As Gina Yashere tells it, her career choices were limited.
“I used to … say that in a Nigerian amily, there are only four choices of jobs – doctor, lawyer, engineer, disgrace to the family.”
She took the third choice (briefly being an engineer in London) and then the fourth, as a stand-up comedian. Now her roots are reflected in this fall’s first
That’s “Bob (hearts) Abishola” (shown here)at 8:30 p.m. Mondays on CBS. “On the surface, (it) probably looks like a romantic comedy,” said producer Chuck Lorre.
Well, it is a comedy with a romance at its core. Still, Lorre said his focus was on “the greatness of first-generation immigrants, about the focus and discipline and rigorous, rigorous honesty.”
But immigrants from where? After floundering, Lorre and Al Higgins met Yashere and moved the story toward her Nigerian roots.
In most shows, she said, immigrants are “either downtrodden, poor or criminal.” That’s far from her own life … or the fictional life of Abishola, a cardiac nurse whose patient (Billy Gardell) falls for her … or the real life of Folake Olowofoyeku, who stars.
Poor? Downtrodden? Actually, her dad was a teacher and principal who, at 32, went to law school in London. He returned to Nigeria and got into government, becoming his region’s attorney general and, his daughter says, “part of the founding fathers” who helped create independence and the constitution.
There was a coup that put him in jail for six months, and then a counter-coup. He resisted offers to return to government; instead, he re-started a successful law practice.
His children – by various accounts, he had 17 or 20 of them – were expected to do the same. One son (Toby Foyeh) is a successful musician in Nigeria and England, but he was the exception.
“I knew … that I wanted to be an entertainer,” Olowofoyeku said. But “I come from a family of lawyers and politicians, so that was a ‘no.’”
On her 18th birthday, in 2001, she came to the U.S., the land of “yes.” It was a vacation, she said, that became permanent. She went to college (English is her first language) in New York and was fairly busy with TV guest roles.
Yes, there have been culture shocks. “I remember being on the bus to school … and I saw an adult get into a verbal altercation with a young person,” she said. “That was extremely shocking to me.”
In her experience, kids don’t argue with grown-ups, parents don’t yell at kids. People do what their parents tell them to … unless they’re told to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer.
— “Bob (hearts) Abishola,” 8:30 p.m. Mondays, CBS
— Debuting on Sept. 23, it’s the first new fall series on one of the broadcast networks