There’s another new Black sitcom on the block, but it’s nothing like the UPN shows of the ’90s and early 2000s says star Mike Epps — no shade. Executive Producer Epps plays the lead in the new Netflix series, The Upshaws, starring Kim Fields and Wanda Sykes who co-created the sitcom along with Regina Hicks. Both women serve as co-showrunners and executive producers.
When we got a chance to chat with the stars, they gave us the real deal on bringing a Black sitcom into the streaming era and why they chose Indianapolis as the backdrop for the story centered around the working-class family.
“It’s like a new Black show, but not a UPN show,” Epps told ESSENCE. “I mean I love UPN, but you know what I mean.”
Sykes quickly jumped in reminding Epps the Wayans family might have to say something about his UPN dig before adding, “It feels great to do this type of show because it always seems like either we’re super rich or we’re slaves or there’s a lot of Black pain going on. So it’s nice to show a working class family who loves each other but it’s messy. I think it represents how most of us are living right now.”
On the show, Epps plays Bernard Shaw, who’s described as “a charming, well-intentioned mechanic and lifelong mess.” While that may not describe the comedic actor in real life, like Shaw, Epps is from Indianapolis and he and Sykes were excited to show life in the midwest for this sitcom. “The little middle of America rural areas — we never get to hear the jokes about it,” said Epps.
Speaking specifically about his character (Fields plays his wife while Sykes is his sister-in-law), Epps added with a laugh, “I wouldn’t advise every man to start acting like Bennie if that’s not who you are when you’re watching this show. You might lose your wife and everything. But for those who know and can handle it, they’ll enjoy it.”
The Upshaws will begin streaming on Netflix May 12. Check out our full interview with the cast in the video above.