Young, successful, (tall)  and Ivy league educated–Blackish writer, Damilare Sonoiki, is seemingly every immigrant parents’ dream child. However, Damilare took what may have seemed to some to be an uncharacteristic leap of faith when leaving a more predictable job on Wall Street for the bright lights of Hollywood. This leap paid off with Damilare becoming a writer on the hit ABC sitcom, Blackish and then using his talents to bring forth a story that many of us can relate to with his upcoming, African Booty Scratcher show.

Sitting down in his Beverly Hills apartment–the Houston, Texas native took some moments (after an unfortunate loss by the Rockets) to speak with me about his journey to adding his voice to Hollywood’s changing narrative.

You’re originally from Houston, can you describe how things were for you growing up out there?

It was good, it was fun

And what part of Houston are you from?

Southwest Houston, Alief

So did you have an idea of what you wanted to do when you were coming up?

No, not really. I didn’t have much of an idea. I didn’t have anything specific.

When did you first start falling into writing?

I guess in school I was always good at writing but I wrote for this magazine on campus in college (the Havard Lampoon) that a lot of people who used to write for it ended up writing for tv.

You were initially on Wall Street, right?

Yeah, I worked there for a couple years.

How was the transition from doing that type of work to working in Hollywood?

It was good! I had an agent when I was in college so I had an agent the whole time when I was in New York working on Wall Street.

I came out to LA for my friend’s birthday in March of 2015, I told my agent I would be in LA for a week so he set up a whole bunch of meetings and my agent connected with the creator of Blackish. He really liked me and had me join the show as a writer.

Were your parents supportive of you switching careers?

Parents are always going to worry, especially African parents. As long as they understand For better or for worse, I am going to do what I want to do, so I think they just kind of accepted it.

Have they seen the trailer of the show African Booty Scratcher?

Yeah, they liked it. They thought it was funny. They’ve seen the show

Was there anything in particular that really stood out to them, or did they just like it in general?

I think they liked it in general. Some of the things they say stood out to them. It’s true to some of their mannerism and some of the things they’ve said in the past.

The show resonates with a lot of people and feels super relatable for people who came up in African households; how much of the show was autobiographical?

It was all pretty much taken from just my experience

Did anyone call you an African booty scratcher when growing up?

Yeah, When I was in elementary school

How far along are you in the process of developing the show?

I wrote a pilot. Still trying to get it made, find the right partner. They’ve been people who are interested just trying to find the right people

Since the trailer basically went viral is there anyone in particular that showed interest that you were surprised by?

Yeah, Charlamagne the God; Wale, I actually wasn’t surprised by Wale but that was cool

Have any networks showed any interest?

No networks, maybe streaming stuff. Someone from Netflix liked it but I think with networks they always want to see a really big name to be a part of it for them to go forward with it?

So, are you guys working on switching around the cast?

No, not really a big name to be in front of the camera, but a big name to support it, to champion it–like Oprah Winfrey, somebody whose name is behind it

You mentioned Wale earlier and I remember him saying that he wanted to work with the show but something along the lines of him not really feeling the name?

I know Wale, he lives out here so I showed him an earlier cut and he was really excited about it and he had all these ideas. I was showing it to him because he was in the studio and I came over there. But I think he thought I was showing it as me trying to get him join on. So I think when he saw it he felt like he was supposed to be a part of it.

Why do you think it’s taking so long for a story representing the African experience to get on TV?

From my experience with the show, even if you have all these views, you have to have someone who is an executive or someone who is in a prominent position in these networks, studios, to be like “oh, I get this” and “oh, I’m gonna make it.”. Blackish got made because it’s really good in the creative but there had to be executives that pushed these things through. Who see a story and are like oh, I’m gonna push this on to the next level.I think there aren’t enough African executives in the industry.

Do you have an idea of when we’ll see the show on the screen, or is it still up in the air?

Who knows, all these things take a long time. I remember I saw Issa Rae, she had an event last week, and from Awkward Black Girl to doing Insecure to Insecure being on air, how many years was that? From Insecure having a pilot to actually being on the air was like 3 years. Things move slowly.

What do you see for the future of Africans screens represented in the media?

I think it’s a matter of Africans telling their own stories.

Is there anyone in particular that you’re paying attention to?

Yvonne Orji, she’s on Insecure–she plays Molly. She has a trailer called First Gen that helped paved the way, she’s doing her thing on First Gen. I think she’s developing the pilot. Luvvie. I don’t really know Luvvie but I know she’s doing big things. Issa Rae.

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There’s too many Africans for us not to have our stories told on big platforms.

 

You can follow Damilare and the show on twitter. Also, check out Africanbs.com for updates.
*Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity*

 

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