Wednesday, May 18, 2022

‘We’re Like Family’ – Keshia Knight Pulliam and Lance Gross on Returning to ‘House of Payne’ After 8-year Hiatus [EUR Exclusive]

*Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” is back on BET with a revival series starring the original cast, after an 8-year hiatus.

Original stars LaVan DavisCassi Davis PattonLance Gross, Demetria McKinneyChina Anne McClainLarramie “Doc” ShawKeshia Knight Pulliam, and Allen Payne have reprised their beloved characters for the comedy sitcom, which centers on a multi-generational family in Atlanta led by patriarch Curtis Payne and his wife Ella. The show ran for 254 episodes on TBS from 2006-2012. 

Returning for its seventh season, “House of Payne” picks up five years later, as the family continue to navigate the problems of life, love and marriage.  

EURweb caught up with Keshia Knight Pulliam and Lance Gross to dish about what fans can expect with this new season — check out our Q&A below. 

READ MORE: Tyler Perry Announces ‘House of Payne’ Revival on BET + New Comedy Series ‘Assisted Living’

Keshia Knight Pulliam and Lance Gross

How exciting is it to be returning to these characters and this series and working with Mr. Perry again?

Lance: Oh man. It’s a great feeling. We’re like family. I mean, we’ve been working with each other so long, so to get back on set with each other, it just feels like we’re picking up where we left off.

Keisha: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny because we know the characters so well, and so intimately after having played them for so long that we really did just jump back in. And so like Lance said, we really are like family and it was just fun. And we enjoy just having everyone back together again. 

Lance: Yeah. We definitely had to do it the right way. It was a trip just getting back on set and seeing how much China and Doc had grown. Like, they’re adults now. I remember them as kids, but it’s crazy where the time goes.

Keisha: Yeah, now we’re tackling some really different storylines and issues, but it’s all good. It’s fun.

Where does life find the Paynes when this season kicks off?

Lance: Well, it’s the same good, old fun, you know, it’s just a little bit of time has passed since our last episode. In the (premiere) episode, Malik comes home from college with a bit of news for his parents and the family. He’s gotten his girlfriend pregnant. So-

Keisha: Who happens to be a stripper.

Lance: Yeah, who happens to be a stripper. So it’s a lot of comedy in that, I’ll say.

Keisha: Absolutely.

Talk about some of the themes explored this season that you think will resonate with Black viewers.

Keisha: Well ultimately, to the core, it’s about family. It’s definitely about family and the family dynamics and how you navigate through change and circumstances. And life happens to everyone, like an unexpected pregnancy in college or what have you. So with China and Doc now being older, we get to explore different storylines through them that are age appropriate and that are really things that people are experiencing in that 20-something year old age range. 

But then you also have the old favorites like Lance and I. Our characters, Calvin and Miranda, left off with me asking for a divorce. So what’s going to happen with that? How are we going to navigate those waters? Are we going to get divorced? Are we not? We’re co-parenting, and the good thing is that because you have so many different age demographics within the show, it’s a generational comedy, that you have the ability to touch on a wide span of topics that relate to so many.

You’re both parents so you can relate to that aspect of your characters’ journey this season. How much of your own personas do you embed in Calvin and Miranda?

Lance: I think there’s a little bit of Lance in Calvin, just in the sense that, you know, he’s a good guy. He means no harm to anyone. Now I, myself, I don’t like drama. So I just try to live my life in a way that is drama free. Calvin on the other hand, he doesn’t mean to, but he gets himself into situations. And like this season where we’re dealing with the rollercoaster ride of getting a divorce or are we going to stay together? You just don’t know. And we’re co-parenting, we have kids together. Now I can relate to that because I have two wonderful kids, two very young kids. So I relate in that way.

Keisha: And I think the funny thing is when we started this journey, we’ve grown just as the characters have grown and evolved as well. Because Lance and I both didn’t have children, hadn’t been married, you know, any of that when we first started as Calvin and Miranda. And now, fast forward several years, we definitely have that to pull from. But I agree with Lance, even Miranda starting out kind of as an interesting character, the core of who she is good. And I genuinely feel like her and Calvin love each other, but just like in real life, sometimes you have these experiences and you can’t get past words that are said or actions that have occurred to find that place back to love again. But it doesn’t mean that you ever stopped loving each other, but it’s just a journey, that’s life.

With the show coming back after going on hiatus in 2012, is it important to you as performers to follow the social media conversation after each episode? Do you read blog recaps or engage with viewers online about what they think of the series?

Keisha: I don’t really do that. I think a part of this business, you have to make a decision for what is going to keep your peace and sanity. Because everyone is going to have an opinion and some will be amazing, some won’t be. But I feel like ultimately as long as when I approach the role, I’m doing it from a space of honesty and authenticity and doing my best job in that moment, that’s all I can do. Yeah, people will post on my page or what have you, but seeking it for me just isn’t the best. It’s just not what I do for any role.

Lance: Yeah. See, and I’m trying to get better with it, but I look at it as… I read a lot of it and I take the positive from it because there are so many people that just love this show. It resonates with them, it hits home for them. And it’s been long awaited. Like I don’t care how many jobs we do that’s outside of Tyler Perry’s umbrella, everybody always asks about House of Payne. Just because there were so many stories that were rich and that resonated with them. So, I look at the positive and all that and we’re back -and people are glad that we’re back. 

You’re also back at a very timely moment, as we’re living in stressful, uncertain times. This series is what folks need right now, laughter in the age of COVID.

Keisha: Absolutely. One thing I do have to say is we did shoot this pre-COVID. COVID hit literally right after we finished filming these episodes. So it’s not addressed in the season, but it’s true. Like everyone has been home and I feel like the resurgence of family is so important. I feel COVID has kind of forced everyone to re-shift their priorities and their focus a little bit. And people do want to just watch something the whole family can sit down, can enjoy, can have this moment where they kind of escape to this world of the Paynes and they can laugh with us. They can cry with us. They can see themselves in us. And it’s an important part of mental health in these times, of having that moment of just enjoying and laughing genuinely. So we hope that our desire is to continue to bring that to households.

Catch new episodes of Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” every Wednesday 8/7c on BET.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.




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