While many of today’s reality TV shows focus on negative drama and dysfunction in order to get ratings, gospel power couple Erica Campbell and Warryn Campbell want to give people a healthier alternative that’s a real—but not sugar-coated—representation of family life. In the TV One series “We’re the Campbells” (which premieres June 19 at 8 p.m. ET/PT), viewers will get to see what life is like with Erica, Warryn and their three children: Warryn, Zaya and Krista. The show addresses issues such as how singer Erica (who hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and divides her time between Los Angeles and Dallas) and Warryn (who is an ordained pastor, music producer and owner of the record label My Block) handle their demanding careers with their responsibilities as spouses and parents. There are moments of humor, but the show also reveals how the Campbells deal with racism and family insecurities.
Erica and her sister Tina Campbell, who are the Grammy-winning gospel duo Mary Mary, previously starred in the “Mary Mary” reality show that aired on WEtv from 2012 to 2017. Members of their families were also featured on “Mary Mary.” Erica and Warryn are executive producers of “We're the Campbells,” along with executive producers Tara Long, Mark Herwick and Kim McCoy. The couple will also star in TV One digital after-show “…With Warryn and Erica,” as well as continue to star in TV One’s digital series “#BlackLove.” In a recent telephone conference call with journalists, Erica and Warryn talked about “We’re the Campbells” and why the time is right for this type of reality show.
AXS: What do you hope to achieve with “We’re the Campbells”?
Warryn Campbell: I had a great time on our previous show [“Mary Mary”]. I had a ball, but that wasn’t the same story for all of our family. I thought it was a great idea to do it with just us. It’s not as many people. We can control things a little better.
I wanted to get my kids involved because they’re all showing interest in the entertainment business. They’re all little musicians. They want to sing and act. I thought this would be a great opportunity for them as well. With our family dynamic and who we are, entertainment and music is sort of the sub-religion of our family. This is just a perfect outlet for all of those things and for the Campbell household.
Erica Campbell: I didn’t see this type of family dynamic on TV. I didn’t see myself. And I think a lot of times, people think the healthy families are the exception. They don’t realize that we’re just a reflection of many families. It’s always wonderful when we can see ourselves and we go, “Wow, they go through that too.” And when we deal with it with love and humor and candor and honesty, I think you get people who really embrace your family but also look at theirs through different eyes.
AXS: What have you learned as a couple by doing this reality show?
E.C.: As a couple, it has definitely caused us to pay more attention. As a couple, you don’t want to hear something from your spouse for the first time on camera. If I find out in front of the whole wide world how unhappy you are, it’s just really strange. Because we have a real relationship and real communication, it allows us to be honest and share some things that some people may be embarrassed to say, embarrassed to acknowledge, and not really know how to deal with.
Even with our children … There’s no manual for raising a 13-year-old. Every year that they grow, is something I’ve never really dealt with before. You have to stay connected, and I think that’s something that will resonate with the viewers, where they feel connected to our family.
W.C.: Like she said, we don’t have any templates for raising a family… especially in front of a camera and people tuning in to watch. You’ve got to be careful. It just causes us to draw closer together as a family. I want to make sure that I’m not embarrassing my wife. I don’t want to say anything or do anything where she feels like, “Man, you just made our family look terrible.” So far, I don’t think that’s happened.
AXS: Can you describe any hilarious or impactful moments that happened while filming the show?
E.C.: There are a few things. I think the “Love Check-In” will give other couples an idea of something that they can do. Because a lot of times you float, and then out of the blue, you go, “Oh, something’s wrong.” When, really, if you had paid attention a little closer to how you operate, you can prevent or deal with what’s coming.
The colorism [discrimination based on skin color] with Krista really impacted me greatly. I know she’s aware of her skin color, but I just didn’t know that she would think, “Oh, Mommy, you wouldn’t understand because you’re not the same skin complexion as I am.” So that was a little heartbreaking, but very honest. So I think that’s going to resonate with people as well.
W.C.: There are tons of hilarious moments. Anytime I’m trying to get in shape for anything, it’s funny to me. You’ll see some of my antics as I’m trying to lose a little weight. That’s pretty funny. And everything our kids do is hilarious, especially the two little ones [Warryn and Zaya]. They’re really funny. They’re little comedians.
AXS: What can "We’re the Campbells” do for people in today’s political climate?
W.C.: We’re inundated with images right now that are completely unfavorable, especially when it comes to race relations in our country. One of the images is starting that age-old dynamic that all white people are racist or all black people don’t like white people. The louder the conversations and the more images you see, the more people tend to believe that. What we offer on this show is just another side to that.
Black families are not [all] in the ‘hood. Just like when we used to watch “The Cosby Show,” I saw a family that looked like me. I had a mother and a father in my house. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either. We were a middle-class family. That’s all I knew growing up. I didn’t have any poor people in my family. I have a really large family, and nobody was living below the poverty line …
I’m not knocking anybody who needs government assistance, but that’s not the story with everybody in the African-American community. I think it’s our responsibility to show the other side of who we are. Yes, we are fairly militant when it comes to equality and civil rights, but we understand that the opposition is not every other race. We dig into people’s character before we judge people just based on what we see. We deal with the issue of colorism on our show. I think everybody will be able to relate to that.
E.C.: The way people loved the movie “Black Panther” … and when you look at my mother-in-law and my father-in-law being there, and my mom being there, and the affirmations that Warryn gives to our son, it lets people know that this really exists. All fathers are not in jail; all fathers are not gone. All mothers are not bossy and loud. All kids are not sassy and disrespectful. There are families who really love each other. So I’m really excited to be able to change the way people see themselves, the way we see us. I’m really honored that we can be a part of that.