From the opening scenes of last week’s season premiere of Tyler Perry’s latest scandalous drama If Loving You Is Wrong, viewers knew they were in for a jaw-dropping series filled with talk and tweet-worthy moments that would have them screaming at the characters on-screen, saying, “No, they didn’t just do that!”
Premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network last Tuesday with two back-to-back, one-hour episodes, it’s the second drama that Perry and Winfrey have partnered on. The Have and the Have Nots proved to be a success for the network, but little did anyone know that If Loving You Is Wrong would end up the most watched series premiere in network history, with 1.93 million viewers!
Created, written, directed and executive produced by Tyler Perry, If Loving You Is Wrong features a diverse cast, and storylines ranging from heartfelt to scandalous. The sexy, sleek drama takes viewers into the lives of a group of husbands, wives and friends that live and love in the same middle-class neighborhood. On the surface, they’re true-to-life, relatable people—raising children, working jobs, finding and maintaining romance—but just below their veneer of happiness are lives entangled by heartbreak, deceit and lies that threaten to destroy everything.
The season premiere opened in the middle of a torrid affair between neighbors Randal and Alex. Randal’s wife Marcie desperately wants children, but Randal’s attention is focused on the wife of his best friend, Brad. Just down the street, divorcée Esperanza is trying to move on with her life, while keeping a budding relationship with Julius a secret from her vindictive ex-husband, Edward.
Keeping up? Meanwhile, neighbor Kelly longs to marry Travis, who is away on a relief mission in Haiti and who’s promised to help her raise her 8-year-old son, Justice. Outside of the neighborhood, single mother Natalie struggles to raise her children in the inner city. Lushion, the father of her son Frank, has returned to town and stepped up to the plate to help. In addition, Natalie grapples with the tough decision of whether or not to allow her fourth son, Joey, to return home once he’s released from prison.
If Loving You Is Wrong has gotten some comparisons to the former ABC primetime drama, Desperate Housewives. Actor Aiden Turner set the record straight recently at an OWN headquarters cast interview on why that’s an unfair comparison.
“The only thing that would make it seem like it’s similar to Desperate Housewives is that it’s on a street with beautiful houses and beautiful people,” said Turner. “But apart from that, I just think that it’s completely different. The diversity of all the different people that play on the show and watching each episode… you’re just going to fall in love with them. You’re going to relate to them. You’re going to cry along with them. There’s sex, comedy, drama, love, sorrow.”
Watching the premiere with the cast for the first time was quite an experience, gasping and shrieking at the same scenes at the same time. Zulay Henao dished on what it was like to see the show first the first time. “I think our show mirrors society,” she said. “I think that watching it and following the storylines, I was like, ‘Wow, there’s so many different sides to everybody’ that it was really cool watching it. It really mirrors our society. There’s a storyline that anybody can follow and appreciate.”
Charles Malik Whitfield was wowed by a different factor of the show: Tyler Perry’s approach to filming. He said, “It does take on the film noir style of filming for TV and you have characters that are not being performed actually, they’re just being lived. That dynamic is really going to be very enriching for so many different viewers.”
Film noir is great, but If Loving You Is Wrong is also rich with drama and diversity. Amanda Clayton explained why the audience would appreciate those aspects of the show.
“The way Tyler writes and creates a character, it doesn’t matter what race, religion, sex… There’s so many blurred lines throughout this entire program that I referred to us as sisters,” she said, “but then there’s also the blurred lines of watching the guys go through some cattiness and keeping secrets with each other. There isn’t just, ‘it’s a female problem; it’s a male problem; it’s a Black problem; it’s a White problem; it’s a poor problem; it’s a rich problem.’ It’s across the board. Everybody is dealing with something.”
Edwina Findley Dickerson, who’s had some experience with an ensemble cast during her time on The Wire, revealed what she wanted viewers to take away: “Our characters go through a lot! Women go through a lot. Whether it’s mothering, desiring to be loved, trying to balance a career, domestic violence. Women experience a lot, and our characters really reflect that. And so we’re willing to go to places that many of us in our own lives would like to shun away from. We don’t want to go into the pain, but there is a lot of pain that comes along with love as well, as you can see from the title, If Loving You Is Wrong.”