OWN’s new-series, Love Is__ is classic story of love and determination in the face of life’s struggles.  The hopeful, uplifting series is the brainchild of Hollywood power couple Salim and Mara Brock Akil, and is loosely based on the story of the evolution of their love.

In addition to Love Is__, it’s no secret that Brock Akil is the force behind many of the the best sitcoms in television such as, The Game, Girlfriends, and Being Mary Jane, that have become cult classics in the black community.  She has been a pioneer for black content, black talent, and black creators for nearly two decades, so the fact that most of the episodes of Love Is__ are helmed by black woman directors is no surprise.

The Love Is__ roster is filled with some serious black girl power, and includes women who are undeniably some of the best film and television directors of our time.

Here’s a look at some of the women behind the the first black love story on primetime television this decade, Love Is__.


Neema Barnette

Neema Barnette is the Black woman to direct a sitcom, a perfect fit for a series about a woman sitcom writer.  She has an extensive pedigree in television, dating back to the 1980’s.  Her episodic work ranges from classics such as The Cosby Show and A Different World, and she has directed classic films such as Civil Brand and Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day. Barnette was chosen by powerhouse film director Ava DuVernay to join the all female directorial team of the OWN hit series Queen Sugar and to serve as director/producer of the series during the first season, and went on to direct episodes of the Vh1 series The Breaks in addition to episodes in seasons 3 and 4 of the BET Mara Brock Akil’s Being Mary Jane.

She recently directed an episode in the latest season of the NBC series Blindspot, and an episode in season 4 of Amazon series Bosch.


Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye began her career with six short films which have been collected on DVD as The Early Works of Cheryl Dunye.  Her feature debut was The Watermelon Woman (1996).  Dunye’s second feature was the HBO produced television movie Stranger Inside, and she went on to direct My Baby’s Daddy in 2004 and The Owls in 2010.  More recently, Dunye was a member of the all female directorial team of the OWN hit series Queen Sugar.  Shortly after her work on Queen Sugar Dunye went on to direct an episode of the Freeform series The Fosters, the TNT series Claws, and is set to write and direct The Wonder of All Things for Lionsgate.


Salli Richardson-Whitfield

Salli Richardon-Whitfield is a seasoned television and film actress and director. Richardson is known for her role as Angela on the 1994 hit comedy/action film A Low Down Dirty Shame and for her role as Dr. Allison Blake on the Syfy comedy-drama series Eureka. She has a variety of acting credits, as she is also known for her role in Antwone Fisher.  Richardon-Whitfield has flexed her director muscles on multiple episodes of Queen Sugar, Underground, Scandal and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


Tanya Hamilton

Tanya Hamilton helmed the classic film Night Catches Us, starring Kerry Washington and Anthony Macki.  The film went on to win the award for Best American Film at Sundance Film Festival, and was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, four Image Awards, a Gotham Award, and a Chlotrudis Award.  In addition to Night Catches Us, Hamilton directed an episode of Split Screen, a magazine-format show featuring diversity among American independent filmmakers.   More recently, she was a member of the all female directorial team for Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar, and went on to direct an episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries and episodes of ABC’s American Crime.


Mara Brock Akil

As mentioned above, Mara Brock Akil  is the the multi-talented creator behind the new OWN series Love Is__ .  She first began her career in 1994 writing for the critically acclaimed Fox series, South Central, and went on to write for Moesha for four seasons.  She created UPN comedy series Girlfriends and its spin-off The Game.  Then she created the first drama series for BET, Being Mary Jane. In 2018, Akil produced Black Lightning for The CW, and flexed her director muscles for the very first time in the premiere episode of her own series Love Is__.



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