Know Your Critic

Know Your Critic: Kay-B, Entertainment Journalist, Critic, and Podcast Producer

Kay-B spotlights exciting upcoming seasons of Harlem and Will Trent, shares her favorite release from Sundance, and praises healthy critical discourse.

by | February 14, 2023 | Comments

(Photo by MCA Universal Pictures, (c) Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett, Lionsgate Films)

Know Your Critic” is a column in which we interview Tomatometer-approved critics about their screening and reviewing habits, pet peeves, and personal favorites.

Kay-B hosts podcasts and YouTube series about your favorite television series and superheroes, and she can be found writing for The Beat, Collider, and Complex, and moderating complex conversations about criticism on The Color Grade podcast, which centers Black and Brown perspectives in the field. She covers television, comic book adaptations, the classics, and the latest releases, and she does it all in every medium available to digital storytellers.

As a result, she’s constantly in conversation with her critical peers, as well as the artists themselves.

Speaking with Rotten Tomatoes, Kay-B shared that she believes one of the biggest misconceptions about critics is that they always agree with each other about whether a title is “good” or “bad.” Reality is much more complicated than that.

“I think that that’s the beauty of criticism, the fact that we all have our own opinions about certain things,” Kay-B said. “How boring would life be if we all loved every single thing or hated every single thing? There’s beauty in having a healthy conversation around that.”

“Convince me of why I need to love your film,” she said. “I love a little healthy dialogue and healthy disagreement about why I don’t think that this movie is stellar! Let’s talk about it.”

Kay-B is an entertainment journalist, critic, podcast producer, and on-camera host. Her work can be found at Complex, Collider, and The Beat, among others. She is a host of The Color Grade podcast‘s second season, and co-produces a YouTube series called Super Lady Hero Hour. Find Kay-B on Twitter: @TheLadyKayB.

What’s a show that you’d watch anytime it’s on TV?

Friday Night Lights, every time it comes on. It’s in my top five favorite television shows of all time… I stand by The Good Wife. And, honestly, any HGTV show.

 What, for you, makes a good television series? Something that you enjoy watching?

A cohesive story, a complicated story, a good romance. I think that makes it intriguing. And dynamic friendships, because I’ve often found that a lot of the content that I’m watching lately, whether it be television or film, the true love story resides in the friendships, and that is something to behold.

I think that, in life in general, we as human beings put a lot of stock in finding kind of a romantic partner, but a lot of my life soulmates are my friends. And I think that we need to put the same amount of care and love and attention into our platonic relationships that we do our romantic ones, just because we need to value the people in our lives no matter the role that they play. And so I’m finding that those kind of stories really intrigue me when it comes to art, whether it be in the television medium or a film medium. I love that. I want to see those complex relationships.

I also want to see people just being vulnerable, just allowed to be their full, transparent, vulnerable, messy… just their true giving, figuring-it-out self.

It’s only January, but what’s your favorite thing you’ve seen so far this year?

Loaded question! I’m going to go TV and honestly, it’s going to be Will Trent… It is heavy subject matter, but they have humor, dark humor, light humor. I think that Ramón Rodríguez is so captivating as the titular character.

Will is part of the GBI – he’s a special investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation… His dynamic is very complicated with the Atlanta Police Department, but [with] Angie – who’s portrayed by Erica [Christensen] – they have a shared past and a shared history. …

His dynamic with Erika Christensen is so, so good. And I’ve really been a huge fan of her since, probably, Swimfan. And then of course Parenthood, she shined in that as well – it’s one of my favorite TV series of all time.

It’s just a very complicated, heartbreaking, intriguing TV show.

I’m so glad you brought up TV and a procedural – law enforcement procedurals need to be complicated.

Will had a terrible childhood, and so it’s interesting to see his perspective on law and order just based on how he grew up. There is a lot of a child abuse in his background specifically, and just how it informs the work that he does now is very interesting, even though it is very hard and we’re just starting to peel back the layers and onions of his childhood a bit more.

What’s next on your watchlist?

Coming up for TV, what I’m looking at is Harlem season two. I’m finishing that up and very much looking forward to it. I enjoyed season one.

I love a good Black comedy where you can just see Black women at the center doing what they want to do, living how they want to live – being messy, being complicated, figuring out dating, figuring out careers, figuring out family dynamics. And Harlem does not disappoint.

(Photo by MCA Universal Pictures)

What is the first movie that you remember seeing in a theater?

I think it might have been The Little Mermaid, the Disney animated.

What is the most memorable viewing experience you’ve had?

One is from my childhood, and it’s probably one of the moments I realized that I absolutely adored film: When I went to see Selena for the first time.

I am Texan, and Selena was a huge part of my childhood. I just thought she was the most beautiful, captivating, talented – one of the most talented artists I had ever encountered.

I think that Jennifer Lopez was exceptional in the role. I really, really do. I know that there was a lot of conversation around her being a Puerto Rican woman and portraying this huge Mexican-American icon. I just remember thinking they nailed everything, the costuming, the hair. Everything felt so real, and I thought it was fantastic.

I remember sitting in the theater with one of my best friends at the time and we were both just in awe. Then it gets to the heartbreaking part of her dying, and we were both weeping.

That’s actually a standout moment for me because I thought the film was so exceptional, but I think it was also just kind of my personal connection to the subject matter that really elevated that viewing experience for me.

What were you watching the first time you saw yourself on-screen, and what did you relate to about that character or story?

I will say that my favorite movie of all time is Imitation of Life.

The story is so complicated in that movie. We have this young girl who’s passing and pretending that she’s not Black, but she has this mother who obviously loves her, but she’s running away from her true identity. It’s hard, because by the time she realizes kind of the hurt that she causes her mother by denying who she is, it’s too late. And I think that that lesson is one that’s poignant and can stand the test of time for so many different people and so many different things, in so many different ways.

I don’t necessarily think that that was the first time that I really saw myself represented, but it was the first time that I saw these complex Black women characters. Black women, and being Black, comes in so many different forms and shades and experiences. That was really the first time I think I saw an experience like that on screen… I still think it’s one of the greatest movies of all time.

The older that I’ve gotten, something that I did see myself in and that I relate to, and still is one favorite TV shows, is Living Single.It’s a really good depiction of how complex life is in New York, particularly being a Black woman. There are lots of things that I’d take away, and lots of stories I could add if they ever wanted to do a Living Single reboot, for sure.

(Photo by Showtime)

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

I am proud of the conversation that I had with W Kamau Bell, for We Need to Talk About Cosby.

I was able to ask him some very transparent questions, one of which was, “Why is a man telling a woman’s story, particularly victims, in this way?” He was very transparent. He was very kind. I know that he himself had a complicated relationship with making this docuseries. But it was something that I’m proud of because I was able to, I believe, get a lot out of him.

And after the interview, he had just said a couple of things to me about, like, it was the best interview that he had because he felt like he was able to be transparent, not only with people who were going to see it, but also with himself, and that he was able to share some of his heart in a way that he may not have gotten the opportunity to do so, I think, in any other interview.

It’s hard just because of the subject matter. And, obviously, those women, my heart goes out to each and every one of them. And I am really glad that they had a safe space to be able to tell their stories, and that they also had each other… throughout the process of creating the docuseries.

I do find that people should watch We Need to Talk About Cosby and just support these women, support these survivors who have gone through so much and honestly deserve the world and more.

I think that I’m proud of any opportunity that I have to be able to connect with an artist one-on-one and be able to help them share their bold, intriguing, scary, heavy lift of art with the world.

You do a ton of interviews in addition to reviews. Do you have a question that you always ask in interviews, or a theme you always cover?

I don’t, actually. I tend to lean to whatever the theme is in that particular body of work.

For the actors, I’m really curious as to what drew them to the piece. I want to know more about: What is it about that particular character that drew them in? Or, what is it that they take with them?

I find that a lot of artists, when they leave a project, they carry something from that project either with them in their personal lives or to another project. And I’m always interested in knowing what that is and how that can better serve them in the future.

Is there an under-the-radar creative that you think more people should be aware of?

We’ve talked a little bit about Sundance this year and the films that we saw. The best film that I saw was A Thousand and One, for sure, by AV Rockwell. She actually just won the Sundance US Grand Jury Dramatic Prize for that particular feature.

I think that this film, A Thousand and One, is so exceptional, and she pulls out some of Teyana Taylor‘s, honestly, best work.

(Photo by Lionsgate Films)

What’s your favorite Rotten thing?

Why Did I Get Married? Honestly, why is that Rotten?! Truly, I know that critics are like, “Rotten,” but the audience got it right!

And what is your favorite adaptation?

I actually do really adore Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I think that adaptation is actually quite lovely and it’s done really well. But I’m going to have to go with The Color Purple.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about critics?

That we do this full-time and we don’t have other jobs! That’s the biggest one.

Sometimes people think that we all like the same things, or we all hate the same things, and that’s not entirely true either. We all have our own opinions.

What has been the hardest review you’ve had to write so far?

Gosh, let me just say… It was this movie called Loqueesha. It was literally the worst film I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Listen, I have no problems expressing myself when it comes to saying, “Hey, I didn’t like this.” But for me, it was finding the words to say, “I didn’t like this.” All I wanted to say was like, “This is a pain to watch. I’m sick of the stereotypical representations of Black women. It was not good to see us being mocked by white men.”

Who are some other critics that you think people should be aware of and check out?

Aramide Tinubu (@wordwitharamide). I think she’s a fabulous, fabulous writer. I am always intrigued by her. She always writes such layered and nuanced pieces.

Kathia Woods (@kathia_woods). She is getting some of these incredible artists for interviews and doing it for the Philadelphia Tribune, which is a delight and lovely to see.

Max [Gao] (MaxJGao) is truly so incredibly talented and just does something amazing with his feature interviews that I absolutely adore.

Honestly, the list could go on and on and on and on. There’s Robert Daniels (@812filmreviews). There’s Sharronda Williams (@payorwait). There’s Trey Mangum (@treymangum). I mean, there’s just a lot of amazing people in the television and film spaces that are doing quite literally some of the best work. There’s Therese Lacson (@bamfpire), editor at Collider. There’s Valerie Complex (@ValerieComplex) at Deadline, Rosy Cordero (@SocialRosy) at Deadline as well.

What do you consider “required” viewing?

If you truly, truly love television, then you got to see a Jason Katims television show. You’ve got to do it.

And I will say you also have to do the Kings – Robert and Michelle King – their television shows as well.

You should study those showrunners and writers and experience their fantastic bodies of art because, again, in my top five favorite shows of all time are The Good Wife, Friday Night Lights, ER.

Kay-B is an entertainment journalist, critic, podcast producer, and on-camera host. Her work can be found at Complex, Collider, and The Beat, among others. She is a host of The Color Grade podcast‘s second season, and co-produces a YouTube series called Super Lady Hero Hour. Find Kay-B on Twitter: @TheLadyKayB.