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James DuBose: From Keyshia Cole to Hell Date – If It’s Really Real

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In a new era of television over-saturated with

so-called ‘reality’ TV, we often find ourselves questioning many of the shows’

authenticity. Producer James DuBose has unquestionably worked to give us

‘realism’ in reality TV.

 

DuBose produced the first season of Keyshia Cole’s

critically acclaimed show The Way It Is

on BET, which was the second highest rated in the network’s history. In its second

season, it was the highest rated returning series premiere, and the number one

original in the network’s history.

 

From co-producing Most

Outrageous TV Moments and Blind Date

to executive producing HBO’s Bad Boys of

Comedy and BET’s Hell Date, and

recently creating a music label, the DuBose brand is becoming a force to be

reckoned with in Hollywood.

 

After

working for a few years in L.A on various projects, he relocated to Atlanta and

began a two-year stint as an associate producer for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

He formed DuBose Entertainment in 2001, and began

producing several reality and live action network and cable programs such as

ABC’s hidden-camera NFL half-time show, You’ve

Been Sacked! and the Sundance Channel’s House

of Boateng.

 

With plans of producing films and owning and operating

his own television network, James DuBose has huge aspirations for the future.

We caught up with him to discuss his take on the new wave of reality shows,

working with Diddy and Keyshia Cole, and his advice for those interested in pursuing

the world of television production.

 

AllHipHop.com: With you all being in full swing with

the shows that are in existence and working on new projects, how did the

writer’s strike affect you and your production company?

 

James: In terms of the shows I currently have in

production, it didn’t affect me at all because, as you know, I do a lot of

reality shows so it didn’t affect that part. What it has affected is that we’re

definitely branching into the scripted world with sitcoms and dramas and so

forth, I have four projects on my desk now that I’m trying to take out but I

couldn’t because of the writer’s strike. [laughs]

 

In that regard it held up a lot of business in terms

of moving to other areas of the television business, but in terms of shutting

down our operation and employees having to be laid-off and so forth, it didn’t

affect us in that way, thank God.

 

AllHipHop.com: Keyshia Cole’s reality show The Way

It Is on BET is the first time that many of us have seen such realism and

wide range of emotions and family issues – particularly amongst the

African-American community – on reality television shows. Elaborate on what it

was like to produce that show and what it was like working with Keyshia [and]

her family.

 

James: It was great actually, it’s really refreshing

to get people that, first of all, trust me to put their life out there -

especially someone like Keyshia – and put their brand in my hands, and know that

I’m going to protect it to the best of my ability. The beauty of it was that we

all had the same agenda from day one. We didn’t want to do a typical reality

show. We wanted to do a show that we felt was entertaining, but more

importantly, was inspirational to anyone that may have the same issues within

their family. You have to give a lot of credit to Keyshia and her family for

allowing me, and the world if you will, to really look at her life from a

different perspective that you rarely get to see from someone of her status.

 

AllHipHop.com: That’s very true. You were speaking of

not wanting to do just any kind of reality show and what’s been done before.

What’s the biggest challenge in coming up with a show that doesn’t repeat

everything that we see?

 

James: You know what? There’s nothing really creative

about the show. It’s really finding the people that will allow you to take it

to another level. You see a lot of celebrities that have a reality show, but

it’s really on the surface. What makes the difference with Keyshia’s show is

just the emotional roller coaster that we’re able to take the viewers on,

because it’s not contrived, everything is really organic, this is their real

life whether the cameras are on or not. This is who they are, and we just happen

to be documenting it and displaying it in an entertaining way for the

viewers. 

 

I always look for shows or try to come up with shows

that have that ability to let the entertainment portion be the by-product of

the show, but let the story telling aspect be the core what we’re trying to

accomplish. I’m blessed enough today to be able to pick and choose shows that

tell stories and are tangible, and I have a passion for doing.

 

AllHipHop.com: Well it’s obvious that your technique

is working. [laughs]

 

James: Thank you

 

AllHipHop.com: On the other side of the spectrum, your

company has produced comedy shows like BET’s Hell Date and Bad Boys

of Comedy on HBO. What was that experience like?

 

James: Well, that came about when I was the head of

Television and Film for Puffy. First of all, before I met him, I was hearing a

lot of things from people that worked with him in the past and they were asking

me, “Are you sure you wanna do that? You’ve got your own thing why do you wanna

go and make that decision?”

 

But actually it was a beautiful thing, two brothers

coming together, and it was nothing like people said it was going to be. He’s

probably one of the smartest men that I’ve ever been around. His drive and his

ability to reinvent himself and stay ahead of the curve is just amazing to me.

 

AllHipHop.com: You’ve been in the business around 17

years. What would you say is the most important thing that you’ve learned

throughout this journey in television?

 

James: Trust my gut! In this business everyone has an

opinion, everyone thinks they can do something but if you really believe in

something, just stick with your guts. Every time I’ve gone against that I’ve

had some difficult times, but when I really started to learn to have faith in

myself, have faith in God and really have faith in my vision, and stick to that

regardless, things seem to be pretty good.

 

AllHipHop.com: You were one of the co-producers on one

of the first reality shows Blind Date, and you basically paved the way for a lot of the reality shows

that followed. What is your take on the new wave of reality television shows?

 

James: Well, some of it’s really contrived, so

nowadays when people hear the word “reality” they get a bad taste in their

mouth, because they think it’s phony and unreal. But I think now with more

shows that you’ll begin to see, more people are allowing the shows to really

get into their lives and really tell stories. I think it’s changing back to

what we initially wanted to do, and keeping the true meaning of what reality

television really is. I think it’s come full circle, in my opinion.

 

AllHipHop.com: We understand that you’re working on

episodes for a new comedy show. Can we get an exclusive word from the

producer’s desk on what to expect?

James: Ummm, I’ll just say it’s going to be like when

Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor’s stand-up shows were events. A lot of stand-up

comedy shows nowadays have just become shows that seem like there are 50

comedians and all get 30 seconds each. You get clips of them, but it’s not an

event where people get tickets and get dressed up and they really go out of

their way to be there. So this show is bringing back the event that we all love

to go out and get dressed up for and go laugh. It’s funny, intelligent and it’s

bringing comedy back to when it was something that you planned for like it was

a concert.

 

AllHipHop.com: What are some of your long-term plans

for the future for your production company. Do you have any aspirations to

produce films?

 

James: I definitely do! I’m currently shopping and

looking for some films that I want to produce. I definitely want to get into

the drama world in the vein of The Wire, again something that is

tangible and people can really relate to and actually go out and touch. I have

my music company DuBose Music Group, that’s under the DuBose Entertainment

umbrella. Ultimately I want to stop being a content provider and at some point

open some type of network or head a network where I really have the power to

say what goes on and what doesn’t go on the air.

 

AllHipHop.com: I did hear about your new venture and

record label which is DuBose Music Group, tell us a little about that.

 

James: It started off when I said, “I have all of the

television content that I’m putting on and I’m having to license all of this

music through various entities.” It really didn’t make sense to me, so I went

out and got some great in-house music producers to produce exclusive music for

my company that I own, and I started putting it in my shows.

 

All the music you hear on Hell Date and

Keyshia’s show is all my music. It started from that point as a business

venture, but I always loved music. I thought I was going to be in the music

industry before I got into television. Then people started sending me artists

and I found an artist named Keith Stewart who is an R&B singer/songwriter,

and signed him and I’ve been out shopping him.

 

The beauty of it for me is it’s a passion, because I’m

not getting into the music industry to get checks because I’m already eating

well from the TV side, so this is truly a passion where I can really try to do

it the right way. I’m not rushing to get some major deal, I’m independent, I’ve

done everything on my own and financed everything to this point, and I think

I’m going to continue with that route. I want to be sort of the boutique, in

anything I do I want to have staying power so the goal is to take my time and

eventually build another Motown where it’s around forever.

 

With Keyshia, a lot of people come up to me and say,

“At first I wasn’t really familiar with her but after seeing the show, I not

only bought the current album, but I went back and got the first album!” There

are a lot of artists that have a real great story, so maybe they should do a

television show first, and then follow with the music. It’s just a different

way of approaching the music and staying ahead of the curve.

AllHipHop.com: You graduated from

Wake Forest with a degree in Broadcast Communications. What advice would you

give a college student that wants to pursue a career in the television

industry?

 

James: Figure out what you really want to do in this

business, and the way to find that out is to find something that you would

enjoy doing for free and that you’re passionate about. That’s going to be the

quickest path to success, because in this Hollywood business money can take you

in a completely different direction – and then you realize five, six, ten years

down the line, you haven’t really accomplished anything.

 

I tell kids every time I talk to them, “Find something

you really love to do, and do that.” If you get into television and you find

something that you enjoy to the point that you’d do it for free, do that and

don’t let anyone take you off your path!

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