GOOD JUDYS: How A Writer, An Actress and a Director Came Together To Create A Series

Updated March 8

Our quest to bring awareness to the projects of talented African American and LGBTQ+ content creators take us to Harlem, the black mecca of talent. Recently, PrideIndex had a lively telephone conversation with Marcus London Hall (Creator, Writer, Executive Producer), Giovonnie Samuels (Executive Producer), and Giorgio “Gio” Johnson (Public Relations, Social Media Manager, Director), the Powerhouse team behind the upcoming series “Good Judys.” 

“Good Judys” is a hilarious new TV show that chronicles the journey of two best friends, Marcus and Amir, as they navigate their lives as African-American gay men in Harlem, New York. These two are inseparable, and their friendship is filled with laughter, love, and much mischief.  

The series also follows Erin, their boss and longtime friend, and Jordan, who is new to the group and the youngest. ​Marcus, the main character, recently finished law school but needs help to jumpstart his career. He resorts to using new talent to serve an underserved niche market and ends up in questionable situations that could be considered illegal. 

​Here’s what the multi-talented team shared about their successful backgrounds, what it took to bring this project to fruition, and how important it is to have more projects like “Good Judys.” 

PrideIndex: Today, I am speaking with the creative power team behind the series “Good Judys.” Let’s do a quick round-robin so you all can introduce yourselves and explain your role in the series. Let’s begin with the director.

Gio Johnson (GJ): Hello. My name is Gio Johnson, and I’m the Director of “Good Judys.” 

Giovonnie Samuels (GS): Hi. I’m Giovonnie Samuels, an Executive Producer, and Actor in “Good Judys.”

Marcus London Hall (MLH): Hello. My name is Marcus London Hall. I am the Writer and Creator of “Good Judys.” and an Actor in the cast.

Marcus London Hall Creator, Writer, Exec. Producer

PI: My first question is for Marcus. Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to create this series.

MLH: I have been involved in the arts since childhood. I grew up in the church and had many opportunities to exercise my artistic side. I used to write Easter and Christmas plays, perform in a choir, and perform music in the church. Writing stories and things of that nature have long been my thing. I was inspired by the television show “Noah’s Arc.” I wanted to create a show that was more current and grittier. Something more along the lines of “Insecure.” “Good Judys” is set in New York in the Harlem neighborhood. I became inspired to write the show during the pandemic. I set out to write the entire first season and a couple of second-season episodes. Once I completed the scripts that summer, I hung out with Gio Johnson. He saw and began reading my scripts. He read episode to episode, and by the fourth episode, he looked at me and said, “Bro, why aren’t we making these?” I said, “What do you mean?” We then sent a script to our Executive Producer, Giovonnie Samuels, and she loved what she read and wanted to be a part of the project, and things just took off from there. 

Giovonnie Samuels Executive Producer

PI: Let’s go to Giovonnie Samuels. Tell me more about yourself and your role in this project.

GS: I am an actress and have been acting for over 25 years. I started as a child star with my role on “All That” on Nickelodeon and continued with more film and television roles. I met Marcus through Gio. Gio and I are business partners. He presented the script to me, and I was absolutely interested because the project was hilarious and awesome. It was definitely a story that needed to be told. I gladly agreed to be a part of it. I wanted to be an Executive Producer to get it out there in the best way possible using my name and platform.

PI: Tossing to Gio Johnson. At what point did you know this project had to be done? What made you pick up the phone to call Giovonnie Samuels and say, “Let’s do it”?

GJ: It all stemmed from a spontaneous trip to New York. I was supposed to stay with my cousin, but due to a series of unfortunate events we can discuss later [laughter from the group], I ended up staying with Marcus that entire week. He let me read over the scripts. I read a few episodes within an hour and immediately called Giovonnie, saying, “Yo, I really want you to check out this script.” She said, “Well, what are we doing with it?” Two weeks later, we set up a meeting and began putting a team together. We did a crowdfunding campaign the following month, and a month later, we started shooting the series in New York. 

GS: The entire process moved quickly after we read the script. We did a month and a half of planning and got to the point where we had already begun the casting process and pulling favors. 

MLH: It was a miracle the speed at which we could cast all the roles and get a good professional crew on board who had experience, knew what they were doing, and believed in the project. Everything just fell right into place like dominoes.

PI: Marcus, how many episodes are there? I heard you say you had finished writing at least two episodes for season two.

MLH: We have only completed the pilot episode at this time. We’re trying to gain traction and notoriety to get picked up by a network and tell the rest of the story. So far, we have been crowdfunding, and I have taken out some personal loans to continue funding the project. This project has been costly to put out there; it costs a lot of money. In order to film more episodes, we need to be picked up by HBO or Netflix to tell the rest of the story. That is our goal at this point. We’re trying to get the series picked up.

PI: Have you considered presenting the web series episode to the film festivals? I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Black Alphabet, an African American LGBTQ film festival here in Chicago. There are also several other LGBTQ and African American film festivals. 

MLH: We have entered “Good Judys” into fifty film festivals worldwide this year. We’ve submitted to the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and are still waiting to hear from them. That festival is on our radar and very important to us because Issa Rae has been named Creative Director for the 2024 season and will be working closely with ABFF co-founders Jeff and Nicole Friday in personally curating and programming their festival lineup this year. We hope to be a part of this season and win in one of the categories. Even if we’re not chosen for the festival, Issa Rae has at least gotten a chance to see it. We have received confirmation that we’ve been selected for two categories (Best TV, Reality Shows, & Web Series and Best LGBT Short Film) in the International Black and Diversity Film Festival (IBDFF) in Toronto in May. They will let us know closer to the event date whether we’ve won in either of our selected categories. We have received eleven accolades, including five notable honorable mentions (LGBT Film, Best Original Story, Web and New Media, Web/TV Series, and Television/Pilot Program or Series) from film festivals. We won a total of four categories which include (Television, Pilot Program or Series, Best TV Series, and Debut Filmmaker for Director Gio Johnson). We’ve also been accepted as an official selection in three other festivals. We anticipate winning more awards and honorable mentions because we believe in our story. We’ve put some hard work into making “Good Judys” as funny and relatable as we could.

PI: You mentioned Issa Rae, and I thought of “Adventures of an Awkward Black Girl,” the first web series that garnered her the attention of Shonda Rhimes and later HBO. A few years later, she was the Creator, Executive Producer, Writer, and Star of “Insecure” for five successful seasons. Have you considered completing the remaining scripts as a web series, and if you were then picked up by HBO or another premium service, you could do a similar thing with “Good Judys?”

MLH: We hope that the incomparable Giovonnie Samuels’s attachment and experience in the industry will lend credibility to the project. Giovonnie was modest just now when she spoke about herself and her career, but she has an extensive resume. She’s involved in some cult classics like “Bring It On All or Nothing” and “Freedom Writers.” 

Many people know what she’s capable of and know that she’s funny. She’s known for comedy and has made many guest appearances on television. Along with the project speaking for itself, her television and film experience and connections will draw more eyes and ears to our project. That is why we’re leaning more toward TV and streaming services instead of just streaming as a web series on YouTube or on a website. If we stream online, we must continue paying for a service and production out of our pockets. We don’t believe in making people work for free, so we want everybody on our project to be paid because this is their craft. This is a real job. We think our project is good enough to be on a cable or streaming service. Our project is just as good or better than some projects that do get picked up. We have a fair chance.

PI: Earlier in our conversation, Gio shared an inside joke regarding a series of unfortunate events that led to him staying with Marcus and reading the scripts for “Good Judys.” He said, “We can discuss that at a later time.” Well, it’s now later, and I wonder if we can expect to see that funny series of unfortunate events making its way into a “Good Judys” episode.

GJ: It would be a hilarious storyline for a character. It was spontaneous, it was real life. It is something that I could see making it into the show. I think Marcus did a great job with the script and having art imitate life. The characters he’s created, the universe he has built in the story he’s telling, are very real to people you might see in your life every single day, the people around you, your friends, your family. This show is very reflective of real life. Anything that happens to any of us, including my spontaneous trip to New York, could become a storyline. Marcus has done a great job of writing a very comedic story without being too far-fetched. It doesn’t feel like fantasy or something out of this world. It feels like everyday people going through everyday experiences and the humor we find in life. 

PI: Marcus, since you wrote the scripts for the show, how do you decide what’s really funny and that you would be willing to share from your own life versus “Oh, I don’t want to go there?”

MLH: Well, the key is to just go there. That’s the point when telling a joke. The structure of a joke is the surprise at the end, the punch line. There’s that, and then there’s the reality that not everything that happens in real life can be translated and recreated on screen. We can always try it and see if it works. Much of it is just trial and error. When it comes to writing jokes, I write based on something that happened to me in real life. The question is whether it will give the same chuckle or have the same impact when we perform it as it did when it originally happened? The goal is to recreate that lightning-in-the-bottle effect. 

They don’t want it to go too far-fetched or over the top. You just want a natural punch line. That’s where the laughs come from.

GS: There’s nothing better than life imitating art or art imitating life. In this case, which is where we get a lot of our material from, you can make anything funny. It’s all in how you write it and the way that Marcus tells the story. It does have a comedic lens, but it is very grounded in reality and has a lot of heart.

PI: Marcus, give me a timeline in terms of the length of time it took from when “Good Judys” was an idea in your head to write the script, pulling a team together, crowdfunding, casting, and then filming the pilot episode. 

MLH: I began writing in April 2021 and finished the first season around December 2021. Gio saw and read the script in January 2022. We pulled in Giovonnie and started developing our team by February 2022. We started fundraising and crowdfunding efforts throughout March 2022 and began filming by April 2022. We did some pickups throughout April and additional scenes in August 2022. 

In 2023, one of my fraternity brothers, Edwin Ulysses Rivera, came on as Editor and Executive Producer. He is a professional editor who has worked for Netflix, NBC, and many others. We had to wait for his schedule to clear because I knew that he was excellent at comedic editing. Editing was completed by February 2023. 

Then, the writer and actor strikes happened in May and July 2023, and we needed help to do something further with the project. The strikes ended in September and November 2023, respectively. We had a few more kinks with color and sound that needed to be figured out. As of January 2024, we just started shopping it and putting it out to film festivals all over the world. Ultimately, it took about two years.

GS: Even that [two years] is still extremely fast. With most projects, some people will sit on writing a project for years. Some people don’t get the opportunity or have the means to shoot a project that fast. We were ahead of the curve when it came to completing this project. This was that fast.

MLH: Well, it helped us a lot that Giovonnie has a considerable following on social media. She has 349,000 alone on TikTok. I have a following of 31,000 on TikTok. Gio Johnson, the Director, currently has 52,000 followers on TikTok. We all go live, ask our followers to donate, and tell them what we are trying to do. Again, Madam Giovonnie Samuels gives credibility to the project. People are giving from their hearts left and right to see this project come to fruition. In a single live session, we accumulated a little more than $5,000 to help get this project off the ground. We could pay our camera guy, lighting person, for the food we had to have on set and the cast’s wardrobe. It was an all-hands-on-deck, as everyone put in the same effort and work to get the series funded. I am really proud of us and our efforts. 

GS: This has truly been a labor of love. We all believe in this project. As Marcus said, I am modest, but if I’m going to use my name or put it on something, I want to make sure that it’s worth it. And this project definitely could carry the weight of my name.

PI: How can our readers follow the project, contribute to it, or support it? What can we do?

MLH: They can go to our website, www.goodjudystv.com, and contribute to the project. There are certain expenses that still need to be taken care of. We’re doing promo and creating trailers. We need to create a sizzle reel. These promotional projects are things that are needed as we campaign to get the TV show picked up. They are more than welcome to use any of the donation platforms posted there. We are not currently sharing the pilot episode with the public. We’re only showing it to the press and film festivals now. If they want to see the pilot, they can visit the awards page on our website and follow links to the most recent and upcoming film festivals where the pilot will be shown, and they can attend one of those film festivals in their area.

PI: Have those links already been posted on your website?

MLH: Yes. That was something that Giovonnie requested that we add.

PI: These are the last questions. I want to do this as a round-robin, starting with Giovonnie, Marcus, and Gio.

Okay, Giovonnie, what else would you like to share about this project or anything for that matter?

GS: This project is needed. This particular voice needs to be shared and highlighted. There is nothing like it on television or anywhere else in the media. Why not? Unfortunately, many African American shows were canceled after the strike. We’re in an excellent position to put ourselves on the map and fill that void. This story needs to be shared.

Giorgio “Gio” Johnson PR, Social Media Mgr, Director

PI: Gio, what is your take? What more would you like to share about this project or yourself?

GJ: I was born and raised on Chicago’s south side. I am also an actor and have had roles in various stage plays, films, and TV shows, among which I have appeared in a few Chicago-based series. I have appeared in Chicago Fire and Blackboard Jungle, for which I was also a staff writer, 61st Street, and was Detective Marcus Rankin in season 2 of the Power spin-off series, Power Book IV: Force

Regarding Good Judys,” there’s so much I can say about it. First of all, shout out to the entire cast and crew. We had some of the most amazing people come on to this project, from the cast to the crew to our background players and all the people in between who donated spaces, time, and money. Also, shout out to the owner of the coffee shop that we used and Melba’s Restaurant. 

These people were so gracious and saw the vision of what we were all trying to create. We mentioned Issa Rae earlier, but we used her example of networking out. We should have immediately tried and gone for the big names and companies. We use the resources of the talented people around us who are trying to make it just like we are. The beautiful thing about this project is that when you have something good and you have faith in it, other people who are good at what they do will come on and believe in it. That’s what happened. That’s one of my favorite things about this project, and I love what it represents. It represents us as a people; it represents. 

Black people, and then it represents people in the LGBTQ community. Many times, as Black people as a whole, we are seen as in the characterization of the sidekick, the best friend, or there has to be some stigma attached to us. There’s always some downtrodden thing that happens. We rarely get an uplifting, funny show like this. It’s fun. It’s real life. It’s those rare gems, like the Cosby Show and black●ish and a couple of other things. It’s rare that we get something just about us for us, and it doesn’t have the usual traumas and tropes. It’s fun, and it’s celebrating who we are.

PI: And Marcus, is there anything you would like to add?

MLH: Yes. I definitely want to shout out the cast and crew of “Good Judys.” Shout out to Mr. Ellis, who donated his coffee shop and allowed us to take over for two days without complaints or issues about us being there. He accommodated us with everything we wanted and needed. Also, shout out to celebrity Chef Melba Wilson, who donated her restaurant, Melba’s, in Harlem, which is world famous. She said something to me when I came to her to ask if I could use the space. She breathed life into the project with her words of encouragement. She donated her space for the project because she also believed in it. Shout out to them. 

This project is a love story of the little black boy I was as a kid; you grow up and want to be famous, cool, and well-known. But you realize at some point that the people around you, the family that you’ve created for yourself, love you, and you love them, and you are growing together. This is now your family. In “Good Judys,” you see how the characters begin to stick up and look out for one another over time. I want to let everyone know what I think about the project and that it is really a love story of that little boy.

I’m humbled to have such great partners like Giovonnie Samuels and Gio Johnson to help breathe life into this project. Together, we made this project the funniest thing we could. Together, we’ve also kept it relatable, down-to-earth, and tangible. I also give a shout-out to my team. Thank you, team. Another shout-out I’d like to give is that we should have mentioned my cousin Jamai Fisher, our Production Manager. She is the best. She has been the backbone of this entire project. She just knew how to keep everything running on time. She knew how and when to schedule everyone so there were no lapses. She is the GOAT, and she helped us out a lot. 

Good Judys” will screen at The Black Alphabet Film Festival in Chicago this October. The times and dates will be released at a later date.

For more information visit goodjudystv.com