In a time where representation and inclusivity is making gains in Hollywood, Run the World comes at a very important time for Black people. Created, written, and executive produced by Leigh Davenport—as well as executive produced by the incomparable Yvette Lee Bowser, who also serves as the showrunner—this show is vibrant, beautifully shot, with fully rounded out characters, and unapologetically Black.
The half-hour dramedy follows a group of 30-something Black women as they work, live, love, and play in Harlem, and is full of meme-worthy moments that will have Black Twitter dedicating entire threads to the fierce AF show.
EBONY was thankful to speak with Amber Stevens West and Bresha Webb, who play Whitney and Renee respectively, about being a part of Bowser’s storied legacy, the importance of seeing Black friendship on TV, and what lies ahead of Run the World’s May 16 premiere.
What were your early reactions to Run the World’s pilot script when brought on to play Whitney and Renee?
Bresha Webb: When I first read the script, I was so inspired by it. I had never read conversations that were like those I’ve had with my friends and [other] women who sound like me. They have their s**t together [and] it was a look into a world that I could relate to. I’m doing very well in my profession. I went to college. And [Run the World] was a look into the friendships and relationships that I have with my girls and guys. It wasn’t about any Black struggle or tragic porn in any way. The Run the World script felt really authentic and it was really refreshing to read.
Amber Stevens West: I felt the exact way. I read the script, not knowing which character they had me in mind for, but I related to all four women immediately. I thought that it was really funny and loved that it took place in Harlem. They made the borough sound so sexy, fun, and vibrant—I immediately wanted to go there. I wanted to be friends with these characters [and] Run the World is inline with my favorite genre—I love female friendship stories. I love that these women called each other out on their stuff [and albeit] flawed people, they were unapologetically going after their dreams and having a great time doing it.
When you both were developing your own take on the characters—what personal touches were added that made Whitney and Renee more your own?
BW: Renee is me [laughs]. My middle name is Renee. When I read the character description, it said: “a chihuahua in heels” and, again, I have a chihuahua and frequently wear heels. I’m very spicy as you can tell, so there wasn’t much of a stretch between myself and Renee. She’s a diva and operates boldly and very intentional when it comes to her life. She is loud yet purposeful in her loudness. These are attributes that I carry in my own daily life, but sometimes I don’t get it together. Renee is like me, but all together, so I had to find a nice medium to make her relatable.
ASW: A lot of who Whitney is was already in the script. Leigh [Davenport] really thought these characters out. Whitney, Renee, and the other friends are very different from each other and yet still BFFs, which I can totally relate to in my real life. I am so different from all of my friends, but we all show up for each other in different ways. That is what Run the World really highlights—and Leigh did such a great job.
BW: That is what I love about this show. You see these beautiful characters as friends and with their own lives, but they are all kind of cracking underneath the surface.
Let’s emphasize this for the readers—this is not Living Single. With that being said, why do you both think it is important for audiences to see Black friendships like this on TV? And how does it impact you both as the actors personifying these roles?
BW: It is so necessary for there to be all reflections of friendships, especially in a world where there’s Real Housewives and Love & Hip-Hop showing off these fake friendships. It is important for the culture to know that our tribe, our community is what makes us who we are. I really love the pilot [episode] because it exemplifies that. I feel that Run the World, as a show, is so necessary for Black women to see supportive friend groups living in their own fullness.
ASW: I think it’s validating, too. We consciously and subconsciously emulate what we see in the media. Because of cartoons when I was a little kid, I thought I had to be mean to my older brother. I reflected that behavior from the cartoons and my brother disliked me for it. You see enough of something and you think that that’s how it is supposed to be. Run the World is very validating for me because we need to see more supportive and loving relationships on TV. All four of the characters are different from each other, yes, but we still show up in the best ways possible for one another. The male relationships on the show are the same way. They are willing to be vulnerable and show that they love women in a way I believe audiences are going to enjoy and emulate.
How do you both feel about being a part of Yvette Lee Bowser’s history-changing and impressive TV legacy?
BW: I grew up watching Living Single, so I never thought a day would come where I’d get a chance to work with someone like her. Every Sunday, when that show would come on, it was an event. Being a young girl, seeing young Black women supporting each other, having loving relationships with Black men, and living in an apartment with their friends was everything! To be a part of that legacy and having her involved in this show, knowing what she brings to the table, is an incredible experience. It’s just a dream come true and it’s not by coincidence. I’m very grateful.
ASW: I have to piggyback on that. I am so grateful to work with someone who leads these shows with such authenticity, while showing diversity and the multiculturalism that reside within Black people, and making that an important part of Run the World’s storytelling. I’m finally starting myself reflected in characters on TV—especially in our show. I’ve lacked that a lot in my life, which made being on this show very validating because Yvette and Leigh acknowledge my Black experience to me. For them to say, “You are enough and you should be playing this character on this show,” was huge for me.
BW: Run the World is phenomenal for young girls and other Black women to see. Just like how I saw myself in Living Single, we can be a pillar for others who see our show and say, “I want to live like those women,” and be inspired to be a part of that.
ASW: With the show airing on May 16, this leads me to my last question—are there any early predictions you both have for when audiences watch Run the World?
BW: I think Black Twitter is going to love us! We’re all just going to take notes [laughs] and see what the memes are saying. I predict there’s going to be a lot of memes and meme-able moments with Run the World. That was one of our goals.
ASW: I want to be a meme so bad [laughs].
BW: Me too [laughs]. Please let me be a GIF [laughs].
ASW: I predict that audiences will love the quotable moments that happen in the show. There are some really funny lines that’ll stick out and I believe the people will latch onto it. It would be really cool if it became part of the culture or use these quotes when they talk to their girlfriends in real life.
BW: For us to be a part of the culture is my prediction [laughs]. Run the World can start the conversation between women and men about how healthy friends, relationships, and the importance of therapy is in our community. I also predict that we’ll have another season after season after season [laughs].
Run the World debuts on May 16 on Starz.