‘Being Mary Jane’ asks: Why be the other woman?
By ADRIENNE SAMUELS GIBBS Staff Reporter January 6, 2014 7:07PM
Gabrielle Union on "Being Mary Jane" on BET. | Annette Brown/BET Networks
Updated: February 8, 2014 6:19AM
Life very nearly imitates art when it comes to “Being Mary Jane,” the new drama premiering Tuesday on BET and created by Northwestern University grad Mara Brock Akil (“The Game”). Gabrielle Union portrays Mary Jane, a successful news anchor who juggles her bourgeoisie lifestyle against other, less tony realities: falling for a married man, caring for aging parents and dealing with those who equate MJ’s success with being the family ATM.
When the character was introduced in a cable movie last summer, some 4 million viewers tuned in and gasped to learn that sweet, cheerful, rich, educated, deserves-a-godly-man Mary Jane was, in fact, “the other woman.” (She even confronted the wife in a grocery store.) Akil says she wanted to explore “good people” who end up in bad situations.
Though Union has real-life drama of her own (she became engaged last month to Dwyane Wade, who recently acknowledged fathering a child with another woman), Akil says the upcoming nuptials and the new baby won’t affect the show, already in production for season two.
Q. How does Union’s news affect the storyline?
A. Not at all. Technically, I’m a married woman writing about a single woman. I’m so happy for her and Dwyane. This is art and I’m wishing [them] a beautiful life together and all that. What I love about working with Gabrielle is she’s an artist and she knows how to show up and do the work.
Q. The promotion for this show has been going on for a year. What’s the story behind that?
A. The long conversation has boded well for the show and hopefully it will launch even more successfully. It wasn’t how I initially wanted it to go but once you let go, you realize there are blessings in not knowing [everything]. BET is taking a page from the throwback handbook of television. Gabrielle said it best when she said, “It’s like we’ve been pregnant with our child for two years.”
Q. Did any real-life anchors influence your writing?
A. Tamron Hall, a few years ago, allowed me to shadow her for a day. She allowed me to ask her some questions. I was happy for her to open the day for me to observe.
Q. Any spoilers you care to share?
A. I do plan to be true to Mary Jane’s life and world. Life happens. Things happen. Wayne Brady joined us this season. We’re gonna watch Mary Jane, a smart woman, make what most people would think is a very bad choice in continuing 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. It’s the anatomy of an affair.