Morehouse Alum Seith Mann '95 Breaks Down 'The Breaks'

Date Released: March 21, 2017


Hollywood director Seith Mann ’95 returned to Morehouse College recently to premiere upcoming episodes of his new hit '90s hip-hop drama The Breaks, which follows the lives of young artists who dream of becoming rap superstars.

The VH1 series uses hip-hop history as a foundation for its storyline. Episodes reflect the music, fashion, culture, and news of the '90s when some critics dismissed rap music as a passing fad.

Hip-hop was the soundtrack to Mann’s formative years.

“It was music that spoke to us in a way that music hadn’t spoken to us,” he said recently to an audience gathered in Bank of America Auditorium at Morehouse College.

Mann, a writer, director and executive producer, has a master's degree in film from New York University. His first big break came in 2006 when he was given the chance to direct an episode of The Wire. From there, he went on to direct of a number of top television shows including The Walking Dead, Homeland, and Entourage. His experiences gave him the cache he needed with Hollywood to launch The Breaks.

Mann says working on The Breaks as a director and executive producer allows him to reminisce about an exciting period in time in which artists of meager means became millionaires after sharing their brand of poetry with an audience hungry for a new sound. 

The show features Afton Williamson of Nashville who plays "Nikki Jones," an intelligent and resourceful woman willing to do what she needs to in order to make it to the top. Veteran actor Wood Harris of The Wire fame plays music executive "Barry Fouray."

Hip-hop legends in non-musical roles give a sense of nostalgia to the show. Method Man plays a father who is not a fan of rap music and T.I. has a role as a lawyer.

Mann said the time was right for a show like The Breaks.

"I get to tell a story that I want to see,” he said.

And that includes creating characters he feels are often not represented on television. He is most proud of Nikki’s character, because he said often times, black women are relegated to being a girlfriend on the screen. “In Nikki, we created a character who is strong and flawed, and not always right.”

The series began as a movie for VH1. The Breaks movie premiered at a time when hip-hop shows such as Empire were gaining steam on major networks and streaming services. But Mann says The Breaks is more nuanced and inspired by music history and culture than other shows.

“I’m breathing rarified air,” Mann said. “And for me, that’s a big deal because of how I look.”

Mann hopes he can become a role model for the next generation of black writers, directors, and producers.

His profile is growing in Hollywood. He was recently tapped to direct a biopic about Harriet Tubman. Actress Cynthia Erivo, who won a Tony Award for her role of "Celie" in the 2015 revival of The Color Purple, is slated to star as Tubman. Production is expected to start this spring.

Last Modified: June 8, 2017, 13:06 PM, by: Synera Shelton

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