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How Robin Thede's A Black Lady Sketch Show books so many big-name guest-stars

  • Thede's HBO sketch show is back for Season 3 with more than 40 celebrity guest-stars, from Wanda Sykes to Ava DuVernay to Shangela and Lance Reddick. “The biggest thing is scheduling,” Thede tells The Wrap of booking many celebrities. “People are always, like, how do you cast this show, and it’s threefold. One, people approach the show and say they want to do it, but that’s the least amount usually; Two, we have a great casting director, Vicky Thomas who casts the show – award-winning for this show; And then three … it’s me.” Thede adds: “It’s usually phone calls and texts. A lot of outgoing from me and luckily I’ve been in this business a long time and know a lot of folks, so I am very blessed in that way and believe that I have a good reputation, (so) people want to work with me. But even in Season 1, Angela Bassett said, ‘I came because I was a fan of your late-night show and because you asked me; you thought I could be funny.’ And I love that. And Patti LaBelle, same thing. I’d worked with Patti years ago and she remembered and she came on board immediately.”


    • Robin Thede urges viewers to watch Seasons 1 and 2 before Season 3: “If you look back at Seasons 1 and 2, which I highly recommend people do before they watch the season, you will then notice things in Season 3 right away,” she says. “I can’t wait to break this down after the season airs, because there’s actually a lot of layers to what we’ve been planning for the last three years.” Thede adds: “I knew I couldn’t just make a sketch show. I knew that in order to stand out and be a sketch show with all Black women, we were going to have to do more, For me it was always about creating a grounded sketch show that has narrative storylines, fully realized characters, but in a magical reality. I knew that there was going to be a world where we could play a variety of characters, but that world was going to have a throughline that made sense why we were doing all of these things and playing all of these characters.”
    • Thede is in awe of all her guest-stars: "I'm so excited to see them -- I mean, who thought Ava DuVernay would do a sketch?" she says. "She was essentially playing a heightened version of herself but she had an hour to come shoot with us. I was like, 'I got you, don't worry.' And she was like, 'There are only two sentences in the script.' I was like, 'We'll make more of it. It's fine.' And literally on set, I'm just yelling out jokes. I'm like, 'Say this.' She was like, 'I would only do this for you. You are chaotic.' And it was great. She's amazing."
    • You can tell A Black Lady Sketch Show stars are having a blast in Season 3: "They share such an easy rapport, riffing off each other seemingly effortlessly whether the moment is scripted or improvised. And that spirit is contagious, making for a hell of a good time for those of us on the other side of the screen as well," says Jenna Scherer, adding: "In its third season, A Black Lady Sketch Show continues to blaze a trail as a show both by and for its titular demographic, unafraid to make cultural references that will gleefully whizz over the heads of white viewers. (That’s definitely a feature and not a bug.)"

    TOPICS: A Black Lady Sketch Show, HBO, Robin Thede