Prentice Penny Talks Three-Dimensional Representation For People Of Color
Last week truTV launched a new show called “Upscale With Prentice Penny” which airs Tuesday nights at 10pm.
You may not have heard of Prentice Penny before, but it’s highly likely you’ve seen his work. He was a writer for “Girlfriends” and is currently the showrunner for HBO’s hit show “Insecure.” BOSSIP caught up with him to chat about stepping in front of the camera to host “Upscale” — a show that is all about appreciating the finer things in life, whether that means tailored threads, the finest wines or bedding that guarantees an enjoyable nighttime “experience.” Check out our EXCLUSIVE below!
BOSSIP: Congratulations on stepping in front of the camera! Tell us how “Upscale” came about, did you always plan on hosting?
Prentice Penny: It’s a little bit different. Legit, this was literally some stumbled into something and not realizing until the last minute. I had no plan. It started from an idea my manager and I had. We are big bourbon drinkers and we love barbecue. We were like, ‘We should fly to Kansas City and just try barbecue.’ This was two years ago. Then, we thought, ‘We should film it and put it on YouTube!’ That slowly evolved into whether people of color talk about these kind of things. It never had it’s origin in me being in front of the camera and then I found myself here.
BOSSIP: How did you come up with the different topics for the show?
PP: It started from topics my friends and I actually enjoy. We’ll go smoke cigars, or go try champagne, or talk about steaks. That became the genesis, and so they didn’t feel disconnected we gave them a theme. So the first episode is about romance — so in that topic it became, what kinds of things do you do to incorporate romance into your life? So we talk about bedding, candles and champagne, the clothes you wear when you come to bed, your pajamas etc… Once we gave each show an umbrella, it was ‘Ok, now what are the topics — if it was date night, upscale dressing up and we pitched on ideas I was doing personally and how to incorporate them.
BOSSIP: What do “Insecure” and “Upscale” do to open up the scope of how black people are represented?
PP: “Insecure,” from a scripted standpoint, we’re able to talk about things and see us as fully dimensionalized people who go through things like anyone else. The ideas of being in love and being faithful and trying to find your place in this world are all things we can relate to. For “Upscale,” I was a big fan of “Chef’s Table” and Anthony Bourdain, but my thing was, my friends and I are into these kinds of things, but I don’t see us reflected in these shows, whether they be “Top Chef,” or what have you, you never see us in the forefront of these shows. It’s just like on “Insecure” where we have these conversations all the time, but you just don’t see them onscreen.
I don’t see anyone onscreen doing this, but I do these things and my friends do these things, but it’s always a middle aged white guy speaking as the authority. As the entryway into those worlds, I want to see more of me reflected in those worlds because I do those worlds and people I know do experience those worlds. You rarely see people of color onscreen talking about travel, but we travel all the time. You never see it onscreen.
For me, it was important to have a ton of people of color come on the show as experts because it was important that it’s reflected in the show. Not even just people of color, but also gender roles. We did an episode where we visited this really cool craft brewery that was run by two women, an Asian woman and a Latina woman and the brewery was in Inglewood. For our date night episode, we talked about manicures and went to a manicure spot that was just for men, that was started by a black man. You go in and the walls are wood, and the chairs are leather, and there’s a big flat screen on the wall and you get scotch when you come in, so it’s to make men feel good. I was like when are you going to see a man talking about manicures onscreen and it’s a straight black man? You’re just not going to see that. That was important to me that we cut against the type and perception, I wanted to upend a lot of that in the show.
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Photo Credit: Justin Jackson/truTV