Robert Townsend is a trailblazer. An industry veteran, who built his career writing, directing, and producing movies such as “Hollywood Shuffle,” “Meteor Man” and “Holiday Heart,” he’s become the first mogul to ever direct a successful internet based drama.
Now in its third season with over a million viewers, “Diary of a Single Mom” is a web-based series, which debuted on PIC.tv in 2009, and it chronicles the lives and challenges three single mothers face each day.
“For those that want to be in showbiz, the internet is a game changer," says Townsend, who also comes from a single parent household. “We were at the forefront of it and now more people are doing it.”
Staring Monica Calhoun (“The Best Man”), Valery Ortiz (“Cold Case”), and Janice Lynde (“Young & the Restless”), “Diary of a Single Mom” was a concept created by Rey Ramsey, who Townsend says approached him several years ago with the idea of creating a web-based episodic drama.
"Ramsey founded a company called One Economy Corporation in Washington D.C., and it had been setup to encourage minorities to go onto broadband, because there are lot of people who are afraid of technology and computers," Townsend says. "He wanted to do something on single mothers, and so I called a writer, Cheryl L. West, who I had worked with before on ‘Holiday Heart,’ and we put this incredible cast together."
A 12 minute drama, which tackles challenges such as childcare, healthcare, education and finances, “Diary” is told through the eyes of Calhoun, who stars as Ocean Jackson, a single mother striving to keep her family afloat, while working to fulfill her own ambitions of finishing her GED. Ortiz plays Lupe, another mother juggling different fathers for each of her two children, whilst Lynde plays a once married, wealthy 50-something year-old, who suddenly finds herself widowed, broke and guardian to her only grandchild. Together, these three women search for support as they strive to triumph over the constant challenges they face each day.
“The beautiful thing about the internet is that people can give you comments right away, so we get a lot of feedback from the viewers,” adds Townsend.
Also starring Richard Roundtree (“Shaft”), Leon (“Cover”), and Billy Dee Williams (“Empire Strikes Back”) in supporting roles, “Diary” has received numerous accolades including the Best Indie Soap Award.
"It sends a message of hope, for we have been helping a lot of people, as it’s also interactive where you can watch the show and click on the toolbox online,” Townsend continues, “So if you are having a problem trying to find a job, like a character was on the show, there is assistance available online, and it continues on my mission as an artist to do positive content that speaks to people.”
Often referred to as the Godfather of Indie flicks, Townsend is responsible for discovering many of Hollywood's A-List talent before they became household names, and he specifically chose a cast, which included women from very diverse backgrounds.
“I think diversity is good for everybody. It’s good to see stories from different worlds and cultures, and see what people are going through,” shares Townsend. “The networks and studios sometimes miss out by not having more diverse characters,” he continues, “I wanted to reach the Hispanic community with the Lupe character, the African American community with the Ocean character, and Peggy is a white grandmother that has lost everything.”
With a cast that also includes Diahann Carroll, and Irma P. Hall, who joins the show for the third season, Townsend promises an explosive start to the next series, which airs every Thursday on PIC.tv.
“Without giving too much away, we left Ocean in some real danger in season two, but the situation gets resolved,” he assures. “Diahann has joined the cast to play a therapist. Lupe (Ortiz) has discovered that she has breast cancer, so she starts treatment, meets Irma’s character and they start this relationship and explore their fears, life and death. Something does happen between Leon's character, Mike, and Ocean,” Townsend adds. “They have flirted with each other in previous seasons. It’s not going to be what you think but something happens.”