It’s been discussed numerous times how family sitcoms, especially Black ones, began to disappear after the 2000s. In 2021, Netflix’s The Upshaws entered the chat and has since brought back the nostalgia that’s been missing on television. Not only has the show aided in filling a massive void, but it came swinging with the perfect formula: Quality acting, witty writing, dynamic stories, character-driven humor, and a theme song.
Describing herself as a “sitcom baby,” creator and executive producer Regina Y. Hicks having the genre’s influence in her DNA is a part of why the series has been a hit. With the recent release of season 2, the team’s aim was to dig deeper into the stories being told, as well as the characters similar to how they successfully did in the first season.
The comedy show hones in on creating storylines around situations that can happen in anybody’s family, which is seen play out with its characters’ relationships such as between Lucretia (Wanda Sykes) and Bennie (Mike Epps), as well as Regina (Kim Fields), Lucretia, and their sister Althea (Kym Whitley), who is introduced in season 2.
“In every family, there’s drama, fun, and comedy across the board — Black, white, whatever — and we just love the dynamics,” Hicks recently shared with Shadow and Act. “We love the dynamic of the sisters. We love Lucretia and Bennie and how the parents deal with the children. And also how they grow. Aaliyah and Kelvin in the pilot didn’t even really know each other. They crossed at her party and didn’t have much to say. Now, they’re helping each other. So, we like to take the dynamics that we set up in place, and based on those dynamics, people get into crisis based on those.”
Along with the characters’ dynamics and complex stories, at the heart of the show is “keeping it real.” There’s no such thing as a picture-perfect family, and The Upshaws fully represent the fact on screen. For Hicks, she hopes bringing authenticity through a sitcom can play a role in saving it from being a dying art form.
“I love how we do the theme of everything doesn't always wrap up in a bow. I think especially in sitcoms, that things can be as real as the dramas we watch. People like the episodic part from one to the other. They're not standalone episodes. They actually follow an art. They follow a story.”
She continued: “I think we kinda got away from it for a while. People were like soured on sitcoms. Everybody was single camera. But I hope that this will show people that there’s a successful way to do sitcoms and to make sure sitcoms don’t die out.”
Throughout the series, the writing doesn’t only play a significant role in making the sitcom a success but it's also the actors. For instance, in regard to the constant, hilarious verbal jabs between Bennie and Lucretia, Hicks credits Epps and Sykes for it.
“Wanda’s not afraid to poke fun at herself and Mike as well. They sometimes even on the spot come up with digs at each other and they’re such good sports. That’s why it’s so funny because we don’t have actors that are like, ‘Oh no, I don’t like people making fun of me.’ They’re not those people at all. They’re like, ‘These are characters, they’re not us. And this is how they relate to each other.’ There’s love there, but this is how they relate to each other. And so they go at it 110 percent and that realness really shows up on screen. And that’s why we smile and laugh at the jokes.”
With living in a time where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, having a good laugh can truly put one back into good spirits. From the humorous storylines to the comedic timing shared between cast members, Hicks ultimately wants the show to serve as a vessel for laughter.
“In times that we are in now or will face, it’s like to laugh at ourselves and to be able to do like a real belly laugh, that’s all I’m looking for,” she shared. “That’s the legacy I want to leave with that people really enjoyed it and people laughed. I was part of the process from concept to editing it and I still watch it and laugh. Those people still make me laugh.”
As for what’s to come for part two of the second season, Hicks revealed to Shadow and Act that unexpected surprises are on the way that the show has been building up to. In short, fans will see why things go down but still won’t necessarily see it coming. While there’s no official premiere date, she believes there’s a possibility for this fall. Stay tuned!
The Upshaws season 2, Part 1, is currently streaming on Netflix.