Diversity in staff and opinions is crucial for the creator of Starz’s ‘Survivor’s Remorse’

Tribune News Service

The key to a great television show is a great writers room. For a show like Starz’s “Survivor’s Remorse,” currently in its third season, “great” means much more than talent. For the show’s creator, actor-writer Mike O’Malley, it means diversity - in age, race, religion and gender, among other things SEmD and authenticity.

“Not only was it intentional to find younger writers and people of color who could write about what people in their 20s are going through - which is four of the five main characters in the show - (but it was critical having them) talk about what’s important to them, as relatable to these characters,” he said.

And that means, says the self-described “white, Irish Catholic with three kids,” sitting back and fostering a space where the young folk and those of different backgrounds have room to meaningfully contribute to a show about a black family.

“Survivor’s Remorse” follows the sudden prosperity of the Calloways when Cam, played by Jessie T. Usher, is signed to a major basketball team. Uprooted from the projects of Boston and plopped in the high-rises and suburbs of Atlanta, Cam brings along his cousin-manager (RonReaco Lee, “Let’s Stay Together”), mom (Tichina Arnold, “Everybody Hates Chris”), older sister (Erica Ash, “Real Husbands of Hollywood”) and his cousin’s wife (Teyonah Parris, “Dear White People”).

(Comedian-actor Mike Epps played Cam’s uncle in the first two seasons. The beginning of Season 3 depicts how the family copes with his character’s unexpected death.)

The show is executive produced by basketball icon Lebron James and his business partner Maverick Carter. Their lives, and the lives of others in the sports and entertainment industries, inspired the concept: how people who’ve never had money, and those around them, react when they suddenly make it big.

James and Carter hatched the idea for the show, and O’Malley came on board as its show runner, aided by veteran producer Tom Werner (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show”). The pair looked for an experienced writer who understood that all black people are not the same, because this show needed to be different.

“It was about making a show that stood for something and meant something to people,” said Carter. “(It needed) to be authentic to the story we wrote and the people and places we knew and had been.”

O’Malley, best known for his Emmy-nominated turn as Kurt Hummel’s dad on “Glee” and boasting a resume with extensive writing credits including work with veteran show runner John Wells on the Showtime dramedy “Shameless,” was the perfect fit, Carter said.

“Mike’s professional enough and smart enough and sophisticated enough to add to the project,” he said. “He also understood that he would need a team around him to help with certain nuances (of black culture), but that there’s not one way to do it, not one version of black people.”

O’Malley’s diverse staff helps the show “get it right,” Carter said. O’Malley said he staffed that way to ensure different perspectives were not only in the room but at the table and with the pen.

This dialogue brought forth nuanced takes on uniquely black phenomena. For instance, the episode airing Sunday titled “The Photoshoot” details how colorism affects African Americans and entertainment industry.

Another story line addressed the journey some black women take to return their chemically treated hair to its natural state. Occurring at the start of Season 2, it was the brainchild of Oliver and Parris, who both embraced their natural hair.