Disney Onyx Collective’s first drama series, “Reasonable Doubt”, has recently debuted on Hulu in the United States and on Disney+ in many countries around the world.
“Reasonable Doubt” follows the life of Jax Stewart, a high-powered criminal defence attorney from Los Angeles who uses unconventional law methods to ensure that her clients are innocent. The series stars Emayatzy Corinealdi as Jax Stewart and Michael Ealy as Damon.
I recently got to speak with the show’s Director and Co-Producer Pete Chatmon about the new series, working on other shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Blackish”.
Check out the interview below:
What is “Reasonable Doubt” all about?
So Reasonable Doubt is the debut show from Onyx Collective. And basically, it follows a lawyer, Jax Stewart, who you would question her ethics and her approach on how she handles and approaches the law until you are the one in trouble. And so this is about a Black woman in today’s world, navigating professional family and relationship challenges. And it gets deep into the issues and really explores deeply what is usually a character who’s on the sidelines. And it’s great, because what we have, the opportunity of being on Hulu, is we can get a little bit messier and get into things with a little bit more eyebrow-raising and push the envelope a bit, and so it’s fun. We’re off to, I think the third episode premiered last night, and we’ve got six more coming, so I hope people are able to check it out.
What was your particular role in creating Reasonable Doubt?
So I am the producing director. So I’m a co-executive producer and producing director. So the opportunity that affords me, is to be there to help all the guest directors prep and know what their targets are for each episode and what’s happening in the show on a larger level to make sure there’s some integrity and continuity in the look and feel of the show, because every director is going to have a unique perspective to apply. But there’s a little bit of a toolkit that every show has. And I guess thirdly. I directed two of the episodes. So I did episode two, the pilot was directed by Kerry Washington, who’s an executive producer. And her production company is also a production company on it, as well as Larry Wilmore as Wilmore Films. And then Raamla Mohamed, who’s the showrunner and creator. And then, so I directed episode two, and I’m directing the finale, episode nine. And so I’m there to deal with the larger episodes, I suppose, and make sure we bring it home.
What appealed to you to work on this show?
So I’ve done, wow, I guess about 50 plus episodes in the last five years of television, some drama like You and The Flight Attendant, some comedy like Always Sunny and Blackish. And I’ve been fortunate to be able to hone my skills on multiple genres and types of shows. And what I loved about this, was the opportunity to do something that is a little bit of everything all in one. Now each episode lean maybe in more of a dramatic bent based on where we are in a season or not. But the show is drama, the show is sexy, the show is funny. There’s some action in the finale that I direct. And it was also an opportunity to work with people that I have A, worked with before, Kerry Washington was in a short film that I directed in 1999 that went to Sundance in 2001, my NYU thesis film. And then Raamla Mohamed, I wanted to work with her, she’s a friend who’s been on my podcast. And so it was just a full circle moment to connect a lot of dots.
I was going to say, yeah, it’s really fun to be able to… The way you direct a drama is different from the way you direct a comedy. And I often say, not to compare, but comedy is arguably harder, because if you miss the joke it just isn’t funny, and there’s nothing you can do with the camera to make up for that. And so I love being able to bring some levity to drama and then also, on the flip side, bring some drama to comedy.
With this one being Onyx Collective’s first drama, did that have additional pressure in some way on launching this brand?
Yeah, I imagine so. I’m a big basketball guy, and I feel like you miss a hundred per cent of the shots you don’t take. And so also they won an Oscar for their documentary Coming Out the Gate that QuestLove directed, so maybe that’s a high bar to follow. But I think everybody just really tried to buckle down and keep their eye on the script and project and the voice of the show and let the audience take it from there. Because it’s like you can never figure out the perfect cocktail for success with today’s audiences.
Was it a bit nerve-wracking seeing everyone’s reaction last week for the first episodes going out?
No, you know what? Raamla comes from the world of Scandal, so I think they were the pioneers of the Twitter of… Not the Twitter, I’m not that old, but of using Twitter to create a whole conversation around the show. And I think that she has a really good handle on that. So honestly, as far as television, this is the first thing that I’ve been involved with in a larger scope than just coming in and doing an episode. So literally, I’m really just like, let me see how it lands, because you can’t do anything about it once you’ve released it to the world. But I’ve been seeing great feedback.
How important is diversity for this show?
I think it was very important. I think in today’s landscape I think there’s a lot of awareness of some of the challenges of where we need to be and not everyone’s sure of how to get there. Some of the ways that we’re trying to get there, they aren’t always raising the bar. I think sometimes you might have a Black writer in a writer’s room, but if they’re not empowered to really advocate for things, you can’t put the whole onus of the burden of the responsibility of a particular level of inclusion on one person.
So what I think happened with this show, is that everybody understood the assignment, and everybody could really just come from a place of advocating from their own experience. And that’s another thing too, there’s unlimited Black experiences, it’s not just one. And I think that’s what happens in a lot of writer’s room, it’s like, “Well, so and so, make sure this speaks correctly to the Black diaspora.” But it’s not monolithic. So I think some of the things that arose in the room of this show were even surprising to other people in the room, because everybody has a different origin story as a person moving through America.
What was the biggest challenge in making this series?
It’s always time, Roger. It’s like how do you shoot X amount of pages of material in nine days and have it be interesting and have it be nuanced. And so that’s why it was important to have the writer’s room, like we just discussed. And also have directors that had a variety of different experiences and a lot of credits in order to make sure that we could meet the goal of making each episode on time and on budget.
Is there a good chance, maybe possibly for a second season? Would you like to return for that one?
Hey, I hope so. I always laugh, because some networks they renew the show in the opening credits of the pilot. And I don’t know how Hulu’s going to do it, but I do hope that we’re able to come back and explore the world of Jax Stewart and her family even further.
What was the most fun thing for you in making this series?
Oh wow. What was the most fun thing? I’m going to take you behind the scenes, and as producing director, one of the things that we did for each episode was a crew member of the episode gift, and the entire crew had the opportunity to vote on it. And it was really awesome to watch people get rewarded by their peers and recognized by their peers. So I can think of the first person that won, we were coming off of an episode that had a lot of… It was a flashback episode and a period piece as well. And so the amount of furniture that this woman Red had to move was, it was just crazy. And it was really awesome to see the entire crew be like, “Oh, it’s Red, it’s Red, it’s Red,” as all the tallies came in. And it built a nice morale I think, amongst the crew. Because at the end of the day, your show is only going to be as good as the people who are involved with it and excited about seeing it through for a hundred days of shooting.
Would you like to maybe possibly work on Marvel or Star Wars at some point in the future?
Oh yeah. Oh, okay. Oh yeah, that one I can answer, yeah.
You can watch “Reasonable Doubt” now on Hulu and on Disney+ in a number of countries around the world right now.
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.