Hit ’90s show Living Single became one of the most iconic shows in TV history. Starring Queen Latifah as Kadijah James, Erika Alexander as Maxine Shaw, Kim Fields as Regine, Kim Coles as Sinclaire, T.C. Carson as Kyle Barker, and John Henton as Overton, Living Single followed 20-something young Black professionals making their way in Brooklyn. Produced by A Different World‘s Yvette Lee Bowser, Living Single inspired a generation of young Black folks to achieve. In what’s being called the Maxine Shaw Effect, Alexander’s character alone sparked young Black women to go to law school like Max.

Yet, after 5 seasons, the show ended in 1998. The all-white version of the show, Friends premiered in 1994 to very different acclaim.

“The difference between Friends and Living Single is one of marketing and skin color,” Alexander told Shadow And Act. “What does Paul Mooney say? ‘They have the complexion for the protection,'” she laughed.

While Friends went on to a ten-season run with each cast member raking in $1 million per episode, Living Single never received the financial success of its successor.

“If you were on a show with a Black cast you weren’t seen as a show with a Black cast, which is how I like to see it. They saw you as a Black show. So they would often put you in a cultural ghetto. That would undermine any sort of ambitions that you might have to grow the show beyond its locked-in demographic,” she said.

“I’m saying we should have gone beyond that. And I think it was just a lack of imagination and people who left money on the table,” Alexander said.


Reel It Back with Erika Alexander: Her Iconic Roles From Cousin Pam to Maxine Shaw