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Starz's Run the World is honest, witty and at times heartbreaking -- a lovely window into the lives of four Black women

  • "A great deal of Run The World’s premise centers on the towering burdens placed upon Black women by society, within the Black community, and of course, the expectations they place upon themselves," Aramide Tinubu says of the Starz dramedy from creator Leigh Davenport, who is executive producing with Living Single creator Yvette Lee Bowser. "Though the characters are imperfect, they continue to push back against society’s desire to humble Black women or make them feel grateful for positions and roles they’ve painstaking earned. Also, despite the friends’ overarching desires to have it all when it comes to their personal and professional lives, the series examines how fear can inadvertently lead to self-sabotage. For much of its eight-episode first season, Run the World is refreshing, although some cheesy and over-the-top comedic references cause occasional stumbles. There is a cringe-worthy reference to Harriet Tubman following an awkward sexual encounter. Later in the season, Renee stands up for herself at work, and what begins as a powerful and witty scene eventually descends into chaos, when it could’ve been one of the strongest points of the series. Yet there are more moments when the series feels grounded in real life...With its compelling cast, homage to Harlem in both the present and the past, and a stronger back end of the season, Run The World offers a lovely window into the lives of four Black women. It’s honest, witty, and at times heartbreaking. As in real life, the women at the center of the series know that they can hold on to one another when all else fails."


    • If Run the World isn’t copying its many ancestors, it’s a worthy successor to them: The Starz dramedy "smart and sweet and full of the kind of energy that can spark when old friends hang out together," says Alan Sepinwall. "beginning a new job at a website run by Barb. She’s also the only one of the quartet not in a long-term relationship. Renee is married to Jason (Jay Walker), Whitney is in the final stages of planning her wedding to Ola (Tosin Morohunfola), and Sondi is clandestinely dating her thesis advisor Matthew (Stephen Bishop) and helping to raise his young daughter. It will probably not surprise you to learn that this is not the configuration in which they all end the season, though Davenport, Bowser, and company are at least as interested in the women’s friendships as their love lives, if not more. The four leads have fantastic chemistry with one another, whether all in a group or broken down into twos and threes."
    • Creator Leigh Davenport: "Run the World was created out of a sense of rebellion": "It was startling, honestly, when I realized in my mid-20s that I was still actively searching for authentic and relatable reflections of myself on television," she says, adding: "It was 2009, and it seemed everyone had something to say about Black womanhood. There was this whole, 'You need to "think like a man" and change everything about yourself to "find your Barack"' moment happening. It felt a bit like hysteria—the articles about single Black women being the least desired on dating apps, the statistics about all the Black men in prison, the NBC Nightly News special 'African-American Women: Where They Stand.' (Yes, that really aired, and it was a five-night event. ABC followed suit with a Nightline special of its own.) Even Oprah was in the conversation. 'Ladies!' she bellowed on an unforgettable episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Seventy percent of Black women are single!!!” The message was pervasive and clear: Single, smart, successful Black women were in crisis. But…were we? Honestly, even though I was an unemployed disaster at the time (damn you, financial crash of 2008), I wasn’t buying it. I was surrounded by phenomenal women of all ages— smart, independent, loving, laughing, and mostly having a blast."
    • Davenport on working with Living Single creator Yvette Lee Bowser: "She’s a legend in this industry. She’s touched every seminal African American show of my generation," says Davenport. "And so to have her get on board and get behind me, and to set the tone of the show and to strongly support me by amplifying my voice and my vision was incredible. And to have the heft of what she knows and her experience, has really sharpened me and brought so much elevation to the project." Daveport adds that while Run the World focuses on Black women, it should relatable to everybody with its central theme of friendship. “No matter your ethnicity, you want a group of real friends," she says. "Seeing girls that support each other and rag on each other and give each other crap and love each other, that’s relatable and that’s bigger than any artificial barriers,” she says, “so I just want people to enjoy their bond and enjoy the fun. If they come for the comedy and if they learn something about the culture and the community, then that’s an added amazing bonus.”
    • Bresha Webb and Amber Stevens West. could relate to all the characters when they first read the Run the World script

    TOPICS: Run the World, Starz, Amber Stevens West, Bresha Webb, Leigh Davenport, Yvette Lee Bowser