Will Conley gives a behind the scenes look at an upcoming docudrama that will highlight the complex realities faced by millions of single young fathers every day.
A new TV show called Good Dads is taking aim at negative stereotypes about young single fathers. In the crosshairs: the “deadbeat dad‚” trope ever so fondly exploited by the ratings sycophants of a media environment that subsists on manufactured villains.
Now in the early stages of production in New York City, Good Dads follows the lives of three young fathers played by Michael Coleman, Justin Taylor and Alexandro Valdez with a supporting cast of 24 members. We see the fathers help their children with homework, laugh and play with them, and instruct them in the ways of the world. We also see the fathers navigate a system seemingly bent on removing them from their children’s lives. Mothers, family courts, extended family and social circles are all vigilant to catch the fathers making one false move. The fathers take on double lives, wishing to stay true to themselves yet painfully cognizant of the need to present a strong case for their continued participation in children’s lives. In the end, the show synopsis (available at wearegooddads.com) has all parties striking a measure of harmony, but there is yet much room for unexpected turns at this stage of the game.
Good Dads is not a reality show, nor is it fiction. It’s a docudrama series based on actual events. It eschews anaemic political bromides like‚ “pro family‚” and “pro father‚” neither condemning nor idealizing the demographic it showcases. It does not condescend to teach all those dumb, brutish fathers how to be decent human beings, nor does it portray fathers as an adorable but optional accessory to show off on Instagram and then discard. Rather, it illustrates for the public at large some of the complex realities faced by millions of single young fathers every day. It celebrates their strengths without attempting to hide their imperfections. Nor does it flinch from commenting on injustices originating outside of themselves.
That last point may not sit well with people who would prefer to stick with the stereotypes, and that is reason enough to throw your support behind this courageous project. Already Good Dads has garnered a massive groundswell of support. Through little more than word of mouth, the Good Dads social media presence numbers more than 2,000 followers.
“They find us,” laughs Christian Stayton, one of the two creators and executive producers of Good Dads. “People are asking to be a part of this.”
At the initial casting call last month, 400 actors showed up to audition. Add to those a full crew directed by Joe E. Goodavage, and the production now numbers more than 60 members. Stayton, along with Allen Speller, the other creator and executive producer, are currently in negotiations with MTV2, VH1, FOX and Fuse to distribute Good Dads nationally. To build further grassroots pressure, theatrical engagements in Los Angeles and New York will be scheduled once the pilot is complete. Filming begins April 11.
The screenplay (written by Dominic Williamson and Adam Laws) is inspired in large part by the personal and professional experiences of Stayton and Speller. For years the two have been running a nonprofit that helps fathers adjust to the experience of raising children.
“I teach young men how to be in their children’s lives,” says Speller, whose speaking career has allowed him to meet a wide range of fathers and hear their stories. As such, Good Dads reflects a broad spectrum of the population, spanning all ethnicities. At first, the show was going to focus on African American experiences, but Speller and Stayton soon realized this would be too narrow a focus.
“We’re supposed to be dispelling stereotypes, not perpetuating them,” Speller says. “These issues affect all fathers.”
Good Dads could very well become a common ground that unites the factions of the men’s consciousness movement. Its commitment to realistic portrayals within a framework of dramatic storytelling could make for a compelling enough premise to propel the movement into the popular consciousness. How successfully it executes the concept remains to be seen, but for now it may be the best hope for bringing young single fatherhood into the limelight in a compassionate, honest way.
What do you think? Does the premise interest you? Do you think the public is ready? Keep an eye on the Good Dads website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for updates about theatrical engagements and series premiers.
Photos of rehearsals of Good Dads used with permission.