“Superior Donuts” star Jermaine Fowler wrote the episode of the CBS sitcom airing this week, with the comedian telling Variety that his desire to write the episode was born out of a simple feeling: frustration.
In the episode, Fowler’s character Franco is upset by Fawz (Maz Jobrani) and his willingness to exploit Black History Month to make a buck. So Franco invites Wheels Langdon (Bill Cobbs), a former Negro League baseball player, to the donut shop to share his unsung story.
“I was passionate about it,” Fowler said. “I wrote it out of frustration. I grew up watching people and companies commercialize Black History Month. I watched old McDonald’s commercials and they’d blacken up the commercials for 28 days then go back to normal in March. It got annoying to me… I also grew up around a lot of black folks who were bitter and cynical, to the point they couldn’t really appreciate the milestones we’d accomplished. It’s not their fault, they’d just been disenfranchised to the point that they just didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. It happens. I wanted to write an episode where I got to voice those frustrations in a comedic way. I’m glad I got to write this episode. It means a lot to me.”
“The main thing I wanted to express is that not every black person thinks the same,” he continued. “We’re all different, just as people. One thing we all agree on most of the time is the struggle of course, but how we get there and how we deal with it, that’s all different. So this episode is kind of like that to me. I wanted to write an older black character who — something got taken away from him at a very young age and he stopped giving a f–k. And Franco, who’s this young black millennial, he still gives a f–k. He’s expecting something from this older guy. He thought he’d be one thing and it turns out he’s something else. That fault is actually my character’s. He wanted something from this guy and so he didn’t open his heart and mind to accept him… So because of that, he shuts this guy off. And that’s one of the problems we have in this country. Just because someone has a different opinion than you, a different upbringing than you, a different perspective than you, people shut them out without trying to see where they’re coming from.”
Fowler, who in addition to starring in and executive producing “Superior Donuts” also performs stand up comedy, said he would like to try his hand at directing an episode of the series now that he has a writing credit under his belt.
“There are certain angles we haven’t really explored with this show yet,” he said. “There are certain intricacies that we haven’t explored with certain characters. I just know if I were to direct an episode it would be different. It’d be weird, but it’d be fun, and hilarious and it would go pretty deep. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed working with all the directors who have been on the show, like Betsy Thomas and Jimmy Burrows, Phill Lewis, and Victor Gonzalez. I’ve learned so much just watching them work that I think I’d love to try my hand at it. I just know the show so well and how far it can go.”
“Superior Donuts” is unique among CBS’ programming. The network is frequently criticized for its lack of diversity, with Fowler being the first black lead on a CBS sitcom in a decade. But Fowler and the show frequently tackle serious topics like race, police violence, and gentrification in comedic ways. He hopes that will inspire the next generation to not simply accept the status quo.
“Hopefully, young kids of color who are used to watching CBS’ current broadcasting, are going to watch ‘Superior Donuts’ and aspire to disrupt what society has projected as normal. CBS garners a predominately older white audience and by having a show like ‘Superior Donuts’ on their weekly programming it distorts what people are used to seeing in a positive way. It’s a show I think was necessary.”
The Fowler-penned episode of “Superior Donuts” airs Feb. 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.