How “And Just Like That …” Made Lisa Todd Wexley’s Apartment A Sanctuary of Modern Black Art

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Familiar faces are part of And just like that‘s … DNA. After all, the series, now airing on HBO Max, is a new chapter for the characters audiences met when they became cultural touchstones on Sex and the city. However, it’s not just the actors who are recognizable, especially if you have a keen eye for contemporary art.

In a recent episode, Kristin Davis’ character Charlotte York Goldenblatt cements a much-desired friendship with Lisa Todd Wexley (played by Nicole Ari Parker), a glamorous documentary filmmaker whose kids go to school with Charlotte, when a dinner goes wrong. The scene is tense: Guests are crowded around the Wexley dining room table when the hostess’ stepmother (Pat Bowie) begins photographing her son’s (Christopher Jackson) and his stepdaughter, who includes plays by Gordon Parks, Mickalene Thomas (whose “Racquel with The Three Black Women” is seen above), Deborah Roberts and Derrick Adams, among others, but still do not meet his approval.

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Citing her background in the fine arts and her burning desire to bond with Wexley, Charlotte gives a crash course on the importance of the apartment’s works, their cultural significance and, perhaps most importantly to Mom, their value as investments. It’s a win-win; Charlotte makes a lovely demonstration of her backbone, Wexley gleefully sees her stepmom brought to heel, and the audience is exposed to an exceptional array of artwork which is actually discussed instead of quietly hiding to add some extra flair. gravity.

Ari Nicole Parker in front of “Political Lamb in a Wolfs World” by Deborah Roberts in an episode of And just like that …

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It was a scenario for which And just like that … supervising writer and producer Keli Goff and curator Racquel Chevremont have planned every detail. Here the pair tell CGV why art was essential in telling the story and how they managed to create a world class collection for a fictional family.

How did the idea to use this kind of work for the series begin?

Kéli Goff: It all started with the development of these characters, Lisa Todd Wexley and her husband, Herbert. Michael Patrick King, my boss and the showrunner of the series, first talked about wanting to present this character from LTW as a friend of Charlotte and a version of black femininity that we haven’t seen much on TV. , if ever.

I come from a suburb of Texas. I had never met black art collectors, and when I moved to New York and started going to the Studio Museum in Harlem’s gala — one of New York’s most fabulous galas — i I started to discover this world of black collectors, and it was amazing. I thought to myself, why didn’t I even know this existed? And when Michael talked about introducing the character of Lisa Todd Wexley, that became a big part of her character for me.

A small detail: I know very little about art. I go to museums, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge, so I knew I was not the right person to select the art for the houses of these characters. I called a lot of people who knew, and one name kept coming up: Racquel Chevremont. So, I contacted her by email and she couldn’t have been more kind and warm.

and just like that
Chris Jackson, who plays Herbert Wexley in And just like that … in front of Derrick Adams’ “Family Portrait 9”.

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Racquel Chevremont: When Keli held out her hand to me, I wanted to know, who are these characters? What are they? LTW’s husband is a banker, she’s a documentary filmmaker, and I thought, OK, I can handle this. Like Keli said, you hardly ever really see a couple like this on TV, but there are so many couples like this, and I work with a number of them. Immediately I knew I was going to handle this like they were my clients. And so, I sent the team, Keli, and everyone else, a few artists to choose from that I thought this couple would collect, basically, so I could get a feel for what the TV show was all about. was really looking for, what Keli was really looking for, then I said, “I can’t promise I can have these artists …”

KG: But she did!

RC: I sent in many bodies of work from each artist and Keli came back and said, “I like it all, but really I’m going to let you decide.” It was like having the perfect client. She said, “I’m going to defer to you, but that’s the direction I like, and that’s what I see.” And these are his characters, so I went in that direction.

KG: One of the things I kept saying is that I see LTW’s collection as that of someone who wants to celebrate black femininity in its many forms. He’s also someone who has a pretty conservative mother-in-law and has small children, and so when we talked about that, for example, that took out some of the more daring pieces. But then the thing Racquel told me that was such a light bulb moment was, “Well, what about Herbert?” And I said, “What about him? She said, “Well, does he collect too?” And I said, “I don’t know? Does he?”

It was this hilarious back and forth, and Racquel started talking about couples who are collectors and how one could collect one thing and the other could collect another, and it was a breakthrough. total for me. During this conversation, we decided that Herbert collects photographs and LTW collects amazing artists depicting black women. And then it was off to the races; every day it was like buying art I didn’t pay for.

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Curator Racquel Chevremont and writer and producer Keli Goff on the set of And just like that … viewing of “Portrait of Moonja” by Mickalene Thomas.

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RC: When you have such a large rig, everyone is going to see it. To have the representation of brown and black bodies on the walls… When you have this opportunity, you have to go for it. So I was going to make sure that these were big paintings, beautiful, just glorious, celebrating our lives, and that you were really going to be able to see them when the camera was on, that there would be no doubt. on what was on those walls.

Part of the scene is also as Charlotte goes from work to work explaining why each is important, calling out the individual artists and what makes them unique.

KG: This is what we talked about. Like, wouldn’t it be cool if after the show airs people google it? Because Racquel was on set the day we shot, and she’ll attest that it wasn’t an easy shoot because dinners are tough. But also, making sure that the art, which was really a co-star of this episode, gets its due was really the priority, and it’s not easy.

Racquel is the expert, I’m not, but I’m a huge fan of Gordon Parks, and when she emailed and asked, “Well, what do you think of Gordon Parks?” I said, “Obviously I love it, but I know you don’t ask me what I think about having it for us, because I can’t even imagine it’s possible.” And she said, “Let me see what I can do. She didn’t just give us a picture of Gordon Parks, she one of Gordon Parks’ most famous photographs, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. This is the image of Joanne Thornton Wilson, a black teacher in Mobile, Alabama, standing under a colorful entrance sign, and she is dressed in new clothes with her niece. I said to Michael, “She’s the LTW of the 1950s.”

It’s so powerful and deep. And one of the things I learned from researching the photo is that Life the magazine would not publish it; it was too controversial. And I thought, the fact that the image of a beautifully dressed black woman defying stereotypes of what people thought of black women, especially at the time, was more controversial than the protesters, the garden hoses. and dogs, says it all. We had it hung by the entrance, as you walk into the amazing home of this amazing Black Power couple, who is taller than Charlotte and [her husband] Harry’s. It was awesome.

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Evan Handler in front of “Style Variation 32” by Derrick Adams.

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There’s also art almost everywhere you look – you had to create what looked like a real collection that took a while for the characters to build.

RC: We already had a lot of parts, but we didn’t want the camera to hit a spot where there was no paint in the scene. And so, to the show’s credit, to Keli’s credit, that was very important. And this is usually not the case. I was happy to rush over to the artists and say, “Hey, can I have another room? We don’t want empty walls.” I think in the end we ended up with maybe 16 pieces. Some of them are original, like the image of Gordon Parks, and some are reproductions, but they are reproduced to a level that I have never had any other show reproduced. All photographs are reprinted on photographic paper and framed exactly as the artist would have framed.

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Nicole Ari Parker with “Untitled (Woman and Girl Wearing Make Up)” and “Untitled (Woman and Girls)” by Carrie Mae Weems.

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You cannot use originals on a program because the insurance would be astronomical. I mean, we have paintings and they’re worth over hundreds of thousands of dollars, so that wasn’t a possibility. However, with the reproduction, you can get the quality if you are willing to invest the money, so that they did not spare any expense. They went as far as they could, even with the Mickalene Thomas, the painting you see, they painstakingly repainted … They bought Swarovski crystals to put the crystals where they were. They brought glitter for amounts that they couldn’t just try to get as close to the original as possible.

There is so much art out there, and so many ways to go when you are building a collection. When you’re counseling someone, you want to help them collect things they’ll love. Because yes, art is a financial investment, but it’s also a personal thing and you have to love what you live with, and that must tell your story. You want him to tell the world who you are.


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