Interview with cast of “Grand Crew” on NBC by Suzanne 12/9/21
The actors on this show are all friends in real life, so that made it a very entertaining press panel. Their characters are very interesting and work well together. As a comedy, I don’t find it all that funny. You should watch it, though, and make your own evaluation.
VIRTUAL PRESS TOUR
Nicole Byer, Talent, “Nicky”
Justin Cunningham, Talent, “Wyatt”
Aaron Jennings, Talent, “Anthony”
Echo Kellum, Talent, “Noah”
Grasie Mercedes, Talent, “Fay”
Carl Tart, Talent, “Sherm”
Phil Augusta Jackson, Creator/ Executive Producer/Showrunner
Dan Goor, Executive Producer
Virtual via Zoom
December 9, 2021
© 2021 NBCUniversal, Inc. All rights reserved.
MARIANA DURAN: Hi. I’m Mariana Duran, and I’ll be introducing our new comedy, “Grand Crew,” which will be sneak‑previewed on Tuesday, December 14, 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., before moving to its normal time slot on Tuesday, January 4th, at 8:30 p.m. From Phil Augusta Jackson and Dan Goor of “Brooklyn Nine‑Nine” comes a new comedy that proves life is better with your crew. This group of young professionals are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles, and they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to wind down and unpack it all. And just like wine, their friendship gets better with time. Here’s a look at “Grand Crew.”
In the first row, our executive producer, Phil Augusta Jackson, executive producer Dan Goor, Echo Kellum, and Nicole Byer. In the second row are Carl Tart, Justin Cunningham,
AARON JENNINGS:, and Grasie Mercedes. We are now ready for your questions.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Thank you, Mariana. And welcome to our panelists. One final reminder to use the “raise hand” function to ask a question. Our first question comes from Mike Hughes, and Valerie Milano will be on deck. Mike, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Nicole, a two‑part question. Let me ask them one at a time here. We are so used to you speaking in your own voice, doing reality shows, doing a show that you wrote, sort of, almost about your life and so on. So what’s different now when you are doing someone else’s scripts?
NICOLE BYER: What’s different? Honestly, it’s not that different because I know Phil so well and Phil and I did improv together in New York for a very long time. Like, ten years ago, we did improv out here, and then her name is Nicky. My government name is Nicole. She’s based on me a little bit. So it is my voice. And I feel like our writers’ room and Phil are just so talented that everything that was written was just easy. It was easy to find. It was easy to say. It was easy to perform. So, honestly, it wasn’t much different than what I’m used to, but it was fun and funny.
QUESTION: This is ‑‑ you talk about it is a little bit your life, a little bit your voice. You get almost serious for a minute there where your character talks about how her mother dying when she was a teenager kind of shaped her personality a little bit. Now, that happened to you too in real life. In what way did that shape your personality in some way?
NICOLE BYER: I think it shaped my personality in a way where, when something sad or tragic happens, I tend to lean into finding the humor in it because I do think laughter is the best medicine. How corny.
AARON JENNINGS:: I’m with you. I think you are right.
NICOLE BYER: Who wants to be sad? So I think it shaped me in a way where I can be sad about something because I am a multifaceted person, but, also, I’d rather just laugh and have a nice time.
DAN GOOR: These questions got deep real fast.
NICOLE BYER: They did.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question comes from Valerie Milano, and on deck is Suzanne Lanoue. Valerie, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi there. What will set the show apart from others such as “Insecure” or “Black‑ish”?
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: I think, for me, the inspiration for this show is just based off of my real life. It’s about a group of friends that hang out at a wine bar, and in real life, I hang out with my friends at a wine bar, the people that are in front of your screen right now. So, I think that’s the core of it. I worked on “Insecure,” and I love that show. I love Issa and Prentice. That whole camp over there is amazing. And I think what made that show so relatable was the authenticity with which Issa was bring it to the table. And so, in the same way, what I’m trying to do is just share my perspective, what I find interesting and funny. And, so, I think I based it on ‑‑ that’s going to be what sets this show apart is just it’s coming from my personal point of view. We have an amazing cast and (inaudible).
DAN GOOR: What it’s like, it’s a very specific, very funny show, and also, I mean, you know, there are 25 shows about a group of white characters in the 1990s, and, you know, there was nobody asking what separated them or made those shows different or distinct. These are different stories about different people in different circumstances than “Insecure” or “Black‑ish.” We all think those are good shows, but this is its own show that just also happens to have an all‑Black cast.
QUESTION: Could you give us a couple of examples about some recurring themes that the viewers can expect to see in the series?
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: I’m not sure about recurring themes, but I think, with this first season, what we did try to do is make sure that every episode did have a theme that is not only relatable at a broader, human level, but is relatable at a Black level. So, in Episode 2, we talk about self‑care. In Episode 3, we talk about the insecurity of status of who makes the money in a relationship. In Episode 4, we talk about therapy. In Episode 5, we talk about being inspired by your friend. In Episode 6, we talk about Black men and their fathers. In Episode 7, we talk about headlines. So, each episode, we were very intentional about the themes that we wanted to hit. But as far as recurring themes, I think one recurring theme is friendship and just having your friends there by your side for whatever you are going through and finding the fun and the funny in those situations.
QUESTION: Great. Thank you for talking about it.
ECHO KELLUM: Yeah. Like, from current things like being human and, you know, love and loss and just exploring being young and alive in L.A., you know. It’s just a recurring theme, which is being alive.
AARON JENNINGS:: The recurring themes are the human things, which we can all connect to.
GRASIE MERCEDES: Yeah.
AARON JENNINGS:: So being human beings, that’s a fact.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: And I don’t know which one of you just said it but the wine.
AARON JENNINGS:: And the wine.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: The low‑hanging fruit, that was such an alley oop. I should have said, “Well, first of all….”
NICOLE BYER: The wine.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks again.
AARON JENNINGS:: Thank you.
MATTHEW LIFSON: The next question is from Suzanne Lanoue, and Jeanne Wolf will be on deck. Suzanne, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. I enjoyed the first two episodes. Those are funny.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Thanks so much.
AARON JENNINGS:: Thank you. Thank you.
QUESTION: And, Echo, I really loved your character on “Arrow.” What attracted you to this role?
ECHO KELLUM: Oh, man. First of all, the fact that Phil was working on it. As Phil said, we are actually good friends in real life, and I’m such a fan of his creative artistry. And so, automatically, Phil wrote an amazing script and a lot of just really deep, fleshed‑out characters in different ways than I’ve seen them, and I was very excited to get the opportunity to come and play any part on it. I would have been a grip on this show if I had an opportunity to do it. So that’s number one, but the character really connected to me in a lot of specific ways. As Phil said, it’s based off of our friend group. So, I think we all have a lot of commonalities and experiences that we go through, being young Black professionals just trying to survive, you know, in L.A., and so these characters definitely connect to that struggle and the successes and wonderful aspects of that aspect too. So, there’s a lot that pulled me into it, and I really appreciate you asking me that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
CARL TART: I was a grip on the show.
AARON JENNINGS:: Yeah. Carl (inaudible).
MATTHEW LIFSON: The next question comes from Jeanne Wolf, and Jamie Ruby will be on deck. Jeanne, go for it.
QUESTION: Hi. It’s good that you are making us laugh. And the setup of the show, the introduction, is kind of that you are making fun of the stereotypes that are being treated in a very serious way today. So, doing that, making fun of the stereotypes, who is going to be thrilled about that, and who is going to be upset about that?
DAN GOOR: I don’t know that it’s ‑‑ sorry. I don’t know that it’s making fun of the stereotypes. I think the idea is, sort of, trying to elucidate that the stereotypes are just that. They are stereotypes, and they don’t in any way speak to the totality of these characters. So, I don’t think, in any way, it’s, like, making light of these stereotypes. I think the idea is to say how ridiculous it is to only portray Black men in the way in which those stereotypes suggest. And then what we see, we are in no way laughing at Garrett Morris when he says that these characters have layers and everything else. That’s really the mission statement of the show, and I think that’s what Phil has so geniusly put into, really, every character and every script and everything. But in no way is it intended ‑‑ hopefully, no one will take it as us making light of those stereotypes. I didn’t mean to cut you off, Phil.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: No. I was going to say, I think, to me, the plan we were caught up in was we are just like everybody else. I feel like a lot of times there are certain tropes that get played out in the media with Black people, and we are put into a specific box where there’s an opportunity just to be shown as, like, slice‑of‑life, everyday folks that are just trying to figure stuff out, and so that’s why we ‑‑ I think, with the characters that we have, whether it be Justin’s character ‑‑ he’s playing Wyatt ‑‑ like, a married guy, I would just like to see what it’s like for a married guy, who really enjoys his marriage, be in a friend group. And we’ve got a guy who is an accountant. I had a friend in college who was in finance and stuff like that. So, it’s really just about just humanizing the Black experience. And, again, I’m not trying to speak for everybody. I don’t think we are trying to speak for everybody with this show. It’s just, here’s a set of friends that exist in this specific part of Los Angeles, and, hey, they feel things just like everybody else. And that was, kind of, the goal, to go from there.
QUESTION: For the actors, is that showing of the layers what attracted you to the show?
AARON JENNINGS:: Absolutely. Go ahead, Justin.
JUSTIN CUNNINGHAM: I’d like to, kind of, go back to that question again, actually the prior question, which is ‑‑ well, actually, this question too about what attracted. Yeah, I don’t think it’s necessarily making fun of stereotypes or, like ‑‑ see, I’m from Arkansas. So, I’ve, sort of, lived with the perception of how people see me on a daily basis, being there. And when I was in New York and we got this script ‑‑ I’ve told Phil this, and I’ve told several of the cast this. But when I was auditioning and we got this script, people were talking about this script. Like, me and my friends of color, we were, like, “Have you gotten this script?” And what was so unique about it was that it was so human. And it was, sort of, not necessarily making fun of the stereotypes, but it was showing the human side that we didn’t get to explore as actors. And that’s what really drew me because I really fell right into this character. And even in my audition, I had so much fun going on tape for it because it wasn’t playing towards, basically, these stereotypes. It was showing that I can be human in this industry and I can be human through my art as well, and that’s what really drew me.
AARON JENNINGS:: And to piggyback off of that, Justin, if you don’t mind, I had the opportunity to audition for a few of the characters, and what I loved about it through the auditioning process was that each character, sort of, forced me and enabled me to tap into a different side of myself, and still they were fully fleshed out and dimensional characters. And then, as I arrived at Anthony, it was, like, okay, as you look at the whole group, you see that these are people that are ‑‑ and a credit to you, Phil and Dan, and the rest of the writing staff ‑‑ these are people that I know in life and that I see on a daily basis that I have had experience with. And I was so happy to see that, especially on a network such as NBC, to see that. I don’t think we oftentimes get that opportunity. And not only is it fully realized, but there’s also a lot of humor, and there’s also a lot of fun that we get to have in going to work every day. It’s a fun set to be on. We are collaborating with people who are passionate about the work but also have just, like, this immense humanity and capacity for love, and that’s what we want to bring to the audience is that love and that fun.
ECHO KELLUM: People are really, really freaking good at their jobs to come and bring it every single day with the effort, professionality, like, the humor. Like, I feel so privileged to get to come on set and work with every single person on this panel and all the people behind the scenes too. It’s just, like, to have that feeling, like, family, like, everyone is at the top of their game is great.
DAN GOOR: Watching Carl do his grip work.
ECHO KELLUM: Oh, man. When Carl out, he’s with the light.
DAN GOOR: One time he had to fill in as a boom operator. You can see the dedication.
ECHO KELLUM: Oh, my gosh. (Inaudible) was just shaking.
DAN GOOR: He didn’t know he was in the cast for, like, the first few episodes.
CARL TART: Everybody’s dialogue was Chris. Everybody’s dialogue.
AARON JENNINGS:: No ADR for anybody.
ECHO KELLUM: So, no ADR, yeah.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Nicole, didn’t you actually use the stick at a certain point? Was that the finale, or am I ‑‑
NICOLE BYER: Yeah. It was the last scene of our last episode. I was, like, “Doot da doot.”
DAN GOOR: I didn’t mean to cut you off, Echo.
ECHO KELLUM: No. But, like everyone was saying, there’s a lot of nuance, you know, people of color, the monolith. We are all very different, distinct individuals, and Phil is really tapping into it from a perspective that really comes from a personal place, and I think that’s what really drew us as artists. There’s a lot of uniqueness and perspective from his personal life.
GRASIE MERCEDES: I would love to add to that that this is the first audition I personally have had in a really long time where I read it, and not only did I think it was so funny, but I didn’t feel like I had to play at a stereotype of a Black woman that I so often have to play at. I felt, like, oh, I can just bring who I am to this character, and it felt really good. I felt really excited about it where a lot of times I feel, like, “Oh, I’m not that thing they want me to be,” and that thing we see over and over again. And that’s what I think is so refreshing about all of these characters.
AARON JENNINGS:: We hope that answered your question.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question comes from Jamie Ruby, and Jamie Steinberg is on deck. So, Jamie R., go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello. Thank you for talking to us. Can you tell me, during working on ‑‑ throughout the time working on the show ‑‑ this is for the actors. Sorry ‑‑ what have you learned about yourself, either professionally, personally as an actor, as a person? Is there anything that you’ve learned since you started?
NICOLE BYER: Um ‑‑
ECHO KELLUM: I’ve learned that ‑‑ sorry, Nicole. You’ve got it.
NICOLE BYER: No. You go.
ECHO KELLUM: Okay. Well, I mean, honestly, I’ve learned that I love working with my friends and people that are close to me in my life. I feel like sometimes, being a Black person, it’s really rare that we get to create with people that are closest to us. I feel like I’m one in a mix. Like, I’m just, like, one Black person in something. And to come do this show with the people that I’m actually close to in life and really just kill it together is something that I just love, to just, like, create art with family and friends and people that I would love to have a job in real life.
NICOLE BYER: Yeah. That was fully my answer as well.
AARON JENNINGS:: Me too.
NICOLE BYER: I really love working with friends, and I also love working with people who are open to collaborate and just, like, easy to work with, funny, talented people who are a joy to be around but also a professional. Do you know what I mean? It’s, like, we can joke, but, also, we came to do a job. I love that so much, and that’s what I’ve learned. I really like my friends.
CARL TART: I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that I’m not a morning person at all. Also, I’ve learned that I never want to work on another set again because this one is so perfect. I’m just playing. I’m just playing people who are given jobs. Don’t worry about what they are saying. No. It was such a fun time. Like, even the hard days weren’t hard because we had such a good time. And literally everybody ‑‑ everybody who we worked with, everybody was so fun. It went so perfectly the whole time that we would be, like, “Who is going to ruin it?” I guess it’s up to me to come in and demand more money next season.
I felt like it was such a ‑‑ I also learned ‑‑ and this is more personal, I guess. I learned to trust myself a little bit more acting‑wise. I think I always want to lean into what I think is my strength, which is being ridiculous. And Phil challenged me to stay grounded a lot of times and actually forced me to believe that it would be good. And everybody else in the cast stayed on me about it. Aaron would threaten physical violence when I talked down on myself. When I talked down on myself, Aaron would be, like, “You ain’t gonna to be talking about yourself like that in front of me.” And, so, I appreciate the support. I think I learned that I can act a little bit, you know. I think that’s what I learned.
AARON JENNINGS:: A lot of bit. A lot of bit.
GRASIE MERCEDES: I was going to say, I think Aaron was everyone’s cheerleader. I think, Aaron, he’s such a light. And, for me, he definitely ‑‑ I come in on the second episode. So, I was a little scared and nervous to join this crew. And from day one, everyone was incredible, but Aaron specifically reached out and was just, like, “You belong here,” because there was that feeling of, like, “Do I belong here? These people are so funny and so great.” And I know who they are, and I know how funny they are, and I know how talented they are. And everyone was so warm and incredible. And Phil, I think, challenged me to believe that I could do comedy. I never thought I’d be on a sitcom. I always thought I’d be, like, a drama girl, so just embracing that and having more confidence in that. And I’m excited. I hope we get a second season because I’m excited to blend Fay even more.
AARON JENNINGS:: Well, let me tell you, Grasie, you can still be very dramatic, but ‑‑
GRASIE MERCEDES: Touche.
AARON JENNINGS:: Touche. Yeah, the same. The same.
MATTHEW LIFSON: So, we are actually going to go to Rick Hong with the next question, and then Laura Surico will be on deck. So, Rick, whenever you are ready.
QUESTION: Hello. I wanted to tell everybody congratulations. So, what I love about this show is that it takes place in the backdrop of Silver Lake. So, I was just trying to figure out just a fun question. How convenient is it for the cast, or are some of you west-siders?
CARL TART: I think we are all east‑siders, right?
GRASIE MERCEDES: We are all east‑siders.
AARON JENNINGS:: We are all east‑siders.
CARL TART: I’m from the west side.
ECHO KELLUM: The most convenient, we can walk to set sometimes.
GRASIE MERCEDES: Yeah, literally. We literally shot down the block from me once.
CARL TART: I’m from West L.A., and growing up in L.A., where I’m from, I never came to Silver Lake at all, like, never. And then once I started doing stuff with The Second City and UCB Theaters that are more in the Hollywood area, more east, now we always frequent Silver Lake. We are always in Silver Lake. So, I spend much more time there than I do on the west side where I’m from, where my origins are, so yeah.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: I definitely ‑‑ oh, sorry. Go ahead.
ECHO KELLUM: No. Go ahead, Phil.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: I was going to say I definitely ‑‑ I like to walk a lot. I like walking. That’s why I like the east side a lot. I walk the reservoir a lot, and I definitely walk to Paramount every day. So, it’s very convenient.
AARON JENNINGS:: You walk to Paramount every day?
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: It’s, like, three and a half miles. Yeah.
DAN GOOR: What’s your daily steps? What does that look like a day for you?
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Six miles.
DAN GOOR: How many steps? Like, 15,000? 14,000?
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Whatever six miles is.
NICOLE BYER: Yeah. I often see Phil just walking around. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t say hello anymore because I’m, like, this is redundant.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: I literally have been seeing Echo ‑‑ I see Echo three times a week now.
ECHO KELLUM: It’s, like, nonstop.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Every other time I walk, I would just see him.
ECHO KELLUM: And I feel like I grew up with them, driving and just, like, walking ‑‑
NICOLE BYER: Yeah. I don’t say hello anymore. I’m, like, “Oh, I’m lazy.”
DAN GOOR: You guys just flip him off.
ECHO KELLUM: I will say to that question really quickly, it is very surreal to get to shoot and create this television show in places that I actually frequent and, like, really enjoy being around. It’s been such a pleasure and such a unique thing. I don’t think a lot of actors or people get the privilege to shoot in their own neighborhood. It’s something very special, and I’m really happy that our show gets to showcase this little slice of life in L.A.
QUESTION: It’s a true dream job, like, a small commute time, especially in L.A.
AARON JENNINGS:: Oh, yeah.
QUESTION: Congratulations again. Thank you so much.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question is from Laura Surico, and Janice Malone will be on deck. Go ahead, Laura.
QUESTION: Hi. Can you guys hear me? Okay. Yes. So, touching on what Rick said, I noticed that it mentions L.A. life and being in L.A. It’s relatable, being an Angeleno and not having friends past the 405. We are no longer friends, like Nicole said. But how much of ‑‑ for the writers and for the cast, how much of your experience of being and living in L.A. did you put into this and how, being a Black, person of color, Angeleno, adds to this and, for the cast, if they added their own L.A. experiences into their characters?
AARON JENNINGS:: Carl, do you want to? I’ll say this, I added a lot of my experience. I’m born and raised in Los Angeles, in West Adams, but I went to Brentwood. Then I went to King School in Compton. Then I went to school in Santa Monica. Then I got my diploma from Culver City in the day and the whole thing. With that being said, I had the monte of experience, and I was in and out of a lot of different worlds. And so I think that’s ultimately ‑‑ and correct me if I’m wrong, Phil or Dan ‑‑ one of the ‑‑ one of the themes that we are, sort of, exploring is just this nominalistic Black experience. And so, for me, it was cool because I got to pull from all of my past experiences. And with Anthony especially, not to give too much away, but, like, he’s the captain, and I think he definitely, sort of, bounces between two worlds, if not more. And, so, it was very, very nice to have that real‑life experience to pull from. Yeah, that’s what I’ll say about myself. But, Carl, also, you have an experience growing up in L.A.
CARL TART: Yeah. I’m not born, but I am raised, which is why I’m not a Laker fan, I’m a Clipper fan, and I ‑‑ but I’m raised here. I’m raised in the View Park Windsor Hills area, and I always went to school on the west side, Palms Middle School, Hamilton High School Academy of Music, class of 2007 stand‑up. I was very thankful and grateful to be able to put some of my L.A. experience into the character, and I think a lot of it also came through in the wardrobe. I will say, I’m probably going to be the only person on a network TV show this year wearing a Marathon jersey by brother Nipsey Hussle, who is very important to me, very special to me, went to Hamilton High School as well, was always in the neighborhood, was always visible, always accessible and seen and meant a lot to the community, the Crenshaw community, the area, the View Park, the Windsor Hills, the Baldwin Hills area and stuff like that. So, to be able to, like, represent him on a network show is really awesome after his untimely and tragic passing. And I think just like ‑‑ just the way that you know how to move in the city and, like, being a ‑‑ I think being a local helps, kind of, sell that. And Aaron can speak to it too. Being, like, from here kind of helps sell the fact that not all L.A. people are these people who you can’t, you know ‑‑
AARON JENNINGS:: (Inaudible.)
CARL TART: But, yeah, I’ve been able to sell that.
DAN GOOR: Can I just say also, it’s located here, and there’s a lot of great specifics. But this is really, like, a big cast show. It’s for people from all over the country, and it’s, like, in the same way that I think a show like “Seinfeld” or “Friends,” that are very New York‑based, but can be enjoyed by everybody. What I’m saying is this show is as good as “Seinfeld” and “Friends” is what I’m saying.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: What are you doing, Dan?
DAN GOOR: My internal thoughts are coming out.
CARL TART: Los Angeles is really the seventh member of ‑‑
ECHO KELLUM: But see, that’s the kind of thing I want to touch on, Dan, is, like, I’m from Chicago, like, real blue‑color kind of city, you know, and these stories still connect through other regions and other, like, people. Might be set in Los Angeles, but it is really a human experience that we are really going onto these, kind of, young semiprofessionals and different perspectives in L.A.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: And just to build off of that, I think, when in doubt, when we were in the room, from a story perspective, for someone trying to crack a story, what would happen in real life? What would be interesting? What conversations have we had at the bar? I would talk to the entire cast about inspirations that they have, things that they found interesting with their characters. I am all for putting those feelings on the page because I think that that allows for the cast to, kind of, thrive, and that was, kind of, the goal with this first season.
MATTHEW LIFSON: All right. Our next question is from Janice Malone, and on deck will be Lloyd Carroll. Janice, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. I’d like to ask the two showrunners, Dan and Phil. I’m so happy to see Garrett Morris in your wonderful trailer there. Are there any plans, future episodes, for him? And second, for anyone, were there any, shall we say, wine‑bar test sites that were used in the filming of the show or what?
DAN GOOR: Let me say really quickly ‑‑ I just want to make it very clear that Phil is not ‑‑ which side are you on?
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: To me or her?
DAN GOOR: Phil is the showrunner extraordinaire. I’m an EP on it, but this is Phil’s show, and he is maybe the best showrunner I’ve ever been around. He’s so, so talented. So, I love the reflected shared glory, but I want to make sure it stays with Phil. And with that said, Phil, you should answer the question.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Thank you for the beautiful clarification, Dan. Garrett Morris is a legend. He’s amazing. He only appears in the pilot of the first season, but in the room, we did talk about ways to bring him back if possible and if it fit within, kind of, the structure of how the season broke. The way it broke out this first season, it did, but I think, moving forward ‑‑ it was such an awesome start to the pilot, and we were so lucky to have him. It would obviously be incredible if we could work with him again. He was so kind and so talented on set that it was a dream come true to work with him. So that is definitely on the table if he would be down to do it.
DAN GOOR: And that monologue really, sort of, opened the pilot for us in a lot of ways. So, you could imagine using him again would be something equally inspiring. And then she was asking about ‑‑
ECHO KELLUM: The cast?
DAN GOOR: It was about any inspirations. Wine bars that might be an inspiration.
ECHO KELLUM: Oh, yeah. Writing this show is really based off of a wine bar that we all frequent in real life ‑‑
NICOLE BYER: Yeah.
ECHO KELLUM: ‑‑ that I think we all collectively have been going to, like, the last five years where we’ve just been, like, kind of, the wine group of friends.
AARON JENNINGS:: Yeah, most of the time.
ECHO KELLUM: It’s kind of an all‑white establishment, like, unpacking life and love and work, and I think that’s what Phil really tapped into that’s really great.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: And when everyone got cast, we were hanging out ‑‑ I mean, this is right before the shutdown. So it was, like, we would meet at these bars just to try and, like, get the chemistry popping early. And so that definitely was a thing that was top of mind as far as just building the chemistry that was already built in because a lot of these folks that you are looking at now have known each other for a long time.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question comes from Lloyd Carroll, and then our final question will come from Dennis Pastorizo. So, Lloyd, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Phil, Dan, you guys have been talking about the wine bar. So, I’ve got to ask this one. How big an influence was that other bar show I remember from the 1980s, set on the East Coast, “Cheers”? I was curious. How much of that? And did you have to say, “Wait a minute. We can’t have a Norm here. We’ve got to, kind of, make something more relevant for an urban audience.” I’m just curious. How big an influence was “Cheers” and to stay away from stereotypical characters, which “Cheers” sometimes got into?
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: I think “Cheers” is such an iconic show that if you were making a television show, you are aware of that show. And whether or not there’s a wine bar or any type of bar, I think the pilot has gone down as one of the best pilots in history. So, I think, in that way, it’s just an inspiration to look at a really great piece of writing, but I don’t think the bones or the structure of this show is super, super close to what they were, what they had going on.
DAN GOOR: Yeah. It was inspirational and important in that it’s inspirational and important to all TV comedy. It’s one of the greatest legendary comedies of all time. But I definitely agree with Phil. This show has its own bones. It doesn’t feel like the same kind of bar or the same kind of regulars showing up, but, obviously, it’s something we would be aware of and something we wouldn’t ever want to step on the toes of because it’s such a great show, which this show is better. It’s better than “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” and “Cheers.”
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Dan, what are you doing?
DAN GOOR: Somebody is going to put that in their post and say, “This show is better than ‘Friends,’ ‘Cheers,’ and ‘Seinfeld’ combined.” And no one needs to know who said that.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Whoever puts that in quotes, please put, “Dan, what are you doing?” and my response.
DAN GOOR: “Dash, a person who watched all of those shows.” No one has to know who it was.
ECHO KELLUM: And I would also like to say, because you, kind of, mentioned something like it’s an urban show. It’s just a show, you know, and the cast happens to be Black folk, you know. So just like “Cheers” ‑‑ I guess you could say it’s a white show if you want to say that. I feel like a lot of us connected to parts of that regardless of the human aspect of it.
CARL TART: I’m Norm.
DAN GOOR: No, you aren’t.
NICOLE BYER: Like the pilot of “Cheers,” you see the magic happening on this show. And I don’t want to toot our own horn. Is that a phrase? I don’t know. But, like, we have very magical chemistry that happened almost instantaneously, and I think that really comes through on the screen. So, I think, like “Cheers,” you’ll be, like, “Oh, I’m rooting for these people.” I think these people are interesting, they are funny, and they seem to just really have joy and love each other. So, yeah, that’s what I wanted to add.
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Great. A great addition. And I was going to say, I was a kid in the ’90s too. So, I think you’ve got shows like “Cheers.” You’ve got shows like “Living Single.” I love “Sex and the City.” I like a lot of different shows. So, I think, as far as inspiration and energy, I just love TV, and I do have a soft spot in my heart for network television because I think, if you were born in a certain type, it really did shape your view of comedy. And so, yes, a shout out to all of the shows that, kind of, came before this one.
MATTHEW LIFSON: All right. Our final question of the day comes from Dennis Pastorizo. Dennis, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hey. Good afternoon, guys. So, my question is a bit of a double question. What was really in the wine glasses? And what would each one of you order ‑‑
DAN GOOR: What was the second part?
QUESTION: ‑‑ in real life?
NICOLE BYER: What was ‑‑
ECHO KELLUM: Can you say the second part again.
DAN GOOR: What would you order in real life?
QUESTION: What would you order in real life?
AARON JENNINGS:: This is a great final question, by the way.
GRASIE MERCEDES: We were just asked a similar question, and I realized in that moment that I don’t know what orange wine is, really, but it’s what I drink and love. It’s, like, this new trend of natural organic wine happening, especially, I think, in Los Angeles, but I’m so down with it because it doesn’t give me a headache and I love it. But what was in our glasses on set, everyone had something a little different. My glass was a white wine, and it was basically colored water. So that was not very fun. It wasn’t very interesting. But sometimes I had grape juice. Sometimes I had white grape juice.
CARL TART: My glass was diet Cran-Grape, and when I order at a bar, I order Nicki Minaj’s mixed Moscato.
NICOLE BYER: My order is a rosé, and on set, I was hammered all the time, drinking actual rosé.
No. I was also drinking colored water, which sounds like a slur.
ECHO KELLUM: It does, doesn’t it?
NICOLE BYER: Yeah.
AARON JENNINGS:: That sounds good, colored water.
MALE PANELIST: Yeah, I would say ‑‑ go ahead, Echo.
ECHO KELLUM: Well, the same as Carl with a diet Cran. And on the show and at the bar, I’d probably do, like, a lambrusca [sic], which is, like, an Italian, red ‑‑
AARON JENNINGS:: Sparkling.
ECHO KELLUM: ‑‑ sparkling red.
AARON JENNINGS:: I’m going to piggyback off of you. I think it was diet grape, and then I feel like they transitioned to something else, but I honestly can’t say what it was. I forget now.
GRASIE MERCEDES: They did have nonalcoholic wine at some point. Yeah.
CARL TART: It was disgusting.
AARON JENNINGS:: Like, the diet cranberry, the diet grape, I couldn’t do. So, I switched over to the nonalcoholic wine. And then, lately, I’ve been drinking the ‑‑ is it lambrusco or lambrusca? I thought it was lambrusco, whatever, from Northern Italy, the wine that’s sparkling. That’s the wine that I would order as of now, as of late.
ECHO KELLUM: And I will say Phil put me on that, just to give him all credit.
AARON JENNINGS:: Yeah, the same. The same.
ECHO KELLUM: Uh‑huh. Uh‑huh.
JUSTIN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, it was the diet cranberry, and I think ‑‑ I don’t really drink that much anymore or almost at all, but if I do have a cocktail, it will be either an old fashioned or, for the Bond people, a Vesper. I don’t know if you are familiar with Vesper.
NICOLE BYER: That’s classy.
CARL TART: I ride to the bar. I drive a Vespa. What are you drinking right now, Dan? (Inaudible.)
DAN GOOR: It depends who is paying. If I’m being purchased wine, I would love a white Burgundy. If people want to send me something nice, I’m available. And then we have been having a lot of pandemic cocktails. I really like a Boulevardier, which is like a wry ‑‑ oh, my god. I’m totally blanking on what it is, but ‑‑ sweet vermouth and Campari. Sorry.
CARL TART: I drive my Vespa down the Boulevardier.
ECHO KELLUM: I just want to say, if colored water is racist, white Burgundy has got to be racist too.
AARON JENNINGS:: That all doesn’t sound right.
DAN GOOR: Phil, what are you drinking?
PHIL AUGUSTA JACKSON: Okay. So, I’ll go backwards. Right now, I’m really on this Mexican natural wine called Bichi. They have a really great rosé and chilled red as well as an orange wine. And before that, there was this wine called Gibbs, but I can’t really find it anymore. They have a really great Cabernet. I also like Lambrusco. And, yeah, I think that’s it. And I also mix sparkling wines a lot, Blanc de Blanc and stuff like that. I think I said ‑‑ I like every wine. I just named some.
ECHO KELLUM: And they didn’t require it to bring it on set, but he would always have ‑‑
NICOLE BYER: Always has it. Always drinking.
ECHO KELLUM: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, thank you so much for your answers, and cheers to the new season.
AARON JENNINGS:: Cheers to all of you. Thank you so much.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Thank you to our “Grand Crew” panelists. It sounds like everyone needs to go grab a glass of wine. So, thank you so much to everyone for joining us today. This concludes NBC’s scripted press day. For more information, please visit our MediaVillage site at NBCUMV.com, and have a fantastic rest of your day.
From Phil Augusta Jackson (Writer/Producer/Director, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Dan Goor (Creator, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) comes a new comedy that proves life is better with your crew. This group of young professionals are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles – and they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to “wine down” and unpack it all. There’s Noah, a hopeless romantic too eager to settle down; Nicky, a go-getter in real estate who’s adventurous in romance; Sherm, a low-key genius who plays the dating odds; Anthony, whose true love is his career; Wyatt, who’s relieved to be married and out of the dating scene; and Fay, who’s recently divorced and looking to start fresh in LA. And just like wine, their friendship gets better with time.
Noah, “Grand Crew”
Kellum, an actor, writer and director originally from Chicago, will recur in the new FX series “The Old Man,” starring Jeff Bridges.
Previous credits include “Arrow,” “You’re the Worst,” “Drunk History,” “Comedy Bang Bang” and a recurring voiceover role on “Rick & Morty.” Still an avid improviser, Kellum performs regularly at UCB with house team Winslow.
Nicky, “Grand Crew”
An actress, comedian, writer, author and podcaster, Byer is perhaps most well-known as the host of Netflix’s Emmy Award-nominated competition baking series “Nailed It!,” which has gained a cult following of viewers since its premiere on the streaming platform in 2018. In 2020, Byer made history by becoming the first Black woman ever to be nominated in the category of Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program.
Byer can also be seen co-hosting TBS’ reboot of “Wipeout,” alongside John Cena. She also voices characters in Amazon’s “Invincibles” and Adult Swim’s “Tuca & Bertie” and will voice the role of Susie Carmichael’s mom, Lucy, in the upcoming reboot of Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats,” which premieres on Paramount+.
Listeners can hear Byer on five different podcasts, the fan-favorite being “Why Won’t You Date Me?,” which sees her inviting friends and guests to discuss their dating lives all while trying to figure out her own. In 2021 the podcast moved under the TeamCoco banner and Byer won the 2021 iHeart Radio Podcast Award for best female host for the show.
Byer is an Upright Citizens Brigade alum who continues to cement her status as a force in standup by regularly performing in cities across the country. Previously, she received national attention for her web series “Pursuit of Sexiness,” which she co-created and starred in alongside friend and fellow comic Sasheer Zamata.
Her additional film and television work includes “Loosely Exactly Nicole,” “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” “Lady Dynamite,” “Party Over Here,” “BoJack Horseman” and “30 Rock.”
Byer currently resides in Los Angeles.
Fay, “Grand Crew”
Mercedes is a Dominican-American multi-hyphenate from New York City, living in Los Angeles. An actress who has appeared on shows that include “9-1-1,” “Good Trouble,” “Southland,” “The Affair” and “Criminal Minds,” she also recently wrote on NBC’s “Perfect Harmony.”
Mercedes is a former improviser and sketch comedy actor, and an alumna of both iO West and UCB. She also recently wrapped season two of her podcast “Not (Blank) Enough.”
Wyatt, “Grand Crew”
Cunningham received his BFA in acting from the University of Arkansas. That ultimately led him to being accepted to the esteemed Drama Division at Juilliard, where he graduated with his MFA in 2017.
In 2019, Cunningham had a co-starring role for Ava DuVernay in the Netflix limited series “When They See Us,” based off the true story of the Central Park Five. Prior roles include CBS’ “Blue Bloods and HBO’s “Succession.” Shortly after graduating, Cunningham was part of the cast of “King Lear” on Broadway.
Cunningham is an avid boxer and is also a big advocate for fitness as well as mental health.
Anthony, “Grand Crew”
Previously seen on CBS’ “Pure Genius” and HBO’s “Insecure,” Jennings can next be seen recurring on the upcoming Amazon series “A League of Their Own,” based the feature film.
Jennings’ big screen debut came in 2013 with the Farrelly Brothers’ comedy “Movie 43,” opposite Terence Howard. Other credits include “Meet the Browns,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Vegas,” “Bones,” “Aquarius” and “Loosely Exactly Nicole.”
Jennings spent his youth training in theater and some of his stage credits include “Elmina’s Kitchen,” which won the NAACP Award for best ensemble, Matthew Lopez’s “The Whipping Man,” Athol Fugard’s “My Children! My Africa!” and “Facing Our Truth” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, Calif.
Executive Producer, “Grand Crew”
Dan Goor is an executive producer on the new NBC comedy “Grand Crew.”
Previously, Goor was co-creator and executive producer of NBC’s Golden Globe-winning comedy series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” In addition to having run the show, he also wrote and directed numerous episodes.
Goor is also the co-creator of the new Peacock comedy “Killing It,” starring Craig Robinson.
Prior to working on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Goor was an executive producer, writer and director on NBC’s Peabody Award-winning comedy “Parks and Recreation.”
Goor got his start writing for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” for which he won an Emmy Award in 2001. He was also a writer for NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” where he won an Emmy in 2007.
Goor resides in Los Angeles with his wife and their two daughters.
Phil Augusta Jackson
Creator/Executive Producer, “Grand Crew”
Phil Augusta Jackson is an Emmy Award-nominated writer, producer and musical artist from Philadelphia. He is the creator and showrunner of NBC’s new half-hour comedy “Grand Crew.”
A co-executive producer of HBO’s “Insecure,” Jackson also has written for “Key & Peele,” “Survivor’s Remorse” and, most recently, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” where he also directed. He has been nominated for Emmy, WGA and NAACP awards and has self-produced and directed shorts and music videos.
Jackson graduated from the University of Virginia and currently resides in Los Angeles.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda