Sometimes when you want things done up to your standards, you have to do it yourself—and that’s what Kenya Barris did with You People, his feature directorial debut he wrote alongside Jonah Hill.
The comedy flips the interracial couple genre on its head, featuring a Jewish man named Ezra from Los Angeles who falls in love with a Black woman named Amira (Lauren London), who is from a different part of LA and whose family is Muslim. The pair couldn’t be more different from each other but they quickly fall in love and everything is smooth between them until they introduce their respective families into their relationship and things go left.
Barris’ intent in all that he does is to make TV shows and movies that are relatable to everyone. The writer/creator/director refuses to be boxed in and enters the film world with a comedy stacked with some of Hollywood’s most talented and beloved actors. Barris was able to land Eddie Murphy, Nia Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and David Duchovny to play Hill and London’s parents in the film. Murphy and Louis-Dreyfus are comedic legends and their performances and humor elevate the film even further. London and Hill have a natural, easy-going chemistry between them that’s hard to find in modern rom-coms, and they both shine as the film leads.
The concept of the movie was inspired by Hill dating a Cuban woman, and Barris’ ex and mother of his children, who is biracial, but also the cultural differences between the Black and Jewish communities. “We started talking about it in general, the Jewish and Black cultures often sometimes run into oppression Olympics and we loved the idea of that. I grew up in LA, he grew up in LA, and we’d have those conversations,” Barris tells Complex. “So there were a lot of things that we wanted to talk about that we felt like would be interesting and hadn’t really been explored or would make it feel like it was of the time. We didn’t know how much of the time it would be at that moment, but we definitely wanted to talk about things that were in our heart.”
In the film, Ezra and his father-in-law, played by Murphy, have a conversation regarding Kanye West and Jay-Z’s hit song, “Ni**as In Paris.” While it’s one of the most hilarious moments in the film, the creator and Netflix felt like a different clip should be used as a teaser trailer due to West’s recently making controversial antisemitic comments. The team went with a different clip instead, where Ezra invites Amira’s parents for lunch at Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles and it’s as awkward, tense, hilarious and tone-deaf as it sounds. But it’s the most clever way to introduce viewers to what’s in store when You People hits the streaming service on Jan. 27, 2023.
The film also features performances from Sam Jay, Mike Epps, Yung Miami, Lala Anthony, Andrew Schulz, Deon Cole, and more. Complex hopped on a call with Kenya Barris to talk about making the film, working with Jonah Hill and Lauren London, and more. Check out the first look clip above and our interview, edited for length and clarity, below.