Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of Being Mary Jane
Being Mary Jane may no longer have creator Mara Brock Akil at the helm, but the show will live on thanks to BET and the many dedicated fans. Since its inception, the network’s first scripted drama has ranked as the No. 1 one scripted cable series among Black viewers in the demographic of 18 to 49, most of whom are women. And with just cause. With a full-fledged, flaws and all lead character like Mary Jane Paul, beautifully played by actress Gabrielle Union, and a commitment to discussing issues that affect Black women, BMJ is one of the most fascinating TV series the network has produced in years. Click on for some secrets behind the making of Being Mary Jane.
Remember that viral statistic about unmarried Black women? The one that said 70.5 percent of Black women (between the ages of 25 and 29) had never been married? Akil took that number to heart when she created Being Mary Jane. Her goal was to show a human side to such a statistic by revealing a day in the life of a woman named Mary Jane.
Single Black Female
The working title of Being Mary Jane was once Single Black Female. Akil initially chose that title knowing full well that Black women are often reduced to those three words.
Being Mary Jane began as a television movie. Running 90 minutes in total, it aired in July 2013. The first episode then aired in January 2014.
Mary Jane’s character is tagged as being “beautifully flawed.” To Akil, that means not existing in polar extremes of positive and negative, or good and bad.
The actress has said that she wouldn’t be friends in real life with someone like Mary Jane, but she has compassion and empathy for her, as she does for herself and her loved ones.
What exactly did Whitney Houston have to do with the making of Being Mary Jane? Well, apparently, she is the one who convinced a hesitant Omari Hardwick to take on the role of Andre Daniels (both Houston and Hardwick appeared in the film Sparkle). “I felt the character was kind of just meat,” he told Latin Post. “…We didn’t see him in his workplace and as a man, you want to do something as an actor that is about work, that’s about actually doing something. I didn’t feel like he was, but she convinced me that [Andre Daniels] would be an interesting character.” Thanks, Whitney!
Loretta Devine’s character, CeCe, whom fans were introduced to in Season 3, was written as a man. According to the actress, producers changed the role from man to woman at the last minute, saying, “the only changes they made were the pronouns in the dialogue,” she told Entertainment Weekly. Devine went with the character’s initial description, however, and conceived CeCe as a man.
Goodwin plays Mary Jane’s niece, Niecy Patterson. You wouldn’t think so based on her character, but in real life, Goodwin has said that she’s very quiet on set. Why? Here’s what she told Vibe: “It’s because I’m just standing back observing these veterans work. When you’re around people of such class and sophistication and they also can act their asses off, you’ve got to make sure that you pay attention. You can’t slack. You have to know your lines, you got to be ready, because these people know what they’re doing and they’re ready to work. I just sit back and I watch. I’ve learned to be more professional working on Being Mary Jane for sure.”
Mary Jane’s favorite color is yellow, which we see often in her home. Assistant costume designer Derica Cole Washington takes this into consideration when determining how to dress Gabrielle Union. And after Mary Jane’s car accident, her clothing became more sleek, bold and sophisticated.
When filming, the BMJ crew shoots almost 10 pages of a script per day. According to Union, that’s unheard of. The average is four or four and a half pages, and a single episode is typically shot in nine days.
Black Girls Are Magic
Being Mary Jane was one of the first television shows to ever utter the words “Black girls are magic.” These words were spoken by Michaela Angela Davis, a guest on Mary Jane’s show Talk Back.
The upcoming season of Being Mary Jane will be executive produced by Will Packer. Erica Shelton Kodish also serves as an EP, as well as the showrunner. BET has yet to announce when the first episode of Season 4 will premiere.