Kenya Barris, Kirk Franklin, Diarra Kilpatrick and More Talk Storytelling, Building a Hollywood Roadmap at BET’s Emmy FYC Event

Kenya Barris, Kirk Franklin, Diarra Kilpatrick and More Talk Storytelling, Building a Hollywood Roadmap at BET’s Emmy FYC Event

BET Media Group’s FYC House was packed as it celebrated its impressive roster of shows submitted for Emmy consideration produced by BET and BET+. At the center of the evening, the legacy media company featured artists and creatives from some of its hit series on three-panel conversations: “The Women of BET,” “How We Made It,” and “Diarra from Detroit.”

In a sold-out room of industry attendees, including members of the Television Academy, the talent shared stories about their journeys of working in the industry while facing rejection and collaborating and overcoming challenges with other creatives. Audiences had the opportunity to learn about the making of some of the company’s most notable series such as drama shows “Average Joe” and “Kingdom Business,” hilarious comedies like “The Ms. Pat Show” and its signature game show, “Celebrity Squares.”

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The Women of BET

The panel featured an impressive roster of female creatives including SVP of talent and casting Robi Reed; creator, executive producer and star of “The Ms. Pat Show” Patricia Williams, alongside the series’ director Mary Lou Bell; “Average Joe” actress Cynthia McWilliams; and creator, executive producer, writer and star of “Diarra From Detroit” Diarra Kilpatrick. Moderated by Aisha Summers-Burke, the EVP and General Manager of BET Studios, the group discussed their contributions to the network and industry at large.

Williams highlighted finding comedy amidst trauma and tragedy. “One thing that I teach even with my stand-up [comedy], is when you can laugh about what you’ve been through, then you have control of it,” Williams shares. “When you cannot laugh, then that pain will control you. You’re going to see everything that a real family goes through, no matter what race you are.”

Williams credits BET for allowing her to be open about her life story. “One of the reasons why I love being at BET is because it’s a network that allowed me to be Black as hell—and that is hard to do in this industry.”

Watch the full conversation above.

How We Made It Panel

“How We Made It” featured several panelists across the network spectrum: “Average Joe” star Deon Cole; co-creator and director of “The Ms. Pat Show” Jordan E. Cooper; director of “Kingdom Business” Oz Scott; executive producer and musician Kirk Franklin; and host of “Celebrity Squares” D.C. Young Fly. Moderated by Variety senior awards editor Clayton Davis, the group discussed their long and varied careers and their artistic involvement with their respective shows, all with multiple inflections of humor.

Scott brought his wisdom and knowledge after multiple decades in the business about how he approaches the “Kingdom Business” acting ensemble in comparison to his previous works in film, TV and theater.

“I go into everything with the roadmap,” Scott says. “What I say to actors is ‘you got to be in the moment. You got to live in the moment. It may say something on the script, but if it don’t come out your mouth, right. It’s wrong.”

A recent Tony nominee, Cooper wrote “Ms. Pat” while a senior in college, and spoke about Fox’s hesitation to greenlight the project due to his inexperience and age. Moreover, he shared his initial vision of what he wanted to bring to TV homes across the world.

“I wrote the pilot while I slept on a futon, and didn’t have a closet. I had five roommates, two rats and one crackhead,” Cooper recalls to the audience. “I wanted to see an ‘R’ rated family sitcom with the Black family — like Bernie Mac and Redd Foxx, if they were able to just be themselves.”

Watch the full conversation above.

Diarra From Detroit

Closing out the evening, Variety’s senior awards editor Clayton Davis returned with the creatives behind the dark comedy series “Diarra From Detroit.” Among the panelists were: casting director Robi Reed; writer and executive producer Miles Orion Feldsott; creator, executive producer and star Diarra Kilpatrick; series actor Bryan Terrell Clark; director Chioke Nassor; composer Nathan Matthew David; and executive producer Kenya Barris.

Although they had met briefly before, Barris and Kilpatrick recalled their meeting at the Sundance Film Festival while they were “faded,” which, according to Barris, inspires the best creative conversations. Shortly following the launch of BET Studios in 2021, Barris called Kilpatrick to ask if she had any projects to pitch for the slate, which led to the launch of “Diarra From Detriot.”

“The moment you talk to Diarra, everything is very clear. She has a vision from beginning, middle, and end. She’s like ‘I think [Diarra] should have on a red dress.’ And I’m like, ‘We are not even [making the show yet.]” Barris said. “When someone can tell you a story from beginning to end and really have a clear vision, you know that is somebody you want to be in business with. And she is that.”

Although Kilpatrick was brimming with excitement for the project in development, getting the show greenlit filled her with “utter terror.”

“I was one of those people who had some ego about feeling like ‘Ya my script is strong. My script is great.’ One script. And then you realize you’re going to be responsible for an entire season and it was scary.” Kilpatrick explained. “What I was so blessed and fortunate to have were collaborators who held up all the things that I didn’t yet know, or understand, or all the places where I felt like ‘I don’t know what to do now.’ They really came on board.”

Watch the full conversation above.

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