Lauren London & Kenya Barris Discuss the Film’s Authenticity

Jan 24, 2023

Netflix’s upcoming film, You People, is director Kenya Barris’ debut feature-length project after serving as showrunner for ABC’s Black-ish. Co-written with star Jonah Hill, the movie is a romantic comedy that turns the genre on its head when Hill’s Ezra Cohen meets and falls in love with Lauren London’s (Without Remorse) Amira.

Featuring an all-star cast, You People follows Ezra and Amira’s relationship as they go from a coincidental meeting to falling in love. When Ezra decides he’s going to propose, the couple must first meet each other’s families before taking that next step, but in this case, Amira is taking her white, Jewish fiancé to meet her Black, Muslim family, and vice versa. Tensions begin to rise when the two families meet, and the cultural and generational differences, and all the social stigma that comes with it, threaten to boil over. In addition to London and Hill, the film stars Eddie Murphy and Nia Long as Amira’s parents, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny as Ezra’s.

Before You People hits Netflix on January 27, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with the four-time Emmy nominee director and London about the movie. During their interview, Barris and London break down the main characters’ meet-cute, the inspiration behind it, and why it was such a significant part of the film. They also discuss the importance of authenticity to You People, the part that L.A. plays in the movie, and the editing process. You can watch the interview in the player above and read the full transcript below.

Image via Netflix

COLLIDER: So a ton of questions, but how tough was it coming up with an authentic way for the two main characters to meet? How much did you debate it? Because the audience needs to buy into, “Oh, this is where people might actually meet.”

KENYA BARRIS: Yeah. I was telling Lauren that when I talked to Jonah [Hill], we were just riffing about stuff when we were going back and forth, and someone actually did get in – I had a black Mercedes, and I was waiting for someone – and a white dude got in the back of my car as an Uber. I just was like… first, I’m scared, and then I’m offended. But I was like, it’s an interesting way for people to meet.

I think that it was also a fun way to have that character… It had a lot of things because it was the social aspect of it, and she added that line about, “You saw a Black woman…” That was her improv, and she was right. You know what I’m saying? The idea of there’s a social class thing to it, “You think you can just… I’m a Black [woman] in an inexpensive car, and you’re a white man, you can tell me what to do.” There also is a fear factor as a woman, a man hops in your car. You know what I’m saying?

There also is the moment that it gave levels because when he showed her the thing, there was a twist, and she was like, “Oh, okay, maybe.” And we didn’t get a chance to show, but the original thing was they drive around the city trying to find a thing, and there’s like this great conversation, and he actually is spitting, shooting a shot, and she kind of respects it because he’s funny, and he’s taking some chances. So we felt like it gave us a lot. It gave where you could understand how these two people could get to where they were going. And it was an interesting sort of… I hadn’t seen that before.

No, I totally bought in. I was wondering how it was going to go with the meeting. So I read – could be wrong – that you actually didn’t audition for this, that you were offered.

LAUREN LONDON: Yeah. Yes. [gestures to Barris] Through my good friend.

BARRIS: She was begged. She wasn’t offered. She was begged.

LONDON: Not true.

What was it like for you though? Not only are you getting offered a great role, but working opposite Jonah and Eddie [Murphy].

LONDON: I didn’t know Eddie was attached to this movie at first.

BARRIS: He wasn’t. He wasn’t at that point.

LONDON: Yeah. So really, it wasn’t even about that. And they are great people. It was just like, I just wanted to make sure that I could participate in this film in a real way. And, you know.

BARRIS: I think that just in our meetings and talking, ‘authenticity’ was the word that kept coming up.

LONDON: Authenticity was a big thing for me.

BARRIS: And it sort of influenced the rewrite. You know what I’m saying? We wanted this character to feel authentic to a girl who grew up in Inglewood Baldwin Hills, to a girl who had these parents, to a girl who was experiencing this for the first time. And it really sort of helped shape what it was for me.

L.A. plays a huge part in this movie. How did you decide what locations you wanted to use?

BARRIS: Simply Wholesome. Got to make sure we have Simply because that is a big part of our–

LONDON: Simply Wholesome. Yeah. I’m like, “Was it Simply Wholesome?”

BARRIS: Yeah, Simply Wholesome. It was because people don’t know about it, and now there’s this huge kick of being vegan, or being alkaline, or just taking care of yourself. Green juices. And this is a Black-owned business that’s been in the community for 20-plus–

LONDON: 30. I think it’s like, since the ’80s.

BARRIS: Since the ’80s. You know what I’m saying? And been in the community, and we know about it. And it’s the idea that that was at the heart of what we wanted this movie to be, is things that can really say who we are, but that now has spread out past just that Black… what we were doing.

Image via Netflix

Also, the prices aren’t that bad there.

BARRIS: They’re not, have you ever been?

LONDON: And the food’s amazing.

I have not been, it’s on my list, but I checked it out online.

BARRIS: Tropical milkshake. When you go get a tropical milkshake with almond milk, it is the best milkshake you’ve ever had in your life.

I definitely want to talk about editing, because ultimately that’s where everything comes together. I apologize, it’s a director question.

LONDON: It’s okay with me.

BARRIS: She helped me.

LONDON: No, I did not.

BARRIS: I called her in.

Image via Netflix

I am curious, how did the film change in the editing room in ways perhaps you were not expecting?

BARRIS: So my editor is one of my best friends. Her name is Jamie, Jamie Nelsen, and me and her have worked on everything basically that I do together. And she is a partner. We argue and fuss and fight, but it is literally… I believe that editing is painting. You know what I’m saying? And I didn’t want to be in the room. And for this movie, we couldn’t because for the first part of it, we got the lift. But I went to Hawaii and we edited online, and I was in Hawaii and I was like, literally, “Can you go back three frames? Can you do this? Can you add this? Can we add?” And we saw it come together, and she fell in love with Lauren and Jonah first. [In] that sequence, when they’re walking and talking over that amazing song, it was like, that was the heart, to me, of the movie. It was like, I wanted it to feel real. And I wanted you to feel seamless. And I think that editing is the thing that I learned as a showrunner, that more directors need to take part in a really, really painstaking way. Every frame, everything in that frame, every piece of music, how the coloring, that is… it’s everything.

You People begins streaming exclusively on Netflix beginning January 27. For more you can watch Eddie Murphy talk about meeting Rodney Dangerfield for the first time.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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