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Black diaspora & family biz drama add up to ‘Riches’


While “Riches,” which hits Prime Video Friday, was inspired by shows like “Dynasty” and “Six Feet Under,” it has serious heft in its Black subject matter.

“Riches” looks at a wildly successful British company that specializes in hair and makeup products for Black consumers.  It begins as Stephen Richards, its Black patriarch, dies of a stroke and the reading of his will launches familial fireworks.

For “Riches” creator Abby Ajayi (Showtime’s all-star “The First Lady” with Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gillian Anderson), “This is a British series. I’m a British creator. And the show” – which she produces, writes and directs — “predominantly takes place in the UK. But the heart of the show is about the Black diaspora, which is the roots of the whole family’s Nigerian immigrant journey. One that takes in the UK, the US, parts of Europe.

“The American relatives” – a brother and sister from their father’s first marriage – “come into the British company because of the consequences of the will. ‘Riches’ speaks to the Black diaspora and how international Black life is. And how connected we are on the Continent and on both sides of the Atlantic.”

“Riches” began, Ajayi said in a Zoom interview, “because I was interested in family business shows. I grew up watching ‘Dynasty,’ ‘Six Feet Under.’ I do like, specifically, family business shows because when blood and money mix, it’s a steady combustible mix.”

Once she decided to write a family business show and that the family would be Black, “I had to figure out: What was the business? What did they do?

“That’s where the real thinking at my desk came in. Because cosmetics I was interested in but I didn’t feel the final piece for me came until I added hair to it.  Because Black hair is incredibly lucrative — and also incredibly politicized.

“So this is an opportunity to tell stories that are visually very glamorous — makeup is glamorous, hair is glamorous — but also adds a layer of substantive issues when you talk about Black ownership and Black ambition and why Black hair and makeup can be politicized.”

Ajayi also wanted to explore how, “Technology has radicalized the business. There are more Black owners because they’re able to sell directly to the consumer in a way that they’ve been shut out from traditional structures of distribution.

“This is a way to explore these issues through the lens of an immigrant family and talk about generational wealth — how far they’ve come in one generation and obviously the threat of losing it all. But that one generation is interesting.”

 “Riches” streams on Prime Video Dec. 2 


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