Being Mary Jane: NU grad’s new show a scandalous success

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BET’s first scripted drama, “Being Mary Jane,” delivered a respectable number of eyeballs with Tuesday night’s premiere drawing 3.3 million viewers. The series, developed by Medill School of Journalism graduate Mara Brock Akil and directed by Akil’s husband, Salim Akil, was also a Twitter success, reaching some 1.71 million people and generating 12.48 million impressions using the #beingmaryjane hashtag.

Audiences erupted on Twitter upon learning that Mary Jane continued a relationship with a man after she’d learned he was married. The show also drew up comparisons to Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal” and the saucy sexual relationships found on that series as well.

Some viewers said they didn’t appreciate Gabrielle Union’s portrayal of the successful cable news woman. But to that, Brock Akil gives the brush off. She isn’t about to get into any Twitter wars with fans who don’t like seeing Union get a little gritty in character. She also isn’t going to apologize for portraying a black woman in a compromising relationship.

“I [will] engage as long as the conversation is intelligent,” says Brock Akil. “I’m not interested in trying to please everybody. I’m trying to deliver what I believe is right for the show. Some people may not like Mary Jane but maybe there’s somebody they do related to. You might love or hate [her] and that’s art too. That’s part of the experience.”

She goes on to address black stereotypes.

“I’m not interested in positive images. I’m not interested in negative images. I’m trying to articulate more of a complicated human image. We’re between those two polar opposites. That’s the conversation in which I will happily engage.”

According to Variety, Being Mary Jane “was cable’s No. 1 original series on Tuesday in 18-49 as well as total viewers. And since the start of the 2013-14 television season in September, it’s cable’s No. 1 premiere in the demo.” But the LA Times declared that the show “came up short” because it didn’t garner the 4 million viewers it grabbed last summer, with the release of the similarly named telepic that aired on BET.

Time will tell whether we will continue to tune into the affair.

“When you look at the numbers of people who are in affairs, all these people are not all bad people, so the question for me is why,” said Brock Akil. “I’m very exicted about the denymaics played out between Mary Jane and Andre, between the married woman and the other woman. Everybody has a dynamic in play. I’m very excited to show that. For that reason, we have Omari [Hardwick] and Robin Lee all season. People will find their performances very yummy.”

Yummy indeed.

Want more? Read the entire Q&A with Brock Akil here.

— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

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