If you know anything about Black Hollywood’s history, then you know the powerhouse writer, producer, businesswoman Tracey Edmonds. A witty writer, a bonafide creative and a strong businessman all rolled into one, she has been slaying it in the game for a while now. The combination of brains and determination had to have made the White, male-dominated world of film and television nervous. Edmonds didn’t ask permission to be successful. She was one of the first Black women who dared and did what she set out to do. I mean, Edmonds was like a pink unicorn in the sea of white. Her ascent to the very top of her game was before #hashtags, social media, blogs, bloggers, and social media. If there is such a thing as the mother Goddess of Black Hollywood, then “the Tracey Edmonds” would be crowed and adorned with laurels.
If you’re in the game, now or aspire to be in the game where the dollars are thick and the perks are jaw-dropping, you have, in no small part, to thank Tracey Edmonds for smashing the door wide open for you.
As a creator and producer, Edmonds has made projects for television, film, music, and digital media and recently exited ExtraTV, where she earned an Emmy Award while serving as co-host alongside Mario Lopez and Charissa Thompson for three years.
She keeps her schedule packed serving as CEO and president of Edmonds Entertainment. On the digital front, she is the founder and editor of the new lifestyle, health, and wellness media brand, AlrightNow.com.
As a television producer, Edmonds’ past projects include the hit series Deion’s Family Playbook (OWN) and the three-time NAACP Image Award-nominated With This Ring (Lifetime). Edmonds won high acclaim for the serialized version of her hit movie “Soul Food,” an hour-long dramedy for Showtime Networks, Inc., which ran for five seasons and won multiple NAACP Image Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series three years in a row. She also executively produced several groundbreaking reality shows including “College Hill” (BET’s first reality show), which ran for six seasons, and its spinoff “College Hill Interns”; “Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown”; and “DMX: Soul of a Man.” Edmonds’ other film successes include the hit film Jumping the Broom, which earned several NAACP Image Awards.
Combining beauty with brains, a Stanford University graduate, Edmonds has won numerous awards for her contributions to the entertainment industry, including Ebony Magazine’s Outstanding Women in Marketing & Communications Entrepreneur Award (2002); the Volunteers of America Legacy of Leadership Award (2004); the National Organization for Women’s Excellence in Media Award (2005); Alliance for Women in Media’s Gracies Award for Best Host in Entertainment & Information (2015); Emmy Award, Outstanding Entertainment News Program (2016); and Alliance for Women in Media SoCal’s Genii Award for Excellence in Entertainment (2016).
Edmonds served on the board of governors for the Producers Guild of America (PGA), where she chaired the Guild’s annual Celebration of Diversity gala for three consecutive years and has also co-chaired the PGA-hosted Produced By Conference for the past four years. She also served on the board of trustees for the American Film Institute (AFI); she is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; and previously served as a global ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that works to fight global poverty. In her role as ambassador, she is focused on improving global maternal health, with a specific focus on Sierra Leone.
But what’s keeping Edmonds focused right now is serving as the executive producer for BET’s “Games Divas Play.” The new series is a sexy stylized, a well-written drama about the high-stakes world of the NBA.
The series focuses on Nia Bullock, a muck-raking journalist, who lands her dream job running Diva Magazine in Los Angeles, where gossip is a currency. The ambitious woman finds herself front-and-center at an unfolding murder investigation revolving around Marcus King, a megastar athlete whose wife, Vanessa King, happens to be her ride-or-die best friend. Hollywood has no shortage of thirsty actresses willing to trade secrets in a desperate bid for fame, and in this story, that girl is aspiring actress Laila James. She uses her side-chick status to Marcus to slowly expose the affair on-line for the whole world to see. This is Hollywood and the name of the game for ~ Nia, Vanessa and Laila ~ and the men in their lives are to win by any means necessary. Make no mistake, it’s a battlefield.
These women’s passions and motivations are seldom altruistic, but their life choices and drive will determine what it really takes to stay on top.
Here is an edited phone conversation with Tracey Edmonds, executive producer of BET’s “Games People Play.”
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: It’s an honor to be speaking with you Mrs. Edmonds, I have great respect for all that you have accomplished and I am in awe with what’s next.
TRACEY EDMONDS: Thank you, I appreciate that. I like your name, it’s unusual and beautiful.
LAS: You’re very kind. Let’s get right into BET’s ‘Games People Play,’ I loved it. I only saw one episode, but I watched it like six times. I’m in.
TE: (laughing) Thank you very much. What do you want to know?
LAS: The proverbial floor belongs to you! You have done so much!
TE: (laughing) I have been around for a while. I use to be the younger person on the scene but now I’m the older person on the scene.
LAS: Now, you are a legend. You shattered close doors that allowed other gifted Black creatives, male and female to get their shot. That’s huge.
TE: I’ve been very, very blessed. I started young and I’ve had a chance to have lots of different chapters, from record labels to music publishing to television, and film and live theater. So I’ve had a chance to sample in a lot of different things. I’ve been very blessed.
LAS: What’s the motivation behind creating BET’s ‘Games People Play’?
TE: I always tell people I always most enjoy working on shows that I want to see myself and that I would watch. I felt that television was overdue for a really good soapy, sexy, stylized drama and that’s what we are doing here. It’s a rollercoaster, sexy ride about the LA high life where everybody plays to win and where all that glitters is not always gold.
LAS: Yup, well you would know a lot about the L.A. high life!
TE: (laughing) I do. I do and it’s really funny because I’ve enjoyed showing the real L.A. behind the scenes. There are elements of our main character [Nia Bullock] in me as well.
LAS: Oh no, I love it!!! I am sorry that I am laughing so much. I didn’t expect you to be so much fun! This should have been a Podcast. So is it safe to say that some of the
upcoming storylines are true to life?
TE: (laughing, hard) Well there are a few nuggets in there for sure. I’m asking, ‘well what if this happened’ hint, hint!
LAS: I’ve always wanted to ask, what exactly does an executive producer do on a television show?
TE: I will say that I am, what we call, a hands-on producer. I am involved in every aspect of the show from conception to the time that we air on screening, and the marketing and promotion, all that.
One of the other executive producers — Angela Burt-Murray—we are really close girlfriends and we have worked together in the past. She wrote the book (Games Divas Play) that the show is based on. She came to me with the book and asked me if I would help adapt the book and take it TV. Angela and I worked together on a Lifetime movie called ‘With This Ring.’ This is our second project together I could not be more excited about this project. Like you said earlier, it’s a story that I know a lot about.
I don’t care if you are a ballplayer or a singer, or an actress—whatever—there is a lot of smoke and mirrors to relationships!
LAS: Did you enjoy having the novel as source material?
TE: Yes, we did. It’s a great book, to begin with, and we were able to extract these characters out of Angela’s book and then go even deeper into their lives and then really unfold more and more layers to these characters because we now have more time to explore. Our first season has 10 episodes. So we get a chance to really dive into what makes these characters tick. All of their highlights and their struggles and all of the secrets that they are keeping from other people. That’s the cool thing about this show is that there are so many secrets being kept.
LAS: That sounds like Hollywood, to me.
TE: (laughing) Exactly and so many games being played. It deals with real life stuff.
LAS: That’s what makes good drama, in my opinion, it’s what is hidden in plain sight.
TE: Absolutely. These characters are very unique. They have a lot of internal things [going on] in their heads. They are dealing with a lot of struggles and a lot of really interesting dynamics. Our cast is amazing. Sarunas Jackson (Marcos King) is brilliant in his role. We get to go into what’s in the mind of a ballplayer. He’s got a lot of pressure on him to make or break on the court, with his family. There are a lot of dynamics and they are flawed like we all are.
LAS: You’ve done five shows with BET, correct?
TE: Correct and I am thrilled to be back with ‘Games People Play.’
LAS: I’m thrilled that you are back. It’s on my radar. To be continued.
BET’s “Games People Play” stars Lauren London, Sarunas Jackson, Jackie Long, Parker McKenna Posey, Karen Obilom, Monti Washington, and Barry Brewer. https://www.bet.com