Actress and R&B singer Tatyana Ali, widely recognized for her role as Ashley Banks on the popular ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is producing and starring in a new online series Buppies, a Sex & The City for the young Black generation. Under the direction of Julian Breece, whom Tatyana met while attending Harvard, Buppies follows Quinci Allen and her close group of friends as they navigate the ups and downs of Hollywood, relationships, social cliques and the occasional sex scandal. The show’s title is derived from the contraction of black and yuppie–a play on words describing black urban professionals.
The show is the first project of HazraH Entertainment, an independent film company founded by Tatyana and her sister Anastasia Ali that specializes in avant-garde, urban entertainment. HazraH partnered with Breece and his producing partner Aaliyah Williams to create Buppies. “The series focuses on a specific sect of the urban population,” Anastasia tells us. “There’s nothing for our demographic–the black sitcom is virtually non-existent on TV. And the web provides a great opportunity to address a general need for original content for black audiences.”
“I’m very excited about Buppies, as its my first project as a producer,” Tatyana tells Tubefilter. “It’s so important that we have fresh, truthful and provocative images and storylines to entertain us. We wanted to offer something sexy, hilarious and very heartfelt, making the uncensored web space perfect for a show like Buppies. As an actor, Quinci Allen is the kind of dream role that doesn’t come around very often. She’s sexy, smart and very complicated. I hope people will enjoy the series as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.”
Anastasia likens production on the web to the Wild West. “We can take chances to test the market and gain a greater understanding of our demographic and discover what they find entertaining, what sparks their curiosity.” The series’ teaser, which features high production values, a gorgeous cast, some hilarious moments, and lots of juicy conflict, hints at a controversial male bisexual romance that has already stirred up quite a lot of buzz in the blogosphere.
HazraH Entertainment is pursuing the hybrid model of Crackle’s Angel of Death, starring Zoe Bell. The goal is to employ a grassroots strategy to build an audience online and translate the momentum into sales of DVD’s that will include special features and reveals not included in the web series. Anastasia also tells us that they plan to create a lifestyle culture around the concept of Buppies with the intention to create an opportunity to maket merchandise, music, and beyond.
It’s refreshing to learn that Buppies cultivates a positive portrayal of young African Americans that extends beyond the typical clichés of Hollywood, but still remains truthful. And the show is in fact a commentary of the microcosm that is Black Hollywood which Tatyana and Anastasia experienced first-hand when the family moved from Long Island for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. “When I first read the script I was surprised by how real it felt,” Anastasia tells us. “I think Buppies will make people look at African Americans in a different way, as real people with real thoughts and real concerns.”
Not to say the show won’t dramatize certain character types for comedic effect. One character, which Anastasia describes, “if Suge Knight had a child it would be her,” throws a birthday party for Tatyana’s character who can’t even get in.
The Buppies cast include Tatyana Ali, who plays a talent publicist, Robin Thede as her southern-belle friend from college, Ernest Waddell as a a corporate lawyer-by-day aspiring rapper-by-night, Preston Davis as a bi-curious junior sports agent, and Chante Carmel as her fierce, no-nonsense best buddy from high school.
HazraH has completed production on the forty-minute pilot for Buppies, shot on location in Los Angeles and Malibu, which they intend to divide into four 10-minute episodes. Two 12-episode seasons are planned to follow. If everything goes according to plan, the full series will launch in early 2009. But we hope to get a few more teasers before then.
UPDATE (June 26, 2009): The series, which may have been picked up by BET, is now embroiled in a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.