T.C. Carson stormed into our lives as the charismatic and debonair Kyle Barker on the hit ‘90s sitcom, Living Single. The series, which focused on six single carefree friends living and loving in Brooklyn, ushered in a slew of other TV shows including Friends, Girlfriends, and Moesha. Since leaving Living Single in 1998, Carson has voiced the character Mace Windu on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and he's appeared in countless films and TV shows. Now the Chicago native has returned to television full time in Bounce TV's new series, Last Call.
Called the Black Cheers —Last Call follows ex-NFL player, Darius Knight (Malik Whitfield) who is forced to rent out the backroom in his bar as a comedy club after running into some financial issues. On the series, Carson stars as Arthur Payne —a widower and retired veteran who loves spending his golden years trading barbs with all of Last Call’s regulars. Recently, Shadow and Act sat down with Carson to talk about the new series, if he’d ever do a Living Single reboot and why he’s nowhere near done telling Black stories on the screen and stage.
"Last Call is loosely based around that same idea as Cheers which is great,” Carson revealed. "But really what got me to the project was the director, Roger Bobb. He asked me to do it so I did it."
Carson was also intrigued by his character, Arthur. The older gentleman is unlike any character he's played before in his career, but that’s what made the wise-cracking entrepreneur so exciting. "It was difficult at first because, though he’s 60 on paper, they were writing him like he was in his 80s," Carson reflected. "The way a 60-year-old man acts in this day and age —it’s not the same as it used to be. It's a great opportunity for me as an actor to talk about some things that people don't talk about. We don't talk about aging in our community. We don't see what happens when older people are widowed and they're trying to date in the technology age.”
The Life with Louie alum wanted to be sure that he advocated for those in their wiser years and that they were depicted fairly—with all the nuances and detail that they deserve. "We’re aging differently," Carson said. "We're working out; we're traveling—we're living our best life. I talked to some of the producers I said, 'Arthur really should be like the Dos Equis man. He's the most interesting man in the world. He has a successful business, he's a retired army vet, he's got some money, his kids have the business, he's a widow, he's got money and time."
Though he jumped at the chance to work with Roger Bobb who is one of Tyler Perry’s long-time producers, the speed at which Last Call is filmed certainly called for some adjustment. Like Perry, Bobb works quickly. While sitcoms traditionally take at least a week to film —Last Call shoots three episodes per week. "It wasn't easy," Carson said of the filming schedule. "It’s a really hard way to shoot because it's not a lot of time to have an investment in the characters. Instead of being freaked out about that, I took it as a challenge. I thought, 'How do you take your process and truncate it so that you still get to where you want to get to, but you get there quicker?’ It was a learning process for me to figure out how to learn and be able to deliver in that short period of time.”
It also helped that the Last Call cast quickly established a camaraderie and familial rapport with one another. "It's always good to see Carl [Payne]," Carson laughed. "He's funny, he's really really funny. He's a great comedian, and it was good to see Malik. We had never worked together, but it was good to see him. We've got great young people on the show—Mishon Ratliff, Erica Page and Brely Evans are really great young folks, and I'm looking forward to seeing more and more of what they're doing as well."
With such a massive shift in the industry towards Black stories in the past several years — Carson is determined to keep pushing the needle forward when it comes Black narratives. "The industry has changed in many ways, good and bad," he expressed. "I think the major networks are finally seeing the value in African American programming, but now we have our own networks who are doing original programming. I think that's the biggest change — we are now controlling the narrative. For a long time, we were complaining about not seeing our stories. Now we have platforms where we can see our stories, and we're in the fledgling stages of telling these stories. We're not telling all of them yet, but we're telling them the best we can right now. I'm hopeful that we are going to continue to get better and better and better. We have so many stories, we've only scratched the surface. We're still telling stories that we think the mainstream wants to hear as opposed to telling our stories and making them interesting so everybody will want to hear.”
With its extensive legacy in the entertainment industry and Black culture. there have been whispers about a Living Single reboot for some time. It turns out that Carson isn’t opposed to reuniting with his old castmates, but he does have a few conditions. "As long as they could really move the story forward and make it interesting — not just rehashing the same kind of stuff, then, of course, I'd love to see it," he revealed. "But I don't want to go back and do the same stuff we did. That's kind of redundant."
For now, Carson is excited to dive into deeper issues that affect the Black community on the micro and macro level with Last Call. "I’m hoping that as we continue to grow that we'll deal with social issues like Black-ish does," he said. "These are issues we need to talk about. My whole focus these next few years or this next go-around for me is really focusing on helping our community. We talk about what they do to us ... we know what they do to us. And they will continue. But what are we doing though? How are we helping us? What are we bringing back to us to make it better for our community?"
Along with Last Call — Carson also has several other projects on the horizon. "I’ve got a movie coming out called Bricked,” he said. "It’s about a young man who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder—I play his doctor. This opens up a conversation about mental health that we don't have it in our community. We're also working on a new album that should but out in February. I’m also working on some theater stuff, and a couple of TV shows that we're pitching —so it's going to be a good new year."
Last Call airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Bounce
Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in 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