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Interviews

Kenya Barris & Nia Long Open Up About Their New Film You People

Kenya Barris & Nia Long Open Up About Their New Film You People

nia Long and kenya barris
Courtesy of Netflix

It’s a love letter to L.A. and the culture.

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Throughout his career, Kenya Barris (Black-ish, Grown-ish) has turned his lens toward stories about Black culture and the Black experience — in all its joy and its struggles. In his feature film debut, You People, out now on Netflix, he’s not pulling any punches, and that’s what makes it not just hilarious, but an essential watch for, well, pretty much everyone.

In You People, Jonah Hill plays Ezra Cohen, who meets the woman of his dreams, Amira Mohammed (Lauren London), during a ride-share meet cute. It’s a fairy tale romance that’s well on its way to a happily ever after. There’s just one problem: everyone around them seems hellbent on ending their love story. Ezra and Amira’s parents, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Duchovny, Eddie Murphy, and Nia Long, are particularly problematic for the pair, who ultimately just want to be together.

Watch PRIDE’s full interview with Kenya Barris and Nia Long below.

As it turns out, that story is inspired by Hill’s real-life experience. The actor co-wrote the film with Barris, and the two developed the screenplay from a story that Hill shared with the director.

“We’ve been friends for a while...we exchange conversations here and there. We’re like let’s get together, let’s just talk,” Barris tells PRIDE. “Jonah at the time was dating someone from a different culture, they were about to get married. And he was like, it’s not us that’s the problem. And that’s what we thought it would be, it’s the people around us. And I was like, Oh my God, that’s it. That’s the part that we haven’t really seen. That’s what makes it not Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.”

His goal became to tell that story with both heart and humor — and to “tell it as a love letter to culture, a love letter to L.A., a love letter to love,” Barris shares. “And do it with conversations that were really thoughtful and provocative, hopeful, and funny.”

Eddie Murphy and Nia Long behind the scenes of You People

Courtesy of Netflix

Los Angeles, the setting for the film, serves almost like another character, with its iconic settings and unique culture. “L.A. has a very interesting specificity to it,” explains Barris. “I grew up in a predominantly Black community, Jonah a primarily white community. But a lot of times when it comes to high school, the way L.A. is set up, you start mixing. So people have come from these different environments all of a sudden, go into a different world, and Jonah and I talked about that. And we had so many of the same references, but also so many different references.”

It was an opportunity to tell a fresh and intersectional story, Long explains to PRIDE. “There’s also subcultures within [both the Black and Jewish cultures]. You could tell this story with a Jewish family and a black family, five different ways. And it would work,” she says.

David Duchovny, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Eddie Murphy, and Nia long sit around a coffee table.

Courtesy of Netflix

Barris agrees. “If you’re from a niche LGBTQ community, or you’re Black, or you’re a person of color or woman, there’s a monolithic way that they’re presented,” he says. “And for us, we wanted to make sure that there were enough characters and enough people who felt different to show that even within these two subcultures of culture, they’re not monolithic. And there’s so many different ways to show who we are and what we are, and at the same time still be a part of that culture proudly.”

You People is streaming now on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Dread Central, Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Dread Central, Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.