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Jermaine Fowler Is A Fun Dad
Yeah No - E09 - Jermaine Fowler
Episode 9
Jermaine Fowler Is A Fun Dad
Jermaine Fowler (“Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Coming 2 America”) talks about how his curiosity is his superpower.

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YNINOK-009 ~ Jermaine Fowler

Mon, 5/3 1:17PM • 54:06


diane, jermaine, laughing, mmhmm, people, day, feel, black, movie, mom, life, donuts, wanted, mushrooms, dude, superior, met, friends, talk, kids


Diane Guerrero, Jermaine Fowler

Diane Guerrero 00:00

Just a head's up that we are not clinical experts and, if you need professional help, there will be some links and resources listed in the podcast description, as well as in our newsletter which you can sign up to receive at Welcome to Yeah, No, I'm Not Okay. This is your host, Diane Guerrero. And the question of the week is: Who has made a genuine impact in your life? Think about it. For me, that is my dear friend, Jermaine Fowler. {cheering and clapping sound effects} When I met Jermaine, the connection was instant. No, I'm just kidding. Actually, we hated each other. Uhm, at least that's what we thought and then we figured out that we were these, like, little kids lost in this wild playground, jungle sandbox thing and then we found family within each other. And when that happened, we swapped lollipops like Lil and Phil. [Audio excerpt of Phil & Lil -- Lil: Remember the first present we ever gave our Mom? Phil: You mean before the worm? Lil: Mm hmm. Back then we used to be hungry all the time. Remember? Mommy'd come in and feed us the old way. Phil: Oh, yeah. Lil: You'd be on one side and I was on the other. {sounds of babies gurgling and laughing} Mommy says that is the best present we ever gave her. And then I gave him a Freddy Krueger pencil and I guess that really meant a lot to him because we've been friends ever since. Having a friend I can confide in is so important for my mental health. Someone that respects, and listens, and makes me feel comfortable when I need help. Jermaine is that friend for me. We have stayed in touch since we met, and we've really relied on one another's friendship, and his friendship means a lot to me. Jermaine is also an incredibly gifted soul and the next Oscar winning actor, writer, comedian and father. Yes, he is winning an Oscar for being the best father. He has such an incredible career working in film and TV across various genres. More recently with Coming to America, the sequel to Coming to America, and Judas and The Black Messiah and, a few years ago, I'm Sorry To Bother You, directed by Booth Riley, which I love. He appeared in shows like BoJack Horseman - favorite show, All That - favorite show and, not to mention, he wrote, produced and starred in Superior Donuts, which is where we first met. [Diane sings: Superior Donuts for the family!! {laughs}]. Jermaine, thank you so much for joining me on my podcast, Yeah, No, I'm Not Okay. I appreciate you coming on and having a talk with your dear old pal, Lil D.

Jermaine Fowler 03:19

Lil D. Thank you for having me. [Diane: Of course.] Uhm, I am very honored. I'm very proud of you, and this is great. I love what you're doing with the podcast, and I love what you're doing with yourself.

Diane Guerrero 03:31

Thank you. I love what you're doing with yourself, my friend. You are, I think, hands down one of my favorite people, and I love to see you out there shining. I love to support you and, also like... like, no bulls**t, like, your work is really, really inspiring, and it's really great. And it's totally you and it's great to watch. I'm not like embarrassed, you know how, like, your friends make stuff and you're like, "Mmhmm, yeah, I saw it. That was great." {Jermaine laughing hysterically} {Diane laughing} Like, thanks... Man, thanks for making that! Like, yeah... like, your s**t's actually f***ing good. So...

Jermaine Fowler 04:07

No, that means a lot. You know, we're so hard on ourselves. So...

Diane Guerrero 04:11

It means a lot to me 'cause I don't have to lie to you!

Jermaine Fowler 04:13

Man! There's some friends I gotta be like, "Yeah." But you know what? You know what? Screw it. Like, they're... getting anything made these days is hard, and everyone's so opinionated, and there's no compassion for anything. You know? And I feel like... I can look at a performance, or a movie, or a TV show, or anything and, you know, see... see the silver lining and, and you know, even if it's a failure or... but, what constitutes a failure? You know I always look at that stuff and I always see that there is, uhm... there's always a next step. you know? To me, like, it's... it's not about what you're doing. It's about what you're trying to get to. Like, I'm always chasing something. I can always... I can only talk about me personally, and I'm always sorta like, uhm, chasing something. I've always been into a plethora of different things as far as... not just acting, but I've always been into music. I've always been into art and, you know, sculptures, architecture and all that stuff. And I've always felt like all those things have inspired my work. So, if someone has a negative opinion, or a positive opinion about it, it's always like, "Oh, thanks. Well, I appreciate you liking that." But, you know, I'm... I'm off to the next thing anyway. So... [Diane: Right.] It doesn't really... you know...

Diane Guerrero 05:31

What do you find yourself chasing?

Jermaine Fowler 05:34

Hmm. I'm a curious guy, so I don't know. Like, I don't know. Even if I got like a really nice award for a thing, it probably wouldn't be enough because I'm... I'm always like, you know, thinking about what I want to do after it [Diane: Right.] And that can be an issue because sometimes it can be hard to be present and enjoy, you know, a moment and a win. And that is a huge issue for a lot of us is that we don't enjoy what we've created. [Diane: Mm hmm] And so lately, I'm trying to... just trying to stay grounded and enjoy those those moments that I've made and [Diane: Yeah] the people who've helped me get there I've been truly embracing and loving, and, uhm, I'm just really... I'm really happy with all of it.

Diane Guerrero 06:29

Well, you should. I mean, I would say... I mean, I would say that you have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be happy with. I mean, you just... we just saw Coming to America. Shall I read more? {Jermaine laughs} Judas and The Black Messiah. F***ing... Sorry To Bother You. [Jermaine: Yeah!!] I had no idea that you were producing the new All That. Like, that was... that was crazy. I remember when you came over my house and we just like, watched, like, old, like, All That reruns. That's what I love about you. I feel like we can like, sit and just, like, talk about art, and film, and movies, and different TV shows that we like, and just, like, totally, like, vibe on our appreciation for all this, like, silly nerdy s**t that's out there that, like when people look at us, wouldn't think that we would vibe with.

Jermaine Fowler 07:24

Well, I didn't know that about you 'til we started talking about Rocko. [Diane: Rocko's Modern Life!] I had no idea you were a Nickelodeon nerd, like myself. [Diane: Huge] Had no idea 'til we started to talk. And when we met each other, we were at a interesting place in our lives. You know, my mom was sick and, you know, you were going through your issues as well. And I had no idea what you were going through, and you didn't know, really, what I was going through. And it was a... I think a lot of people have a weird first reaction with me because I wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm pretty, like... I'm pretty transparent about how I'm feeling most times and what I'm going through. Like, I wear everything on my face. Like, I don't really, like, hide anything. If I'm sad, I'm going to be sad. If I'm upset, I'm going to be upset. If I'm happy, I'm going to be happy. And I think you caught me in a very depressing time in my life, where my mom was, you know, she was... she had breast cancer and I was really, really, really, really, really sad, man. Uhm, and, at the time, it was hard to, uhm... to make a lot of new friends, you know? 'Cause, uhm, I didn't feel like it. {Jermaine laughs} [Diane: Yeah] I just didn't feel like it. I was just... it was either, you know, the people I already knew, or family. Right? And I was just exhausted. I was so tired. I was just so tired. And I remember what helped me get through all of it was, you know, talking about cartoons? [Diane: Awh, I know] Because everybody me, you know, it's about just as simple. A more simple, you know what I mean. Like...

Diane Guerrero 09:17

Yeah, like, when we were kids.

Jermaine Fowler 09:19

Yeah, and I needed that at the time. And it was... you have no idea there was no one else I could talk to you about that crazy s**t but you, and I was like... and I, over over, like, a period of time it became... like, I was just, like, "Ah!" You know, I was... I would get more and more excited to come to work to see you. [Diane: Yeah] and, you know, just laugh and you, Rell, and Katey, Judd and [Diane: Yeah] David.

Diane Guerrero 09:44

Well, well... so that was... Yeah, that was when we... [Jermaine: Yeah] that was when we met. When we met on a set of Superior Donuts.

Jermaine Fowler 09:50

Yeah, man. We were all like... everybody... individually, everybody was going through something. It was interesting and how you don't really know what people are going through until you start to... you have to open up about it. You know? And I'm glad I did 'cause I got to know you better and, you know, Anna, and Darren, and Dave, Maz and, you know, Judd, and Katie and Rel better. It was awesome. So, I appreciate that time a lot. Like, I really do. I really, really do. And I look back fondly at those experiences, and I'm happy I got to do that and shut that show with you.

Diane Guerrero 10:27

Yeah, that show was amazing. It was freaking awesome to... First of all, like, I wanted so bad to do a multi-cam. But I so... like, I so much wanted to do a multi-cam with you. I wanted to do it with that kid that I saw on the f***ing Superior Donut commercials. You know, I saw you and Judd Hirsch and I was like, "Who's that guy?" {Jermaine laughing} I'm like, "I want to do a show with that kid so bad." And, of course, you know, getting to be on set with you guys was such an amazing experience. But yeah, you were... you were grieving at that time and I didn't know how to... I think I... I think that my vision of the show was I'm gonna come on board and, like, I'm gonna be best friends with Jermaine and, like, that's really what I wanted. And I need to... first of all, I need to chill out with that, like, not everyone's gonna be your best friend, Diane. Uhm, but, like, I did... I did see that, like, something came alive in you when we did talk about cartoons and when we did talk about, like, those common interests because I never... you know, for me, it was the same thing. Like, I can... I couldn't really... I wouldn't just go on show and... go on shows and be like, "I love Rocko's Modern Life", and everybody would be like, "Yeah, what's up. Me too!" It's like I had very little connection with other folks. You know. And so when I met you, I, I... I wanted to find that common ground, and we did, and I'm happy that we were there for each other during that time. I love you, Jermaine.

Jermaine Fowler 11:54

I love you too, Diane. I really do. I also think that's what's fueled a lot of I'm sure your creativity, especially mine, is, uh, just staying true to what made my childhood. [Diane: Mm hmm, mm hmm] And there was always this one quote that I loved and it was, uh, 'never grow up, it's a trap'. Something like that. Something along the lines of, like, it's important to keep a little bit of that childhood afloat within your personality, because it's really going to drive a lot, as a creative, from us. Like, it's important to kinda keep that imagination, and that hope, that naivete is really... For me, the crazier my ideas get it's because like, you know, I decided to, you know, channel a lot of anything can be made and that...

Diane Guerrero 12:50

Right, to like, listen to your... to your kid self. [Jermaine: Yeah!] Like, when you were a kid, you were just totally like, "Okay, I want... I want to see like, you know, this buffalo marry this goldfish." And like, that was totally okay.

Jermaine Fowler 13:03

And why not? Like...

Diane Guerrero 13:04

And why not?

Jermaine Fowler 13:05

Yeah, that's why my favorite people like Tim Burton, or even Eddie and [Diane: Eddie Murphy?] Yeah, Eddie Murphy. Like, they all... they all have this, in a very, like, beautiful way, this childlike exuberance and this, like, enthusiasm about what they're doing and you need that. Like you, you need that. It's what, it's what's going to keep you going. It's easy to be jaded and bitter in this industry. It's very...

Diane Guerrero 13:30

It's easy to be bitter and jaded as a, as a grown up.

Jermaine Fowler 13:33

Especially right now. And what's helped me a lot to kinda stay excited about, you know, every day and what tomorrow can bring is hanging out with my kids.

Diane Guerrero 13:44

Mm hmm.

Jermaine Fowler 13:45

I think I'm one of those, like, stereotypical fun dads, and it makes me laugh 'cause I hate that term, 'fun dad' 'cause it always {Diane laughs}

Diane Guerrero 13:53

You are a fun dad.

Jermaine Fowler 13:54

I'm pretty fun. Like, I'm pretty fun

Diane Guerrero 13:56

You were a fun dad before you had kids.

Jermaine Fowler 13:57

Before I had kids. {laughing} I always... I just love my kids. I just love my kids and I just know what they want to do. Right? I just know what they want to do. I'm like, 'cause I would want to do it. Like, I always say... I'm like, what I want to do I'm sure they want to do. So, we'll go to the beach on random days. We'll go to Universal to hangout and, you know, look at the water fountains and... You know, they're very simple. Like that, that's all they care about. They don't need... they don't need anything else besides your presence and your, your attention. [Diane: mm hmm] And no matter what you're doing, you can... you can do that. Like, you can just give that to them and I, uh, I just try to embrace that throughout this entire quarantine is... [Diane: Right] You know, I know we're... I know we're stuck in the house for a year, but there are things you can do to make it fun in there. [Diane: Right] So, we've been filling the house up with, like, ball pits and, you know, gigantic stuffed animals, inflatable, like, you know...

Diane Guerrero 14:49

I know. You guys are constant... constantly inviting me to like these weird kid parties and I'm like, {Jermaine chuckles} "What are you... you're freezing the what? You're freezing the driveway so you guys [Jermaine: Yeah] could freakin, like...

Jermaine Fowler 14:59

Oh, yeah, the sledding! Yeah. [Diane: the sled {laughs}] We, we, uh, ordered the snow company to come by or the ice company to come shave ice and make a... make a snow hill for the kids, and it's great. Like, it's... I just want to give my kids, you know, the s**t I didn't really have as a kid. And that was, uhm, it was all that type of stuff.

Diane Guerrero 15:19

Well, I see... I see that childlike in you in, like, the work that you do. And just, like, I mean, hanging out with you always is so much fun, and...

Jermaine Fowler 15:27

{laughs} I love you, dude. Thank you. I appreciate that. I like to have a good time. {laughing}

Diane Guerrero 15:42

After the break, how Jermaine stays true to himself. I feel like the opportunities that you've had in your life you've really created for yourself, and you've made sure that everything that you've worked on, has been something that you have really been about. And I want to know, what does that process look like?

Jermaine Fowler 16:21

Ah, so... You know what's funny, I'm not sure if I have an exact process. I do know that I'm moved by my heart and my gut. I know that everything that I do and I want to do is right. I want to look back at everything that I've ever created snd understand that I'm not... I've grown from that person and I'm getting better. And that what I intend to create reflects me and what I'm going through, and it can somehow help another person understand what they're going through. I didn't realize like, some of my favorite people have gone through the same s**t that I've had to go through in my life. When I realized that, I was like, I need to start telling my story in a more honest, reflective way so people can not be afraid to talk about themselves and what they've had to go through because we're human beings, and all of our stories are different. And yet, they're still the same. You know? So, I want every project to be different. I'm unafraid of everything. Like, I'm... again, my curiosity drives me and I want to tell everything. I want to tell all types of stories. I don't care who they're about. I don't care...You know, as long as the stories have a beautiful, you know, whether it has a message or is very honest to a particular theme or genre. Like, I love genre. I love horror movies, I love action movies, I love comedies, I also love bending all those and making something just unheard of. I want to open doors for people who didn't have anything like me, who didn't have a production company, or a dad, or a mom, or a cousin who was in the industry that, you know, nepotis-em. [Diane: Mmhmm, Mmhmm] You know, like, I didn't have any of that. I had to scratch and claw my way to be here right now and it'll continue to be that way. It's weird 'cause like, it's one thing I'm trying to... You say, uhm, I've had to create a lot of these opportunities for myself, and it's true. And there's one thing I had to understand was that comes from a lot of conditioning. [Diane: Mmhmm] The world don't understand me. I gotta do it myself. Like tha... all that stuff. [Diane: Mmhmm] That comes from me not having any of those resources, you know, that... around me and having to do it myself. And one thing I'm really understanding and really embracing is the fact that I do have a support system who wants to help, and really letting that love in and that support in. Because for 15 years it was me on my own, and now I'm really embracing kinda delegating a lot of work to other people. One of my strengths and one of my flaws is the fact that I am really driven. And it can be a good thing and it can be a detrimental thing, uh, in some ways. Like, this is what happened, like, for a long time. [Diane: Yeah] I wanted to portray a particular character in a biopic. I don't want to say his name because the deal isn't closed yet. However, it's a pretty huge deal to me, and I've always wanted to play this guy since I was in high school. When my mom and dad divorced, I went to my mom's house and I was inspired by, uhm, Chapelle's Rick James sketch to do my own True Hollywood Story of this guy. And so I shot it with my little sister in my mom's apartment, and it was great. It was really funny. And then years later, like, I was like, "I wanna do a movie about this particular dude!" And it wasn't happening. And then a couple months ago, I get a text from my agent and my manager, and they said, "Hey, dude, something weird just happened." I'm like, "what's going on?" "You know how you wanted to play that guy that we all know you love for a while now?" And I was like, "Yeah". "Well, we got an offer in for you to play him in a biopic." And it got... there was just a huge pause, and I'm like, "Excuse me?" And they go, "Yeah, I know, man. It's f***ing weird." And I'm like, "It is weird!" And it was one of those things where, like, I had to let go of it for a little bit and just kind of let the... the universe and whatever the powers that be let it happen, you know, and stop trying to force things to just come to me or build things that... You know, like, there is an organic way things are supposed to be built. And, a lot of times, I had to realize that with patience and, uhm, just patience. And I've been learning that. Like, that's what I've been learning throughout this whole quarantine is, uhm, it truly is a virtue to just kinda... just chill the f**k out a little bit. You know?

Diane Guerrero 21:14

I know you're talking about being patient and letting things come to you, but I have never met someone who is so dedicated to the inspiration of life or the world, and that is such a beautiful thing to see, my friend.

Jermaine Fowler 21:31

I appreciate that, D. Thank you.

Diane Guerrero 21:33

It really is.

Jermaine Fowler 21:34

You know what's funny, like, I used to... Living in Bushwick, it was the most artistic area I've ever lived in at the time as a young adult, and I would walk by graffiti pieces and other pieces of art down there, and sculptures. Whatever it was, I would try to find the person that made it if I liked it, and contact them and tell them great job. {laughing} [Diane: Yeah, yeah] You know, like, I don't know, like you said, I've always been inspired by life. And, [Diane: Yeah] you know, walking by something as simple as a graffiti piece, and, you know, contacting or, ya know...

Diane Guerrero 22:07

Contacting or, like, just creating a whole... like, going home and, like, writing like story, that story about it, or like finding an article that like, connects to this thing that you saw the other day, and being like, "ah, but you could do something with this." And that is, what our lives should be. I feel like I come across so many artists that are, like, frustrated. Like me, included. You know what I'm saying? How many conversations have we had of like, man, I'm frustrated. Like, you know, people don't understand me and like, I want to... I want to create this, but yet, I don't know. You know, I'm always like having some sort of f***ing identity crisis, you know, which is totally normal, especially, you know, being from America, or the Americas {they laugh} I guess. It's, like, sort of a given that we have, like, this identity crisis going on and that, you know, sometimes we're... I mean, we're constantly changing and so. sometimes, you know... one day you think you figured it out, and then the next you're just like, "I'm having an identity crisis!!" It's like, nah, b**ch, chill. Like, you just literally are, like, evolving. And you're like, "Oh, okay!"

Jermaine Fowler 23:08

That's what my therapist said. Like, my therapist said... like, I was having a meltdown about selling uhm... doing another, you know, stand-up comedy film. I was excited about it and then after it started to happen recently, I didn't want to do it anymore. Because I was like, scared. I was like, "What the f**k am I gonna talk about? Am I ready to go back on stage?" Like, after my friend Kevin passed, I didn't want to do anything. He's my favorite comedian, so it was hard to go back on stage because it reminded me of him.

Diane Guerrero 23:39

What's Kevin's last name again? [Jermaine: Kevin Barnett] Kevin Barnett. Man, rest in peace. Rest in power. Rest in power, Kev.

Jermaine Fowler 23:46

Yeah, yeah. Uhm, but yeah, uhm, I was having a meltdown about doing another comedy special. My mom died. She was a huge, huge part of my writing process when I moved to New York, and we started to reconnect, and develop stories together. She was the best.

Diane Guerrero 24:03

I didn't know you were developing stuff with your mom.

Jermaine Fowler 24:05

H**l, yeah. Like, I was too young to really understand a lot of the s**t I was talking about, and it wasn't until I spoke to my mom about, like, "Mom, remember that time so and so and so and so?" And she'd be like, "Oh, yeah, but so and so and so." I'm like, "What?!" {Diane laughs} And, and it was our... It was our, like, reconnection. Like, that's... that helped us reconnect because we got to laugh about the crazy, insane s**t that happened to us. We were a family. It was... it was nuts, and it was very therapeutic, and it was awesome. I was like, yo, my mom... I knew my mom was funny, but this woman can tell a f***ing story. So, we would kinda just... we were like a tag team, man. You know, I'd be like, "Yo, Ma, remember that time Daddy did this or Yashika did that?" She'd be like, "Yeah, I remember. So, this is crazy. So, back then..." {Diane laughing} and she would give me... she would give me texture, and color and all that, and it was awesome.[Diane: Yeah] So, she gets a lot of that credit and Kevin was the... honestly, like the bravest ni**a I've ever seen on the stage. Like, he would bomb his ass off and sabotage all the sets because he could. {Diane giggles} And, if he was having a bad set or a bad day, everybody was having a bad set or a bad day. And I would like watch him in awe 'cause he was like, the coolest like, tallest, most like, Lady Killer, like, Jamaican ni**a I've ever met in my life, and had the balls to kind of go on stage and talk about the weird s**t he wanted to talk about. He was he was such an anti, you know, stereotypical, like, he was just against the grain and like, you know, such a contrarian. I love that dude, and he... that dude had the gall to talk about anything he wanted to f***ing talk about. And when he died, like... it's a weird thing to say, but I felt like my enthusiasm for stand-up died too. When I had to go on stage, it hurt, because I was like, "What the fuck am I? Why am I up here? Like, He's not here." You know? [Diane: Mmhmm] It would suck. And there were times I would sabotage my own set, you know, trying to chase him. [Diane: Mmhmm] You know, there were times I would just try to say the most outlandish s**t on stage and try to disrespect, you know, whoever was in the audience trying to chase him. And it wasn't me. Like, you know, at times, it was fun but then I was like, man, you know, I'm just trying to chase Kevin. You know? [Diane: Right.] And I had talk to my therapist about it, and he said the thing you're saying. He said, a lot of times when you reach that wall or that plateau, it means that you are ready for the next step in your life, or your career. You're ready for the next thing, and you're ready to break through that and figure it out. Like, frustration leads to that next thing, and that's definitely what... you know, what I was going through, what you're going through, and I would talk to you about that s**t, like, all the time, like, Yo. You would, you know, call me after an interesting day you've had and I'd be like, "Look, man! {laughing} You like cartoons, n***a. Do cartoons, man!" {laughing}

Diane Guerrero 27:06

I know, right? Like, I want to do cartoons. [Jermaine: Do cartoons!] {laughing}

Jermaine Fowler 27:12

And then... It's just true! Sometimes it's that simple but, like, we make it so hard. And it really is that simple. It's... it really is sometimes.

Diane Guerrero 27:26

After the break, Jermaine and I just keep being real goofy. Jermaine, do you remember when we would charge each other, like, through Venmo and s**t for giving each other advice? {laughing} It was like our little therapy sessions that we were charging each other for. [Jermaine: The therapy? Yeah.] Yeah.

Jermaine Fowler 28:00

I remember I requested $1000 and you requested like $200, and we tried to, like, over... like... that was... that was fun, man. We would like... we would hang out like, "Yeah, so I'm doing this and doing that, but I feel like this and that." and you'd be like, "Yeah, yeah, I'm Venmo-ing you $200 [Diane: Exactly.] for this session. {laughing]

Diane Guerrero 28:15

But that's such... like, that's such a... something that's so telling of our relationship. Like, we met at such an interesting time that we were both go, going through so many growing pains and obviously, like, experiencing some very real things. Uhm, and we would talk to each other, but there came a point where we're like, okay, we can't we can't continue charging each other 'cause we're friends. And we're also not, like...[Jermaine: It's getting expensive.] It's getting expensive and, also, we're not licensed professionals.

Jermaine Fowler 28:43

This is true. It's probably legal.

Diane Guerrero 28:45

So, {giggles} it's probably illegal. Exactly. {Jermaine chuckles} But, so like, how have you... I mean, I know both of us have, have been going through therapy. Like, how... has that helped a lot with with grief?

Jermaine Fowler 28:55

Yeah. It's a... therapy has been very helpful. I've been doing a lot of therapy once a week. I've been doing that. It's been awesome. I have a life coach I talk to. She's... Her name is Eileen. Eileen Collins out in Chicago. She... I met her through a friend of mine. This is why... this is the other thing I've been embracing. I've been embracing the people around me, my family and my friends around me. Because Max Collins is a kid I met out in Chicago. He came to a show, him and his mom, beautiful woman, awesome family came to a show and we took a picture afterwards. And I think Max hit me up on social media and said, "Hey, I'm moving to LA, you know, I would love to, you know, you know, stay in contact." And I'm like, "that sounds cool, man." So kinda, in a weird way, mentoring the guy, but I'm not really his mentor because what he wants to do is like, tech, kind of AR augmented reality stuff. And I'm like, "I don't know s**t about that. I don't know how I can mentor you, but I can tell you what a good sushi spot is. {laughter} So, he's been really cool. And when my mom died, he understood and he said, "You know, my mom is a life coach and I would love to, you know, connect you two." And I'm like, "What?" And he's like, "Yeah." So, I've been talking to his mom for the better part of three years about just, you know, life. And she's been so helpful. She's so maternal. Her voice is just beautiful and like, it helps me a lot like, it's like... [Diane: How's it go?] Her voice? [Diane:Yeah.] Uhm, I don't want to offend her. [Diane: No, it's okay. Sorry.] But it's very sultry, and very relaxing. It's almost like an audio book, by the most elegant woman who's ever spoken. [Diane: Ooh!] That is a high, high praise. She's amazing. [Diane: Oh, I love that.] I say all that because I wouldn't have known anything about what she does or what she could help me with if I didn't embrace Max as a friend and a great kid who, you know, I could possibly help out while he's out here in LA. That's what I been doing, man. Like, you know, it's been a very... it can be a stressful time. But then I realized that there are people in my family and in my adopted family that can help me with this stuff. And as long as I just open up about it, like, that's all I have to do, and I'm a very... I used to be a very internal guy because how I grew up in my house was very tumultuous, and I couldn't really express myself because I was called a white boy, or I was called a nerd, or weird, or strange and s**t like that. [Diane: Mmhmm] So, it was hard to express myself in my house because of how I was... of how it was taken. So I was very internal. Very {emphasis added here} internal until I started to do stand up comedy. And then I started to meet other f***ing weird people like me. Like you, {Diane laughs} and Kev and my boy, Josh, and the Lucas brothers and LaKeith and Steven. You know, and all those are like my favorite people in this world. Like, I've been just like, opening up to them. And like, Steven and I, we talk about fatherhood a lot, and [Diane: Mmhmm] he's a beautiful dude, and it's just been great. So, that's what I've been embracing the most is therapy, meditation, some CBD pills. {laughs} No, it's deeper than that. Like, I don't want to get high because... So, when I first moved to LA, I had my dreadlocks and I was a huge, like, freeform dredhead like, you know... I was, I was a... I was a Rasta, dude. Like, I was smoke all the time. I got my weed card before weed became fully legal. You know what I mean?

Diane Guerrero 32:12

Right, right, right.

Jermaine Fowler 32:13

I got all that, and I met you during Superior Donuts, and I was like smoking... I was a snob. I was like, "I only smoke Jack Herer, Bro." {Diane laughing} [Diane: I know you were!] "I only smoke hybrids, Bro."

Diane Guerrero 32:21

You'd be, like, smoking on set and I'm like, "Can we do that?" You're like, "I'm a, like, literally a producer. Like, this is, like, my show, dude."

Jermaine Fowler 32:28

Yeah, I know, I know. It was great! And so, I would smoke before rehearsal. Like, I would get high before like... and, you know, you'd do your little edibles too, but I couldn't do edibles because... Oh, I would do my little edibles? I would do 'em too. I would do little pieces. I would do like, little niblets, I would do like little, little, little sips. So, I would... I would do that. But then like... I remember I did mushrooms once. Right? [Diane: Mmhmm] And, uh, I did mushrooms once, and it was after my mom died. And they say, if you do mushrooms, go in nature. Go in nature and do mushrooms, and I'm like, "I'm too tired for that shit. I'm gonna do this right now my couch." {Jermaine laughing} [Diane: Right] {laughing hysterically} And so I did the mushrooms on my couch, and I put on Sleepy Hollow, my favorite movie. {laughing} And so, it was... I didn't... I thought maybe I would freak out 'cause it's a horror movie. I'm like, [Diane: Yeah] "I'm gonna have a bad trip, man." And that was the best trip I've ever had on mushrooms. Of course, because Sleepy Hollow is like your [Jermaine: My safe...] It literally is your safe place [Jermaine: safe place]. {laughs} It is, it is. It's my safe place and that was the... I only done mushrooms three, four times now. And the first time was great. Second time, mixed reaction. Third time, I was at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, [Diane: uh huh] and I was, I was having a bad trip. And the fourth time, I realized that I can control my trip. [Diane: Oh, okay] I can control how my trip goes. Like, I did the mushroom [Diane: uh huh] and I was like, "Okay, if I think about something negative, I can literally feel my, my body just get anxious. [Diane: Mmhmm, Mmhmm] I can feel that. But when I start to think about something positive and beautiful, I literally feel warm, like a warm feeling comes over me." [Diane: Right] And I realized just control my thoughts. Just control of my positivity and my negativity. Balance that out, [Diane: Mmhmm] and I will be okay. And I realized, like, that's what mushrooms are. It just makes you so sensitive to everything. Your thoughts, textures and, you know, that... your... everything just, just hyper. You know, it's just hyper.

Diane Guerrero 34:21

So good that you get to experience that too and apply it to like, your... like, your life. Because that's literally like what they tell you in therapy is, like, you can control your thoughts. If you are feeling something negative, like, because you just saw something that triggered you or you're thinking about and you're just like staying in that negativity then that's how you're going to feel the rest of the day. But, like, if you literally change your thoughts, do things that are more positive for you. Like, when you meditate. Like, you know when I'm having a bad day and I call you and you're just like, "Here are the..." {laughter} What did you tell me last time? Oh, "here are these affirmations." And then I call you and you're like, "Did you do the affirmations?" I'm like, "yeah, I'm having a better day now because I did the affirmations." But it's like we're so resistant to, to like changing our narrative because it's not... it's just not how we grew up. It's not what we've experienced. And it's because that really wasn't introduced until, like, later. Obviously, through therapy and through like different methods of like, just... you can literally make yourself feel better if you just [Jermaine: Literally.] change your thoughts.

Jermaine Fowler 35:21

You can. It doesn't matter what the situation is. It can be pretty traumatic. However, there are things you can't control. Right? But what you can control is your outlook on it. Right? [Diane: Absolutely.] I've been truly embracing that and that's all I can do. I can't control you. Like, some days... and this is what you helped me understand is like, when you're having a bad day, it hurts me a lot and... it does because I want to, like, I just want to help Diane be happy. And so, I will call you

Diane Guerrero 35:48

You're like the only person I feel comfortable telling I am having a terrible day. Because you're the only person... you're my only friend who calls me as much as any of my friends call [Jermaine: I care about you, dude.] I know, I know. I know.

Jermaine Fowler 36:00

Like, I... like, when you don't pick up, this is what you've helped me understand. When you don't pick up the phone, or when you ignore me, or send me to voicemail {Diane laughing} or whatever, I would take that personally. Because I'd be like...{chuckles} I'd be like, "Ah, man, she don't want to talk." And that's... you don't want to talk. Like, you just don't want to talk, and that's okay that you don't want to talk. But, you will call me eventually and be like...

Diane Guerrero 36:19

I love how you always change my voice. {Jermaine laughing} As if I ever had this deep voice. {laughing}

Jermaine Fowler 36:25

Hey. {laughing} Hey, man. But no, you, you you, you know, when you have a bad... I have bad... I have bad days too, and I call you. And what I've had to understand is like, [Diane: Yeah} you have your own process. You know? You, when you're ready to pick up, you will pick up. When you're ready to talk, you will talk. And so, I've been accepting that and understanding that more, thanks to you. So thanks.

Diane Guerrero 36:45

Well, it's been dope that every time, you know, I do come around and I'm able to be like, "Hey, I'm hav... I'm just having a terrible week and you're just like, "Okay, well, what was it?" Or, you know, you have, like, these affirmations ready to... for me. Or like, you have, like, 10 movie recommendations that you have, or like, you have a book that you read, or like, you literally tell me to fire my entire team because it's not working for me. Or {laughing} when you... No, no, no...

Jermaine Fowler 37:09

Are they listening? Oh, my god. {laughing]

Diane Guerrero 37:11

No, I mean, like, {Jermaine laughing} but, but that was something...that's something that I've learned from you is that, you know, I don't have to let whatever my identity or whatever is going on with me, like, limit me. You know what I mean? And like, that's... it's like, okay, if there is something that you don't like, or that you are not comfortable with, change it. You know, it's okay to say no, I don't want to do this. No, I don't feel comfortable. Hey, uh, Jack... you... Hey...hello... Hey, Jack and Herer, uh, both of you are no longer serving me {Jermaine laughing} so I need to, like, move on because, you know, we've, we've outgrown each other or whatever. [Jermaine: Yes.} But meeting you, you have never let, like, whatever identity people have, like, placed on you limit you and what you are able to create.

Jermaine Fowler 38:01

Ah, you know it's funny you say that. I had this conversation recently [Diane: Mmhmm] regarding the pressure we put on ourselves [Diane: Mmhmm, Mmhmm] as people of color. Right? Like, there's already pressure from the outside sorta world, and then when we put the pressure on ourselves, sometimes it can be... it can be heavy, man.

Diane Guerrero 38:20

What has been that process for you, though? Like, what has been, like, you navigating through this space as a Black man?

Jermaine Fowler 38:26

I do what I want, I do what I want, you know, for us, all we wanted was our freedom, right? That's it was to be free. So I'm embracing that freedom, I'm doing the fuck I want to do. That's all I'm doing. That's it, I don't care what anyone thinks or says about it. I'm gonna do what I want to do. I can I can, I've earned it, you know, I can have my flaws. I can embrace the, you know, my contrarian beliefs, I can seek, you know, help in different ways I can do whatever I want to do. Because that's what my ancestors fought for, you know, for me to do what I want to do. That's, that's it, that's all that fucking matters is that there's so much pressure with how things can be perceived. But at the end of the day, I'm not going to be a prisoner of other people's opinions. That's that's another added piece of anxiety and anxiety, especially these days. Like it's it's not fair to be a prisoner of other people's opinions. And it's so easy to fall under that. It's so easy with social media with criticisms on whether it's on online or with people out in the real world who forgotten compassion. You know, all that stuff is it's it can really, it can weigh you down if you let it by the end of the day. I'm not gonna I can't control any of that. So do what you want to do. They're gonna judge you anyway. Right. So that's kind of what I've been. Like, I wake up every day with my daughter and we have this mantra. And I tell her every day we look at each other and our eyes, and our mantra is my name. My name is tibay. So I say my name is today I'm in control of my heart and my mind and my body and soul. And we repeat that four times. And then I go right and she goes, Yeah, and I'm like, let's go let's go have some fun. Let me go have fun. You only live one life. I'm not going to do it [Diane: Right.] trying to... You know what I mean, like, [Diane: To please other people's, like, opinions and pre... yeah.] Uh, please everybody? Nah, man, I'ma die happy as s**t. {laughing}

Diane Guerrero 40:34

And that's the thing if you look if you follow that you are living proof that if you follow your heart and what you want to do and what makes you happy, you fucking get to create interesting shit. And you have I mean, you know, you have such a fucking colorful career and you just started No, not not just a career Jimmy I'm so sorry. I don't want to like limit you to that were like reduce you to like your work. I'm saying you have such a colorful life such beautiful people around you, two beautiful kids. And you're just like, constantly, like, just creating and not even just content for, for... for your fans like me - ahem, ahem. [Jermaine: {laughing} I love you, dude.] Not just, not just content for me, but, like, you're constantly just creating f***ing things around you. Like, it's... it's, it's amazing to see you do that. It was... Honestly, it was, like, dope to see you do that in Superior Donuts. You know, and [Jermaine: Wow.] and seeing that you were... I'm actually kind of interested a little bit to talk about Superior Donuts because... [Jermaine: Let's do it.] because, first of all, why don't we have a f***ing theme song? Okay!

Jermaine Fowler 41:42

'Cause... 'cause everything has been reduced to 20 minutes now. You know? So, there's no time for music. And I don't care if the theme song is five minutes but I wanted the theme song too. I wanted a theme song. [Diane: What was that theme song?] {both singing} Superior Donuts! [Diane: Oh, no. You do it.] Okay. [Diane: Go 'head.] {Jermaine singing} Superior Donuts. {laughing} [Diane: For the family {singing} For the family! {both laughing hysterically} Every... The best TV shows had a Black, uh, had a Black singer do the theme song, like, uh, {singing} Darkwing Duck. Like, it was that and...

Diane Guerrero 42:14

That sounds like Michael McDonald though.

Jermaine Fowler 42:16

It does, and it... I think it was, I think it was a Black Michael McDonald.

Diane Guerrero 42:16

A Black Michael McDonald. Michael McDonald is a Black Michael McDonald.

Jermaine Fowler 42:23

That n***a was Black! {Diane laughing hysterically} I don't know. Like, I feel like my... like you said... Like Family Matters. Like Full House. I wanted a... I wanted a theme song. So I'm with you on that. We fought for one. And we eventually got something pretty concise and catchy but, like, I wanted that long, 10 minute...

Diane Guerrero 42:39

{singing} Superior Donuts for the family. {Jermaine laughing}

Jermaine Fowler 42:45

I remember after every table read if there was like a heavy message in it, like, it would get quiet, and then we'd go {singing} Superior Donuts! It was, like... it was my favorite, man. I loved it. So anyway, honey, I did want to ask you, like, [Jermaine: Yeah.] Okay, but this is what I've just found out. You were the first Black lead to star in a primetime show on CBS. [Jermaine: Right.] In a, an entire generation. Like, on CBS, like, the last show that was like, led by a Black person was The Cosby Show. [Jermaine: Right] Did you know that? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that was brought up a lot.

Diane Guerrero 43:18

I don't know. What was brought up a lot?

Jermaine Fowler 43:19

Oh, yeah. Listen, there was an article about it and, uh, [Diane: Mmhmm] the article was bittersweet because, as a Black dude, like I said, I want to open doors up for the people in my community, especially back home in Hyattsville, Maryland. That's my goal. That's my goal. That's what I want to do. However, when the article feels like it's White people [Diane: Mmhmm] patting themselves on the back -- "Look what we did. Oh, we got one." I'm like, at one point it's like, that's great. I'm the first black lead in a TV sitcom in the, in the past 10 years. But the other question I had [Diane: Mmhmm] was why? Like, why? Why? Why did it take so long? You know what I'm saying? And should you be proud of that? Should y'all lbe proud of that? No, you shouldn't be proud of that. At one point when I was coming up... like, when we're both coming up, there were black shows everywhere. There were, there were... like, TV was Black for me. UPN, Moesha, The Parkers, Wayans' Brothers, uhm, everything was Black. Martin. Like, I grew up around Black TV. Nickelodeon, like, I give them all the credit like, you know, Kenan & Kel, All That, Black as Hell, like That show called Black as Hell. {laughing hysterically} Yeah, Black as Hell on Nickelodeon. Ain't no Black as Hell, right? Did I, did I just make that up? Uhm, and then, and then... and then, I mean, even like the cartoons like Patti Mayonnaise, Black. I'm sure Skeeter was Black, but he was blue. Gerald from Hey Arnold. Like, um, she was Black! I loved it and then at some point, it just dried up. Maybe it's because uhm, you know, there's been too much television and everything just sort of spread out but, like, it felt like it was more centralized and it felt more... It felt like it was more.

Diane Guerrero 44:54

How was it writing on Superior Donuts? Was that tough, like, being like after, after The Cosby Show? Was there, like, all this pressure to like, write... I don't know, write a certain way? Did you, did you get to do what you wanted to do with that show?

Jermaine Fowler 45:06

This is the thing. There is a process, a network process that is ingrained. And, and, you know, it's just ingrained the way you're supposed to write for the amount of time. It's a, it's, it can be, at times, limiting in a show where you want to talk about so much. So, some days they were awesome, and some days that were frustrating. There were some days we get notes back and you'd be like, what? And some notes you, some notes... and some shows didn't get notes and you're like, Alright. But, there were times where like, I was like, is this show going as far as it can go? Because I feel like the first season it was like, alright, good introduction. Second season, okay, we getting warm. Then, we never got a third season. And the third season I wanted, I really wanted to get back to the story and the characters. I wanted to truly bring some... I wanted to act, man. I wanted to act my a** off. And that's where there were moments with Judd that I loved, the moments with Katey that I loved, there are moments with Maz and Dave, and you as well [Diane: and me!] that I loved. Yeah, dude. What you talking about? [Diane: and me!] Yes. H**l yes, Diane. Yes. And we never really got to milk it. I'm serious. Like, there were there were times where I was frustrated. I'm like, Dude, this show doesn't have to be always a, uhm, you know, panel discussion about news stories, like...

Diane Guerrero 46:35

Because they wanted to, like... they wanted people in the Midwest or... I don't know who they thought that was watching the show. They felt like they needed to, like, handhold people... like, I hate that. I hate when, like, when networks tell you that you have to like handhold the audience like that's unfair.

Jermaine Fowler 46:51

Well, it's it's a, it's, it's... you're, you're treating them like children, and you're undermining their intelligence. Right? [Diane: Mmhmm] And it's not fair to them.

Diane Guerrero 47:01

Not fair to them or us.

Jermaine Fowler 47:03

Or us. I don't mind talking about a specific issue just as long as it's on story and on character. That's all I cared about. I'm like, I don't care if we're talking about any... I don't care. I just want to make sure it's from your point of view, Diane. Rell's point of view, Maz, you know, me, you know, Katey. It doesn't matter. I just want to make sure we're on story. Otherwise, why are people watching the show? They can just watch the news. So, it was, at times, really fun to to be in the writers room with a Rob, Betsy. {Diane laughing} It was so many writers -- Cindy, Emily, like, Jacque, like, all... Hugh, Dan. It was so many writers. Like, I remem... they were all amazing writers. Every single one of them were amazing writers and they could all run their own show. It's just that I felt like there was a... there was always an uphill battle with the network sort of structure and the antiquated way they like to make shows. That was it. It was, uhm... I wanted the show to be a little bit more and I wanted to get there in the third season. But that's the beauty about shows, like, it can grow, and I don't think we had that chance to really blossom yet. And that's fine 'cause I learned so much from the show. I learned a lot. I learned a lot being around you. I learned a lot being around the writers. I learned a lot being around the network. I learned how to navigate, uhm, network calls and notes calls and all that good stuff. And it got me to the next, you know, uh uh, chapter which was Sorry to Bother You. And after that I wanted to just {Diane snapping her fingers} be in movies. So, it was... [Diane: That's me snapping.] it was a beautiful experience. Yeah, I'll snap. Gimme my flowers. Where my flowers at?

Diane Guerrero 48:35

All your flowers. I love Sorry to Bother You. [Jermaine: Give me all my flowers.]

Jermaine Fowler 48:37

I do too.

Diane Guerrero 48:38

That was, that was... that was you. Like, that's everything that you, like, talked about -- genre. That, that was [Jermaine: Yeah.] all that you wanted in your first film. Like...

Jermaine Fowler 48:48

I know, dude. So that's, that's... I'm glad you brought that up because, again, that movie was full of people who wanted the same thing that I wanted. We all wanted a collective thing, which was we were tired of not seeing Black people in the movies that we love. {laughs} [Diane: Yeah.] Like, there were... You know what I mean? Like, I love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But you know how many Black people love that? So many and, yet, we don't have a movie that we can call that. Right? [Diane: Right.] There's so many, like... there's so many iconoclastic sorta like, you know... we'd like everything, man. And I think there are genres we haven't really dipped our toes into just yet.

Diane Guerrero 49:24

Such an incredible movie. If you haven't checked it out, like, do yourself a favor. What was it like working on that though? Was it great?

Jermaine Fowler 49:30

Ooh, dude! Uhm... so, again, everybody on that movie wanted to be a part of that movie. Terry, Tessa, Steven, Omari, LaKeith. D**n, Armie. Like, everybody wanted to be a part of the film because there was, you know, we all just had this... we haven't done a movie like that yet. Like, we haven't done that movie yet. And so we all read the script and we're like, "What the f**k is this? I love it." So, being on set was so collaborative. Boots!! We gotta talk about Boots. So, coming off Superior Donuts, I get on set and Boots to... you know, gives me some advice. He was like, "So listen. You come from the, you know, in a multi-cam sitcom world, right. So, you know, you doing movies you really just having a conversation when, you know, while you're doing TV, you know, you're just really performing in front of a live studio audience. I'm like, "Word. A'ight, cool. Thanks, Boots." And that was the best advice I've ever gotten for my first film. And he really mellowed me out. He really, you know, really honed me in. You know. I think he honed a lot of us in and we...

Diane Guerrero 50:34

We need more directors like that. Like Boots.

Jermaine Fowler 50:38

Dude, we need more movies like that, we need more directors like that, we need more stories. [Diane: You right] It starts with the scripts. That movie took five years to get made I believe, and it's... the issue is like, there's just not enough of those scripts being supported and nurtured, and that movie was... that script was really honed by, by Boots and he had a great support system, and Macro and Nina Yang... Nina, Nina Yang Bongiovi and she's awesome. Like, the whole crew, and the cast

Diane Guerrero 51:06

That's... That's what we need more of people who actually want to make things. Right? Not just getting on [Jermaine: Yeah] board just because, you know, it's a job or we have to... we have to do it. It's like, come on, we need more people getting together that care about something to make, you know... that's what, that's what [Jermaine: Yeah] we need to continue showing people and, like, making, is more of that. Well, I'm just I'm so happy that you're in this world creating work that we all can be so proud of. Jermaine Fowler, everybody. I love you, man.

Jermaine Fowler 51:36

I love you too, Diane. Thank you for having me.

Diane Guerrero 51:37

{Diane Singing} Jermaine, do you remember when we would charge each other, like, through Venmo and s**t for, like, giving each other advice or therapy? {snapping fingers} Jermaine likes to party all the time, party all the time, party all the time. Jermaine likes to party all the time, party all the tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime. Doo doo doo doop, Doo, doo doo doo doop, doo doo doo doop doop. Yeah, No, I'm Not Okay is a production of LAist Studios. Remember to rate and review our show. I just found out that it helps other people find it. So if you like it, share it with your friends. The more people we can get to have conversations about mental health the better. If you've got a story you want to share about how you deal with mental health issues, send it my way. Record it on your phone's voice memo app and email it to And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest episodes with a note from me, recommendations from our listeners and our team, and listener stories. Sign up at Jessica Pilot is our talent manager and producer. Our executive producers are Leo G. and me, Diane Guerrero. Web design by Andy Cheatwood at the digital and marketing teams at Southern California Public Radio. Thanks to the team at LAist studios, including Taylor Coffman, Kristen Hayford, Kristen Muller, Michael Consentino, Robert Jo, Mildred Langford, and Leo G. And a special thanks to Brian Crawford. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. Additional support comes from the Angel Foundation, supporting transformational leaders and by the California Health Care Foundation, dedicated to improving the mental health care system for all Californians.