For an unprecedented 23 seasons, audiences have watched the Honorable Judge Greg Mathis decide cases on his reality-based courtroom series. In his new E! Network docu-series, “Mathis Family Matters,” the former judge of Michigan’s 36th District Court opens his home and shares his personal life with viewers.
Mathis is joined by his wife, Linda; sons, Greg Jr. and Amir, as well as daughters, Camara and Jade. In an exclusive interview with the L.A. Sentinel, the Mathis family shares how they’ve adjusted to their new normal as well as what to expect from the inaugural season.
L.A. Sentinel: Your family initially turned down the opportunity to participate in the docu-series when your son Amir pitched it to you a few years ago. Why did you say yes the second time around?
Judge Greg Mathis: He convinced me that it would be a service to our community. In one way we could present a positive image of an African American family, defy some stereotypes and also show that even a family of Black professionals have obstacles that we encounter. It’s going to show how we overcome those obstacles and that’s the example we want in our community–to understand that whatever level of society you’re at, we all have personal setbacks and we have to fight to overcome them.
LAS: You’ve been on television for over 25 years with your court show, “Judge Mathis.” How does that experience differ from the production of your new reality series, “Mathis Family Matters?”
JGM: (Laughs) On the judge show, I’m the authoritarian. I call all of the shots and make all of the rules. But at home, it’s the complete opposite! I have no authority, I make no rules and get no respect (laughs) so you’ll see those two differences.
LAS: With over 3,000 episodes of “Judge Mathis” aired since 1999, your fans feel like they know you. Will viewers get to experience another side of you through “Mathis Family Matters?”
JGM: Absolutely. People are going to enjoy seeing my family punish me! They’ve seen me mocking people and clowning folks all the time and now it’s my turn to get clowned on and mocked! Everything I do to others on the show is going to get done to me at home.
LAS: How was it having your son, Amir, as one of the executive producers of the new docu- series?
JGM: One summer, when he was a student, he worked for me and I fired him! Now, he’s my boss and I’m just trying to keep my job with him!
LAS: How was your experience working with your kids?
Linda Mathis: Being able to see them all the time was great. They used to just come over, sit around and watch TV, but this time they’re coming over with a purpose so we had activities to do, fun things to talk about and I learned new things about my kids too.
LAS: In watching you on the show, what do you hope people resonate with the most?
LM: I’m a downhome person, I’m not the stereotypical “Hollywood” person. I love my family and want the best for them. As a mother, I’m happy to see the fruits of my labor because it was a lot of work! So I love seeing them do their thing.
LAS: Can you give some insight into how your younger brother, Amir, got the family on board with participating in the series?
Greg Mathis Jr. [Initially] we didn’t jump at this project. Amir came to our family with this idea several years ago and we were all like ‘no’ at first. He really had to lobby us and say, this is an opportunity to show a healthy Black family. Our family isn’t perfect by any means but we know how to work through things in a healthy way and I think that shifts the narrative being able to put a family like ours on TV. Amir gave us that pitch and I’m glad we decided to do it.
LAS: What’s a lesson to learn you learned working with your family?
GMJ: I learned that everyone thinks they’re a comedian! It’s a lot of cracking jokes. I lived in DC for ten years and I learned I never want to move away again because I missed them a lot. We’re all a little crazy but we still love and support each other and we have a lot of fun together. Being back in LA has really centered me and it’s been a good time.
LAS: Can you explain what the title of “executive producer” entailed for this series?
Amir Mathis: My producing partner, Simone Spira, and I previously worked together at “The Steve Harvey Show.” We started a production company and the first idea I had was a reality show with my family. We eventually shot a two minute sizzle reel that showed who we were as individuals and then, Warner Bros. hopped on the project with us and we sold it to the E! Network and went to series. So as executive producers, we were there from the beginning creating the storyboard, presentations, pitch decks and all of the things needed to get people to believe in our show.
LAS: Are you already planning more seasons?
AM: I believe that we’ll be on TV as long as we can inspire people. It’s more than just being a reality family on TV, we want to have a purpose. We want to inspire people and make people at home happy and [encourage them] to have their own conversations inspired by us. It’s more than just monetizing the situation, it’s more about having this platform and using it wisely.
LAS: In speaking with your other family members they mentioned the importance of showing a healthy Black family dynamic. Was that angle enough to convince you to sign on?
Camara Mathis: We all took a little convincing. As someone who also works in entertainment, when my brother, Amir, came to us and said, ‘I have this idea,’ I didn’t necessarily expect it to get picked up because I know so many people that want a reality show and people pitch shows all the time. So, I did the sizzle and it was a lot of fun. And we got a pilot and the order for the series and I got excited. It’s such a positive and fun series that shows our family in a fun light. I think people will enjoy it.
LAS: With your storyline, what do you think viewers will resonate with the most?
CM: I’m the only sibling with a family of my own. I’m married with two kids. So, I think the balance of being a working mom trying to figure out who I am as a parent as well as a career driven woman. I hope I aspire other women to still live their lives.
LAS: Were you always on board with the show or did you take some convincing?
Jade Mathis: I probably was the most hesitant out of the entire family. At the time, I was a prosecutor in the courtroom as well as serving in ministry in the church in D.C. on the weekends. I’m very private and conservative, so Amir had to ask me a few times. I think I was the last person to come on board.
LAS: Was the opportunity to be inspirational by sharing your mental health journey the catalyst for your participation?
JM: I said I was going to take one for the team and do something with my family, as a collective. The second determining factor was being able to share, on a national platform, my journey through mental health within the Black community. I get to own it and accept it and let other people know that it’s okay. My story is my narrative and I’m going to tell it the way I want it to be told.