THE Q&A: Show biz veteran talks about creating ‘My Sisters and Me’

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer 

Mattie C. Caruthers, a decades-long showbiz professional, worked on many classic, high-profile sitcoms, in various capacities, before she got the idea to create and helm her show.

It took longer than expected for her to bring her idea to fruition fully, but once she put her plan in motion, she marshaled all of her experience. To get it from the page to the stage, she followed the rule of writing what you know, resulting in “My Sisters and Me,” a hit sitcom loosely based on her family, currently streaming on YouTube.

The half-hour comedy, on MacMattie Entertainment’s YouTube Channel, is about three generations of ageless and vivacious Black sisters who must live under the same roof — without killing each other.

It’s been so successful that Caruthers has announced a sophomore season.

Caruthers is the creative force — writer, executive producer and director — behind the show, which is uniquely presented in three minutes or fewer webisodes on YouTube. The episodes aired for 13 weeks.

“People told me I was crazy to do that,” Caruthers said. “They’d ask, ‘Why did you take a 30-minute show and cut it up?’

I decided three minutes was enough for each webisode because the way I write allows me to know exactly what’s going on. I didn’t plan it. It was an intuition. In writing and directing the show, I instinctively knew this is where the story must start and stop.”

Before “My Sisters and Me,” Caruthers worked as either a writer, writer’s assistant or director on shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Sinbad,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Cut,” “Too Close For Comfort,” “Keenan & Kel,” “The Parent ’Hood” and “My Wife and Kids.” Her television directorial debut on “My Wife and Kids” earned Caruthers a 2006 NAACP Image Award nomination for outstanding director in a comedy series and a 2005 BET nomination. 

She also has worked on a variety of hit movies and commercials alongside Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Pryor, Garry Marshall, Danny Glover, Tom Hank, Betty White, Quincy Jones and others.

To hone her skills, she worked with Norman Lear as a writer’s assistant and studied under the watchful eyes of some of the industry’s heavyweight directors, including Andy Cadiff, Joel Zwick, Andy Ackerman, Debbie Allen, Jamie Widdoes, Shelley Jensen and Ken Whittingham. 

“They taught me what to do and what not to do,” Caruthers said. “They taught me things and I would put my spin on it.”

Caruthers’ work was recognized by the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center. In 2007, she received the Award of Achievement from the African American Film Marketplace and S.E Manly Short Film Showcase, an arm of BHERC.

“Mattie is an incredibly talented filmmaker,” said BHERC President Sandra Evers Manly. “She was directing at a time when it was even tougher to get acknowledged in the industry. She helped lay the foundation for others to come. We were honored to recognize her work and exceptional talent.”

“I was grateful for the recognition,” Caruthers said. “The honor was all mine.”

I recently caught up with Caruthers, a married mother of two, grandmother of three, and great-grandmother of five, to talk about her prolific entertainment career.

DD: How do you describe the show?

MC: It’s a fun ride through female middle-age Blackness. 

DD: Tell me about the show.

MC: My family has been such a big part of it. The show is based on my mom and my two aunties. I’m telling the story from my mom’s perspective. I come from a family that was generous and loving. They were always there to support me. When I grew up, there was a lot of drama. Drama was my mama’s middle name. Every time she and the sisters got together, there was drama around them. They always made a point to agree, then disagree, and then argue about it.

DD: Sounds like they were always cutting up.

MC: They were always into shenanigans. It kept me in stitches. I kept saying, what is it that is bringing me this synergy? It was that they would always return to sisterhood. That’s what motivated me to be a storyteller like I am today. It’s been a long journey to get the show to where it is now.

DD: Talk about your family.

MC: My mother and her sisters were entrepreneurs. My mom owned restaurants. My auntie had her beauty salon. It was one of the first in Pasadena. My other aunt was a singer. These women made their own money their way. When they got older, my aunties visited so much I thought they lived with us. 

DD: Will we ever see the man who is the suitor in the show?

MC: No, you never will. We’ll never see the man. He’s a mystery.

DD: Did you shop this show for distribution? 

MC: I’ve taken this show and did a little bit of shopping. I didn’t accept network deal terms. People want it, but they want to say it’s their creation. If I let them do it, it will change. They don’t know the value that is in there. I’d rather do it myself. Heck yeah. The love of God message will be there.

DD: Why is the show in a YouTube format?

MC: Because the world is changing. There are a lot of things that people can see. I started this thing in January. It grew organically, from 60 viewers to over 38,000 viewers per episode and 4,800 subscribers. I know who my audience is and what they want to see. I can’t give it away because people will put it where they want it.

DD: Who is your audience?

MC: My audience is people between the ages of 27-64. It’s global. There is a broad range of viewership. People are watching in the U.S., India and Africa. It’s all over.

DD: Why are the webisodes only three minutes?

MC: People told me I was crazy to do that. They would ask, ‘Why did you take a 30-minute show and cut it up?’ I decided on three minutes because of the way I write. I didn’t plan it. It was an intuition. I was thinking, ‘This is where the story needs to start and stop.’ There are weekly cliffhangers.

DD: What is the future of this show? 

MC: We’re going to continue with the show next season. It has longevity. This season was just the introduction.

DD: When does the next season start?

MC: Putting it together now. I have interested distributors. I don’t want it to be watered down. I don’t want it to get changed.

DD: Talk about the cast and why you chose them. T-Ann Snaer, Ellia English and Stephanie Spruill.

MC: These are my friends for more than 20 years. Stephanie is a world-class artist. She and Ellia have traits like my mom and her sisters. That’s why I chose them. Ellia and I worked on “The Jamie Foxx Show” where I was an associate director. Ellia is the Me, in “Me and My Sisters.”

DD: How did you get your first break?

MC: My first showbiz gig was working for Monte Kay in 1970. He was Diahann Carroll’s first husband. I was his assistant. He had Flip Wilson, George Carlin, Diahann Carroll and Franklin Ajaye. Then, I was a personal assistant for Richard Pryor. He taught me so much. I was with him for two years. Then, I went to work with Norman Lear and became his script typist. That started my comedy career. I’ve been blessed.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.

CAPTION

Show biz industry veteran Mattie C. Caruthers has created her own YouTube show, ‘My Sisters and Me.’ The show airs in three-minute long episodes on her YouTube channel.

Courtesy photo

Post to Features and ENTERTAINMENT WITH PHOTO MATTIE C. CARUTHERS AND Q&A LOGO

THE Q&A: Show biz veteran talks about creating ‘My Sisters and Me’

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer 

Mattie C. Caruthers, a decades-long showbiz professional, worked on many classic, high-profile sitcoms, in various capacities, before she got the idea to create and helm her show.

It took longer than expected for her to bring her idea to fruition fully, but once she put her plan in motion, she marshaled all of her experience. To get it from the page to the stage, she followed the rule of writing what you know, resulting in “My Sisters and Me,” a hit sitcom loosely based on her family, currently streaming on YouTube.

The half-hour comedy, on MacMattie Entertainment’s YouTube Channel, is about three generations of ageless and vivacious Black sisters who must live under the same roof — without killing each other.

It’s been so successful that Caruthers has announced a sophomore season.

Caruthers is the creative force — writer, executive producer and director — behind the show, which is uniquely presented in three minutes or fewer webisodes on YouTube. The episodes aired for 13 weeks.

“People told me I was crazy to do that,” Caruthers said. “They’d ask, ‘Why did you take a 30-minute show and cut it up?’

I decided three minutes was enough for each webisode because the way I write allows me to know exactly what’s going on. I didn’t plan it. It was an intuition. In writing and directing the show, I instinctively knew this is where the story must start and stop.”

Before “My Sisters and Me,” Caruthers worked as either a writer, writer’s assistant or director on shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Sinbad,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Cut,” “Too Close For Comfort,” “Keenan & Kel,” “The Parent ’Hood” and “My Wife and Kids.” Her television directorial debut on “My Wife and Kids” earned Caruthers a 2006 NAACP Image Award nomination for outstanding director in a comedy series and a 2005 BET nomination. 

She also has worked on a variety of hit movies and commercials alongside Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Pryor, Garry Marshall, Danny Glover, Tom Hank, Betty White, Quincy Jones and others.

To hone her skills, she worked with Norman Lear as a writer’s assistant and studied under the watchful eyes of some of the industry’s heavyweight directors, including Andy Cadiff, Joel Zwick, Andy Ackerman, Debbie Allen, Jamie Widdoes, Shelley Jensen and Ken Whittingham. 

“They taught me what to do and what not to do,” Caruthers said. “They taught me things and I would put my spin on it.”

Caruthers’ work was recognized by the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center. In 2007, she received the Award of Achievement from the African American Film Marketplace and S.E Manly Short Film Showcase, an arm of BHERC.

“Mattie is an incredibly talented filmmaker,” said BHERC President Sandra Evers Manly. “She was directing at a time when it was even tougher to get acknowledged in the industry. She helped lay the foundation for others to come. We were honored to recognize her work and exceptional talent.”

“I was grateful for the recognition,” Caruthers said. “The honor was all mine.”

I recently caught up with Caruthers, a married mother of two, grandmother of three, and great-grandmother of five, to talk about her prolific entertainment career.

DD: How do you describe the show?

MC: It’s a fun ride through female middle-age Blackness. 

DD: Tell me about the show.

MC: My family has been such a big part of it. The show is based on my mom and my two aunties. I’m telling the story from my mom’s perspective. I come from a family that was generous and loving. They were always there to support me. When I grew up, there was a lot of drama. Drama was my mama’s middle name. Every time she and the sisters got together, there was drama around them. They always made a point to agree, then disagree, and then argue about it.

DD: Sounds like they were always cutting up.

MC: They were always into shenanigans. It kept me in stitches. I kept saying, what is it that is bringing me this synergy? It was that they would always return to sisterhood. That’s what motivated me to be a storyteller like I am today. It’s been a long journey to get the show to where it is now.

DD: Talk about your family.

MC: My mother and her sisters were entrepreneurs. My mom owned restaurants. My auntie had her beauty salon. It was one of the first in Pasadena. My other aunt was a singer. These women made their own money their way. When they got older, my aunties visited so much I thought they lived with us. 

DD: Will we ever see the man who is the suitor in the show?

MC: No, you never will. We’ll never see the man. He’s a mystery.

DD: Did you shop this show for distribution? 

MC: I’ve taken this show and did a little bit of shopping. I didn’t accept network deal terms. People want it, but they want to say it’s their creation. If I let them do it, it will change. They don’t know the value that is in there. I’d rather do it myself. Heck yeah. The love of God message will be there.

DD: Why is the show in a YouTube format?

MC: Because the world is changing. There are a lot of things that people can see. I started this thing in January. It grew organically, from 60 viewers to over 38,000 viewers per episode and 4,800 subscribers. I know who my audience is and what they want to see. I can’t give it away because people will put it where they want it.

DD: Who is your audience?

MC: My audience is people between the ages of 27-64. It’s global. There is a broad range of viewership. People are watching in the U.S., India and Africa. It’s all over.

DD: Why are the webisodes only three minutes?

MC: People told me I was crazy to do that. They would ask, ‘Why did you take a 30-minute show and cut it up?’ I decided on three minutes because of the way I write. I didn’t plan it. It was an intuition. I was thinking, ‘This is where the story needs to start and stop.’ There are weekly cliffhangers.

DD: What is the future of this show? 

MC: We’re going to continue with the show next season. It has longevity. This season was just the introduction.

DD: When does the next season start?

MC: Putting it together now. I have interested distributors. I don’t want it to be watered down. I don’t want it to get changed.

DD: Talk about the cast and why you chose them. T-Ann Snaer, Ellia English and Stephanie Spruill.

MC: These are my friends for more than 20 years. Stephanie is a world-class artist. She and Ellia have traits like my mom and her sisters. That’s why I chose them. Ellia and I worked on “The Jamie Foxx Show” where I was an associate director. Ellia is the Me, in “Me and My Sisters.”

DD: How did you get your first break?

MC: My first showbiz gig was working for Monte Kay in 1970. He was Diahann Carroll’s first husband. I was his assistant. He had Flip Wilson, George Carlin, Diahann Carroll and Franklin Ajaye. Then, I was a personal assistant for Richard Pryor. He taught me so much. I was with him for two years. Then, I went to work with Norman Lear and became his script typist. That started my comedy career. I’ve been blessed.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.