‘Our Kind of People’ Is ‘Empire.2’: Lee Daniels Explains How YaYa DaCosta’s New Show Takes Drama to the Next Level
Fans of Empire, which wrapped its five seasons of drama in 2020, have a new Fox drama to look forward to. Empire creator Lee Daniels is executive producer of Our Kind of People, and promises Empire fans the next level of Black drama.
“I think it’s Empire.2,” Daniels said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel on Sept. 8.
Empire chronicled the drama within the Lyon family, record moguls with a criminal past. Their success and wealth only seemed to add more drama to their lives, as the continuing storyline necessitated.
Our Kind of People is set on Martha’s Vineyard. YaYa DaCosta stars as Angela Vaughn, a single mother who moves to Oaks Bluff hoping to sell the community on her natural hair care line. She finds more drama than just business, because Martha’s Vineyard is a community full of generationally wealthy families.
Based on the nonfiction book by Lawrence Otis Graham, Daniels said Our Kind of People has all the drama he loves on television. Karen Gist adapted the book for television.
“Look, I’m a Dynasty fanatic,” Daniels said. “I’m a Dynasty fanatic and I remember when we did Empire, that’s what I wanted to base it off of. Soap lives in me and so Karen has created such a very unique world with this piece in that we are treading the line of what is culturally important, really important to the culture and speaking to the culture right now, and what’s soapy.”
Gist brings more Empire-esque cred to Our Kind of People. She was an executive producer of Daniels’ drama Star, about a girl group.
“We just were so excited about finding another project together and this came along,” Daniels said. “She understood the world. It’s great to have a bunch of Black people on televisoin, y’all, in a different type of way outside of Empire. This is a different type of rich Black person.”
Graham studied the Black elite in his book. Daniels said Gist is able to tell dramatic stories about what that kind of generational wealth does to people. Daniels also said it contrasts the characters of Empire, who came into their wealth with their modern day success in music.
“They’re not new money,” Daniels said. “It’s old money, it’s nuanced old money, it’s very specific so I’m excited about having people see this world that nobody has seen before. No one understands, I didn’t even understand. I, having had the opportunity three times to go to Martha’s Vineyard, there’s some uppity Black people over there so we’re exploiting those Black people.”
Daniels promises all the Empire-esque drama in the world of Our Kind of People. However, Gist’s series also has something to say.
“At the same time trying to stick to some of the story of what Our Kind of People was really about,” Daniels said. “So I believe this is sort of a first.”
“What’s incredible about this show is that we have these seasoned veterans like Joe and Debbie mixed with middle veterans like YaYa and Lance [Gross] and Morris [Chestnut]. It is so exciting to watch the dailies of these actors that I so respect and I’m so excited that have come on there and watch the newbies come on. There are some newbies that are hitting it too. I don’t know Nadine. I didn’t know her at all. She’s swinging it, baby. She’s coming in and swinging it. America isn’t ready for this. It’s a gag.”
Our Kind of People premieres Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. on Fox.