Issa Rae is giving us a taste of the “sweet life” with her latest HBO Max show.
The unscripted series, Sweet Life: Los Angeles, produced by Rae, centers on a group of young Black professionals in their mid-20s who are trying to find their way navigating relationships while building their careers. It showcases all of the fun, drama, and emotions that comes with dealing with those life-changing moments when you're young, beautiful and Black.
Featuring newcomers Amanda Scott, Briana Jones, Cheryl Des Vignes, Jerrold Smith II, Jordan Bentley, P'Jae Compton, Tylynn Burns, the reality series shines a light on the complexities and nuances of Black culture and friendships in South Central Los Angeles. Deep issues, such as the impact of mass incarceration on families, mental health, and gentrification, and building prosperity, are explored throughout the season's run.
Below, the show's dynamic cast digs in on the highlights of collabing with Issa Rae, the importance of representation on TV, and the power of friendship.
EBONY: How did you feel when you discovered that you would be working on a show executive produced by Issa Rae?
Cheryl Des Vignes: I couldn’t believe it at first. I was like, “Can we see her?” I needed some type of proof that this is actually happening.
Tylynn Burns: I definitely was like, are you sure? I think me and Amanda were on set and we would just be like, "Why us? How did we get here?" So it's been super rewarding.
Jerrold Smith II: I think it was a long time coming because we've been speaking this into existence for a minute. We may not have been thinking about working with Issa but it's always been us on this platform and the fact that it's Issa just makes it ten times better, because you know she's gonna put her best foot forward behind us.
Were any of you nervous about entering into the realm of reality TV?
Cheryl: Of course! I feel like I'm a very private person in general—so to put my life, my business, and my family out there was a little nerve-wracking.
Briana Jones: People can make their assumptions about our real lives and that can be very scary, honestly.
P'Jae Compton: At first, I was super hesitant. I gotta put my life out there, and I, too, I’m a private person. So opening up, making myself vulnerable—and introducing my private life, my friendships, relationships—had me worried because people on social media can be cruel. But, Issa got our back.
Amanda Scott: I am pretty private as well. Like all my social media is protected. If I don't know you, you don't know me type of thing. But after we started filming, I did find comfort in the fact that we truly are being ourselves and being who we are on a day-to-day basis. I know me. Specifically, I'm not doing anything on the show that I wouldn't be doing in real life. So if people don’t like it or love it, I have peace in the fact that I'm just being me.
This next question is just for the ladies. Tell me why is it important to portray yourselves as young, Black professional women who are real bosses on the show?
Tylynn: People need to see young Black women trying to figure it out and working in fields that typically most Black people, in general, don't have access to. So we're giving perspective to a lot of younger viewers. There's so much more that you can do outside of the standard jobs that you think are available to Black people or that Black people have typically held. I think that's just super, super important and we're definitely a testament to that on this show.
Cheryl: I feel like it's very important because we're all in our 20s. There's no other show that explores young Black people in their 20s grinding and all of those things.
Briana: We are real people, and so I just think that that's a good representation for the younger generation of women to see us living our real, true lives and just to know that really anything is possible.
And to you fellas, how was it to convey another side of Black men that we don’t typically get to see on TV?
Jerrold: I feel like we have to show other brothers that if you're thinking of doing something and you don't know where to start or where that might take you, if there's no story or someone who's lived it out there before, this is what it’s like. This is us showing people that you can do those things. If you're looking for help and guidance, you can look to us. Obviously, we're not perfect but we're putting our lives and our stories out there for people to see as kind of a blueprint.
Jordan: Black men are not always portrayed in the most positive light so we have to be a visual representation to show our people that you can make it and you can achieve your dreams regardless of where you are. I think that leading by example is important for us to show that you can take the risk and do this. I feel that with every one of our individual stories we tackle that same message but from a different angle.
P’Jae: A big point on the show is that people will find out that a lot of us are really open with our emotions, and we really communicate. So I hope we inspire Black men to communicate and be open with their emotions, especially since [Black folks] tend to have this notion that it's not okay for men to be emotional.
Lastly, what do you want viewers to take away from the show?
Cheryl: I think we definitely want people to feel like we're relatable. We're just like you. We try to go out and reach for our dreams.
Jerrold: I want people to feel comfortable. I want them to feel comfortable in the fact that there are other people just like them that are still trying to figure everything out. Regardless of our “status,” and we're on TV, doing these things, we're still regular people but there’s representation for regular people.
Tylynn: I want people to recognize they're only as strong as their circle. I think when you're within a circle where people are doing things, and they're inspiring you, that just sets the expectation for yourself. I think we show just how dynamic our friendships are, not even on a professional level, but on a personal level.
Amanda: I want people to get a sense of the true L.A. Not Hollywood, 90210, or the Valley but a real sense of what it means to be born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. There are a lot of previous projects that showcase L.A. in a certain light. I don't think that there's a show like this that’s positioning the true essence of South L.A.
Jordan: It’s just the growth and perseverance that we all display and experience throughout the show. Also, we want our people to feel seen and heard because I feel we haven't had a show, or something of this magnitude, that represents us, our generation, our people of our age group, doing things of this nature and is positive.
Briana: I just really want people to know the true power of friendship. I just think that who you surround yourselves with is so important. I wouldn't be here without every single one of these people. So if you take anything away from the show, take away the fact that friendship is so important to your own individual happiness and your own individual success.