What happens when you take a small town and infuse it with love? It changes the town, the people who live there and the meaning of “the power of love.” Oprah Winfrey wants us all to “be the love” and she’s serious about it, so with a little help from top matchmakers Paul Carrick Brunson (our ESSENCE.com Modern Day Matchmaker blogger!) and Kailen Rosenberg, she’s putting her belief in love to the test.
After a nationwide search, Winfrey chose Kingsland, Georgia to be transformed into Lovetown, USA — also the title of her new show, which premieres this Sunday night on OWN. For 30 days, Brunson, Rosenberg and Winfrey encourage the people of Kingsland to “open their arms and hearts to the possibilities of all kinds of love" and examine how love, grace, kindness and forgiveness can affect an entire community. Put simply: Get your tissue boxes ready! Heartfelt connections aside, what else can we expect to see go down in Lovetown? We sat down with Brunson to talk about the show, what it's like working side-by-side with an icon like Oprah and what a difference love can truly make. Read what he had to say, and check out an exclusive first look at Sunday’s premiere episode below.
ESSENCE.com: Were the people of Kingsland resistant in the beginning?
PAUL CARRICK BRUNSON: This is a great question and actually a major part of the series. While many people in the town were supporters of the idea, we quickly realized the majority of the town thought we were shooting a "sleazy reality dating show," and therefore they became reluctant to participate. You'll have to watch to see how we convinced them to give it a try!
ESSENCE.com: What was your favorite moment during taping?
BRUNSON: There were so, so many. I honestly can't select just one. Literally every day, for 30 days, I was a part of a life-changing event. You'll witness feuding families and neighbors come together. Children, with significant challenges, persevere despite the odds. Then, outside of the community activity, the viewer gets an opportunity to watch would could quite possibly be the most authentic look at matchmaking ever captured on TV.
ESSENCE.com: What can you tell us about the outcome of this social experiment? Any teasers?
BRUNSON: One thing I can promise is that you'll witness a true transformation with each person and project we address on the show. But everything doesn’t go "right." The power of this show is that it documents everything that happens: the good, the bad and the ugly. There is a lesson in it all.
ESSENCE.COM: What did you learn from this experience?
BRUNSON: The premise of the project is that in order to realize love you have to first be the love. This is such a simple concept, but it will forever be etched in my mind after this show. This experience also taught me that love comes in many forms: grace, compassion and forgiveness included. I'm a bigger believer in dreams after this project. I witnessed the dreams of thousands of people in this town be realized, and at the same time, I realized my own dream of working with Oprah come true.
ESSENCE.com: What's it like working with Oprah? Tell us everything!
BRUNSON: I've met very few people in life that have the ability to instantly disarm and connect with you. Oprah is one of them. Within seconds of meeting her you want to just start divulging your inner most secrets. This is such a powerful skill and it made me understand how she's emerged as the most famous interviewer on the planet. It's a blessing to be a part of her team.