Authentic Black stories in television are popping up in abundance this year, and it seems as though our fill of nostalgia is making its rounds as well for a new comedy series debuting on Starz. Run The World – written, created and executive produced by Leigh Davenport – follows the stories of four millennial Black women in Harlem, described as “vibrant, fiercely loyal best friends,” who juggle their loves lives, work life and the sisterhood amongst themselves.
If the storyline sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably in part due to the help of famed showrunner Yvette Lee Bowser, otherwise known as the first and youngest Black woman in television to run her own sitcom, Living Single, back in 1993. With the star power of Bowser as a TV maven and Davenport’s creative storytelling abilities, the two came together to create the new eight-episode series with Black sisterhood at the center of it all.
Ahead of the series premiere, Shadow and Act spoke to Bowser and Davenport about the makings of Run The World, the importance of displaying Black women in healthy relationships and amplifying our narratives to encourage the next generation of women to thrive.
According to Bowser, she and Davenport connected through one of their sorority sisters as they’re all members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. “We sat down for a three and a half, four-hour meeting where we realized how much we had in common, and that which we didn’t have in common we found to be complementary. So we decided we’d probably be a pretty good team to execute this concept. So here we are three years later and ready for the world to see [Run The World].”
Davenport, who is venturing into her very first TV project, comes from a background of working in media with companies like BET, TV One, HelloBeautiful and many more. All of which have prepared her for this next chapter in her journey as a writer and creator. “Sometimes you’re on your life’s journey and you don’t think you’re where you’re supposed to be, but everything’s always building,” she shares. “So many things that I learned, experienced and saw went directly into what this show ended up being.”
Run The World – which is a culmination of Davenport’s real-life experiences – is directly influenced by its predecessor Living Single, and although the shows differ in structure and Bowser assures fans that the new series will not disappoint those looking for the modern-day version of her 90s creation. “It’s great for people to have those expectations and I do think this series is evocative of Living Single, but every show has its own DNA. Living Single is but one show that paved the path for this show to actually exist. For people to see us and see the value of our representation on the screen. Every generation of women deserves to tell their stories in their time, and this is time for these women to do just that.”
The new series stars actresses Amber Stevens West, Andrea Bordeaux, Bresha Webb and Corbin Reed as its core cast members, each bringing their own unique story to the table that everyone can come to resonate with. According to Bowser, her own real-life friendships also played a part in developing the show, and the message of valuing amiable female friendships is a theme that will continue throughout the show’s existence. The chemistry of the actresses has already evoked a positive response from those who have seen the show and it’s clear that they nailed concept of sisterhood with their “absolutely incredible performances,” Davenport says. “I cannot wait for everyone to fall in love with them.”
Black sisterhood is exactly what the show is all about, and seeing as though this subject matter is central to Bowser’s background, over the years we’ve seen it manifest into her own personal brand. “My approach to the [creative] process is a very sisterly approach, so female friendships and sisterhood are at the center of that,” she says. “I know how important those relationships are to me and I also know how important representation is on the screen. You don’t always have to see it to be it or aspire to it, but it really does help. Seeing these close-knit, ambitious and diverse women really does inspire the next generation to seek the same.”
For both Davenport and Bowser, displaying those positive images is a part of that demand for authentic representation of Black women today. Living our best lives and being unapologetic about the things we want out of life like great relationships and abundant success. Compared to her Living Single days, Bowser is pleased to see all the shows developing and prospering on television today with Black women at the helm. “I think it’s important for us to say we can’t have enough of those images. So when you talk about people comparing them, they can all co-exist. In fact, right now we have more than one at a time, but they all come from different points of view. And that shows that we have more to say for the culture.”
At the time that Davenport wrote the script for the series, she created the show from her perspective, which to her seemed like Black women in TV were missing. “[Back then] I was living this great life with my friends. and we were dating guys, falling in love and figuring it all out,” she says. “I [also] felt like there was this conversation happening of, what are the Black women going to do? And I’m like, we’re going to be just fine. It’s what we’ve been doing and what we’re going to continue to do, and I wanted a show that reflected that. That’s what I strive to do, give us a little time to celebrate ourselves.”
Although the show prioritizes the perspectives of these four Black women, both creators reassured us that this show is for everyone to enjoy. “My hope is that these characters and the humor really just welcomes everyone into the tent, and encourages everyone to embrace the show, the title and use it as the affirmation it’s meant to be,” Bowser says. “I hope people really grab ahold of that and run with it.”
After the tumultuous year that we’ve all experienced, Davenport just wants Run The World to depict Black women in a way that humanizes us and shows us in a joyous light. Overall, she’s most excited for people to get a glimpse of some of her experiences as well as common things all Black women go through, to drive home the fact that we’re multi-hyphenate beings who laugh, cry, are happy, sad and have our ups and downs just like everybody else.
“I want [people] to take away the fullness of Black life and the Black experience,” she says. “I hope that they just feel like they’re a fly on the wall in a real, authentic experience of our life. I’m not trying to teach anyone about what it means to be a Black woman, I’m just trying to welcome you into a portrait of us.”
Run The World premieres Sunday, May 16 at 8:30 pm ET on Starz.