‘Really Love’ writer on centering Black voices (and finding her own)

Submitted photo Felicia Pride

There is something revolutionary about a good Black love story. It transports us into a nuanced world of beauty and culture, intertwining intimacy, and vulnerability. And its very existence defies stereotypes that Black bodies are not whole or capable of love.

Netflix’s new romantic drama, “Really Love,” gives us all of that and more with stars Kofi Siriboe (“Queen Sugar,” “Girls Trip”) and Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing (“Love Is”) whose characters’ ambitious careers challenge their ability to solidify their budding romance.

Set in Washington, D.C., the film boasts stunning cinematography, a jazzy soundscape, and painted landscapes that layer on a textured backdrop for Siroboe’s and Wong-Loi-Sing’s romantic journey. The cast is rounded out with such award-winning and veteran actors as Uzo Aduba, Blair Underwood, Michael Ealy, Tristan “Mack” Wilds, Naturi Naughton, Suzzanne Douglas, and Jade Eshete.

While we celebrate the beauty of Black love on film, we often forget about the labor of love in creating these stories. Black filmmakers face higher disparities when it comes to access, funding, distribution, and, even, validation in order to tell their own stories.

For writer Felicia Pride, it was a 10-year journey that started midway in her career, leading her from entertainment journalism to television and film writing. This included a cross-country move, working in several writing rooms, and even writing and directing the award-winning short film, “tender,” before seeing her first full-length feature film come into fruition.

“Filmmaking is not for the faint of heart,” Pride said prior to the film’s AFI Fest premiere.

The MSR connected with Pride to learn more about her process, how she overcame the setbacks to find her voice and the importance of telling our stories.

Courtesy of MACRO Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing (l) and Kofi Siriboe star in “Really Love” out on Netflix.

MSRWhat inspired you to bring this film to life? What was the journey like along the way?

Felicia Pride: It was an incredibly long and arduous journey! I wrote the first draft of what would become “Really Love” more than 10 years ago. Throughout it all, the inspiration was to tell a romantic drama that felt authentic and rooted in lived experience—one that would showcase beautiful, complex, and complicated Black people in a D.C. that we rarely see depicted on screen.

MSRIt’s one thing to be a writer for such renowned projects as “Queen Sugar” and now, “Grey’s Anatomy,” but what was it like to write in your own voice, and then hand it off to someone else— in this case, to director Angel Kristi—to translate your work to film?

FP: It’s always a dream to be able to write fully in my voice. I also feel like my purpose is to tell stories that center Black people, so I have been grateful to be able to do that in my television work, as well.

“Really Love” was my first baby for the screen—I wrote books before that—so it taught me a lot about craft and collaboration. And it challenged me as an artist in profound ways. So, to see it realized on screen through the vision of Angel Kristi Williams and an amazing cast and crew is amazing. I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to ever see this day!

MSRSpeaking of voice, how did you find and become confident in yours?

FP: Great question. I’ve been writing off and on for 20 years now, so I think part of cultivating my voice has come from time and my life experiences. I also think it comes from knowing myself and rooting in my own authenticity. Not being afraid to go there. Not being afraid to be vulnerable on the page. My voice is also an amalgamation of influences—hip-hop, Baltimore, family, Blackness, and life.

MSR: African Americans only make up 6% of writers, directors, and producers in film. How do you see yourself impacting the industry with your work?

FP: It is definitely more disparate behind the scenes. There is still a feeling that Black people don’t need to be the go-to to tell our stories. So, that’s why I hold tight to my purpose of telling stories that center us and I find ways to do that inside and outside the Hollywood system. I also founded The Create Daily, which serves as a resource for underrepresented storytellers.

MSRWhat were some of your own challenges entering the industry and how did you overcome them?

FP: I moved to L.A. at 35 years old to pursue writing for the screen and to get “Really Love” made. So, I was not a spring chicken. I had to learn how things worked from the ground up. I had to take a couple of steps back in order to take steps forward. But I also had a lot of life experience that helped me to understand things more quickly. And I had a purpose that guides me to this day.

MSRWhat advice would you give to aspiring writers and creatives looking to enter the industry?

FP: Write, write, write! I know it sounds easy and everyone says it, but it is true. Never stop learning. I’m in two writers’ groups and I still take classes. Definitely join a writer’s group. I took five classes over quarantine.

Read, read, read—and not just screenplays. Read plays, essays, novels, and great journalism. Watch films and TV. Dissect them. Analyze them. And live life so that you have stuff to write about.

MSRNow that this is complete and streaming, we’d love to know what’s “now”? What are you thinking about and working on?

FP: I’ve sold a show to Netflix and to FX. I sold two features to Universal, both romantic dramas, so fingers crossed they move forward. I’m turning my short film “tender,” which I directed, into a feature film.

Lastly, with my producing partner Ivy Grant, I launched Honey Chile, a production company catering to Black women over 40 and we have a number of projects in development that I’m really excited about.

“Really Love” is streaming now on Netflix.

About Stephenetta (isis) Harmon

Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current hosts of MSR Forefront, a bi-weekly digital roundtable series. She is founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.

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