Cheyney alum bring HBCUs back to television with ‘We’re Just Talking’
Cedric Perry (aka Ceddy P) is a brilliant, charismatic writer, actor, and filmmaker with a witty knack for connecting with his audience. Perry, 26 graduated from Cheyney University with a degree in Business Administration in 2008. He is a native of Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Morrisville is located northeast of Philadelphia and just across the bridge from where he currently lives in Trenton, New Jersey. Perry, who has a deep passion for television and film, credits his love of film to legendary filmmakers Spike Lee, Robert Townsend, John Hughes and Tyler Perry.
Perry’s latest project draws inspiration directly from the unique experiences he obtained while attending an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). He grew up watching sitcoms such as Martin, Living Single, A Different World and the Cosby Show. Perry feels these types of sitcoms can still be successful in this era of television, even though they are not currently on the air. “While I understand, these programs are not part of today’s TV culture, there is an audience for these type of sitcoms. Everyone does not want to be on the reality TV train.” For Perry, this gap provides an opportunity to fill a need and value for his intended audiences.
With opportunities abounding, this Cheyney University alum stepped into a new arena with his new web sitcom, ‘We’re Just Talking’ (WJT). The show provides an entertaining, yet insightful, look at modern day black culture, as shown through the eyes of two college roommates from separate walks of life.
“The objective of the show is to highlight the strengths and areas of opportunity for the African-American community,” says Perry. ‘I learned so much as a young man at Cheyney: dealing with people from different backgrounds, how to identify and obtain your career goals, and the importance of relationships…these are all things our generation should know about.”
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[toggle title=”HBCU Lifestyle: What made you decide to attend an HBCU?“]
Perry: In my senior year in high school, I looked at a number of schools. The three universities I was most interested in attending were Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon University and Howard University. I was accepted at all three schools, however I was faced with financial challenges if I attended any of these schools. During this time I also received a letter in the mail from Cheyney University. The letter informed me that the school was the oldest Historically Black College in the Nation, and I was being considered for their prestigious Keystone scholarship. This is a merit based, full-ride scholarship. This immediately perked my interest. From there, I decided to find out more about the school. I got a chance to visit the campus and learn more about its history, and discovered the university was a great fit for me. Looking back, this was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I don’t regret one minute of my experience.
[toggle title=”HL: How has your HBCU experience helped you as an entrepreneur?“]
Perry: During my junior year in 2007, I became close friends with some like-minded students that were as intellectual, creative and driven. We formed a group called “Y.M.e?”, which stood for young men of empowerment. On weekends, many of my classmates would take trips to “Philly.” It is in close proximity to the school. Our group and a few others would stay on the campus, leveraging this time to pursue our interests in photography. What started out as a hobby eventually developed into a business (Y.M.e? Photography). From there we branched out into creating short comedy films and posted them on YouTube. Over time, the short films extended to longer films, and some recently became shows.
During my senior year in 2008, we produced our first web television show. The goal of the show was to entertain various audiences, while providing insight and logic on how to excel in life events. On the show we would discuss a range of topics (i.e. ways to keep a good relationship). Then we would break each topic down by selecting six major points about the subject. We aptly named the show ‘Pick 6’. Originally the show was a one-man production. However, the popularity of Pick 6 resulted in taping the shows in front of a live audience with musical accompaniment from Chris “Bandman” Carter, who transitioned into a sidekick for Perry. Afterwards, the format of the show began to resemble a late night show. I then realized that, even though the show was doing well and had a strong premise, we still wanted to branch out more and reach more people. This would provide more entertainment value in addition to the conscious insights of the talk show.
This was around the time I came up with an idea for a sitcom and wrote a script called ‘Undergrad.’ The premise of the show centered around the Black College experience. The concept drew a lot of combined inspiration from the early 90’s sitcom ‘A Different World’ and late 90’s sitcom The Wayans Brothers. Unfortunately, we decided to shelf the project because we didn’t have enough time to get the project off the ground, with everyone on the team preparing to graduate. After graduation we continued to work on the Pick 6 shows for a total of 2 years, before I decided to revisit the Undergrad script. In 2009 I asked members of my alumni friend circle Y.M.e?, including head writer Raymond Bracy and show consultant Devyn Swain to join me on the project. We revised the script and decided to rename the show ‘We’re Just Talking.’ The title has a double meaning. The first is the term used to describe when two people are hanging out together, but not in a committed relationship. For example: “We’re not dating, we’re just talking.” The second and deeper meaning is about how many of us in the African-Americans community deal with our problems. Often times we do a lot of talking about the issues and challenges we face, but often do not take the necessary steps for action.
[toggle title=”HL: When did you launch your latest project and what’s the next step?”]
Perry: In July of 2011, we started our casting call for We’re Just Talking. First, we reached out to Cheyney University Alumni and later held auditions for local actors in Westchester, Pennsylvania where the sitcom was filmed. We also auditioned actors who were referred to us from trusted friends, in order to narrow out the final cast. We’re Just Talking (WJT) highlights various personalities and relationships among African-Americans in an interesting manner. Whether through outlandish quips from trendy nerd Derrick Combs (played by Kyle Morris), or the cat-mouse relationship of suburban product Andre Hawkins and campus “fashionista” Melyssa King (Stefan Matthews and Courtney Nicole Dean, respectively), the show truly captivates its audience. More importantly, the show has a cause. WJT is a call to action for African-Americans to support their own products, disdain negativity, and succeed despite difficult odds. Right now, our primary focus is promoting the show. We want to create a buzz and start reaching out to agents in pursuit of a television deal. The biggest goal is to have the show air on a major network. We appreciate our web experience and the benefits of it, but at the end of the day television is the most effective way to reach the masses. So for now we are working the “circuit” and promoting our show in order to gain as much exposure as possible. From there we hope to build a following and create enough buzz to approach the networks.[/toggle]
It is truly moving to see Cedric, a guy who majored in Business Administration pursue his passion for writing and filmmaking. In doing so, he has successfully applied his business acumen along with his HBCU experience to his film projects. Creating a beautiful marriage between his left-brain analytical skills, and his right-brain creativity.
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