“When I met with them I said, ‘I love the movie, but it’s not something I’m interested in if I can’t do it with women of color,'” Oliver said at the Tribeca TV Festival in New York City Thursday night. “I can honestly say we went into it with me saying what my parameters were up front, and they agreed to it.”
Oliver’s “First Wives Club” is inspired by the 1996 revenge comedy of the same name that featured Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler. Her version stars Ryan Michelle Bathe, Michelle Buteau and Jill Scott. The project was originally set up at Paramount Network, moved to BET in late 2018 and then announced to be part of the launch slate for BET’s new streaming platform, which hits Sept. 19.
The ability to tell a variety of women of color’s stories in “First Wives Club” was a powerful experience that impacted Oliver, as well as Scott, who plays a woman scorned by a cheating husband.
“I remember Day 1 of shooting the pilot she came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for having two big girls in your cast,'” said Oliver. “I think for me that [conversation] was probably more than race. It was just, ‘Let’s expand what the definition of beauty is and what we traditionally have with friend circles. And let’s not make all skinny women. Let’s really diversify what everyone looks like.’ … That was important to me.”
Knowing that her creative choices may still be considered unique in Hollywood, Oliver went on, “And that’s not something that you necessarily get unless someone behind the scenes is fighting for it. Because normally I’m having to tell people this will resonate with women. We want to see women who look like this.”