Stella Meghie is on one hell of a roll. After spending years building a career in public relations for beauty brands, the Toronto native decided to completely change her life and headed in an entirely different direction: filmmaking.
“I’ve always had a love for film and storytelling. I decided to take a chance and ended up going to school and getting a master’s in screenwriting,” she tells EBONY.com. “I actually wrote Jean of the Joneses when I was in school, and I just couldn’t picture anybody directing it, so I did it myself.”
The gamble paid off. The film, Jean of the Joneses, debuted to critical acclaim back in March at Austin’s famed South by Southwest festival, and in September it also played at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in Meghie’s hometown. While both would be major accomplishments in their own right, before the film even finished hitting the festival circuit, Meghie had several other projects in the works—a comedy optioned by BET, a feature for VH1, a blind script deal with Warner Brothers. Oh, and she just wrapped filming her second feature film, Everything, Everything starring Amandla Stenberg.
“It’s been a whirlwind experience. To get another job and be directing before the festival run is even over for Jean is not necessary the normal path,” she says. “But it was just right place, right time.”
As Meghie works to keep up with all of the opportunities that have come her way since Jean of the Joneses premiered, audiences across the country will finally have the opportunity to see the project that kicked it all off. On Sunday, the quirky family comedy will premiere on TVOne.
“I’m just so excited people are going to get to see Jean of the Joneses. I just feel really grateful that people want to watch my stories and hopefully enjoy them,” she says.
Set in Brooklyn and starring Taylour Paige, Sherri Shepherd, Erica Ash, Michelle Hurst, Mamoudou Athie, Francois Arnaud, and Gloria Reuben, Jean of the Joneses centers on twenty-something writer Jean and her outspoken, witty clan, the Joneses. Though Jane is talented and has received acclaim for her work, she’s at a crossroads in her life. When her family’s estranged patriarch literally dies on their doorstep, a paramedic who tried to save him attemps to win Jean over. While the attraction is mutual, the pair’s budding romance has to take a backseat to the family’s drama. The offbeat film is authentic and funny, and was inspired by Meghie’s rambunctious West Indian family.
“A lot of it is pulled from my own family. I come from a very big family of Jamaican women who are unintentionally funny,” Meghie says. “The characters in Jean are pulled from different aunts, different grandmothers, my mom. It’s not autobiographical, but it’s definitely inspired by my family.”
Strangely enough, none of Meghie’s relatives recognize themselves in the film’s humorous scenes, but the director says they still they love it. Judging by the reviews, audiences will love it too.
Jean of the Joneses airs Sunday, October 23 at 7 p.m. on TVOne