Television producer turned late night TV host and podcaster Carlos King is enjoying a new echelon of fame. His fans, who have christened him “The King of Reality TV,” know he is the brainchild behind some of the most celebrated moments and seasons of reality TV favorites like “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” King was a producer on “RHOA” from 2008 to 2017.
But his work on newer shows produced under his own production company — namely “Love & Marriage: Huntsville,” the breakout hit on OWN that continues to soar in the ratings — along with his growing on-air presence is now making him just as famous as many of the people he’s helped become household names over the years.
That is a feat all on its own. But as a Black gay man in entertainment, King is now providing a much needed template for many like him to follow. In an interview with HuffPost, King reflects on his growing visibility, the success of his shows and what we can expect in the upcoming seasons of “Love & Marriage: Huntsville” and “Belle Collective.” Thankfully, because he is reality TV royalty, King also entertains some of my questions related to the “Real Housewives” universe.
You have over a decade’s worth of experience producing some of the most successful reality shows on OWN, Bravo, BET and VH1. Fans call you “The King of Reality TV,” so it’s not as if people haven’t been celebrating you, but I feel like after the launch of your late night talk show, “Nightcap with Carlos King” and “Love & Marriage: D.C.,” that you are reaching a new peak. Does it all feel that way?
It really does. Look, I’ve been fortunate to have a great career by producing on some of the biggest shows in the world such as “The Real Housewives” [and] to bet on myself and to start my production company, Kingdom Reign Entertainment. My goal was to create my own shows because I studied Tyler Perry, who I actually know personally, and he always talked about ownership and creating your own destiny. So, to create a franchise for a Black woman who I looked up to since I was a kid — Oprah Winfrey — and for it to be the most-watched show is a blessing. And to launch a new city with “Love & Marriage D.C.” that’s doing well and then to be the first openly gay Black man to have a late night show on her network … is nothing but God’s blessing and grace. It also just goes to show you that the moment you step out on faith, anything’s possible.
I’m presently in mourning about the breakup of “Desus & Mero,” but when people talk about disruptors of late night TV, I think of you as much as them or anyone else by the fact that you’re the first openly Black gay male to host a show. A lot of gay Black men like myself have to contend with the perception that we lack commercial viability, yet here you are. I’ve seen you retweet some of the messages, and you know, it means a lot to see someone like you who actually likes gay Black men to be in this space. Can you talk a little bit about making history and the impact you’ve heard from the community directly?
Oh, absolutely. Listen, I am where I’m at because someone else gave me an opportunity, right? So me retweeting and reposting messages from people who were like, “Oh my gosh, you represent us” and “I now have someone to look up to who’s in front of the camera.” I did not have that at 12 years old watching Oprah Winfrey and Montel Williams, and then Ananda Lewis on “Teen Summit.” Like, there was nobody who looked like me in terms of an openly gay Black man. We were just nonexistent, to be honest with you. So me having the opportunity to be that face for my community is a big deal. And I don’t take it for granted. And I know what that means for us, not, not just the little boys; I’m talking about grown men. Patrik Ian-Polk, who created “Noah’s Arc,” and he’s now a co-EP on “P-Valley,” sent me the sweetest message saying, “Boy, you better do it. And you are representing us.” Like that means the world to me for someone of his stature to even recognize me.
You’ve said that your production company, Kingdom Reign Entertainment, was launched because “I wanted to create a platform for Black professionals to showcase you know, the good, the bad, the ugly so that they can be relatable to a mass audience.” What I have loved about your shows is that they are based in cities like Huntsville, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi, because not only are Black people mostly in the South, they’re not all in Atlanta. Can you tell me a little about your thought process in choosing these cities? Did you know at all that would boost appeal to Black viewers?
I knew that the curiosity factor would be there when you launch a show with the name Huntsville in the title, because prior to meeting Melody and Martell [of “Love & Marriage: Huntsville”], just to be honest with you, I [had] never heard of Huntsville [laugh].
So I met with them and asked where they’re from, and they said they — I love their accent — “We from Huntsville, Alabama.” And I’m like, what? Where’s that at, chile? I knew that I had to be in business with the Holts, so I said, you know what, let’s do it. And again, it was that curiosity factor of just tapping to an unknown territory like Huntsville because Atlanta, to me, is oversaturated. But yes, we still have more stories to tell within that city that I love so much, but I know that when it comes to keeping my audience on their toes and my biggest thing is making sure that they expect the unexpected.
I wanted to do more unknown territories like Jackson, Mississippi, with “Belle Collective.” And, you know, there’s a lot of different cities that me and my development team are tapping into. So yes, it was for me to show that not all Black folks live in Atlanta who are successful. I want to explore different cities to show the wealth of Black people who are doing a great job representing their town. And last but not least for me, it goes to show you that if you are a Black person who’s raised in a small town, it doesn’t mean that everybody wants to leave the small town. And I think Huntsville represents that. I think Jackson represents that. So I wanna continue to do that effort and explore more unknown territories.
OK, on Twitter, you appreciated my compliment to “LAMH” star Melody Holt that she looked like Diamond from Crime Mob if she pledged AKA. I’m a fan, but love or hate her, I think she speaks to your eye for talent. I’ve read about how you two met, but generally, can you tell me: Has it gotten easier or harder over time to find stars like her? Do you keep the same methodology when casting a new show?
I have the same method. I know a star when I see one within 30 seconds. It’s a certain bravado. It’s a certain look, it’s a certain personality or characteristic. And the examples with Melody Holt and Nene Leakes, two very distinctive personalities, but arguably both stars, right? Nene is more boisterous, in your face, larger than life; whereas Melody’s very sweet, she’s meek, but she means what she says and she says what she means. And what’s been interesting is ever since I launched “LAMH,” a lot of women who are either on my current shows or auditioned to be on my show, a lot of them say, “Please make me Melody Holt.” [Laughs] Melody Holt is like the blueprint for the upcoming reality stars in the same way Nene Leakes was, because when I was working on “Housewives,” a lot of women — I’m not gonna name names, but it’s a lot of your favorites — they would be like, “I wanna be Nene Leakes.” So, I feel like Melody definitely has that star quality that a lot of people recognize and want to be able to attain.
Before I move to the next question, Kimmie from the show looks like a R&B star from the 2000s that has kept it together the entire time.
I know you do. That’s a huge compliment. She’s giving you old school, like old school, En Vogue tease.
Yes, but with a nursing degree. It’s amazing. OK, so I love “Love & Marriage: Huntsville,” and the mid-season preview showed a physical altercation between Marsau and Martell. You don’t typically like violence on reality TV, so at that moment as the producer of the show, what were you thinking?
Well I will say this, there isn’t a physical altercation. Meaning there aren’t two people whose fists are landing. Let me say that. I don’t wanna spoil it. I’m happy to report that nobody was touched in the sense of punches, right? And you are right. I don’t believe in making television to where that’s the constant thing you see. I’m also aware that things happen outside of anyone’s control. You look at what happened with Will Smith and Chris Rock at America’s favorite award show where these two Black men had an unfortunate incident and you look at that and you say to yourself, “Well, it’s not the producer’s fault that that happened.” It was based on someone being in their feelings and decided to take it out on the person making the joke. Not here to judge, but that’s what happened.
So I remember looking at that, saying if that happened on “LAMH” or “Belle Collective” [or] any of my shows, there would be this big petition that would go around saying Carlos King is perpetuating stereotypes whereas we’re not given the same grace. When I say we, I mean reality television and reality stars. We’re not given the same grace to say, OK, this person had a bad day or this person did a bad thing. We’re not given that same grace.
So I want to be sure to address that things do happen, however, the difference between my shows and other programming that really involves physical altercations, you don’t see that in every single episode of mine.