The “magical negro” is a character in America cinema that we’ve seen since its inception (and continue to see). The term, coined by Spike Lee in 2011, is used to describe to black supporting characters whose only purpose in a project is to help the white protagonist.
A new ABC drama, Kevin (Probably) Saves The World (originally titled The Gospel of Kevin) is already clearing the air on how their would-be resident trope may be received, as its showrunner spoke openly about it at the Television Critics Association press tour
The show stars Jason Ritter as a” cluelessly self-serving person who is on a dangerous path to despair. In a downward spiral, he returns home to stay with his widowed twin sister and niece. On Kevin’s first night there, an unlikely celestial being named Yvette appears and presents him with a mission — to save the world.”
Yvette, who was originally portrayed by Latina comedian Cristela Alonso in the pilot, was recast in post-production and is now portrayed by Kimberly Hebert Gregory.
Series co-creator and co-showrunner Michele Fazekas said, “I certainly have heard of that trope and I think part of that trope is that that character exists only to service the white character, and I feel like we have built a character who has wants, has needs and has her own storyline.”
Co-creator and co-showrunner Tara Butters also said, “As the show expands over multiple episodes, one of the things you’re going to see is as much she’s there to help Kevin, Kevin ends up helping her. They end up creating this really interesting partnership. Butters also says that the audience will end up meeting “other people of her kind” later.
Gregory herself spoke to the TCA crowd about it. “I understand that concept but the character is not an angel, she’s flawed, she’s not angelic, she doesn’t necessarily behave like an angel, she doesn’t use language that is necessarily angelic. She has a real purpose, and her purpose is really bigger than just helping Kevin do what he needs to do. She’s almost kind of playing God in a sense.” (Note, Octavia Spencer recently portrayed God).
Butters elaborated, saying “What I love about what Kimberly brings to the role is the strength and the warmth and just a unique take on what you call a guardian angel or a warrior for God — she brings a whole new kind of look at this archetype.” On realizing they wanted the character to go in a different direction, Butters said “It’s was a hard role to cast and I think the tone of it shifted a little bit, I would say,” noting that she was originally wanted for the role but was unavailable. “We ended up getting Kimberly and It ended up being the way the pilot should be.”
Kevin (Probably) Saves The World premires this fall on ABC.