In the 90s, Living Single became one of the most iconic television shows in television history. The half-hour sitcom aired immediately after “Martin” on Fox’s primetime evening slate, a massive success in its own right. With unforgettable characters like “Khadija,” “Maxine,” “Regine,” “Synclaire (“woo-woo-woo!”), and a laundry list of celebrity cameos, Living Single’s ratings even surpassed Martin’s.
However, for many, the show was cast under the shadow of a very similar-in-concept show, NBC’s “Friends,” which kicked off one year after Living Single and ran for ten years. Erika Alexander, or “Maxine Shaw” on the sitcom, has been very vocal about her opinion on the Living Single versus Friends debate, “The difference between Living Single and Friends is one of marketing and skin color.” She continued, “If you were on a show with a Black cast, you weren’t seen as a show with a Black cast, which is how I like to see it. They saw you as a Black show. So they would often put you in a cultural ghetto. That would undermine any sort of ambitions that you might have to grow the show beyond its locked-in demographic. I’m saying we should have gone beyond that. And I think it was just a lack of imagination and people who left money on the table.”
T.C. Carson, who starred as “Kyle Barker” on the show, gave some long-awaited insight on his career trajectory and behind the curtain drama at the show’s network. In a recent interview with Comedy Hype, Carson stated, “I kind of got blackballed. There was a rumor going around that I was difficult to work with, that I come to work unprepared, …and all of this was not true.”
Further divulging, he said, “I got fired” There were concerns that Living Single was being neglected in favor of the show, Friends. “We would come to them as a cast, but I would be the spokesperson for it.” Carson added, “So, that last season before I left, they called me in, and they basically said, ‘Well, all these problems we’ve been having, they listen to you. You’re the person they listen to. So if you said something else, then they would do that.’
Carson voiced a more significant concern for people of color in the Film and Television industry, “Part of it is, even now, if you’re African American, you shut your mouth and do your job,” he added. “Don’t ask questions. Be happy that you have a job.” A troubling sentiment, that even in a time where more considerable attention has been given to diversity and representation employment and equality remain precarious.
When Carson was a guest on Fox Soul’s The Tammi Mac Late Show, earlier this year, the question was asked again. The actor responded, “I got fired from ‘Living Single.’ because I think they thought my mouth was too big. There were a lot of things that we had issues with, not a lot of things. But there were things we had issues with. And when we would bring them to the network or to the powers that be, I was the spokesperson.”