Behind "Rebel": Randy Huggins
A story teller at heart and a story teller by blood, Randy Huggins is sharing his talent with the masses, most recently with the new BET series, Rebel, as an executive producer and a writer. Growing up in Detroit with strong influences, nurturing his talent as a Grambling Tiger and working with many behind the scenes — Randy shares some anecdotes about his beginnings and beyond into writing.
NS!: I believe that we’re all born with talents. With our talents, we often realized what we could do. At what point in your life did you know that this is what you would do?
I come from a family of story tellers so I get that naturally. I took a theatre class at my Alma mater, Grambling State University. At the time I had no idea what a scene was, so I would get up and act out these real life events that had happened in my life. One of my classmates, Erica Wright used to tell me that I was lying and that she didn't know anyone who had that much drama in their life. I assured her that I wasn't and she told me that I should start writing that stuff down to go in a book or a movie. That was the first time I'd ever considered writing. Two years later, Erica Wright changed her name to Erykah Badu and released her first album, which inspired me to chase my dream of telling stories as well. Twenty years later, here I am.
NS!: Historically, Hollywood lacks diversity in film, with the racial imbalance being the largest among writers. In most recent years, it’s been a topic of discussion and trending topics on social media. How do you view diversity on screen as well as off?
Obviously, it's something that still occurs, but I try not to lean on it too much either way. One of the first lessons I ever got was from Shawn Ryan, who hired me as a writer's assistant on The Shield. He said, "Huggie, you're black. Sometimes that's going to work for you and sometimes that's gonna work against you." And it's absolutely true. I have actually been hired in this town on a show because I fit a certain box and I'm pretty sure I have not been hired at times because I fit in that same box, so I try not to focus race as much as honing in on my skills. And that's not to say that the racial imbalance doesn't exist, I just choose to focus more on the things that I can control when it pertains to me. And as it pertains to black people and other minorities in general, I try to stay active in causes that are working to balance out diversity. Currently, I'm on the executive board for Streetlights Production Assistant Program, which was created after the '92 riots to try and get more minorities in the entertainment industry.
NS!: Many viewers have watched Power and are beginning to watch Rebel. How do you conceptualize your creativity to write two dramatic series, one about a powerful man and the other about a powerful woman… same genre but different genders?
That's a great question. Even though Power is about the life and times of James St. Patrick (Ghost), the people who often hold the most power over him on that show are in fact the two women in his life, Angela and Tasha. The show runner, Courtney Kemp, was very cognizant of their strengths as well as the overall role they play in the plot of the show so that they aren't airheads or damsels in distress. They're rather powerful women making decisions that will affect them and the people around them. I brought a lot of her concepts with me when I began writing Rebel which made that transition a little easier. To be honest with you, I come from a maternal headed household. My mom coached me in basketball all the way through high school, so I'm very familiar with powerful women. Not to mention, I see Rebel and Ghost as Alphas more so than male or female and there are certain behaviors that an alpha-type character may exhibit in a specific situation. Still, those two characters are completely different. Rebel is more like Tommy in many regards because she doesn't give a damn; she says and does exactly what's on her mind. Where as Ghost is more of a tactful chess player who operates in silence until he's ready to go in for the kill.
NS!: Some of the greatest eras for television were in the 70’s and 90’s. Today, some of those series are still in syndication and very popular among millennials. What was your favorite show in either era? As a writer and producer, is there anyone that you admire or consider a mentor?
Sanford and Son is one of my all time favorite TV shows as well as Good Times, The Jeffersons, and The Cosby Show. From a drama standpoint, I loved Dallas, Miami Vice, and Homicide. As far as mentors, I have a bunch because I started out as the writer's assistant on The Shield, which put an A-list group of writers like Glen Mazzara (Hawthorne & Walking Dead), Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy), Jim Manos (Dexter), Chic Eglee (Dark Angel & Hemlock Grove) and Shawn Ryan (Timeless). Shawn took me with him to work on The Unit, along with David Mamet (Untouchables) and a bunch of other talented writers that I still stay in contact with. Whenever I have a question or need advice, I usually hit one of them up.
NS!: There are great authors, athletes and songwriters. I believe you’re a great writer and producer. Your work will be iconic in the future and of course, we want more from you! Do you visualize yourself writing or producing any feature length films? Are you currently working on anything new?
Thank you for saying that. I came to Hollywood to be a feature writer until I started working in the room on The Shield and then I realized TV's where it's at. My mother's in the women's Softball Hall of Fame and she used to play for the Motown Soul Sisters, which was sponsored by Motown Records in the 70s. My god mom is white and the first feature I wrote was about their relationship. I've got a dozen other stories in my back pocket that I'm dying to tell, so yeah... I hope to get at least one of them made. There are a couple projects I'm working on that I can't discuss at the moment but the bulk of my time is spent trying to grow our audience and get more people to tune into Rebel so that BET orders a second season. I feel like the writers and I are just starting to find these characters and we have so many other stories we want to tell about Rebel and her crew.
The fans are loving every moment of Rebel, TJ, Cheena and Mack and we're all looking for more to see! Catch Rebel on tonight at 10/9c and the season finale next Tuesday (5/23) on BET. Be sure to watch the episodes ON DEMAND or download the BET app. Follow Randy Huggins @TVsRandyHuggins on Twitter.