Netflix has been on a roll with Black family comedies, including Jamie Foxx’s Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! and Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Loretta Devine in Family Reunion. The latest Netflix comedy to follow in their footsteps is The Upshaws starring Mike Epps, Wanda Sykes and Kim Fields as a working-class family in Indiana. Epps and Sykes are also executive producers on the series, which is from Sykes and Black sitcom vet Regina Hicks.
The series also stars Page Kennedy, Diamond Lyons, Khali Daniya-Renee Spraggins, Jermelle Simon, Gabrielle Dennis and Journey Christine.
The description: Bennie Upshaw (Mike Epps), the head of a Black working-class family in Indianapolis, is a charming, well-intentioned mechanic and lifelong mess just trying his best to step up and care for his family — wife Regina (Kim Fields), their two young daughters (Khali Daniya-Renee Spraggins, Journey Christine) and firstborn son (Jermelle Simon), the teenage son (Diamond Lyons) he fathered with another woman (Gabrielle Dennis) — and tolerate his sardonic sister-in-law (Wanda Sykes), all without a blueprint for success. But the Upshaws are determined to make it work, and make it to the next level, together.
Shadow And Act’s Jessica Otse Idaewor spoke with Epps, Sykes and Fields about the series, which will debut May 12.
“I was able and blessed to be sandwiched by such great, beautiful and talented women in this show right here,” Epps, who plays Bennie Upshaw, said. “…I worked on a few shows but not quite this delightful, meaning when everything works and it works good, what more can you ask for…I really actually walked away like, ‘Man, I feel good.'”
Sykes, who plays Lucretia Turner in the series, spoke about her character’s relationship with Bennie harkens back to old-school comedic relationships.
“Mike and I both love Sanford and Son and Fred Sanford and Aunt Esther’s relationship,” she said. “It’s our nod to them and to throw back but still keeping our show fresh and current.”
Fields, who plays Regina Upshaw, said she joined the show because of the comedic power of Sykes and Epps, saying the show “definitely exceeded any of my expectations” and called it “lightning in a bottle.”
“They [Netflix] didn’t have to say nothing else,” she said when she heard Epps and Sykes were starring and executive producing. “…[T]hat’s all I heard and that’s all I know that’s what sent me to meet them about the show.”
She also said that a show about a salt-of-the-earth type of family is able to draw from past beloved families, like the families on The Jeffersons and Good Times.
“The idea of a working-class black family but in the now, in this moment in time…against the backdrop of all of the great [TV] families…this truly has the ability to really stand on their shoulders proudly and take it to the next level, to really level up that concept of family in television right now,” she said. “So I was very excited to jump on board. ”
Check out the full interview below: