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‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ cast, producers discuss show’s themes ahead of final season

Chuck Lorre, Fọlákẹ́ Olówófôyekù, Billy Gardell, Gina Yashere and Matt Ross (left to right) sit on the set of “Bob Hearts Abishola.” The show’s cast and producers participated in a panel for Warner Bros. Television’s 2024 TCA Studio Day. (Courtesy of EvansVestalWard/WBTVG)

By Victoria Munck

Feb. 26, 2024 11:45 a.m.

This post was updated Feb. 27 at 7:45 p.m.

“Bob Hearts Abishola” will still be spreading love long after its series finale.

Co-created by the “King of Sitcoms” Chuck Lorre, the CBS comedy details the unexpected love story of the middle-aged businessman Bob (Billy Gardell) and his Nigerian nurse Abishola (Fọlákẹ́ Olówófôyekù). At Warner Bros. Television’s 2024 TCA Studio Day, the cast and producers hosted journalists on their set at Stage 25 to discuss the program’s success and upcoming final season. Olówófôyekù opened the panel while fighting back tears, stating she is disappointed to see the series conclude but is extremely proud of the ways it has uplifted Nigerian voices over its five years on air.

“The reflection of these characters in such a positive light is something that we’ve yearned for for so long,” Olówófôyekù said. “For it to be done on the level that it’s been done here, it gives context to our experience as immigrants and as Nigerians as a whole. I feel like the impact this show has had will begin to reveal itself more and more for many years to come.”

[Related: Cast, producers reflect on “Young Sheldon” coming to an end after seven seasons]

Responding to Olówófôyekù, Gardell said he was grateful his time on the series provided him with an opportunity to experience Nigerian culture. He is pleased with the way Bob and Abishola’s relationship has developed with each episode, he added, showing viewers that love is undiscriminating and always prevails. Olówófôyekù echoed his sentiment and said she aims to model her own relationships after the on-screen couple, as the pair has evolved to become nurturing and communicative.

When asked about the network’s role in the show’s conclusion, co-creator and executive producer Gina Yashere said the finale was determined by CBS, much to the team’s disappointment. Yashere, who also plays Abishola’s friend Kemi, said the series was faced with budget changes that prompted its writers to craft more character-centric storylines. While challenging, the situation helped the team grow in appreciation for employment, Gardell added.

“It brought us all closer together,” Gardell said. “If we take a cut, and some others are relegated to less episodes, but we keep all 150 people working, to me that’s a noble cause. … You adapt to the table, and you keep playing. I think we’re all grateful we’re still here.”

The panelists were then asked about the significance of celebrating Nigerian culture within a sitcom format. Yashere said she failed to find authentic, three-dimensional Black characters when she watched television as a child, pushing her to create a project where Black people were not portrayed as jokes or flat images. Acknowledging that CBS lacks a young, multicultural audience, she said the show’s popularity evidences that well-written characters are the key to bringing diversity on screen.

Following up on Yashere’s response, Lorre said “Bob Hearts Abishola” was ultimately made possible because Yashere was willing to share her lived experiences navigating life as an immigrant. She originally traveled to Los Angeles from London to discuss series ideas with Lorre for a few days, but he was so amazed by her talent that he asked her to stay and star in the project, he added.

Reflecting on the show’s impact since its 2019 premiere, Olówófôyekù said she has cherished receiving images of real-life “Bobs and Abisholas” in happy relationships around the world. Some fans were even able to save their loved ones from strokes using instructions provided in an episode of the series, she added. The most important feedback, however, has come from Nigerian fans expressing gratitude for the accurate portrayal of their culture and accent, she added.

“That’s a big thing,” Olówófôyekù said. “As a Nigerian girl, I was offended by quite a few productions that … didn’t have the appropriate language. Even though the character was being displayed as Nigerian, they didn’t have the proper accents. So the authenticity is something that’s being celebrated.”

[Related: Abdulkareem Agunbiade shows interdisciplinary skill healing with laughs, medicine]

To conclude the panel, Yashere addressed how the concept of the American Dream has informed the program’s plot development. She intends for every character to embark on an individual journey where they can seek opportunities to find joy, just as she and her parents did, she said. Lorre closed by emphasizing the importance of immigrants in America and said he is proud to have shared their stories throughout the run of “Bob Hearts Abishola.”

“From the very beginning, we’ve tried to stay true to the idea that even a cursory look at this country makes it very plain and simple to see that immigrants make the country great,” Lorre said. “Writing about it every week and portraying the extraordinary commitment and hard work and determination of new immigrants is joyful. It’s a joyful thing to do, to try and tell that story as best we can.”

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Victoria Munck | Theater | film | television editor
Munck is the 2023-2024 theater | film | television editor. She was previously an Arts contributor from 2022-2023. She is a second-year communication student from Granada Hills, California.
Munck is the 2023-2024 theater | film | television editor. She was previously an Arts contributor from 2022-2023. She is a second-year communication student from Granada Hills, California.
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