WE tv is bringing an all-new reality TV docuseries that highlights a group of friends who have made and still are making their mark on the Detroit music scene and beyond.
From super producer Carlos King’s Kingdom Reign Entertainment, Grown & Gospel follows six Detroit natives that have reconnected after several years apart. This special group is the children of gospel royalty and are looking to be seen outside of their parents’ umbrella.
Elijah Connor (a pastor’s kid), Breeann “Bree” Hammond (daughter of Fred Hammond), Tasha Page-Lockhart (daughter of gospel singer and musician Lisa Paige Brooks), J. Brooks (son of Michael A. Brooks), Shana Wilson-Williams (pastor’s kid), and Nikki Cole-Beach (daughter of gospel icon Dorinda Clark Cole) are long-time friends that are on different journeys within and outside of the gospel industry.
“It [the show] shows the human experience. It shows that we’re multidimensional, not just the child or children of legends,” Wilson-Williams told us in a recent interview. “We’re not just a mother, a daughter, a wife, a son, or a brother. We have all these different aspects of our lives that fall under our belief systems and how we were raised.”
“I think what’s different about this cast is that there are other TV shows and networks out there that have to literally put a cast together and you can probably tell by watching, the consumer is smart,” Connor shared. “Everything that happened on the show was real. The producer didn’t have to come to us and tell us. We’ve all known each other for a while so things are going to naturally happen. You’re dealing with over 15-20 plus years of friendships here.”
This TV show isn’t meant to be filed under the Christian category as the cast are believers who are sharing their lives with the world. Although they are Christians, that is just one facet of their lives as everyone does. The cast believes they will combat the negative connotation some churchgoers typically feel when they see their community represented on reality TV and aren’t worried because the show is truly authentic and not scripted.
“If you want to evolve and move forward, you have to go with the next thing that’s coming,” Page-Lockhart told Shadow and Act. “You can’t be stuck. And for those who want to see what we do in a different light, you have to have an open mind to have another perspective. The message is still the same but somehow the method has to change as the word changes.”
Brooks added, “Let’s look at the church and the state of the church right? We’re losing people by the droves. We’re not losing people because people don’t want God, we’re losing people because people don’t want church. So how about the church instead of putting that light on us or on people who are doing things differently, how about we take an introspective look at us and say, ‘Hmmm…the point of this is to reach people. There’s a disconnect somewhere.’ We’re just in the business of finding that connection.”
During filming, the cast got closer as they learned new things about each other that were unknown beforehand. Throughout these difficult or exciting times and new situations, they rallied to support each other throughout this process which prompted healing in their lives as well.
“I felt a connection, felt deeper. Like, God, we’re all going through stuff,” said Wilson-Williams. “This was real life. I commend my cast for being vulnerable and transparent.”
“It was a healthy competitive nature too,” Page-Lockhart said while giggling.
Social media has given fans more access to the personal lives of celebrities. This enhances what is known about public figures as they may share when their on vacation, their favorite hobbies, their beliefs, political views, etc., which also gives them more freedom to connect with like-minded people.
“We’re the first generation that we were here when there wasn’t social media, we were here when social was just a small piece of your life and now we’re living in an era where social media is everything…the connectivity,” Brooks said. “We’re living our lives out loud and we don’t really have the fear of how people will view us because the things that we express and show is really how we feel. We have all these layers of ourselves. I can be culturally relevant and still spiritual.”
In addition, the tight-knit group hopes to inspire others not to be afraid of living in their truth as everyone is here to serve an individual different purpose. Plus, only God can judge man right?
“We’re boldly looking at it in the face and saying, ‘Look…you can have your opinions if you want to. You can keep acting like you’re not dealing with real life behind closed doors of your home but that’s not the reality we live in and the expectation that our God put on us,'” Hammond said. “He didn’t bring us here and creat us as humans to not experience the human process. We particularly have hearts for those outside of the church and reaping those who will never step foot in the walls of the church. I think it’s going to be a huge impact and reach those who might be considered unreachable.”
“We’re followers of Jesus Christ but it’s not centered about being a Christian show,” Wilson-Williams agreed. “We’re going through some things that are going to push the envelope but it’s going to be conversation starters. You’re going to see something you can identify with and you’re going to be like, ‘Maybe I need to have a conversation with my dad. Maybe I need to forgive my sister. Maybe I need to work on my music…I’m inspired to create.’ It’s life, not just about Christians.”
MEET THE CAST
Connor is a singer who grew up in the church week in and week out but is the core of this circle of friends. And if you’re a fan of singing competition shows, then you likely recognized him from the viral staredown with P. Diddy when he was a contestant in season two of FOX’s The Four. He’s walking his own path as an R&B singer and just enjoys doing what he loves.
It’s no surprise that Tasha Page-Lockhart was the winner of BET’s Sunday Best because she was born into music and an original member of the contemporary gospel group, Witness. She’s also the step-sister to Grown & Gospel cast member J. Brooks who working with her on a new album. Outside of continuing to elevate her singing career, she’s a mother doing the best for her family whose with her on this ride.
As the son of a bishop and the founding member of the gospel group Commissioned with Fred Hammond, J. Brooks made his stamp in the industry at the young age of 14 when he landed his first placement. He’s been traveling ever since as a musician and producer who helps artists create hits.
After multiple attempts to break into the music industry, Hammond hasn’t been home in a while but she’s back and isn’t quite ready to give up her singing dreams. As the daughter of one of the most known and respected gospel singers alive, she’s prepared to get to work and make a name for herself.
As the daughter of a gospel icon recognized around the world, Nikkia Cole-Beach took a different path in the music industry that was opposite of her mother’s vision. Although she has vocals, she spends her time backstage as the tour manager of the highest-selling female gospel group in history, The Clark Sisters. She’s excited to be a part of a diverse cast that allows the world to not only see how people behind the scenes of the music industry make the magic happen but also why superstars can’t shine bright without the people in their camp.
“That is my concept with the ‘Behind The Scenes Queen.’ That is something I wanted to illuminate to we are what makes them look good. We are who make them sound good. The recognition is kind of low at times,” Cole-Beach exclaimed with a big smile. “By me coming from a family known for singing, I didn’t want to get that experience of me being a singer. I wanted to do what I do as far as handling the business, making sure the girls are good or making sure the girls are good.”
Shana Wilson-Williams is a singer, wife and mother of three, raised by two pastors who served the Detroit church community for over 30 years. Although a worship leader in her own right, she feels like an outsider in the gospel music industry and will have to work even harder without any “coattails to ride” like the rest of her peers.
The season consists of six, one-hour episodes. Watch their stories unfold every Thursday at 9 p.m. ET starting March 16.