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'Grand Crew's' Display of Positive Masculine Vulnerability is the Epitome of Brotherhood

Actors, directors, writers and friends. The brotherhood between NBC's Grand Crew stars Aaron Jennings, Echo Kellum and Carl Tart isn’t only noticeable on screen when they are playing their characters, but also offscreen in Hollywood — which isn’t an easy town to grow a career in as Black men. Still, the vulnerability of our Turned Gentleman cover stars have made them the embodiment of what brotherhood is supposed to be, while they take on careers that continue to help Black men change the narrative that has been placed on us.

Kellum: Shirt - Anthony Newman | Pants - Anthony Newman | Shoes - Zara

Jennings: Top and Pants - Lee Rickie Collection | Shoes - Vinny’s the Vibe

Tart: Shirt - John Elliot | Pants - Peter Millar | Shoes - Vince

With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 80% and two seasons under its belt, Grand Crew has quickly become must-watch TV. Created by writer Phil Augusta Jackson, The hit show tells the story of six friends who hang out to decompress about their career and love lives at their favorite Silverlake wine bar. Jennings plays Anthony Holmes, described as a vegan, accountant, and roommate to Tart’s character, Sherman Jones — who is described as a journeyman on the show. Kellum’s character, Noah Koles, is a hopeless romantic that thinks his life is a rom-com. The bond between the actors on screen helps serve up memorable laughs while enjoying limitless amounts of wine. Through different personalities and interests, Jennings, Kellum and Tart still display a friendship reminiscent of the days of hit shows such as Living Single and Martin.

“A big part of our bond is because it comes from a true place in our lives,” Kellum says about the cast. “We honestly all enjoy working with each other… We love hanging out, we have taken trips together… It is also a mutual appreciation of everyone’s talent and artistry,” he explains.

In Hollywood, where competition is at an all-time high, all of the time, Jennings also contributes their chemistry to not being competitive on set. “There is a real honor and respect,” he mentions.

That chemistry has helped propel Grand Crew, which constantly hit ratings gold on Friday nights with commentary across Black Twitter. For viewers, watching Black men open up about their feelings on love and the low moments in their careers, while still displaying joy and all the complexities that come with who we can be, is a refreshing tale that is not often seen on prime time television. The character's vulnerability has helped the men behind those roles in their everyday lives.

“Your friends are the closest to you, who will be the most honest with you,” Tart says about the brotherhood he has created in his real life. “If you have a good group of people… Once somebody opens up, the floodgates open up for everybody,” Jennings agrees. He says vulnerability starts with you. “If you are vulnerable it gives others permission to be vulnerable… we all have worries, concerns and insecurities,” he shares.

It is not lost on Kellum how Black men have been viewed and continue to be viewed and represented. “There is the systemic viewpoint that says all Black men have to be tough or angry,” the Arrow alum says. “I love that our show really leans into vulnerability and shows the many nuanced takes of what it means to be a Black man.” Kellum also says that Grand Crew also challenges the stigma of being vulnerable. “It is said that being emotional is a form of weakness,” he says, “If you cannot be vulnerable with your friends, you won’t be vulnerable with yourself… It is super important to have a group of men who can lean into that vulnerability with you, and I am happy Grand Crew shows that,” Kellum explains.

With Black-owned wine bars on the rise, and roughly 11,000 Black-owned wineries across America, the silent character on Grand Crew is the wine bar where the characters meet to download everything happening in their lives. The bar on the show named Cru is a play on France’s Grand Cru classification system. Showing Black people enjoying wine has also been refreshing, seeing that it is an industry that we have ways to go for proper representation and ownership — there are only four Black master sommeliers in the world.

The idea for the show was born at Bar Covell, the wine bar in Silverlake. When first starting his career, show creator Jackson would meet with fellow writers at Bar Covell wine bar. Jackson would also meet with who he would later cast on Grand Crew.

Kellum: Suit - Anthony Newman | Shirt - Theory | Shoes - Barollo Jennings: Suit - Charles and Ron | Vest - Pas Une Marque

Tart: Shirt - F8ke Chemical Club | Pants- Pro Club | Shoes - Vince

“The show is based on our actual friend group,” Tart says. After a meeting with Jackson turned into an all-night wine-filled event, the actor says that Bar Covell became the spot to go to for him and his friends.

Jennings, Kellum and Tart are not the only memorable characters that we go on a journey with as we watch Grand Crew. Comedian and actress Nicole Byer also stars on the hit show as Nicky Koles, Kellum’s character Noah’s sister. For the men on the show, uplifting and rooting Black women is a no-brainer.

“Black women are the most marginalized human in history,” Kellum says. “We all have strong amazing Black women in our lives.”

Tart speaks on the division he sees across social media that often divides Black men and Black women. “The divide and conquer of Black men and Black women is really prominent right now. You see every comment section, all of these videos, and all of these podcasts of Black men hating Black women and Black women hating Black men,” the comedian says. “What I think our show does at its best is allow people to check out of that and check out of the stereotypes, and check out of the things that plague us as a community and as a culture, and enjoy each other and have a good time.”

While new audiences continue to flock to watch and rewatch Grand Crew, the stars are in awe that people are interested in a show based on the conversations among their friend group. What they want viewers to take away from the show continues to represent what The Quintessential Gentleman believes in. Black men are human and not a monolith. We come in “all shapes, sizes, personalities, everything and it's all valid,” Jennings says about what he wants Black men to take away from the comedy.

For changing the narrative and representing all that Black men can be, the cast of Grand Crew, Aaron Jennings, Echo Kellum, and Carl Tart, are our Turned Gentleman cover stars.

Check out the full interview below.

Photographer: Antar Hanif

Stylist: Doug Hickman

Stylist Assistant: Jefe Groomer: Ken Chatman Creative Director: BYoung Agency Videographer: Leef Parks


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