Legendary. Iconic. Trailblazing. All words used to describe New Edition, the boy band that was founded in Boston in 1978, but truly came of age in the 1980’s, and whose impact on the R & B genre is still seen and felt today.
In the eyes of many, New Edition paved the way for New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, The Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, and others, and the solo careers of stars like Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill, undoubtedly paved the way for singers such as Usher and Chris Brown.
Monday night’s premiere of BET’s three-part miniseries, "The New Edition Story," was a success with over four million viewers. The group was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday afternoon, a fine overture which is sure to put the group's contributions into proper context. Bobby Brown told NBCBLK getting the prestigious recognition was an “amazing experience.”
“I’m so emotional and very grateful for all the fans that traveled in from all over the world to be with us,” Brown said via email.
The first installment opened up with the boy band’s beginnings, starting with their youth and their early performances as a group. Part II airs Tuesday night and picks up with the group’s growing success and struggles they face.
Brown said the series will show fans, “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” and that they’ve been able to stick together through, “brotherhood, love, and support.”
The made for television movie was years in the making. It was produced by Jesse Collins who has produced live telecasts like the BET Awards and The BET Honors, and directed by respected director Chris Robinson, the man behind a plethora of memorable music videos.
“I wanted to do New Edition because when you look, they’re a supergroup. They’re challenged with something that no one else has ever done. They’re starting out as teen pop stars transitioning to adult stars, solo superstars. It’s never happened: The Temptations, the Jacksons, The Rolling Stones, none of them are able to do what New Edition has done," Collins said. "Also, they predate social media. So all the drama, all of that stuff they kept to themselves. Now they’re willing to pull the curtain back, and tell the story of how it really went down. What are the dynamics of the brotherhood, and it’s a fascinating story.”
Collins notes that having the band involved in the film helped make the movie more real.
“New Edition was my first concert ever as a kid. You know 30 years later here I am doing a miniseries, biopic,” Robinson said. “Through all my different high points of my career. This is a really big one for me.”
The film also is highlighting young up and coming Hollywood talent such as Bryshere Gray — celebrated for his starring role on Empire — who portrays Michael Bivins.
The hope is that people of all ages will take something away from their story.
“I didn’t actually know who New Edition was, I thought they were the Jackson 5 when I heard ‘Candy Girl’,” said Caleb McLaughlin, the young actor, who portrays a young Ricky Bell.
Yet what McLaughlin learned while studying for his role and acting in the film now makes him uniquely aware of how special the group was and remains.
“Now, it’s an amazing story to hear. It’s going to go down in history as one of the best groups. And what they had to go through to be who they are now,” McLaughlin added.
Dante Hoagland was another young actor who starred in the film as a young Michael Bivins.
“It was really cool getting to know everybody, meeting Michael Bivins, not even knowing who Michael Bivins was at the time. Now, I’m like yo, I was sitting in front of a legend,” Hoagland said.
Singer Luke James shows off his acting chops playing an adult Johnny Gill. He agrees that meeting group members and having them on set while filming was helpful, but also a little intimidating.
“You just want to do your best at telling their story. I just wanted to tell Johnny’s story from within New Edition, I wanted to give his perspective to the people, to his fans, to how he feels about New Edition. The triumphs he had to be in New Edition and to be Johnny Gill,” James said.
“This movie is not about New Edition versus New Edition. This movie is about New Edition versus the music industry and how they survived it. This is a band of brothers who truly love each other and need each other. And that’s what they come to find out in the end, that they need each other. There’s a divine bond that got all six of them together and one can’t do it without the other,” James added.
Producers and stars alike agreed that the message which they hope is received is that this is a story about brotherhood, togetherness, and achieving whatever you set your mind to.
The New Edition Story airs January 24, 25, 26 at 9pmET on BET.