OWN’s addictive romantic drama Love Is_ has done exactly what married creators Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil intended it to do when they built the drama based on the story of how they met—the show has sparked fresh conversations around how and why we fall in love.
Since the show premiered in June, every Tuesday night you can tune in to your Twitter feed for real time debates and discussions centered around the way Black women perceive love and the pursuit of a healthy relationship.
Set in the ‘90s, the series – which was renewed for season two – explores the love story of Nuri and Yasir as told by their present-day, wiser selves who’ve been married for over 20 years, with flashbacks starring their younger selves showing us exactly how it all went down.
And, boy have some tense (but real!) scenes followed, which has helped to make it the talk of Twitter on Tuesday nights.
“The fan’s reactions on Twitter to the show is a whole other show,” says Michele Weaver, who plays Nuri, with a laugh. “People are clever, some are hating, people are bold but listen, you might as well be bold because I wanna hear your honest opinion. A lot of times, the way people respond to art also reflects who they are and what they’re doing.”
Weaver says the response she has seen offer more of an inside look at the Black millennial woman’s take on love. In the era of social media, dating apps, and hook up culture, Love Is__ tells a love story that began before such distractions.
“For our generation, love doesn’t look the same as it used. [There are just] so many options and I think we get so distracted by the idea of what we could have that a lot of times we miss what is right in front of us,” Weaver adds. “That’s one thing I love about Nuri. These guys were all coming for her but even if they were all good on paper, the fact that Yasir can see her [for who she is] and literally say, ‘I love you’ the same night. She could’ve just passed on by. It’s a whole different age now.”
Her character’s complex relationship with new love Yasir (Will Catlett), an aspiring director, forced her to cross paths with his ex-girlfriend/roommate Ruby, played by Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing. Ruby and Nuri are very different women, but what they have in common is their love and affection for Yasir. The series does a beautiful job of exploring the parallels between the two women – the one who has prepared the man to be a better boyfriend and the one who will benefit from her work.
“It would’ve been easy to portray Ruby as this mean ex who’s just a hater who doesn’t want Yasir to be happy but it’s not really that. What I see is someone who just really loves the person she grew up with and she’s having a hard time letting go of her backbone, ” Wong-Loi-Sing says. “That’s what Yasir has been [for her] ever since they’ve come to LA.”
In anticipation of tonight’s season finale, ESSENCE caught up with Weaver and Wong-Loi-Sing individually to talk about Nuri and Ruby, and what their female characters of brought to television.
How has Love Is__ shown you another perspective on love?
Weaver: “The thing about love is we want it to be a perfect recipe. We want it to be: add a cup of sugar, a cup of milk, beat for two minutes, put it in the oven and you’ve got a perfect cake but it’s not like that. Someone tweeted, ‘This is a typical story of broke guy…’ and I tweeted back, ‘Has any love story ever been typical?’ There’s always some nuance that’s unexpected that throws the other person off.
Wong-Loi-Sing: Even if you’re not a Ruby, I think there’s a lesson that everyone can apply to their life. Knowing what you want, what you deserve, and knowing your self-worth is something universal. You don’t have to be a Ruby to get into a situation where you are not being valued for who you are.
What about Nuri and Ruby’s tense first meeting?
Wong-Loi-Sing: “It could’ve been way more dramatic when Ruby opened the door. She goes out of her way not to react and I think it says a lot about Ruby’s character even though they both love him. I think both are grown women who have the decency not to go there. That doesn’t mean that the situation isn’t charged. It’s like they both feel each other and women do have a weird way of connecting without saying anything.”
We can all agree that Ruby prepared Yasir to better love Nuri.
Wong-Loi-Sing: “The one scene that made everyone understand and sympathize with Ruby is when she tells him, ‘I’m the one that got you ready.’ That sparked a lot of conversations because a lot of women can relate and even me. What I do hope is we’ll see her grow into her own. Her transition into being her own woman and she has to do that without someone she thought was guiding her through it. The thing is, for both men and women, the only way to find yourself is a very lonely journey. There’s going to be moments when you think it’s basically the end of the world which is something that she has gone through. I hope she finds out that that was the only way for her to grow and that it’s actually a blessing.”
Weaver: “I think that there are relationships that are important to our journey, that are not for a lifetime, but they’re critical for us to find ourselves. I think that’s what Ruby was for Yasir just like Derek was for Nuri. It’s hard being the woman – cause I’ve been this woman – where you know you prepared the man and you’ve put up with some stuff and he’s going to win with someone else. ‘Ok. I challenged this man so whenever the next woman he’s with, he is going to know better and treat her way better.’ I think what Ruby represents is that it may seem that she’s losing but she’s not because being with Yasir wasn’t enough for her. When tough times comes it just shows whether you can make it together or you can’t. It’s okay if you can’t make it together.”
And, oh, that major clash between Yasir and Nuri in episode 9…
Weaver: “People have their feelings about Yasir. You know, he’s a little intense, a little controlling, but he really is giving back to her. It’s not with money and not with a house but he is giving and it’s still a lot. Nuri knows he messed up. She broke up with him. Like, she flat out broke up with him and really was considering leaving it behind because it was too much. When Nuri said, “I know you’re going to realize your dreams but maybe you can’t handle me realizing mine.’”
On Nuri and Yasir opening up so deeply.
Weaver: “People that I’ve dealt with who I know had experiences with sexual abuse, when they have a flashback it’s such an out of body experience. The shame, the feeling of dirty is so heavy. When you confess that it is extremely vulnerable, and for Nuri to confess that to Yasir and for him to say that he went through the same thing. It didn’t matter what he did before. It doesn’t matter anymore. The connection is so deep and there’s so much pain there. What happens with love is that you find someone who sees you and sees all of you: the dirty or bad or whatever. And to actually have that reaction [from Yasir], it’s probably the first time that Nuri ever felt safe even in that reveal with a man.”