people feeding them! Seriously, who has a job in this room? Raise your hand!” And she was the only one with her hand up. I was like:
Mary Jane is also Team Bad Decisions in her dating life so we get to see that. Including her trysts with a man who is more than just emotionally unavailable. The interesting thing was that they actually touched on some not-so-safe and PG things about being a sexual woman.
There’s a scene where Mary Jane is about to go on a late night date with one of her ex-boy toys and she takes some time for herself (with a toy) before she leaves so she won’t be thirsty when she sees him. Everyone was in the audience like “Ooooooo.” Mmhmmm. They even shot that scene in red. Just lustful.
The mini-movie ended in a cliffhanger that made me wanna watch what’s next. This was just the pilot and teaser for what will be the newest series on BET. The premiere is on Tuesday, July 2 at 9:30 CT but the series doesn’t kick off until January 2014. I was actually disappointed by that because if it had kicked off this summer, it coulda filled our Scandal void. It’s smart, funny and worth a watch. You can view the (slightly misleading) trailer HERE.
Mara Brock Akil was at the screening, so there was a Q&A afterwards. She said she wrote Being Mary Jane because it was a character that had been in her head for a while and it kept coming back to her. And there are pieces of herself that she sees in the character. She uses her writing as catharsis and there’s certain struggles in the story that it helped her with.
Most of the time, networks jump on board and buy shows that are pitched to them with finished scripts but BET bought the IDEA of Being Mary Jane. That’s how much they believed in Mara’s vision. And her hubby, Salim, the other half of AKIL Productions read the script when she was done and thought Gabby would be the perfect person to play her.
Mara also dropped some gems when asked how she approaches the fact that her work might not be welcome on a channel like NBC or ABC. She said she no longer bothers herself with that. And that’s why she felt BET was the right network for this passion project of hers. She didn’t have to change any of the characters, and she would have had to if Being Mary Jane was on any other channel. And I loved this quote from her:
BET’s tryna upgrade it’s life in 2013, yall! And Being Mary Jane is a good start. Are you gonna watch it when it premieres?
P.S. Shourrout to the lady with a high loc bun who decided to sit in row 1, and in the middle seat at the screening. I was in row 3. So when the movie started playing, she was blocking my (and 2 other people) view. This was what I was seeing:
The chairs weren’t theater style, so this was just so inconvenient. I went and asked her if she could move one seat to the right and she looked at me like I spoke French. And then she stayed there. THAT was hella inconsiderate. If you have tall hair, the least you can do is consider other people and not sit smack dab in the middle. i thought it was incredibly rude. Especially since I asked her nicely and she didn’t move. Folks, please don’t be THAT person. Ugh.