That inspired a movement.
On February 28th, in my journey to create content that has a positive impact, I joined Justin, the team at Wayfarer and Man Enough to create Season Two of Man Enough the series.
The first season was insightful, visually stunning and presented a new forum for men to openly discuss topics that guys just weren't talking about, or at least weren't talking about in healthy ways.
Season Two needed to take it further. To reach men who were NOT actively seeking this type of content but could really benefit from it. To not just be informative, but also be more entertaining, relatable, honest, funny and engaging.
We needed "everyday" guys to model healthy conversations, be vulnerable and let guys know that "being a man" is undefined, and their struggles, triumphs and failures are more universal than they believe. There is not a definition of manhood that they must adhere to and strength, masculinity, leadership, and love can have many positive forms, and they are all acceptable.
I didn't understand it. I knew that something important was happening here, and there was an opportunity to change lives for the better, but I couldn't quite wrap my head around why "masculinity" was an important issue as the world faced hunger, poverty, pollution, inequality, abuse and literally thousands of other issues that we needed to address.
As a showrunner, I needed to become an expert, fast. I read books, gathered articles, watched films, interviews, spoke to therapists, activists, and "everyday" guys. I held forums with brothers, nephews, parents, dads, executives and anyone who would talk to me. I needed to understand terms like "toxic masculinity," and "generational healing," while trying to unpack misogyny, sexism, patriarchy, and my own upbringing, decisions, and notions about what it means to "be a man." The more work I did, the deeper I dove, the more I realized how important this project could be. In discussions with Justin, I began to understand that this wasn't some kind of war on masculinity or just getting guys in touch with their feminine side - which would immediately alienate guys. It's more about embracing and understanding what your masculinity means to you.
I realized it's not about "teaching" men to better men, it's about creating the opportunities for people to be better humans. Every issue we face as a society, can be distilled down to us behaving badly. We pollute, we abuse, we foster outdated and outrageous hierarchies, we are who we are because we have made a series of decisions or supported the good and bad decisions made around us.
I made a list of topics that appealed to a broad range of men because they were the subjects that occupied their mind and heart most often. Topics like sex, relationships, wealth, power, success, family, strength, self-worth, privilege, mental health. Then we drilled those topics down into sub-topics and built pages of questions men have about those topics. From there we started to build episodes around a theme, decided who could best provide honest insight and/or helpful guidance on that theme. We discussed the best spaces for these conversations and what our production schedule might look like. How can we connect, infuse humor, reach an audience that needed this? It was all starting to make sense. We were on a path to create something important, and good, for Season Two.
Then, on March 12th, the NBA shut down. Broadway went dark. Back home in New York just a few miles from our house, the National Guard moved in to shut down New Rochelle, and America reluctantly faced the reality of a pandemic. Covid-19 shut down the world, including our production of Season Two.
I flew back to my family in New York, and bought an iPhone, because I knew Facetime was about to become my primary connection with the Wayfarer team back in LA. We gathered on Zoom as the offices shut down and made plans for scenarios that would involve weeks of delays, that quickly became months of delays.
Justin Baldoni, who I quickly realized is man of action, immediately decided that he would go live on his Instagram with anyone who he thought could get his three million followers through this. He brought on therapists, and mindfulness gurus, and even hosted live group chats with random fans who couldn't sleep late at night. He is the driving force behind Man Enough and we wanted to figure out how to support that.
The Man Enough team sat down and made a new plan. Season Two was on indefinite hold but the work we've done to build it, can help people right now. Through a series of Facetime calls, Zoom meetings, Google Docs, Trello Boards, conference calls, texts and even a few old-fashioned phone calls, we rallied behind one question - "What can we do to help?" and since we are Man Enough, we asked, "What can we do to help men who are dealing with all of this right now?"
On April 2nd the concept of Season 1.5 of Man Enough was born, and by April 27th, 2020, we launched.
It's important to mention that even "virtual seasons" cost money and I was so impressed by the commitment of Man Enough's partners at Procter and Gamble. They are one of the largest consumer products companies in the world, but they trusted us to create the content without trying to force brand integration down our throats. It was a relationship expertly managed by Wayfarer's VP of Development Sarah Politis. We put together an episode idea, they would review it and attach an appropriate partner. One episode might reach the Tide consumer, while another might be better suited for the Old Spice crowd. They let the content reach the people who needed it and made thoughtful decisions about which brand to bring along. In production we often have to start with the brand and figure out how to make the brand appeal to our viewers, this was an innovative and welcomed approach. It also resulted in more sincere conversations with Justin and the guests about why the brand was sponsoring the episode and what the brand was doing to help during Covid-19.
These are the episodes I produced with the Man Enough team led by Shane Norman.
We approached every episode with a simple approach: "Who is this episode for and how can it help them get through this?"
EPISODE ONE: SOUND BODY
We're four weeks into Covid-19 and things are feeling hopeless. It starts as soon as you wake up in the morning and don't even want to get out of bed. We need to help men find motivation. Going to the gym feels like a luxury, and days of skipping a work-out has turned into weeks. The connection between how our body feels and our emotions is something men are not talking about. They'll talk about work-out techniques and diets but not about the emotions around our physical health. Right now our health is in jeopardy because we can't get out of bed. Let's start there. Let's just help men get up, and be active.
Boris Kodjoe, star of Station 19 had great advice for getting motivated and creating routines.
Dolvett Quince from NBC's The Biggest Loser, provided his 5G strategy for starting the day and offered great perspective reminding us hat this is not the end of the world.
Dr. Ian Smith, the incredible new host of The Doctors assured us that we have everything we need to stay in shape at home.
If you're get up and go, got up and went, watch this:
EPISODE TWO: SOUND MIND
John Kim, The Angry Therapist offered some great insights partly by admitting his own struggles.
Jay Shetty, former monk and motivational mogul, admitted he's not immune to the struggle and shared his recent gaming addiction but also took 30 seconds to teaching us how to meditate.
Justin jumped into an ice bath because it was the last thing he wanted to do and that is how we get through this.
If you're feeling depressed, alone, and helpless and just need some tools to cope, watch this:
EPISODE THREE: ADAPTING
TANK SINATRA the "meme daddy" who went from fence salesman to one of the most followed accounts on Instagram talked about breaking things down into small steps and opened up about how his family is managing.
TERRELL OWENS went from NFL showboat to dancing with the stars to a guy stuck at home watching Netflix like the rest of us. He opened up about being an "average athlete" in high school to how being raised by his Grandma helped shape the man who he is.
If you feel stuck, watch this:
EPISODE FOUR: FATHERHOOD
TERRY CREWS from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and AGT opened up about being an angry dad, and how he reconnected with his family. He also shared his incredible journey with wife who was going through cancer treatment as lock down began.
MISHA COLLINS, star of Supernatural and creator of GISH, revealed how he was trying and failing to connect with his kids. He talked about how we have to continually adjust and make an effort.
JUSTIN discussed his role as a husband and father that has always been a priority and how he decided to scale back on work to make sure he is present.
If you're a dad struggling with how to take care of your family and yourself, watch this:
EPISODE FIVE: ANXIETY
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER showed up and made it clear he was holding nothing back. He talked about his own recent journey into therapy and how he's worked hard to destigmatize asking for mental health services in the Black community.
GRANT GUSTIN a real life superhero from The Flash on CW, shared an honest take on how he's managed his lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression through Covid-19.
If you're worried about how to cope and who you've become during the pandemic, watch this:
EPISODE SIX: RELATIONSHIPS
Couples are in crisis. The cabin fever, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, the challenge to keep the kids happy, the lack of intimacy. It takes a toll and we're hardest on those closest to us.
Justin is man enough to know he is not on this journey alone and decided to have his wife Emily Baldoni join us for this one.
They invited Karamo Brown and his fiancee Ian Jordan to join them. Karamo and Ian's wedding had been cancelled due to Covid and Karamo has been very vocal about the personal struggles we face during Covid-19.
Emily had great insights on how to avoid beating ourselves up out of love for our partners, and posed the critical questions about how we can make sure that the Black Lives Matter protests don't end up being a moment and become a movement.
Karamo and Ian shared insights on parenting and its lasting affects on their blended family and how he and Ian have dealt with prejudices and racism long before protests began. The four of them talked of love, respect and listening in a real and powerful way.
If you and your partner are looking for way through, watch this: