Fans of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show are in for a star-studded treat with season 2.
“[There’s] more funny, more jokes, more characters — just giving people more of what they want,” Robin Thede explains to ET’s Melicia Johnson when she asks how the creator elevated the show for its sophomore season. “I know that the great thing about season 1 is that people started to get some of their favorite characters already ingrained, like Ashley [Nicole Black]’s Trinity character, Gabrielle [Dennis]’s Alisa character from the gang, the Coral Reefs, and I’ve got a couple of weird ones. We wanted to come back and give people what they wanted — they’re very vocal. Our audience is very vocal about telling us what characters they need to see, which ones we need to be writing, and which ones they expect. So, we knew we wanted to do that.”
Thede continues, saying that because of COVID-19, the cast and crew had to “slow down a little bit,” which allowed them to rewrite sketches and make changes that led to a “more thoughtful” second season. “We’re still going for these relatable grounded sketches in this magical reality. But I think people are going to feel even more of a closeness with the material, even more of like, ‘Wow, they made this for me,'” she says. “I think that’s really the goal.”
Dennis agrees, saying the talent featured in season 2 adds to that magical quality. “Not just from our core cast and from our two new cast members, but all of our guests stars are just so amazing,” she shares. “And the talent, the magic is not just on camera. It’s the magic behind the scenes also, from the writers’ room to the hair and makeup. And it’s all just this amazing, magical brew of talent and so much care and so much love… So, all of that love and all of that magic, we just want to sprinkle it your way when you tune in for season 2, which you’re going to enjoy.”
For Black, the influx of talent was as much of a motivator as a source of inspiration. “Everyone’s so good. You’re kind of like, ‘Oh my god, she’s amazing. Let me go a little bit harder. Let me be a little bit funnier,'” she shares. “And we play so many different characters that you really get to lean into different aspects of yourself that normally wouldn’t be represented onscreen. I play some characters in this that are crazy. And some that are so mean. Normally you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m not supposed to show this side of my personality, but I’m playing 30 different characters, so some of them are going to be crazy.’ And it’s just so much fun to get to play like that.”
Season 2 of the series premieres on Friday, and welcomes Laci Mosley and Skye Townsend as new featured players. The show’s first season included Quinta Brunson, who couldn’t return due to scheduling conflicts. Season 1 earned three Emmy nominations and involved a bevy of heavy-hitting guest stars, including the show’s executive producer Issa Rae, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Aja Naomi King, Laverne Cox and Nicole Byer.
Although none of the women want to spoil fans by sharing their favorite sketches, they all agree that this season’s highlight is the new crop of guest stars. Thede reveals that despite a bevy of celebrities jumping on board after the success of season 1, the pandemic sent those plans askew.
“Cut to five days before we start shooting, a global pandemic. And so we get shut down for six months. We come back, call all those people and they go, ‘Yeah, I’m not shooting, it’s a pandemic,'” she explains. “So, the fact that we ended up with all of these guest stars is attributed to Vicky Thomas, our casting director. And, to be honest — and this is not name dropping, I’m so sorry I have to say it this way — probably about 70 percent of them, I texted and said, ‘Come do the show, please.’ And they knew we were going to take care of them.”
She adds: “I think they trusted us and they really wanted to work with Gabrielle and Ashley, they really wanted to do funny things. I mean, Jesse Williams, ain’t been on nobody’s sketch show, you know what I mean? He crushes it this season. I think for us, it’s always a little bit of finagling, but that’s where the community comes in. That’s what’s so beautiful about this show — even if we don’t know people… I didn’t know Omarion. But he was like, ‘Oh, I will leave my house with my children where I have been holding up and come out and do this.’ I think people just want to be a part of it. And those people who felt like taking the risk… I just feel like every guest star this season, we owe a medal of honor for coming out when they were scared to work on any other shows. But we took care of them and kept them safe. And they really did their best. They’re so good. I don’t think we skipped a beat. At the end of the day, season 1 guest stars, season 2 guest stars, they’re both amazing groups.”
When asked which guest stars stand out to them the most, Black and Dennis both refer to the stars in the same sketch — one that features comedic actress Kim Wayans. “When we were on set that day, there were so many people who I grew up watching doing amazing comedy,” Black says. “The whole day I’m acting, but I’m also looking around and I’m like, ‘I can’t believe you’re here. I can’t believe I’m actually with you.'”
Dennis admits she “almost lost it” during the same sketch and joked that when she saw Wayans, “I think I jumped and I yelled. Literally… I did a yelp and it was just the whole experience.” She adds: “She was so kind and so complimentary, so loving and so welcoming to all… she was just amazing to work with.”
Thede shares the moment when she met Wayans on set, saying, “She was sitting there and she said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ And I’m literally tearing up right now. I just started bawling. I was like, ‘You don’t understand. You showed me I could do this.’ Kim Wayans and Whoopi Goldberg, those were the Black women who showed me that sketch comedy was the thing that we could do. And she was just so happy to play.”
Black recalls Wayans saying she liked Black’s work, saying, “I just grew up and I loved comedy specifically, but there haven’t been traditionally a lot of Black women in sketch comedy. And so, the ones that there were, we revere them. We grew up studying them and practicing their characters at home. And so, it’s just such a cool, full-circle moment to actually get to work with Kim Wayans. And I still can’t believe that happened.”
Thede adds: “We have two of the greatest Kim’s in the world. We have Kim Coles and Kim Wayans, both from In Living Color, on this season. And we couldn’t be happier. As people know, as we did with 227 and other things, Patti LaBelle and all these great people last season, this season will continue to honor those who came before us in any genre and pay homage to these amazing queens who allow us to be here.”
A Black Lady Sketch Show premieres on April 23 on HBO and HBO Max.
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