Cedric the Entertainer has always been fond of his joke imagining what it would be like if R. Kelly became a preacher. So much so that it was the starting point for an idea that became his latest project.
In The Soul Man, premiering 10pm June 20 on TV Land, the Original King of Comedy plays Rev. Boyce “The Voice” Ballentine, a former R&B star who made ladies swoon — and their underwear fly toward the stage — with such bump-and-grind hits as “Sex Wichoo.” He’s given up his lustful ways to take over as minister at his father’s St. Louis church, but the transition from — as the comic puts it — “singing soul to saving souls” hasn’t been easy for him or his family, with their old ways never far behind.
Church-based sitcoms haven’t been all that common — with the most successful example probably being Amen, which ran for five seasons on NBC — and Cedric seems to know that they require maintaining a tricky balance between being respectful and, well, being funny.
“It is a bit of a tightrope that we’re walking, because you’ve got to be careful how you portray the Christian community,” he says. “Anyone running for office [can tell you], you don’t want to make the evangelicals mad. But at the same time, I do think we live in the real world. We’re not going to go on this 7th Heaven, Holy Roller kind of thing. We’ll definitely pull out of real-life situations and really look at what is the job of a minister, especially one who knows it not from always having walked the holy life of a Christian, but a guy who has actually been where you are. That’s the overall way we plan on attacking it, where we can be a little controversial and we can cover subject matter that can be a little questionable.”
To that end, Rev. Boyce — who was introduced last year in an episode of Hot in Cleveland — will have to find ways to deal with issues like having a wife (Niecy Nash) who isn’t quite ready to give up the fast life, still favoring the frequent girls’ night out. Then there’s his daughter (Jazz Raycole), who wants to date and go to clubs, and the reverend’s younger brother (Wesley Jonathan) who is far more interested in turning the new minister into “the next Joel Osteen” than in helping the congregation.
Spicing up the proceedings will be flashbacks to Rev. Boyce’s singing heyday, with a mock video already having been produced for “Sex Wichoo” — Cedric hints there could be more — and moments of him performing when things went wrong. The comic even has a humorous montage in mind to explain his character’s come-to-Jesus moment.
“We’ll have this progression from when I first started and you’ll see these sexy thongs get thrown on stage, and the girls are loving me,” he says. “Then finally the underwear gets bigger and bigger till you get big Spanx hitting me across the face. Then I’m like, ‘You know what, it’s time to move on.’”
Photo: Wesley Jonathan, Niecy Nash, Cedric The Entertainer, Jazz Raycole and John Beasley star in TV Land’s “The Soul Man,” premiering 10pm June 20. Courtesy of TV Land