Actor Morris Chestnut, actress and model Yaya DaCosta, and showrunner Karen Gist joined ESSENCE Senior Entertainment Editor Brande Victorian for the Entertainment All-Access Experience at the 2021 ESSENCE Festival of Culture presented by Coca-Cola to tease fans with a sneak peek of their upcoming Fox series, Our Kind of People.
Based on the 1999 nonfiction book “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class” by Lawrence Otis Graham, the drama series will center on the goings-on within a group of old money African American families who have had wealth, status, and power at their fingertips for several generations.
Whereas most hear the words “Black elite” and think “Talented Tenth, Jack & Jill, and brown paper bag tests,” as Decosta described, Gist believes that setting this show among the little-examined cluster of the Black upper class is an opportunity to demystify the lives of generationally wealthy African Americans, bridging our communities across socioeconomic lines.
“I think that word, ‘elite,’ is so off-putting in a lot of ways,” Gist said. “I think about what we can do with our show in terms of bringing people together and showing a part of our culture and our community that quite frankly hasn’t been shown before. It’s really more about showing the similarities more than the differences, for me.”
The show, which begins filming on location in Wilmington, NC in early July, takes place in the storied Oak Bluffs enclave of Martha’s Vineyard. Perhaps most noted for being featured in the film “The Inkwell,” the community has spent half a century being known as a playground for well-off Black families (including the Obamas), full of luxe beach properties and members-only hideaways. This peek into how the Black one-percent live has been years in the making, and both Gist and Chestnut agree that it’s beyond time to pull back the curtain on the wealthy Black lifestyle.
“I definitely think this story is long overdue. When you think about ‘Black elites,’ people don’t really know what that looks like outside of being a sports athlete or an entertainer,” Chestnut agreed, noting that he was excited to highlight an alternative view how very rich members of Black community live.
“Really, there are little things that separate us,” DaCosta noted. “So we’re seeing what those little things are. (For instance) we bring up this conversation about nepotism. It’s something that other families — non-melanated — are very used to. ‘I give my son this, I give my daughter this.’ But we’re not used to generational wealth, except for these particular people. So it’s a bit of an in to seeing how these things work, and seeing how they don’t.”
Check out the full conversation in the video above. For more of everything you missed at the Entertainment All Access experience during the 2021 ESSENCE Festival of Culture, click HERE.