‘Zoe Ever After’s’ Brandy Norwood on Feeling at Home on Sitcoms

Brandy Norwood’s new BET sitcom “Zoe Ever After” offers the modern take on a female role model: A newly single mom, lead character Zoe Moon is trying to be a good parent and start her life over as the head of a makeup company after she divorces (and steps out of the shadows of) her more famous husband, boxer Gemini Moon (Dorian Missick).

Norwood calls the project, which she co-exec producers, her “baby.” With executive producers Debra Martin Chase, Danny Rose, Scooter Braun, executive producer/writer Erica Montolfo-Bura and co-exec producer Elaine Aronson, “Zoe” has long been in development as its star continued her music and acting careers (she was a regular on Mara Brock Akil’s “The Game”). Ahead of its premiere at 10 p.m. on Jan. 5, Norwood talked to Variety about returning to comedies, casting diversity, co-parenting and the idea of starting your life over.

Why did you decide to do a multi-camera sitcom?

For me, it’s home for me. I did an episode of [TV Land’s] “The Soul Man” and the energy there just felt so at home and I missed that response and that immediate feeling to do a sitcom like that. I love the one-camera. It looks great, but I wanted to do multi-camera again like [my UPN sitcom] “Moesha.” That’s how it felt. I wanted to feel what that was like again. To do it with this role, this story line, this particular writer and this producer, it just felt very fresh to me.

The subject matter and the idea of starting your life over is very topical.

That was a part of the reason why I loved “Zoe” so much and I could relate. I’m a single mom and co-parenting is important for me, for my own life. I’m just discovering myself as an artist and so is Zoe as she’s discovering her own cosmetics line. It’s never giving up and stepping out of the shadow of her ex-husband. He’s a boxer, he’s a champion and everything had to be about him.

She gave up that life and said listen, I need to find myself. You see a grown woman become a grown woman. You see her just clumsy and funny and making mistakes. Zoe is every woman.

How do you feel about the comparisons people are going to make between your character and female entrepreneurs like fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons?

I don’t really pay attention to comparisons. I just do me. Of course, you want to be relatable and you want people to see themselves in your character. You want people to be able to connect. But at the end of the day, we’re all here for a unique purpose and a unique path. You can’t look to what everybody else is doing. People might compare “Zoe” to “Moesha.”

She’s also not perfect and makes mistakes as a parent and as a business owner.

I like that about her too. She’s every woman and relatable. She is finding herself and in finding yourself, you make tons of mistakes. And she’s making these mistakes at her age because she’s never made them before in this way. She’s never experienced being on her own. She dropped out of school to be with her ex-husband and support him and be that perfect athlete wife who kept the family together. All the while, she had this dream inside of her. It’s beautiful to see in 30 minutes every week to see her find herself.

The show comes at a time when there’s a call for more diversity in casting. Most of your show’s cast is African-American.

I think for us, it was just about who fit the role and what the chemistry was like. It was more about the spiritual connection than anything else. Everybody felt like themselves in their roles … We are the people who are supposed to play the roles. It’s about the connection to the work and the chemistry between us all.

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