On Thanksgiving Day we’re looking forward to three things. Spending time with family, stuffing our face with macaroni and cheese, candied yams and pumpkin pie (yes, you read that right), and binge watching She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix.
To get ready for the latter, this morning on Good Day New York we caught an insightful interview with Tonya Lewis Lee, wife of Spike Lee and executive producer of the Netflix series. For the 10-episode spinoff of Lee’s 1986 indie film of the same name, Lewis Lee set the pace and held her hubby to a tight production schedule of 64 days.
“He’s a pro,” she beamed.
Lewis Lee said the Netflix series is “a reimagining” of the protagonist Nola Darling character, played by stunning newcomer DeWanda Wise, set in modern day, gentrified Brooklyn.
“Nola is hot. She’s something else,” the 51-year-old said. “She’s almost trying to create the perfect mate by putting these people together. But what’s so great about Nola today is it’s not [just] about that. She’s an artist. And she’s really trying to figure it out for herself. Yes, she’s a sexual being, but that doesn’t rule her life. She’s about trying to figure out how to put her mark on the world and what that means for her.”
“Thirty years ago, the idea of a young woman having multiple lovers was ‘Oh my God, what kind of woman does such a thing?’ Today, that’s what we all do.”
She clarified, “Well, not me. I’m married. But that’s what the children do.”
The lawyer turned producer and writer spilled the tea about working with her notoriously outspoken husband.
“This is his baby. And he’s such an amazing director and producer. So on one hand you let him do his thing. But then on the other hand, you have to let him know what you really think. Sometimes you have to say, are you sure that’s what you really want to be doing? Spike doesn’t really like push back. So he will let me have it and we will go at it. But he does listen and can ultimately be reasoned with.”
What happens when the couple gets home, Good Day New York co-anchor Lori Stokes asked?
“Well, we fight it out and then make it up. And it’s really good when you get on the other side and we can look at what we created and see the battles we went through were worth it,” Lewis Lee said. “But that’s how you make great art. You have to have a little tension and the push and pull to get to the good work.”
She added: “I am so fortunate to sit side saddle to someone for 25 years with someone who works so hard, has such a vision and believes in his work. I’ve learned a tremendous amount and I’m really grateful. It helps me in everything I do.”
The mother of two’s next project is Monster, adapted from the acclaimed Walter Dean Myers young adult novel about a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Lewis Lee calls it “a labor of love.”
Under her production company with partner Nikki Silver, ToniKProdctions, Lewis Lee has been working on the film for more than ten years. Monster was shot in summer 2016 and will be making film festival rounds in search of a film deal.
The film was also shot in Brooklyn and the cast includes Jeffrey Wright, Nas, A$AP Rocky and Jennifer Hudson. Monster marks the feature directorial debut of Rihanna collaborator Anthony Mandler and was co-produced by John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Company. Legend contributed an original song.