In case you missed the memo, it’s hard out here for a Black man.
Thankfully, instead of feeding into the rampant negativity, executive producer Trell Thomas and showrunner P. Frank Williams have joined forces to deliver Profiled: The Black Man, a new Discovery+ series that combines historical footage, social commentary, and real-life testimonies to deconstruct the challenges Black men face in our society, and separate the truth from the omnipresent bullshit when it comes to commonly-held stereotypes that have put the lives and reputations of far too many Black men at risk. And in speaking with The Root, Thomas and Williams explained why a show of this magnitude is not only important but essential.
“This show is necessary because it doesn’t exist,” Thomas told The Root. “For so long, other people have told our stories incorrectly. This is an opportunity for us to tell our own stories, help shift the narrative, and show that Black men are human just like everybody else. So it’s necessary because it doesn’t exist—and it needs to.”
“Trell saw the need for this show,” Williams said. “And I was like, ‘Hey, we need to have a situation where there is more positive representation and Black men get to tell our story.’ So to me, it’s almost like a love letter from Black men who say, ‘This is who we are.’ And actually being able to tell our own story. Not filtered through the media or through somebody else’s lens. And so it’s honestly refreshing.”
To that end, each episode will focus on debunking a different stereotype, from “Black men are dangerous” in the first episode, to “Black men are absent fathers” in episode two, and episodes three and four addressing the falsehoods that “Black men devalue women” and “Black men don’t cry.”
“We exist on so many planes, coming from the music business into television and film,” Williams told The Root. “And I think those four topics sort of cover the diaspora of us; our relationships, our mental health, how we are portrayed. So we wanted to kind of give you a full breadth of all of those different reasons.”
“We are fathers. We are husbands. We are people who experience the same kind of everyday situations that anyone else experiences,” Thomas said. “We’re also just good people, and I think we don’t get enough of that shown in the media. So when we look at these stereotypes [...] these are all things that are untrue. So we felt like it was powerful to start with these because these are the stereotypes that we [hear and] see so much of.”
He continued, “I conceptualized the show about two years ago after watching a few documentaries and docuseries that show Black men in not such a positive light. After watching those things, I got to the point where I was like, ‘You know what? I need a palette cleanse. I need to see something positive about us.’ So I searched maybe like six streaming platforms and I couldn’t find anything that made me feel like it was a positive or correct storytelling about Black men. And I’ve always been taught by my parents and my mentors that if there’s a need for something, and it’s not out there, then there’s a space for you to create it. And that is exactly what I set out to do with Profiled: The Black Man.”
Helping to bring this powerful series into fruition are fellow executive producers Kristen V. Carter and Tina Knowles-Lawson, in addition to on-screen commentary from familiar faces like activist Tamika Mallory, legendary radio host Sway Calloway, and entertainer Billy Porter. And frankly, in light of the challenges Black men continue to face in our society, Profiled: The Black Man couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We spoke with a lot of different networks, and we really wanted to find the right home for this. I think the biggest thing that made Discovery+ a great place for this series was that there wasn’t a lot of convincing,” Thomas said. “I hope that what viewers see is that Black men are human. And I hope that it starts conversations that we’ve never had before.”
He continued, “I think the powerful thing about this series is that it’s educational, but it’s also inspiring and uplifting. You learn a lot of things. You also have the tools that you need to go out into the world and help make positive change. And so what I hope is that when people see this that they challenge their own beliefs of what they’ve been told or what they see. And then they go out and help other people try to [understand] that Black men are human and that we deserve to exist freely. We also deserve—and reserve—the right to be able to tell our own stories.”
Profiled: The Black Man is available now on Discovery+.