Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 02/18/22

A little bit animated Medea, a little bit diverse Simpsons, a lot its own thing. That sort of sums up the tone of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, Disney+‘s sequel series to The Proud Family which ran successfully on The Disney Channel from 2001 to 2005. The much-anticipated revival drops Wednesday, February 23rd on Disney+.

My conversation with co-creator Ralph Farquhar and voice cast members Alisa Reyes (LaCienega Boulavardez) and Paula J. Parker (Trudy Proud) follows the trailer below.

JWK: The Proud Family ran on The Disney Channel  from 2001 to 2005 originally. Why was the decision made to bring it back now?

Ralph Farquhar: I don’t know exactly why. I just know that (co-creator) Bruce Smith and I had been begging them ever since we went off. Every year we would go in and pitch “Bring us back! Bring us back!” because, you know, a black animated sitcom hadn’t existed before and, quite frankly, nothing replaced us after we left. So, we kept saying “Hey, we need to come back!” Thankfully, it was probably about two or three years ago, we got the call that said “Hey, we want to bring Proud Family back and were like “Woo hoo! We can’t wait!”

JWK: Reboots are all the rage right now, right?

RF: Yeah. It’s probably because of the launch of Disney+. It’s a Disney IP and a great opportunity to reboot the show. So, we’re excited to be back, let’s put it that way – for whatever reason.

JWK: What is it about this show that you feel people relate to?

RF: Alisa, you want to take that?

Alisa Reyes: Sure! I feel that we hit every demographic. I mean, for me, playing LaCienega Boulavardez – being someone that represents the Latin culture – is an honor simply because I call us a little bit of the United Nations. Whether it’s a specific age demographic or if it’s a cultural relation or if it’s an ethnicity relation, we cover the masses – and now we get to incorporate social media.

We’re (also) three years older so LaCienega goes from being a tween to a teen. (She gets) to experience la quinceañera which is amazing! Also, now we get to have activism topics. We get to incorporate LGBTQ topics, as well. So, for us, it’s all about the morals, the lessons, the stories that a family can basically sit down together and take away for the previous generation and now the new fans.

For us, it’s God‘s grand master plan that we are back. It’s all a matter of timing and alignment of frequency – and the time is now. As we’ve been saying all day people are awoke! They’re ready for us to share these topics that I personally feel have always been there but now the magnifying glass is just a little enhanced and people are now more awakened in their ascension aspect of coming out of what I like to call the Matrix and now, you know, realizing “Okay, these are topics that have always been there but now they’re just a little enhanced and we’re gonna sit back and now just basically enjoy the ride.”

JWK: As performers, you and Paula both have great live-action resumes. How is the experience of voice acting different?

Paula J. Parker: I guess the honest difference is I don’t have to do hair and makeup. For me, that’s the biggest difference. I get to just be me and let my facial expressions shine whatever that moment feels like to me.  When I’m recording, I’m allowed to express it freely, whereas – Alisa also can speak on this – when we’re in front of a camera, you have to curtail the excitement on your face and allow it to come from within and express itself through your eyes or just through spirit – but I get to be free! I get to be as big as I want to be! Because I started in sketch comedy it’s good to be able to be able to allow my face to go to the places that this character needs to go. That’s the blessing of what Ralph and Bruce have written for us. It spans the generations. We talk about the things that need to be talked about and, sometimes, it can’t be pretty.

JWK: The title The Proud Family I would guess is an allusion to the virtue of pride. Of course, in Christian theology pride is also the first Deadly Sin. Pride is one of those things that on one hand is a very positive thing – we all need to have a positive sense of pride – but, on the other hand, can be very negative too.

PJP: It’s an ambiguous word. I think people put their faith in words. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. God goes by many names. Pride in one’s culture, in one’s mission is not (negative) pride…When we use the word “proud” it’s not in a vainglorious way. It’s in (the context of) a culture that has been historically suppressed and expected to lose that (positive) pride in self. We are reigniting the word and taking away…those negative connotations that go along with pride.

AR: It’s heartfelt, I feel, to back that up – especially me representing the Latin community (through) my character – but it’s not just even me representing the Latin community. I mean me – Alisa Rayes. I’m Irish-Italian-Dominican. I really am a little bit of everything. So, I love the fact that our cast is diverse. I love the fact that we get to talk about topics that maybe some families don’t know how to talk about because today’s world is finally now awoke and they’re able to share things that were kind of suppressed previously.

So, we hope that The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder helps households, as we’ve been saying, at dinnertime put that cellphone away and talk about things that maybe they weren’t able to talk about (in the past). Hopefully, our show, if it can touch just one person – whether it’s the child, the dad, the mom, whoever – can help and lift and bring that frequency into the home base. You know, give it a little faith and optimism and (a sense of) being proud in a heartfelt way to the table.

PJP: And we’re on Disney+, like Ralph has been saying. When we were on The Disney Channel, that was kind of skewed younger – but Disney+ allows us to engage preteens, the littler ones, as well as the adults.

AR: 6 to 60, as Ralph says, right?

PJP: Yes!

JWK: By the way, Ralph, doing some research for our conversation, I read that your younger brother wrote the theme song for the show.

RF: Yeah – Kurt, my older brother.

JWK: Oh, your older brother.

RF: (laughs) No. I always tease him. Yeah, he’s my baby brother.

JWK: So, this show is a little bit of a family affair for you.

RF: Absolutely. Look, the whole thing is a family affair. I mean we all, honestly, know each other. Despite the pandemic, we remain connected. It is The Proud Family –  with Bruce, the writing staff, the artistic staff. There’s a strong connection (among all of us) and, of course, I’ve got my baby brother.

JWK: Summing up, what is the message you all hope people take from this show going forward?

RF: The main one Bruce and I want people to take away is be yourself. That’s the example of all the characters. Whether you’re a young person (or) an adult, just be yourself – and be yourself proudly and, like Paula said, with humility and with love. So, that’s the takeaway we hope people get.

PJP: Amen.
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A Full legacy. Candace Cameron Bure dropped by Fox & Friends Wednesday morning and spoke movingly with co-host Ainsley Earhardt about her real-life relationship with her late Full House TV dad Bob Saget. As she put it “He always carried his emotions right at the surface in the best of ways. He was so emotionally available. And he just always — always let you know that he loves you. Every — every text, every phone call, every moment in person, he would give you the biggest hug. And he always let you know how much he cared about you. And that is such an incredibly powerful gift that he gave.” Not a bad way to be remembered. You can see the entire conversation here.

Though the comic cadences of The Proud Family and Full House may be a bit different, it’s interesting to me that both shows share the central themes of kindness and acceptance of self and others. In an era that can be so harshly judgmental while relentlessly pushing internal and external conformity, it’s a worthy role for TV content creators to tell stories that inspire people (kids and adults) to approach life with a wholesome and forgiving gentleness. A good example of that can be found in this father-daughter scene from Full House.

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The (healing) power of the DOG. Channing Tatum‘s canine buddy comedy arrives in theaters today. As I recently noted here, you can count me among those who easily succumbs to a good dog or a good dog movie. The two featurettes below go behind the scenes of the making of DOG. The second one focuses particularly on the the three dogs who play Lulu, the DOG of the title. Good stuff!

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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