Duo Behind 2020 BET Awards Reflect On Doing Much More Than “Checking The Box” Amid Tumult – Contenders TV Docs + Unscripted

Two of the people behind the 2020 BET Awards — a high-wire act in terms of logistics and fast-changing societal events — say to pull it off they leaned on history and the talent community.

Producer Jesse Collins and Connie Orlando, EVP Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy for BET, took viewers behind the scenes of the telecast for Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted awards-season event.

“The first thing we decided was that we were going to have a show,” Collins said, noting that many other award shows were either scrapped or delayed due to Covid-19 challenges.

Given that the June 28 telecast also fell a month after the death of George Floyd, failure was not an option.

Orlando recalled the central question being, “How do you do this in the new world? What does it look like?” The show has a long tradition of embracing social issues, so “it wasn’t a shift” to include it, she added, but rather a question of execution.

With host Amanda Seales shooting her segments in her home (without a single crew member present), the other key element was creating a galvanizing moment to “show how the culture is feeling,” as Collins put it. One of many signature sequences that delivered on the promise showed Alicia Keys playing a grand piano on a New York City street and singing her song “Perfect Way to Die” as stars like Viola Davis, Jamie Foxx and Kendrick Lamar read names from the wrenching roll call of police shooting victims.

“The issues that we’re dealing with – it’s not just one thing,” Collins said. “There are so many layers to it. There’s so much history to the injustice that Black people have endured in this country. We didn’t want to just say, ‘Oh, we’ll do a George Floyd tribute and that will check that box.’ ”

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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