Matthew A. Cherry knows how to capture to vibrance of the Black experience—particularly the deep familial love that colors most of our lives. Through his Academy Award-winning animated short ‘Hair Love,’ he showcased the beautiful relationship between a young daughter and her father. Set against the back drop of Chicago, his new series Young Love (premiering Sept. 21 on Max) follows Stephen Love (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) and Angela Young (Issa Rae) navigating parenthood, career and life in a world that sometimes seems like too much. Although animated, the series grapples with some serious issues. For instance, we quickly find out that Angela is in remission following a battle with cancer, and also juggling the demands of being a working mother.
Cherry says he was intentional about bringing that balance to the small screen.
“I know that living in any major city, things are crazy expensive,” he tells ESSENCE. “You got to split responsibilities with your partner, and that’s just how it is. If I have to go to work early, all right, mama going to step up and kind of get the kid ready. Or if mom got to go in early, I’m going to step up. So, I just the sharing responsibilities didn’t feel like an anomaly to myself and kind of like a lot of the people that know kind of grew up with and were around. And so it felt like an opportunity to present for Black fathers but also to normalize that, to also showcase representation and animation with a protagonist like Zuri who has big natural hair and loves it,” Cherry explains about both Hair Love and Young Love.
The newest series is one that was years in the making following the overwhelmingly positive reception of Hair Love. Although Young Love is premiering Sept. 21, Cherry makes it clear that he is in support of striking Hollywood talent who’ve put projects on hold for the sake of equitable treatment.
“Yeah, it’s definitely an interesting time,” Cherry tells ESSENCE. “I mean, half the time you feel like, damn, should I even be promoting this? Especially knowing that the cast really can’t get involved or say anything. You just really feel for somebody like Brooke, who is like her first lead in an animated show, she would have loved to have done interviews and really hopefully have this lead to other, you know, that definitely stinks,” Cherry explains, referring to voice actor Brooke Monroe Conaway who brings the character Zuri Young to life.
Although challenging, Cherry says he understands that the current state of the entertainment business called for the widespread strikes.
“We know that the fight is bigger than any show, bigger than any movie,” he says. “They’re out there fighting for the future. I’m a DGA member. They did their deal kind of early. So, that’s why I’m kind of able to be out here kind of promoting the show. But for the writers out there on the strike, for the actors that are on strike, definitely think what they’re fighting for is a righteous cause. And I think it’s going to be one of those things where you have to take one step back to take two steps forward.”
Overall, he shared he’s proud of the imprint the Young universe is poised to make on the world.
“It’s really a series about the power of Black love in many forms. That’s what we need to see.”