If you’re like me and love to watch other people’s messy drama unfold on national television, Fox’s new prime-time drama “Our Kind of People” is for you.
Created by Karin Gist and based on the 1999 Lawrence Otis Graham book of the same name, the series takes viewers to Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, an elite Black enclave on Martha’s Vineyard where bourgie cotillions, Jack & Jill gatherings, and, well, rich people problems seem to always be on the agenda. The rich and power-hungry reign supreme, interlopers beware.
Enter Angela Vaughn (Yaya DaCosta), a single mother who has just moved to The Bluffs with her daughter Nikki (Alana Bright) and aunt Patricia (Debbi Morgan) to carry out her late mother’s wishes. Angela’s mother was a maid and hairdresser on Martha’s Vineyard, and Angela has since taken up her legacy with Eve’s Crown, her budding hair care business.
But Leah Franklin-Dupont (Nadine Ellis) is less than welcoming to the newcomer and is determined to box her out of the hoity-toity goings-on in her elite circle. Meanwhile, Leah is battling it out with her own family dramas: rekindling the spark with her husband, Raymond (Morris Chestnut), trying to oust her father, Teddy (Joe Morton), as CEO of Franklin Holdings, and dealing with her daughter Lauren’s (Rhyon Nicole Brown) hidden secrets and escalating teenage distress.
It’s a wild ride for sure, with so many threads unraveling at every moment that each character’s mess barely has room to breathe. And like a lot of TV pilots, there’s quite a bit of nauseating exposition to introduce the characters and what’s important to their storylines. Angela talking about the importance of Black hair care and her daughter giving a quick primer on the history of Oak Bluffs might make those familiar pull their hair out. And yes, there are some predictable plot developments in the series premiere, which aired Tuesday. But hey, what is a good soap opera if not some mindless entertainment with beautiful people being super-duper extra on TV?
Perhaps it may sound superficial, but “Our Kind of People” is a gorgeous display of Black talent and beauty, mixed in with the juicy entertainment that traditional soap operas provide. The series is less a critique of class and wealth, so if you’ve read Graham’s book and are expecting more of a sociological exploration, this isn’t the show for you.
This is about messy relationships and drama. There are even a couple of steamy moments with chocolate-y heartthrobs Morris Chestnut and Lance Gross. And the series is, at least for the two episodes made available to critics, a good enough replacement to fill the void of now off-the-air Black family dramas such as “Greenleaf” and “Empire.” (Lee Daniels, co-creator of “Empire,” serves as executive producer.)
Here’s a primer on the main cast, without spoilers so you can catch up before the second episode on Sept. 28.
DaCosta portrays Angela Vaughn, a single mother who is determined to take up her late mother’s legacy in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. Her mother was a maid in Martha’s Vineyard, but was also a hairdresser who had created her own natural hair care products. Of course, fans of DaCosta will remember her as a standout contestant on “America’s Next Top Model.” She’s had a budding acting career since then, with appearances on Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” and most recently, “Chicago Med.”
Ellis is Leah Franklin-Dupont, heir to Franklin Holdings and resident mean girl in Oak Bluffs. She also is president of the local sorority and goes toe-to-toe with Angela almost as soon as she hits the Vineyard. Ellis has appeared on numerous TV series, most notably BET’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
Raymond Dupont is Leah’s husband and businessman with, yes, you guessed it, secrets of his own. It’s clear that as the season unravels, we’ll find out just how shady he actually is. Chestnut most recently starred as Dr. Barrett Cain on NBC’s “The Resident” and is also soon to appear on the TV spinoff “The Best Man: The Final Chapters.”
Morton gives us his best Eli Pope 2.0 as Teddy Franklin, the chairman and CEO of Franklin Holdings and Leah’s calculating father. Obviously, there is no way to sum up Morton’s career in one sentence, but most recently, the “Scandal” actor co-starred on CBS’s series “God Friended Me.”
Bright is a newcomer to Hollywood, making her professional acting debut as Nikki Vaughn, Angela’s daughter, who ran into trouble at her previous school and almost immediately gets wrapped up in some drama with Leah’s daughter, Lauren.
Aunt Patricia, who arrives in Oak Bluffs with Angela and Nikki, seems to be hiding secrets of her own. Her sister confided in her about a lot of personal issues, but it’s unclear how much she knows about her sister’s past. Morgan, a titan on screen, has appeared in numerous TV shows and films including “Eve’s Bayou” and “All My Children”; most recently, she had a recurring role on “Power” as Tasha St. Patrick's mother, Estelle.
Rhyon Nicole Brown
Lauren, the daughter of Leah and Raymond, is a hot mess with her own secret. She has an unexplainable rivalry with Nikki and gives off the same stank attitude as her mother. Brown is most known for her role as Lizzie Sutton on ABC Family series “Lincoln Heights” and also worked with Lee Daniels on “Empire.”
Tyrique Freeman is Angela’s love interest in Oak Bluffs. Viewers can only hope that things get hot and steamy between the two as the series progresses. Gross has appeared on several TV series, most notably the long-running TBS series “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.”
Quincy is Leah and Raymond’s son, whose storyline must develop in later episodes, though he does initially show interest in Nikki on the series premiere. Most recently, you might have seen Bary on Netflix’s popular series “Ginny & Georgia.”