There's a hopeful romantic, a hardworking perfectionist, a tough straight talker and a serial cheater.
A series starting Tuesday on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network, Tyler Perry's multicultural new drama "If Loving You Is Wrong' has all the right dramatic ingredients.
Focusing on neighbors with numerous secrets, it interlocks the stories of several husbands, wives and friends living in an unnamed suburb, and mixes drama and suspense in a way that will be familiar to Tyler Perry fans. Drama and deceit are certainly the main ingredients and each character has a case load of both.
"The characters are seamless and diverse and everyone can identify with something going on across the different characters, races and sexes," says Amanda Clayton, ("John Carter") whose character Alex is having an affair with the next door neighbor Randal (played by "24's" Eltony Williams). "There isn't just a male problem, a female problem, a black or white problem, a poor or rich problem. There are problems across the board with everyone, and all the characters are dealing with something in this series."
With storylines ranging from salacious to scandalous, the first episode of the new season (20 have been taped) opens in the middle of an affair between neighbors Randal and Alex who are almost caught while cavorting in Randal's garage. It's by far the juiciest story of the episode.
As the story progress, we meet the rest of the characters from Aiden Turner, ("All My Children") who plays Randal's best friend and Alex's husband, to other key characters that include Zulay Henao, Edwina Findley Dickerson, April Parker Jones, Octavio Pizano, Denzel Wells, Heather Hemmens, Tiffany Haddish and "Law and Order's" Charles Malik Whitfield.
Zulay Henao's character, Esperanza, is struggling to free the reigns from a controlling and abusive ex-husband. A professional career driven woman, Kelly (Edwina Findley Dickerson), has a penchant for picking the wrong partners, while Natalie, (April Parker Jones), is the stereotypical single mother with multiple kids from different fathers who is struggling to stay afloat. Not a far-fetched role for the actress who says it's a relatable character.
"She is pretty much straightforward and what you see is what you get," says Parker Jones. "I can relate to her so much as I was a single mum with multiple kids from different fathers. That is the reality of so many women who have to juggle parenting and co-parenting."
The characters may be clichéd, but Perry's series has broad appeal and will connect with viewers.
"There is a lot of dramatic elements such as cheating and affairs," shares Thomas. "My character Randal has a serpentine nature and is always trying to work in an angle in his relationship with his wife, best friend and mistress. This is a very relationship and friendship focused drama with redeeming qualities. You can see it going so many different directions and that's really what I think makes it very relatable."
With an excellent cast that know how to keep us engaged, the show can be applauded for giving opportunities to a wide range of talented actors and for representing a multiplicity of ethnicities.
An emotional roller coaster, it's a melodrama that will bear watching for the dramatic content and life-lessons.
"If Loving You Is Wrong" is created, written, directed and executive produced by Perry, whose other series "The Haves and the Have Nots" and "Love Thy Neighbor," are OWN's most-watched programs.
The series premieres Tuesday, September 9 on OWN with two back-to-back, one-hour episodes from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET/PT.