Gina And Reggie Bythewood Talk Living, Loving & Creating Together
When we think about Hollywood power couples, we likely consider the stars in front of the camera. But Gina Prince Bythewood, the woman behind some of our favorites like Love & Basketball, Beyond The Lights and the new Fox series “Shots Fired,” and her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood, her husband and creative partner along the way, though they are behind the scenes, are the epitome of Hollywood power.
In a recent interview with Essence, the couple share, not only how they met one another, but how they work together in and outside of the home.
Essence: Take us back to the first time you both worked together and how it sparked something more than friendship?
Gina: I had an internship at Quincy-Jones Entertainment, and everybody there kept talking about this writer out of New York, Reggie Rock Bythewood. Then I read a script that was in the office, and I was blown away by it. It just so happened, either that night or the night after, I went to a taping of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and Reggie was there also as a guest, so that’s how we first saw each other.
Reggie: I was just writing plays in New York and I came out [to Hollywood] because there’s a program called the Disney Writers Fellowship Program. It’s a program that wants to help bring writers into the industry and teach them about the industry. I was with the executive from another company and he brought me to a taping of Fresh Prince. I happened to look over my right shoulder at the few rows up, and there was a young lady that was glancing my way, more than once, and the person that was next to me told me, “Oh, that’s Gina Prince”.
Gina: So a week later we were both hired on A Different World, Reggie as a staff writer, and I was hired as a writer’s assistant for the Apprenticeship Program. We were the younger writers on the show, they put us together a lot, to work on scenes and things like that and we just clicked. We became best friends very quickly because we had the same kind of mindset of what we wanted to do in the industry and what we wanted to say.
How did your work dynamic change once you started dating?
Gina: I was actually working under him as a writer as an apprentice. So as a female, I didn’t want people thinking I was trying to work my way to the top inappropriately.
Reggie: There was a point where we thought, hey, this is not cool, let’s not date each other. Let’s just be colleagues. So we did try it for a while and eventually, it didn’t work. But what was great about our break was that it allowed us to just focus on our friendship, and that’s really the basis of who we are, our friendship.
What aspect of your early dating years has contributed to a successful working relationship?
Reggie: Before I turned in a script to the rest of the [A Different World] staff, Gina would read it, and vice versa. So we just naturally began to work with each other that way.
Gina: We go through each other first. For one, because we respect each other. And two, you have to have that person that is prepared to be blunt if something’s not working. We don’t want each other to go out in the world with something that’s not ready, or is not going to do well. So we have to be harder on each other than the industry is going to be. So we definitely have a process with each other as well.
After working with each other on A Different World, did you talk about working with each other on future projects together?
Gina: One of the turning points for me and for my career but still fueled by our relationship and still speaks to our relationship and who we are. There was a film that I was asked to work on, but there was so much in the film that I’m against, as an artist and a Black woman, but my agents’ voices were in my head: ‘Just get your foot in the door, do this and it’ll help your career.’ So I spent time putting together a whole list of fixes and notes, but Reggie happened to be in my apartment and started watching it. Right before I was about to go to a meeting for the film, he looks at me and said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said to me everything that I was telling myself in my head. I broke down for a moment, because he was right, and I just realized, wow, he was again speaking to me in the way that I was saying to myself but I didn’t have the courage to step out and do. And I ended up going to the meeting and I gave them my thoughts, but as soon as I left, I called my agent and said, ‘Look, they can have my ideas for free. I don’t care, I just don’t want anything to do with the project’. I walked away, came home, had one more good cry, dried my eyes and started writing Love & Basketball.
Not many people can say they work with their spouse. What’s it like running your own production together and creating content?
Reggie: We worked with each other for so long, we don’t always agree. There were times when we were in the writers’ room, we have a staff of seven writers, and Gina and I could look at each other and really quickly be on the same page. Then there might be other times where Gina would see it differently and we’d have a little debate. The writers would always be uncomfortable, there like ‘okay, what’s jumping off here?’ But for us, it felt very normal, and an essential part of our process, because we have a mission statement for every project we do. We take the approach that we have a cause bigger than ourselves, and we really have to just challenge each other and ask each other difficult questions throughout the process.
What makes you most excited about working together on Shots Fired?
Gina: I think that what I love most about being able to do this project together is the fact that, meeting on A Different World where we became best friends and having these dreams of what we wanted to do and then now to say to the world that we’ve never lost that idealism to impact the world. Maintain that optimism, still fight for the opportunity as well. The fact that we’re just always on the same page together, shows what art can do. To be able to do it together and put out projects in the world that we’re so proud of feels really good.
You can read the full interview over at Essence.