The Carmichael Show tackles more hot topics
LOS ANGELES — Cast members of the NBC summer replacement series “The Carmichael Show” are seated on one side of a long table that has been placed in front of a temporary set that looks like a fast-food restaurant. Normally, the conversations that take place between the various generations of the family unfold in the living room. The location is different but the willingness to tackle sensitive topics is the same.
When the script of the comedy that the cast is reading is filmed, it will have the group talking about rape. It’s the latest subject the family has debated, discussed and dissected in the previous two seasons. Other hot topics have included religion, guns, police protests, pornography addiction, gender roles, prison and race relations. The show reflects the thought-provoking comedy of series star and executive producer, Jerrod Carmichael, and that continues as the new season opens.
Before Jerrod can wade into verbal warfare with his old-school father (David Alan Grier), devoutly religious mother (Loretta Devine), progressive live-in girlfriend (Amber Stevens West), his separated brother (Rel Howery) and his brother’s estranged wife (Tiffany Haddish), the script goes through constant rewrites to make sure the arguments are balanced. Scripts often change in the final minutes to reflect new information or ideas.
The exploration in the episode is prompted by an online post about a sexual assault.
Executive producer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel explains that getting the script right is a collaborative process that starts with getting as many opinions as possible.
“I don’t think our show would work unless we had these talented writers back here,” Witzel says pointing to the group of writers seated near the cast. “I don’t think it would work unless we had the 12 different perspectives that we have on kind of every topic we handle. So everyone’s input kind of goes in the beginning, and then the writers of record go off and write a first draft. That comes back to the room. So there is constant input from everybody.”
The opinions used to fashion the script don’t include a lot of consultants but when the topic is something as volatile and sensitive as “no means no,” the staff will turn to groups who deal with the topics on a regular basis to make sure everything is factual. They turned to members of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy for help with the script for the show that serves as the third season opener.
Even with all of the concerns for the script, it falls to the cast to find a way to create laughs while dealing with topics that are not laughing matters. Carmichael and the cast approach each episode the same way.
Carmichael says: “We don’t approach anything with fear and as much honesty as we possibly can. That’s really the thought that goes into it and just not being afraid to explore something. Not that there’s humour in everything. I’m not saying that. But there can be humour mined from any tense or difficult situation. So we like to try and explore it.”
All of this is driven by Carmichael who deals with tough issues in his standup act. That hasn’t changed since he made his debut on HBO in 2014 with the one-hour special “Love at the Store,” directed by Spike Lee. His big-screen credits include “Transformers: The Last Knight” and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.”
“The Carmichael Show” airs at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31 on NBC Tribune News Service
Cast of the “The Carmichael Show.”