Issa Rae explains how binging Vanderpump Rules helped her make Sweet Life: Los Angeles
Sweet Life: Los Angeles (TV series)
"I still want a [wealthy Black] teen show, and that's still being actively worked on, it's just that Insecure, Rap Sh*t, and this has gotten in the way," the Emmy nominee told EW on Wednesday night at the premiere of the unscripted series, the first three episodes of which went live Thursday. "I used Gossip Girl as a reference in that initial one and there's a Gossip Girl reboot, and then Euphoria came out, so I was like, 'Oh, I need to retool this.'"
Think of Sweet Life as more of a Black Melrose Place, where a friend group of ambitious twentysomethings based in South Los Angeles deal with the drama that comes with taking both their personal and professional lives to the next level. "This idea came to my team and we discussed it. And just as an avid reality fan, I was like, 'Oh, I want to do this. I want to do my version of [MTV's] The Hills meets [BET's] Baldwin Hills.' I want to do Baldwin Hills with The Hills production quality and set it in South L.A. with an older group of people," explains Rae.
The executive producer clarifies though that she was "still very skeptical and careful, and was very clear about what I wanted to see. I didn't want it to represent L.A. in a corny way. I wanted it to be real L.A. people that natives would be proud of, and they could be like, 'Oh, I know someone like that,' or 'I know this person.' And I'm really happy with the result."
One unexpected ingredient in the new show's recipe for success is the inspiration Rae got from marathoning the first season of Bravo's Vanderpump Rules during a long plane ride. "I was like, 'What the f— is this?' Because I'd never seen Real Housewives. I didn't know who Lisa Vanderpump was, but watching these people working at a restaurant, they just felt like real people who didn't, at the time, want to be famous."
Rae knows the key to producing a good reality show is casting the right people, so for Sweet Life: Los Angeles, her mandate was "finding real people with real ambitions who weren't the stereotypical archetype of L.A. But we also still wanted to play to what this particular generation is looking for. There's kind of a pressure to do a lot and to be who you're supposed to be. Following that journey and making other people feel less alone in that journey that they may be facing themselves."
As for what pie in the sky ideas she's manifesting next, Rae admits "I want to bring erotic thrillers back. I miss the Demi Moore phase." While she's not sure who she'd want to cast yet, she adds, "I want the Indecent Proposal, the Disclosure, that era. I want that back. Cause it was just fun to watch."
Sweet Life: Los Angeles is now streaming on HBO Max.
Produced by Issa Rae, this unscripted series follows a group of longtime friends that are young, Black, ambitious, in their mid-20s, and based in South L.A., as they navigate through relatable quarter-life chaos, and propel each other towards personal and professional success.