Marcel Spears is feeling the love.
Since the Oct. 3 premiere of ABC's new comedy "The Mayor," the New Orleans native who plays T.K. Clifton has been fielding positive feedback like he never imagined.
"All love, all love, like crazy a lot of love," he said from Los Angeles, his new home as of two months ago. "Initially, it was just my family and friends who knew. This is my first TV role, so nobody has a clue who I am. I was sort of like in a bubble. …
"It's been crazy. So many fans really appreciate the show. A lot of people say they've been waiting for a show like this, to see three young brothers loving each other and taking care of each other in a positive way. That's good for TV right now. And the bubble's popped a little bit, and I realized how many eyes, just how big the show was."
The premise, probably implausible 10 years ago, doesn't seem as far-fetched in 2017. An aspiring hip-hop artist, Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall), is looking to boost his career, so he puts his hat in the ring for mayor of his California hometown, Fort Grey, and oops, he's elected.
"Courtney runs for office, but he doesn't intend to win it. It's a publicity stunt to sell CDs and bring awareness to the community," Spears explained. "But unbeknownst to him, what he says strikes a chord with the community. He really speaks passionately about the city he lives in, and they elect him."
Spears' T.K. character is the new mayor's best friend and the Fort Grey's new director of constituent services.
"After he's elected, he takes me and his other best friend, Jermaine (Bernard David Jones), into the mayor's office with him to help him figure out the best way to be the mayor," Spears said.
"T.K. sort of serves as Courtney's conscience. He keeps him honest and reminds him where he comes from; that's kind of my duty there. And I get him into trouble a little bit, but all from the goodness of my heart, I think."
Being a fish out of water in small-town politics, Courtney quickly learns about fiscal budgets and filibusters, all to feel-good comic effects.
Although a newcomer to television, Spears has lengthy résumé of stage credits.
"I've done a lot of comedic plays on stage. It's one of the talents that God has birthed me with. I like to have fun on stage, and I like to bring joy to people," he said. "I feel like sometimes theater and television and films can be a release from the everyday stresses and pressures, and I feel like this show does a good job of giving people that release and giving them a bit of a break. Not ignoring the fact that life is happening around us, we definitely talk about it, but we do it in a way that I feel like brings joy to people."
Much of Spears' stage work was in New York, where he moved to attend graduate school at Columbia University. After getting his master of fine arts in acting, he stayed in the Big Apple to launch his career.
"In New York, I did a lot of theater because it's a theater town; it's a place where actors can get work on stage fairly easily if you hit the audition circuit like really hard. And I get TV auditions all the time, and I do my best, just this one time the casting directors liked what I did with the character, so I got lucky enough to join the cast (of 'The Mayor')," Spears said.
His fellow cast also includes Yvette Nicole Brown ("Community") as Courtney's loving and watchful mom, Dina; Leah Michele ("Glee") as Courtney's fiesty chief of staff and former campaign manager to the losing candidate; and David Spade as the outgoing, unlikable mayor, Ed Gunt.
"I love my cast. My cast is family. I've been knowing Brandon for almost three years now. We started out together. He graduated from Juilliard at the same time that I graduated from Columbia, and so we worked together early in our careers. … And Bernard, I knew when I met him he was going to be Jermaine, and we have a good bond. Leah is sort of like the sister in the group. She's definitely a part of our gang, and we look out for her. And Yvette is the mother hen."
With a majority of positive reviews — including an 88 percent favorable rating on the film and television review site Rotten Tomatoes — "The Mayor" is being compared to the Emmy-nominated ABC comedy "Black-ish." On premiere night, "The Mayor" pulled in 4.1 million viewers, retaining 80 percent of the "Black-ish" audience."
"'Black-ish' is our lead-in … so our job in that premiere was to keep our audience interested because they were there watching 'Black-ish,' and our show went up right after them, and we were on the same night as 'This is Us' (the highly rated NBC drama in its second season), so our task was really heavy to make people want to watch us, and a lot of people did."
Spears is a "This is Us" follower and counts star Sterling K. Brown among his acting inspirations, as well as Brian Tyree Henry ("Atlanta").
"I met them in New York, and now they're huge. It's nice to see black men in that situation thriving in the field I find myself in, and so I kind of look up to them in that way."
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays
CHANNEL: WBRZ, Channel 2 (cable Channel 5 in Baton Rouge and Channel 17 in Lafayette), KATC, Channel 3 (cable Channel 5 in Lafayette), and WGNO, Channel 26 (cable Channel 11 in New Orleans).