Creators Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar talk about how they approached updating the beloved show for Disney+, and how they got all those big name guest stars.

For The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder creators Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar, gathering the original voice cast of the beloved Disney Channel animated series about a Black family back together for the Disney+ revival was smooth sailing.

"Kyla [Pratt] is amazing. The stuff that we got, I'm glad that she's Penny. I knew the first time we met her when she was 14, that that girl was Penny Proud, and she never forgot the character, she always comes to the table well-prepared and polished," Smith tells EW. "And Tommy Davidson is always Oscar. Jo Marie [Payton]'s always been Suga Mama, Paula Jai [Parker] has always been Trudy. That unit together has just taken over their characters and taken 'em to whole new dimensions. We couldn't have wished for anything better."

Below, the pair talked about the challenges they did face in updating the show, the amount of huge guest stars it has always courted, and getting the green light to make it a little more mature.

Penny Proud (Kyla Pratt) on 'The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.'
| Credit: Disney +

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long has this revival been in the works?

RALPH FARQUHAR: We started this version probably about two and a half years ago, Bruce? 

BRUCE W. SMITH: Yeah, somewhere up in there. And we actually came into the studio to pitch something else that was kind of like The Proud Family, because that's what the Disney brass was telling us, "Hey, give us something like that, but something different." So Ralph and I came up with something that was different, came in the studio, pitched it, they loved it, and then as we continued on in the meeting, they asked us "OK, so how do you guys feel about if we decided to do The Proud Family again? What would you do?' And we were like, "Well … " and we explained the ways that we would change and adjust and shift [the show] and that's kinda how everything got started.

What were some of those changes that you guys wanted to make once it became a Proud Family project?

FARQUHAR: Well, we knew from 2001, when we first started doing the show, that maybe the two biggest things that we could see that changed, especially as it related to young people, was the emergence of social media and gender and identity issues — the LGBTQ community rising in prominence and demanding its rightful recognition if you will. And so that's where we knew we had to take the show. So right off the bat, we looked at the Michael character and said, "OK, we gotta do justice by this character." So Michael got the biggest upgrade of all our characters. We had him voiced by an authentic voice from the LGBTQ community, that's EJ Johnson, that's why we brought him on board. And then on the character design side, which we decided just in general to age up the entire cast, or the entire world two years by the way. Just so you know, Bruce and I have only aged two years since then too [Laughs]. So they gave us license with Michael, whose character design is just simply fabulous all the time. So those were the two biggest areas. 

And in addition to Michael, we introduced two new characters to the show, one voiced by Keke Palmer, Maya, and her adopted brother (they're both adopted) KG, his Wu-Tang name for King Great, who's voiced by A Boogie wit da Hoodie, and from the hoodie, I like to say [Laughs]. And their parents are same-sex parents voiced by Billy Porter and Zachary Quinto. So now we're completely up to date. We're the state-of-the-art family TV show.

Trudy and Oscar Proud (Paula Jai Parker and Tommy Davidson) with toddlers BeBe and CeCe.
| Credit: Disney +

And were those changes challenged at all, or was it something that everyone was excited about?

SMITH: Yeah, we were all excited about it because we knew that one of the things that Proud Family was always true to was our audience, and being truthful to the stories that we told. And so now we're living in an era that included social media and, as Ralph mentioned, you know, the presence of the LGBTQ community. We didn't want to place that aside in telling our stories, we want to integrate those stories because, at the end of the day, our show really is the pinnacle of diversity and inclusion. And we wanted to make sure that this show looks like when you walk outside of your door and get together with all your peers and your friends, this is what the world looks like. And so that's what we comprise all of Penny's surroundings with. And for us, that gives us very interesting stories, very fun, different, unique points of view, and truthful points of view with characters that you can relate to in a world that has lots of parallels to the one that we live in today. That's really what makes the show work.

FARQUHAR: Yeah I mean, we embrace what may be the uncomfortable nature of some conversations that might be generated by the topics and the episodes we do. That's always been Proud Family's way, and we've leaned into that even more for this iteration if you will. It is fantastic fodder for new stories, new characters, and as always we try to keep it funny as heck.

Was there an element too, in this being a revival, wanting the show to mature with its fans in a way? For example, one of the early clips that came out, had Penny walking in on Oscar and Trudy clearly having just finished doing the deed. Was it fun or challenging playing around with being more suggestive?

SMITH: Oh, that's always fun. We knew right away that the tone of our show matters, and tonally something that we had never really done with Oscar and Trudy was show a possible romantic side, even though they're husband and wife. So why not suggest that they might be getting it in a little bit when they actually have a chance to? That's fun because why not? Listen, Penny's trying to navigate the space of getting a boyfriend, which she does ultimately. You'll see episodes where we introduce her boyfriend and Oscar has a fit with that. So these are real-world issues that we bring to the table that now we don't necessarily have to code so much and speak in mass metaphors and such. We're gonna be all up in your face. We're gonna be louder and prouder. And that's what makes the show genuine and funny.

'The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder' creators Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar.
| Credit: Image Group LA/Disney via Getty Images

What were some of the other challenges getting this iteration off the ground and figuring out what you all want to be now?

FARQUHAR: Look, we knew what we wanted to do, we knew the show worked in its original form. We knew we wanted to age it up a little bit and we knew that the gloves were off so to speak, in terms of potential topics and the way we could deal with them. So our thing is, OK, let's find what are the authentic entry points for our characters that we have in play for our culture at large. And once we find those entry points, how can we make them as funny and compelling as possible. So in a large sense, that's a challenge for anybody doing any show, but especially The Proud Family, those are the things that I think are most important for us. 

And that's on the writing side, but we come with a visual form, and we had to look, and one of the things we did that really influenced everything more than anything this time around was we enlisted a whole different group of people to help us make this show. We hired two African American women as directors. We got artists, people of color at every level in the writing room, PAs, producers. I mean, that's gone a long way to help making the show even a more authentic voice

SMITH: Yeah it added to the experience. I think what we like to really lean in on and tell people is that what you see on the screen looks exactly like what it took to make the show behind the scenes if you pulled the curtain back. We are truly, in its fullest form, a diverse and inclusive environment. And that's what you get on the screen.

Adding to that are the guest stars. How'd you all get some of these big names and were they coming in like, "Oh, I grew up with this show, of course, I wanna do it!"

FARQUHAR: That's mostly what we were getting. "It's been my dream to be on The Proud Family. I was watching that ever since I was a little kid," and hey, OK, we're blessed that way. And we took full advantage of it, trust me.

SMITH: And Ralph, the first time around too. People forget that that was our mode of casting the first time around. We had some real major stars on the show that really helped round out the first two and a half seasons of what we did in the beginning. We had Vanessa Williams, Ving Rhames, Smokey Robinson. Man, Ralph, you remember the first time around, some of the cast? Tisha Campbell.

FARQUHAR: Yes. Nick Cannon's wife, Mariah [Laughs].

SMITH: Mariah Carey at the time. Yes! Mariah Carey played a real pivotal role. She played herself in an episode. It's an episode that introduced the beloved Mr. Chips.

FARQUHAR: Back then people used to say, "I wanna do a show that my kids can watch." This time we got those kids.

SMITH: There you go.

FARQUHAR: That's what's going down. We got killer guests. Look, we got Lena Waithe, Jeremy O. Harris. I mean, we got some names in here. We got Jaden Smith.

SMITH: Oh my gosh, Lil Nas X.


SMITH: We got Tiffany —

FARQUHAR: Tiffany Haddish. Yeah, we got everybody. We got everybody. If you're not in The Proud Family, you're probably not a star.

'The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder' is now streaming on Disney+.
| Credit: Disney +

Who is on the wishlist for more guest stars then?

SMITH: Oh, the thing is that we had a lot of people calling us, so we have a lot of people that are on standby basically. Cause we've got more episodes that we haven't fully cast yet that we're making room to bring these people on board. So, I mean, our wishlist was really fulfilled. Our cast is amazing, and yo, it really shows up on screen. For us that makes it fun.

Finally, what has the cast reaction been to being back?

SMITH: Wow, so we just had our premiere party, and as I said, that was the first time that our cast actually had gotten together. For these past two years, ever since we just gave the phone call saying, "Hey, you guys coming back," and "Yep," we then went on to all our corners to record this show through the pandemic and everything. So coming back, our cast is seeing the episodes for the first time, and some of our cast was in tears. Tommy was elated. He saw himself for the first time singing the Prince song. And he came around to me and we were just busting up laughing about how the visuals came together. So the cast has been amazing, and they really appreciate what we've done with the show. And they've truly embraced their characters. They came to the table with the sharpest tool kit ever.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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