‘Kevin Probably Saves the World’ Creator, Star Try to Explain Away ‘Magical Negro’ Trope

TCA 2017: “I feel like we have built a character who has wants, has needs, has her own storylines,” Michele Fazekas says

Last Updated: August 7, 2017 @ 4:23 PM

The executive producers and star of ABC’s “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” denied that their show plays into the so-called “Magical Negro” trope.

The ABC dramedy stars Jason Ritter as Kevin, a man tasked with saving the world by a “Warrior of God” named Yvette, played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory. But that character has more to her story than simply being a sidekick or mentor to Kevin, co-creators Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters said at a Television Critics Association panel on Sunday.

“Magical Negro” trope refers to a stock supporting character whose purpose is to offer special insight or use mystical powers to, ultimately, rescue a white protagonist.

“I think part of that trope is that character exists only to service the white character,” Faekas said. “And I feel like we have built a character who has wants, has needs, has her own storylines.”

Gregory also defended her character, revealing that Yvette has a lot more at stake in the story than the premise and early trailers led viewers to believe.

“She has her own mission. Her mission has almost bucked mythology,” she said. “Because in mythology, you should just let humanity go … it gets washed away by a flood. But Yvette is pushing mythology.”

“She is flawed, she is not angelic,” Gregory said. “She doesn’t necessarily behave like an angel, she doesn’t use language that’s necessarily angelic. She has a real purpose. And her purpose is really something that’s bigger than helping Kevin do what he needs to do. She’s bucked the universe, and she has sacrificed greatly to come. Because she has a love for humanity … she’s almost paying god in a sense.”

“As the show expands over multiple episodes, one of the things you’ll realize is that as much as she’s kind of there to help Kevin, Kevin kind of ends up helping her,” added Butters.

In the original pilot and in the first trailer for the show, formerly titled “The Gospel of Kevin,” the character was played by Cristela Alonzo. However, shortly after the show was picked up to series in May, Alonzo announced on Twitter that her role had been recast.

“Hi. Show was picked up but not me thanks for the congrats though. We move on,” Alonzo wrote at the time.

Fazekas and Butters explained that the decision to go in a different direction with the character came after they were able to view a final version of the pilot episode. Production on the series was interrupted when director Paul McGuigan had to take time to deal with a family emergency, which Butters said gave them the opportunity to step back and give the show another look.

“We were able to actually look at it with new eyes, and we did see we wanted that to go in a bit of a different direction,” she said. “We were lucky to be able to get it to Kimberly, and it ended up being the way the pilot should be.”

“We love Cristela and she’s very funny,” Fazekas said. “Kimberly was one of the first auditions we saw, and when we saw her we thought [she was] great, and then she wasn’t available because of another project. It was a hard role to cast. The tone of it shifted a little bit, I would say.”