If you were a kid in the 2000s, Disney Channel likely dominated your viewing habits. Whether it was an original movie like Halloweentown, or a coming of age sitcom like Lizzie McGuire, there were plenty of options to keep your interest. But 2001 saw something super special arrive for Black kids: an animated show featuring a family that looked just like their own. The Proud Family was the first show of it’s kind and a historic moment in Black history. It left a cultural footprint with it’s catchy theme song from Destiny’s Child, and it’s storylines based around key parts of the Black experience. Now, more than 20 years since it’s premiere, The Proud Family is back with a sequel series called The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.
“It never left,” Tommy Davidson, who plays the patriarch Oscar Proud, told EBONY. “People were touched so much by it, and my children were too. So when there was talk of it coming back after 15 years, we talked to [show creators] Ralph Farquhar and Bruce Smith, and all the people involved in it. And finally it came. And we just got back to work. We got back to work because we knew how good we were.”
Stepping back into their roles “wasn’t hard,” according to Kyla Pratt, who plays the show’s main character, Penny Proud. She got the gig when she was just 15 years old.
“I feel like this character helped develop me as a young woman,” said Pratt. “It helped me become the person I am today. So it wasn't difficult to get into a studio and be able to flashback to those times where I had those teenage years of thinking a certain way, or feeling a certain way or dealing with family a certain way.”
Jo Marie Payton’s distinctive voice is back to bring Suga Mama to life, and she didn’t skip a beat.
“That 20 years seemed like 20 minutes once we got back together,” said Payton. “We were with our same wonderful producers, and we had wonderful writers and the scripts, the storylines were so good. They made it easy for us to just activate back into our space and our reason for doing it.”
For Paula Jai Parker, returning to role of Trudy Proud was a major personal milestone in her career.
“Let's be honest. Women, you know, we kind of are told we have a shelf life in Hollywood and life in general,” said Parker. “When the call came in, it just really reconfirmed that women, we're not just things you can put on a shelf. We are ageless, we are priceless. And for Disney to recognize that and bring the Proud Family back just at this time in my life… This, this has been a blessing.”
Unlike 2001, Louder and Prouder entered production in a global pandemic.
“I don't know about everybody else in the cast, but it seemed like Armageddon to me the March before last,” said Davidson.
Instead of recording lines together like they did in the early 2000’s, the cast had to pivot to what so many Americans are now accustomed to; working from home. Each actor was set up with their own recording studio to track their lines.
“Boy, I got another skill set going on!” said Payton. The Family Matters actress is based in Miami and had help from her grandkids and children to get her studio together, but recording in the summer proved challenging. “You have to turn off everything, the air conditioner and all that stuff, and you’re in a dedicated closet. It’s hot!”
“I literally have pictures of me putting a pillow over my head trying to get the sound to stay in,” joked Pratt. Now a mother of two, the actress also had to juggle taking care of the kids between reads.
“I have to tell my kids like, ‘Hey, y'all have to be quiet for a little bit,’ which of course is difficult. They're my children. They're loud as you know what. So I'm like ‘baby, please sit down for an hour. And just don't yell nothing.’ So it was a struggle.”
The new series continues the story of Penny Proud, now 14-years-old, while updating the content for current times, with a “woke” neighbor who gets a little preachy, social media bullies, and new neighbors from the LGBTQ+ community.
“It still has the same essence of the original. But of course, we had to update it for 2022.” said Pratt. “We had to make sure that we tackled things and talked about things that need to be talked about. And that's the best thing about our show back then, we talked about things that everyone shied away from. And now it is not any different.”
“You understand how important it is that family is family no matter what or who they are, where they are, who they love, or where they come from,” said Payton. “Now we're bringing some of that to you.”
“It actually speaks to what's going on now,” said Davidson, who sees the follow-up series as a way to appeal to those who grew up with the show and a new generation.
“There were a lot of social shifts over this pandemic. That generation that grew up is the one that instilled a lot of change. And so we're going with that change. We're just riding the wave of what's happening. We actually are helping the younger people that are watching it—the kids—we're helping them understand what's going on now without having to get complicated," adds Davidson "We're doing it through this family.”
“The Proud Family: Louder And Prouder“ premieres on Disney+ February 23.