BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Of all the “multi-hyphenates” in TV at the moment, there may none quite as hyphenated as Daveed Diggs. Actor-writer-rapper-producer-musician-playwright-Broadway and voiceover star- . . . The hyphens march on, but until now one in fact has been missing — showrunner. That arrives this fall with “The Mayor,” a new ABC comedy he’s co-producing with Jeremy Bronson, a veteran “Late Night” writer.
What’s so unusual about this, however, is that Diggs — who achieved Broadway superstardom with “Hamilton” — isn’t just an executive producer, which can often mean that the person holding the title makes certain the trains, so to speak, run on time. He’s also writing all the rap songs for this unique hybrid-music-comedy (another hyphen!) series. He could, and likely will, assume an on-screen role at some point too (he’s already a semi-regular on “black-ish.”)
“The Mayor” is about an aspiring rap star in a West Coast city — not unlike Diggs’ hometown of Oakland — who runs for mayor on a lark and . . . well, the title is a hint but victory was entirely unexpected. It stars Brandon Michael Hall, a breakout himself on the funny TBS freshman, “Search Party,” also Yvette Nicole Brown (“Community”), who plays his character’s mom, and Lea Michele (“Glee”) his chief of staff.
Rap’s the operative word here. Commercial primetime TV has largely ignored the most influential music form since the birth of rock n’ roll, but “The Mayor” will embrace it, and perhaps embrace some of Diggs’ own particularly unique experimental work in the genre. His Clipping bandmembers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes will help write the show’s soundtrack.
And what a wild and wooly track this could be: Clipping’s musical style is a headlong rush of words and sonic embellishments that clang, rattle and roar. It’s Philip Glass-meets-Public Enemy.
Is America ready for this? That’s getting ahead of the bigger question: Is a primetime sitcom?
There is, of course, a deep social component to hip-hop, and Clipping is far from an exception. As such, “The Mayor” will address issues in rhyme and words — including police brutality. “All those sorts of topics will find their way into stories,” Bronson said. How often and how sharply remains to be seen, although neither Clipping nor Diggs are shrinking violets.
Asked how he got involved in the show, Diggs, 35, said “Jeremy had this idea [and] my brain started going crazy. I don’t know much about the inner workings of politics, but listening to how local politics works, my brain focused on how specifically regional rap is, and how it changes from community to community. This idea of a show about local politics including rap music became this interesting challenge.”
Recalling those aforementioned hyphens, Diggs said he wasn’t about to abandon the many other opportunities afforded him after the sensational “Hamilton” run (he played the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson — but you knew that). “It’s just putting a puzzle together and wondering you can make time to do all the things you love and I love to do a lot of things, and get to participate in all of them.”
But he adds that it all eventually gets back to the music: “Bringing my Clipping co-horts into this maximizes the time we get to spend together [and] that informs the other work. Everything you do informs everything else. If I’m working on a play, it gives me more ideas to work in.”