No such thing as over the hill for Black women leading in television

If anyone says that women over the age of 50 are past their prime, don’t believe it. 

When it comes to primetime television, several Black women who are over the age of 50 are thriving by having shows centered on them. Most of these women not only star in these shows but also hold the title of executive producer, which means that they have a say in who gets hired for their shows and what type of content is in these TV programs. And even when they don’t star in these shows, some are moguls who’ve created media empires that began in television. 

Can you say, “Oprah Winfrey and Shonda Rhimes?”

“Act Your Age,” which premiered March 4 on Bounce, is a rare comedy series that features three central characters who are Black women in their 50s. Kym Whitley, Tisha Campbell, and Yvette Nicole Brown portray three best friends who end up living together in the same apartment in Norfolk, Virginia. Whitley (“Sparks,” “Raising Whitley”), Campbell (“Martin,” “My Wife and Kids”), and Brown (“Community,” “Big Shot”) are all familiar faces for anyone who’s watched TV sitcoms over the years. “Act Your Age” creator/showrunner/executive producer Alyson Fouse, who is also a Black woman over the age of 50, has previous TV producing credits that include “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Big Shot.”

Tisha Campbell, Kym Whitley and Yvette Nicole Brown (left to right) star in "Act Your Age" on Bounce. Photo credit: Bounce
Tisha Campbell, Kym Whitley and Yvette Nicole Brown (left to right) star in “Act Your Age” on Bounce. Photo credit: Bounce

In “Act Your Age,” Whitley plays a high-powered real-estate developer named Bernadette Sykes, a single mother who has been successful in business but unlucky in love. Through a series of circumstances, Bernadette has invited her two closest friends — straight-laced widow Angela Martin (played by Brown) and hard-partying divorcée Keisha (played by Campbell) — to live with Bernadette. Meanwhile, Bernadette’s son, Jacob (played by Nathan Anderson), and Angela’s daughter, Olivia (played by Mariah Robinson), who are both in their early 20s, share a close friendship that Jacob hopes will turn into a romance. The show celebrates middle-aged Black women comfortable with who they are despite experiencing racism, sexism, and ageism.

“I think that it is a throwback to everything that was wonderful about TV back in the ‘80s and ‘70s,” Brown told  Variety about “Act Your Age. “I hope that people would tune in and celebrate everything that we’re bringing. It’s like ‘Girlfriends’ 30 years later,” Brown said.

Mary J. Blige, who has held the title of the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul since she took the entertainment world by storm in the 1990s, now has a new title to her long list of accomplishments: talk show host. “The Wine Down With Mary J. Blige,” featuring raw and real talk about love and life, debuted March 1 on BET and BET Her. Blige is an executive producer of the show, which is the first unscripted project from Blige’s deal with BET. On the show, Blige interviews celebrity guests on a set designed to look like a comfortably sleek living room with plenty of wine being served. 

For the first episode of “The Wine Down With Mary J. Blige,” the guests were actress Taraji P. Henson and rapper Caresha “Yung Miami” Brownlee, who both revealed more than they ever have before in a TV interview about their sex lives, dating, and how they survived failed relationships. Blige also opened up about her painful split from ex-husband Kendu Isaacs, in a divorce that dragged through the court system from 2016 to 2018. Blige and Isaacs (who used to be Blige’s manager) got married in 2003. 

The show’s second episode, set to air on March 8, features Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, the rapper/actor/entrepreneur who performed with Blige, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar at the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show last year. (All of these artists won a Primetime Emmy Award for this Super Bowl performance.) Unlike most TV talk shows that are all about making celebrities appear nearly perfect, “The Wine Down With Mary J. Blige” strips away the façade that celebrities always lead glamorous and happy lives, by revealing how these famous people (Blige included) have come through their lowest moments and are healing from past mistakes and traumas.

Here’s a list of other famous and fabulous Black women who are the queens of their current U.S. primetime TV series that have a leading actress who’s over the age of 50. (This list does not include reality shows, limited series, miniseries, and TV specials.)

  • Yolanda Adams, star of BET+’s “Kingdom Business”
  • Angela Bassett, star/executive producer of Fox’s “9-1-1”
  • Kim Fields, star of Netflix’s “The Upshaws”
  • Renée Elise Goldsberry, co-star of Netflix’s “Girls5eva” (formerly a show on Peacock)
  • Niecy Nash-Betts, star/executive producer of ABC’s “The Rookie: Feds”
  • Jada Pinkett Smith, star/executive producer of Facebook Watch’s “Red Table Talk”  
  • Queen Latifah, star/executive producer of CBS’s “The Equalizer”    
  • Jill Scott, co-star of BET+’s “The First Wives Club”  
  • Wanda Sykes, star/executive producer of Netflix’s “The Upshaws”
  • Octavia Spencer, star/executive producer of Apple TV+s “Truth Be Told”
  • Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams, star of BET+’s “The Ms. Pat Show”

And looking ahead, Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis (“How to Get Away With Murder”) is making her return to primetime TV as the star of HBO Max’s “Waller,” a spinoff of HBO Max’s “Peacemaker” series. (The show’s premiere date is to be announced.) In “Waller,” which is based on DC Comics characters, Davis will portray corrupt government official Amanda Waller, the director of the Suicide Squad. Davis portrayed this character in the 2016 and 2021 “Suicide Squad” movies. In February, Davis commented in an Instagram post about starring in the “Waller” series: “Very exciting news. Can’t wait to tackle ‘The Wall.’ ’’

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