Matthew A. Cherry’s NFL past helped him tackle a sweet story of Black parenting that’s for everyone in ‘Young Love’

Originally Published: 20 SEP 23 09:36 ET

By Marianne Garvey, CNN

(CNN) — Matthew A. Cherry, a former NFL wide receiver turned Oscar winner who created the hit animated short film “Hair Love,” wants to show with his latest project that young parenting is the ultimate game of grit and determination.

The new animated series “Young Love” builds upon the story first seen in the Kickstarter-funded seven-minute short, which chronicles an African American father’s attempt to style his daughter’s hair for the first time while her mom recovers from cancer.

Scott Mescudi (known to most by his stage name Kid Cudi) and Issa Rae (“Insecure”) continue the story of musician Stephen Love and stylist Angela Young, respectively, as they experience the ups and downs of life and parenting.

Cherry told CNN while he ended “Hair Love” on a positive note, with Angela getting out the hospital, he wanted to explore her life after her illness.

“You know, you always see a lot of movies and TV shows that end with somebody has cancer and then they pass away,” he said. “But you really see like what happens when you get better and you kind of face that brush with death.”

Cherry, whose Oscar-winning short sparked a New York Times bestselling book and a line of curly hair products for children, wanted to showcase younger parents in a family sitcom.

“Most animated family sitcoms, you see the parents are in their forties like ‘Simpsons,’ ‘King of the Hill,’ ‘Bob’s Burgers.’ So you never really see that from a 26-year-old perspective, particularly the Black perspective,” he said.

Brooke Monroe Conaway plays Zuri, the couple’s fearless daughter in the Max series.

The “Young Love” writers strived to create a program that speaks to both kids and adults, Cherry said, adding that he tapped into his sports days to lead the show’s team.

“It’s being more of a coach now,” he said. “You’re trying to, like, inspire and kind of making sure that things are staying on track and people are working towards the ultimate goal.”

Cherry said he’s grateful “Hair Love” has had such an impact. Soon after it was released in 2019, the Crown (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act was passed in California, which prohibits discrimination based on hair style and texture.

“The Crown Act has really taken off,” Cherry said. “It’s passed in like 15 different states, Texas being the most recent, which I never would’ve thought it would’ve passed. You know that if you work hard and set these big goals that one day through a series of luck and hard work and just all kinds of coincidences, you may be able to [make an impact].”

“Young Love” debuts September 21 on Max. (CNN, like Max, is part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)