Remember the name folks of the next trailblazer of British television and female screenwriters. Danielle Haughton on has proven that the thirst for television drama, amongst the millenial culture of reality shows and celebrities hasn’t been lost, and is among the few (if not many) who’ve adapted to the changing technology and begun utilising the online streaming of Youtube to her advantage,
Under her production company Wonda London, she and her team have produced two mostly acclaimed shows “Dear Jesus” & “The Alexis Show.”, with both of these shows intertwined with each other; as they’re surrounding by the drama of two sisters.
We get into the mind of Ms Haugton, who’s is a strong advocate for Black women as well as a well-wish and supporter of other film directors, screenwriters and producers that we’ve featured on our blog.
We talk about everything from the state of Black British television in terms of shows, the infamous rise of the riotous “Real Housewives” and her dreams to working with Idris Elba (yes, that her dream).
Read the interview after the jump.
1. It’s a pleasure having this interview with you Danielle. Congrats on the success of “Dear Jesus”, not to mention the “Alexxxxxxissss” show.
Thank you! We’re so grateful for all your support of both of the shows!
2. So what motivated you to write a realist drama for Youtube? You could have easily just did the status quo, either something like “Scandal” by Shona Rhimes or a reality show…with endless baby drama, backstabbing and hair pulling.
I love watching those shows. Shonda Rhimes is the High Priestess of High Drama, I look up to her. But I’m from South London, living here inspires me. I worked in Cool Breeze as a waitress like Mercedes after I couldn’t get a job in television due to poor choices I made whilst at university. My aunt was kind enough to give me a job and while there I was so inspired by my aunt as a woman singlehandedly running a successful business and her customers! Every interaction in the first 3 seasons of the show that Mercedes and the others have with customers happened to me. It was a great job.
3. Do you believe that Black actors always get boxed into a certain type of genre?…
It’s slowly changing but yes.
…Because there’s been outcry about the bad influence of reality shows such as “Love & Hip Hop” and “Real Housewives of Atlanta”…on Black girls.
The lack of representation for black people on television and behind the scenes means that ANY representation of us is highly scrutinised and analysed. It is unfair to hold black people up to this standard of respectability that states that because we don’t get to go on TV often we have to “behave” and “act right” in order to not offend. The white counterparts to the shows you’ve described are just as riotous. Have you seen Real Housewives of New York or Orange County? All parents must educate their children, lead them and not expect television to do their job.
4, For some reason, Black people’s dysfunction has become a source of income and entertainment.
It always has been and always be. But the transformative power comes when black people tell their stories. Our voices are so unique. Look at Michaela Coel’s comedy series #ChewingGum.
5. For those hearing about the show, tell us in three sentences what “Dear Jesus” is about.
Dear Jesus is about Mercedes, who is fired from her job one day, returns home to find her best friend and boyfriend in bed together. She’s forced to return home where her mum tells her if she’s going to stay she has to work at the family’s Jamaican Take-Away. Every episode starts with typing a prayer in her laptop asking “Dear Jesus, why me?” LOL. Did I do it in three sentences?
6. Congrats on your launch premiere in Atlanta (as well as London) whoop whoop! You’re definitely leading the way of getting the Black community to start building, owning and controlling their images.
Thank you so much. I have been inspired by all of those black creatives, women especially who have been thanklessly adding to the discourse for years. Things are starting to change but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. And it’s tiring and unrewarding at times but we have to keep going. My favourite blogger in the world is Janice Spence from Mad News Blog. Consistently and tirelessly she has been spotlighting black entertainment and social news for years. Her work ethic helps me understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint. In order to achieve our goals of equality and representation we have to be in it for the long haul.
7. So “Dear Jesus” is now its their fourth season, which is amazing…as it’s a chance for the viewers to grow with the characters as well as the storyline. Any exclusives as to what the viewers can expect?
No. Every part of the few episodes we have left are so juicy, it would be a disservice to tell you anything at this point.
8. How is the fourth season of the show different from the previous three seasons that you’ve written.
There are so many characters this season and everyone’s story is interwoven. It was a challenge writing it but also really rewarding during rehearsal to see the actors getting so engrossed in their storylines. The biggest difference is the emergence of Mercedes and Alexis’ dad Desmond and the new family dynamic it brings to the show. Mercedes has eluded to her father in the past (see season 2 episode 5) so it was fun bringing him into the fold and watching this dysfunctional family work through their very real life problems.
9. Many of us were brought up with many good Black shows in the nineties to the early noughties whether it was “The Real McCoy”, “Desmond” or just “Brandy”, “Sister Sister”, “Fresh Prince” or “The Cosby Show”. These shows had a sense of humanity within the family as well as a sense of sisterhood, which has been lost now since everyone is willing to record two females fighting for a dollar and place it to WorldStarr Hip Hop. Do you believe that the shows nowadays has deteriorated the family, brotherhood and sisterhood codes that existed in the Black community? Feel free to share your thoughts.
The shows on television are not responsible for the way people behave. Two women (women, not females as this word refers to a woman’s genatalia and not their gender) fighting on World Star would have been fighting anyway even if there were no phones to capture it and make it go viral.
The world doesn’t change much but adapts to the technology and fetishes of the time. The early noughties saw the rise of reality TV and a distinct decline in the commissions of scripted television as networks and broadcasters realised what was making them money and attracting audiences and advertisers alike was reality. From the US to the UK The Big Brothers, Shipwrecks, Survivors, The Hills, I’m A Celebrity, X Factor, Pop Idol, American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, Real Housewives, Basketball Wives, Mob Wives, Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore Made In Chelsea, The Only Way Is Essex (this list is endless you see) these shows became the money makers and diverse, quality drama was put on a back burner.
But with the power of the internet, we the people were given the power to help shift the balance of power. The late noughties saw Awkward Black Girl, Dormtainment, Black & Sexy TV, Venus Vs Mars, Brothers With No Game all retook power and proved that while Television wasn’t defunct, it was in serious danger of being left in the dark ages if it refused to take people of colour seriously.
It’s a misnomer that a sense of sisterhood and/or brotherhood has been lost because of the invisibility of black family dramas/comedies on television. This idea ignores a whole myriad of sociopolitical and economic factors, hiding those factors behind a respectability politics cloak that would have black people take responsibility for the content on our televisions and its effects on our community when we are only now gaining the power to enact a real, lasting change.
10. Any chance for Alexis to get another third series?
Yes. I love working with Samantha Earle who plays Alexis. I could write seasons of The Alexis Show just to enjoy her performances.
11. If you could bring any major actor into your webseries, who would be and why? What role would their play in the plot? The actor has to be someone famous!
OMG! Idris Elba, Taraji P Henson, Archie Punjabi, Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union. I would be honoured to have any of them on my set. Are you serious? It would be my dream but Samuel L Jackson! He’s who I’d choose. He’s perfect. He could fit into Dear Jesus flawlessly as Miss Yolanda’s old boyfriend who is just fantastically cool and wants to steal her from Desmond. Oh! That would be so much fun. IJN, amen. Ha!
12. Who do you think that we should look out for in the UK film scene? Feel free to mention any producers, screenwriters, directors etc.
If you don’t know, get to know Leon Mayne of Brothers With No Game, he wrote the series “How Did We Get Here” and it was one of my favs of the year. You can watch it from the start to the end or vice versa and it tells a different story. I’m a total fangirl for Cecile Emeke and Waiki Harnais. They’re just brilliant writer/directors and they inspire me. Alan Collardy is THE cinematographer of our generation. Delia Donaldson, Monique Needham and Baby Isako are awesome storytellers too!
13. “The Alexis Show” and “Dear Jesus” are two projects made under your filming company Wonder London. Any plans to expand the portfolio into more diverse movie projects other than drama?
Not right now. I’m going to continue developing series and work on producing short films.
14. Here’s a challenge for you. In two words, describe each character in the show in terms of their personality.
No. There’s too many. LOL.
Subscribe to the Dear Jesus Youtube a Channel to catch new episodes every Sunday @ 9pm.
Fans can also follow the show on Twitter @DearJesusTV as well as use the #DJS4.
The fifth season of the most popular show will return in 2016.