by Beverly Aarons
What happens when two totally-not-into-politics middle-aged sisters become President and Vice President of the United States of America? Sister President explores just that in this hilarious and timely episodic comedy on YouTube. Produced by veteran Hollywood actress and She Shed Cheryl viral sensation Nicole J. Butler, Sister President follows the adventures and hijinks Shona Washington (Nicole J. Butler) and Kitara Washington (Michelle N. Carter), as they take the helm of the U.S. and try to run the country their way while keeping everything from falling apart.
“It shows what happens when regular people, normal people who don’t think like politicians get into the White House and try to do some good,” Butler said during our interview, speaking via phone from her home in Los Angeles. “You see the obstacles, you see the relationship between the sisters, and you see their relationship with themselves as they try to navigate this new terrain.”
It all started with the 2016 Presidential election. Butler wasn’t exactly thrilled with the results. She needed to process her thoughts and she usually does that by writing them down, she said, “just to clarify my feelings for myself.” Ten short scripts later, Sister President was born. Butler hired a cast and crew and set out to fund the project — crowdfunding, to be exact.
Butler crowdfunded Sister President through Seed&Spark, a crowdfunding platform for filmmakers. “They really walk you through the process,” Butler said, describing how Seed&Spark provided the critical support she needed to understand the requirements for a successful crowdfunding campaign. And while Butler is grateful for all the valuable support she received, she described the process of crowdfunding as “really hard.” She laughed as she explained how she felt while seeking financial support. “At the time I was like ‘This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m on the internet begging for money.’”
And begging for money is something Butler has tried to avoid in her career, which spans more than 20 years. She’s accustomed to doing it all herself and being self-sufficient. But to get Sister President funded she had to put herself in the uncomfortable position of asking for help.
“I don’t want to put anybody out, you know, I don’t like asking for stuff,” Butler said. “But this was something that I could not do on my own. And so it was a lesson for me to ask for help when I needed it. And it also showed me that I actually do have a community that will rally around me, you know, for something that we all believe in.”
And what is it that Butler believes in? That representation matters. Butler believes that stories about the complexity of Black women and girls have a foundational place in the mainstream narrative and the collective imagination.
“We’re not all the same. We come from different walks of life too,” Butler said as she discussed the importance of writing complex Black women characters in Sister President and in fictional depictions in general. “And one thing I want to get across is that these sisters are different. They’re very different because they weren’t raised together but they’re both smart. You know — you can twerk and be smart. You can be book-smart and college-educated and deal with mental health issues. We’re complex.”
What’s next for Sister President? Butler is writing the second season and working her Hollywood connections to secure a partnership with a production company and a distribution deal. But Sister President is just the beginning; she has even bigger plans in the works.
“I am looking to build an empire. I said that to myself, way back,” Butler said. “And I wasn’t sure which path it would take, but now that I’ve created a show, I know how to do it, and I have a lot of other ideas and some of them are full scripts already. So, I plan to produce more in the future and to put good, skilled, creative people that I know to work and pay them what they’re worth. That’s what I want.”
Beverly Aarons is a writer and game developer. She works across disciplines as a copywriter, journalist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and short-story writer. She explores futuristic worlds in fiction but also enjoys discovering the stories of modern-day unsung heroes. She’s currently working on a series of nonfiction stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their local communities and the world. In August 2018 she produced a live-action game and event where community members worked together to envision an economic future they truly desired to leave future generations. She’s currently writing an immersive play about the themes of migration.
Featured image courtesy of The Live True Project.