EBONY: What budgetary issues have you experienced with creating She Got Problems?
AM: Just one crippling issue: I have no more money! But after years of lean and mean guerrilla-style filmmaking on the streets of New York, I know how to get money up on the screen. The shot on the Brooklyn Bridge was done with a crew of five people, five extremely hard-working, dedicated people.
EBONY: When taking a completely different angle to black female media, many directors and writers may get discouraged, and feel like they won't be understood, that their audience just won't "get it." Did you have any reservations that surfaced around that feeling?
AM: That's a tricky balancing act. You're always trying to refine your ideas and express them in the most succinct and provocative way; you do this simply because that's your job as a writer, and you hope that if you've done your job well, the audience will come along for the ride, no matter how unfamiliar the territory. But fear is destructive to any creative act, so you're doomed if that's what's informing your choices. That's why most TV is so bad; everything is focus grouped to death, with the unattainable goal of appealing to every human being on the planet. And the resulting product is bland, indistinguishable matter.
EBONY: You incorporate a musical feel in your production, which adds an interesting element to She Got Problems. Was it hard to find the right balance between musical/Broadway integration and television/film acting?
AM: I consider She Got Problems a genre-bending musical series. As such, I plan to explore all of my movie musical and Broadway musical influences in creating the big dance numbers, which are "Alison's" fantasies. As far as the acting goes, you certainly modulate your performance when you don't have to "nail them to the back of the wall" in a live theatre. The camera doesn't miss the subtlest of actions or expressions -- at least, not if you're doing your job as a director! But it's an on-going experiment. I study improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center here in New York, and it's both the most ego-eviscerating and confidence-boosting task (when successful) I've ever undertaken. Improv forces you to be resourceful and to take wild leaps of faith. I recently heard Hilton Als (theater critic and feature writer for the New Yorker) speak about his writing. He said that he never feels entirely satisfied with a piece, that with each subsequent assignment he endeavors to learn more from the process of writing, or to "fail better." I won't attempt to explain it better than Hilton.
EBONY: Many probably have and will begin to compare you to Issa Rae, creator of Awkward Black Girl. Where do you feel your differences lie and where do you feel you share a similar avenue?
AM: I think a comparison is inevitable whenever you have two black shows or films that simply share the basic distinction of not being set in the ghetto! I'd say our milieus are similar and that we both explore the subject matter of personal relationships and life's absurdities, much in the way that Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David do. While their sensibilities are undeniably similar, especially as collaborators, they, nevertheless, created shows that were unique. And it goes without saying that I cheer Issa's success -- she's hilarious and a huge talent! But I don't think anyone would argue that there isn't room or abundant need for more than one storyteller, especially for a marginalized group. Are Monique and Wanda Sykes similar? They're both outrageous, but their subtle and profound differences in perspective and style, and how they attack their material speak volumes. I don't want to live in a world without both. (I'm certainly not going to choose between James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.) Incidentally, my first job in show business was writing for Whoopi Goldberg on her NBC sitcom, Whoopi. Whoopi gave me my big break and I'll be forever grateful.