Interview with Tommy Davidson of “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” on Disney+ by Suzanne 2/15/22
It was a lot of fun to speak to Tommy! Not just because I’m so familiar with his earlier work, but because he’s just a funny guy who frequently breaks into funny voices. We definitely bonded over growing up in the 70’s, watching cartoons.
Suzanne: Can you tell us how “The Proud Family” reboot came about?
Tommy: It came about [from] a phone call, and it was a phone call that took about fifteen years to get made. All of a sudden, I get a phone call from Ralph Farquhar and Bruce Smith. If they’re calling me, I know it’s “The Proud Family”. We were down for 15 years; we were up for for six, and here, we get an opportunity to do something so beautiful, again. I get this call, and I’m going, “Are you kidding me?” And they’re like, “We’re not kidding you, man. We’re not kidding you.” So, of course, I said “Yes.” We all said, “Yes.” We all met over at Disney Studios, all the actors that were in it, who we love so much, and the new ones. We all met over there at Disney Studios and just laid out our voices just to get everything back into balance. It was the same feeling. It was the same feeling, but better, because now we’ve got new adults. We got a whole world of kids that are now 29-30. We got a whole new world of kids in a new world that we have, an animated series that deals with everything that’s in real time in this real world, and it’s still just for the kids.
Suzanne: Great, and which network is it on, and how many episodes are there?
Tommy: It’s actually on Disney Plus.
Suzanne: Disney plus, okay.
Tommy: Yeah, it’s actually on Disney Plus.
Suzanne: And how many episodes are there?
Tommy: You know what? I don’t know how many episodes, but it’s enough for us. I believe we’re up to like 20.
Suzanne: Okay, that’s good.
Tommy: I’m glad you asked me, nice and early.
Suzanne: And how much voice work had you done before you did the original Proud Family?
Tommy: Oh, really? Okay, that question. [laughs] Now, you’re going to take me back. Yeah, you’re gonna take me back to my Datsun 610. I’ve been doing voice work ever since I got to Hollywood in ‘87 and was doing voice work, doing dubs for movies. I moved into doing cartoon voices for “Ren & Stimpy” and for “The Simpsons.” I did animated work and would come in and get like thirty bucks per session to cover all of the different voices in all these different cartoons. So, I played character voices. So, the main [one] that I nailed was this one, is The Proud Family.
Suzanne: When you were a kid, were you one of those kids that was always doing silly voices?
Tommy: Not only that, I was the expert at cartoons. I’m one of those kids that – we didn’t have cartoons at nighttime unless it was the holidays, so if we’re seeing a cartoon at night, we’re going, “This is a cartoon that’s on in the nighttime!” because we had to wait for Saturday morning or after school. So, I grew up with all the mainstays. I was there when “Scooby Doo” premiered. I was there when “Hong Kong Phooey” premiered. I grew up on on “The Wacky Races” and “The Pink Panther” and all the Warner Brothers cartoons, all the Hanna-Barbera, from “The Jetsons” all the way through to “Magilla Gorilla.” So, it was like the [unintelligible] and all this, so my whole childhood was enriched by cartoons, and, of course, the main cartoon was “The Jackson Five” cartoon. Jackson Five and “Fat Albert,” because those were the first cartoons that really focused on an African American audience.
Suzanne: I watched those. I’m like two years older than you.
Tommy: Okay, okay.
Suzanne: I grew up with all those, and then sometime during the weekdays in the afternoon, you had the reruns of the old ones, like “Bugs Bunny” and “Road Runner.” All those.
Tommy: Oh, yeah. We know those by heart.
Tommy: We know those so much.
Suzanne: Yeah. And which guest stars were you most happy to see for this new version?
Tommy: Nas X with his really edgy and crazy career, and groundbreaking. It was just good to see him. And the episode is fun. It’s funny, is colorful, and it’s palatable. You know, it’s right on time.
Suzanne: Great. Go back a little bit again. Do you ever still see the people that you worked with on “In Living Color?”
Tommy: Oh yeah, all the time. We pass each other, like not even ships in the night, like on a roller coaster. Vroom. The roller coaster going the other way. “Where you going?” “I’m going to New York.” “I’m going to California.” Vroom. You know, we’re just passing each other. I just ran into Marlon Wayans at a comedy club. I texted everybody yesterday, because it was an article about our halftime Super Bowl special that we did that was groundbreaking. So, everybody texted me back and said “Wow, I didn’t see this.” We still are in tandem.
Suzanne: That’s great. I know they tried to reboot it in 2012. Do you think they’d ever tried to do it again with the some of the original cast, where you do a special or something?
Tommy: Well, that’s one of the things that really rests on Keenan Ivory Wayans who’s really the brainchild and the genius behind this. If he called us right now, we’d all stop and go and do it. It’s like the Avengers. We’re like the Avengers. You know what I mean? We all get in our vehicles and start, you know, dun dun dun [unintelligible] stuff and we all come in. Like the Avengers, we all meet, and there’s the big fella over here, and Captain America over here, and Black Panther over here, and we’re ready for action.
Suzanne: That’s great. Yeah, my husband and I used to watch “In Living Color” every week. We just loved it. So, it’s great to meet you.
Tommy: Yeah, the best. Thank you so much. We changed society more than I thought. I mean, you look at TV now, and what we did now is just a staple. Everything is filled with color. Everything is filled with hip hop. Everything is filled with this progressive kind of comedy. Everything has it, and all of our writers went out into the market and created shows like “Friends” and “Martin.” I mean, you can’t really watch TV without someone from “In Living Color” [either] as a director or writer, someone being right there. I did Cedric the Entertainer’s show the other night, “The Neighborhood,” and lo and behold, one of the executive producers was Keenan’s assistant.
Tommy: I mean, we have deep roots.
Suzanne: We also saw your your movie, “Strictly Business,” and really enjoyed that, and it was a huge hit. I think nowadays they would probably do a sequel or two, right?
Tommy: I would like that. I would really like that, just to see where Bobby and his partner are now. I did that on purpose; I did that movie on purpose. I had a choice to do whatever movie I wanted to do, and I chose that, because I thought it was a good story about just a regular brother from the hood, from the projects in Harlem, who gets with a business grad from Harvard, and they go to a black bank, get a loan, and start their own business, all over a hot chick. I mean, how can you beat that?
Suzanne: Right, and that was very of the time too.
Tommy: Oh, yeah. There was not really a movie like that for us at that time for African Americans, for that spectrum of society. There wasn’t really. So, that was the first one. So many CEOs, African American CEOs of companies and business owners, they’d always come to me and say, “When I was a kid,” or “when I was in school, that movie made me want to be in business.”
Suzanne: Wow. That’s great. That’s quite an effect.
Suzanne: It’s wonderful. I was watching some of your other interviews. You had quite an interesting personal history growing up. Would you ever consider making that into a movie or a TV series, like Chris Rock did with “Everybody Hates Chris?”
Tommy: I’d like to do something like that, but what I’d like to do in particular is probably do a docu-comedy so that I can cover every aspect of what that brings to bear in reality for me. And the way that society is now, that could make a really, really heavy impact, which is bringing forth the information from what I experienced with the beautiful people that were around me and developed me into this human that I am.
Suzanne: That sounds interesting too, either way. And when people see you, and they recognize you, what do they must recognize you for now?
Tommy: You know, it’s hard, because everybody has a different one. Everybody has something different. So, they’ll recognize me from doing Varnel Hill on “Martin,” or they’ll recognize me from being Oscar Proud on “The Proud Family,” or they’ll recognize me from doing the million talk shows that I do. You can’t tell what movie they’re gonna say they love. You know, “I loved Woo.” “I loved Booty Call.” “I loved Ace Ventura with you and Jim [Carrey].” You know, “I loved Bamboozled with Spike Lee.” You never know. Or there’s somebody who just loved the character that I did on In Living Color, if it’s the simple cook in the back, “Pick it up!” [unintelligible] There’re so many different things, that I’m the lucky one. I’m the lucky one, because I can never really get too down, emotionally, because there’s always somebody coming up to me with a bright face going, “The thing you did with – ” you know, “My grandmother’s right here. She wants to meet you,” or “My cousin’s here; can you meet him?” I always get an uplift.
Suzanne: That must be very rewarding.
Tommy: Yeah, yeah, I like to call it “closed-heart surgery”. You know, there’s open-heart surgery where you’ve got to open it up, and you’ve got to get in there. Well, me as a comic traveling on the road, and me doing movies, I can actually affect the heart in a positive way, just right where it is. You know, “closed-heart surgery.”
Suzanne: That’s great. That’s a good phrase. And is there anything else that you’d like to tell us about “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder?”
Tommy: We’re louder and prouder. We’re going into the new millennium. Penny’s in high school. The father’s going crazy, like I did with my daughters when puberty started kicking in and boys started coming around. I’m like, “What is going on here?” And Oscar is in that state where he’s like, “You can wear that dress, but you’ve got to wear tennis shoes with it!” [laughs] He’s just like, “What are these? What are these, rubber bands?!” and it ends up being – you know what I mean? So, it’s like it’s actually autobiographical for me, too. I have a fifteen year-old. I also have a twenty nine year-old girl. So, raising her, and they’re totally two different generations, but it’s just basic fun. That’s the beautiful thing about it is that with all the complexities in this society, right now, The Proud Family still focuses on simple, all-American ethics. All-American ethics, the kind that I’ve watched on The Brady Bunch or Andy Griffith or The Flintstones or Leave It to Beaver, or Bewitched. Every episode ended up like, “I learned something about being good. I learned about being a good person.”
Suzanne: Yeah, that’s good.
Tommy: I’m glad that’s not out of style.
Suzanne: No, especially not with kid shows.
Tommy: Yeah, right, especially not, yeah.
Suzanne: And do you have any other projects coming up that you can tell us about?
Tommy: Oh, yeah, I just released my first single, called “Sweet Reunion.” You can catch it on YouTube, Apple or Spotify or anywhere. I’m finally getting into the music industry, which I’ve been wanting to do all my life. I’m working with musicians all over the world, and that’s just a beautiful thing. I launched a book, right before the pandemic and during the pandemic, where I got a chance to really talk about my life and my journey and how I came into this world, and that’s a beautiful thing, too. I’m touring with Mike Epps around around the world. I developed my own film and television company. So, we’re getting into developing projects around the industry, and [I have] a little girl, a little ten year-old girl.
Suzanne: You’re busy.
Tommy: My recent production, you know?
Suzanne: And you’re about to go on “The Wendy Williams Show,” right?
Tommy: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. She’s an old friend. We knew each other before her show, and she’s like me; she’s a loyalist. Like once a friend, you’re a friend. I’ve done her show so many different times, and she’s such a wonderful person and has a lot to offer. She somehow balances gossip with goodness. I don’t know how that’s done, but it’s done
Suzanne: Was that your baby we just heard?
Suzanne: Hi. What a cutie. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me this morning.
Tommy: Thank you. Thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure to be representing in the market where I come from, which is basically the 70s.
Suzanne: Yeah, 70s rule.
Tommy: 70s rule. We got bused together to school and changed everything. So, thank you.
Suzanne: All right. Thank you very much. Talk to you later.
Tommy: You too. Bye.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Known for a myriad of iconic filmed content, TOMMY DAVIDSON continues to bring a fresh take to each and every project he in which he stars or participates in. First up this month is his newest tv project, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, in which Davidson returns as the patriarch, ‘Oscar Proud,’ in the fan favorite, iconic series with the 2022 reboot exclusive to Disney+.
Here’s a quick preview at the official clip!
Davidson, who tours the country endlessly selling out arenas from coast to coast, every weekend, is joined on the Proud reboot with his co-stars reprising their roles: Kyla Pratt as Penny Proud, Paula Jai Parker as Trudy Proud, JoMarie Payton as Suga Mama, Cedric the Entertainer as Uncle Bobby, Karen Malina White as Dijonay Jones, Soleil Moon Frye as Zoey Howzer, Alisa Reyes as LaCienega Boulevardez, Carlos Mencia as Felix Boulevardez, Maria Canals-Barrera as Sunset Boulevardez and Alvaro Gutierrez as Papi in the animated family sitcom from acclaimed creator/executive producer Bruce W. Smith and executive producer Ralph Farquhar, who led the original series.
Guest-starring 2022 voice cast includes: Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Chance the Rapper, Normani, Leslie Odom Jr., Tiffany Haddish, Lena Waithe, Anthony Anderson, Gabrielle Union, Debbie Allen, James Pickens Jr., Courtney B. Vance, Jane Lynch, Marsai Martin, Jaden Smith, Glynn Turman, Lamorne Morris, Brenda Song, Tina Knowles, Eva Longoria, Holly Robinson Peete, Al Roker and more. All previous seasons of “The Proud Family” are now also available on Disney+.
For more on Tommy, go to his website: https://www.thetommydavidson.com
The Proud Family launches on Wednesday, Feb. 23rd.
Disney+ Orders “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder,” the Long-Awaited Revival of the Groundbreaking Animated Series
Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar Return to Helm All-New Episodes with Original Voice Cast
Disney+ has ordered the long-anticipated revival of the groundbreaking animated series “The Proud Family” which, 18 years after its Disney Channel premiere, is still beloved for its characters, stories and multilayered humor and for its messages about inclusion and cultural diversity in a smart, modern way. The new animated family sitcom “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” is currently in production at Disney Television Animation with Academy Award-winning creator/executive producer Bruce W. Smith and executive producer Ralph Farquhar, who led the original series, at the helm, reuniting them with Calvin Brown, Jr. who is co-executive producer and story editor.
All previous seasons of “The Proud Family” are currently available on Disney+.
In a joint statement, Smith and Farquhar said, “In our minds, the show never really went away, as we still had tons of stories left to tell. It’s the perfect time to bring back this show, and we can’t wait to take fans, old and new alike, on this journey with us.”
Picking up the story of its central character Penny Proud, the new series will also include her madcap family: parents Oscar and Trudy, twin siblings BeBe and CeCe, and her grandmother Suga Mama (and Puff!). Of course, it would not be “The Proud Family” without Penny’s loyal crew Dijonay Jones, LaCienega Boulevardez and Zoey Howzer, among others.
Disney+ and Disney Television Animation also released concept art featuring the main characters from the upcoming series.
Reprising their voice roles are: Kyla Pratt as Penny Proud, Tommy Davidson as Oscar Proud, Paula Jai Parker as Trudy Proud, Jo Marie Payton as Suga Mama, Karen Malina White as Dijonay Jones, Soleil Moon Frye as Zoey Howzer and Alisa Reyes as LaCienega Boulevardez. Cedric the Entertainer will also return as Uncle Bobby Proud.
“The show’s humor and relatable stories are as relevant with audiences today as ever,” said Agnes Chu, senior vice president, Content, Disney+. “Our audiences have loved rediscovering their favorite episodes of ‘The Proud Family,’ and we’re excited Bruce, Ralph, Calvin, and the returning cast are creating new stories for their new home on Disney+.”
Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer, Disney Channels Worldwide, said, “The genius of the original ‘Proud Family’ series was that, under the guise of a family comedy, it provided a brilliant social commentary on our life and times. With this new series, Bruce and Ralph will once again challenge everyone to think differently about the world we share.”
Disney+ is the dedicated streaming home for movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and more. From The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment, Disney+ is available on most internet-connected devices and offers commercial-free programming with a variety of original feature-length films, documentaries, live-action and animated series and short-form content. Alongside unprecedented access to Disney’s incredible library of film and television entertainment, the service is also the exclusive streaming home for the latest releases from The Walt Disney Studios. Visit DisneyPlus.com to subscribe and/or learn more about the service.
About Disney Television Animation
Disney Television Animation (DTVA), established in November 1984, is an industry leader in the creation of animated television for preschoolers, kids and tweens across Disney-branded channels and platforms. The animation studio is home to hit television series including “DuckTales,” “Phineas and Ferb,” “Gravity Falls,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Sofia the First,” “Elena of Avalor” and the “Mickey Mouse” shorts.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda