Premiering this week: 3 Detroit couples to bring the reality TV spotlight home

Once considered a guilty pleasure, reality shows have grown from being the step-children of the entertainment industry to legitimate players, with the revenue and viewership to justify it. However, while cities like New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles have been mainstays for filming locations; Detroit has not been so lucky.

The few reality shows that have been based in Detroit have been niche shows like “Hardcore Pawn,” “Bargain Block,” and “Motor City Motors,”. Shows that never truly represented Detroit’s integrity and complexities and often played off the stereotypical hardships of the city’s past.

Enter “Love & Marriage: Detroit,” the first cousin to OWN TV Network’s already successful shows “Love & Marriage: Huntsville,” and “Love & Marriage: DC.” The Detroit series premiere’s June 24, and features three couples (Russell and Kolby Harris, Brandon and Kristina Bowman Smith, and Anthony and Dr. LaToya Thompson) who are also longtime friends, as they navigate the ups and downs that come with marriage. The show’s creator and producer is Carlos King, a Detroit native and Jared W. Finney High School graduate with a deep affection for his hometown.

“I was born and raised in the city. I wanted to give back to my community and showcase the beautiful aspects of the city. I grew up in Detroit," says King. “In 2023 Detroit is thriving. Black-owned businesses, Black entrepreneurs, it's no more just being the motor city. We have people out there who are publicists, business owners, creating restaurants, and opening up different establishments. So I knew the world would be interested in seeing what the new Detroit looks like and these three couples represent that effort,” says King.

King says he didn’t face any challenges while filming in Detroit. He was able to secure all the desired filming locations, highlight revitalized areas, connect and incorporate Detroit’s Black entrepreneurial base, and make the city of Detroit not just a backdrop but exhibit all the layers of its personality. 

Along with Detroit’s geographical and neighborhood gems, King also feels the personalities of the plot lines and the three couples cast for the show convey an accurate narrative of who and what Black Detroit is.

“What we really wanted to see were couples that identified with the brand and that's Black entrepreneurship that has a relatable story not only in their careers but in their marriages,” says King.

Brandon and Kristina Smith’s Star Factory has been a pillar in developing music artists for two decades. Notable rapper Tee Grizzley and singers Neisha Neshae and Brook Madison were all clients of Star Factory. The Smiths embraced challenges and the fortuitous nature of the reality show with enthusiasm.

“I was excited, in Detroit we don’t get a lot of stuff like this. I feel like it's an opportunity to showcase our city, a prime opportunity, and the fact that they wanted us to do it - you know we felt like we could step up and make it happen,” says Brandon Smith. “I think what also separates us apart is that we’ve been in the spotlight for a long time collectively and individually. So I feel like we ain’t new to this, we’re true to this,” Kristina Smith adds with a laugh.

“Brandon is bringing back Motown, the new sound of the city of R&B and hip-hop. So I wanted to make sure we’re also known for Motown, but what does that sound like in 2023,” says King.

Russell Harris is the CEO of Soar Detroit, an organization that focuses on literacy and sports while his wife Kolby is an up-and-coming social media influencer. Russell Harris is considering pursuing ministry but Kolby is concerned because her father is a pastor and she knows the challenges of being a pastor's wife. 

Their particular dynamic isn’t just a juicy TV plotline but it speaks to Detroit’s spiritual heritage. Detroit is home to over 800 churches and many Black residents cling strongly to the faith that their grandparents and great-grandparents brought with them from the South during the Great Migration.  

“Kolby and Russell Harris are dealing with spirituality and faith,” says King. “Being from Detroit our grandmothers and mamas really raised us to really have strong faith.”

“I was interested in not only expanding my personal brand but really sharing Black love on the big screen from the lens of the city of Detroit,” says Kolby Harris. 

“We are a couple that's chasing after the Lord and I think that's something that's definitely clear for this season and that's something you’ll get to follow with us,” says Russell Harris. 

The third couple, Anthony and Dr. LaToya Thompson have been married for 14 years. Anthony works for entertainment conglomerate Live Nation (which operates historic venues such as Saint Andrews Hall and The Fillmore) while managing his ATNework Production Company. LaToya is a physical therapist and owner of Opulence Wines. Like many Detroiters, the Thompsons have both found success in traditional career paths and have carved out their own creative entrepreneurial niches. Anthony also promotes his own brand of healthy masculinity.

“I feel like I embody Detroit,” says Anthony Thompson. “A kid that grew up on Joy Road, Exit #9, going to Hampton Elementary, going to Hally, to King High School, to Michigan State. And then being here at home working for one of the biggest companies in entertainment here in Detroit.”

“We’re all about business. We have business and you're seeing us maneuvering through our business but also handling business. I mean we’re the business couple, to be honest,” says LaToya Thompson.  
Overall, King hopes viewers inside and outside of city limits will appreciate this never before seen look inside today’s Black Detroit for its sincerity and entertainment value. 

“These are all new elements you get to see that. I feel Detroiters really relate too,” says King. 
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