Phabian Mitchell is one of the Internet’s best-kept secrets. He’s one of the creators of the the hit YouTube parody series The Legends Panel (a worthy follow up to Got 2 B Real) and voices many of the show’s characters. Whitney Houston, in particular, is one of my personal favorites.
Of course, that’s not all he’s been up to. He’s also graced us with a book, When Hearts Involved, and I had the pleasure of picking his brain about it. From there, we launched into relationships, affairs, and his plans for the future.
So let’s get into it, shall we?
“Adonis Hill is one of Atlanta’s black, young, and formidable defense attorneys. He is engaged to, SIdnee, a high society socialite whose grandfather just so happens to be his boss at the law firm.
He has it all; a wonderful family, an exciting career, and a beautiful fiance. That’s not enough. He strikes up a hot and steamy sexual relationship with a young, black man trying to find his way in the world.
As the affair grows more serious, Adonis must decide if he’s willing to risk it all and live in the truth he wants to deny or be bound to keeping up appearances. Love, sex, lies, domestic violence, and mental illness takes you on an exciting ride in this short novel.”
ME: So, the plot takes place in Atlanta. How did you end up here?
PHABIAN: In fiction and in reality, Atlanta is the Mecca for black entrepreneurs, entertainers, startups, actors, and everyone in between. Atlanta is “Black Hollywood.” It is our Silicon Valley.
I felt that the characters I created fit the makeup of upper echelon middle class. Majority of Georgia is rural and I think Atlanta has the most opportunities for us, and it was only right that the main character, Adonis Hill and the Hill family, should be from there.
ME: Yes, let’s talk about Adonis Hill. He stood out to me a lot. Is he inspired by anyone in real life?
PHABIAN: Hmm. I wish I could say “Chile, yeah! Adonis Hill is me and he is I.” But I can’t. He is my polar opposite…in every way possible. He is, however, the personality of my exes combined…if that makes sense.
ME: That’s an interesting way to create a character. I think every author has their process for that. Do you have an outline, or is it more of an organic process?
PHABIAN: Adonis Hill, Rayvick Reynolds, and Sidnee Troope are all outlined characters. Borderline stereotypical characters, but elevated in their personalities. All the other characters came organically. The first novel, When Hearts Are Involved, was only going to focus solely on Adonis and Rayvick. I got so bored writing just about them. That’s when I immediately started introducing secondary characters and family.
ME: Yes, you have quite a cast in this book. Speaking of casting, though, who would play your main characters in a movie?
PHABIAN: Now you know I have sat down and thought loooooong and hard about this. I would love for Adonis to be played by Rome Flynn. He and Michael Ealy are the visual aids I used to create that character. As far as Rayvick, he’s very Lil Nas X meets Kofi Siriboe. Sidnee was created around the aesthetic of Hayden Panettiere. Allegra, Adonis’ little sister, would be Zendaya and Apollo, Adonis and Allegra’s brother, would be played by someone like Robert Ri’chard. Their parents would easily be Phylicia Rashad and James Earl Jones. Without a doubt. I did that, didn’t I?
ME: Let’s climb even higher and envision you book being optioned by film studios for a live adaptation. Who would be the director of a movie based on When Hearts Are Involved?
PHABIAN: It would have to be directed by someone who completely understands the novel and my visions. They would have to be able to direct, but also listen, actively and fill in any missing parts. I believe Justin Simien (Dear White People co-creator and director) or Lena Waithe. I just love them and their creations.
ME: I adore Lena Waithe! She’s come a long way since Master of None. Just goes to show you never know what’s on the horizon, right? Unfortunately, that seems to also apply to some relationships as well. What do you theorize to be the reason why so many of us wind up in “entanglements?”
PHABIAN: Unhappiness, emotional crisis, the need for attention they’re not receiving from their spouse or partner, and I also think it has something to do with the need to see if they still have that juice. You see what I’m saying? We now live in a world where polyamorous and open relationships are more widely accepted. For me, I can barely keep one person happy and entertained. How in the hell am I going to tap dance for two? But people tend to be happier in those type of trysts. They also tend to not last.
ME: Those are definitely topics than can lead to some difficult discussions. As a writer, we also have to deal with awkward moments with our characters. Which scene presented the most difficulty when writing When Hearts Are Involved? Which scene was a breeze?
PHABIAN: The rape, the abuse, and the psychotic break scenes were the most difficult. I literally shed tears writing that because it’s so closely vested. Majority of it is something I endured or witnessed. To relive that was hard but very liberating. The easiest was, of course, the sex scenes! Those were based on personal experience. Wink-wink! I’m surprised I remember so much of my sexual encounters.
ME: Get your inspiration where you can, boo! Speaking of, what inspires you to write?
PHABIAN: When I first started writing, I did it on a dare. As I got deeper and deeper into writing my first novel, I realized that I have a lot to say and such a broad, creative mind that I rarely access. I can honestly and humbly say that I inspire myself. My need to entertain people by any means necessary is vehicle.
ME: What’s your most and least favorite time of day to write?
PHABIAN: Sunset. It’s the perfect time to focus and wind down from the highs of the day. I’m at home and at ease. My mind is free to think and create an alternate universe through writing. My least favorite time is midday. I be too busy thinking about what I want to eat at that time. Writing be the last thing on my mind at that point.
ME: What do you want people to take away from your book?
PHABIAN: I want my readers to, above all else, be entertained. I want them to bite their nails. I want them to be in suspense. I want them to crave more. I need them to learn that we all have emotions, and they’re delicate. To have your emotions toyed with is dangerous territory. Hopefully, if someone reads my novels and they’re in that type of situation, they can cut the puppeteer strings before the curtains are raised.
ME: That was expertly said. You mentioned a curtain rising, which is interesting since you do a bit of acting yourself. You’ve done voiceover work on the YouTube parody series The Legends Panel. For new viewers, which characters do you voice? Are you pursuing it as a career path?
PHABIAN: I was the Co-Creator and Lead Scriptwriter for The Legends Panel YouTube Parody. I voiced Whitney Houston (my most popular voice), Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Brandy, Lil Kim, Little Richard, Katy Perry, Elvis, Cher, Toni Braxton, and a couple others. My throat is LEGENDARY. I would love to do more voiceover work, professionally. People love it and I love doing them. Even with my closest friends, I’m always singing like Aretha or doing some sort of character. It would be amazing if I could work full-time as a voiceover actor. Cree Summer-teas.
Here’s one of MY favorite episodes (Mostly for the Whitney Houston moment in the beginning).
ME: With a book and a hit YouTube series under your belt, what’s next for Phabian Mitchell?
PHABIAN: I’m definitely going to keep writing and releasing more books. After ‘The Legends Panel’, that is what I grab hold of and I haven’t let go. I love it. I am in the final stages of writing my first all Black, LGBTQIA+ horror film. I’m going to be diligent in getting that onto the big screens. Speaking of screens, I just wrapped up on taping something that you all will get to see in the Fall of 2021. I am very excited about it. I can’t reveal too much, but the opportunity was unexpected and it could be something I pursue full-time. We’ll see.