LOS ANGELES — Three years for any television series is considered a decent run. For one like Showtime’s “Soul Food,” it’s a miracle.
The lifespan of dramatic shows with predominantly black casts, such as “Under One Roof” with James Earl Jones in 1995 and the medical series “City of Angels” in 2000, usually is measured in months.
“Soul Food” has the advantage of a cable home that doesn’t require the broadcast networks’ mass audience, but its survival remains impressive. Series creator and executive producer Felicia D. Henderson suggests she’s learned from the past.
Her approach? Be serious, but also funny (“I think that’s important in any show”). Portray black life accurately but relate universal stories. And don’t try to write the book on being a minority in America.
“You have a lot of pressure to try to show everything, to cover the entire black experience and all that we go through,” she said in an interview from Toronto, where the series is filmed.
That doesn’t make for good drama, or realism. Neither does focusing too intently on race, Henderson said.
Being black is “not all we are, all the time. ... Like I get up every day saying ’Oh, what should I do as a black woman today’? That’s not anyone’s life.”
“Soul Food,” based on the 1997 movie of the same name, is about the closely intertwined lives of three attractive sisters in Chicago. Henderson, with five sisters herself, knows the terrain.