Jamey Giddens talks, Ambitions, his amazing journey and so much more. Check it out here--->>
We had the opportunity to talk to one of our "OWN", Jamey Giddens!
Okay. I'm going to need you all to give me the chance to express myself just a bit. I was so excited about this interview. After years of hearing his voice, laughing at his jokes and humorous dialogue and "amening" his slant on daytime; I was going to speak ear to ear with Jamey Giddens. It is not every day you get to boast to people that you know someone who writes for a show on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network/for Oprah. Yes, it's "Twitter Know" but that does count, doesn't it? Well, it counts for me. LOL. So, I am and have been going with it. We are so happy for Jamey and happy that we have been able to witness his rise firsthand. It is such an inspiration for all of us who are still pushing and pursuing our own dreams. We discussed Jamey's beginnings, his love affair with soaps, his writing style and of course Ambitions.
Jamey grew up in the small town of De Kalb, Texas in east Texas. He was raised by his maternal grandparents. Jamey's unapologetic love for the soap genre began like many of ours did (mine did). He was introduced to the soap world by watching them with his grandparents. "It is no surprise to people on soap Twitter that older black people love their soap operas." They sure do.
Jamey's unapologetic love of the genre was clear early on. "Before I knew it, by my early teens, I was watching every soap opera on the dial." We all know the names. His love of the genre surpassed the daytime line-up. "Along with daytime, I watched quite a bit of the nighttime ones, the whole eighties generation like Dallas, Knots Landing and Falcon Crest as well as in the nineties Melrose Place and 90210." Daytime, nighttime, anytime was always the right time for soaps in Jamey's eyes. You know it.
Jamey's love for the soap genre extended beyond the medium of television to novels. He loved the "big splashy soapish novels." Some of his favorite authors include; Jackie Collins, Sidney Sheldon and Terry McMillan. It would be the combination of his love for the TV and novel serial soap that would take root so much so that Jamey knew at a young age he wanted to be a writer. But his strong love of both also made it difficult for him to choose which path to undertake. "I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I couldn't decide between a novelist and TV writer. Even in high school, I was writing for the school newspaper. But I was also writing my own stories."
Jamey might not have been sure of what type of writer he wanted to be. But he was sure he wasn't interested in pursuing the "starving artist route." The wheels of his mind started turning. "I started thinking of what kind of job could I do that would still allow me to do what I love and gain experience as a writer while I'm working toward my ultimate goals. I double majored in print and broadcast journalism because my thought was well, I can always be a newspaper reporter as I'm working on scripts or novels."
Jamey did just that. He worked as a newspaper reporter for a few years after college. Then he worked for the federal government working in public affairs for the Army. After that, he was employed by the Center for Disease Control working for their publications. At the CDC, Jamey started as an editorial assistant and worked himself up to overseeing communications and social media for the CDC's leading publication. While at the CDC, Jamey was also doing Daytime Confidential, the very popular news website focusing on American daytime talk shows and soap operas (most of the soap world was introduced to Jamey at DC). In his spare time, he was blogging, podcasting, interviewing the top stars in daytime and covering daytime related events and award shows making a name for himself in the daytime genre.
His work, name and reputation would open the door for him to work with Victoria Rowell and co-write season one of her soap opera spoof, The Rich and The Ruthless. It earned Jamey his first IMDb writing credit. Next Jamey's friend, Yolanda Lawrence, who was writing for Riverdale at the time, reached out to Jamey and informed him that film producer, Will Packer, was interested in doing a soap opera in Atlanta. Yolanda facilitated a meeting between Jamey and Will. "I met Will. We hit it off. He told me what he was looking for in terms of wanting to do a big splashy soap show in Atlanta dealing with politics, glitz and glamour. He gave me a vision and basically let me run with it."
For the next year, Jamey created and developed his bible for the show now known as Ambitions. The show was originally developed for daytime. But as we all know, unfortunately sometimes the financials in daytime can be difficult to make sense. So within a year of development, Will informed Jamey he would need to retool the project for prime time. They pitched the show to the Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network loved it and just happened to be looking for a guilty pleasure show. Now all of us fans of Jamey knows what he said next, "There's nothing guilty about pleasure." Jamey retooled the show. He trimmed thirty characters (mostly family members of the four core families of the show). "I had to "kill" my darlings and leave them on the cutting room floor when we retooled it for prime time."
I, like many of Daytime Confidential listeners, would often listen in wonder when Jamey would start one of his legendary "if I wrote so and so" monologues. Jamey would just spin off storyline after storyline, idea after idea. You could only sit, listen and be blown away. It was great stuff. Therefore, we (well me I wanted to know) asked Jamey if this "freestyle" was his actual writing style or was his writing style more regimented when he was writing for the show. "That's truly how I write. You know I give that up to the creator. Although, there is a lot you can be taught as a writer and I have learned so much about the actual nuts and bolts of television storytelling. So, I'll say it's a combination of what God put in me and what I've learned, read and watched."
Jamey attributes that gift to God. But as with every God-given gift, it is our responsibility to cultivate our gifts. Jamey, who probably was too young to fully realize what he was doing, cultivated his. "I've always had this knack for 'Oh so Marlena just got possessed by the devil, so what if?' It started back in my childhood. When the soaps would go off, I'd walk around in my backyard and fantasize how I would continue the stories. Then I'd go grab notebooks and filled the pages with them." Amazing.
In life even with the most solid of a foundation. And even as we fertilize and cultivate our gifts, there are always new things to learn. A part of Jamey's learning process while working on Ambitions, caused his style of filling notebooks to meet a somewhat similar fate as those trimmed thirty characters. You could say as he worked on Ambitions his writing style was a bit retooled also. "Yes. I can go fill a notebook with sixty pages. But I had to learn how to curtail that because with television you have forty minutes and five acts to tell a story. You don't want to overwhelm the audience with too much exposition. So, I have had to ask myself, what are the most compelling elements of these acts? What's going to make the best act breaks? Those are the things that I have had to learn this past year."
What a year it has been. We wanted to know how that moment felt after all the hard work, praying and dreaming when Jamey knew he had arrived. Jamey described it as surreal and told us the past year has pretty much been a whirlwind. It's been a challenge to take the time to soak it all in. After signing his name on the dotted line, there was hardly time to "smoke a cigar or pat yourself on the back. It was more of like, 'Congratulations you sold the show. Now the writers' rooms are opening in a few weeks.' We hit the ground running."
They sure did. Jamey flew to L.A. for a meeting then back to Atlanta, where the writer's room was open and ready for them. Two months later they were in production where they were from last August until they wrapped up in late April. After they wrapped up, there was a couple of weeks of post-production. From there it was marketing and promotion. Yet regardless of the whirlwind, Jamey recognizes when your dream is actualized, "You really do have to stop and say this is something I wanted all my life and it really is here. You have to savor it." Yes, sir. You do.
We are counting down the days until June 18th. It feels like forever that we have been waiting. LOL. We asked Jamey to tell us every single detail he could about Ambitions. For brevity's sake, we had to concise it. But we made sure we kept in the best of the best. Here is Jamey telling you about, his baby, Ambitions.
"It is a love letter to soap fans. It is a juicy throwback to the eighties and nineties era of soaps but with a very contemporary bent. This is a story of several powerful women and not all of them are powerful in regards to money or station. But they are all powerful in their own right. It is really about how they go about achieving their respective ambitions. We have Stephanie Carlisle Lancaster who is a brilliant attorney and the First Lady of Atlanta. She's played by Robin Givens. Stephanie was born into a legal family. Her father Stephen Carlisle played by Steven Williams is the head of the Carlisle Perkins Law Firm, which was started by Stephanie's grandfather Samuel Perkins. Stephanie has wanted nothing her entire life but to be seen by her father as his heiress apparent. Her father doesn't think she has what it takes. Whether it's sexist or whether he's just making her jump through hoops. She has to fight to be seen for the brilliant capable attorney that she is. So, we come into the show with Stephanie being determined to make her father live up to his promises that he's been making. He's been stringing her along and dangling the firm over her head. She's sick of that. She's more than proven herself and every time she gets to the finish line, he moves it. Stephanie decides to start scheming and starts taking want she wants. That will cause quite a bit of conflict between her and her father. At the same time Stephanie is dealing with her father, two blasts from her past reenter her life; her former best friend and sorority sister, Amara Hughes, played by Essence Atkins and Amara's husband, Titus, played by Kendrick Cross. Amara and Titus went to college with Stephanie. And Titus and Stephanie were college sweethearts until they broke up and he ended up with her best friend. Twenty-five years later Stephanie hasn't quite gotten over this betrayal. So when the Hughes move to Atlanta for a fresh start it pulls the band-aid right off that wound that has yet to heal for Stephanie. As life would have it, this triangle becomes interconnected to the personal and professional front. Amara is a federal prosecutor with the U. S. attorney's office which is now investigating the Mayor of Atlanta, Stephanie's husband, (Evan played by Brian White) on charges of corruption. Meanwhile, Titus has gone to work for Purifoy Pharmaceuticals. He's their new Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel which pits him against Stephanie because Stephanie's law firm, Carlisle Perkins is suing Purifoy Pharmaceuticals for their role in exacerbating the opioid epidemic."
Chile. Chile. Chile. We are so ready! Jamey did tell us more. But you all will find out the rest and much more with us on the 18th of June. We will fast forward to another pressing question we had. Soap fans can grow a bit tired of the vanilla love scenes and the all too often "fade to black". We asked how risque was the show because that promo is smoking hot. "We push the envelope right off the table. Let's just say the Standards and Practices people at OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network definitely earned their checks." Yes! Yes! And Oh Yes!
What's a guilty pleasure show without some good snacks? Gladiators viewed Scandal with wine and popcorn. We told Jamey we needed a trademark snack to partake in with Ambitions. Listen to his recommendation. "You can have a nice peach pie a la mode with lots and lots of whip cream. And the whip cream can be for the pie or for your significant other." Yes fam, that's what the man said. Chile. Chile. Chile. And the man said, "Our characters definitely exercise their libidos. There's also a steamy same-sex storyline that is going to hopefully be something new for people."
It was really an honor to talk to Mr. Giddens. We will tell you what we told him. We congratulated him again and told him he has encouraged so many of us. We can look to Jamey and say if it happened for him (living his dream), it can happen for me.
We don't think we have to say this but we will say it anyway. Aside from the fact that Ambitions will undoubtedly be the hit show of the season; Jamey is one of us and a part of our family. And he has arrived. Let's not just watch the show. Let's spread the word. Tell all your family and friends. Hold Ambitions parties. We know we are going to have some fire Twitter parties. Let's go all out. One of our "OWN" is doing the darn thing. We must support!
Tune in for the series premiere on Tuesday, June 18th at 10:00 PM on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
Thanks so much, Jamey for taking the time to speak to us! It meant so much!
We will close with Jamey's words, "One of the things that I love about my partner, mentor, boss and good friend, Will Packer, is, that he said from the very beginning; 'I want to be unapologetic about this. I want to embrace what makes a soap a soap. I don't want to shy away from it.'...This is that kind of show. And we want black women to see themselves in it and to be celebrated with it.....It's a dream come true for thirty plus years of fandom to be applied to my own show."
I AM KP Smith