13
May
2013

[INTERVIEW] The Makings of Reality TV: TV Executive Carlos King Opens Up About The Intricacies of Non-Scripted TV

Written by thejasminebrand in Blog

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I’ll admit, there are moments when there’s nothing more interesting than taking in reality tv magic. Whether it’s watching an all out brawl amongst two opinionated Love & Hip Hop Atlanta (LHHATL) cast members, or one of the Real Housewives Of Atlanta’s break-out stars telling viewers, “I’m VERY rich,” at times sitting in front of the tube is as exciting as sitting in a movie theater. Bottom line, reality TV is BIG business. And while most of the time you’ll catch us chasing a reality tv star down for an interview, these days, our fascination lies behind the camera. The person that makes the reality TV engine tick.

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I first “discovered” Carlos King when he hopped in front of the camera (for less than 15 seconds) to break up a LHHA fight. Afterward, I did a bit of digging (and Internet stalking) and knew we had to chat with King. Obviously, he had some pretty dope experience working at places like ‘The View”, BET (and more recent spots like OWN), but he also was engaging in front of the camera. And bottom line, I had a million and one questions to ask him about the brains behind reality TV. For more than 60 minutes (thank god for editing), I asked him e’rything under the sun–like how his early career stints shaped him for the reality TV world, why reality spin-off shows (like LHHATLl) are doing better than the original show and just exactly WHAT his job is. Peep Part 1 of our conversation below. 

On who Carlos King is: 

Good question. Carlos King is a man who is all about his business. Carlos King is somebody who is fortunate enough to work in the television industry for almost 10 years. And you know I’m very passionate about my work. I’m a very passionate person when it comes to all aspects of my life – my family, my friends, everything about me is driven by passion. So that’s who I am. I’m fun, I’m loving, I’m your typical guy from the Midwest. Very respectful of people. And I just appreciate every blessing that God has blessed me with.

On what inspired him to make the move to New York: 

I had no other choice. It was either get out of Detroit or I would suffer emotionally or suffer physically. I think  anybody who has a passion for what they want to do in life, you have to really go after your dreams and if you don’t, you’re hurting yourself inside. Like anybody who’s passionate about the arts or passionate about doing what you do, and you can’t imagine doing anything else besides what you’re doing at this moment. And it’ll eat you up inside if you weren’t doing what you were doing.

So for me, I was always like ‘I need to be in New York, I need to be in television’. And the drive came from I refuse to be somebody who will look back at their lives years later and say I have so many regrets. Or [I] wonder what would’ve happened if I didn’t try and I’ve always been that guy who was like I’m just gonna try. And you know if it doesn’t work out, at least I tried. So that’s where that comes from.

On the biggest lesson that he learned from interning at a place like “The View”

What I learned from that experience was seeing all of these people get up so early in the morning to produce quality television and being passionate about their job. And me being so young and in school, I was just impressed by the professionalism and the drive these people having waking up at 4 in the morning doing rehearsals, because it’s a live show. So what people don’t know what you see, is already rehearsed.

On what he learned working at BET: 

I love BET. The reason why I am successful is because of BET. Because, again, I interned there. I got my first paid job at BET. And you’re working amongst your peers, you know African Americans–they were all young at the time, they were all so giving  and wanted to teach you things. And BET is a big company but it’s small in terms of the access.

When you’re working at BET you have to do everybody’s job. I was a PA [Production Assistant] but I interviewed Beyonce on the red carpet because we didn’t have that many people working on the show. So I learned everything within a year of working at BET, as a production assistant. I got a chance to produce what we call packages so when you watch shows like ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and you see somebody interviewing Beyonce on the red carpet, and you see her videos, and you see all these other things going on–I was responsible for something like that as a production assistant which is unheard of. So if I worked for a bigger company, I would’ve been somebody who would’ve just took notes and that’s it. So BET groomed me to be where I’m at today.

 

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On exactly what he does as a co-executive producer: 

The co- executive producer, you are responsible pretty much for the look of the show and for the story  line that you see on the show. Ranging from managing a crew of 20 people, managing your talent. So my role as my job as the executive producer was to talk to the talent, try to understand what their story is and try to make it compelling for television.

So to give an example, you talk to Mimi, and Stevie, and Joseline on a daily basis and Stevie may tell you I”m having issues with Mimi, she’s not telling me where she’s living blah blah blah.’ You tape a moment where he’s able to have that conversation and it has to make sense for the audience and it has to make sense for people who are trying to understand their story. So you tape that scene and then you try to go and follow up with a story line. So when you watch a episode and you see where he speaks to her, and then he goes and sees Joseline and then it all kinda makes sense how the story line is pretty much arched throughout the episode.

So it’s really my job as the executive producer to really try to formulate that to make it compelling for television. And then you know the boring stuff again, managing the crew, you set the look of the show.

But it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I got someone calling me expressing what’s going on in their life because that is my job to understand it. And I work on shows that aren’t scripted, I work on shows where the talent feels comfortable telling me things they don’t tell people they’ve known for years, because they understand that they can trust me with their story and I’m able to tell the story that’s truthful and effective and also compelling. So it’s a lot of work.

Besides breaking up fights. I also break up fights. And you know, I’m security too.

 

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On what he believes makes Love & Hip Hop Atlanta such popular: 

I think what makes ‘Love and Hip Hop Atlanta’ so popular, is that you have a cast of people who are so honest and they are willing to tell you the truth. They’re funny. They’re dramatic. They’re interesting. When I first met with Stevie J.,  Joseline, and Mimi – again I’m used to doing The Real Housewives of Atlanta, I’m used to doing these shows that are still dramatic, kind of buttoned up – so I never knew that in the hip hop industry  when you are a successful record producer you have tons of women coming in the studio.

And you flirt with them, and you may sleep with one of them but you have a girlfriend who’s at home and she’s just trusting that you’re making the money and the number one thing that I learned in the Atlanta Hip Hop community is the roles. When you are a hip hop artist’s girlfriend, there’s this understanding in terms of the hierarchy of position.

On discovering the roles of girlfriends and side chicks in the music industry: 

I’m not gonna reveal names but there was a lot of people we interviewed for the show and every single man had the main girl and he also had the side chick. But the interesting part to me was that the main girl knew there was a side chick. And she was like ‘I’m the one he comes home to.’ I’m the one who gets the Louie Bags, the Louboutins, the shopping sprees and she gets nothing. He may do that with her and that’s all fine and dandy. I had no clue that existed.

Which is why you saw Stevie J. in the studio with Joseline and I’m like ‘This is real.’ So I think when people watch the show it’s so unbelievable because they’re so raw when it comes to showing you their truth. And Stevie J. is showing you ‘I’m a womanizer. I cheat on my girlfriend. I still love her to the point where I provide for her, she doesn’t have to want for anything.’ And one thing that he told me that I thought was so interesting was ‘Mimi is like the first lady. She’s like Michelle Obama. And Joseline is Monica Lewinsky.’ And I was like, ‘That makes so much sense to me.’ And it’s crazy because it makes so much sense to me.

On why he considers Mimi Faust one of the most passionate women he’s ever worked with:

I think people should show Mimi the respect of being a woman who unfortunately has a man that does cheat on her. But she could have easily been like ‘Uh, Mona, Carlos I’m not – I didn’t sign up for this, I don’t want people to think I’m stupid.’ But she’s willing to go through the fire. Mimi comes from the standpoint of ‘I signed up for this’ instead of me being somebody who’s like ‘Nope!’ She’s somebody who’s going to show you this is some real stuff that I’m going through and I’m going to get ridiculed but at least I’m being authentic. And as a producer, that’s all you hope for.

Mimi is one of the most authentic, passionate women I’ve ever worked with. And it’s unfortunate that people portray her as being stupid, naive, weak. She’s none of those things. She’s very smart. And she’s not weak. She’s a woman who’s in love with a man she’s known for 15 years, and her only child – he’s the father of her daughter. So you can’t judge her. We should applaud her, girl I get it. If that’s what you wanna do,  if that’s how you handle the situation then that’s you. Keep going it cuz it’s good TV.

On why he thinks Love & Hip Hop Atlanta is more popular than Love & Hip Hop New York:

The [Atlanta] cast are way more interesting than the cast of ‘Love & Hip Hop New York.’ I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t a fan of ‘Love & Hip Hop New York’ this past season. But I was a fan of the first two seasons of ‘Love & Hip Hop New York’ because you had compelling characters who were so honest and so interesting  you had Chrissy who is this strong individual who has an opinion and she’s not afraid to express her opinion. And she loves this man who she sometimes questions. Chrissy you’re a beautiful girl, you could have anybody you want to but she loves this man.

On What’s Missing From Love and Hip Hop New York:

I felt they tried too hard to be something that they weren’t, they tried so hard to fill a role. ‘Well I’m gonna be this one. I’m gonna be like Stevie, I’m gonna be Joseline. I’m gonna be like so and so’. And I felt like they weren’t authentic to themselves. And you can’t lie to an audience. You guys, the audience, you guys are so smart because you understand when something’s fake – ‘Girl, she ain’t really do that, that’s fake. I ain’t watching her she ain’t real – no girl I ain’t watching  that.’ But when you [see] someone like Stevie J., Joseline, and Mimi and K.Michelle and all these wonderful people you’re like ‘Oh that’s real’. You’re fascinated by how real these people are.

On how he separates business and friendship with cast members: 

They all know that at the end of the day, I am your boss. I’m cool, I like to have fun, I’m social but I am your boss. So they already know if I don’t want this to be on TV I’m not going to tell Carlos. Because when they tell me something, I’m like ‘So, we’re gonna film that…’ So they already know because we have that relationship early on so I think as a producer, anybody that wants to produce reality television, it’s important that you set the tone early on that ‘I’m your boss.’ If you see me out, it’s all love but don’t tell me something you don’t want me to repeat to the network or people that work with us. Because I want to be able to film that.’

Peep Part 1

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of the interview, where Carlos confesses who his favorite reality TV star is, if he’s ever cried while filming, and working with Tyler Perry.

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