'Bria Mack Gets A Life' doesn't shy away from specifics, and will 'up the ante' for comedy

Sasha Leigh Henry's new Canadian Crave comedy show dives into the complexity of being a recent university graduate, with an invisible "hype girl'

In a world with countless streaming TV shows at our fingertips, a series that actually stands out for being funny, compelling, with a truly entertaining script, is a big deal. For Canadians, that show is Bria Mack Gets A Life on Crave, created by Sasha Leigh Henry, starring Malaika Hennie-Hamadi and Hannan Younis.

"I'm an audience member first and I love TV shows like Fresh Prince and Girlfriends, and later on Chewing Gum and Broad City, so when I got the opportunity to make a show I really wanted to make something that felt super authentic and refreshing and specific," Henry, the show's creator, told Yahoo Canada. "Most importantly, something that would make us all laugh, while also having something to say."

"I thought about some of the awkward experiences I had in my own life and the places I go in my head in response to certain answers I get when I'm at work. I just thought, I feel and I hope other people are experiencing the same thing, and let's put it on screen and see."

Watch Bria Mack Gets a Life on Crave

What is 'Bria Mack Gets A Life' about?

In Bria Mack Gets A Life, the title character, played by Hennie-Hamadi, just graduated from university, valedictorian of her graduating class, but that academic success doesn't immediately translate to instant career success.

In a bind financially, Bria decides to move back home with her mother Marie (played by Leslie Adlam) in Brampton, Ont., with a plan to relax, regroup and think about what she wants her future to look like.

But that plan backfires when she finds out her mother has made other plans. Marie is retiring and moving to Florida with her boyfriend, so Bria only has six weeks to get a job and find a place to live.

Throughout the series, Bria is going through these events in her life with Black Attack by her side. Played by Younis, Black Attack is the sort of voice in Bria's head, her "hyper girl" that only the audience can see. What's particularly unique about Henry's approach to this inner voice character is that Black Attack is, first and foremost, ready to respond to any tone-deaf comments Bria comes up against, but Black Attack also doesn't always lead Bria in the most responsible direction.

"She's not always the right voice, but I think we all have that duality in us and we're constantly struggling with wanting to say things, and maybe not being the right thing, but in your head it's like 'just do it,'" Younis said. "Everyone has a Black Attack and it's not always the best advice, but it's just that struggle that you have with yourself."

Hannan Younis and Malaika Hennie-Hamadi in Bria Mack Gets A Life on Crave
Hannan Younis and Malaika Hennie-Hamadi in Bria Mack Gets A Life on Crave

'Bria Mack Gets A Life' succeeds by leaning into the specifics 

In terms of what particularly appealed to Hennie-Hamadi about playing Bria, the actor revealed she feels similar to the character in her real life.

"I think just her relatability, just a young Black woman who's trying to figure out what her path is and having a support system, a family who wants the best for her, it's something that I went through myself in my early 20s," she said.

Much of the relatability in Bria Mack Gets A Life can also be pointed to how "granular" Henry got with both her characters and the story.

One example is that Henry steered far away from what we usually see in TV when we have a younger characters struggling financially. We often hear characters say they're broke, meanwhile they're living in an apartment that would cost thousands of dollars in rent a month. It's refreshing to see a circumstance that most people have gone through at that point in their lives depicted with specificity and honesty.

"In a lot of ways the journey we see Bria on isn't rare. She's trying to get apartment, she's trying to find a job, but what specifically about that doesn't feel reflected yet, and it is just how little money you have after graduating with this really great degree," Henry said. "But you also want these other things and the real life implications of money, and the access that you may have to it and how you earn it has on the choices you make for your own quality of life."

"Bria ends up in a job that she doesn't really love because it becomes quickly apparent that she's going to have to pay rent and she's going to have to do that somehow."

Watch Bria Mack Gets a Life on Crave

Additionally, Henry really leans into the particular experience of someone from a suburb, and specifically Brampton, to add to the richness of these characters and the story.

"I think there's something specific in the GTA about being the adjacent suburban kid, wanting to live downtown or coming downtown," Henry said. "Sometimes you watch these shows and they just automatically live in the big city and they're already there, but a lot of this was about showing the transition and how you end up downtown, maybe with a job you don't like, paying exorbitant rent."

"There's going to be lots of Toronto, but also I'm from Brampton, and I think, overall, Canada underestimates the amount of talent that comes out of Brampton."

Hannan Younis and Malaika Hennie-Hamadi in Bria Mack Gets A Life on Crave
Hannan Younis and Malaika Hennie-Hamadi in Bria Mack Gets A Life on Crave

An invitation to 'up the ante' with the comedy

In terms of developing this relationship we see on screen between Bria and Black Attack, there were two elements that Henry really wanted to focus on in this story.

"The two thematic scopes that are there is being a young person and navigating a world that is not at all as it was described to you in school, and also being a young Black woman navigating that," Henry explained. "I think as a Black woman in a lot of spaces, corporate spaces or predominantly white spaces, or even just feeling anxious, there's so much going on in my head constantly that ... I think a lot of time when I'm storytelling I'm kind of like, 'Do you feel this way too?' Is really the question I'm asking with my work."

"I just wanted to put that inner dialogue out loud and really just play with it, and have that be the central relationship, ... because there are things that my real life friends, as close as I am to them, they don't know about how I may feel. Like one of the episodes where Bria's deciding if she's going to invite someone over and she's like, 'I don't think I cleaned my room.' I might not say that out loud to my coworker, why I'm hesitant to invite him over, but I'm definitely thinking that in my head."

While so many character dynamics in Bria Mack Gets A Life are incredibly entertaining to watch, the chemistry between Hennie-Hamadi and Younis, as Bria and Black Attack, is nothing short of magic. These characters feel so connected and have a level of comedy that's off the charts funny.

"Hannan has this ability to bring out an even wilder side of Malaika as a performer, which I think was great," Henry said.

"Hannan jumped on Malaika back at one point during during the audition. They just were so willing to keep going farther and farther and farther and farther."

Pushing that comedy is also something Henry really excels at in Bria Mack Gets A Life, it's one of the only shows that really effectively balances family humour, like the relationship between Bria and her mom, office humour when Bria gets a job, and the sort of outlandish comedy we'd expect to see in a show similar to Netflix's Big Mouth.

A great example of that, which is already on our list of one of the funniest TV moments we've seen in a long time, is when Black Attack is hosting a medieval-themed competition called "Pitch Ye D-ck" for Bria to find a new man to be intimate with, where see what exactly Bria would be working with, so to speak.

"It really did up the ante," Henry said. "I like the way it keeps the audience on their toes that you never know what we might pull out of this grab bag."

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Tania Thompson, Tamar Bird, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Sasha Leigh Henry, Angelique Knights and Mark Montefiore attend the
TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Tania Thompson, Tamar Bird, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Sasha Leigh Henry, Angelique Knights and Mark Montefiore attend the "Bria Mack Gets a Life" premiere during the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival at Scotiabank Theatre on September 10, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mathew Tsang/Getty Images)

'They understood the complexities of a Black woman'

The series is directed by Henry, in addition to Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, the phenomenal filmmaker who gave us the short film Black Bodies and her feature When Morning Comes, and Henry was a producer on those movies as well.

Both Hennie-Hamadi and Younis were quick to praise both Henry and Fyffe-Marshall on their direction for Bria Mack Gets A Life, and their inspiration in the entertainment space as a whole.

"They're so relatable and I think especially as Black women in this industry, it was such a treat working with them because they understood the complexities of a Black woman, especially on screen," Hennie-Hamadi said. "It was easy to have conversations with them, if anything came up, if I had concerns or anything, but it was so much fun."

"The hair, the makeup, because those are honestly conversations and worries Black women have on sets all the time. A lot of times in my career I had to do my own hair and my own makeup, because I just didn't trust what was going to come when I popped up. ... I'm just so grateful to have had experienced that with them, and hope we do more."

"They're really smart ... and I felt very inspired by them," Younis added. "They make sh-t happen."

"There was something about it, having all of these people of colour and women, just everybody collaborating, it's very inspiring. I'm hopeful for the future."

Whatever the future holds for these actors and Henry as a TV creator, we're just really hoping we get to see a lot more Bria Mack Gets A Life.

Where to watch 'Bria Mack Gets A Life'

Bria Mack Gets A Life is streaming on Crave, with the first three episodes premiering Oct. 13.

The final episodes in the six-episode series will be released on Crave Oct. 20.