Before 43-year-old film and television writer Felicia Pride made a career writing for shows like Queen Sugar and Grey’s Anatomy, she had vastly different plans for her life. A business major in college, she’d been pursuing a path in the corporate world, but got her first taste of the possibility of a career in writing. “In college, I had a professor who saw something in my writing,” Pride tells xoNecole. “[The professor] encouraged me to minor in English, but that’s more time and more money – both of which I [didn’t] have.”
Deciding instead to move forward with her business degree, Pride quickly realized the monotony of the corporate world was not going to keep her interests. On the side, she took on an internship at a Black-owned newspaper to satiate her creative impulses. “My first published piece was a review of Mary J Blige’s No More Drama album,” Pride says. “And when I saw my name in print – the byline – I was like ‘oh this is it.’”
It still took a moment for Pride to find her footing as a writer. “Freelancing is a lot of work,” she says. “You’re typically undervalued in many ways.” After moving to Los Angeles, Pride started working in film distribution – acquiring documentaries as an impact producer – a career that she immensely enjoyed because it allowed her to go to film festivals like Sundance for free. After being laid off, however, Pride saw that as an opportunity to return to her original passion of writing.
When she first moved out to California, Pride brought along the screenplay for her film Really Love – a romantic drama about two Black artists falling in and out of love against the backdrop of Washington, DC.
'Really Love' / Netflix
“There were so many ‘nos’ along the way,” she tells me about her journey to get her film on the screen. “There were so many white folks who were like they seen this film a hundred times and I was like, ‘with Black people in it?’” In her more than a decade-long process of trying to get the film produced, directed, and distributed, Pride met people like director Angel Kristi Williams. Williams boarded on to Really Love as the director after a conversation the two of them had where Williams expressed interest in wanting to direct romantic dramas. From there they took a meeting with MACRO where they pitched the film to a room full of people that included producer and founder Charles King. Even after MACRO bought the script, Pride says that it still took time for the film to get into production, get out of post-production, and then for Netflix to pick it up, and then for the streaming service to release it. Through all of this, Pride says that she learned a valuable lesson in patience and divine timing. “I never want to do a project that takes me ten plus years to get fucking made, but I do know that this project came out exactly at the right time.”
Really Love was slated to premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film wound up premiering virtually at the American Film Institute’s AFI Fest later that fall before streaming on Netflix in August 2021 and cracking the top 10 most watched list on the platform.
The time around which Really Love finally premiered was particularly auspicious for Pride. She was coming off of writing on her first TV show, OWN’s Queen Sugar and going into her next writing job with Grey’s Anatomy. Pride got into television writing because not only did it offer a consistent source of income, but it also gave her the opportunity to write more in-depth. “There’s something about the ability to do long-form storytelling,” she says. “To be able to see characters change over time, to track journeys – that I really, really love.”
Her time on Queen Sugar, which came through her spec script being sent to showrunner Anthony Sparks, taught Pride that it was possible to work in Hollywood and enjoy a respectful, healthy work environment, despite so many examples to the contrary.. “[Anthony] is an amazing leader. He’s kind,” she tells me. “So it shows you can do this job without abusing people.” As for her time on Grey’s Anatomy, an opportunity that arose during what she described was going to be a self-imposed “hot girl hiatus” on writing, she said that it gave her the chance to both write and produce. “It’s a beast,” Pride says.
Outside of her television work, Pride is ready to produce and direct her own work. Her multi-media production company Honey Chile – the name being an ode to Black women over 40 whom she describes as “honeys” – is set in motion to begin putting out projects dedicated to and created by middle-aged Black women, including podcasts (Chile Please), a TV series, and two Will Packer-produced films with Universal. “I came into the business when I was 35. I turned 39 in my first writer’s room, and I feel like I had a different kind of experience,” Pride says of why she’s so intent on making space for seasoned Black women to tell their stories. "I was able to bring the experience of a 39-year-old Black woman with Baltimore sensibilities who had whole other careers."
Pride’s first short film Tender, about two queer Black women that take place the morning after a one-night stand, became Pride’s first foray into directing, something she says she is excited to do much more in the future. “I wanted [Tender] to serve as a calling card for the kind of themes I want to explore in my work,” she tells me. “Which is: sexuality, sisterhood, Black joy, trauma.”
When thinking about the kind of career she wants to have, Pride looks to the novelist Toni Morrison for inspiration. “Writing for Black people is a legacy [of Morrison’s] that I want to continue."