Kirk and Tammy Franklin have been married for 27 years. The couple, who have shared the ups and downs of their journey openly, are set to help others meet their match in the hopes of having lasting love as the hosts of a new TV One series. With The One, premiering May 18, the celebrity couple are helping two singles meet the right woman and man in perhaps the hardest city to find love: Atlanta. Using their experience, wisdom and humor, they lead a truly entertaining hour of reality TV that has everything from sentimental moments to full-blown drama as the eligible bachelor and bachelorette connect with a revolving door of other singles. We spoke with the Franklins about what inspired them to do the dating show and dealing with critics of it. They also shared tips for finding your match IRL, what the secret is to them maintaining their love after nearly 30 years and why they are far from the “perfect” couple.
ESSENCE: You have to fill me in, Kirk. Based on the first episode of The One, it said that you are the king of setting people up. Mr. Matchmaker. Three couples done at that.
Kirk Franklin: Yeah, this is what I do in my sleep, you know what I mean? I’m just natural at it. That’s one of my anointed gifts. I really enjoy doing it. But it’s just always fun for me to interact with people and engage with people, whether it’s trying to do relationships or music or stand in front of them doing music or having a chance to just be whatever it is I’m to be at that moment. I just enjoy the human activity of just engaging people in whatever space and place that I can.
ESSENCE: Okay. And are there any couples that we know that you set up?
Kirk Franklin: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. We don’t have any celebrity hook-ups, but we have-
Tammy Franklin: Just good, everyday people.
Kirk Franklin: Just good everyday people that can give me all the glory.
Tammy Franklin: Oh my Lord.
ESSENCE: Okay. Nice. I love that. And so how did the opportunity to host The One come about?
Kirk Franklin: I’ve just always been pitching different ideas and me and my production team were just throwing out a lot of ideas to the network and this was one that they really were excited about. And so we thought that it’d be a cool opportunity to see what was there. And more than anything, I’ve just been really wanting people to see Tammy and just engage and see how cool she can be on camera. Because now that we’re empty-nesters, I want her to get a chance to just try different things that she may enjoy to see what fits for her, what’s organic for her.
ESSENCE: I love that. And how do you feel about that Tammy? Were you excited?
Tammy Franklin: I think because it’s in my personal wheel well, yes. As I mentioned before, when people have come to us about reality TV, I’ve always thought if I ever did anything, it would be to help somebody. It wouldn’t be as we see it standardly today. And so that’s what piqued my curiosity, the fact that we would be coaches and coming alongside and helping someone. So for me it was like, “Okay, I could do that.”
ESSENCE: And it’s been 27 years for you guys of marriage, which is a major accomplishment, making you the perfect couple, the perfect people to lead a show like this. So what has been the key, would you say, if you don’t mind sharing-
Tammy Franklin: Not perfect.
ESSENCE: Oh, okay. Well not perfect, perfect.
Kirk Franklin: But that’s something that is very important for me to always to reiterate. I think that we are living in a culture where there’s so much of a romanticized ideology of relationships, especially in Western culture, that I think that it becomes problematic when it comes to reality. I think that the platforms of social media and the filter and over-the-top weddings and the gowns and everything that is for the ‘Gram is a set up a lot of times for failure. We understand the sentiment when somebody says you’re a perfect couple.
Tammy Franklin: And it’s a compliment in a way.
Kirk Franklin: But it’s also very important to deconstruct it, to understand. Because when you’re human and when there’s an imperfection in your relationship, people are shocked. And it’s only because they lifted you up in places that are not realistic. I think that it’s very important. It’s almost like… And even what you see me echo right now is even the context that I try to live even with my faith. Because a lot of times people see the same thing with Christianity.
I’ve seen certain things on social media, even about hosting this show, and it’s like, “Kirk and Tammy are hosting a dating show?” So I started asking my partner and he plain said, “It’s because you’re a Christian. The Christians, they can’t see you doing anything else outside of Christian things.”
I think that it’s the same space that I’m talking about even in marriage, is that when you make marriage perfect, you make Christians perfect, then it makes it something that is outside of the context of reality. It’s almost like when you meet people and they say, “My mom and dad have been married for 50 something years.” Yeah, but when you go to the house, they don’t talk.
ESSENCE: Right. That’s true.
Kirk Franklin: They sleep in different rooms, and a lot of times we, sometimes as our culture, because we were so displaced as people, that family structure was so basically marginalized, is that a lot of times we see, “Well, I’m a stay in this house and die” even if I’m not engaging and it’s not healthy. And I think that that’s a problem too.
Tammy Franklin: It’s a huge problem. Quite often people are more, I think, infatuated, obsessed even, with the length of a marriage as opposed to the health.
Kirk Franklin: So that’s why you see us want to debunk some of these romanticized ideals even in these interviews that come up. Because I think that they just aid to the problem.
ESSENCE: Okay. I respect that and I appreciate that. So you guys are a great couple to be able to share your insights and help people to find love. But I wanted to ask you, as people together for more than almost 30 years, what has been the key to a union that has been healthy and lasting for you guys, would you say?
Tammy Franklin: Therapy. Being proactive as best you can as opposed to being reactive. For instance, when we were coming upon empty nesting, we tried to be reactive. We talked collectively to each other about, “Well, what do we think that’s going to look like? How are you feeling?” Some of the things we had conversations and were intentional about it, and some just organically happened. Then getting with our therapist who can just talk us through some of that. But also too, Kirk and I are really, really good friends, and because we’re really good friends, we have the others’ best interest at heart and it makes you really care and sensitive, as best you can be, for the other. So I think that’s honestly been our ingredient. And then most importantly, our faith.
ESSENCE: Nice. And in an age where people don’t really know how to date anymore, because we’re in the app age and people are interacting real quick and they’re deciding, “No I don’t want to interact with you anymore. I’m going to swipe,” what advice would you give people as we enter this summer season where you’re finally going back out, meeting people, connecting in a world that’s seeking connection? What kind of advice would you give people looking for love out there but are very much hampered by swipe left, swipe right, I don’t have time, not interested anymore kind of energy?
Tammy Franklin: It may sound old-fashioned because you know do have all the apps and everything is social media driven. But the only way you can really truly connect is with human connection, human talking. A person can morph into whoever they want to become behind the screen. But it’s getting in person, having real authentic conversation, as well as taking the time. Go in there, be open, be willing to take the journey and to get to know somebody.
Kirk Franklin: While at the same time, that is also the reality of why it is hard and continues to be hard for people to have engagement. Because what she said is very, very true, but it ain’t going to happen.
Tammy Franklin: It must happen. Try.
Kirk Franklin: Listen, they’ve been talking about how TikTok is a conspiracy and it’s a way for people to get inside of your home and mind. And we’re still TikToking, boo boo. I think that we have to accept the fact that because we live in these spaces, that there’s going to always be the good, bad and the uglies of these things. I think you have to just do your best. You just have to do your best to try to manage them. Because these are the realities. There are just certain traditional recommendations that I remember people used to give me and Tammy when we were young, but that’s not what the generation is now.
As I was talking to my therapist not too long ago because I was kind of just talking to him about life and marriage, whatever. He said, “You mean when Tammy comes home she does not have a nice meal waiting for you?” I’m like, “No.” “She didn’t cook breakfast this morning? What did you y’all do?” I said, “We eat out.” And this is a PhD. You know what I mean? This is a man with a PhD. He’s a family therapist. And he was shocked to know that Tammy ain’t sitting around like a Stepford wife. I’m like, “My guy, what are you watching? Nobody really does that.” But these generational issues are also the realities of what we have to go through and because people are now so connected to social media, it’s going to continue to be these things that you have to try to maneuver through. There are people that have gotten relationships that have worked on social media.
ESSENCE: Yeah, that’s true.
Tammy Franklin: Go for what you want though. If you want somebody that’s willing to put this thing down, there are some people out there that are willing.
Kirk Franklin: One of my recommendations is we’ve just got to continue to debunk these romanticized images. There are people that meet in a strip club, they get married. There are people that meet at church, they get divorced. These are the realities of life. This imperfect, complicated, challenging, nasty, dirty journey of the human existence. It’s not pretty and clean. It’s going to have the nuances of the ups and downs and bumps. And that’s what love is. When you look at love, you look at somebody who gets married one day and somebody’s in a car wreck that next day and they’re paralyzed for the rest of their lives, and that person decides to stay. That’s the dirtiness of life. I think that we’ve got to be able to maneuver through that.
‘The One’ premieres May 18th at 9/8c on TV One.