Kenya Barris & Nia Long Interview: You People

Kenya Barris’ directorial debut, You People, explores modern-day obstacles in a romantic comedy. In You People, Ezra is searching for love and a way for his podcast to take off but has nearly given up hope. However, a chance meeting with Amari changes everything, and the young couple quickly falls in love. After becoming engaged, a new set of problems arises when Ezra and Amari realize they need to introduce their parents.

Ezra and Amira must contend with not only disapproving parents but also different cultures, religions, races, societal expectations, and generational perceptions in You People. The new Netflix romantic comedy is co-written by director Bariss and Jonah Hill, who also stars in it. You People also boasts a stellar cast in Lauren London, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Duchovny, and more.


Related: Netflix: Every Movie & TV Show Releasing In January 2023

Screen Rant spoke with Barris and star Nia Long about their new movie, You People. Barris explains how he and Jonah Hill became collaborators on this project and what Hill brought to the role of Ezra. Long and Barris also discussed the complicated dinner scene, and Long shared how proud she is of Lauren London.

Kenya Barris & Nia Long On You People

You People Eddie Murphy and Nia Long sit on a bench

Screen Rant: First of all, amazing job on this film. Kenya, I related to this movie so much. I grew up in Ladera Heights, so all of our touchstones were right there in this film, like Simply Wholesome.

Kenya Barris: Simply Wholesome.

Nia Long: Simply Wholesome, we took my mom there.

I absolutely caught it.

Kenya Barris: Oh, wow.

Nia Long: It’s so good.

This story feels so relevant, especially today, with newer generations having a different mentality than their parents. Why do you think approaching such a serious real-world topic through comedy works and how did this collaboration with Jonah Hill come about?

Kenya Barris: Collaboration with Jonah came because we are both from LA. I love Mid90s, and I’ve been a fan of Jonah forever. You know what I’m saying? We started talking and texting. We sat down for what should have been a 30-minute talk, it turned into a three-hour talk. And we were like, “Let’s do a love letter to LA culture and basically more, a love letter to love. Let’s do something like that, and kind of show the differences and similarities between the cultures.””

That was something that was really important to us, and I feel like we wanted to have the conversations that are difficult to have. I think comedy is the best way to do that.

Speaking of which, there’s that scene at the dinner table. Real things are talked about, but it’s done through comedy. Nia, can you talk to me a little bit about that scene? how much of that was on the page, and how much of that was in the moment?

Nia Long: I think most of it was in the moment, but also on the page. Meaning that we were able to improv and react to things that you just can’t put on the page. And when you get a group of actors like that together, there’s a certain rhythm of a scene and once everyone knows their note, you trust. Then it becomes this musical dance until… Well, I don’t want to give away what happens at the dinner.

Kenya Barris: You saw it. I think that the notion of that, that was really one of the things that I really enjoyed about that, one, dinner scenes are hard. I worked on Soul Food and just shooting dinner scenes every week was crazy there, because you have to cover…

Nia Long: I hated when we had to do those scenes.

Kenya Barris: The coverage of them was crazy. But having people talk over each other, which I am a huge fan, but it also requires a certain amount of choreography, I think is the key to a big dinner scene, and they did it. We had the best group of people to do it and that for me, was the scene I learned the most from. It also was the scene I think that almost is a centerpiece of the movie.

The rhythm and timing of that scene were just so excellently executed. Kenya, this film has so many great actors in it, but at the center of the story are Lauren London and Jonah Hill’s characters, Amira and Ezra. They’re brilliant in their roles, by the way. What did they bring to their roles that wasn’t necessarily on the page?

Kenya Barris: Authenticity. I think that Jonah represents a LA Jewish Jew in a way that you haven’t really seen before. And Lauren is LA royalty from the hood. You know what I’m saying? And I think that if I ever saw TMZ and Jonah was dating Zazie Beetz, I’d be like, “That’s interesting.” But if I saw TMZ and Jonah was dating Lauren London, I’d be like, “What?” And I think that that’s what made the movie what it was, is the idea that these two people seemed to be so disparate and not together, but when they come together, love and the things that they share are what really kind of conquers all.

Nia Long: And I just love seeing Lauren grow up. I’ve known Lauren since she started, and to see her develop into this really beautiful, beautifully complex and deep woman and not change, but actually lean into her feminist ways and her beliefs, and her strength is for me, I was like, “Oh my God, you’re still my little baby, but you’re a woman now.” And I would sit and watch her and go, it was almost like she was my real daughter. I really just have a lot of respect for her. She’s been through a lot, and it’s wonderful to see her back on-screen doing what she loves. And for me, I’m just really super proud of her.

Kenya Barris: Aw, that’s really sweet.

Nia Long: No, I really love her.

About You People

Jonah Hill and Lauren London in You People
Jonah Hill and Lauren London in You People

All Ezra wants is to find love and for his podcast to take off when a chance meeting with Amira seems to be the answer to his dreams. Ezra and Amira are swept up in a whirlwind romance that leads to an engagement, but with this happy news comes the complication of introducing the soon-to-be in-laws. When cultures, religions, and generations clash, Ezra and Amira’s love is tested.

Check out our other You People interviews here:

Next: Netflix’s #BlackAF: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kenya Barris

You People is in select theaters now and will premiere on Netflix on January 27.

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