On Tuesday, when viewers tune in to the series premiere of OWN’s new scripted series Love Is__, they’ll be witnessing something monumental for veteran TV writer and co-creator Mara Brock Akil—her directorial debut.

Brock Akil directed the series’ first episode, and in doing so, she both faced a fear and fulfilled one of her greatest career ambitions.

“Salim was supposed to direct the pilot. That was just how we were moving,” said Brock Akil on at the 2018 American Black Film Festival in Miami sitting alongside stars. “Then when he couldn’t and someone said we have to find a director I was like oh, hell to the no. It was Mara, the 23-year-old who first came to L.A., who said to me, will you finally raise your hand and stop being scared, and stop being nervous and tell your story?”
And that she has.

The series is the latest project from Brock Akil and her husband, director and producer Salim Akil, who have collaborated in the past on hit shows like Being Mary Jane, Black Lightning, The Game and Girlfriends. After nearly 20 years of marriage, the Akils are often asked about their unique and inspiring love story, and Love Is___ brings it to life. The series tells the story of how up and coming TV writer Nuri (Michele Weaver) and aspiring director Yasir (Will Catlett) meet and fall in love in Los Angels in the early 90s.

“What you’re seeing [in Love Is__} is how I have always seen us,” said Brock-Akil when asked about her vision for telling Black love stories. “The beauty is about the journey.”

The show’s lead characters and most of the script details are lifted right from the Akils’ own story, which was already like something out of Hollywood romance.

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“One of the most powerful things we have is to tell our story,” Brock Akil told the crowd inside the packed Regal Cinema theater who had just screened the show’s premiere episode and gave it roaring applauds and a standing ovation.

Brock Akil, 48, began her career in 1994 writing for the critically acclaimed but short-lived Fox series South Central. She later went on to make a name for herself as a writer on The Jamie Foxx Show and Moesha. She created and executive-produced Girlfriends (2000) and spinoff The Game (2006).

Now that Brock Akil has pushed past her fears, she says you can definitely expect more directing in her future.

“I was nervous, but ya’ll, really there’s no stopping me now,” she excitedly told the crowd. “Now I have a full expression of my work.”

Keep shining Mara!

Love Is___ premieres June 19 on OWN.