- “Harlem” is a new show that centers on four friends in their 30s, living in New York City.
- Creator Tracy Oliver said she wanted to write a series that would undo the tropes of being in your 30s.
- “I just thought, ‘Yeah, let’s do that show — let’s tackle the messiness of your 30s,” she said.
Amazon Prime Video’s new series “Harlem” follows four millennial women as they balance their careers, friendships, and romantic lives in the New York City neighborhood of the same name.
Writer and creator Tracy Oliver said she was inspired by watching her friends in their 30s — who were either starting new careers at 35 or getting divorced and reentering the dating pool — proving that it was a “myth” that everyone should have their life figured out by a certain age.
“I’m just seeing people have a rebirth and figuring their stuff out,” Oliver told Insider during a recent press junket. “And I just thought, ‘Yeah, let’s do that show — let’s tackle the messiness of your 30s.”
“Harlem” follows Camille (Meagan Good), a Columbia adjunct professor balancing her career and love life; Tye (Jerrie Johnson) a successful tech entrepreneur, who created a dating app for queer people of color like herself; Angie (Shoniqua Shandai), a singer pursuing her dream unapologetically; and Quinn (Grace Byers), a hopeless romantic and rising fashion designer.
Oliver hopes to dismantle the trope of women reaching certain milestones by the time they’re 30.
“I was the girl that cried every single birthday — like hysterically cried — because I was getting older,” she said, thinking back to how ’90s rom-coms and other media reinforced the idea that you needed marriage, kids, and a solid career by a certain age.
“So then I was like, ‘So why are me and my friends still so lost in our 30s? Oh, well because it’s a myth,'” Oliver said. “It’s not real. We made this up.”
Along with breaking down that trope, Oliver said she was also “deliberate” in wanting to base and shoot her show in Harlem, describing it as an influential and culturally rich part of New York City. The “Girls Trip” writer wanted to change the pattern she saw with TV shows that were set in New York but never used Harlem as a filming location.
“I really wanted to set a show in New York,” Oliver said. “I wrote the script years ago, and at that point, it was like ‘Girls’ and ‘Broad City’ on the air. I love both those shows, but Black and brown people were not a part of those shows.”
“And so I’m watching [these shows] and I’m like, why does New York continue to not have Black and brown people in them?” she said. “Because I saw ‘Friends,’ I saw ‘Sex and the City,’ and it was just a long-standing tradition of kind of gentrifying us out of comedies.”
Oliver once lived in Harlem and said she felt there was a “halo” over that period of her life. Bringing in her own experience of the city was a key part of crafting the show.
“It just felt really magical,” she said. “I felt like Harlem was a really unique, special place. And the people there were really friendly and cool. I just had so much fun getting drunk and going and doing bottomless brunches and being on the train and hanging out.”
She continued: “I loved the camaraderie between me and my girlfriends, but also I wanted to shine a light on the city of Harlem.”
“Harlem” also starring Tyler Lepley, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jasmine Guy is available now on Prime Video.