A family that’s been shrouded in rumors and secrecy, one that’s been referred to as “American royalty,” just peeled back another layer to reveal how they truly live their lives. TJ, Taj and Taryll, sons of legendary Jackson 5 brother Tito Jackson, have embarked on a new docu-series for Lifetime television called The Jacksons: Next Generation.
The show (which premiered Friday, October 2) focuses on the third generation of the famed Jackson family, as they work to balance a career and their lives as traditional family men while living up to the pressures and demands that come with their last name. According to Lifetime, the series reveals what it’s like for them living up to the Jackson name, including how they deal with constant rumors, stalkers and frauds who all want a piece of anything and anyone related to the family’s legacy.
TJ, Taj and Taryll aren’t the first Jacksons to bring reality cameras inside their home. The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty (2009) aired for one season on the A&E Network, and La Toya Jackson gave it a go with her OWN reality show, Living Life with La Toya (2013-14), which aired for two seasons. So why is this next generation of Jacksons firing up the cameras again and allowing their lives to be put on display?
EBONY.com spent some time with the trio at the Jackson family estate known as Hayvenhurst, where we chatted about that, what their late uncle Michael would think about them doing this series, and more.
EBONY: Your family has been private throughout most of your lives. There wasn’t the advent of social media back then, and now you’re doing something very public. Why now?
Taj Jackson: I think you hit it right on the head about social media. That’s what the difference is and so now… We are a private family but at the same time, with social media, if you don’t address certain things, people think it’s true and people keep spreading those lies and rumors. I’ve seen people quote stuff on message boards that are completely false. And then someone else picks it up and starts quoting it, and it’s kind of one of those things where we have to just nip it in the bud.
EBONY: I’m sure you’re used to having cameras in your face all the time, paparazzi and whatnot. But how was it having cameras follow you around for your docu-series?
TJ: It was different, because you are used to having cameras in your face when you step out and you’re “working.” But to open up your home and let them in and have the walls down is completely different. It wasn’t easy at first for us to do, but we made that decision to do it, so you’ll see that. It’s real and it’s not always pretty, but that’s life.
EBONY: What was your dad Tito Jackson’s advice in the show? Will we see him at all?
TJ: He didn’t really give us much advice regarding the show. We were a group in the ’90s as 3T, and that’s where our father gave us all the advice we needed about what it’s like being in the spotlight. But he’s in the show. He’s there to crack the whip when we get out of control. But in all honestly, it was our mother and Uncle Michael who we looked to for direction oftentimes. And with them both gone, it’s our father now that if he says something, we listen.
EBONY: You mentioned Uncle Michael. What do you think he would think about all of this?
TJ: Times have changed. So if you’re thinking, “what would Michael think?” 15 years ago, it’s different now. I think he would be proud of us being open and being real and with the intention of doing something well in the world. Every episode has a little nugget of value and a lesson, and that’s what I know he would be proud of. He was all about love and family and that’s what the show is about. To get there, you’re going to see us go through struggles and issues. But when it comes down to it, it’s about love and family.
EBONY: You guys are family men, you have kids. What are some family values you guys have learned? You’re African-American royalty for heaven’s sake!
Tayrll Jackson: Well, I think the most important thing we’ve learned is to love each other and support each other, but also to treat everyone with respect and love. I know it kind of sounds corny now, but it’s true. We were raised to respect each other and be kind and loving, and I don’t think that’s done enough. I don’t think people have that. They’re so quick to just worry about themselves, and you have to take care of each other.
EBONY: You said there are some rocky times. How does that play out in the show?
TJ: Especially in this series, a lot of it stems from us as brothers, and our struggles and frustrations as a band. Without giving away too much, at what point do you need to reconsider the band for the sake of the brothers? That’s a struggle we go through throughout the series.
EBONY: TJ, you have joint custody with your grandmother Katherine of Michael’s kids: Paris, Michael and Prince Michael a.k.a. “Blanket.” Will they be in the show?
TJ: When we first decided to be in the show, we pulled the kids aside and told them what we were doing, and I can remember clearly two of them asking to be in it. Jumping up and down. So at what point do you say, “No, you can’t be in it because your father’s Michael Jackson?” Because that’s not fair to do.
Taj Jackson: Especially when they’re seeing their other cousins participating.
TJ: And that was almost falling into the same trap that we had. It’s like being trapped in being a Jackson. We couldn’t do that to them, being trapped in being “Michael Jackson’s kids.” So there’s a couple of family events we have, and a lot of our cousins are there and they’re one of the cousins. And they want to be there. Who are we to say, “You’re not allowed to because of who your dad is”? That’s not fair. And that’s the exact opposite of what family is. We’re family first, and they knew there were cameras there. Some of them were running straight toward the cameras, which we had to slow down a bit, but it’s all good. It’s about love and family.
Crystal Shaw King is a seasoned TV, radio and online entertainment writer. She's also a contributing editor for a social justice foundation in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @crystalamberbam.