Lights. Camera. Action.
Dedicated. Committed. Hustler. Unstoppable.
What do these words have in common?
They sum up the life of Mykell Barlow, the Atlantian turned Hollywooder. Mykell is an actor, writer, and producer from Atlanta, Georgia. Currently living in Los Angeles, he is the writer/creator of the series 202.
We caught up with Mykell, who shares how his determination led him to turn his dreams into reality.
What was your inspiration behind creating 202 and what are your goals for the show?
I just wanted to make something. I have been writing for a few years but hadn’t been able to bring anything into production so I decided to write something more contained and character driven.
I wanted to make something that captured what we go through trying to build a career in the arts. I think all too often the reality of this life is overshadowed by the glamor that is often portrayed in the media and social media. 202 is filled with real-life experiences my friends and I have witnessed or lived through trying to “make it” in our respective industries. Addictions, unplanned pregnancies, romantic encounters and their fallout, industry rejection, feelings of loneliness and hopelessness . . . these experiences can be found in the stories of even your most well-known celebrities.
You produced 202 with $200. Care to share your secret on how you were able to do this?
Our preproduction was spent figuring out what resources we had available to us and what things we could do without. Our talented actors working for free was a huge help. I was shocked because with their amazing talent, these actors should be getting paid big money. We pooled our resources and bought most of our props from thrift stores. If you want to make something happen, you will figure out a way, which is exactly what we did. I’m proud of the end result.
What has been your most challenging obstacle with the show?
With everyone being so busy with other projects and life in general, scheduling was a nightmare sometimes. There were times when I was convinced we were never going to finish the season. Everyone’s schedules just weren’t lining up. But we did it.
What has been your proudest moment?
I think the proudest moment for me was completing the 10-episode season. To see something go from a concept in your brain to a complete season story arc is a phenomenal feeling. It will always remind me that I am a capable writer.
A Great Adventure Productions is your production company, through which you are producing two pilots over the next few months. Can you tell us about these?
A Great Adventure Productions is the company I started with Justin Patten, the director of 202. We have quite a few productions coming down the line. One of the pilots we are producing we actually wrote together, a comedy in the style of The Office. The other pilot was actually brought to us by another writing team so I can’t discuss too much about it. We also have another web series I am creating called Skids coming next summer. It follows a group of homeless runaways living together in a secluded transient camp. So be on the lookout for that. We will return in the fall with season 2 of 202!
You’re originally from Atlanta, but moved to Los Angeles to further pursue your dreams. Since Atlanta is deemed Black Hollywood and has so many production opportunities, do you ever regret moving to L.A. or ever have thoughts of returning?
I absolutely do not regret moving to Los Angeles. I love it here and the opportunities I have obtained over the past five years have been life-changing. Plus the weather is amazing. With all of the productions in Atlanta, I would definitely go there for work. My family is in Atlanta, so when I am working there I stay with them but LA is my home base.
If you could choose a home for 202, where would it be? Netflix, Amazon, cable, or stay with the Internet?
Netflix has been hitting so many home runs with television series lately. I would love for 202 to be on Netflix. Their marketing is impeccable and the synergy of their lineups is so obvious. The success of one of their shows leads to the success of many of the others. Yeah, get 202 in on that.
Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) is also a performer, artist, producer, and writer like yourself. Do you see him as an inspiration?
It is incredible what Donald Glover has been able to accomplish with music, writing, and acting. I would love to have such a rounded career. To be able to bring all your passions together, that’s the dream. I’m also inspired by the likes of Lee Daniels, Shonda Rhimes, and Tyler Perry, who have built successful companies on the foundation of their talent while creating opportunities for others to do the same. I am all about that.
What motivates you to continue to push forward?
I was born to create so I don’t really have any other choice but to keep going. I legitimately can’t do anything else. When I feel stuck or like a failure, I create something. That causes me to see the point of it all. The story, or song, or script is where I feel like my potential is most realized. 202 was written during a time when I felt quite unaccomplished and I just needed to make something. Something beautiful can be found in those moments of doubt.
How do you use social media to your advantage?
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. When I would see it as a chore or something I must do as an entrepreneur, I was miserable. My thinking has changed and now I see it as an opportunity to share my life and passion with whoever wants to know. Social media allows you to have some control over the essence of your brand and I love that. People can look at my Instagram and get a genuine look at who I am as a person. This gets people excited for you when you begin to accomplish your dreams. They feel like they are a part of the story.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start an online show?
Just do it! Stop waiting for the right time or till you have enough money. Just create something. If you want to be seen as a writer you have to be writing. If you want to be seen as an actor you must being acting. If you want to be seen as a creator/producer then CREATE something. Don’t wait for opportunity to fall in your lap. Make your own way.
the VIRGO GIRL FIVE THINGS TO ASK:
What would you tell your 21-year-old self?
Don’t be afraid of what makes you different. Embrace who you are and run hard after your dreams.
I start my day with . . .
My morning Spotify playlist, a smoothie, and Instagram
If you could invite any woman to dinner, who would it be?
Taraji P. Henson. I think she is so authentic. It’s captivating. Michelle Obama can come too.
Best advice you have received?
Jane Lynch gave me the best career advice when I first moved to Los Angeles. She said say yes to EVERYTHING but porn. Words I still live by.
Life motto you live by?
I want everything I create to give humanity to the marginalized and demonized of our society.