Interview: Tia Mowry talks ‘The Game’Published by Michael Arceneaux on Monday, June 8, 2009 at 12:00 am.
It’s not easy to walk away from a project you feel didn’t reach its full potential. Such is the case for Tia Mowry, who worked aggressively alongside her cast mates, production staff, and dedicated fans to convince the CW to spare The Game of cancellation.
Mowry played Melanie Barnett on The Game for three seasons. In addition, she is a television veteran who is known for her role in Sister, Sister. Mowry has seen it all in the fickle land of network television and says, “I do feel like I have been the product of a show being cancelled too early. I have been the product of a show that seems like everybody loves and we have a huge audience.”
Sadly, unless the CW has a sudden change of heart or some network steps in and scoops the series up, the future of Melanie, Derwin, and the new baby in their lives will be left to the imaginations of fans — both sad and angry to see their efforts to save The Game go unsuccessful.
I had the opportunity to speak with Tia on Friday, and while she expressed disappointment with how the series was treated she remains positive about her experiences working on The Game and the future it has helped provide for her.
In Tia’s first interview since the cancellation, she talks The Game, how race may or may not have factored into its cancellation, and how some need to learn about the game of comedy.
How and when did you find out the show was canceled?
I found out about the show being canceled the night before the CW had released their line-up. They released their upfronts on Thursday so I found out that Wednesday evening.
In previous interviews you spoke about your frustration with the network failing to see the potential in The Game. Was the cancellation a shock or did you expect it?
To be honest with you it wasn’t a shock to me. I’ve been in this business since I was 14 years old and you pick up things and learn from past experiences. I remember working on Sister, Sister and knowing that it was the last season because they do a huge amount of production cuts, which is expected when you know that it’s the last season. Why would you want to spend money on something you know you’re not going to produce in the future? You want to save as much money for your other shows. It’s just a business kind of thing to do. Also, promotion tends to stop. They just don’t put as much money into the show as before. A lot of people were thinking maybe it’s just because it’s the third season, or that it’s an established show and I’m like, “No, that doesn’t usually happen.” So, no, I wasn’t shocked.
The thought of fans is that The Game was canceled because it’s a Black show. Do you think it was racism?
That’s a very hard question to answer. I always have to look at everything in a positive way and that’s just my being. Some people say, “Why are you always smiling” or “Why are you so happy?” Some people think it’s corny, but it’s not. It’s a choice I decided to make in life. I feel truly blessed to have had a show for at least three years on a reputable network. That’s just difficult in any actor’s eyes. It’s tough to have two shows that are hits. Sister, Sister was a hit and The Game was a hit…and still is a hit. So I feel very blessed and honored to have had that experience.
Now to say if it’s racism, I don’t really know if I can answer that question, but I mean, it is what it is. What I will say is that certain shows did get more attention, certain shows did get more money put into their marketing, which it helps with ratings. The Game was not getting that and we are a Black show. So if you want to put it that way and in that regard then we weren’t getting the same treatment as certain shows on the network were getting as far as marketing value, attention, and publicity. I can say that, but to blatantly say it’s racism — I don’t know if I can answer that question.
Do you have a favorite episode or moment from the show?
I would have to say my favorite episode or moment on the show is – excuse my language I don’t normally curse outside of jobs – “Turkey Basting Bitches” [Laughs]. It was a hilarious episode and I loved seeing the jealousy between Melanie and Derwin, because in the end they really love each other. They really care for each other and love each other, they’re just immature. I think that’s why fans loved the show so much because it was so relatable. It was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s what I do.” A lot of people seemed to relate, but I definitely loved that episode. It was fun, I thought it was written really well, it was great for me.
House of Payne and Meet The Browns are the only shows with a predominantly Black cast airing on any network presently, and recently Spike Lee compared the sitcoms to minstrel shows. What is your take on his comparison?
Wow, I did hear that he had said something about Tyler Perry but I didn’t know what he said [Laughs]. Oh my God, that’s horrible! One thing I absolutely love is that I’ve been able to play smart, independent, fun, loving, real down to Earth characters and I feel that I am blessed to be able to do that and that’s one of the main reasons why people love Mara [Brock Akil] and her writing. She writes these characters that are grounded, who are real, who are not perfect because there are people who want to see storylines tie up with a pretty little bow at the end, but that’s not life. I feel blessed to be able to play those characters. Now I really can’t speak on someone else’s opinion. I mean that’s his opinion, he’s entitled to his opinion, but Tyler Perry is bringing down the house. His shows are extremely successful and many people are watching them and that’s what networks look at. Networks look at the numbers – who’s watching what, how many people are watching, because it all boils down to advertising and money. We get half of House of Payne’s ratings, so if they’re putting out numbers then that’s what networks are gonna love and continue to put out there. I have to give Tyler props because he’s an amazing businessman and doing extremely well. And like I said, you have to look at the positive things; he’s putting many African-American actors to work and however you want to view that, that’s on you.
I love the show but some critics have accused The Game of reinforcing negative stereotypes. I’ve read interviews with you where you talked about how much you loved the Melanie character because she didn’t play the typical wife or athlete girlfriend — what do you say to people who criticize the show?
What I’ve realized at 30 years old going on to 31 is that you can’t please everyone and to me that’s a good thing. If we were to please everyone then that means that we’re all the same and to me that’s boring. When you look at comedians and shows that are funny, they’re always playing into some type of stereotype. I mean, that’s comedy. If you don’t know that then you don’t know what comedy is. And everybody has a different view of comedy and what makes them laugh. Some people use profanity, some people don’t – ala Eddie Murphy, ala Sinbad. There are different audiences out there that relate to certain things and some relate to another thing. I think that’s where Mara was successful. The funny thing about the show is that all three of these girls are extremely different. Melanie was for the first two seasons the voice of reason. She was the one saying, “I’m not gonna do that,” “What are you guys doing?” and they were playing into the stereotypes. But when they played into the stereotypes it’s funny.
I’ve met a lot of football and basketball players who enjoy the show. They will admit that sometimes it’s exaggerated, but they were like it’s funny. That’s what’s funny about it. Some people may get it, some people may not.
Do you want The Game to be picked up elsewhere or would you rather move away from the project all together?
I would love for The Game to be picked up elsewhere. I told Mara that I’m not ready for Melanie to be over. I speak for all of the actors, there’s so much more to do with these characters, there’s so much more to find and dig. People love these characters, but not only do fans, so do the actors. I feel like Melanie has been my dream role because she’s a real person. It’s unbelievable where Mara has allowed me to go as an actress. Before The Game I couldn’t even get into an audition for a Hillary Swank movie, but The Game has opened up opportunities for people to see me in a different light. Of course I want the show to go on, but not just because of that– we work very well together, we’re very close and there’s so much more. The fans know that. I have never been put in this situation where fans have been so supportive of a show and everybody knows about it – the cast, Mara – The Game fans are the best fans.
In the event that the show is not picked up elsewhere what will you miss most about The Game?
Mostly, I’ll miss being under one roof with the cast and crew of The Game. If the show does go away, that will never happen again. You’ll never see everybody together working on the same project unless they make it a movie or something.
Is there anything else you have lined up for TV and film?
My sister and I are working on our production company right now. We’re like, shoot if Tyler Perry can do it, we can do it. We are doing a Lifetime movie together. I know I’ve been saying that for a while, but when projects start from the bottom and work its way up it takes time and years, but it’s pretty much almost greenlit so we should be shooting that at the end of this year or beginning of next year. I just finished shooting a video with Pleasure P. That was fun, he’s a sweetheart, he’s so nice. I also did a commercial for Sheer Cover, it’s a make up line that in my opinion is really good at tones for African-American women. So that’s what you guys can look out for me in the future so far.
Any last shout out to fans of the show?
I just want to thank the fans for supporting the show the way they do. Shout out to The Game Fanatic. Shout out to Matthew Cherry who did the “Save The Game” campaign. And shout out to the whole cast, because none of us had to do that. None of us had to be a part of a “Save The Game” campaign that had no affiliation with the network. It’s hard to get actors to do that and so just shout out to the cast. I love you guys, and whatever is meant to be will be, but the cool thing is that God always has your back.
The Game airs weekdays on BET at Noon/11c and 5pm/4c. Click here to get your fix of all things The Game and discuss this interview on the message boards!