While in initial impressions, new ABC show Kevin (Probably) Saves The World could be perceived as employing the trope of a woman of color serving a white man’s purpose. But that is not how the show plays out, co-creator/executive producer Michele Fazekas said during a TCA panel discussion.
The show follows Kevin, a down-on-his-luck, somewhat selfish man played by Jason Ritter (Parenthood). Magically tasked with saving the world, Kevin forms a partnership with Yvette – a sort of angel/god figure – played by Kimberly Hébert Gregory.
“I certainly have heard that,” Fazekas said when questioned about the potentially-offensive cliche factor. “I think part of that trope is that the character exists only to service the white character, and I feel like we have built a character who has wants, has needs and her own storyline.”
Gregory quickly jumped in to weigh in on the subject. “You’re talking about the ‘magical negro,’” she said. “Coming in as a woman of color, a person of color, we’ve had great conversations about how to fully make Yvette. I say she’s not angelic, she has her own mission. Her mission has almost bucked mythology, because in mythology you should just let humanity go, it gets washed away by a flood. But Yvette is pushing mythology. The concept of the character is she’s not an angel, she’s flawed, she’s not angelic, she doesn’t necessarily behave like an angel, she doesn’t use language that’s angelic. She has a real purpose and her purpose is really bigger than just helping Kevin do what he needs to do.”
Co-creator/executive producer Tara Butters gave away a spoiler in her defense of the show’s take on Gregory’s character Yvette, saying, “Kevin ends up helping her, and they end up creating a partnership. Not to be a spoiler, but you will end up meeting more of her kind.”
Originally cast with Cristela Alonzo, Yvette was re-cast with Gregory after the creators changed their perspective of the role during the pilot shoot. “We love Cristela,” Fazekas said, “and she’s very funny. Kimberly was one of the first actors we saw, and we were like, ‘Great!’ and then she wasn’t available. It was a hard role to cast, and then I think the tone of it shifted a little, I would say.”
“We had a unique pilot experience. Our director had a family emergency and we had to shut down for a week,” Butters added. “We were able to look at it with new eyes and we wanted that character to go in a bit of a new direction.”