Coby Bell on how he plays “The Game”
by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud
Black Entertainment Television has been delighting audiences for more than 30 years, ever since it was launched in 1980 by founder Robert Johnson. In recent years, the cable titan has further distinguished itself with a well-received slate of original programming, but few shows have made as large an impact as “The Game,” which the network wisely picked up after its original home, The CW, decided to effectively abandon black-oriented programming. The seriocomedy series, a spinoff of the wildly popular “Girlfriends,” follows the lives of a group of professional football players and the women who love them. Coby Bell recently spoke to Las Vegas Black Image about the series’ latest season, what’s in store for his character and the truth behind a rumored big-screen adaptation.
Tell us about your character, Jason.
Throughout the show … Jason is known for being a butt head — but somehow you still like him. He is an extremely rich person, but extremely cheap. He is also difficult to get along with, as it relates to his ex-wife, Kelly, played by Brittany Daniel. He is kind of a hardhead who ends up getting a divorce from Kelly, and played the field last season. This season he hooks up with Chardonnay, played by (pop star) Brandy. Brandy did an excellent job on the show, and she ends up getting together with my character.
Did your character marry Brandy’s character?
(Laughs) Yes, in the first episode they accidentally get married. They got drunk and got married in Mexico. Now, viewers just have to tune in and wait to see what happens.
Where are you from?
I am from Orange County in Southern California — born and raised. I went to college at San Jose State, and got the acting and singing bug. My first big acting job was on “Third Watch” after college. The show ran for six years, and I was in New York. It was a cop show, and when I was done with “Third Watch,” I wanted to do comedy. The creator of “The Game,” Mara Brock Akil, understood my sense of humor and cast me in the show.
Why do you think “The Game” is such a success?
I think the producers and writers do a great job keeping the viewing audience laughing. Also, it is the dramatic relationship element that sucks people into continually watching the show. People really want to find out what’s going on with the characters’ love lives. The show represents the whole spectrum of African-American life. It shows that the African-American community is not just one thing. We are very diverse, because each individual is different.
How did it come to be that Jason and Kelly got a divorce? Was there any backlash from viewers because of the interracial marriage?
No, the divorce had nothing to do with the interracial marriage. Nothing like that — everyone loves Kelly’s character. I think the divorce came along with the relationship drama that happens in all relationships. Jason and Kelly still maintained a good friendship even after the divorce. There was always the question, “Are they going to get back together?” Or, “When are they going to get back together?” This season there was supposed to be a love triangle situation on the show with Jason, Chardonnay and Kelly, but Brittany … couldn’t do the show this season. But she is said to (be returning) to the show next season, and we will see if that story line plays out.
Has the show ever focused on interracial relationships?
The show has never dwelled on it. It was always what it was — two people in love, who were together. For whatever reason, it really is a common thing among professional athletes. You see a lot of interracial marriages in the sports world. I kind of like the fact that the show’s writers never dwelled on it, like, “he’s black, she’s white.” There was none of that. I really could relate, because my mom is white and my dad is black. Growing up it was never a big deal for me. It could be for others.
Are there any memorable moments with you and Brandy on the show that you can share?
It is great fun working with Brandy, and we laughed nonstop from the first day working together. Brandy is a singer, and every day on the set we would sing together, making up crazy songs. I remember one memorable moment when in the show, (when the script called) for her to playfully pop Jason in the head. She really got into that role, and carried on all day popping me in the head — even when the cameras were off. She got a lot of joy from that.
Has the show ever dealt with the issues of black brothers choosing not to go along with the stereotype of being a professional athlete, and selecting a different career path?
I don’t know about dealing with the issue directly, but the character Malik (played by Hosea Chanchez) might fall into that category. So many people think that becoming a professional athlete or rapper is a way out of their situation. That says a lot about the country, and how far we really have to go. It also says a lot about the opportunities that are presented to African-Americans.
What are the characters in the show doing with their wealth?
Some of the characters are making investments with their money and some aren’t. My character, Jason, is like a money wizard and making all kinds of investments all over the place. Then you take a character in the show like Malik, who lost his money buying all kinds of cars and living that life.
Do the other networks keep track of the show’s success, and have they tried to approach BET about buying the show?
No, I don’t think so. BET deserves so much credit — because once they got the rights to the show, they knew how to market it. The whole marketing campaign was amazing, and they made sure everybody knew about the show. It was the show to watch, and the ratings went through the roof.
Are there any plans to take “The Game” to the big screen like they did “Sex and the City”?
There is talk of that. I brought up the idea myself to producers, because I think people would go to see it.
Do you have a family?
Yes, I am married and I have four children. When I am taping the show, I fly home to Miami every weekend.
What are your plans for the future?I try not to plan too far ahead and just see where the path leads. But, yeah, it is actually cool right now, because I am close to being in a position where I can develop my own projects. Everything is in an infancy stage, but one is a feature film and two are television shows. Nevertheless, I will wait until “The Game” and “Burn Notice” (airing on USA Network; where he plays Jesse Porter) are over.