When BET announced in 2015 that its first scripted miniseries would take on the iconic singing group New Edition, the excitement in R&B circles was instant.
Along with the buzz came the questions: Would the group, particularly its most high-profile and controversial member Bobby Brown, be involved? Would the project have the rights to the hit songs? Would it cover the good, the bad and the ugly?
Producers of the film, particularly considering the group’s continuing popularity, felt the pressure.
During the filming of a relatively innocuous winter scene last summer at a Hollywood recording studio, they were visibly concerned about how “The New Edition Story” would be received by the group’s loyal fans and viewers – especially the hard-to-please Black Twitter community.
BET not only moved forward, but aimed high with an ambitious, three-night miniseries on the group, which is still so beloved it can pack arenas more than 30 years after its debut.
All six members of the group – Brown, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant – served as producers, as did New Edition’s longtime manager and choreographer, Brooke Payne.
Maurice Starr, who Svengalied them to pop stardom with bubblegum R&B hits he crafted, consulted, while Jam, Lewis and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, – superstar producers who previously worked with the group, collectively or on solo projects – handled music for the film.
New Edition sold millions of records, catapulted Brown, Gill and Tresvant to solo success and launched two splinter groups, Heads of State and Bell Biv DeVoe, whose megahit “Poison” remains an earworm 26 years after its release.
The film exposed the tumultuous journey, which group members were able to confront with a sense of understanding and insight.