The Game creator reflects on saying goodbye to the beloved dramedy.
Earlier this month, BET announced that The Game would be ending after seasons eight and nine—both of which will air in 2015. Like the network’s official announcement read, creator Mara Brock Akil also believes “all good things must come to an end.” She spoke with ESSENCE.com about saying goodbye to one of the most beloved sitcoms of recent time, working with an incredible cast and crew, and why she’s also hoping for a Girlfriends movie.
It feels like the announcement to end The Game came out of nowhere.
It did? There's always that. There's always the fantasy you can keep a show alive forever. It’s a beautiful notion to know that you can go out when the show is still celebrated, and be given a proper ending. It's rare that you can even make it past 100 episodes and make it as long as we've gone. That is something to be celebrated, period. The Game is at 147 episodes, I believe.
How are you approaching the 9th season, creatively?
That's a hard question to answer. We try to be very authentic to the experience. I think we want to approach the 9th season just as organically as we approached the entire series, which is being true to this creative space that we’ve carved out for ourselves—not being afraid of drama and not being afraid of comedy, and being true to the characters. I do know that we will set the characters in a way that you kind of know this is how they end it, but you can also imagine how it could have continued. When you think about the characters you'll think, ‘I could totally see him or her doing that now.’ Hopefully it will leave a smile or a guffaw laugh, or worry, in a good way, of what's to come of the characters.
How will you be when you wrap shooting?
We wrap on December 5th and I'm probably going to go through several emotions. I'm probably going to cry and laugh a lot. But you get to do it with people you have a mutual love and respect for so no one's asking why you're crying. You're just hugging it out together and dancing it out together. When I went to tell the cast that we were ending, one of the prevailing conversations was how some true friendships came out of this. There's real love and care of one another; there's respect, number one. The actors and the writers, the producers and the actors, the crew ... we all respect each other. I'm very proud of how we conduct business, and how we treat each other.
How has creating this show and working on it for so may years molded who you are?
I think the best way it's molded me is the growth that I'm experiencing now. What I’ve learned is that you don't do it alone, number one. I was very protective of the vision the first few years, but in order for us to grow our company, Akil Productions, we had to trust the people around us and allow for their visions to go. I give a lot of credit to Kenny Smith, Jr., who is the producer of the show. He has really taken the reins of the show in the last few years. I'm still creatively involved, but we were able to grow. I think I've changed by being able to allow other people's vision into my initial vision. That is how you make room for more voices in the industry, and allow for me to go do be doing a Being Mary Jane and develop other shows. Also, the bond with this cast is just beyond beautiful. You don't see that in every day. I just can't sing their praises enough; how they embodied these characters and been a joy to write for and to work with; as well the writers. Even for my husband [Salim Akil], who pushed the envelope. This show started off as a multi-cam, and now it's ending as a single camera. He pushed the look within the confines of a multi-cam. I just really can't speak and say thank you enough to the artists that I've gotten to work with over the years. Hopefully we'll get to do more projects together. I'm just very proud of all of those artists.
Okay, do you feel like giving a little hint of what happens next? What happens to Tasha Mack?
[Laughs] Absolutely not! My currency is the storytelling. That’s what keeps people coming back. I feel like if we tell too much, it sort of takes away from the journey. I'm a little old school that way, however, there are some inevitable things that we have to deal with. Malik is not the bling-bling quarterback who doesn't care about anyone. He's changed, and he's not the championship quarterback anymore. How do you deal with that? You try to deal with it honestly. We're going to see Jason move into being a coach, and of course we have to deal with his love of two women. You can't just walk away from that. We've got to know how Keira and Blue entered in our universe. I know people go, ‘Oh they're just a Melanie and Derwin replacement.’ They're not. I think that Kenny [Smith] and us, the writers, did a good job of introducing them into the world. Not to mention Chardonnay. We're very proud and happy that Brandy has joined the cast. We've had three dynamic love triangles in nine seasons: there was Melanie, Derwin, and Janay. Now you have Tasha, Rick Fox and Pookie ... and then you have a baby now. Then you have Jason, Kelly and Chardonnay. You could say that we have done triangles every which way.
What have been some of your most memorable moments on The Game?
Oh gosh, that’s an unfair question because I'm probably going to forget some. Off the top of my head I can the “In Treatment” episode (from season 6). We wanted to do it for a very, very long time; even when we were on The CW. It was something that we had to build toward, and I felt like being in the middle of Rick Fox and Pookie is going to send you to therapy. I loved how we said goodbye to Derwin (Pooch Hall). I was very proud of the way that we handled that episode by introducing new characters and saying goodbye to another one. I'll never forget the “7.7 million” episode that aired when we came back for our debut on BET. I'll never forget the wedding episode of Melanie and Derwin as our sort of last episode on The CW. I'll never forget the episode when Jason and Malik had their fight in Melanie and Derwin's house, and it sort of bonded this group, and bonded our characters together. I'll never forget the bible study episode; I'll never forget when Tasha Mack sang to Rick Fox. I'm very proud of all our finales.
A few weeks ago you sent out a tweet that had people thinking you were confirming a Girlfriends movie.
[Laughs] I did not confirm it. I did say this: I want it too. The thing is, whether the public cares or understands, there is a business component to all of this. I remain diligent with CBS Paramount, who owns the rights to Girlfriends. I think if the fans want something to do, they can contact CBS Paramount and let them know that they want that movie, because I want to do it. They know I want to do it; I'm very open to it, but there is a business component so I still stay diligent in convincing them that this is a property that is worth thinking about giving the rights to. Let me be very clear, I haven't been told no. So I guess the real answer is, I remain diligent in trying to get it done. I'm very happy that I did meet with the actors, and all the actors want to do it, last we spoke, so I think if the stars align, we'll get the business component. Then the second part is you've got to go find the money and a studio who believes in that project, and then of course, writing that script, and getting it done. I think it would be great.
Season 8 and 9 of The Game premiere in 2015 on BET.