Tommy and Codie Elaine Oliver weren't satisfied with simply creating the OWN hit Black Love.
The docuseries, which launched its fourth season on September 5, features Black and interracial couples sharing personal stories of what it's taken to make their marriages work.
From its debut, viewers embraced it — and craved more. So the Olivers, a married couple, established Black Love social channels on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to give viewers a place to connect. They created a platform at Blacklove.com to dispense guidance on nurturing healthy relationships and lifestyles.
And they began presenting events like the Black Love Summit in Atlanta, where (pre-pandemic) followers could attend events and socialize. An over-the-top app was slated to launch in September.
"We are trying to create a 21st-century media company that looks at the Black family from 360 degrees," Tommy says, noting that on their platforms, the content is always portrayed by faces and voices from the Black community in a manner that affirms Black people. "We are endeavoring to make something honest, authentic, raw and representative of who we are."
It helps that they keep things simple. Codie conducts the interviews, and Tommy does the filming. The TV series stands out for the sincerity and playfulness the Olivers coax from participants, some of whom are recognizable faces.
In season two, two-time Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown and his actress wife, Ryan Michelle Bathe (First Wives Club), shared a funny anecdote about how their dating came to a sudden, if temporary, standstill when Bathe's mother took an inexplicable dislike to Brown.
Last season, actor Terry Crews poignantly recounted the exact moment he fell for his wife, Rebecca (they were dancing). He also divulged some regrettable acts that put their marriage on shaky ground, providing a teaching moment.
"Many people don't know how to make a marriage work," Tommy says, noting that Blacklove.com offers help on overcoming obstacles. The website also addresses the single life, parenting, health and sexuality.
Original video offerings include Male vs Man, a series hosted by Dondré T. Whitfield (Queen Sugar) in conversation with celebrities such as Will Smith, who talks about what it means to be a real man (as opposed to a macho man).
In the forthcoming season of Black Love, participants will include wedded couples Jazmyn Simon (Ballers) and Dulé Hill (Suits), and Bill (Mr. Box Office) and Kristen (The Fix) Bellamy.
"One thing that came up this season is the recurring theme of mental health," says Codie, who discusses depression with several couples, including one coping with the loss of a child. The Olivers have had three children since embarking on their media endeavors. Tommy, who describes himself as fairly stoic, says he broke down while shooting that interview. "Tears were rolling down my face," he recalls.
With the couple's work coinciding with the Black Lives Matter movement, they do see parallels. "Black Love is, in some ways, my activism," Codie says. "We are contributing to imagery that shows the world that we are not that different."
Ultimately, she says, "We are trying to make the world a little bit better."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 10, 2020