The world of sci-fi has been seriously lacking some melanin, but queer creator, writer, and director Kharmony Fortune is changing the game with her new TikTok series The Mels.
Described as a fantasy/dramedy, this show brings three talented teens — Melody, Melissa, and Melanie — together at a prestigious arts conservatory where they are immediately dubbed “The Mels.” And it’s at this school that their teacher Ms. Elaine Wilde, played by Jivanta Roberts, helps induct them into a fabulous magical secret society for Black girls.
“[There aren’t] that many fantasy or whimsical shows with young Black girl leads,” says Kharmony. “I want people to take away from [this show] something that’s brand-new, that’s fun, that’s women-empowering. And to know that it’s not only highlighting young Black girls and Black women actresses but that it was also created by a team of all Black women writers, producers, and directors and that when we come together that we can literally make magic.”
Keturah Gregg,17, plays Melody, a girl with two dads (come through representation!), a colorful personality, and hella smarts, who enrolled in Holly High Conservatory for the Arts to focus on piano. She also deals with anxiety. “Melody is always in and out of her head,” Keturah says, “She doesn’t know what to do with herself.”
Melissa, played by DéLon Shaw, 18, is there to up her acting skills. She’s the bold, fearless one in the group, and that’s clear from the very first time we see her on-screen. She’s got a complicated family life, but that hasn’t stopped her from getting into her dream school, prepped and ready to slay each day. “She’s a free-spirited person like myself,” says DéLon. “She’s ambitious, and she knows what she wants in life.”
And then there’s Melanie, played by 17-year-old Anisa Washington. This “Mel” came to Holly High to sing, and tbh, she isn’t so sure about being whisked away from that to attend another school on the low — and she’s not shy about letting that be known. It’s the confidence and drive for Anisa; she relates to her character on so many levels. “The attitude, the sassiness, all of that, the sarcasm, the jokes … It’s just like I’m looking at a mirror. Melanie is just Anisa with a different name,” she says.
The show is equal parts fanciful, funny, and moving, and the girls say the mood behind-the-scenes was just as amazing. “The best moments for me [are] when you can’t stop laughing, when you laugh ‘til your stomach hurts,” Anisa says.
“We were laughing, joking, dancing, TikTok-ing,” agrees Jivanta. “[And] seeing a room full of a Black, beautiful women of all ages, shades, and sizes was just magical to me.”
That representation on-screen is mirrored in the crew, as well. “It was so much fun to film with everyone and to be there and to have that presence with all Black female writers, producers, directors; it just meant a lot to me,” Keturah says. “And honestly, I want to … do the whole thing all over again because [it was] just so much fun!”
The Mels quickly bond through that whirlwind of a first day at their new school, and the bonds aren’t just in the show. DéLon says that finding people you can really connect with on-screen and off is really rare, which makes the show even more special. “I love how [we], over time, built this amazing bond,” she says. “We became close, and we would always help each other throughout the process of filming this, and I love how we built an amazing friendship.”
More than anything, they all want to continue reppin’ for the culture. “I just want to be a part of more short, Black stories on a positive level,” DéLon says. ” I also want to make a large, positive impact on the world.”
Watch The Mels on TikTok here.
Main Photo: Basia Bowens