BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Nicole Byer is about to learn if she can have as much success being part of a comedy crew as she has found working on her own. The actress/comedian/writer/author is one of the stars of the new NBC comedy “Grand Crew.”
The show looks at a group of young professionals trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles. No matter which life road they take, they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to wind down and unpack it all.
There will be a sneak preview of “Grand Crew” at 8 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 14 on NBC, before moving to its normal time slot at 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays starting Jan. 4.
Byer comes to the show after hosting the Netflix’s Emmy Award-nominated competition baking series “Nailed It!,” a job that allowed her to make history by becoming the first Black woman ever to be nominated in the category of Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program. She’s also co-hosted the new “Wipeout” and can be heard on five different podcasts.
Despite all of the work she has done where Byer was able to say whatever she wanted, Byer did not find being part of the scripted series of “Grand Crew” to be that different. A lot of that had to do with executive producer and series creator Phil Augusta Jackson.
Before launching “Grand Crew,” Jackson was a co-executive producer of HBO’s “Insecure.” He has written for “Key & Peele,” “Survivor’s Remorse” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” where he also directed. He has been nominated for Emmy, WGA and NAACP awards and has self-produced and directed shorts and music videos.
“Honestly, it’s not that different because I know Phil so well. Phil and I did improve together in New York for a very long time,” Byer says.
Her connection to Jackson worked as he based the character of Nicky on Nicole. Jackson knew her comedy voice so well that he and the writing team have been able to give Byer lines that sound like something she would have said in real life.
Byer’s character has had to deal with the death of her mother when she was a teenager. It was easy for Byer to understand the emotions her character faced. Byer was a teenager when her own mother died.
“I think it shaped my personality in a way where, when something sad or tragic happens, I tend to lean into finding the humor in it because I do think laughter is the best medicine. How corny,” Byer says. “I think it shaped me in a way where I can be sad about something because I am a multifaceted person, but, also, I’d rather just laugh and have a nice time.”
And Byer is having a fun time with the series mainly because of the cast that also includes Justin Cunningham, Aaron Jennings, Echo Kellum, Grasie Mercedes and Carl Tart. She finds them to be a funny, talented and professional group always ready to collaborate to find the funniest moments.
Byer describes being on the show as seeing in the beginning as a job but it became a chance to hang out with her friends.
“Like the pilot of ‘Cheers,’ you see the magic happening on this show. And I don’t want to toot our own horn. Is that a phrase? I don’t know. But, like, we have very magical chemistry that happened almost instantaneously,” Byer says. “I think that really comes through on the screen. So, I think, like ‘Cheers,’ you’ll be rooting for these people.
“I think these people are interesting, they are funny, and they seem to just really have joy and love each other.”
Byer and the group are having fun but Jackson promises there will be more to the series than just an endless string of bar jokes. During the first season, he made sure that every episode has a theme that is not only relatable at a broader, human level, but is relatable at a Black level.
Examples are how in the second episode, the subject of self-care is addressed while the third episode focuses on the insecurity of status that comes with wondering who makes the money in a relationship. Other topics include therapy, being inspired by friends, Black men and their fathers and headlines.
Jackson says, “So, each episode, we were very intentional about the themes that we wanted to hit. But as far as recurring themes, I think one recurring theme is friendship and just having your friends there by your side for whatever you are going through and finding the fun and the funny in those situations.”
It all comes down to the difference between being on your own or having a grand crew to surround and support you.