What inspired Tracy Oliver to create the Prime Video Show (exclusive)

Tracy Oliver is best known for bringing the 2017 hit comedy Girls trip with Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina King. It was the role that made Tiffany Haddish a star and the first released film written by a black woman for gross over $100 million at the box office. Since then, Oliver hasn’t slowed down.

Now she tells us another story of black womanhood and friendship with the Comedy Prime Video Harlem (out now). The show follows four women at different stages of life, love, and career as they hold tight to their bonds to carry them through life. Oliver says she will always write friendship stories because of how important his relationships with his girlfriends are in his own life.

PopCulture.com spoke with Oliver about how the city of Harlem looks, telling stories about relationships, and more. She also gives an update on the status of Girls trip 2. Scroll down to read our full Q&A with Oliver. (It’s also available as a video at the top of this article.)

PC: So I loved the show, and one of the things that really caught my attention was that you decided to set the show in Harlem. Why choose Harlem for the decor?

AT: I chose it because when I lived there it was so much fun. Honestly. I wish I had a deeper answer to this, but it was a lot of fun. We’d stay out until three or four in the morning and eat chicken and waffles, and we’d just get drunk on the train and do all kinds of crazy stuff. And it was just a lot of culture that you were organically immersed in. And then you have such a rich history with Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell and the Harlem Renaissance. And I was just like, it’s just like the most dope setting for a show because there’s so much woven into it already.

And that’s something you get into, at least in the first episode, is the ever-evolving gentrification of cities like Harlem and other big urban cities. Why did you feel like it was necessary to incorporate that into the show, especially the themes of…Four black women of a certain age group navigating life, love, and career ?

So when I lived in Harlem, it was much darker and much different. And then when I came back, I was like, “Oh wow.” Like it’s getting gentrified fast. And the neighborhood was just very different. And when we were in the writer’s room, there was this announcement, this real estate. I think it was a Compass ad that went viral because it was like, “Welcome to New Harlem.” And it was like two white men on a porch. And I was like, “Oh wow.” So it became like that. And it went viral because people were just talking about the genre, Harlem is officially stripped of its culture. And so, it felt like you were putting on a show there, not acknowledging that it didn’t feel authentic to me and didn’t feel right to pretend that the community wasn’t changing on some level.

And there’s been a major revival of shows focusing on black women of a certain age group, their friendships, and their love lives. What do you think makes audiences yearn for this specific format?

I think it’s escape and feel good. And I think it’s necessary because I think sometimes we put, and by us, I mean Hollywood emphasizes black pain and black struggle and those kinds of stories. And I think a lot of moviegoers just want to have a glass of wine and watch a show and laugh and have fun with their friends. There’s a lot of bonding and camaraderie that can happen with shows like this and I kind of write for that audience. I’ve always been interested in making people laugh, in making people cry, but tears of joy, not like tears of pain and struggle. But just because you feel good with your friends, and at the end of the day, Harlem is a love affair between women. And those stories are always important because I think men and women can come in and out of our lives, but our friends are the glue that always keeps us together. And I think that’s a valuable message, and yes, I think it’s really needed.

And you’ve become synonymous with showing the dynamics of incredible friendships, lifelong friendships. Obviously a lot of people have come to know and love you from your amazing movie, Girls trip. What draws you to keep exploring this whole idea? Now, you mentioned that you felt like… Of course, you said friendships, more so, are constant. It’s probably the most intimate relationship we have. I always say that friendship breakups or friendship issues are harder than romantic issues. So other than that, is there anything else that adds to this whole dynamic that you like to keep exploring?

I think I’ve always been drawn to it because friends are really important in my life. My sister is like my best friend and I never really do sisters, but she kind of becomes characters, friend characters in my stuff. But I talk about everything with my girlfriends, and I’m really more interested in those conversations than the men and women talking, because there are so many fun and interesting things that we do together as women. And there’s just something always great and fun about a family atmosphere. And I think the way I write friends, like friends together, is kind of like family together. In this show, and also First wivesand with Girls trip, they are intimate like a family. They joke about each other like a family, they talk… I don’t know if I can say talk s—. They say crazy things to each other like family and they’re the ones who are so vulnerable and honest that they can say, “Girl, take that off. You look crazy.”

Whereas men can’t even get away with this stuff. But it’s just an honesty and a vulnerability that I think women have with each other that I always like to explore. And I also like to explore friendships over time and how they evolve. And so, I would like with Harlemif there are several seasons somehow … And sex and the city did it really well, but just show when marriage and kids and stuff start to come into play, how it affects your main friendship groups and stuff.

Now we mentioned Girls trip. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask, is there an update on the whole process for the movie? Because you know, we’re waiting.

(Sighs) This sigh is because I am also waiting. The last time I spoke to Tiffany Haddish, she was like, “Honey, we’re doing this. And I was like, “Yay, this is happening.” And then she booked a million things. And I don’t know if it’s all going to line up one day, but it has to be the availability of the actors and the budget has to work. And if I can be really honest, it’s the budget that’s why it’s been really tricky.

All episodes of Harlem are streaming now on Prime Video. You can watch our full video interview with Tracy Oliver at the top of this article.

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