With a bevy of classic Black sitcoms returning to small screens thanks to Netflix, stories have begun to re-emerge that give us a behind-the-scenes look at some of the actors and the characters they played on their shows. Though Black TV seems to be in thanks to nostalgia, it wasn’t always easy for these casts, as racism and other unfair practices racked the industry. Countess Vaughan fell prey to the pressures of the biz during her time starring on The Parkers.
Netflix’s “Strong Black Lead” initiative has made Netflix the unofficial home for classic Black sitcoms that ran on the UPN network during the early 2000’s. Going off the air decades ago, a lot of the shows that people know and loved couldn’t be seen anywhere, thanks to licensing issues. However, after much tweeting and otherwise, Netflix heard the call and flew into action.
Starting with the classic sitcom Moesha, which starred singer Brandy, 6 other classic shows are coming to the service, with much fanfare from some of their stars from way back when. The Game, Sister Sister, Girlfriends, The Parkers, Half & Half and One on One are all being added throughout the month of October.
Time to pop bottles🍾🍾— Strong Black Lead (@strongblacklead) July 29, 2020
The following classic shows are coming to @Netflix (US)
Moesha – Aug 1
The Game S1-3 – Aug 15
Sister Sister – Sept 1
Girlfriends – Sept 11
The Parkers – Oct 1
Half & Half – Oct 15
One on One – Oct 15
To celebrate, here’s a message from your faves: pic.twitter.com/zohNPEo0rz
It’s a bit odd that in 2020, The Parkers is being added to Netflix, a service that star of The Parkers Mo’Nique is now suing for pay discrimination. Mo’Nique has considered herself to have been blackballed after her Oscar win because she’s been very vocal about pay equality, perception of Black women in the arts and even because she filed her lawsuit against Netflix.
She famously got her start as a stand-up comedian and even had her own BET talk show for a time, in addition to starring on The Parkers as Nikki Parker, actress Countess Vaughan’s mother.
A judge recently ruled that her discrimination lawsuit against Netflix can move forward. Mo’Nique had claimed Netflix discriminated against her on the basis of her race and gender when they offered to pay her $500,000 in 2018 for a comedy special, a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars Netflix paid for specials from other comedians including Amy Schumer, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. Mo’Nique further alleges Netflix retaliated against her when she complained about the “discriminatory low-ball offer” by refusing to negotiate fair pay with her.
Vaughan, who played Kim Parker on the show, shared one of her experiences over the years that she felt would have jeopardized her career at such an early age – becoming pregnant. At the start of The Parkers, Vaughan was just 18 years old, knowing that such a big decision would have an outsized impact on her just-then budding career.
“I had an unwanted pregnancy. I had just started my TV show,” she recalled during a 2014 episode of her TV show Hollywood Divas. “I knew that in black Hollywood a girl having a baby, they’d get rid of you.” Ultimately, Vaughan decided to terminate the pregnancy.
“I had to make a decision to get rid of the child for my career because I knew from the jump that if I let any of them know what was going on, they would have cancelled my show.”
Now, Vaughan is a mother of two, Sasha Whitten and Jaylyn James, and is no doubt glad to see her old work getting new life with a new generation, thanks to Netflix.