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Sunday, December 29, 2013

All About Nikki Easter Eggs

The Concept for All About Nikki came up around Sunday Dinner around 2006 or 2007 after I had finished The Temptation of John Haynes and had just started writing All About Marilyn. My brother was looking in a high-end catalog like Brooks Brothers and then a Paul Fredrick catalog where he scoffed at the quality of the product. I knocked my voice up for a racist valley girl character centering around the joke: “Rumsfeld, what would I use this for….Why We use these for waxing the Rolls.  The joke got lots of laughs.

Other jokes I did in the Nikki voice were “Dad…I don’t have to work. That’s what we have Mexicans for.” This joke, while offensive got even more laughs.

Along with…”That’s a poor people store.”

The more jokes I did as the rich spoiled rotten obnoxious Beverly Hills girl got more and more laughs. So I decided to create a character around them.

At about the same time I was writing the screenplay All About Marilyn. And for that script I inserted several of the All About Nikki vignettes to show how the evil Nikki character she played contrasted Marilyn’s real life and who she really was. Yes, Nikki is a villain. But underneath the surface of this bad girl is a girl next door.  There’s much more than meets the eye with Nikki Desmond, and that’s what makes her fun to write.

Both the Nikki Desmond and Marilyn Marie characters are rooted from my love of superheroes and comic books. The inspiration for both characters comes from the concept of superheroes and their secret identities.

Nikki is the larger than life heroine to the world of TV viewers while Marilyn is the alter ego. While in the All About Marilyn screenplay, we see the reverse. Marilyn as the strong heroine and Nikki as is the evil alter ego. If readers read both All About Marilyn and All About Nikki they’ll see the artistic statement I’m making.

Just as Marilyn’s character shows readers how Black actresses struggle with racism in Hollywood, Nikki’s character shows them how rich Black girls struggle with racism in Beverly Hills. Again, using the Alter ego model readers see how two different Black women struggle with the exact same issues.

I originally planned to just write two episodes of All About Nikki (I Got it Maid, All About Christmas) around the gags of the vignettes in All About Marilyn. I originally planned for them to be bonus material in All About Marilyn, but cost prevented them from being added to her book.

But to my surprise All About Marilyn was a huge hit with book clubs and readers. So I decided to launch a Nikki book as a companion to Marilyn so aspiring TV writers could see how a spec (speculative) script for a TV show was developed. And to write that Spec series I decided to write 13 complete episodes so kids could see how a storyline for an entire season of a TV series like the ones they watched on Disney or Nickelodeon was written.

So in 2010, I took those two episodes and began crafting a storyline around them.  From there I established the premise of Nikki Desmond, the spoiled rotten New York socialite shipped from boarding school to boarding school who gets in trouble and is then sent to live with her father. With her father’s guidance she’s supposed to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around her and that everyone isn’t here to cater to her.

As I wrote her, the Nikki character became her own person and started speaking in her own voice and telling her own stories. And in less than a year I was able to put together the remaining eleven episodes of Nikki’s Fabulous First season.

The mission of All About Nikki TV series is to teach children the importance of doing unto others as we’d do unto them. Each episode of All About Nikki was designed to teach children about social interactions and how to behave in certain social situations, what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not acceptable. In between the laughs of each story is a lesson in etiquette and protocol.

Each episode also teaches kids that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Kids who read (or eventually watch) All About Nikki would learn that when they behave a certain way that there is a consequence for that behavior.

I designed the show with tween and teen girls in mind, the audience that watches That’s So Raven True Jackson and Victorious. The educational component of the show is designed so tween and teen girls need to learn about socially appropriate behavior and what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable to say and do in public.

All About Nikki is set in 1990’s Los Angeles. A native New Yorker from the South Bronx, I’ve never lived in Los Angeles. But I do my research so locations look and sound authentic. Many of the devices like Discmans and brick cell phones are part of life in 1990’s L.A.

The reason why Nikki is set in 1990’s Los Angeles is to make it consistent with its sister book All About Marilyn. All the details between both screenplay books flow seamlessly into the other. However, for a Real Nikki TV show If I had to, I would adapt the story of Nikki to 2013 L.A.

Nikki Desmond’s name is derived from Norma Desmond, the faded silent film star from the Classic Billy Wilder movie Sunset Boulevard.

Nikki’s personality is inspired by Hilary Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Cher from Clueless. Hilary had the look and the “voice” and Cher had the personality and depth I was going for.  This is why the logline says The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air meets Clueless.

Nikki’s Dad Donald is actually based on actor Tim Russ. Russ always had the fatherly vibe to me, and I always thought he’d be great playing a TV dad.

For a long time Donald Desmond didn’t have a name. I just called him Father in the script.  I wound up giving him the name Donald Desmond because it sounded rich and Black.

Rumsfeld is based on the character I made up for my Sunday Dinner gag. He’s a polished Black British servant who wears formal wear and has impeccable manners.

Rosa the maid was brought over from All About Marilyn vignettes.  I developed her character to show that even the most educated people from middle class families have a hard time finding jobs. So they have to take whatever’s available. My plan is for Rosa to use the maid job as a stepping stone to entering the middle class.

With Rosa’s character I wanted to show children why they shouldn’t make racist slurs and discriminate against people of other ethnicities.  I felt if there was a main character that experienced racism from the lead character it would make them come to understand why racism is wrong and how they could learn to overcome racist ways of thinking.

Along with the Rosa character I explore the issue of race in the episode like All About School and intra-racial racism and class racism in All About Black. When it comes to race, oftentimes we see Black males and White males as the protagonists and antagonists. But rarely do we see the issue explored with female characters. I felt it was time readers saw that yes, women are just as racist as the guys and that Black girls also experience racism every day.

In All About Nikki I don’t apply political correctness. I believe children need to hear slurs like wetback, you people, and carpet muncher and be shown why it’s wrong to use these terms regarding others. People need to see why these words are offensive and why using this language is insensitive to the feelings of others.

Fun fact: In Nikki’s world characters like Isis, John Haynes, Marilyn Marie and the Thetas are fictional. And in their respective world All About Nikki is a classic Black sitcom.

The number of Leslie Desmond’s penthouse 3430 in the pilot is actually the address where I lived in the South Bronx as a child, 3430 Park Avenue.

Art used for Nikki Season 2 Sneak preview!
Candice’s parking space #3C is reference the apartment number of the apartment we used to live in as a kid. In almost every book I write I try to mention 3430 Park Avenue and Apartment #3C.

Candice Cameron Collins is actually named after former Child Star Candice Cameron Bure. Used to watch a lot of Full House Back in the day.

 Nikki and Candice’s issue of being the only Black girl in school is something many Black girls who live in the suburbs struggle with. I wrote her with the plan of exploring race and identity of Black people in the suburbs. We rarely hear about the stories of Growing up Black or rich, and the struggles of identity these brothers and sisters have regarding what is truly “Black”.

The joke I have something to say to you….You Stink. Is a gag I came up with as a retort to my sister back in my late 20’s. I’ve also used it in All About Marilyn and most recently Isis: All About the Goddess.

The first three episodes (All About the Pilot, All About School, and All About Rivals) are designed to be a three-episode story arc. The goal of these three episodes are to establish the main character and set up the premise for the series.

The fight scene Nikki has at the Met in All About The Pilot is actually inspired by the fight scene of the opening credits of the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and its theme song. I wrote that scene basing it on the lyrics:

 “There were a couple of guys who were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got into one fight and my moms got scared and said…You’re moving with your auntie and Uncle in Bel-Air.”

I designed the first ten minutes of Nikki’s pilot to be reinterpretation of The Fresh Prince’s theme song. The reason for the fight is based on many conversations I heard in the Hallway at Park West High School and a fight that was rumored to have transpired on a class trip I didn’t go on.

However, The fourth episode, I got it Maid was actually written FIRST in 2009. And the tenth episode of All About Nikki Nikki’s Christmas Carol was written SECOND in 2009. While the pilot arc was written after that.

So anyone who aspires to write a TV show should know, most episodes aren’t written in order. Usually a writer will get the basic details down for a story and then write continuity around it afterward.

I came up with the idea for the sixth episode Keep it in the Closet while riding the D train with my sister on the way to Macy*s. I acted out all the jokes on that train ride and got so many laughs it wasn’t funny. When I put fingers to keyboard, I wrote that episode in less than four hours.

The routine Nikki mocks in All About Love regarding Sean’s Saturday night is actually how I spent many a Saturday night in the 1990’s. Money was scarce and I was looking for my first real job.

The Episode All About Bullies is based on my real-life experiences in Junior High and High school with bullies. In that episode I wanted the reader to understand how powerless kids feel when they are bullied and why they try to keep their torment a secret.

The reason the episode All About Work starts out just like Keep it in the closet is to show how TV writers use tricks to fill pages. TV writing especially kids shows will sometimes copy and paste certain parts of older scripts to save on time when writing a new script. Things like opening scenes sluglines and even some running gags, will just be copied and pasted and then new scenes written around them.

The episode All About Work is based on my experience working at Food Emporium from 1996 to 1997 and my sister’s experience working at the Gap and Toys R Us from 1998 to 1999.  All the manipulation, headgames and silly rules are something everyone has had to deal with in retail jobs and I wanted to show how insane some of these work environments are.

The customer the Big COUNTRY GUY in All About Work is based on another one of the gag characters I’d do at the dinnertable on Sunday evenings.

The community center Nikki volunteers at in All About Black is inspired by my experience as an Americorps*VISTA at STRIVE from 2000 to 2001.

The episode All About Fashion with special guest star Tommy Hilfinger was originally supposed to be a Season 2 episode. Unfortunately, I was running short on Season 1 stories and decided to slip this one in. Plus this one had lots of laughs.

The brother in his draws in the Laundromat was based on another real life experience. One day looking out the window in 1991.

The girls mentioned in episodes All About Christmas and All About Black,  Kendra, Cheryl Victoria and Monisa are actually the names of girls in my CES 132 Fifth and sixth grade classes.

The episode Candice’s Man was based on all the boy crazy girls I ran into at Park West High back in the late 1980’s. How obsessed and crazy they’d get over drug dealers boys and not see these guys clearly. The goal of that script was to show how people have to support their friends even thought they are just being NUTTY and saying and doing all sorts of things while in teenage love.

All About Mom was not intended to be the original season finale for Season One. The original season finale was a 2-part episode called “Grounded” where Nikki gets arrested. But I felt that episode was WAY too dark and scrapped it.

The Season 1 finale episode All About Mom from season 1 serves as a book end to Season 1’s All About the Pilot.  In it we see how Leslie Desmond’s emotional abuse leads to Nikki taking a long hard look at herself.

I also wrote this episode to make a powerful statement about the impact single parent female-headed households have on children. One of the reasons why Nikki was acting out and was so cruel to people in Season 1 was because she was not getting her emotional needs met. It’s this lack of nurturing that leads to her being so insensitive and narcissistic to others.

All About Mom begins the redemption of Nikki Desmond which starts in Season 2. In season 2 we see Nikki making efforts to change as she adjusts to life in Beverly Hills.

Cover inspired by the All About Nikki
Doll mentioned in All About Marilyn!
The Season Premiere of Nikki Season 2 like Not that there’s Anything Wrong with Me comes from my real-life experiences with Peer pressure. For years I was harassed about not having a girlfriend and had to deal with the shaming language and charges of homosexuality for choosing to be single. I wrote this particular episode to let tweens and teens know that there’s nothing wrong with them if they’re not dating or they don’t have a boyfriend.

The Episode All About Sex was written in the vein of those A Very Special…episodes of Blossom Back in the 1990’s. American people are ashamed of talking about sex and sexuality and I feel this topic really needs to be discussed openly like every other topic. (yes, Donald’s views are my own)  I believe the better educated boys and girls are about sex and sexuality, the more informed choices they’ll make about their bodies and how they express their sexuality.

The Episode All About Parties was a quiet commentary about the impact smothering mothers have on boys and how they prevent them from having a healthy social life. The Character of Sean Basition is written to show how a boy has to cut the apron strings and grow into manhood.

The episode All About Time was inspired by a book my sister was using in her first grade class called Here Come The Shapes. In the book the kids sneaking around sing 1-2-3 look at me, 4-5-6, up to tricks. On reading the end where the kid shapes get caught, I did a Samuel L. Jackson voice saying 7-8-9 your behind is mine! snapping a belt and got laughs. So I decided to write an episode around the joke. Like Keep it in the closet, it’s one of the funniest episodes of the series.

The episode All About Face is based on my experiences with Afrocentrics. It’s also based on my many experiences with women who profess pro-Blackness

The episode All About Dad was based on an experience from my Junior High school days at IS 148. Many a kid back in 1985-1986 wore Pony City Wings. Inspired, I wrote an episode revolving around 45 year old men, their daughters and vintage sneakers. Other inspirations for that episode were my numerous trips to the Dr. Jays and V.I.M on Fordham Road in the Bronx as a teenager. On another note, I suck at playing basketball.

I originally released All About Nikki as a sample ebook with the first three episodes before releasing the paperback book.

Never sold a single copy of the paperback :
Only two copies are out there in the hands of book
Unfortunately, the paperback never sold a single copy and I was forced to discontinue it this year due to my finances being strained.

But the eBook has been popular since it was published back in 2011. Readers all over the world have downloaded All About Nikki eBooks, and currently episodes of both seasons have been downloaded thousands of times.

To date Both Nikki eBooks have gotten hundreds of Facebook likes and thousands of downloads. To my surprise art imitates fantasy life. Nikki Desmond is actually more popular with readers than her alter ego Marilyn Marie!

The reason why All About Nikki Season 2 was released in fragments is because of my schedule. I was eager to get a season 2 book into production in 2012, but I just didn’t have the 13 episodes completed.  I had a bad case of writer’s block and got stuck around episode 9

I also had several projects like the Isis series in the works. So I had to put Nikki on the back burner. But I have completed up to episode 11 and the Season 2 finale finished and I have two more episodes to go. I hope to have the complete Season 2 book up by late 2014 and maybe the lost episode Grounded revised as bonus material. I know Nikki has a growing audience of readers and I want to get the complete season 2 eBook out to them. But I want it to be the best quality possible.

My ultimate goal is to release a real All About Nikki TV show. I believe if it came to air, it’d be just as popular as That’s So Raven and True Jackson. Maybe even as popular as the Teen TV classics it was inspired by The  Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Clueless.

You can buy All About Nikki the Fabulous First season on Kindle  And Volume 1 of the Sensational Second Season on Kindle !

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