Daveed Diggs taps his 'rap-nerd instincts' to produce ABC's The Mayor
Hamilton alum Daveed Diggs has a staggering number of projects in the works, from recent arcs on black-ish and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to his upcoming roles in the film Wonder and the TV adaptation of Snowpiercer to his ongoing music career as a solo artist and part of the noise-rap group Clipping.
But the thing he seems most excited about during a recent phone interview with EW isn’t another starring role: It’s his job as an executive producer on ABC’s fall sitcom The Mayor. The show centers on a struggling young rapper (Brandon Micheal Hall) who runs for local office to boost his popularity and is surprised to find that not only does he win, but he’s good at it.
The story of Diggs’ involvement with The Mayor, though, starts with what he didn’t want to get involved with.“People had been pitching sitcoms to me to star in a lot, even before black-ish,” Diggs says. “But having done black-ish, I was watching what a grind it is, particularly on Tracee [Ellis Ross] and Anthony [Anderson]. Being No. 1 or 2 on a call sheet for 24 episodes of a show is hard, and I had just come out of doing [Hamilton] every day for two years.”
If it weren’t obvious from his varied resume, Diggs is a true multi-hyphenate — and as such, he understood that committing to a lead role on television wouldn’t leave much time for him to stay involved in his other projects, whether in films or in the recording studio or on tour with Clipping.
Through their shared agent, Diggs met The Mayor’s creator Jeremy Bronson (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon). “[My agent] was like, ‘Well, do you want to be an executive producer for this pilot?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know what that means.’ And he goes, ‘That’s all right, nobody does!'” Diggs recalls with a laugh.
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Diggs sat down with Bronson to discuss his idea for the show and was instantly hooked. “My brain was firing like crazy when we were talking about it,” he says. The premise appealed to his “rap nerd instincts”: “At the time, we didn’t really know where it was going to be set, and I started spouting off ideas like, ‘Okay, if you set it in Memphis, which is a cool town, the music is going to be totally different than if we set it in Baltimore.’ I’m fascinated with the regionality of rap music.”
But even after they’d put together their pitch for the show and ABC picked it up, learning what a producer actually does was still a learning experience for Diggs. “At the first stages, I was just waiting for somebody to call me and ask me my opinion or tell me what to do,” he says. “I didn’t know that I was the one who was supposed to be calling!”
Fortunately, he’s got the hang of it now. And by not starring in The Mayor (or any other sitcom),it turns out Diggs has been able to combine at least two of those passions he’s been trying to juggle: He and his Clipping bandmates, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, will create all the original music for the show. So it’s a win-win for Diggs — and for viewers.
The Mayor will air on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET this fall on ABC.