“Send Me” Back In Time To Slavery?

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Steve Harper.

HELLO AMERICA—I have heard of many story ideas for film and theatre, but never anything like this! “Send Me” is a web series about Gwen, a black woman and a professor of African American studies who has the power to send black people back in time to slavery as a character building measure.

The power to do this has been passed down to her through her family. Candidates want to go on the journey and she makes money by sending them. Her husband, Peter, thinks she shouldn’t do this – and they argue about it. They’ve sent two people back – one never returned.

When my friend Steve Harper told me about this project, I was astounded because I could not conceive of any person of color having a desire to revisit a period in American history when they were considered less than cattle.  Even today with all the changes and advances, people of color are still struggling to be recognized with respect as any other human group in this country.  When one turns on the tube or see blazing brutal photos of young kids, women and men being battered and shot in the streets in nearly every city in our country the experience of the slave doesn’t seem alien.

Steve posed a rather interesting point when he states that there are people who are committed to testing themselves on a physical and mental level.  He sited as examples:  climb mountains, jumping out of a plane, race motorcycles or do vision quests.

On a personal note, my grand mother when I was about 10 years old took me on a trip to Georgia.  One morning after a few weeks of being there with her family, she woke me up and insisted that I come with her to a nearby wooded area.  She wanted to show me something.  When we got there, she pointed to a tall tree and I looked and saw a black man hanging from that tree.  Granny then took me by the shoulders and said, “Never forget this!”  And I haven’t.  This was during the early 1940s.  Many years after 1865.

Those who would choose a journey back in time when they were considered less than human beings, simply amaze me.  Possibly, they have viewed too many Hollywood films or read glamorized novels, highlighting the likes of Halle Berry, Butterfly McQueen or a few of my friends I have co-starred with such as Ethel Waters or Juanita Moore who were able to create a certain level of tolerance and dignity for their captured servant position in the fantasy world of Disney.  However, in the proposed series, the reasons may vary, but the featured characters are dedicated to the idea of taking the journey back in time. Only one of them will be chosen.

Over the course of the series we navigate the marital conflict between Peter and Gwen (we see both sides of their debate) and we meet the candidates and hear their reasons for wanting to go. Someone gets chosen for the journey by the end of the six-episode season.  None of it is easy for these characters.

Tonally, the series is about a deeply personal conflict between a married couple. The sci-fi twist hangs in the background of this conflict and informs the world, though the story is a straight-ahead drama without special effects.

Outside of a few flashbacks to a southern plantation in the 1800s, the action takes place in the front and back rooms of a comic book store the couple owns and that the husband runs.

Tracie Thoms (“Rent,” “Cold Case,” “Death Proof”) is attached as Gwen. Gabrielle Carteris (“Beverly Hills 90210,” “Longmire”) is set to play the couple’s accountant who is initially keeping secret what is going on. Writer/creator Steve Harper (“Covert Affairs,” “Betty on the Bed”) plays Peter, the husband.

I keep reminding myself, having been in Hollywood since the early 50s that anything goes when it comes to a  story, if presented in a way which might have a glow of being marketable.  And that’s simply SHOW BIZ, folks!