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The show’s premise sounds pretty preposterous: young rapper runs for office as a publicity stunt and actually wins the race. But considering that someone who was considered an unlikely candidate now occupies the White House, The Mayor isn’t so farfetched. Funny, lighthearted and clever, with stars like Lea Michele (Glee), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) and talented newcomer Brandon Micheal Hall (Search Party) in the title role, The Mayor is a winner.

The MayorSet in a fictional San Francisco Bay Area city, it’s a fish-out-of water story about a guy who’s in over his head but tries to do the right thing, with the help of his friend and advisor Valentina (Michele) and his postal worker mother Dina (Brown).

“Courtney Rose didn’t want to win. He feels the pressure and weight of this job and the responsibility he’s been given,” says creator/executive producer Jeremy Bronson. “But he loves his city and wants to give. He’s been rapping about the community’s problems for years. And now he's in a position to actually effect some change with the help of his mom and his best friends and advisors. He's going to be that sort of mavericktype politician who is using tools that he has that conventional politicians don't have.”

The town has high unemployment and a not-so-solid infrastructure, and “needs some help, needs somebody who has the optimism to turn the ship around,” Bronson continues. ““Courtney Rose is a guy who is really all heart, and he's very, very smart, but he hasn't thought about how to go about solving any of these issues because he hasn't had to, and that is an important theme of this show. We're using comedy as our device for talking about certain issues, but it’s less an issue show than it is a story about the growth of a young man and this tremendous responsibility that he has to the people he loves. But we'll touch all sorts of interesting issues, not because they're hot buttons, but because they're real and they're out there. And they would affect him,” Bronson says.

The Mayor

“Given the politics of the past year, everybody is a lot more focused on what they can do, what we could all do, to improve the country, improve our situations,” he adds. “ That’s giving us a lot of inspiration for the show. But it's not tackling the issue of the week, nor is it a parody or satire.”

Bronson, a former producer at MSNBC, an Emmy-winning monologue writer for Jimmy Fallon and writer-producer on The Mindy Project, had “wanted to do a political show for a long time,” built around “a character who was a complete novice but would have some skill set to tap into that would help him do his job well.” Finding “a charismatic, very funny, very grounded actor who was also a great rapper” was a tall order. “But Brandon came into the audition and just knocked it out of the park.”

Hall, who was in a rap group with his cousins in his youth in South Carolina, was immediately taken with the role, based on the two scenes he read at his tryout. “When I saw that it was based in politics, hip hop and music, I thought it was a great combination,” he says. I dove right into that and gave it my all.”

DaveedDiggsOn The Mayor, he’ll be heard rapping on songs written by executive producer Daveed Diggs and members of his band Clipping. Diggs, who plays the recurring role of Rainbow’s brother Johan on Black-ish and was recently seen in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The Get Down, and Tour de Pharmacy, is the Tony Award-winning star of the Broadway smash Hamilton, in which he originated the dual of Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette. A product of the Bay Area rap scene, he took Brandon Hall home to meet his rapper friends for research and preparation.

“Not everything about the show is political and not every song is political,” Diggs says. “We’re trying to create a world that’s very real, and Courtney was a rapper for many years before he was a mayor so we have a large catalog of music to choose from that touches on a lot of things.”

When he reads the scripts, Diggs can relate to the situations Courtney deals with. “There are a lot of moments where he’s in over his head and that’s how I feel most of the time,” he says. “He always manages to ground himself in his family and the values he’s grown up with. It’s interesting the ways you can learn from the art you’re working on. It’s just about being honest about what you don’t know. I get myself in trouble when I pretend I know something, but not if I’m up front about the fact that I’m making it up as I go along.”

A brief cameo in the pilot aside, Diggs has no plans to appear in the show as of now. “I am really excited about the work that's happening behind the scenes of the show. That's something that I have less experience at and there's so much work to do. I'm so excited to do it that I don't really feel the need to be in front of the camera so much,” he says. “Having the constraint of writing for this specific person, getting these scripts in advance and getting to write music towards that is actually something that I'm really enjoying.”

He will continue to appear in Black-ish and is in the movie Wonder with Julia Roberts. Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay, playing a teacher. It opens Nov. 10. Next year, he’ll appear in TNT’s series version of the movie Snowpiercer, playing one of the have-nots traveling the earth on a class divided train.

The Mayor

Yvette Nicole Brown channels her own single mother to play Dina Rose. “She very tough, but she’s fun. Dina is Courtney’s biggest fan, and that is something I hope to bring,” says the actress, who bonded with Brandon Hall on a trip to New Orleans for the Essence Festival. She’s a mother figure to the other cast members too, including Marcel Speers and Bernard David Jones, who play Courtney’s buddies. “I’m a little bossy,” she admits. “Bossy with love.”

Lea Michel eand Brandon Micheal HallWhile The Mayor is quite different from the campy horror of her last series Scream Queens, Lea Michele finds similarities between Valentina and her Glee character Rachel Berry. “I don’t know why I'm drawn to very driven Type A characters. I can definitely relate to her drive and determination,” Michele says, noting that the character, writing and the musical aspect of the show drew her to the role (you just may hear her sing in it.)

“I just constantly want to keep doing things that I find challenging and exciting, and after coming off of Scream Queens, I felt that this was a perfect role for me to play next. It has an incredible message as well as being funny. I think we have something incredibly special on our hands.”

Brandon Michael Hall agrees. “Our show has a lot of hope. That's something that we all really need right now with everything that's going on,” he says. “We’re going to keep it as organic and authentic and as grounded as possible and based in reality.”

The Mayor premieres Oct. 3 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.


www.Dishmag.com / Issue 196 - October 2017
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