Since first hitting the scene in the 1990s and their rapid rise to prominence with shows like “Survivor,” “The Bachelor” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” Americans have become addicted to the distinct genre known as “reality television.”
Now with the recent debut of “The Rev,” there’s a new family on the block: the world of larger-than-life Pastor Richard Hartley.
After years of traveling the globe to work with incredible choirs and A-list musicians — from Aretha Franklin to Michael Jackson and Diana Ross — The Rev says he’s grown tired of the road and wants to put greater focus on his hometown (Queens, NY) choir. And with the help of his wife Stacey, he’s looking for ways to move his millennial children, Judea and Jordan, out of the house as they continue going over their dreams.
“I want our audience to see that we’re just a normal, American family — a successful family where spirituality and Christianity aren’t just a gimmick but our foundation,” Hartley said. “I hope to help people shed some of their fears and prejudice about Black people and the Black family.”
“We’re like so many others — a Black family led by a Black man who has a positive relationship with his wife and children. We believe in having good-hearted fun. You could call us a cross between ‘227’ and ‘Good Times’ and I’m a lot like George Jefferson,” he said.
In several teasers for the show, Hartley shared two of his family’s favorite rooms in their home: “The Red Room” and The Rev’s “Closet.”
“We took care of my mother for the last 15 years of her life who was on dialysis,” he said. “Her room was red and instead of turning it into a tomb, I wanted it to be a place where we could have fun. So, we transformed it into a place for social gatherings, for eating and drinking and watching soap operas. In her memory, we’ve turned it into a room of joy.”
“As for the ‘Closet,’ that’s where it all happens for me. I turned one of the extra bedrooms into a private space in which only I enter or my assistant. I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs but I do have one problem: shopping. I’ve been fortunate to go all over the world and along the way, I’ve picked up quite a few collectibles. And they’re all safely organized in my closet,” Hartley shared with a laugh.
He said that while he’s never considered himself a comedian, many say he’s extremely funny. And he hopes to capitalize on his innate humor as the show progresses.
“There won’t be any scripts that we’ll be following,” he said. “The lines you’ll hear will be our own words and thoughts. The network is simply turning on the camera after giving us a situation. It’s on me and my family to develop what happens after that.”
“Still, it’s not business as usual. My wife and the kids have been with me on tours worldwide, in front of the church and on all kinds of awards shows so they’re used to be in the spotlight. And my kids are both adults. But having 20 to 30 people in your house all the time — that’s a new experience,” he said.
Hartley said another new experience has been leading his church in the midst of a pandemic. But he’s found way to keep things going and engaging his congregation.
“After the shutdown, we began to live stream services from the house,” he said. “We brought the band in and were careful to observe social distancing. Then we’d rehearse, clown around, play charades and karaoke — all that stuff.”
“My church is full of life, it’s loud and our people are exuberant, so not being physically together took a lot of adjustment. But we tried to keep things as familiar as possible. Still, there’s a power in coming together as a people in worship. We’re doing the best we can. And our church in Rockaway Beach in Queens is now open at 25 percent.”
“I just want people to see that my personal achievements have come because I perfected my teaching — my craft — and it gained traction. If you work yourself and your own corner, your territory will be enlarged. And don’t despite small things because it’s a seed for bigger things. Most important, do what you’re doing for the love of God. I hope our show will help people become more confident about their own lives.”
“Normal people can do great things. We’re simply ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” he said.
You can see “The Rev” on the USA Network at 10:30 p.m. EST.