Morning swims on Inkwell Beach, cocktail parties on the front porch and nights out on Circuit avenue; so goes a Vineyard summer for generations of African American Oak Bluffs visitors. And now a proposed new reality show is looking to showcase this particular Island tradition.
“The rest of the country will finally get a peek into how sun-filled summers are spent on the Vineyard when you’re a part of the black, social and successful Oak Bluffs scene,” a description of the show reads. A casting announcement was posted on Craigslist last week.
Darren Toon, executive producer at John Doe Media, told the Gazette this week that his production company is looking for cast members for the Vineyard Project, a reality series following the lives of the affluent African American summer community in Oak Bluffs.
The series is set to film eight episodes on the Island sometime this summer, with an air date for fall or early 2015.
Mr. Toon and his partner are the producers behind Thicker than Water, a Bravo network reality show that chronicles the lives of a gospel music-oriented and wealthy African American family in Tennessee. The company also produced shows such as Totally T-Boz on the TLC network and K-Ci and JoJo Come Clean on TV One.
The announcement of the reality show comes nearly a year after The Vineyard, an ABC Family docu-soap, made waves on the Vineyard while following a group of 20-somethings. The show premiered last summer to criticism of its glossy portrayal of the Island. A spokesperson for the network said no decision has been made about whether The Vineyard has been picked up for another season.
Mr. Toon said the Vineyard Project would be a much different show than the ABC Family reality series.
“It’s the opposite of that experience,” he said. “We don’t want that. We want to tell authentic stories and we want people to be themselves.”
A native of Boston and a summer visitor, Mr. Toon said he knows “the Vineyard very well.” He said that a major network, which has not officially announced the show, approached his production company with the idea of the series after his success with Thicker Than Water.
“We’re really fascinated by the African American experience on the Vineyard,” Mr. Toon added. “It’s something we’ve never seen.”
Casting is open to all ethnicities and ages, he said, but the show would ideally follow a multigenerational African American Oak Bluffs family and their social circle. The production company is looking for a group of 8 to 12 cast members, and Mr. Toon said they hope to have a cast ready to go sometime in March.
“I think with the network behind us...it’s finally time to tell this story that’s never been told before,” he said.
Cast members need to be “big, loud, fun” and most importantly “authentic,” Mr. Toon said. A successful career doesn’t hurt, either.
The series will “get away from the Real Housewives aspect of it,” he added, referring to a popular series on Bravo TV known for drama-filled friendships and glitzy socialites.
“We’re not looking for a bunch of people who don’t have real success,” he said. “Our drama is rooted in authenticity, so we don’t just set up things to have people fighting.”
“A judge, a police chief, a patriarch — we want folks who are doing something influential,” he added. “And down onto the younger folks who are maybe next in line to inherit either the house or the business, something like that.”
Mr. Toon said the production company is looking for a “mature cast.”
“We’re not looking for people who are finding themselves. We’re looking for people who know who they are and are unapologetic about it. We still want people to be rash and cocky, but they have to be able to back it up.”
Those interested in being cast for the show may send an email to John Doe Media at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief biography, family history, social circle description and contact information.