When Matthew A. Cherry was making Young Love, his new 12-episode Max animated series, he envisioned it as a show that the entire family could watch together.
“Our aim was co-viewing,” Cherry tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Similar to shows like Black-ish and Fresh Prince of Bel Air and all those classic kind of sitcoms, that’s what we were aiming for, we wanted it to feel like a live-action show and kind of a familiar sitcom, but we also wanted it to be something that kids can enjoy, too.”
But it wasn’t easy giving it the show a TV-for-the-whole-family feel while telling the millennial story the creator felt was missing from the screen.
Young Love gives an “honest, heartfelt, and comedic glimpse” at the lives of Black millennial parents in America. The animated series follows Stephen Love, voiced by Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi and Angela Young, voiced by Issa Rae, and their 6-year-old daughter, Zuri.
But in his show, the main characters are 26 years old and don’t have life all figured out as they parent.
“It was hard because we ended up doing something that hasn’t been done a lot in animation. In terms of when you think of animated sitcoms and family-based series, you never really see a millennial family at the forefront,” he explains. “Typically, they’re a boomer or baby boomer, like generational parents, like The Simpsons, like Family Guy, like Bob’s Burgers, so they’re established in their career and not really trying to achieve a dream.”
What viewers can expect from Young Love
In the series, Angela, who is in remission from cancer, struggles to balance work as a stylist while being a mother. Meanwhile, Stephen is trying to live out his dreams as a musician. Zuri, played by Brooke Monroe Conaway, is a fearless child with long hair.
Cherry expanded the story of Young Love from Hair Love, his Oscar-winning short, which shows Stephen attempting to style daughter Zuri’s hair for the first time.
Cherry sees Young Love as an extension that explores the lives of Stephen and Angela during her recovery.
“I just hope that [audiences] really enjoy just the family multi-generational comedy that we tried to put together,” Cherry explains. “It’s very grounded, totally, it’s a little different.”
Cherry, who has been a fan of Kid Cudi’s music and a friend to Issa Rae for years, he’s proud he had a chance to work with the two stars.
“[Scott] was one of the first rappers to be really real talking about mental health and just some of the real things that was going on in his life and he just felt like he had a vulnerability that Steven required,” Cherry said.
When it comes to casting Angela, Cherry said he’s been friends with Issa Rae since Awkward Black Girl, the YouTube series she created that eventually turned into the HBO hit Insecure.
“I just really feel like that show [Awkward Black Girl] really represented the vibe, that millennial vibe that we were going for and that it was messy. Like, it’s not always going to be perfect and wrapped up with a nice perfect bow,” he explained. “When you’re in your 20s, you’re trying to figure it out….so we just really wanted to lean into that [for the show] and Issa was perfect, she has such a unique voice.”
Cherry says while his two stars were ideal fits, “they never worked in the same room together, nor did they meet in real life yet.”
“We did this during the pandemic,” Cherry added, “So, some people were at the studios, some people were in the bedroom or in the closet, we were just trying to figure it out. And, thankfully, it all sounds like they were in the same room.”
Rae and Mescudi aren’t the only big names to record their voices. The star-studded cast also includes Loretta Devine, Harry Lennix, Tamar Braxton and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
How playing in the NFL has affected Cherry as a filmmaker
Originally from Chicago, Cherry played in the NFL as a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens before making the leap to Los Angeles become a filmmaker.
He created Hair Love in 2020, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Animated Short. To make it, he raised more than $280,000 on Kickstarter, nearly quadrupling his original goal of $75,000. The short was adapted into a picture book of the same title, selling 1.5 million copies worldwide.
He said his football days have helped him with the “teamwork” aspect of filmmaking.
“Being a receiver, they’re looked at as divas sometimes because they want the ball,” he explained. “But in filmmaking, you’re more like a coach … you got to make sure that this vision is getting across.”
Young Love is available to stream Sept. 21 on Max.
Carol Dennis is an entertainment aficionado with an eye for all things pop culture. She dives into the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, from movie premieres to music festivals. Carol’s passion for storytelling extends beyond her reporting, as she’s an aspiring screenwriter in her free time.