Interview With Diallo Riddle | Creative Mind
Imagination is the creative expression of our mind. Everything starts with an idea that always has the potential to manifest in many forms of the physical realm. When we tell “our truth” from a state of love and appreciation, then we know, whatever is coming – is really good and beautiful. We all can recognize those moments, but for creatives such as Diallo Riddle, imagination comes as a conscious process of an everyday experience. A writer, an actor, a producer, showrunner and an avid tennis player, Diallo has a gift, he knows how to spark his creativity while rendering his vision through different sources.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Diallo Riddle?
I’m the sixth child of John and Carmen Riddle, a family of African American intellectuals with roots in Atlanta and pre-Watts Riots Los Angeles. The history of both my family and my community are very important to me. That said, I’m very much a forward-looking person and I’m always trying to figure out what’s next and what’s the balance between art and commerce, seriousness and frivolity.
- You are originally from Atlanta, yet lived in New York and now reside in LA. What inspires you most from these cities?
Atlanta is fun and nostalgic and distinctly “black.” NYC was exciting, but I love LA. I love the nature that’s all around the city. Love the industry I’m in. Love the film noir genre and as such the WWII history of the city. My parents and their family were here for some of it, and despite the bigotry of that era, the stories they told me of the neighborhoods they grew up in are vibrant with love, laughter and mirth.
- How could professionals related to the entertainment industry add to the expansion of more diversity and inclusion?
Simple, let all writers and creators, regardless of color, tell the stories they want to tell, so long as they are good stories. Let black women make dystopian science fiction, let more latino males write and play the “tell it like it is” detective, and put more open members of the LGBT community in space. All this is to say, let’s not pigeonhole anyone into any genre of film or TV. We can “tell our truth” without every project being a literal telling of each person’s life story. George Lucas never flew spaceships. But he had a vivid imagination, so that was his “truth.” Let everyone with that gift get the chance to share that gift.
- How do you envision the future of the entertainment industry?
Even more international as a whole, more diffuse and local at the indie level.
- Do you remember what you felt the moment you learned about your debut as a writer in television on “Chocolate News” for Comedy Central?
I do. It felt great to finally be officially a TV writer, but I also felt little change in my day to day activities. Having been a producer and writer on the sketches I was doing for the web, moving to TV was just a change in the delivery system. It was less of a change in terms of what I woke up and did every day.
- Writing must be quite different from performing, but for the “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” you did both. What do writing and acting have in common and how do you embrace their differences?
Depending on the project, acting can be almost the same thing as writing. On Marlon, where I have a lot of leeway on what comes out of my character’s mouth, I’m “writing” alternate jokes and lines in the margins of my script every episode, knowing that if the studio audience doesn’t react in a big way to what was in the script, I have some great material for the second and third take. Writing is more about conceiving and translating what’s in your brain and thinking many moves out like a chess player. To me, acting is more about getting out of the brain and being present in the immediate moment. So those are the ways they are both the same and entirely different.
- You and Bashir Salahuddin have been friends and have worked on several projects together since Harvard University. How would you describe the co-creative process between each other?
We are both passionate and driven and yet very respectful and we get along well. We still find time to just go to dinner and share family stuff with one another. We’re really an old married couple. My wife always jokes that she’s my second wife, because after two decades of knowing each other, who’s to say she’s wrong.
- The series “South Side,” about a rent to own business on the south side of Chicago, was recently given a series order by Comedy Central. What was your inspiration for writing this show together with Bashir Salahuddin?
Bashir came back from a visit to his hometown saying he wanted to do a comedy specifically about the funny people he grew up with in his neighborhood (two of whom had worked at a rent to own company and had stories for days about that line of work). It was immediately clear that not only was this a funny idea for a show but that it was an idea made for cable. We sold the concept to Comedy Central, but instead of merely writing it, we took a minuscule budget and a tiny crew and shot a “sizzle reel” of our concept. Think of it as a mini-pilot. Because we felt like the script was good, but only in being able to actually see it, hear the character’s voices and see the real-life South Side of Chicago could we show the executives just how special this show could be.
- You and Salahuddin co-created a recently announced IFC series “Sherman’s Showcase,” a scripted musical variety sketch comedy show that will premier in 2019. What are you going to delight the audience with on this show?
I could write too much about this series. It’s like no show I’ve ever seen on TV. Most simply, Sherman’s Showcase is a music-based comedy and sketch. But it’s more than that. It’s in the vein of early SNL, In Living Color and Chappelle’s Show. Bashir and I met in an a cappella group. Music has been the basis of so much of what gets us going. Whether that was at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon or so many other places. The concept of the show is that there’s this dance show, like American Bandstand or Soul Train, that’s been on the air for 45 years. And on the IFC show, we show you several episodes over the course of its run. The hair, clothing, artists, and most of all, the music, match the year of that episode. But all of the music is original. It’s our chance to write TONS of songs, almost like if The Lonely Island guys had ever done their own series. And John Legend’s company is producing it with us, so not only will the roster of real artists coming on the show be great, the songs themselves will be great.
- What resonates most with you about Stevie, the character you portray in NBC’s comedy series “Marlon”, which will have its Season 2 premiere on June 14?
Stevie is almost over-educated. He lacks that confidence you sometimes find in people who lack intelligence and self-awareness. Stevie is the type of person to get a job interview, realize all the things he doesn’t know about the profession, and then not show up for the job interview. But I think we all know the type of person who can literally think (and overthink) their way into a place of stasis. That’s him.
- “Marlon” is a family comedy that centers on a loving (but immature) father; a story inspired by the real life of star Marlon Wayans. Sometimes, having too much fun is considered to be irresponsible. Don’t you think we make too much of everything when we could have more fun while also having a full feeling grown-up life?
Maybe. Marlon might seem to be the irresponsible parent on the surface, but I think if you look closer, you’ll see that one of the reasons his character is having so much fun is because he loves being with his family and he loves raising his children. That’s like Marlon in real life. And the show in many ways is like Marlon’s real life.
- As an actor, you continue appearing in TV series. Would you like to be part of a film cast as well? If so, have you visualized what kind of character or movie-project?
I’d love to be in a feature. I’d love to be in something with science fiction. Or the detective genre. Or even the right kind of romantic comedy. I’ll be the sympathetic boss at the top of the film who tells the girl “hey, why don’t you take the next few weeks off? You look like you could use a change of pace.” Which is nothing a boss would ever say. But I’ll say it in a movie.
- How do you manage to focus on writing, acting, producing and music while combining them all at the same time?
I think the key is to combine them. Then no matter what you are working on, it is feeding and supporting the other one. They’re almost like children. You love them all even though they are each unique.
- What other talents you don’t have already would you like to develop?
I haven’t given up on my dream of amateur tennis champ. So yeah, I still take tennis lessons.
- What is your biggest desire at this moment?
Honestly, a 28 day Mediterranean vacation with my wife and children BUT with the nanny in tow so that the wife and I can go dancing at night. But yes, 28 days. I took that number from an old Underworld song, but it sounds like heaven.
- Tell us a little more about The Children’s Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides services to children and families healing from the effects of family and community violence within Los Angeles’ most challenged neighborhoods. How could we all contribute to this cause?
This group shelters child (and their parents) from bad situations. Sometimes its one of the parents, sometimes its another person in the community, but regardless, these are children who live under the threat of domestic violence. Children’s Institute gives them somewhere safe to go. I’d suggest going to their website and reading what they’re about. And also contributing money or time to them, because there’s nothing more important than saving the most vulnerable among us from harm. http://www.childrensinstitute.org
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is “The Essence of a Joyful Living.” In your opinion, how does joy during your process of creation affect your experience and consequently the final manifestation of your actions?
It can be brutal when you have writer’s block, or as a director work with a “bad” director, but when you write those pages that are special or find yourself working along an amazing cast, there’s nothing that makes your soul fly higher.
- Our mantra is “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement?
It’s something I tell my children every day, even as I struggle sometimes to remind myself. I always feel like life is shorter than we’d like it to be. All we can do is work every day to make ourselves healthier, more in touch, and more fulfilled. By doing and pursuing those things that are most important to us.