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Oprah Winfrey, Mara Brock Akil And Michele Weaver On 'Love Is__,' Heartache And Lessons Learned

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Oprah Winfrey, Mara Brock Akil And Michele Weaver On 'Love Is__,' Heartache And Lessons Learned


Black women aren’t often given the opportunity to tell our love stories publicly. Instead, our courtships, regrets, and lustful encounters are whispered about amongst our girlfriends. Epic love stories -- the ones that we see in movie theaters or on TV screens are typically reserved for white women, while advice from male “relationship experts,” and unfounded statistics are strewn across social media platforms and news sites telling Black women all the reasons we can't find love. With her new romance series, Love Is__ writer/showrunner Mara Brock Akil is reclaiming the romance genre for Black women by sharing her own very intimate story – a tale of how she and her husband, writer/director Salim Akil fell deeply in love. 

Love Is__ follows Nuri (portrayed by Michele Weaver) a rising writer in '90s Black Hollywood whose settling into her career in LA, making a name or herself, and furnishing her newly purchased home. Her life collides with Yasir (portrayed by Will Catlett), an aspiring writer-director without two nickels to rub together. Told from the perspective of the couple 20 years in the future, with music from everyone from Brownstone to Lauryn Hill contributing to the soundtrack, Akil invites you into this exhilarating time in her life, one that was full of romance, heartache, and so much magic. At the Love Is__ premiere in Los Angeles, I chatted with Akil, OWN CEO Oprah Winfrey and Weaver about the series, the power of Black love, and what can grasp from heartache. 

Courtesy of OWN/Photographer: Chris FrawleyCourtesy of OWN/Photographer: Chris Frawley 

For Ms. Winfrey, the minute she heard Akil’s proposal for Love Is__, she knew she wanted it to be on OWN. The series had an authenticity that is missing on TV. “We love so deeply and so powerfully and so strongly," she emphasized. "Know that! When we love, we go all in. The thing that I think that has been missing from what I’ve seen of Black love stories, other than Queen Sugar, is a sense of intimacy. When Mara walked in with this story about courtship -- before she even finished the pitch I said, ‘Yes, I’m in.' Love has complexity, it’s not just some sweet, happy beginning. You learn to be angry and upset, you learn what it means to gain trust in someone. That’s what’s real. You learn what it means to be disappointed without cussing somebody out. Then find a way back to each other, and finding a way back to each other means you a have a really strong relationship based upon real intimacy, not just sex. Though in 107, there is a sex scene that if you don’t have somebody, you’re gonna want somebody that day! 107! Honey, hush! I called Mara up and said, 'Stop it now!'" 

Stepping into Nuri's shoes and in many ways reliving all the things Mara felt 20 years ago allowed Weaver to examine herself. “Love Is__ really gave me the opportunity to look at my past relationships and my past decisions, and really forgive myself," she said candidly. “I was able to forgive the other people involved, and it gave me a new perspective. It made me face a lot of fears that I had about myself which is a beautiful thing. That’s why I’m so excited for people to have the opportunity to see the show because if Mara’s writing could help me heal then, it will also help others." 

We aren't typically given the opportunity to relive our love affairs. We might replay them in our minds quietly or think of them fondly, but for Akil, creating Love Is__was like being in the midst of a living scrapbook of her life. “When that man looked at me, he looked at me, through me, and into my heart,"  she remembered. “When I was around him I would just get butterflies all the time. In fact, even to this day I kind of forget what he looks like, so when he walks through the door, it’s like I’m seeing him all over again. Also, we skipped over small talk and we just went to some very meaningful conversations. He was very present, and he’s fine! Shit! If you’re going to be in love for a long time, you have to look at that for a long time -- so fine helps. Shooting the pilot when I went on location scouts to find the settings, I went back to the actual places. The fact that they were available and the stars aligned, and we could afford it, book it, and get it into our schedule; it was divine. It was magical to revisit, it was renewing, and it was restoring. I think sometimes you get very busy and a bit haggard so it gave me a bit of a lift. I would come home and tell Salim, 'I thought about you all day, I wrote about you all day.' The throughline of who we are remains the same, but we’ve also changed. Remembering the Salim of twenty years ago, it was nice to revisit him — and Mara (laughing) and then I changed the names." 

Courtesy of OWN/Photographer: Chris FrawleyCourtesy of OWN/Photographer: Chris Frawley 

Though it's full of charm and excitement, Love Is__ doesn’t erase the blunders of romance and new love. Along with the passion and lust, the anguish and pain are also intricately intertwined in the journey. “Every heartache is there to teach you something about yourself," Ms. Winfrey explained. “I have so many girls, and somebody is always going through heartache. I was just talking to one of the girls the other day, and I said, 'You’re so upset with this person because you think they are the one who caused this pain for you, they are really your biggest teacher.' It doesn’t feel good at the moment, but, in the future, it’s the thing that’s going to light you up, and you get to stay lit. The deeper the heartache, the more you have to learn. I had some terrible stuff happen in my twenties. I remember I was standing in the closet when I was moving from Chicago to Los Angeles and I ran across some old letters that I had written to him. 'Whew!!! Shame!' I’m so glad I didn’t send them. I actually shed tears for the girl that I used to be. How sad was I in my pleas? What I know now is that he was here to show me myself so I could learn to love myself. This was the guy who said to me, 'The problem with you is you think you special.' I was like, 'No I’m not, I’m really not, I’m not special!' But look at me now." 

Though her real-life journey has a happy ending, Akil doesn't sugarcoat Nuri and Yasir's path. The characters face real-life challenges and bring quite a bit of baggage to the table, but perhaps that's a lesson in that we are meant for some people and not for others. Weaver hopes that Love Is__ opens people’s hearts. “A lot of people are really jaded," the Switched At Birth alum said thoughtfully. “A lot of people have lost hope. I think people have decided what the right thing is. We've put rules to love — what it should look like, what it should feel like, and I don’t think you can do that with love. A lot of people I know who have been married for a long time, they say when you know, you know. They were honest with themselves first so that they could be honest with another person. I think love is just as much giving to another person as it is self-reflective. As you get to know Nuri throughout this season you’ll see that she comes off joyful, and she comes off bubbly, but she has her baggage too. I think happiness is a choice and at the end of the day, even people who find love, they still have to choose to give love. It’s a risk and sometimes you don’t get back what you invest. With true love, you invest not expecting anything back, and you have to decide if that’s a risk you’re willing to take, but it’s worth it for the right one." 

As we lean in with Nuri and Yasir, Akil wants Black women, in particular, to know that love is available to us and that we can have the relationships that we desire. However, the Girlfriends creator did have some words of advice. “Love is very expansive, and it allows for the imperfections of life, and it allows for our faults," she explained. “I was going to say love is not giving up, but sometimes you want to give up, and it requires the other person to lift up way more than their share. Love is not evil. There is never complete darkness in love, there is always light in love."




This topic was modified 3 years ago by ?errthang
Topic starter Posted : 19/06/2018 10:19 pm
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'Love Is ___' Renewed For Season 2 At OWN

July 31, 2018


Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil's Love Is ___ has been renewed for Season 2 at OWN. 

“Mara and Salim have brought their heart and soul to this passion project working with our friends at Warner Horizon Scripted Television and we couldn’t be more thrilled to renew the show for a second season. This series is an important part of OWN’s scripted programming lineup and to see the ratings grow as the Akils’ love story unfolds each week is truly exciting," said Erik Logan, president, OWN. 

Love Is______ is set in Los Angeles during the 1990s against the backdrop of Black Hollywood. The series chronicles the lives of Nuri (Michele Weaver) and Yasir (Will Catlett), a couple from seemingly different worlds, as they pursue their goals. Told from the perspective of the couple's present-day selves, the one-hour romantic drama explores the social issues and vibrant black culture and how it shaped the romantic duo two decades later as they become a power couple navigating the complex set of social codes that permeate Los Angeles. 

The series, inspired by the Akils' own romantic journey, will explore the ups and downs of falling and staying in love. 

Michele Weaver Will Catlett, Wendy Davis, Clarke Peters, Idara Victor, Tyrone Brown, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing and Kadeem Hardison star.


Topic starter Posted : 31/07/2018 3:50 pm

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