Series stars Yolanda Adams, Serayah and Executive Producer DeVon Franklin give exclusive insight into their new BET+ series.
While the “new school vs. old school, battle for the throne” isn’t exactly an original premise, the new BET+ series, “Kingdom Business” pulls back the holier-than-thou, saved and sanctified prayer cloth to reveal that the inner workings of the gospel music industry have the same underpinnings as the secular world.
During a premiere screening at NeueHouse in Hollywood, the Sentinel spoke with the cast as well as several of the series executive producers including DeVon Franklin. When asked about “Kingdom Business’” similarities to shows like “Empire” and “P-Valley,” Franklin laughed and said, “It’s probably more ‘Empire’ than ‘P-Valley,’ [but] you’ve never seen [a show] put together like this.”
“Kingdom Business” stars Grammy Award-winning gospel legend Yolanda Adams, Serayah, Michael Jai White, Michael Beach, Chaundre A. Hall-Broomfield, La’Myia Good and Kiandra Richardson.
Adams’ character Denita Jordan is the queen of gospel music at Kingdom Records as well as first lady of First Kingdom Church. After decades in the business, the matriarch finds herself at odds with her husband (Beach) and his extramarital affairs, her son’s (Hall-Broomfield) quest to revitalize the label, and a former friend turned foe (White) who is the head of a rival record label.
During the screening, Adams shared that she always wanted to act, having done musical theater in school. Prior to leaning into her God-given talent of singing, Adams was a teacher for six years. When she transitioned into being a full-time artist, she would spend the next three decades becoming one of the best selling gospel artists of all time with nearly 10 million records sold worldwide in addition to winning four Grammys, four Dove Awards and sixteen Stellar Awards.
“I thought I was going to come to Hollywood and bust the door open and then the music took off. Because I’ve sang all my life, I thought, I’ll do [acting] later,” disclosed Adams.
There was an audible gasp followed by an eruption of applause in the room when Adams revealed, “I didn’t realize that ‘later’ would be 60-years-old.”
She added, “I want to thank and praise the Lord that He did not forget about His promise to me and I did not forget about His promise to me.”
While Adams and her Denita Jordan character is more than enough for a compelling series, “Kingdom Business” has an intergenerational storyline with Serayah’s character “Rbel.” From juvenile hall to the strip club, the last place anyone would expect to see Rbel going viral is for singing gospel music. However, the untimely death of her best friend becomes the catalyst for Rbel’s evolution.
But change doesn’t happen overnight and initially, Rbel is an unwilling participant. When asked how her character evolves throughout the season, Serayah told the Sentinel, “You see her really try and transform and come into the space of her spirituality and [say], ‘Maybe the grass is greener on the other side?’ It’s really interesting to see her go through that throughout the season and a lot of people are going to resonate with that. I feel like it’s a story that many people have been through and it’s real.”
While Rbel’s initial occupation as a stripper may be off putting to some, series creator and executive producer John J. Sakmar told the Sentinel, “It’s a redemption story. We were trying to put her in a situation that was seemingly as far away from the church as possible.”
Admittedly, the juxtaposition between worlds in “Kingdom Business” allows for the audience to truly see Serayah’s growth as an actress from the more soap opera-esque drama of her previous series, “Empire,” to more of a serious actress with a vast range of emotions and moral dilemmas in “Kingdom Business.”
When asked his thoughts on Serayah as an actress, Sakmar said, “She’s a superstar. She’s destined for greatness.” Echoing similar sentiments, Michael Jai White shared, “Serayah and Chaundre: I’ve never met two people more well suited for their roles in my life.”
White, who’s also a masterful martial artist, went on to thank casting director Robbi Reed for giving him the opportunity to transcend the “kung fu killer” roles in exchange for the headstrong record label executive Julius “Caesar” Jones in “Kingdom Business.”
He shared, “Being somewhat of a jaded person in this business as a writer, when I saw the quality [of the script] I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, they dared to go beyond and not take the easy road out.’
“It’s so easy to write, ‘Oh no, they didn’t’ and that type of dialogue with social media–hot button, click bait type of stuff– I keep seeing that and it’s somewhat of an easy way to entertain, but when I read this [script]…! Everyone involved dared to write truth, authenticity and I saw that. I’m so blessed to be connected to it.”
He went on to say, “To come to set, I was floating everyday. I felt like our ancestors were looking at us everyday. This was the most wonderful working experience of my career…of my life.”
When asked about the origin of the series, Sakmar told the Sentinel, “[Kingdom Business] is dedicated to a dear friend of mine, Andraé Edward Crouch, who was a gospel legend. When he passed on, I wanted to do this show to honor him. He was Kirk Franklin before Kirk Franklin.” Carrying the mantle from Crouch, Franklin served as one of the composers and actors with a recurring role as “Deacon D’Wayne.”
“These are all original songs” said Franklin during the cast Q&A. “I always wanted to see gospel music be a part of storytelling,” he added. During this portion of the evening, Adams revealed a fun fact that she’s known Franklin since he was a teenager. He’s gone on to produce a plethora of Adams music as a gospel artist and the two share pivotal scenes in the series.
One of the foundational aspects of the show is the singing, “The music answers the questions when the dialogue can’t,” said Adams. The series soundtrack will be available online on June 24.
Executive producer Dr. Holly Carter, who was also the EP of the critically acclaimed Lifetime movie, “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel” starring Oscar nominated actress Aunjanue Ellis, said about “Kingdom Business,” “Let me first thank BET for allowing us the opportunity to tell this story. A lot of times you see stories of faith that may not be as authentic as the world that we live in.
What I love about the story is that there’s a little bit of faith, hope, love and a little bit of “ratchetcity”. (Laughs) I made that word up, but it’s a whole lot of redemption.”
She adds, “What I love is that at the end of all of our characters’ journeys, there’s redemption and that’s the one thing that, as a believer myself, is important for me and the stories I tell.”
Concluding the evening, Adams left the audience on an inspirational note in saying, “The entire [series], everything that we put out was to make sure that people don’t feel that God doesn’t love them just as they are, that’s what ‘Kingdom Business’ is all about.
“There is never a time that you should feel like God has forgotten about you. And just in case you think He has, ‘Kingdom Business’ is here to remind you that everybody is redeemable.”
Watch season one of “Kingdom Business” exclusively on BET+.