Is Harlem Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Sarah Shatz/Amazon Prime Video

Set in Harlem, New York, Amazon Prime Video’s comedy series ‘Harlem’ follows a group of four best girlfriends, dealing with their complicated professional and romantic lives. As they embark on different journeys to move forward with their lives, their friendship binds them together, lending them strength and support.

Created by Tracy Oliver, the compelling series progresses through the true to life adventures of the girl-gang, whose relatability is nothing but astounding. Captivated by the enviable friendship of the group and their high-spirited adventures, we have set out to find whether the show is based on a real group of friends. Let’s take a look at what we found!

Is Harlem a True Story?

No, ‘Harlem’ is not based on a true story. In an interview given to EW, creator Tracy Oliver talked about the inspiration behind writing the show. “[…] there just wasn’t a lot of like Black female friendship stories on the air, and those have always been my favorites. I’ve loved Girlfriends, and Sex and the City, and even Living Single, though that was more co-ed. Usually what I do when there’s something missing that I really want to see is I just decide, okay, well I’ll just write it. So I did,” Oliver said.

Instigated by the lack of African-American representation in films or shows exploring friendship, Oliver wrote the screenplay of the show before her breakthrough film as a writer, ‘Girls Trip.’ In the years that succeeded, Oliver expanded the scope of the screenplay to address varied subjects and stereotypes pertaining to womanhood. Characterizing the four protagonists in their thirties was part of Oliver’s attempt to deconstruct such stereotypes with respect to women as depicted in TV.

“A lot of shows that are faced with women in their twenties show your twenties as the time that you’re young and you’re crazy and you’re figuring it out. But then, by the time you reach your thirties, you should just have it all mapped out. I was like, ‘But I’m in my thirties and I don’t have everything together.’ And I have so many friends that are still figuring themselves out too, or even starting over… And so I was kind of like, ‘Well, let’s be truthful about how the thirties doesn’t necessarily mean that you have it all together,'” Oliver told EW.

Since lack of representation played a major role in stirring Oliver to write the show, the creator was adamant to not repeat the mistakes made by her predecessors. “People are really going to appreciate just all the variety of beauty on the show. None of them look alike. They’re all different heights and weights and hair textures and complexions. And that’s something that I’m also really conscious of, is making sure that as many types of women are represented as possible,” she said in the same interview.

Even though the stories of Camille, Tye, Quinn, and Angie are fictitious, the touch of relatability and originality comes from Tracy Oliver’s own life with her friends. “I felt like I came of age in New York and Harlem. All of my pivotal life experiences took place in my 20s, and that was me hanging out with friends in New York. There’s no other city like this,” Oliver said to New York Post.

Her personal experiences also influenced the characterization of Camille. “I can be kind of Type-A like Camille. In the first season, we explore her coming to terms with the fact that her romantic relationships and her career are not going according to plan. At the time that I wrote that script, that’s where I was,” she added.

Even as a fictional account, ‘Harlem’ and its characters are incredibly rooted in African-American identity and culture, which makes the show all the more significant and appealing. The series also successfully rejuvenates the under-represented African-American presence in its absolute zeal and vibrancy, in the mould of an extraordinary friendship tale.

Read More: Where is Harlem Filmed?