If you’ve seen HBO‘s A Black Lady Sketch Show, you’re keenly aware of the versatility and talent of the performers on screen. What you may not know from reading the credits is that the series’ groundbreaking editing team is made up of all women of color.
Stephanie Filo, Jessica Hernández, and Daysha Broadway worked on hilarious sketches from the show — particular highlights include the opening sketch from Season 2, “Get Your Life,” as well as “The Girl Who Cried Vintage,” and “The Last Supp-Her.”
Awards Focus spoke to the three Emmy nominated editors regarding their reaction to the show’s nominations, and finding the improv moments that make the sketches.
Awards Focus: Stephanie Filo, Jessica Hernandez, Daysha Broadway, so good to be with you all. Can you talk about the process of how each of you learned of your nomination, and was there a group text thread blowing up?
Stephanie Filo- My phone started blowing up around eight in the morning that day so I assumed it was my sister or something and I figured I would call her back. Eventually I glanced at my phone and all these messages that said “Congratulations!”
My boyfriend also got nominated for his editing on Top Chef, and I think we both realized at the same moment and screamed. Absolute shock, excitement, and gratitude.
Jessica Hernández- The morning of the nomination is a bit of a blur. I had forgotten that it was announcement day until my phone started blowing up. I was on my way to work, and since I don’t text and drive, I was pulling over every 5 minutes to reply. So, I was very late for work, but I couldn’t have had a better reason!!
Daysha Broadway- Complete joy. Robin Thede and Lauren Ashley-Smith called me screaming when it was announced and because I didn’t watch, I thought they were just excited that the show got nominated.
Then Robin was like, “No you guys got nominated.” I think I was initially in shock but then so grateful to be recognized by our peers and very happy that people enjoy what we are doing on the show.
AF: You’ve already mentioned the brilliant Robin Thede, but the entire cast of A Black Lady Sketch Show is worth highlighting — Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, Laci Mosley and Skye Townsend. What was it like working to build and edit around their performances?
Stephanie Filo- It’s not often on a project that you spend a majority of your day smiling, but this is that project. This cast is so talented and showcases such a variety of black women that it is an absolute joy to edit
There’s a lot of physical comedy… improv moments, so working to incorporate those is a blast. The cast each has so many different characters in their arsenal, and most of the time every single take is hilarious.
Jessica- As an editor, when you have a talent like Robin Thede and the rest of the cast it makes your job that much more fun. I’m able to craft performances based on concepts and tones because the cast gives us so many good and surprising choices. It allows for more narrative options and creative storytelling.
Daysha Broadway- Each actress brings something different to each sketch, so it’s really about building on their strengths and letting their talent speak for itself in a lot of cases. Robin and Skye really get lost in the characters they play; Ashley is my go-to for reaction shots and a run of adlibs at the end of a sketch; Gabrielle and Laci brought a lot of physical comedy this season so that was really fun to play with.
AF: Can you take us behind some of your favorite moments or sketches on the show and delve into your approach for crafting them?
Stephanie Filo- One of my favorite sketches I got to edit this season was, “Courtroom Kiki Part 2” (Black Lady Courtroom). There was a lot of pressure going into editing a returning sketch that was so iconic from the first season and I really just knew I had to get it right.
When I was working through notes with Robin Thede and Lauren Ashley Smith one day we stumbled upon Gabrielle Dennis’s improvised “Yes sis sis sis sis sis sis” line. We couldn’t stop laughing and had to add it in. It still remains one of my favorite lines of the season!
Another favorite sketch was, “The Last Supp-Her” (three ladies at the kids table during the Last Supper). The jokes are stacked on top of each other in that sketch so that it feels like you could watch it multiple times and catch something different.
The most amazing part of that sketch is that about half of it is improv, so the fact that the cast was able to pack in so many accurate biblical jokes on the fly is so impressive!
It remains my favorite sketch that I cut this season, I still quote it all the time!
Jessica Hernández- One of my favorite sketches is Gang Retreat. I was a fan of the first season sketch and wanted to do it justice. I definitely studied the edit pattern and tone of the first season to keep it in the same voice.
Another sketch I hold dear is ‘The Girl Who Cried Vintage’. In an attempt to underscore the accusatory style, I chose compositions from the opera ‘Carmen’ which gave it a fun ‘tit for tat’ feeling.
Daysha Broadway- One of my favorite sketches to build was ‘Black Table Talk’ which starts the episode we are nominated for this year.
Gabrielle Union was a guest star and she and Robin played off of each other so well. I really cut that sketch together trying to get as many jokes in as possible while using Gabrielle as a frontman for the audience.
She really is us listening to Haddassah like, “What?!” I got to play a lot with music and SFX throughout. At one point Robin asked if I could put in any animal SFX in the sketch and I added an elephant at the end of the ‘Black Table Talk’ logo. I call her Babar. If you listen closely there’s a lion that roars when card-board Dwade Wade’s chyron pops up.
AF: How you decide the right way to approach the edit of each episode?
Stephanie Filo- Each sketch has a different style, so before starting a new one I would usually try to figure out the right approach to it.
Sometimes that would mean watching a movie or show in that genre the night before to get into that headspace. Usually I would take my first pass to edit the sketch to be as funny as I could make it on my own, and then would show it to the others for feedback.
That opens a dialogue and they give ideas and perspectives which then lets you punch up the comedy even more.
Daysha is an expert at this show having also worked on Season 1, and she was a great resource to make sure our work matched the show’s overall style. By the time we work with our directors and then Robin Thede and Lauren Ashley Smith there are often things they remember from set the day of or have more ideas to test out and improv to pepper in, so that in the end it can become the funniest version possible.
Jessica Hernández- The process on A Black Lady Sketch Show is unique because of the independent nature of each sketch. All three of us edit individual sketches, but we still keep tabs on each other by sharing our progress for feedback and new ideas. The pandemic added some new challenges to the collaborative process, but we were still able to make it work with a little help from modern technology.
Daysha Broadway- We cut all the sketches before they are assigned to different episodes so when each of us grabs an episode it’s now up to us to make sure the episode flows and feels cohesive. Because of the pandemic, we worked remotely and relied on communicative apps like Slack and Evercast to collaborate. We would cut sketches and then, as supervising editor, I would give them a look before they went to the EPs. I think I chose to approach each sketch the same way I would any other comedy: What’s the story? What’s the plot? What’s funny?
AF: When you look at your nominations, do you find it to be an inspiring narrative for women editors and editors of color?
Stephanie Filo- Well, editing is traditionally a white male-driven field, and to share this honor with these two amazing women is not only a dream come true, but hopefully a sign that the industry is evolving.
Jessica Hernández- The most exciting thing about our nomination is that we are nominated together! My hope is that our story goes out into the world and more women discover the art of editing and that it is a path open for them to pursue.
Daysha Broadway- The historical nature of this nomination is definitely not lost on me. It’s the first time I’ve ever been on a team like this. Our entire post-production crew was also made up solely of women. It feels great to be nominated in such a way that will hopefully change perceptions a bit.
AF: What are some of the challenges with this show format and how do you overcome them?
Stephanie Filo- Editing this show is like editing 45 different short films that are vastly different in tone which can be challenging, but I think that being able to pull that off is more an indication of our strengths as a team.
Jessica Hernández- The magical reality that many of the sketches assume is actually more helpful than challenging, I’ve found that less rules allows for more possibilities in every aspect of the edit from music to sound effects to graphical elements.
Daysha Broadway- Besides choosing the funnier take out of all the funny takes, the biggest challenge is probably switching gears so often. Each sketch is a different genre and as editors, we have to really lean into those genres to make the jokes work.
AF: What can you share that’s on the horizon for each of you?
Stephanie Filo- I’m currently working on a limited series called ‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ that will come out on Netflix in 2022. I’m excited for the world to see it because it approaches the story from a different and much needed perspective, and has some really incredible performances you won’t want to miss!
Jessica Hernández- I am very excited to be working on another HBO series produced by Adam McKay. Currently, it’s called ‘the untitled Lakers project’
Daysha Broadway- I’m wrapping up work on the final season of Insecure which feels like a dream come true. I’m very excited about my next project coming up in the fall. I can’t say too much about it but I’ll get to dip my toe into the fantasy genre so I’m looking forward to that.