“The Conversations Project,” a limited unscripted series, premiered on Hulu in August. Every 30-minute episode features prominent cultural figures ranging from athletes to entertainers to astronauts, sitting and talking around a dinner table over food prepared by David Lawrence, a top Black chef.
Lawrence, Elaine Welteroth, and Marc Spears serve as facilitators in each episode. An episode was screened on August 5, at the annual NABJ convention in Birmingham.
ESPN’s Michael Eaves and Spears did a post-screening Q&A for Black journalists. Spears is a veteran Black sports journalist and Andscape’s senior NBA writer who recently received the 2023 Curt Gowdy Media Award for print media excellence at this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He spoke to the MSR.
“It was cool, like every episode [had] a little hidden gem,” noted Spears, an executive producer of the “Project,” which he and Lawrence conceived.
“Our original idea was to bring athletes to vineyards and wineries. We did a walk-and-talk in the vineyards. We also did an interview in a tasting room while doing a wine tasting,” recalled Spears.
Spears said Andscape liked the idea, a program with Black folks talking to Black folks on a wide range of topics. “I feel like a lot of the stuff we see on TV now, it’s like brothers selling drugs, brothers shooting each other, talking crazy on TV…. But we’re so much deeper than that.
“Our dinners are so deep that I think if we can capture that on television, it’d be amazing,” continued Spears. “I want people to feel like when they watch it, ‘Like dang, I wish I was in that conversation with them.’ Hopefully, they continue the conversation after the show.”
“The Conversations” is divided into three parts—a happy hour—with the guests sampling wines produced by Black vintners, an appetizer segment, and dinner.
Explained Spears, “The happy hour was like an icebreaker. We had dinner for like an hour and a half. God bless these editors trying to squeeze all this stuff in 28 minutes. Not every subject is comfortable for every person, which is fine. You can have a whole conversation. You don’t have to dominate the conversation.
“We have an extra episode…where we sit back” and discuss the previous episodes, added Spears when asked if there were outtakes that will be included.
Spears takes pride in the fact that nearly the entire production team consisted predominantly of individuals who were both Black and female: “That was cool,” he said. “We filmed it in Long Island [New York]. I thought the set was beautiful, basically two rooms.
“There was a kitchen where you see Chef [Lawrence]. But I think the strength of the circle, a circular table, the cameras above, so when you’re at a table everybody can see each other.”
Spears pointed out the importance of Black journalists seeing his series so that they will help spread the word about “The Project.” “I’m hoping that you guys push it…do an interview. The more the word gets out, maybe it catches fire. If people don’t know it exists and it doesn’t [get] watched, there won’t be a season two,” said Spears.
He told the MSR after the screening, “I think it’s smart. Shows everybody in a positive light. It’s iron sharpens iron. I think it’s different than most. I just hope we support it.
“I think people need to see Black people in a positive light. I know that I wear many hats. I was a producer. I was an editor. I was heavily involved in a lot of different aspects of this. Now I’m trying to do the marketing.”
“The Conversations Project” will be streamed on Hulu starting August 28. For more info, go to bit.ly/TheConversationsProjectHulu.