Every minority in the good old U.S. of A has heard or internalized that damaging myth: There can only be one. One model minority, one diverse member of the team (or cast) — and in Hulu’s “The Other Black Girl,” one editorial star at Wagner Books, as long as she falls in line. The 10-episode thriller (available all at once) is a faithful and gripping adaptation that will leave viewers exhilarated, entertained, and wanting more — especially from star Sinclair Daniel.
Based on the New York Times bestseller by Zakiya Dalila Harris, “The Other Black Girl” centers on Nella (Daniel), a rising editorial assistant whose world gets rocked in good and bad ways (and some in between) with the arrival of — you guessed it — a second Black girl in her workplace. Jordan Reddout and Gus Hickey serve as co-showrunners and executive producers along with Harris, Rashida Jones, Adam Fishbach, Tara Duncan, and Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey (the series is produced by Hulu’s Onyx Collective).
Episode 1 opens at Wagner in 1988, with the company’s only Black editor ever, Kendra Rae Phillips (Cassi Maddox). The flashback ends with her on the subway, lights flickering as she screams in terror and the masses appear to corner her. That couldn’t be further from Nella’s present-day reality, where she’s living out her dream career at Wagner even as the only Black woman at the company — until Hazel, an effortlessly cool, well-dressed, and charismatic new hire (Ashleigh Murray). The two hit it off immediately, sharing tips about fellow employees and their bosses, sneaking off to society parties, and taking selfies with Kendra’s portrait on a wall of white editors past.
But something is not right with Hazel, who seems perfect but quickly intertwines her success too tightly with Nella’s. Or with the mysterious figure sneaking into Wagner and running into Nella on the street. Or with Kendra, who hasn’t been seen or heard from since bringing in a bestseller back in 1988. Or with Diana, the friend who wrote that bestseller. Or with Nella herself as she starts having visions, feeling someone following her to deliver a sinister message.
“The Other Black Girl” hinges upon Daniel’s performance, and she absolutely nails it. Nella needs to be nerdy, ambitious, guarded, optimistic, pragmatic, paranoid — often in some concurrent combination, which Daniel commands throughout. She plays perfectly off Murray’s calculated calm, never crossing into inauthentic agitation, anger, or animosity. Brittany Adebumola takes on those emotions as the episodes progress, imbuing what could’ve been a nondescript best friend character with believable humor, warmth, and protective instincts (and some of the best one liners in the series). Without spoiling some fun reveals, the series also boasts fantastic performances from Eric McCormack and Garcelle Beauvais, especially in later episodes.
Mariama Diallo, Todd Biermann, Aurora Guerrero, Nefertite Nguvu, and Naima Ramos-Chapman direct the series seamlessly, making the edge of horror feel as real as it does to Nella without diminishing the realism of her day-to-day. EmmolLei Sankofa’s eerie score delivers bursts of tension that feel right out of “White Lotus,” punctuated by a lively soundtrack (supervised by Tiffany Anders). Pamela Hall’s work as head of the hair department is a master class unto itself, telling Nella and Hazel’s (and Kendra and Diana’s) story as much through their hair as their costuming and performances.
And thanks to Onyx and the production team, and years of tireless work from Black artists in Hollywood and across industries, “The Other Black Girl”s title gets to be ironic, presenting an abundance of talent in front of and behind the screen. The series and Harris’s book boldly question the way minorities must contort themselves to fit an ideal, and the lengths to which someone would go to achieve that.
All episodes of “The Other Black Girl” are now streaming on Hulu.
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