'Average Joe': Cynthia Kaye McWilliams and Malcolm Barrett Say Series Is 'Ozark Meets Black People' (Exclusive)

Average Joe is a new comedy-drama series on BET+ and stands out because it's nothing the streaming service has seen before. But is the series like another popular show that just finished its run? PopCulture.com spoke exclusively to Average Joe stars Cynthia Kaye McWilliams and Malcolm Barrett, and the two said the show is like a popular series on Netflix. 

"Ozark meets Black people," McWilliams exclusively told PopCulture. "To me, that's what the show is. And I was such a fan of Ozark. I loved that series. And so yeah, I really do think it is like so many other action drama shows in that it's suspenseful, every week we're at a cliffhanger. But it really is, the biggest difference for me is exactly that. We're looking at a Black lead and we're looking at a Black family and we're looking at Black friends. We're looking at in Pittsburgh where this thing is set a middle-class Black sort of surroundings. But I also think that it's nice to see people like Michael Trucco come in and be able to be a part of the family."

(Photo: BET+)

Barrett loves that Average Joe is not a typical series when it comes to crime drama with Black people. "I think a lot of times when you are dealing with a crime drama with Black folks, you're dealing with drug dealers and folks who are career criminals," Barrett said. "These people have no idea what they're doing. I think it's a world that's just as vast as mob ties and international intrigue and all of that. But it's a working-class Black family in Pittsburgh who are trying to find things out. And it's really about friends and family and what you're willing to do for friends and family and people who don't necessarily know what they're doing, but know who they love."

McWilliams and Barrett play Cathy and Leon Montgomery, a couple who is close to the Washington family, led by Joe Washington (Deon Cole) and Angela Washington (Tammy Townsend). Joe gets involved with the Russian mob after learning that his late father stole millions of dollars from them, which leads to Angela, Cathy and Leon getting involved. Cathy is all about getting her hands dirty when it comes to illegal activity, while Leon is more careful about dealing with drugs, money and violence. 

McWilliams admitted that they were sure about doing the series at first, but that changed when they read the script. "These were characters that I think we were excited to play and a story that I was excited to tell," she said. "And just the scale of the show, you could feel it. And I was excited to see how the team at BET and our director would bring it to life. As soon as I read it, I knew this is different and I'm excited to be a part of it."

"I don't get to do a lot of all-Black cast shows or even majority-Black cast shows," Barrett added. "And so to do this and play with my peers in that way and on such a scale and a level, because I think it is bigger than a lot of their other shows in terms of its scale, in terms of the story that they're telling, in terms of the blood and the guts and how sprawling it becomes and how big this world becomes."

New episodes of Average Joe stream every Thursday on BET+.