A robust reimagining of the 1992 film of the same name, A League of Their Own, tells the stories of a women’s professional baseball league amid World War II.
While the classic Penny Marshall film mostly centered on the sexism and injustices that the ladies faced during the time, this Prime Video series, co-created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, unpacks the women’s personal lives.
Across the first season, the series dives into the personal lives of the women playing on the AAGPBL’s Rockford Peaches team as they contend with the era’s sexism, misogyny, racism, and homophobia. However, the series also carefully highlights the women’s joys and passions.
In A League of Their Own, Chanté Adams stars as Maxine; a Rockford resident barred from joining the Peaches because she’s a Black woman. Though her family has other plans for her, Max is determined to live her life on her terms, no matter how many obstacles are thrown in her path.
Max’s story intersects with Carson’s (Jacobson), an Iowa housewife who runs away from home to pursue her dreams. Ahead of the series premiere, Shadow and Act spoke with Adams, Jacobson, Graham, executive producer Desta Tedros Reff and the rest of the cast about the groundbreaking show, balancing joy with truth and uplighting unknown stories.
“You think about being Black in this era, and the first thing you think about is racism and oppression,” Adams explained. “I knew that if that was what we were going to focus on solely, I knew that wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of.”
A League of Their Own offers viewers something different. When they began developing the series, Graham and Jacobson wanted to create a culture of feedback and openness, allowing room for many triumphs to be showcased on-screen.
“I was so happy to hear that we were also going to discuss and display Black joy and love,” Adams reflected. “Max comes from a very affluent Black family who are business owners and very much in love. She has unconditional love and support from her best friend. That was exactly something I wanted to do because I don’t think we get to see that a lot when we think about Black life in this era and see it displayed on the screen. That makes our show and story, especially about Black life in this time period, very special.”
Relentless anti-Blackness, segregation, and racism were par for the course in the 1940s. While homophobia was rampant, the LGBTQ+ community was rarely discussed openly. Jacobson wanted to push past the things that were only alluded to in Marshall’s film and put them on display. “With the queer stories, we were looking at the dangerous and stakes, and rules and secrecy,” she said. “All that went into being queer in 1943 and how joyous it was when the characters found each other, and what that feels like to feel less alone finally. We tried to historically make things as authentic as possible but embody the joy of life when you’re fully able to be yourself.”
Presenting Black women in sports in the 1940s on screen is unheard of. However, Adams’ Maxine is based on three-real life women, Mamie Johnson, Toni Stone, and Connie Morgan, who played in the Negro Leagues during the era. “To hear their names and learn about their stories was huge for me,” Adams said. “Until April this year, they were the only women to play professional baseball on a Major League level. Yet, we don’t know their names; we don’t know their stories. People talk about their love for baseball but draw a blank when they hear any of those names. So, to be able to shed light on their stories in any way was important to me.”
The stories of Johnson, Stone, and Morgan were only the tip of the iceberg when Jacobson and Graham began sifting through the archives and conducting interviews with people who were around during the time.
“Until we started developing it, I knew only about Toni,” Jacobson said. “The number of queer women playing in the All American Girl’s League was surprising. I’m someone who figured out their sexuality very late in life, and I do think that representation matters.”
Check out our full slate of A League of Their Own interviews below, featuring Saidah Arrika Ekulon, Roberta Colindrez, Priscilla Delgado, Kelly McCormack, D’Arcy Carden, Melanie Field and Molly Ephraim.
All episodes of A League of Their Own will drop on August 12 on Prime Video.
Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic, consultant and entertainment editor. As a journalist, her work has been published in Netflix’s Tudum, EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide or tweet her @wordwitharamide.