That Grape Juice‘s latest feature ‘Meet The Makers’ spotlights the gifted names who engineer the spectacle in all facets of entertainment. Music, TV, and beyond.
In our today’s instalment, we chat candidly with Carlos King – producer of television smashes such as ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ and ‘Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta.’
A force in the realm of Reality TV, King has upped the levels by launching his own production company (Kingdom Reign Entertainment), which has birthed the likes of ‘Hollywood Divas’ and TV One’s newest addition ’The Next 15.’
With the latter launching tonight (at 10/9c), the producer asserts that the show, which stars the likes of Tiffany ’New York’ Pollard and Claudia Jordan, will relay to viewers what really happens behind the scenes in the Reality realm.
Join us after the jump, where a King recounts his journey and provides detailed advice to those wanting to break into the TV arena. He also spills delicious tea on new seasons of ’The Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ ‘Hollywood Divas,’ and more.
That Grape Juice (Sam): Carlos, you made a real name for yourself in the TV arena. Tell us a little bit about your foray into the world of Reality TV.
Carlos King: It started when I worked a show called ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’—and that happened in 2008. I was reluctant at first because I was in New York, working at BET, doing a Special—you know, like Top 20 Countdowns, and all that stuff. Although I was obsessed with Reality shows, I didn’t know if I wanted to make that move to Atlanta.
So, long story short, I said, “You know what? Let me step out of the box and do it.” And obviously, it was the best decision I’ve made ever. I had no idea that the show was going to be such a huge success.
As many people always say, “You know when you have your passion meet your destiny”—that happened when I started working with one of the Housewives. I realized that my niche in this television business was definitely going to be Reality, and ever since then I just started to really climb the ladder in that field.
So, Reality has been really good to me, and like I said, Atlanta Housewives—doing that show was the best decision that I’ve made.
From a producer standpoint, what would you say are the three key ingredients of a great Reality television?
Carlos: #1, the cast. You need a dynamic cast who are going to be forthright and forthcoming when it comes to their story. Obviously, you need people who are funny. It doesn’t hurt if they are shady, you know?—that doesn’t hurt anybody. But, you need somebody that has a big personality and a great story.
When you’re working on an ensemble series like the Housewives, or ‘Hollywood Divas,’ you need to have people who sort of fit into one category. So, for example, there is a huge difference between a Kenya Moore and a Phaedra Parks.
Kenya, over-the-top. She’s outrageous, she’s fun. She’s super-duper shady.
You’ve got Phaedra and she’s a huge juxtaposition of stuff. Phaedra’s more soft-spoken in terms of she doesn’t really yell, but she gets her point across and when she speaks, you listen. Her assertiveness is done in a different way.
So, the biggest misconception is: everyone feels that in order to do Reality TV, to be a certain way or have a certain personality. But, we like to make sure to mix it up and have different types of personalities.
So, #1 is cast.
#2 is story because the Reality shows that I do and the Reality shows that I love to watch, you have to have the sort of the element of the story—because that’s what’s going to keep viewers glued in.
Your story has to (A) be dynamic and (B) be relatable because when audience watch TV, especially the Reality world, they want to make sure that they can relate to what you’re going through. And if they can’t relate to it, it’s at least something that they can take a lesson from.
For example, Kandi and her mom issue. Everybody didn’t have a mom like that but we all have somebody in the family that is a little Momma Joyce -like.
And #3, you need a good Producer. You need somebody who’s able to work their magic. You need somebody who’s able to really understand what to do with your story.
People really want to know, “Why should I be invested in the show? Why should I give up my night at 8pm to tune in to you and not do anything else?” So, it’s a producer’s job to really find what humanizing story this audience can relate to, that they’re going to really invest in your programming.
I think people take advantage of them. Like, I love when I get tweets and messages of people who watch my show because I don’t take for granted that. “Wow, you decided to really spend your quality time watching us doing stuff—that I spend a lot of time producing.
You know, that’s beautiful to me.
TGJ: The world “real” in Reality is often debated quite a bit. How real is Reality TV?
Carlos: Well, this is the reason why I created my new show ‘The Next 15.’ It’s a series about former Reality stars who are all trying to get back their next “15 minutes of fame.” So, obviously, these people are famous, and it’s a play on the Andy Warhol’s quote: that everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes. So, we’re playing on that—which is very interesting.
But, we’re also, Sam, showing the world what I do because I get asked this question all the time. Like, “What do you do? What does a producer do and how real is it?”
‘The Next 15,’ we call it “breaking the fourth wall.” What that means is we are lifting the veil and you’re going to see what it’s like to be Carlos King around Claudia Jordan. You’re going to see how Carlos King handles New York (Tiffany ‘New York’ Pollard). You’re going to see how some cast members quit and how it’s my job to get them back.
So, yeah, ‘The Next 15 is just that. You get to really see what I do, and finally the question will be answered.
But, to go to more depth— I only speak of the shows that I do—the shows that I do, they are real. I don’t force people to do anything. I don’t tell people to do anything. Obviously, there’s loose reality, which means if a character tells me they have this problem, then it’s our job (as a producer) to make sure that that gets resolved.
I always tell people, “I’m not Shonda Rhimes. I don’t have a script. I’m not that smart when it comes to writing a one-hour drama and trying to dig deeper into character that’s my imagination.”
It’s our job to take your reality and to make it work for the show. Which means, when you see two people having dinner together 90% of the time, the producer made these two people come together because this person either wants to meets with you and we set it up [the meet], or this person tells the producer, “This is the problem they had with you, and it’s our job to get you to stay in the room together.”
So, that’s the way it works.
TGJ: ‘The Next 15’ removes that proverbial veil of mystique. Were there any apprehensions that you might be demystifying the Reality genre?
Carlos: Yes, there were.
But I had to say to myself, “You know what? Do you…” It’s like being a Reality star, when I become a Reality star. Like, “You signed up to be on the show, you have to give me your real life and your real self.” I had to tell myself that message, like, “Carlos, you signed on this show as a producer. Then, show what you do. You can’t edit out or limit the reality.”
I really do feel that this show (‘The Next 15’) will defy all stereotypes because I do watch this show called ‘UnReal’ (that’s on Lifetime. It’s fantastic. My only problem with it is it makes us seem like producers are miserable people who are chain smokers, alcoholics—we hate our jobs; we are the devil; we will do anything for ratings.
And that’s not the case.
You really get to see the connection that talent has with the producer.
TGJ: Let’s discuss’ The Real Housewives of Atlanta.’ It’s definitely where you’ve made (at this junction anyway) your most pronounced mark.
You announced your departure last season only to return. What happened?
For me, I started my own production company called Kingdom Reign Entertainment, which birthed ‘Hollywood Divas.’ I was doing Reginae Carter’s (Lil Wayne’s daughter) ‘Sweet Sixteen’ special. I was developing shows, one of which is ‘Selling I The ATL,’ which I sold to WE tv. So, I honestly was busy trying to birth this baby and everything happened at a fast pace for me.
In order for you to do the Atlanta Housewives the way I’ve done it, that’s your life for five months. There’s no in and out. It’s like you’re there through the thick of it. It’s a tough, tough, tough, tough, tough, tough show to work on. But it’s also the most fun show to work on.
It was a tough decision for me because, obviously, I’ve done that show since 2008. The only season I did not produce was season 5 because I was doing ‘Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta’ the first season. So, that show (Atlanta Housewives), it’s like my baby. So, when I left, it was tough but I wanted to really grow the business.
The reason why I came back is because the production company who produces the show, obviously, acknowledged that “Yeah, he’s a key component.” “Hmm, you’re a key component to this show. We need to figure it out.”
So, I came back on the show not as a fulltime producer. Like I said, I’m building my own baby. So, I came back in an executive role but more overseeing. You know, because I know the show like in the back of my hand—obviously, since Day 1.
They allowed me to come back and I worked with them on my schedule. It’s funny because when I came back, I did not skip a beat. It was like, “OK, let’s go.” My return was Episode 1 of this current season — Cynthia’s eyewear party.
The show, obviously, has a lot of very big personalities. We’ve got the Nenes, we’ve got the Porshas more recently, so on and so forth. What goes into the casting process? I ask this with specific focus on how much weighting does the network have in casting the talent?
Carlos: Casting is a collaborative effort. We have more so… It’s the production company. It’s the network. We all pitch who we think works. So, it’s not one person who has final say. You look at the casting tape. And again, you really see, “Can this person mesh well with the cast?” “What is this person going to bring to the show?”
So, when you think about Porsha, obviously—she was a young girl, married to a football star. What’s interesting is that she wants to have a baby. Obviously, all those things are relatable to people, so that was an easy decision.
But yeah, it’s a collaborative effort from the production company to the networking in casting for a new cast member.
TGJ: I see.
And who is your favorite Housewife, past or present?
Carlos: I’m not going to get in trouble. I can’t answer that question, but I’ll tell you this, I will always be indebted to the… We like to call them The Originals—the season 1 (the NeNe, Kim, Sheree, Lisa Wu). We all started the same day, so there’s something… It’s hard to describe. I describe it as your first love. Like, you can get married and have kids, and all that stuff, but there’s something about your first love that you just can’t take away.
I hope that answers your question.
TGJ: Great answer!
This season is definitely delivered on the drama and it’s largely gone off on without a hitch, without NeNe. It kind of proves that people feel that with the right formula such shows can go on and go on and go on. How much mileage do you feel the Real Housewives of Atlanta still has within it?
Carlos: I don’t see that train stopping anytime soon. It’s funny, the president of the production company called it the Oprah effect, in that she was on for 25 years and her ratings were still solid.
I think the Atlanta Housewives will be on for a very long time because, listen, the show is fun. You watch it and it has its own language. It has its own personality. I don’t see this show slowing down anytime soon. I think it’s going to be one of those shows, like the ‘Real World,’ where you’re just going to constantly tune in—and I’m not saying that, obviously, the same cast members would be on it. But I think that’s the beauty of Reality world—where you get to introduce new people and add to the…
It’s like Beyonce’s career. Obviously, she’s started at 15 and now she’s what? Like 32. But as she grows, her audience grows with her.
As we grow and mature, the show will. And I think you’re constantly cast people who are relatable in what’s happening in the world. I think Porsha works so much for the show because of the way we are in the world right now. You know, this generation, they love a young girl, like a Porsha, who’s funny and shady and sexy, and owned her “queen of thotland” in a fun way.
You know, that’s the time we live in.
We evolve, the show will evolve—and always represent Black women in various stages in their lives.
TGJ: That’s awesome.
Carlos: Listen, I’ll be honest with you—and I’m being very honest. I really don’t know. The season is still taping so we don’t know just yet. I will say this, though, I would love for her to be full time. I think Sheree is fantastic. She’s good TV, and I think the fans were really happy to see that, “Wow, she’s still good, old Sheree who will cut your throat.
So, I would love for her to come back.
You know, there’s a trip coming up—our Jamaica trip that’s coming up on air and you get to see Sheree in a way that I think a lot of people will want to say, “Yeah, we want her back full time.”
So, I hope it happens.
TGJ: Will Marlo ever get a peach?
Carlos: I think that’s ship has sailed. But, I love Marlo. Listen, like I said, “It ain’t my decision, child.” I love Marlo. Marlo’s everything to me—everything. I think she’s fantastic. I really want to see Marlo full time, but you know, like I said, there’s always tricks up a producer’s sleeves. So, you just never know—Marlo may pop up on your screen…in something else.
You never know.
TGJ: NeNe’s back. In what capacity is she back? Is she back, back?
Carlos: She’s back, back.
TGJ: Is she a peach-holding Housewife?
Carlos: That, I don’t think so. I don’t think so.
TGJ: What are your thoughts on the Potomac series? Have you caught it yet?
Carlos: I did, I did. So, the same people who produced Atlanta Housewives, the production company, they also produced Potomac. They’re friends of mine, so I got to watch a sneak peek before [it aired].
The reason why I love it is because it’s so different from Atlanta. I think Atlanta has its own flavor and its own being, if you will—and Potomac definitely has their feel and social circle. I think the show is fantastic. It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s like nothing on TV. It’s not Beverly Hills, but it’s not OC, and it’s not Atlanta—which is good.
I think a lot of people thought like, “Hmmm, let me see these Black girls. Probably like Atlanta.” But they have their own flavor—and I think that was the key as to why a lot of people love the show so, so much. It trended on Twitter for hours. So, I love it.
Shifting gears, you branched out and you upped the levels in your creation, ‘Hollywood Divas,’ which followed the journey of Black actresses. We love it!
What can we expect from the upcoming third season? Who’s coming back? Who’s not?
Carlos: Oh, my gosh! There’s so much to talk about. We are going to dive into how Lisa will feel about her ex-husband, Ed Hartwell, getting engaged to Keisha Knight Pulliam, who we all know as Rudy Huxtable. You get to see that conversation happen.
Countess and Brandy have a make-up session on social media, so we’re hoping to follow that. When it comes to Golden, she has a new job (and I can’t reveal just yet, but it’s a big, big, big, big gig)—it follows a lot of their acting and, we get to see how their relationships are going to be.
And, there’s a few surprise guests this season. I think, you guys are going to be surprised who we’re mixing up with. So, you get to see some new faces in Hollywood.
TGJ: I see that you didn’t actually mention Elise’s name. Is she still involved?
Carlos: Yes, yes, yes. I didn’t say her name?
Carlos: Oh, yes, yes, yes—and you get to see some new faces.
TGJ: So, a hot topic at the moment is the “Oscar So White” movement—you know, Jada Pinkett sparring with Aunt Viv, so on and so forth. What’s your take on the race debate? You’ve anchored yourself on television and you’re very much a big part of one of the biggest Black shows on air…
Carlos: I definitely understand the gripe of the Black actor/ actress who feel that they’re underrepresented. I know what it feels like to be a person of color working in the business and not feeling like you’re getting a just due.
Although I’m not an actor, I understand the plight. I understand the struggle. I understand the misrepresentation because it’s something I go through being a Black producer. It’s something my cast of ‘Hollywood Diva’s go through, which is why I was so excited to develop that show—because I really wanted to tell a different side, a different story of a Black woman.
Social media is great for bringing attention to the issue. I am hoping it sees Hollywood casting better roles for African Americans. We can do a lot of things. We don’t have to be in ‘Ride Along’ all the time. Do you know what I mean?
Circling back to your career, what’s your favorite show that you’ve worked on?
Carlos: Ah, another good question!
Atlanta Housewives would always be my baby because, again, that’s the first Reality show that I did.
I have to say this, I love all the shows I’ve done. It’s funny because my team and I, we always debate, like, “What’s the best show we’ve?” and we always have our different answers depending on how well that season did, just to be honest with you.
But, ‘The Next 15,’ it’s so good, and the reason why it’s so good is because it’s nothing like you’ve seen on TV before. And I think the audience who watch Reality, they’re getting bored. They’re like, “OK, Carlos, what else can you give us?” You know?
I’m challenging myself even. I’m developing a lot of shows, but I have to challenge myself when I’m producing shows, too, because I know that my audience are like, “Alright, Carlos, we’re used to this formula. What else do you got?”
So, I think ‘The Next 15’ will become my favorite because it’s just different. It feels different. It looks different. It’s funny. Like, you are going to laugh. You’re going to laugh, like every moment of the show is just a comedy series. You’re going to love it.
TGJ: We can’t wait.
Here at TGJ, love music. If you could produce the Reality show of any artist of today, who would it be for, and why?
Carlos: Good question!
Well, I have to say the person that popped in my mind, so I would go with her. It would be Rihanna because I just think… Honey, I think her life is different every day. I see Rihanna wakes up and you just don’t know what you’re going to get—which is perfect for Reality.
I think she has every single component that makes up a great Reality star. She’s gorgeous. She’s fun—she’s a party animal. She speaks her mind—she has no filter. She dates a lot. You know? I just think she has a fulfilling life that is extremely interesting, dynamic, and full of twists and turns.
I do think Rihanna is probably like Joseline Hernandez. She’d make great TV.
What your advice to those that might be wanting to get into the Reality genre as either a producer, such as yourself, or actually as a star of the show as well?
Carlos: If you want to be in front of the camera, be a Reality star, there are casting bulletins are that are online, but when we’re casting for shows, we’re always casting for a certain genre of a world within the scope of some professions. So, for example, when I’m casting for ‘Selling It: In the ATL,’ I was looking for a real estate agent.
You just have to figure out or find out, rather, what production companies are looking for in terms of the show they’re developing.
And then if you get an audition, or casting interview, you have to be yourself. I know that sounds like bullsh*t but it’s not because we can easily spot when you’re trying too hard, because everybody thinks you want life, a girl who pops up. Like, “Uh-huh, I’ll beat that bitch-ass ” and I’m like, “Girl, calm down. You’re doing the most. It ain’t that serious.”
Like, we know instantly when you’re trying too hard. So, when I say “be yourself.”
In terms of being a Reality producer, interning is the way I got in to TV. I interned at The View, in 2020, in BET, and all that good stuff. I wanted to make a name for myself that way because ain’t nobody’s going to turn down an intern that they ain’t got to pay.
So, do that. That’s how you grow in to the business. You start off as a production assistant and you work your way up to the top, which was what I had to do.
Interning, working for free, is the best way to get your face and your name known in this business.
TGJ: Great advice!
Random question: the confessionals—how’s that done? That’s always kind of mystified everybody. Do the stars watch their scenes back? Are they prompted by the producer? How do the confessionals work?
Carlos: Yeah, good question.
There’s a producer that’s sitting on a chair and we ask you questions based off the scenes you filmed. So, for example, let’s say it’s a scene where Paula Jai Parker and her husband are talking about the other [Hollywood] Divas. We tape the scene, and once the scene is taped, we write questions about that scene. And then once it’s time to do the interviews in the confessionals, the producer sits in the chair, in front of the cast member, and we just actually tell them the questions. The cast member will have to remember what happened.
We kind of help guide you because a lot of times the scenes may have been taped a few weeks ago, you may forget a lot of stuff. So, we’ll say, “Hey, so and so and so said that. How did you feel?” And then, they talk to you—they answer you.
So, no, they don’t watch a playback of a scene that’s taped. We refresh their memory through the question.
TGJ: And final question. What is Carlos King’s ultimate goal?
Carlos: My ultimate goal is to really have my name on a lot of genres in the business. Reality TV will always be my bread-and-butter, I feel. I love it so much. But, I also want to get into scripted and Award shows, and things like that. I just want to be remembered and known as a guy who really took his roles seriously in entertaining the world because I, again, love when I receive feedback from the fans on social media, saying, “Carlos, good job. Great episode!” “Carlos, oh my gosh, that was horrible. You could do better.”
I love it all. I love the feedback. I love the instant gratification of that.
For me, I want to continue to grow in the business of television; tackle numerous genres of the business, movies even; and just continue to entertain the world. Again, as the world evolves, I want to evolve as a producer and always be of the time in which we are in the world; and to make sure that I create the kind of the shows that reflect that.
Carlos: Thank you! This was awesome.
‘The Next 15’ airs tonight (February 10th) at 10/9c on TV One