Friendship, Love, and Adulting: An Interview with Brown Girls Creator Fatimah Asghar

“Single girls club forever…” — this is definetly something I have uttered to my friends after a bad date. Our failed relationships, mediocre jobs, and angsty growing pains are diminished because we have each other. However, my friendships have rarely been articulated onscreen until recently. With the rise of shows like Insecure and Atlanta, it has been so life-affirming to see women of color be more present as strong, awkward, and complex central figures. Adding to this list of great entertainment is Brown Girls. After binge watching it in one sitting, I was delighted…overjoyed…excited…to see two women of color build a beautiful onscreen friendship and tackle sensitive issues surrounding sexuality, careers, and romance. It has been recently announced that the show will be picked up by HBO. Writer, Fatimah Asghar and director Samantha Bailey will be bringing the show to a screen near you. I had a chance to speak with co-creator and writer of the series, Fatimah Asghar about production, inspiration, and relationships. Get caught up on season one and look out for the new show!

Efe Igor: What inspired you to create the series? How did you want to portray your communities and relationships?

Fatimah Asghar: I started writing Brown Girls in the fall of 2015. It really started because I wanted to write a story that felt relatable to my life, with characters that I wanted to see in film and media. The story is very loosely based on my friendship with my best friend, and I don’t feel like I often get to see two women of color from different racial backgrounds be genuine friends on TV.

EI: I hear that. We rarely get to see friendships between people of color on screen. You shot the series in Chicago, where you live — how did you want to portray the city to viewers? 

FA: A lot of that was done by Sam Bailey, who is the director and co-creator of Brown Girls. Sam is dope and has an incredible vision. We wanted to show a part of Chicago that isn’t usually seen in media — usually you just get downtown or the bean, which are all lovely places, but don’t really get the neighbourhood feel that makes up a lot of Chicago.

EI: Your production was very DIY, what was the hardest part of making the series? 

FA: We had a great team and great people on board. The hardest part with any DIY project is funding, and being able to raise enough funds to make it work.

EI: You guys did a great job and your vision was executed with such great precision. Patricia has really open and honest conversations with her mother, how were you inspired by your own relationship with your parents?

FA: I’m actually an orphan so I don’t have parents. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of really amazing women of color mentors and aunties though. But really I was thinking about the ways in which we sometimes look past each other, like we might know someone really intimately but not realize that they might actually be going through similar things as us. Also the moment you realize that an adult figure in your life is a real person, with their own shit, and not just an adult is fascinating. I wanted to convey that too.

EI: As I grow older I think about that a lot myself. I start to see how adults work very hard at being adults or the opposite. It is not this natural or easy moment in life. I was wondering what shows you watch. Where did you find inspiration for the kind of work you are doing?

FA: A lot of the inspiration from Brown Girls didn’t come from other shows, but came from Chicago itself and the artistic communities that I am a part of. Chicago is such a vibrant and dynamic city, it’s hard to not be inspired. I feel like there are always such cool exhibits and galleries and just generally really amazing artists who are always pushing what it means to tell their story in the best way possible. Currently, I am watching Legion on FX which I think is great. I also love Atlanta and Insecure.

EI: I haven’t seen Legion but I adore Atlanta and Insecure. They are both incredible shows and offer such great stories that feel much more relatable to me. Why did you think that a web series would be the best platform for your storytelling? How has it enabled you to tell the kind of stories you want to tell?

FA: Brown Girls was my first time writing for screen, which was very exciting. I decided to do a web series because I felt like it was a good way to try the genre of screenwriting, and because I love web series. It also offered greater control and agency in terms of carrying out my vision and not having to compromise.

EI: Very interesting! Why did you pick comedy for the genre of the show? What does comedy offer you and how does it help you explore difficult topics?

FA: I didn’t pick comedy, it just sort of happened. I think in general, the way that I deal with a lot of my life is through comedy, or comedic release. It’s a coping mechanism in a lot of ways.

EI: Comedy does offer us a great way to think about our circumstances. What do you have planned for season two? How do you hope to build on the story?

FA: I’m hoping to expand the story more. Season One is very tightly focused on Leila and Patricia, I want to largen that spotlight and build out their community a bit more.

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