Black women like Chanelle Aponte Pearson rarely see the rich complexity of their lives featured in narrative television. So Pearson and a group of LGBTQ artists poured their multi-dimensional lives into “195 Lewis,” a new scripted miniseries that debuted online last night (November 16).
The five-episode show takes its name from the address in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where much of the plot takes place. It stars show co-creator Rae Leone Allen and actress Sirita Wright (“See You Next Tuesday”) as Yuri and Camille, respectively, two Black women in a romantic and newly polyamorous relationship. The series follows the pair’s struggles with jealousy and self-doubt, which intensify when Yuri’s college friend Kris (Michal Roxie Johnson, “Bmore Chicks”) drops by for an unexpected visit.
Allen created the series with her creative partner, Yaani Supreme.* First-time director Pearson, who co-wrote the series alongside the pair, told Colorlines that they drew from personal experiences to inform the plot.
“Rae and Yaani constantly joke that, when they moved to Brooklyn [from the South], they weren’t used to experiencing what they saw here,” Pearson says. “They pulled from new experiences with these things, like polyamory, open relationships and radical honesty. And I certainly pulled from my experience navigating polyamory for several years.”
Pearson adds that they want to portray polyamory with a nuance that it rarely receives on screen, especially for queer Black people.
“We didn’t want to make it seem that poly relationships are more moral or involved than other relationships,” she says. “This is one poly story, not the definitive one—this is not the only way that you go about navigating an open relationship. That’s also true in how the characters try to figure out how it works for them. Just because you have a particular intention for what you want your relationship to be doesn’t mean that things don’t change and evolve—especially when you’re working with something that isn’t traditionally understood or even accepted. I hope that the audience sees that these people are, at the end of the day, trying their best.”
Pearson simultaneously acknowledges that “195 Lewis” speaks to the real difficulty that LGBTQ people of color endure when they reject the relationship standards that the world places on them. “We’re trying to throw [society’s] scripts out completely and create our own roadmaps to what love, compassion, care and family mean for us,” she says.
Watch the “195 Lewis” trailer above, and check out all five episodes at 195lewis.com.
*Post has been updated since publication.