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 BETs Hell Date, and
recently creating a music label, the DuBose brand is becoming a force to be
reckoned with in Hollywood.
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
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
writers strike affect you and your production company?
James: In terms of the shows I currently have in
production, it didnt affect me at all because, as you know, I do a lot of
reality shows so it didnt affect that part. What it has affected is that were
definitely branching into the scripted world with sitcoms and dramas and so
forth, I have four projects on my desk now that Im trying to take out but I
couldnt because of the writers 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 didnt
affect us in that way, thank God.
AllHipHop.com: Keyshia Coles 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]
James: It was great actually, its 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
Im 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 didnt 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: Thats very true. You were speaking of
not wanting to do just any kind of reality show and whats been done before.
Whats the biggest challenge in coming up with a show that doesnt repeat
everything that we see?
James: You know what? Theres nothing really creative
about the show. Its 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
its really on the surface. What makes the difference with Keyshias show is
just the emotional roller coaster that were able to take the viewers on,
because its 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
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 were trying to
accomplish. Im 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 its 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 BETs 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? Youve 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. Hes
probably one of the smartest men that Ive ever been around. His drive and his
ability to reinvent himself and stay ahead of the curve is just amazing to me.
AllHipHop.com: Youve been in the business around 17
years. What would you say is the most important thing that youve 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 Ive gone against that Ive
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 its really contrived, so
nowadays when people hear the word reality they get a bad taste in their
mouth, because they think its phony and unreal. But I think now with more
shows that youll begin to see, more people are allowing the shows to really
get into their lives and really tell stories. I think its changing back to
what we initially wanted to do, and keeping the true meaning of what reality
television really is. I think its come full circle, in my opinion.
AllHipHop.com: We understand that youre working on
episodes for a new comedy show. Can we get an exclusive word from the
producers desk on what to expect?
James: Ummm, Ill just say its going to be like when
Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryors 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 its 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. Its funny, intelligent and its
bringing comedy back to when it was something that you planned for like it was
AllHipHop.com: What are some of your long-term plans
for the future for your production company. Do you have any aspirations to
James: I definitely do! Im 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, thats 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 doesnt 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 Im putting on and Im having to license all of this
music through various entities. It really didnt 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
Keyshias 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 Ive been out shopping him.
The beauty of it for me is its a passion, because Im
not getting into the music industry to get checks because Im already eating
well from the TV side, so this is truly a passion where I can really try to do
it the right way. Im not rushing to get some major deal, Im independent, Ive
done everything on my own and financed everything to this point, and I think
Im 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 its around forever.
With Keyshia, a lot of people come up to me and say,
At first I wasnt 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. Its 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
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 youre passionate about. Thats 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 havent 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 youd do it for free, do that and
dont let anyone take you off your path!