When Ambitions premieres on OWN Tuesday, June 18, you'll get to meet Robin Givens' Stephanie Carlisle, a successful corporate attorney, and her husband, Brian White's Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster.
Their characters are one of the core couples on the show and provide a lot of drama against the competing couple, Amara and Titus Hughes. I'll have an interview with Essence Atkins and Kendrick Cross tomorrow!
All of the characters are interwoven in such a way that their lives not only brush up against each other, but their ultimate fate may be in the hands of someone they don't expect. Enjoy the latest interview from the Ambitions set visit!
Robin was doing Riverdale and The Fix at the same time when she received the script for Ambitions. "On Riverdale, I had lived with that character for some time, and I really got her. But The Fix was a pretty tough character for me, Juliette Johnson.
"So When my agent sent me the Ambitions script, I was like, 'No, I'm fine,' But then when I read it, I was like, 'OK, no one can do it the way that I can,' you know? So I borrowed a dress from The Fix and did it."
For Brian, something important to him was that his background got mirrored in his character, Evan's background in terms of diversity.
Brian's father was a Hall of Fame basketball player from St. Louis while his mother came from a monied family in which his grandmother took one successful mortuary and turned it into a franchise of 18 after the death of her husband.
"I've never seen both sides explored in the same family on the same show," Brian says. "It's all one family, and we love each other, but there are many differences. So the first time I read the script, I was really blown away by what Jamey was able to pull off by getting that all in one story, one cohesive story of one family pulling at each other.
"I think it's breaking new ground for any kind of TV. I don't think I've seen any TV show do what Jamey is able to do in these scripts as well. The timing is right. It's reflective of the world we live in.
"Seeing the Democrats as they begin to determine what pairings work, I think it's a lot of the same struggle of what Evan is looking at as the family is trying to move from where they are and elevate even further in this new landscape that is America."
When Jamey Giddens first crafted Robin's character, Stephanie, she was much different in scope than the Stephanie you'll meet when Ambitions premieres.
"I've fallen in love with her," Robin says, "and I think she is probably a lot different than how Jamey initially saw her, which was probably a compliment to me, I think.
"He wrote her as an ice queen, but I've always been attracted to or grew up with old-time movies, you know, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, women like that.
"And I always loved women that can keep up with the boys and drink with the boys and play pool with the boys or carry a gun with the boys and still look good in a dress. I love that. To me, she's a modern-day THAT.
"And then I embraced the challenge of making her a real person with different layers, which is where the comedy comes in, and vulnerable. That becomes challenging. She's vulnerable with her parents. There's a little girl in her who can never live up to her dad. I enjoy those things."
That's not a stretch since Giddens shared that when the show was originally pitched for daytime, Stephanie's brother was more present. In the interest of time, they've had to scale back, but Stephanie's father would much rather leave their prestigious law firm in the hands of his male heir, Adrian.
Instead, Adrian is off fighting for human rights in Nigeria against Boca Haram. Samantha disappointed father, Stephen even more than Adrian by quitting law to be a television producer.
Brian and Robin felt their chemistry from the first second. They immediately appreciated each other as actors and people. The screen test they read together required him to put Robin up against the wall. "When we read together the sparks flew," Brian shares, and they immediately, "took it to 11 on the scale."
Evan is quite the flawed gentleman when it comes to his ladies, and although we like Evan, it's sometimes hard to justify his actions. "Evan is based on several real people," Brian says, "and I think there are several good, prominent examples of major politicians in this state and on the national stage that are those types of men currently.
"I think being relevant is very important because we're setting the stage for a bigger conversation about what makes politicians successful, what hinders them, how does politics really work, how is the game played behind the scenes. We've never seen black characters or characters of color doing what Kelsey Grammar did in Boss.
"As far as justifying Evan, when he met Stephanie back at Harvard, he recognized he is a Lancaster, she is a Carlisle. His motivation has always been to get himself even with if not ahead of her. I think in the real world, we see successful women who are on their second or third marriage.
"But a lot of the times, they do this because men aren't able to keep themselves in that position. There's got to be the right kind of guy in the right kind of life to be able to stick out his arm or else he's chasing her. I think that's a lot of what justifies Evan.
"We have an agreement, kind of like Bill and Hilary. Long ago we were truly in love, but we have big, big, big goals and we both need to pull our weight to get there. I think sometimes Evan feels that he's not in the position he needs to be to be right next to Stephanie.
Brian continues, "I think that's what motivates him. Filling the holes in himself from not feeling worthy of that spot."
Robin has her own thoughts about the relationship between Stephanie and Evan. "It's interesting, because instead of working in film, a show is always evolving. Jamey talked about that. Having gotten to know us and the way we do things helps him write differently, so he writes for [Stephanie and Evan] differently.
"Originally, their marriage was more a marriage of convenience and power. The way Brian and I approached it was that we feel that they have a warped kind of love thing, and no matter what he has [elsewhere], no woman is going to match him like his wife.
"So there is an element of love there no matter how warped it is. They go at it, they're peers, they're confidants. It's an interesting, tricky dynamic, their relationship."
Again likening Evan and Stephanie to Bill and Hilary Clinton, Brian says, "They look at each other as a strong couple. They're the love of each other's life. I think we start there with Evan and Stephanie. "We met young, we always loved each other, but we had a very decided goal. If that breaks down, as she gets ahead of me, I need to find something that makes me feel good, so I can keep running."
From the three episodes I've had the pleasure of seeing so far, I wondered if there is a possibility that Evan and Stephanie don't even know they're in love yet.
Robin liked that idea. "I love that, and I'm going to use it. If you ever see me in an interview and I say that, you'll know. There is a scene that Brian and I just did when [Evan] actually stands up for [Stephanie] in a scene, and it goes from her fighting -- Oh my God, wait till you see this, it's so good -- and she isn't quite able to stand up for herself, and then he stands up for her, and it kind of turns her on.
"She's like, 'I've forgotten!' It's hilarious. We ended up clearing the desk and making love on the desk. So, I think they don't even know."
That doesn't mean Amara shouldn't be worried about Stephanie spending long hours with Titus.
In Stephanie's relationship with Amara, she's blindsided when Titus ends up with Amara. "I think she was in love with Titus back in college, and Amara was her best friend, and she really didn't expect that," Robin says. "So now, cut to 20-25 years later and she will not let it go. She's determined not to let it happen again and to get him back."
Robin says, "I've really worked hard to give her different layers, so sometimes when you see her acting a different way, that's her protecting herself. Is she tough? Absolutely, but she does have a sense of wanting love."
As for what viewers should expect from Ambitions? Robin knows! "Drama, drama, drama, for sure. It's a little bit of everything really. There's love, there's sex, there's fighting, there's confusion. I always call it delicious. That's my favorite word. Somebody used the word yummy, and I even like that better.
"It's just good fun, you know. I imagine women sitting with a bowl of popcorn or binging with a glass of wine, and their husbands walking by slowly sitting down to watch with them. It will be a guilty pleasure."
In Stephanie's relationship with Amara, she's blindsided when Titus ends up with Amara. "I think she was in love with Titus back in college, and Amara was her best friend, and she really didn't expect that. So now, cut to 20-25 years later and she will not let it go. She's determined not to let it happen again and to get him back."
What's so great about this show is that behind the scenes transportation and hair and makeup are so into the show and what's about to happen next.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.