Netflix’s new animated series, My Dad the Bounty Hunter, is an action-comedy series following close-knit siblings Lisa and Sean, who stow away on their dad’s latest work trip, hoping to finally get some quality time together. Little do they know that their dad’s been keeping a secret from them — he’s actually the toughest bounty hunter in the galaxy! Launched into the surprise space adventure of a lifetime, Lisa and Sean discover that their seemingly average dad’s job is anything but boring. Dodging dangerous aliens, robots, and laser fights galore, family bonding time becomes much more than they bargained for as they try to help their dad in pursuit of his toughest fugitive yet. With his kids along for the ride, Dad must show up for them when they need it most — and they’d better make it home before Mom finds out!
It is a show unlike anything viewers have ever seen before, specifically because it Black actors doing the voiceover work in an animate, sci-fi family series. From creators and executive producers Everett Downing and Patrick Harpin, the series highlights a number of themes, such as co-parenting, what Black fatherhood looks like, and the importance of spending quality time with your loved ones. While the family isn’t perfect, they do their best.
The series stars Laz Alonso, Yvonne Orji, Priah Ferguson, Yvette Nicole Brown, JeCobi Swain, Leslie Uggams, Rob Riggle, Jim Rash and Jamie Chung. Ahead of the premiere, S&A spoke with Alonso, Orji, Ferguson, Swain, Downing, and Haprin about the new show.
S&A: Laz, what do you feel this specific project says about fatherhood, and specifically, Black fatherhood?
LA: Well, first and foremost, I think it continues to dispel the idea that Black dads are not present or don’t wish to be present in their children’s lives. In our show, it shows that our father is prioritizing, providing, and he’s so focused on providing for his kids and for his family that his daughter ends up teaching him what they really need, which is more of his presence and what they really want, the love that that they want to receive from him. That’s it. You can’t put a price on it. I think that it’s a fun space, an intergalactic story that’s killing tons of aliens and dealing with a whole bunch of different crazy creatures and situations out there. But at the core of it, it’s a family story about kids that just want their pops to be around more.
S&A: Yvonne, this is your first major foray into the world of animation. Why would you feel as if this was the perfect project for you to do, and specifically with it being family-friendly?
YO: Well, that’s exactly why, it’s because I love family-friendly projects. Even when I think about my comedy specials, when say to me, ‘Oh, I could watch it with my mom and my grandma.’ I was like, ‘Yes, mission accomplished.’ When I came to America, there was TGIF and all these family shows that you could literally just sit around watching TV with your folks for hours. And somewhere along the line, it was kind of like, ‘Y’all go do your thing. We’ll do our thing.’ And now it seems like we only meet in the middle for one movie or show every two years. And I like this project.
This one, it’s a series. It is really showing a family is not as very the traditional nuclear family because they have their challenges. But I think it’s also healthy for kids to see what mom and dad working through their issues looks like and also what the kids can teach the parents when they are going through. I think a lot of people want to be able to see themselves in this. And so that’s what really attracted me to the project – just being able to find that heart in the home and being able to have like multigenerational television watching.
S&A: And for both of you, outside of what you guys already spoke about, as far as, representation of Black families and the need for more family-friendly series or films or projects in general, what else do you feel makes this specific project feel special for viewers, and what themes do you feel like are the most important for them to witness within this project?
YO: I like the idea of being able to see us as being the good guy catching the bad guys and doing it in such a pretty dope way. At least for me. I mean, watching it, I was like, ‘Yo, we actually as brave with guns.’ I love it.
LA: Yeah, I would say the same thing. Growing up, there weren’t many examples of us in space. And it changes when you see yourself in a particular environment. Now you can play in that universe and that world and create your own stories. This is just another way that inclusion can be applied in our profession. There are a lot of genres that we were excluded from, and it’s nice to see us be active participants and heroic as well in them now.
S&A: Priah, you've done multiple projects with Netflix at this point, which are obviously considered family-friendly. But what about this animated project makes it so special for you?
PF: It’s an animated project center[ed] [on a] family, so it’s definitely relatable to me. And [it has] healthy co-parenting, which definitely should be shown more. Also, I like that it’s a combination of action and comedy. It’s fun, and I think many people would relate to it. It’s just a good animation. I think is different.
S&A: JeCobi, for you as a young Black boy, how important do you feel it is to have positive storylines and images on screen that are presented in the series?
JS: I think that it’s, to be honest, really important to even have this type of story. To be introduced to the world, to have like to even as a young Black kid, to have your dad around, I know a couple of people in my life that didn’t really have that. It’s just so big and important. And to have healthy co-parenting that’s so awesome and amazing, and to go on big adventures like being in space and fighting bad guys with your dad, that’s really special.
S&A: How do you feel as if you differ, but are also similar to the character that you play on the show?
PF: I think me and Lisa differ because she’s more direct than I can be. I think we’re similar because we’re both super smart. We’re both kind of quick on our feet and witty. And we’re both big sisters, so that’s how we are similar.
JS: I think me and Sean are really different. I think we differ because sometimes we just really let people take the lead and we’ll follow behind. But I feel like that’s definitely where we differ. But I feel like everything other than that, how we act, how we’re super fun, super chill, super happy all the time – I feel like that’s definitely where we connect in a lot of ways.
S&A: Everett, what do you feel is the importance of representation with seeing a Black family in a kids' animated series?
ED: I think it’s super important. I mean, obviously, it was at the forefront of my mind – this idea when we first kind of came up with it. And for me, growing up, I always felt like with science-fiction, you didn’t see a lot of Black people, a lot of people of color in space. Lando [Calrissian of Star Wars] was the first guy that I saw. It’s so important that people see us. We see ourselves in the future. It’s just not like we want to normalize it. This is kind of how things should be.
And there’s also the other side of it. I really want America and the world to spend time with this Black family and really see what they’re like, so they see there’s a lot more like that in common than they realize, like Lisa’s relationship with Dad is just like my relationship with my father.
S&A: Patrick, for you, outside of obviously wanting to create this whole world, what else was the inspiration for you to participate in the project, and what specific things do you think are important that are highlighted in the series?
PH: When me and Ev met, we were at Sony Animation, and we were both story artists. We were both kind of lamenting that we’re kind of not getting to work on the kind of stuff we wanted to work on. And this show is basically an answer to that. The show is everything we felt like wasn’t getting made right now. And to me, I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like perfect families are boring families. I don’t relate to it. I’m like, ‘That’s not like my family.’ And it was people who were doing a lot of that. And we want to do something where it’s like, ‘No, no, no. There’s a real family, real problems.’ And we wanted to showcase the stuff I grew up watching, like in E.T. where it’s the mom is talking about the dad not being in the picture, very openly in front of the kids, and just how refreshing those movies feel now where stuff where they don’t want to include that in kids’ stuff. So that was kind of a guiding light for us.
I kind of draw from the kid’s point of view a lot because with my dad, we didn’t have a babysitter a lot of the time. He would just be like, ‘Nope, you guys are just going to come with me, Get in the work van. You’re going to old dad today.’ And so it was kind of one of those things where we wanted to show a dad who is trying. He doesn’t have a ton of resources at his disposal, but at least he’s trying to connect with them, even if he sometimes screws up.
S&A: Piggybacking off of what you said, Patrick, I really like the emphasis on the father as - I don’t want to say the dominant parent - but he’s very involved as a parent in this series. Was that intentional going into it to showcase a different version of what Black fatherhood looks like, Everett?
ED: It was very purposeful. For me, when Peter and I were first talking about these ideas, the genesis, I really, I really wanted to talk about that. When the idea came up, I was really lamenting because I was working so hard at my job, and as a story artist, you put in a lot of hours and it was the formative years of my daughters, and I wasn’t really getting a chance to spend as much time with them as I felt like I was missing out. And I really kind of wanted to talk about the importance of trying to let my daughters know I’m thinking about them, but also like the importance of that work-life balance and really seeing like, ‘Hey, you know, the guys out there hustling, but he’s doing it because he cares about his family. It’s all good intentions. He’s trying to make a better life for his family.’ But you got to kind of take that time to really sort of remember that these kids told me you got to spend that time with them. You can make that time up later.
My Dad the Bounty Hunter is streaming now on Netflix.