'Harlem': Sukari Jones on Transitioning Jordan Peele's 'Get Out' Into a Musical (Exclusive)

Prime Video subscribers have fallen in love with Girls Trip creator Tracy Oliver's newest series, Harlem. The show follows four friends in their 30s who lean on one another for their support as they try and balance life, love, and career. The series is jampacked with talent, with the lead roles belonging to Meagan Good, Jerrie Johnson, Grace Byers, and Shoniqua Shandai. It gives true Black girl magic in the premiere season's 10 episodes, including in a scene set around a fictional musical adaptation of Get Out (written by Sukari Jones.)

In the series, Shandai stars as Angie, a struggling actress who begrudgingly auditions and is hired for a background role in a musical adaptation of Get Out. If you scroll through any Twitter timeline with the #Harlem, it becomes clear that Get Out: The Musical is one of the highlights of the series.

Many fans of the show thought the musical was real and immediately searched for tickets now that Broadway is back open. But they were disappointed to discover the musical is indeed fictional. Now fans are begging for the television version to be translated on stage. 

Pop Culture spoke with the playwright responsible for the fictional musical show. Jones says it was a dream to merge her love of seeing positive images of Black women on television with her passion for musical theater. She's also hoping Get Out's creator Jordan Peele has his eyes on the show and that in due time, they can potentially collaborate on a real-life musical adaptation of the popular thriller. 

PC: Pop Culture is so excited to speak with you. Obviously, we watched the amazing Harlem on Amazon Prime Video, and you are responsible for the brilliant creation of Get Out: The Musical. Everyone is now asking is there going to be an actual Get Out: The Musical and how have the reactions from fans been for you? 

SJ: I love that people are talking about musical theater at all. I would love there to be a Get Out: The Musical in real life. I'm here for it. Fans have been really generous and excited and it's great because it's such a wonderful show that I wish had been around years ago. So I feel super honored to kind of be a part of that.

Have you actually heard from or consulted with Jordan Peele for his approval or his advice, either prior to or since the series has been available on streaming? We can't give too much away in case everyone is not on the finale episode yet. But, he is mentioned in the series. Have you heard from him at all? Have you heard from any of his people, or any of the other stars from the film?

I love that you think that I'm on the level of being besties with Jordan Peele. I think we should just keep manifesting that and hopefully all will come true one day. So, no. Hopefully, he will see it, and bless it and think that we're all really talented. But, I know that Amazon Studios and his production company are a vibe together. Just hoping that he sees it, and loves it, and me, and that we can become besties in real life. 

So obviously, the show Harlem chronicles the lives of four African American women, and their black girl magic essence in different stages of love life and career, and their friendships kind of travel with them, and help them navigate life in the big city and outside. And primarily, with the whole Get Out: The Musical centers around the character of Angie, played by Shoniqua Shandai. She's one of the background characters in Get Out. So how was it working with her in preparation for the role for the fake musical? 

It's so great to get to work with a true actor's actor who also is into musical theater. We definitely vibed on that and fan-girled a bit about it. And it was just kind of like a kindred spirit sort of thing. And she's really great. And we got to go to this party together and she had big butterflies in her afro and we were just like twins immediately. 

Overall, what attracted you to the project of Harlem, to even want to participate in something like this outside of being able to infuse your life work with musical theater?

Honestly, I wish that there were more shows about just beautiful black fems being friends. Like where is that really? I want more of it. I want more than one show. I was attracted to the show into the project because my reason for existence on the faze of planet earth is to create and champion works that center on three-dimensional Black fems who are trope free, who are not in the background. And it was just such a thrill to get to bring satire, comedy to life in a show that's already doing everything great. 

I'm not sure how involved you were with being able to contribute to the storyline outside of the musical and the choreography and the songs and all of that, but there was a very pivotal moment where Angie's character has to face microaggressions with the lead character or her role within the play would be in jeopardy. I was speaking to Broadway star Yurel Echezarreta recently in regards to his work on Broadway talking about whether or not there's been a push for diversity in casting so that these types of things don't necessarily come about. Where are you on that spectrum and how has your experience been in regards to what we saw Angie's character deal with? 

Oh, so we're going from micro to macro? I think that this is, it goes without saying that I am 100% here for the continued, that never ended, civil rights movement in America that's happening not only for black people, but people of color globally, not just in musical theater, but in all aspects of the arts, which is so important because it creates a mirror for us and the only people who don't have mirrors are monsters. I feel like I do everything in my power, which is everything artistically, to continue to contribute to creating mirrors for little girl version of me and hopefully other little children versions of other people who don't fit into the kind of, of prize norms. So obviously, Shoniqua and I are twins for real because we all, I think, a part of coming that world for many fems of color is figuring out how to be whole in a world that sometimes wants to cut you into bite-size pieces. 

In what ways do you feel like the Get Out: The Musical is an added benefit to the series? 

Well, hopefully it's an extra chuckle in a show that already gives you a lot of like gasps and what's going to happen next, and I need to play right now moments. I think it's kind of like satire, on a theme, full of comedy, but also depth, so hopefully it's like something to chew on that's like a gummy candy that lasts for more than a moment. 

Are you hoping to be a part of the show in the next seasons to be in the backdrop of Angie's career?  

Obvi. Anything, any which way I can get in there. It's such a fabulous show and it's such a wonderful, instant new institution for not just black people, but anyone who likes to laugh, anyone who likes just solid good storytelling. Clearly, I would love to be a part of it. Tracy knows this tech avail. So just holler. 

And before I leave you, if you could just talk a little bit about the process of creating something for a show because that's so unique – I've never really seen it done in this way.

So, it was definitely an exciting experience for me coming from the hidden theater world. Basically, it was just me and my two buddies, Benj and Justin who are known, I guess, as the famous guys Pasek and Paul, but to me are just nice guys that we did BMI together, the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater workshop. And it was just us hearing from Tracy what the idea was, talking with Mimi and Ferrell, which is such a ridiculous sentence so, hearing from Mimi and Ferrell what the concept was, and then having fun and then at the option of either like pushing it or not pushing it, pushing it. And that was kind of our process and dreaming up the songs. 


And you guys were responsible for creating all of the songs and the lyrics and everything, or was that collaboration amongst the entire team outside of your two friends? 

No. We were the creative team who concocted the songs and within that we kind of collaborated on music and words, but weirdly, the way it's supposed to work is the composer's supposed to be staunchly in his lane and then the lyricists are supposed to be staunchly in the other lane.  But there's like nonstop collaboration and kind of before we were a romantic couple, I would say. We look like an odd couple on the outside, but we actually are the greatest love story of all time because I never had to beg for space to be heard or attention. It was more like, "Yes, do anything. Tell us what to do" in kind of a benevolent dictatorship, which I was into.