Here at The 7th Matrix, one of the things we get very excited for is speculative fiction by diverse creators.
Mills City's Finest (MCF) is a new SF&F, action/adventure animated series featuring a first generation Liberian-American as the main protagonist.
We had the pleasure of interviewing MCF creator and producer Samuel Stevquoah.
During the interview, Mr. Stevquoah shared interesting insights about the project, including why creating an animated superhero series that celebrates inclusion and diversity is important to him.
T7M: Would you please tell our readers the premise of MCF?
SS: Mill City’s Finest is an action adventure animated web-series that follows the life of Aundre Weah and his friends as they come together to stop a new threat in their hometown. They quickly find out their other personal desires are more a threat to their alliance than anything they hope to overcome together.
T7M: What inspired you to create MCF?
SS: There’s a lot of things that inspired me to create MCF. One of my strongest inspirations is wanting to see more diversity and culture in animation.
T7M: It's sensational that the main protagonist of MCF, Aundre Weah, is a person of color. Why do you feel complex and nuanced representations of people of color in all media is important?
SS: I feel they’re important because there’s so much story to explore and so many different perspectives we haven’t seen yet. In much of the colored representation in animation - especially those that portray African-American families - I tend to see either stories following Africans centered in Africa, or Black-American characters centered in America. MCF’s main character Aundre is a first-generation Liberian-American. That “first-generation” title was important for me because it reflects so much of his character. He comes from immigrant parents and is the first of his family to be raised in Mill City. He’s a person trying to find where he belongs in the world. He doesn’t understand all the customs of his heritage on the same level [as] his family. I want to remind audiences that there are so much more stories to tell.
T7M: MCF will be an animated web series. Why a web series? What is it about the medium that most appeals to you?
SS: Mill City’s Finest is being produced independently by my team, Active Fantasy Productions. In today’s age everything is going mobile, and people like to have access to their favorite content on the go. Streaming platforms such as Hulu and Netflix are doing extremely well, and this is great news for an independent creator such as myself. Streaming is the future; and to effectively produce this independently and maintain complete creative control, we feel a web-series is the best approach.
T7M: What are some of the major themes you plan to explore with MCF?
SS: In MCF our characters come together through one common goal. They all want to help save the city from a threat. However, they each all want something else as well. The story follows how long they can stick to their common goal without splitting apart by chasing their other desires. [At some] point in all our lives, we all had to give something up we wanted in exchange for something we don't entirely agree with. MCF explores themes such as embracing change, and acceptance, and just how difficult that can be.
T7M: Why do you feel animation complements the telling of speculative narratives so well?
SS: Because anything can happen. You can be so creative with the little limitations you have as compared to live action.
T7M: The animation market is pretty crowded. What would be the pitch you would use to convince someone to watch MCF?
SS: I’m a huge fan of the super[hero] genre, and many drama TV shows as well. Some of my favorites are the ones that combine both extremely well, and have relatable and compelling character arcs. With MCF, I set out to do just that, but take it even further. I wanted to have the main cast be a diverse group of teenagers thinking they're on a journey to save the city, but really are on a quest to self-growth. Part of my main cast is a Lebanese girl. I want to continue representing different ethnicities hardly portrayed in animation. So if you’re looking for a series with substance, meaning, and a twist on the action/adventure genre, MCF is where you need to keep your eyes on.
T7M: Who or what influenced you to pursue a career in animation?
SS: Honestly, all my favorite shows growing up inspired me. As I got older I wanted to do more than just create my own animated series, I wanted to find a way to influence the medium and make an impact. I was inspired by a wide range of animated shows, such as Spectacular Spider-Man, American Dad, Batman TAS, South Park, X-Men Evolution, Boondocks, and Robot Chicken. Additionally, producers and creators such as Greg Weisman and Seth McFarlene have had a hand in inspiring me.
T7M: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced producing MCF independently?
SS: I tend to be a perfectionist and must constantly remind myself that it's progress over perfection. I tend to want to get things done right, and won’t release any content until it meets my most strict requirements. I think battling myself is often my biggest challenge.
T7M: What has been your proudest moment during the process of bringing MCF to fruition?
SS: My proudest moment has been getting Aundre Weah and his alter ego Momolu done right. Aundre is a very complex character, and designing him was also complex. I worked with many character artists, but for some reason no design could match the description of his character and my vision. Momolu’s tunic was equally challenging to portray. It was important that he wear a tunic that resembled a modern African shirt. That's another aspect I don’t see represented onscreen in animation. But what made his design even more challenging was he needed to have a blend of both western and African influence. Aundre’s personality needed to be reflected in his choice of attire. We eventually got that right and I couldn't be more proud.
T7M: What is your desire for the future of MCF?
SS: Often when I pitch MCF, there are always comparisons to Static Shock. I absolutely respect and love everything about that series, but it eventually got me to ask myself am I just subconsciously inspired by that series and I can’t see that, or is it because there aren’t many Superhero series starring an African-American lead? I hope that MCF can usher in that change where people will be able to name a wide range of African American lead characters.
T7M: How can our readers get the latest news and updates about MCF?
*All images property of Active Fantasy Productions
Check out the first teaser trailer for Mill City's Finest here ...