Mr. Do-it-all Why Jamey Giddens’s Hollywood is just getting started By Mi chae l J . Pa l l e r i no
F ootball is the way out. That is what they tell young black boys in east Texas. Growing up in the small rural town of De Kalb, Jamey Giddens never got the message. While other kids dreamt of playing football at the University of Texas or with the Dallas Cowboys, Giddens escaped through reading and TV. While most were inspired by the likes of Cowboys stars Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, he aspired to mimic the glamorous liaisons he watched on Knots Landing or read in Hollywood Wives . Raised by his maternal grandparents, Giddens’s love of the soap opera mentality came honestly. They loved the genre and so did he. “Since I had little interest in football and was a gay kid who loved soaps, trashy novels, and fashion magazines, life wasn’t always easy. I managed to escape through television and novels by Jackie Collins, the late E. Lynn Harris, Terry McMillan, and Dominick Dunne.” Giddens is half joking when he refers to himself as a small-town misfit. But if you dig a little deeper into his backstory, you will see that the life he created for himself was born from the influences he sought out. It was always about crafting a life on his terms. That’s all Giddens wanted—still does. As an acclaimed writer and producer, whose most recent show, Ambitions , met with critical acclaim on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, Giddens is doing what he always wanted to do, even if it took a little while to get there. Before working with mega producer Will Packer and Lionsgate TV on Ambitions , Giddens worked as a newspaper reporter in Texas and spent a decade doing communications and PR for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Before that, he was a publicist for the Department of the Army. From there, he helped NAACP Award-winning actress Victoria Rowell (The Young and the Restless, Diagnosis Murder) create the pitch for her long-running Urban Movie Channel (UMC) soap opera spoof, The Rich and The Ruthless . Giddens co-wrote the first season with Rowell and served as a creative consultant on Season 2, before leveraging his soap opera knowledge, and popularity as a blogger and podcaster for DaytimeConfidential.com into scripted TV opportunities. His big break was Ambitions , the steamy, Atlanta-set multigenerational family saga centered on a woman who, having recently relocated to revitalize her marriage, finds herself squaring off against some of the most powerful and deceitful players in the city. The show, starring Robin
Givens (Riverdale, Lucifer) , Brian White (Stomp the Yard, Family Stone) and Kendrick Cross (Richard Jewell, Last Call) , recently wrapped its first season on OWN and is looking for a new home for Season 2. “ Ambitions is among a precious few series that zeroes in on affluent black people who didn’t obtain their fortunes and/or power bases from sports or entertainment. I believe this resonates with our fans.” For Giddens, it is the kind of character-driven story that drives—and challenges—his creative fever. Because it was produced for an ad-supported cable outlet, it was important for the writers to find ways to return after the commercials. “We spent a lot of time thinking up plot twists, act breaks, and watercooler moments. If your audience doesn’t care about the characters, they won’t care about the plot. The best soap operas, or stories in general, are character driven. Robin and Brian’s characters both went to Harvard Law. They aren’t drug dealers. They aren’t downtrodden or scratching out life in the projects. I feel like I’ve seen those particular explorations of black life a thousand times on TV and in movies. We’re more than our tragedies.” In the hunt to find another outlet for Ambitions , Giddens will keep doing what he does, including loving every minute of the pace. “Our time here is finite, but our stories have the potential to live on for generations, if not forever. A lot of people think working in the entertainment industry is a fairy tale of endless red carpets and hob-knobbing
Our time here is finite, but our stories have the potential to live on for generations, if not forever.
Photo by Kris10 Photography
with the rich and fabulous. While those are nice fringe benefits, the last few years have taught me how incredibly hard the filmmaking community in Georgia works to tell our stories.”
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