Tiffany Haddish bursts into protagonist Jerrod Carmichael’s door minutes into The Carmichael Show’s debut episode in the same, boisterous way as her unheralded Hollywood arrival. Waving an accusatory finger at estranged husband (and Jerrod’s wayward brother) Bobby, she accosts him for interrupting sex with her new lover in the apartment the couple still share. From the moment Haddish delivers her first lines (“Bobby! The next time there is a sock on the door and a sign that says Sexual Intercourse In Progress, do not enter”) it’s obvious the comedienne will steal every scene.
Haddish’s portrayal of Nekeisha Williams-Carmichael – only her second recurring scripted role – elevated the Los Angeles native into the robust film career she enjoys today. The sitcom was the perfect television launchpad for the stand-up comic, her dysfunctional relationship with Bobby (played by real-life best friend, Lil Rel Howery) driving most of the show’s laughs. In their supporting roles, Haddish and Howery became The Carmichael Show’s breakout stars, similar to predecessors like Woody Harrelson (Cheers) and John Travolta (Welcome Back Kotter).
The Carmichael Show debuted in August 2015 as a fictional version of comedian Jerrod Carmichael’s Southern values family. Interest in the sitcom piqued when screen veterans David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine were cast as Carmichael’s parents, and early episodes were lauded for tackling critical issues and current events with irreverent humour.
Less than one year after the show started, Haddish signed on for the movie Girls Trip, a relative unknown compared to her co-stars Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall. The comedy, released in July 2017, was a massive box office success that grossed over $200 million worldwide against a production budget of $27 million. Haddish was branded an “overnight sensation” and quickly rose through Tinseltown’s ranks. A frenzied schedule of projects ensued, with Haddish taking on prestigious gigs as lead actress, animated voice talent, award show host and TV producer.
Her breakout stardom almost didn’t happen, with Haddish telling Complex in 2016 she was initially overlooked for the Nekeisha character. She recalled approaching Carmichael, an acquaintance at the time, at The L.A. Comedy Store in 2014, after hearing from Howery another actress had been cast in the role.
“[I was like] it’s real messed up how you didn’t ask me to come and audition or nothing. That’s real disrespectful. Why you saying you respect my comedy? Why you saying you love what I do and all that? You didn’t even invite me to audition,” Haddish said.
“But you know what? If you need help with anything just let me know. You need somebody to run lines with you. To be a PA, a stand-in, anything. I’m here to help. I’m here to be of service. And he was like, ‘okay’.”
Two weeks later, Carmichael called Haddish and informed her the actress slotted to play Nekeisha had become unavailable, inviting her to do a table read for the show.
“I was like, ‘Oh, they letting me in the door. That’s it,” Haddish said. “I’m about to put my whole foot in it.”
Watch Tiffany Haddish in The Carmichael Show. Four episodes in a row air on SBS Viceland on Saturdays from 4.55pm, starting 8 August. All three seasons will stream at SBS On Demand the same day.
This week, SBS Viceland Channel Manager John Beohm takes us to task with the launch of UK comedy hit 'Taskmaster', Paul Hogan gets meta in 'The Very Excellent Mr Dundee', Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti follow the groundhog in 'Palm Springs', Alexander Hamilton has a cameo in 'John Adams', and we press play on our SBS On Demand picks.