Black television has seen a lot of ups and downs throughout the past two decades and showrunner Devon Shepard has been there for the bumpy ride. For the past 20 years, Shepard has been working behind the scenes of our favorite shows like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Wayans Bros., House of Lies and Dear White People. Now one of the shows Shepard is behind, BET’s Being Mary Jane, will be bidding farewell to viewers later this year and Shepard said we can expect a lot of emotions during the two-hour series finale movie.
“She’s making some very Mary Jane-like decisions that are going to challenge her relationships,” Shepard told us. “Somebody else may be falling into her life from her past and she may have to make a choice at the end of the season.”
As Being Mary Jane signs off, Shepard will have a new film coming to theaters in September, Two Minutes of Fame, starring Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharoah, KeKe Palmer, and Katt Williams. The film focuses on how millennials use YouTube to launch careers in comedy.
“Jay Pharaoh’s character is a YouTube star and he gets invited to do a comedy competition and has to grow up in that weekend and become a legitimate comedian, not a guy you see on YouTube. [He has to] learn in a short amount of time to really be a comic and the struggles and the politics of that.”
As he works on his own projects, Shepard has heard the chatter around reboots of classic sitcoms. He’s not against it, but he says if there’s no new story to tell, leave it alone.
“If [the main character doesn’t] have a perspective or a strong point of view, you are rebooting the show based on the name and the past as opposed to the actual characters of the show.”
Shepard worked behind the scenes of millennial favorite Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which he said he does not mind seeing back on primetime TV.
“It was really about an uncle taking in a kid from a different generation that didn’t speak his language and they didn’t understand each other. You can still do a version of that show today especially given the technology difference, the language barriers and the politics [of today].”
When it comes rebooting classic comedy Martin, Shepard feels “some classics you just don’t touch.”
“Martin didn’t have a strong perspective about the world,” he told me over the phone. “He didn’t address societal issues to that regard. So when you say bring him back, you’re bringing him back to do what?
Whether any reboots make it back to the small screen or not, thanks to writers like Donald Glover and Issa Rae, Shepard is excited about the future of black television.
‘You have these entrepreneurial spirits that have found their way to television. Issa Rae had an idea and did not wait for the industry to tell her yes or no. She did it herself and by doing so she was able to start telling stories through characters in a way we never seen before.” He continued, “When you look at Donald Glover’s Atlanta, they didn’t come in with a traditional set up. Atlanta itself is a character.”