Warwick Noel Occomy has always believed he was destined to make history. That he did, becoming the first UAA tennis player to win an NCAA title in 1988. In 1989, he helped lead Brandeis University to the UAA men's title, the only tennis title won by anyone other than Emory University (men or women) from 1988-2008.
The 1989 graduate can also lay claim to another part of NCAA tennis history, becoming the first athlete of half Native American and half African-American lineage to capture a championship. Though he often chides himself for not trying his hand at professional tennis like his brother Todd, Occomy is as determined as ever to make a mark on society in the form of visual art.
Photo: Noel Occomy with fellow Brandeis graduate and activist Angela Davis
The Occom name already had a place in higher education before Occomy went to Brandeis. Occomy's great-granduncle was The Reverend Samson Occom, the first Native American person to ever publish documents and pamphlets in English. In 1766, Occom and fellow minister Nathaniel Whitaker traveled to England to raise money for Wheelock's Indian Charity School. Wheelock instead used the funds to found Dartmouth College. Occom is believed to be a direct descendant of the famous Mohegan chief, Uncas.
The National Endowment for the Humanities funded the Occom Circle Project, which includes letters, diaries, sermons, prose, a page of herbal remedies, and annotated books by or related to Occom housed at Dartmouth. Among other places on the Dartmouth campus, Occom Pond and Occom Ridge are named after him.
Occomy takes great pride in his family heritage and notes that although there were many spellings of Samson's last name, Occom was always the spelling his own papers and letters were signed with. In terms of African-American lineage for Occomy, family lore has it that one of the Occom women bought a slave in order to free him and the man took her last name.
Eventually, Occomy's great grandfather (his grandmother's father) was asked whether he was Native American or black. "At the time, land was being taken from Native Americans," he said. "The Occom name was clearly an Indian name. When asked by authorities for his last name, my grandfather saw the letter "y" on a napkin and added it to the end of his name to save the family land."
High School and Heading to Brandeis
Tom Riley was the reigning three-time Wisconsin High School state champion when Occomy faced him in the regional final in both of their senior seasons in high school. "I remember someone saying, 'This will be over in 30 to 40 minutes,' meaning I had no chance," he said. "I was confident that they were wrong. I ended up winning the match 2&3."
All regional winners advanced to the state championship. "Tom shouldn't have made it because I beat him, but he got some special invitation to play because of his past success," Occomy said. "We met again in the state final and there was a huge crowd cheering for him. That inspired me even more. I said to myself, 'I will ruin everyone's day.'" That he did, posting a 6-4, 6-4 win in an exciting match. "At match point, I just looked at everyone around to really take that moment in," he added.
His dad developed a "marketing plan" for Occomy's college search and the choice came down to Brandeis and Pepperdine University. "I met (head coach) Tom Foley and he made a major push to get me to come to Brandeis," Occomy recalled. "He was so enthusiastic. I was able to practice with the team and go to some matches."
After graduating high school, Occomy was part of the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP), which was developed in 1968 and is targeted toward students who have developed the skills for college success by practicing leadership in their life experiences. "It was really tough. We were trained to undertake the pressure and academic rigor of Brandeis," he said. Each year, just 20 of the 200 applicants are admitted.
“Noel was a major talent. He had Division I ability,” Foley recalled. “I saw another coach at NCAAs the year Noel was in the TYP program and the coach said he ‘just disappeared.’ I didn’t tell him I knew where he was. I still remember his parents driving from Chicago in a Volvo.”
Occomy being admitted to Brandeis would be quite an accomplishment, especially considering he overslept the key test. “I set my alarm for 7 with the test being at 8. I woke up at 9:30,” he exclaimed. “Coach (Tom Foley) told me I had to see this one particular professor and he will make the final decision.”
That professor turned out to be Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature Steve Gendzier. “He asked me why I missed the test and finally said, ‘Noel, if you were a responsible young man, you would have taken the test. I don’t think you are Brandeis material,” Occomy remembered. “I started to walk out of the room and then I turned back and yelled, ‘I have run into people like you my whole life who told me I couldn’t do something. I proved to all of them that I could and I destroyed every philosophical thought in their head. You are just another guy in my way. I am coming to this school and I will show all of you.’”
Gendzier’s reaction stunned Occomy and led to a friendship that still brings Occomy to tears when he discusses it. “He yelled right back at me, ‘Get back here Occomy. I have never been so insulted in my life. Who are you? You will graduate in four years. Good day, sir!’” he relayed.
Before Occomy went to watch practice Gendzier had already told Foley about his decision. “Coach asked me what I said to him and I told him I didn’t think he wanted to know,” Occomy laughed. “Coach told me (Gendzier) made up his mind and that he said I would be a fine Brandeis student and graduate. He knew in his heart that I would graduate and is proud to welcome me as a student under one condition…I would have to make him my mentor for the next four years.”
In fact, that is exactly what happened and Occomy relayed his test story when he was inducted into the Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame. “He became one of my best friends in my time at Brandeis,” Occomy said. “I owe a lot to him and to Coach Foley. In my senior year, Gendzier shared with me that he was testing me that day by saying I wasn’t Brandeis material. He wanted to know where my heart was and to see if I had any fight, to see if I would just fold from what he said or fight back and be an activist. One of my favorite things about Brandeis was that a lot of the professors were activists and taught us to speak our minds.”
The Beginning of Occomy/Murray
Until 2001, no UAA doubles tandem advanced further than Occomy and his partner Ian Murray did when they reached the NCAA semifinals in 1988.
The duo played doubles together all four years, starting out as the Judges’ top team in their freshman campaign in 1985-86. “We had a great team with the mixing and matching of personalities,” Murray recalled. “When Coach wanted us to play #1 doubles as freshmen, it really took some negotiations with our teammates to buy into it. I particularly remember how great Adam Feldman and Dave Bilgrei were and they said, ‘Let’s work with this.’ We owe so much of our success to our teammates.”
Photo: Ian Murray and Noel Occomy re-connecting on Skype after being out of touch for nearly 25 years
The mixing of personalities was certainly true of the Occomy-Murray pairing. “I remember the first time I saw Noel at practice,” Murray said. “He had one speed: fast. Every ball was hit hard. Sometimes I would tell him to slow down a little, which was very Caribbean of me.”
Murray’s first year at Brandeis was also his first time being away from his home in Jamaica for any extended period and Occomy still laughs about some of the things that happened as a result. “Ian complained so much about the cold that first year,” he laughed. “He had seen snow on television before, but he had never seen Boston snow.”
“That first year, I couldn’t believe how cold it was,” Murray chuckled. “I would ask Noel how people play tennis in 50 degrees and he said, ‘What are you talking about? This is warm!”
They also forged through a language barrier at first with Murray’s Jamaican accent being so heavy. “Coach asked me how we were getting along that first month,” Murray said. “I told him everything is great. Noel understands everything I say!” In fact, quite the opposite was true. “I really couldn’t understand him at all,” Occomy related. “I figured I would just nod and let him do what he wanted to. He was really good at doubles so I figured he must know what he is doing. The first month was pretty difficult. I could only pick up a couple of words.”
Occomy and Murray particularly enjoyed being underestimated and even being cheered against. “When our opponents would see us for the first time, you could see them thinking, ‘Where did these guys come from?’” Murray stated. “Their faces changed dramatically as the match went on. There were times we could see that they were already defeated at that point.”
Photos: Noel Occomy and Ian Murray competing at UAA championship
“We loved when the crowd was against us,” Occomy said, thinking back to similar times he excelled in his high school career against opponents with crowd support. “I used to joke that the worst thing you could do to Ian was cheer for him when he hit a good shot. He fed off people rooting against him.”
“Noel was a hammer and Ian was a great doubles player,” Foley remarked. “One time Ian came to me and said, ‘Coach, I am playing about 70 percent of the balls.’ I said, ‘Ian, we are trying for 80 percent.'”
One of their favorite experiences was when Brandeis got a rare invitation to compete in the Harvard University Invitational against Division I opponents. “There was a look of disbelief when we pulled in, but that changed quickly once we got on the court and started playing,” Murray recalled. “It gave us a level of confidence we took into the rest of that season.” Occomy is convinced the team’s success that day and its vocal support of one another assured the Judges of not being invited back, which they weren’t. “The Harvard coach was very apologetic, but he told me he couldn’t invite us back because of our success,” Foley added.
“They were shocked that a Division III team of Jewish and black guys played so well,” Murray said. “We proved that we belonged. Everyone played so well. Adam (Feldman) played incredibly that day.” Although Murray is quick to talk about how well his teammates played that day, Occomy believed it was Murray who stood out. “Ian is very modest,” he said. “I remember (International Tennis Hall of Famer and first Brandeis head coach) Bud Collins spoke at a dinner for the (Harvard Invitational) event and he talked about Ian for 10 minutes. He talked about what a great player he was and how proud Bud was to a be a former Brandeis coach, saying, ‘We didn’t have teams this good when I was there.’”
“It was an eclectic group,” Foley added. “Brandeis was populated by a lot of Jewish kids from New York City. Then we got Noel and Ian and it became a different mix of guys. We had a lot of fun on road trips.”
Occomy enjoyed plenty of success in the two years before the UAA started and vividly remembers Foley telling him he received a bid to the NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis Singles Championship. “He called me on the pay phone in my dorm and was really playing things down,” Occomy said. “He was just saying that I had a good freshman year and it seemed like an end-of-the-season conversation. Then he told me I qualified for NCAA’s non-chalantly and I was so excited.”
With a pre-match routine of jumping rope on the court before his name was called, Occomy was hard to miss. “I know some guys thought I was crazy,” he laughed. “I was just so happy to qualify as a freshman and was making the most of it.”
Photo: Noel Occomy preparing to serve
The freshman won his opening match and started to believe he could make a deep run in the tournament. “I remember Coach told me before one match, ‘Don’t make this match interesting. Get on and off the court.' I was just so pumped up, I could not even sit down.” Occomy reached the national semifinals in his first NCAA appearance, earning his first All-America honor in singles, while he and Murray also garnered All-America recognition in doubles.
The trip to the NCAA championship was also Murray’s first to California. “We considered it (Claremont) the mecca of tennis,” Murray said. “I was so overawed by all the tennis players there. We saw that we belonged there.” The two would attend every NCAA championship together during their time at Brandeis. “We both went every year. Whether we were playing or not, he was my wingman,” Occomy said. “He and Coach were my only support.”
“He was such a serious talent. I remember Babson recruited a great international player and the word was Noel’s New England reign would be coming to an end,” Foley relayed. “Noel played him at Bates and crushed him.”
Although Occomy did not repeat his NCAA success the following season, losing in the opening round, he did earn his second All-America honor in singles. The following season, 1987-88, was a historic one for Occomy and NCAA Division III with the formation of the UAA.
“Noel was rock hard and very strong,” Foley remembered. “(Brandeis Head Baseball) Coach (Pete) Varney always threated to poach Noel for the baseball team as a pitcher. The track coach Norm Levine was all over Noel.”
Foley, being a runner, had the team run a half-mile as the workout one day. “Noel ran it in 2:08. Running wasn’t something he did. He was just astonishing. He could have been a sub-two minute half-miler.”
1988 UAA and NCAA Championships
Originally, the UAA Men’s Tennis Championship was a flighted tournament and the first singles flight was loaded with talent that first season. Three of the four first flight semifinalists reached the NCAA singles quarterfinals that year and all three are Hall of Famers at their respective school, including Occomy.
Scott Milener, the all-time singles wins leader at University of Rochester, did not drop a set in becoming the first UAA Most Valuable Player. The headline semifinal matchup pitted Occomy against Duncan Seay of Washington University, a match won by Seay.
In the first flight of doubles, Occomy and Murray took first place with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Milener and Marc Lowitz. With Murray also taking the sixth singles flight, he became the first player in UAA history to earn All-Association honors in both singles and doubles in the same season.
When Occomy learned of his seed for the 1988 NCAA singles championship, he was both confused and fired up. “I didn’t even understand what ’21 Seed L’ even meant,” he laughed. “That gave me the fuel I needed."
“After I won in the first round, I got into a zone,” he recalled. “I played each match point by point in my head. I was in a rhythm. I had the same pre-match meal every day: eggs, pancakes, orange juice, and milk with ice.” En route to the final, he met a familiar foe, the player who knocked him out in the first round the previous year. “I changed the game this time and whipped him.”
The final was an All-UAA matchup as Occomy faced UAA first singles flight winner Milener. The two were across the net from one another in the first doubles flight final at the UAA championship, but had not met in singles. “I remember hearing this guy as loud as me on one of the other courts in the early round and wanted to find out who it was,” Occomy stated. “I found out it was Milener. He was an animal and I knew we would have a great match if we faced one another.”
“Noel knew that I would decide whether he serves or receives after the coin flip. He wins the coin toss and I put the thumbs down, indicating that he would receive,” He shrugged and said okay. The guy who flipped the coin asked me why I would make such a strange decision with Noel having the biggest serve in the game. I just knew this was a brand new experience with all the cameras and everything so I figured it would be a rough first game. Noel broke him and the next break was at 5-5 in the second set.”
Two of the things Occomy recalls most about his title win were that Washington & Lee University taped the match and one fan in particular. “Here it was an NCAA final between a black guy and a white guy,” he said. “I remember this one black guy in the stands watching the match. He never sat down the entire match.” Even in the moment, Occomy realized the significance of being an African-American winning a tennis national title and did not take it for granted. He had the tape turned into a DVD though he is still trying to find what he did with it.
Seven UAA men have won the NCAA singles title, including five different players in five consecutive years from 2009-13, but Occomy was the only champion from 1988 until Kayvon Fatahalian of Carnegie Mellon University captured the championship in 2000.
1989 UAA and NCAA Championships
In the flighted UAA tournament, Brandeis, Emory, and Washington University all had a chance to win the title with the three doubles finals remaining to be contested.
In singles, Occomy took the first singles championship, defeating Jason Mudd of the Bears, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, in the final. Occomy and Murray won the consolation draw of first doubles after drawing eventual champions Todd Kennedy and Gavin O’Connell of the Eagles in the opening round. The duo dropped just one UAA match in two years.
With Emory winning the first and third doubles titles, Brandeis needed a win at second doubles to capture the championship. Mike Gratz and Jon Cordish of the Judges faced off Keith Cheses and Dan Freedman of the Bears. The Brandeis duo took the first set 7-6, winning the tiebreaker 7-2, but dropped the second set, 6-4. With the title on the line, Gratz and Cordish won 6-2 in the decisive set. Gratz also posted a three-set win in the fourth singles championship.
The UAA title propelled Brandeis to its first, and still only, NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis Championship appearance. Although New England teams have won numerous NCAA titles, the 1989 NCAA bid for the Judges was the first for a New England team. Brandeis dropped a heartbreaker, 5-4, to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in the opening round.
The defending champion reached the semifinals of the 1989 NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis individual championship. “Winning the title a second time wasn’t important to me,” he commented. “It was important to get my team there. I wanted them to experience what Ian and I had felt being at the NCAAs. My second championship was just being with the whole team in Kalamazoo.” Occomy finished his singles career with a 55-22 record in his four years.
In addition to enjoying tremendous success in tennis at Brandeis, Occomy also found his true passion: filmmaking. “I got into filmmaking because of a Friday movie showing of Gorkey Park. Within the first five minutes, I knew who the killer was,” he recalled. “I couldn’t tell why I knew. I just did. The Terminator was really the movie that sealed it for me. That’s when I knew for sure what I wanted to do.”
“I remember a very lengthy article about Noel in the Brandeis newspaper,” Foley said. “He was described as a ‘Renaissance man.’ He was just a very gregarious guy.”
Although Brandeis didn’t have a filmmaking major, Occomy learned how to shoot documentaries in a class taught by professor Bill Shea. “I was renting the camera every other day. I even started filming my matches,” he said. “I set the tripod up on the hill before the match. I started recording most of my matches in my junior year. I was sort of archiving myself so I would have those memories to look back on.”
He began taking acting classes, but found he liked being behind the scenes the most. “In junior year, I designed and set up a show from drawings that I did. Before everyone came in, I took one final look at it and realized doing all this work behind the scenes was what I wanted to do for a living.” The summer before his senior year, Occomy interned at Entertainment Tonight as assistant to the producer Beverly Price. “I got hooked seeing Mary Hart and John Tesch on the set,” he recalled. “Beverly took me into a camper where three guys were editing the show and I whispered to her, ‘I can do this. This is where I want to be.’”
Despite his love for filmmaking, his first job after college was in tennis back in Chicago. The East Bank Club had opened on Dec. 15, 1980 and was looking for a tennis pro. “Arthur Ashe was touring the facility and asked where the teachers of color were,” he recollected. “I met with them the following day and had the job within an hour. I was able to purchase a car and started enjoying my life, but I was still yearning to get into the filmmaking world.”
Fortunately, that first year at the club, he met a screenwriter and began working with him in addition to his tennis job. “I worked from 9-to-5 at the club and then at night would work on movie sets, figuring out how things worked.” He moved from second Assistant Director to first Assistant Director and ended up shooting a music video for a rap contest winner in the Chicago Park District. “I ended up filming the contest finals and the winning artist’s video. The winner was Twista from Chicago, who ended up being a really big rap artist. All my music videos were local groups out of Chicago after that. If you wanted to do big-time music videos, you had to be in Los Angeles or New York. I was ready to make the plunge and move to L.A., but my mother freaked out. That was a long debate that last several years.”
A Chicago access channel taught production skills to local community members so Occomy began taking classes, giving him free access to cameras since he did not own any himself. “I would do my own editing for any job I got. Other directors on future jobs would have me do their editing,” he stated. “My pitch to them was they would have two directors on set since I was editing and had directing experience. I earned a reputation for being able to edit and the money was getting really good. The digital world had just stepped in and it was a huge change to be able to edit on a computer. I started doing that and enjoyed the high intensity of it. I would be pulling rabbits out of a hat without being given a rabbit or a hat.”
After doing some editing for NBC and the Home Shopping Network, Occomy saw an ad for an editing position with a producer from a show on FOX Sports Network and sent a VHS tape to the producer in Marian, Indiana. “He loved my work and asked me if I knew how to work Final Cut Pro (a video editing software). I didn’t, but said I did,” he laughed. “He said, ‘See you in 48 hours and you’ll be cutting a reality show.’ Fortunately, I had a friend who had the Final Cut Pro system in his house and I sat there and figured out how to online edit in 24 hours.”
Occomy drove to Marian and found out the producer had an order for 26 episodes. “He gave me the tapes, scripts, and shots he wanted for an episode,” he recalled. “He told me I had eight hours to do it, but I finished it in five. The episode was done and I was mixing the audio. He hired me for 12 hours a day, $700 a day. I did that for a month and a half, but needed a break. My boss told me I was the only one he worked with who didn’t quit after the fourth day.”
With the money he had saved, Occomy was ready to head to Los Angeles to try and be an editor in that market. “My boss (FOX) said to choose a production facility and have them give him a call. He told me I would have a job within 24 hours,” he said. “He knew every owner of every facility in L.A. I got home and was ready to start packing.”
Unfortunately, his mother’s house in Chicago was about to be foreclosed on. “I thought I could go out to L.A. and send money back to them, but I visualized them and all their furniture literally on the street,” he remarked. “They owed $13,000 and I had $15,000. My family was so important to me. I couldn’t see my mom losing the house where she and my dad had raised us.” He paid the debt and stayed in Chicago.
A Chicago public high school wanted to do live shows and needed a teacher. “There were about 200 applicants and I was hired. I was teaching black kids, Latinos, and white kids without resources,” Occomy stated. “I enjoyed giving back and giving them opportunities I didn’t have. Back then, the only people of color at production houses were secretaries, mail room workers, or janitors.”
He taught for seven years and one of his documentaries won a local Emmy Award from National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). “I had been thinking about how many years before I could retire, but now was thinking, ‘Maybe I can still do this.’”
“During a summer, I was still at the school and was looking for an opportunity to learn about cinematography, lighting for film and television, which intimidated me,” he recollected. “My uncle did that kind of work and put a lot of years into it. On the internet, I found a link to a guy in L.A. giving this one opportunity to learn how to make and edit a movie using just a Canon Mark 5V1 or 5V2. I knew I needed to learn this.”
“I had one last day before school started when I bought the ticket to Los Angeles and applied to attend this teaching,” he continued. “As soon as I got home and was ready to head out, I got a pink slip telling me that the department was closing. I took it as a sign that it was the right time.” There was a billion dollar deficit in the Chicago public school system and almost all film facilities in Chicago high schools were closed, so the closing of the program in his school was not a major surprise. “I had a big smile on my face when I returned to school for the last few weeks of work (he was being let go in mid-September) and my boss was confused. I was doing what I wanted to do all along.”
In Los Angeles, Occomy was one of 50 people from all over the world being trained by Shane Hurlbut, a world-renowned cinematographer who has worked on numerous films, including The RatPack, Into The Blue, Swing Vote, Need For Speed, Terminator Salvation, and Act of Valor. “This was such a coveted class to be in,” he stated. “50 guys from South Africa pooled their money together and drew a name to see who could come to the training.”
Upon returning home, Occomy purchased his own equipment and began working on documentaries, including one on President Obama’s drill team in 2012. He wrote, produced, and edited a feature film entitled Spoken Word Hustler shot on location in New Orleans and Chicago.
CHI-RAQ: The TV Series
While working on various projects, Occomy received a call from a producer of a new television series, CHI-RAQ, a drama about two Chicago families marginalized by the American Dream. The original “CHIRAQ” moniker came from Chicago’s urban youth blending the city’s name and Iraq because the volume of homicides in Chicago outnumbered those in the war in Iraq.
“I got a call from the creator of the show and went in for an interview,” Occomy said. “All these other actors were there. I was working my way around the room and talking to everyone. I didn’t know this until much later but, during that hour, the show’s creator was watching me through the blinds from the next office. He wanted to see how I interacted with the crew members. Based on those interactions, he made up his mind to hire me.”
Things with the show hit a major roadblock when investors pulled out during the first week of production. “I knew I wasn’t going to get paid, but I continued working,” Occomy remembered. “I said to myself, ‘If I throw my ego and pride aside, what is the worst-case scenario? I have footage for my own reel and this could lead me to my next job.’” The crew of 15 people was now a crew of two, but the actors kept coming back. It took four months to produce and edit two episodes.
The show was screened in a movie theater on the South Side with Occomy and others advertising it on the streets. “ A week before we ran it, I was on 87th and 95th streets, passing out flyers. It was one of the coldest nights in Chicago in seven years,” he recalled. “The community loved it and gave it a standing ovation. We ended up finding an investor who put up $250,000 to shoot all 13 episodes. We moved out of our rat-infested facility and we own the entire third floor of a building. I am now writing and am an executive producer.”
In a show about community, the producers listened to those in the community about the show’s name. “The show is actually called Not CHI-RAQ, but every time we handed a flyer out, people would call it CHI-RAQ and it became familiar to them so that’s what we call it now,” Occomy said.
Unable to show the trailer at the Sundance Film Festival at the time (the festival was only showing films at the time), CHI-RAQ sponsored “Women in Film” and at the end, showed their trailer. “We got a standing ovation. Some women were crying, but we noticed all these other people were making calls,” he said. “We didn’t know they were international buyers. One buyer said he could sell to HBO in five days. It was very exciting because we crashed Sundance and were successful.”
Photo: Noel Occomy with Not CHI-RAQ co-workers at Sundance Film Festival
In spite of the offer, the group decided not to sell. “We realized that if we sold the show, we were gone,” he commented. “We wouldn’t produce or write it. Everyone who worked so hard for two years would be out of a job. We opted not to take the deal. We knew we would not be employed.”
While the fine-tuning of CHI-RAQ episodes continues, Occomy started working on another project. “I found out a friend was doing a horror movie and helped him do some of the writing for it,” he said. “He said, ‘Noel, why don’t you direct it? You wrote half of it.’”
The movie is set in a laundromat. “We had a laundromat in the middle of the night (12-4 a.m. or 1-5 a.m.). We shot four-hour days for five days,” Occomy stated. “In two weeks, we shot the movie and I was ready to hand it off. When the producer told me who attached themselves to the project, I decided to do the rough cut. I knew visually what we wanted it edited like.”
Photo: Noel Occomy on set of horror movie
He and an editor from Los Angeles each did the opening, but the producer chose Occomy’s version. “I finished the rough edit and am going back to do more edits and sound effects,” he remarked. “This was an audition for a main horror movie we have in mind, which will be much bigger and historical.”
“Hollywood has a strict format for a show. They have to do certain things every single episode,” he continued. “If you are in L.A., you don’t really have a sense of what things are really like in the community. We are doing this show from a community point of view, not a Hollywood point of view.”