Creator Jim Reynolds (“The Big Bang Theory”) originally envisioned the upcoming CBS show, inspired by his family’s experience moving into a historically black neighborhood in Pasadena, as told through the perspective of his small-screen alter ego. Cedric’s arrival as star and executive producer called for a different approach.
Right off the bat, Cedric told Reynolds that he had a strong point of view, and the showrunner welcomed the input. “He gave us the benefit of having an authentic African-American point of view,” Reynolds says.
Now the show operates more as a two hander, the showrunner says.
Cedric plays Calvin Butler, a curmudgeon who casts a baleful eye on the friendly overtures of newcomers Dave Johnson (Max Greenfield) and wife Gemma (Beth Behrs). Calvin is wary that his new Midwestern neighbors will bring gentrification to his L.A. neighborhood and change its distinctive character.
“He’s evolved, but not quite,” Cedric explains. “It’s a show about family and community.”
The show debuts Oct. 1 at 8 p.m., with Tichina Arnold playing Calvin’s more welcoming wife, Tina. Sheaun McKinney (“Vice Principals”) plays elder son Malcolm, Marcel Spears as younger son Marty and Hank Greenspan is Dave and Gemma son’s Grover.
Reynolds knows first-hand how wary residents can be of newcomers from different backgrounds. “The way to make it funny or at least interesting is to give everyone a leg to stand on,” he says.
The show’s pilot was reshot when Greenfield and Behrs, both hit-comedy vets, replaced the original actors portraying the newcomers; sitcom vet James Burrows directed both versions.
“Max and Cedric had chemistry right out of the gate,” Reynolds says.
The comedian will also return for the second season of “The Last O.G.,” the TBS comedy starring Tracy Morgan, and does stand-up dates for “The Comedy Get Down” tour in between occasional film roles such as “First Reformed.”
Before joining “The Neighborhood,” he had been developing his own CBS projects. Previously he starred on “The Soul Man” for TV Land, headlined “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” on Fox and co-starred on “The Steve Harvey Show” from 1996 to 2002. He also appeared on Broadway in a revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo,” and memorably played Eddie in “Barbershop” and its two sequels.
“The Neighborhood” goes back into production in early August with a 13-episode order. “We’re looking forward to getting the back nine,” Cedric says. “We’re formulating stories now.”
During their work on the pilot, star and showrunner have developed dialog and trust. “We came out of our meetings and we didn’t always agree creatively, but we always liked each other,” Reynolds says. “Cedric and my relationship is kind of a metaphor for the show,” Reynolds says. “He been instrumental to it.”