E. Brian Dobbins (Courtesy photo)

Brian Dobbins confesses that although he has served as executive producer on the hit television sitcom “Black-ish,” its two spinoffs “Grown-ish” and “Mixed-ish,” and the films “The Blackening” and the 2023 remake of “White Men Can’t Jump,” at his core he is a talent manager.

“For clarity, what I do the majority of days…I’m a manager,” said Dobbins. “By virtue of being a manager I’ve produced projects, a lot of those, alongside the clients I represent.”

Dobbins is the co-founder and manager at Artists First, which according to its Instagram account, is a talent management and production company dedicated to representing quality talent and productions.

“As a manager you are kind of producing all day, every day, anyway. You are working on behalf of the artist to move their projects, their endeavors forward, and in some capacity, you’re producing those projects,” said Dobbins.

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Dobbins explains one of the most challenging things about moving his clients’ projects forward is time — the long waiting periods for a film or television project to be picked up for production.

He says there is a lot of waiting in the entertainment business because it can take a while for a film or TV show to be made.

“You can go through many incarnations of that project, and so, sticking with it and making sure that you are creating momentum, and catalyzing that project day in and day out when I have so many other things going on, that’s a real challenge,” said Dobbins.

He says the secret to managing the expectations of his clients during those daunting periods is transparency, clarity, and trust. Dobbins feels those elements are key to displaying integrity to his clients.

“If you do what you say you’re going to do, and don’t over hype anybody, don’t sell them a dream, but also have a plan, and execute on that plan,” said Dobbins. “You build the trust with the client because they know that you stand on what you say you’re going to stand on.”

When asked by aspiring talent, “How do I get a manager or an agent?” Dobbins is quick to reply, “I don’t know.” Dobbins explained, “When I say that… talented people show up. I don’t go into people homes and say, ‘Hey, are you talented? Can you do this monologue for me?”

He says it is the responsibility of talent to be engaged and active, because when they are in motion doing their craft, those who need to see them will. Dobbins believes that if talent are static with their skills, it is difficult for them to be seen.

“The kind of people I’m interested in are people who are energized, just like I am,” said Dobbins. “My client base and the most successful people that I work with are essentially entrepreneurs… they are hustlers.”

He says that once the artist has taken the steps in securing his or her own success by honing and advancing in their craft is when he shows up.

March 27 was the beginning of the last season of the “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish,” which marks the end of the franchise.  “At the moment, it is the last of the “-ish” franchise,” said Dobbins.

Produced by Disney for ABC, the Afrocentric, socio-political “-ish” sitcom franchise began with “Black-ish.” It was on the air for eight seasons. It’s first spinoff “Grown-ish,” at the end of this season, will have aired for six, and its last spinoff, “Mixed-ish,” was on for two seasons.

Dobbins says he is honored to have worked with an outstanding cast, crew, and studio partner in Disney.

Dobbins also represented many of the artists working on the “-ish” franchise including show creator Kenya Barris and stars Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Marcus Scribner. Coincidingly, Dobbins took part in casting the show.

“I think we’ve [cast and crew of the ‘-ish’ franchise] done something that stands the test of time,” said Dobbins. “The things that were explored in the ‘-ish’ franchises were meaningful to people.”