Is You People Based on a True Story or a Book?

Image Credit: Tyler Adams/Netflix

A Kenya Barris directorial venture, ‘You People’ is a romantic comedy film that revolves around Ezra Cohen (Jonah Hill), a white Jewish man, and Amira Mohammed (Lauren London), a black Muslim woman, who meet, get to know each other, and fall in love, their lives become much more complicated than what they expect because of the involvement of their families. ‘You People’ is Barris’ debut feature project.

Apart from the leads, the film is driven by compelling performances by Eddie Murphy and Nia Long as Amira’s parents, Akbar and Fatima, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny as Ezra’s parents, Shelley and Arnold, as well as Molly Gordon, Sam Jay, Mike Epps and Travis Bennett, who comprise the supporting cast. As with other projects developed by Barris, ‘You People’ explores themes like race, romance, and family. If that has made you wonder whether it is inspired by actual events, we got you covered.

Is You People a True Story?

No, ‘You People’ is not based on a true story, though it is embedded with elements of reality. Barris developed the film based on a script he penned with Hill. Reflecting on the experience of writing with Hill, Barris told Complex, “It was great. He’s so funny. And he’s been in that [Judd] Apatow camp, in the [Adam] McKay camp, and all those camps. He’s a comedy genius and we have really, really, really leaned into like, for us, like let’s just try to push this, and let’s try to make something that feels new and fresh and it feels like takes off from where those guys were at. And now speaks to more where we want to be at.”

Image Credit: Parrish Lewis/Netflix

Barris told The Hollywood Reporter that he had been a fan of Hill for years. The ‘Black-ish’ creator really loved Hill’s directorial debut ‘Mid90s.’ They began texting back and forth about their mutual love for cinema and the desire to do something together. During this period, Hill was in a relationship with a woman of Cuban nationality, and that played an important role in the development of the script. ‘You People’ is also a “love letter” to Los Angeles and the complex culture that exists in that city. Barris hoped that this much would be telegraphed through the film.

Asked why he decided that ‘You People’ would be his first film, Barris responded, “I think one, because I wrote it, you know what I’m saying? I’ve written a few movies and been a part of that aspect and I’ve felt like the more I’ve done that, the more I’m like, you know what? I don’t even know if I want to write these if I’m not going to direct them. You just start to feel like as a writer, you see it in your head in such a way and the directors are great, but it’s just not quite your vision. So that was a big thing.”

After London joined the cast, she helped bring a level of authenticity to her character. The first meeting between Ezra and Amira, during which Ezra mistakes Amira for his Uber driver, is inspired by a personal experience of Barris. The filmmaker drew from the marital life of Hale Rothstein, a Jewish producer of this film, and his Muslim wife. In his pursuit of authenticity, Barris also explored other sources of inspiration around him. “And I look at my father-in-law, my wife’s, or my kids’ mom’s father who is this white guy who’s become like a father figure to me,” he said.

Image Credit: Parrish Lewis/Netflix

Barris continued, “And I would’ve never seen that be who he was. And we just looked at so many different versions of our life and said we wanted to be as honest as possible. I went to the Jay-Z concert years ago and we’re singing rap songs, whatever. And it’s 60 percent white kids and they’re dropping n-bombs and I’m looking every time I know one’s coming and if they see me looking, they kind of drop out. And I’m like you’re not doing that when I’m not looking at you. But those were the things that we really liked were things that made us feel like, ‘Oh, this could be something.’”

Barris indicated that the film’s thematic similarities to ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ (1967) are international. They took the plot of the classic film and subverted it in multiple ways. For instance, in ‘You People,’ Akbar has reservations about the relationship between his daughter and Ezra, whereas Shelley fetishizes the notion of having a black daughter-in-law. Clearly, even though Barris, Hill, and their team used their personal experiences to develop the film, ‘You People’ is not based on a true story.

Read More: Where Was Netflix’s You People Filmed?