‘Survivor’s Remorse’ characters explore their pasts in fourth season starting August 20

RonReaco Lee (Reggie) and Jesse T. Usher (Cam) star in “Survivor’s Remorse” on Starz. CREDIT: Starz

This was posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

On an unusually chilly, breezy March morning, “Survivor’s Remorse” actors RonReaco Lee and Teyonah Parris are playing a couple shopping for Beltline investment property in a spot off John Wesley Dobbs Ave. in Atlanta near Freedom Parkway.

“I’m dying to turn it into a mix-use utopia,” Lee proclaims as Reggie to Parris, playing his wife Missy, standing in front of the Robert T. Howard school, which is a stand-in for said investment property.

“This is big for us,” he later added during the take. “We’re not relying on anyone else ever again.”

The Starz show, which returns for a fourth season August 20 at 10 p.m. after “Power,” adjusted season three to Mike Epps’ departure and his goofy character Uncle Julius’ death. Without reliance on Epps, the show has shifted in tone.

For season four, “the feel of it is a little more dramatic than earlier years,” said Lee, who grew up in Decatur. “We focus on character development.”

Mike O’Malley, the Emmy-winning actor who has been the show runner for “Survivor’s Remorse” since day one, said he misses Epps: “I miss his energy.”

The crux of the show remains how Atlanta basketball star Cam Calloway (Jesse T. Usher) and his family deal with life in the limelight and sudden elevation into the top 1 percent.

And Epps’ absence has meant more screen time for the other characters and an upgraded, regular role for Chris Bauer, who plays Jimmy O’Flaherty, the supportive owner of the unnamed Atlanta basketball team.

The show season 3 began digging deeper into the main characters’ pasts, most notably a powerful confrontation between Reggie and his estranged, now sober, father. Reggie was not ready to forgive his father and did not accept his amends.

O’Malley said he found this type of dynamic fascinating to explore. “When people get sober, when people find religion, it’s a great thing for their life because they found happiness and peace and work through their mistakes, the injuries they caused. But those folks are still impacted and might be less accepting of that change.”

He decided this would not be a kumbaya moment. “Reggie can’t process his father’s forgiveness,” O’Malley said. “I wanted a scene like that. I had never seen a scene like that…  People can show righteous anger, which is really just poisoning themselves.”

Usher marveled over Lee’s work in that scene. “My favorite monologue I’ve ever seen on television,” he said. “I would read his monologue to put me in the mood for my stuff.”

“I’m very proud of that scene,” said Lee.”The response was outrageous. My in-box on Twitter, people were asking if I had a situation similar to that. No. My dad and I are great friends. It was just me as an actor… I was able to channel that into Reggie.”

Usher said everyone this season is in “their own world of self discovery.” Cam meets his imprisoned father in the return episode, played with intensity by Isaiah Washington (“Grey’s Anatomy.”) “He brought some heat,” Usher said. “He made me sharpen up a little bit which was great.”

M-Chuck (Decatur’s Erica Ash) chases down the guys who raped her mother Cassie (Tichina Arnold) that led to her existence.

Ash, as M-Chuck, has had a lot of latent anger and tension with her mom and now she knows part of the reason why. “Now she’s found out what that missing piece is, she now has to move forward,” Ash said. “Also, it’s going to help her rediscover or just redefine her feelings about her relationship with Cassie.”

“The audience as well as the writers and actors were thirsting for more granular detail about where they’re from, what encumbrances they have had in the past and continue to have in the future,” O’Malley said.

Usher himself last season also had a surreal LSD moment talking to a fetus, later CGIed into the episode, over regret about a girlfriend’s abortion when he was a teen-ager. “It was weird,” he said. “The image I had in my head is not what they used.” O’Malley played the fetus voice. “He had a very creepy fetus voice,” Usher said.

While there was plenty of tension between Reggie and Missy last season over his father, Parris said her character will try to be “that mediator, the facilitator to help that relationship grow and help them reconnect.” Viewers will also get to meet her wealthy parents, played by Vanessa Bell Calloway and Isiah Whitlock.

“Where Cassie and Chuck, you see the tension,” Parris said. “It’s on the surface. Missy comes from a different environment. You learn to talk around things.” Reggie and Missy are also trying to set up a safety net for a time when Cam is no longer playing basketball, which is how that Beltline scene came to be.

The show in March shot a scene on John Wesley Dobbs Ave. in Atlanta where Missy and Reggie are hunting for property on the “Beltline.” It’s not quite the Beltline but it’s close. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Usher has never been seeing playing basketball on the show, a creative decision made by O’Malley to focus on off-court stories. And don’t expect to ever see him playing. During a Facebook Live session, Usher’s acting colleagues Ash and Parris ragged him for badly missing a half-court shot at a Hawks/Cavaliers game in March. Usher’s defense? He wanted to look good but just miscalculated the distance.

TV PREVIEW

“Survivor’s Remorse,” 10 p.m. Sunday, August 20, season 4 debut, Starz


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