Cast and crew of the new Bravo reality series about a group of Black friends who summer in Martha’s Vineyard open up about why their show stands out
When Silas Cooper was in college, he and his friends spent their summers vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard by pooling their money together and sharing hotel rooms in a nearby town. They would take the ferry over to the island in the morning, grab a box of pizza in Oak Bluffs, and spend the day partying and making memories. At the time, Cooper didn’t realize he was starting a yearslong tradition that would ultimately lead to the Bravo reality series Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard.
Following in the tradition of Bravo’s Summer House franchise, Martha’s Vineyard takes a group of people in their twenties and thirties, puts them in a house together, and allows viewers to watch as the group navigates conflict, themed parties, and the trials and tribulations of friendship at this point in their lives. According to Lorraine Haughton-Lawson, SVP of programming at Truly Productions, Bravo approached the production company two years ago about wanting to develop a show in the area. Haughton-Lawson, who’s worked on Real Housewives of Atlanta and Potomac, says she immediately understood the appeal of wanting to film a show in the Martha’s Vineyard area.
“When you go, you see all the history, and you meet all these amazing Black people whose families either lived on the island or summered on the island year after year, and you see the Black-owned businesses and how it really is this kind of idyllic enclave that a lot of people didn’t know about,” she says.
It was just a matter of finding the right cast, which is where Cooper and his circle come in. Jordan Emanuel, a friend of Cooper’s, has another friend who works at Bravo and happened to see an Instagram photo he’d posted about one of the group’s trips to Martha’s Vineyard, a picturesque island seven miles off the coast of Massachusetts, which got the ball rolling on their collaboration. Cooper and his wife, Jasmine, are the glue of the group who brought old and new friends together for a few weeks last summer to film the new reality show, including Emmanuel, Nick Arrington, Bria Fleming, Shanice Henderson, Amir Lancaster, Jason Lyke, Summer Marie Thomas, Alex Tyree, and Preston Mitchum.
The show premiered May 7 on Bravo, and there are some major differences between Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard and the original Summer House series. For one, the new show features an all-Black cast, adding to the diversity and representation of the Bravo universe. Due to the difficult nature of traveling to Martha’s Vineyard by way of ferry, the group also spent the entire few weeks together in the same house without going back and forth to their homes, unlike the Hamptons-set Summer House where people take breaks from their cast members during the week when they travel home to New York City for work and other obligations. Plus, cast members say their friendships, relationships, and connections are genuine and organic dating back many years, making all of the drama authentic.
“When you put any group of folks in a house together for a few weeks and there’s nowhere to go, whenever there’s conflict, you have to hash it out. If you get into a major argument the night before, you’re still making eggs together the next morning, and it forces you to deal with the conflict and move on,” Silas says. Because of all the themed parties they hosted last summer, she adds, “Having an argument over something petty is already funny, but having to do it in a toga is even funnier.”
Mitchum is a longstanding Silas friend as his fraternity brother; he was even a groomsman in the Coopers’ wedding. Mitchum, who was already a fan of Bravo shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta and Potomac, Vanderpump Rules, and the original Summer House series, says it was a no-brainer for him to opt into joining the cast because he was excited about the opportunity to shift the landscape of representation on reality television.
“For me, one of the things I wanted to think about specifically as a Black gay man is what representation did I or did I not see happening generally on the shows I watch,” Mitchum says. “I knew that hopefully I could be a role model for so many Black gay kids growing up.”
In terms of the show’s representation, Silas says he hopes Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard brings a different kind of portrayal and perspective to the network.
“It’s important to note that, and we all know this already, that Black folks are not a monolith, and all we can do is be a representation of who we are, our backgrounds, and our collective stories,” he says. “I like to think that makes us individuals.”
Mitchum echoes Silas’ sentiments about how Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard shows that Black people are not a monolith.
“We could never pretend to represent the entire scope of the Black community,” Mitchum says. “There’s a lot of range and depth to who we are based on a number of things. One thing I always wanted to represent myself as is someone who is a multidimensional person who cares about many things and many facets of my own community, someone who loves to read and study and occasionally debate but also someone who loves to turn up, loves to dance, loves to have a good time.”
Haughton-Lawson says diversity and representation are important factors for her when she’s developing a TV show and was especially true when filming Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard.
“Black excellence is my thing, and watching these young people see different versions of us being presented on television is really a passion of mine,” Haughton-Lawson says. “We’re not just all one way and to be able to show this iconic, exclusive area and to show viewers different hues and versions of us is one of my most favorite achievements.”
During the group’s first night together in Episode One, the cast members have a discussion about their different opinions and feelings about the term “Black excellence.” Mitchum says for a long time he’s wrestled with the phrase because he says it’s rooted in standards “that are not set ordinarily by us, they’re set by society around us.”
“Someone is excellent because they cured a disease which is accurate, for sure; someone is excellent because they’re millionaires; someone is considered excellent for all these things, but I think it misses the everyday stories and details from the vast majority of Black people — people who quite frankly can’t achieve those lofty goals and amazing feats because of all the issues and social ills around us,” Mitchum says.
“What I always want to do, especially as an activist and an attorney, is ground us in who we are and not let who we are be defined by other people. It might not be the most popular opinion at dinner parties, but I do think that’s part of what makes me unique. I am going to challenge the room in a loving way. I am going to want us to sit and reflect on who defines us and why we’re allowing anyone but us to define our greatness.”
When it came to filming, Mitchum says he felt a “natural difference” spending time with his friends when cameras were present, but the camera crew wasn’t necessarily nerve-racking.
“I think the first couple of days you’re figuring out what all of this is, and you’re having so much fun you begin to just ignore it. They just begin to also become your friends,” Mitchum says. “I felt so many emotions: nerves, excitement, and a little bit of ambiguity in just figuring out for myself what is the role I want to play in all of this.”
Haughton-Lawson is a veteran in the realm of unscripted television and she says a “new cast is the best cast in the world” to work with because they’re more excited and open while filming since they’re not jaded by past experiences in reality TV.
“Oftentimes people can get on these shows and as years go by, social media gets in your ear, the fans get in your ear, the noise overtakes the enthusiasm that you had initially,” she says. “I loved working on a new show with younger people, younger people of color. This younger, newer cast are just so excited, and you get to see over time what this show is going to do for their lives and how it’s going to change things for them, hopefully in a better way.”
Jasmine says she was happy to document her first married summer in Martha’s Vineyard with her friends with cameras and that despite the bouts of drama that popped up, she has no regrets.
“It was quite a roller coaster. You don’t really know what to expect and you can’t prepare for it, but one thing Silas and I both agreed on was we were just going to be ourselves, the good, the bad, the ugly,” Jasmine says.
For the cast, the setting of Martha’s Vineyard is just as important to the show as any person who appears on screen. Not only does the island hold personal significance in the individual lives of the people in this friend group but as new episodes continue to air, viewers will learn about the significance of Martha’s Vineyard and its place in history as a vacation home for “the Black elite,” according to Haughton-Lawson, from politicians like former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Spike Lee.
“It’s long been a place where the Black elite, so to speak, can go and let their hair down and be who they are and not feel judged,” Haughton-Lawson says. “You can just be whoever you want to be and you’re accepted.”
The Coopers say last summer was a different experience from others they spent on Martha’s Vineyard, but whether they return next summer with Bravo cameras or not, they’ll spend the rest of their lives vacationing in this special place.
“What we want to do is celebrate Martha’s Vineyard because it deserves to be celebrated,” Silas says. “We want the community to enjoy this show and to be able to see themselves.”
Martha's Vineyard always was, and still is, a mostly White community— the population was 5,341 according to the 2020 United States Census, and only 12 percent of the population comprises people of color; even in Oak Bluffs, less than five percent of the population is Black.What Bravo show is about Martha's Vineyard? ›
Get a preview of the Summer House: Martha's Vineyard premiere and learn more about how the cast is connected to one another!How many people live on marthas vineyard in summer vs winter? ›
The year-round population is close to 23,000, and in the summer there can be as many as 200,000 people on the Island. For demographic information, please visit the Martha's Vineyard Commission's website.Why do people love Martha's Vineyard? ›
While the downtown areas are great with amazing shopping and dining options, what Martha's Vineyard is truly known for is its natural beauty. With cliffs, pristine beaches, marshland, and two wildlife sanctuaries there is so much to explore.What percentage of African Americans live on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Of the 15,966 full-time residents who identified themselves by one race in the census, 511 are African American, less than four per cent of the Island's full-time population, but a 42 per cent increase over the 2000 census, compared with a 6.6 per cent increase in the white population.How many millionaires have homes in Martha's Vineyard? ›
Including taxpayers living out-of-state, the number is more than 17,000. They total nearly $62 billion in earnings between them, according to data from the state Department of Revenue. There are about 50 millionaires living on Martha's Vineyard, according to the data.What show is the Black family Martha's Vineyard? ›
'Summer House: Martha's Vineyard' stars all-Black cast vacationing on the island. Bravo is welcoming a new reality series that's taking viewers to The Vineyard.What actors live on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Celebrities like Bill Murray, Meg Ryan, Reese Witherspoon, Mike Wallace, and even Princess Diana have all regularly visited. A number of them, such as Michael J Fox, have called the Vineyard their home. The low-key vibe is just one of the reasons the rich and famous make Martha's Vineyard part of their summer circuit.Why is Martha's Vineyard so special? ›
Just like the island in Jaws, Martha's Vineyard is most famous for its beaches. Unlike some nearby areas, Martha's Vineyard has beaches of all different kinds, including rock beaches, sandy ones, marshland shores, and more.What is the average income of a Martha's Vineyard resident? ›
The average annual household income in Martha's Vineyard is $139,158, while the median household income sits at $73,849 per year.
Finley, who for years authored a column about Oak Bluffs, estimates that during the offseason, there are only 700 black people who call Martha's Vineyard home, and, he says, “most of us are retired.” In the summer, the numbers swell markedly, till, he guesses, 30 to 35 percent of the summertime population is people of ...How much is a gallon of milk on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Martha's Vineyard Pricing
Everything from heat, electricity, and food will cost a greater amount than it would on the mainland. The average price for a gallon of milk in the United States is about $3.31. On the island, a gallon of milk averages at $4.20. The same rates will apply to most products or services.
One of these communities is Chilmark, whose 02535 ZIP Code has the priciest residential real estate in all of New England, according to Realtor.com. (News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates Realtor.com under license from the National Association of Realtors.)What is Martha's Vineyard controversy? ›
On September 14, 2022, Florida governor Ron DeSantis sent approximately 50 primarily Venezuelan asylum seekers by air from San Antonio, Texas, to the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The incident and ones like it have caused a partisan divide across the US.Why is it called the Inkwell on Martha's Vineyard? ›
The” Inkwell” or Town Beach in Oak Bluffs is the name of the popular beach frequented by African Americans beginning in the late nineteenth century. The strand was pejoratively called “The Inkwell” by nearby whites in reference to the skin color of the beach-goers.What part of Martha's Vineyard is historically Black? ›
Affluent African Americans from New York, Boston, and Washington came to Oak Bluffs, the only Martha's Vineyard town that welcomed black tourists as other towns on the island did not allow black guests to stay in inns and hotels until the 1960s.What is the political makeup of Martha's Vineyard? ›
How liberal is Martha's Vineyard? It's considered a truism that the island is super-liberal, adding to its lure for Democratic presidents seeking a beautiful spot to unwind. And a future president may be on the island on Wednesday—Hillary Clinton—in town to promote her book, Hard Choices.Where are the migrants from Martha's Vineyard now? ›
Four months later, nearly everyone in the group is still in Massachusetts. Many are in small cities near Boston, and others remain on Cape Cod.What celebrities have property on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Indeed, Spike Lee, David Letterman, Carly Simon, James Taylor and Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer are among the high-profile property owners on the island. Another regular is Larry David; one of the island's hot new eateries, 7a Foods, tweeted recently that he visited two days in a row.What was the wealthy black area in Martha's Vineyard? ›
In the Oak Bluffs area of Martha's Vineyard, the Inkwell, as it's fondly known, has long been a summer destination for Black families; the area was even listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for vacation-bound African-American families popular from the '40s to '60s.
The 266-acre property, one of the largest contiguous landholdings on the Vineyard, is owned by Gerald DeBlois, a longtime resident of West Tisbury.Where Black people stay in Martha's vineyard? ›
Though Oak Bluffs is known for being a home to the African-American elite, a history of segregation and classism was prevalent throughout Martha's Vineyard. Blacks historically resided on the north side of the island in Oak Bluffs, while whites settled on the east side of the island in Edgartown.What is the Black population in Oak Bluffs? ›
Despite being an important historical haven for African-Americans, Oak Bluffs is not a majority-black town. The Martha's Vineyard Commission reports that just 3.3 percent of Oak Bluffs' full-time residents are black.Who owns the black dog Martha's vineyard? ›
Carly Simon: Live from Martha's Vineyard.Who are the largest employers on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Hospitality (food and accommodations), retail, construction, and real estate are the four key industries that make up more than half of the Island's economy.Does anyone famous live on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Famous people who vacation or live at Martha's Vineyard
Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Bill and Hillary Clinton and NBA star Chris Paul are some of the people who have vacationed there, according to Business Insider. The island also had a royal visitor in 1994: Princess Diana.
Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 21; proof of age is required and often requested at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, so it's a good idea to bring ID when you go out.What's it like to live on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Residents regularly fish, hike, golf, cycle, bird watch, and kayak. During the off-season, the island is also home to an abundance of festivals that the locals flock to. Living on Martha's Vineyard year-round allows residents to enjoy the natural beauty in the off-season with out the crowds of people.How much is Martha's Vineyard worth? ›
Of the approximately $20 billion total value of property in the six Vineyard towns, roughly $1.9 billion, about 10 percent, is tax exempt, so that tax revenue lost to the six towns, based on the tax rates reported here, adds up to about $7 million.
In a recent housing needs assessment, the Martha's Vineyard Commission reported that average monthly rents on the Island in 2020 were $1,459, compared to $1,180 in 2010.What is the ethnic diversity of Martha's Vineyard? ›
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The Vineyard's largest property purchase to date is Edgartown's 215-acre Herring Creek Farm, which fetched $64 million in 2001.What is the poverty rate in Martha's Vineyard? ›
More than 11 per cent of the Vineyard's year-round population lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates.Is Martha's Vineyard more expensive than the Hamptons? ›
Which city is cheaper, The Hamptons or Martha's Vineyard? These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations. The average daily cost (per person) in Martha's Vineyard is $241, while the average daily cost in The Hamptons is $223.How many Native Americans live on Martha's Vineyard? ›
But over the last 400 years, since colonists first arrived, the on-island Aquinnah Wampanoag population has shrunk to about 500, and only a fraction of them know ancestral practices.What is a cheaper alternative to Martha's Vineyard? ›
Block Island, R.I. (Massachusetts)
Far less commercial and high profile than Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, Block Island serves as a tremendous, lower-cost alternative to those two islands. Twelve miles south of the Rhode Island mainland and just 21 square miles, Block Island delights with its stunning scenery.
Overall, Martha's Vineyard is more expensive compared to Cape Cod. In fact, Martha's Vineyard is rated as the second most expensive destination in the US after Montauk (NY).Is Martha's Vineyard a wealthy town? ›
Martha's Vineyard, often simply called the Vineyard, is an island in the Northeastern United States, located south of Cape Cod in Dukes County, Massachusetts, known for being a popular, affluent summer colony.What do locals call Martha's Vineyard? ›
Traditionally home to the Wampanoag people for at least 10,000 years, what we today call Martha's Vineyard was — and still is — known as Noepe (meaning the land amid the streams).
It has spectacular beaches, lighthouses and is conducive to yachting. As evidence, there are actually vineyards in the area and nothing is more finicky about the weather than grapes! What do people who live in resort homes like those in Vail, Jackson Hole, or Martha's Vineyard do and where do they go on vacation?What is the oldest town on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Originally established in 1642 as Great Harbour, Edgartown occupies the southeastern corner of the island. It's the oldest English settlement on Martha's Vineyard and still the shire town, or county seat.What was the biggest drug bust on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Additionally, officers served a search warrant at their Norris Avenue residence which resulted in the seizure of approximately 850 grams of cocaine. The searches also yielded $8,544 in US currency. This is believed to be the largest police seizure of cocaine in Martha's Vineyard history.Is Martha's Vineyard shrinking? ›
The truth is that the Vineyard is always shrinking, and it always will be — but the rate at which the coastlines are receding is multiplied by how often we experience strong weather events, and how rapidly the sea level rises.What is Martha's Vineyards significance to deaf culture? ›
Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was a village sign-language that was once widely used on the island of Martha's Vineyard from the early 18th century to 1952. It was used by both deaf and hearing people in the community; consequently, deafness was not a barrier to participation in public life.Why is it called Marthas? ›
British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold crossed the Atlantic in 1602 and landed at a place he called Cape Cod because of the fish in the vicinity. He would name a nearby island Martha's Vineyard after his daughter.Is there Uber on Marthas Vineyard? ›
Ride to and from Martha's Vineyard Airport with Uber. Instead of waiting for the MVY shuttle or taxi, you can request a ride directly in the app and be on your way.How many people are in Martha's Vineyard summer? ›
The year-round population is close to 23,000, and in the summer there can be as many as 200,000 people on the Island.Can regular people go to Martha's Vineyard? ›
Some of the best sights on Martha's Vineyard are open to the public, and don't cost a thing! If you're looking to explore the Island, these are some of the best spots to have on your list: Making the trek out to Aquinnah can take a bit of time, whether you have a car, or are taking the bus.
Please do not move. On September 14, 2022, Florida governor Ron DeSantis sent approximately 50 primarily Venezuelan asylum seekers by air from San Antonio, Texas, to the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The incident and ones like it have caused a partisan divide across the US.
Affluent African Americans from New York, Boston, and Washington came to Oak Bluffs, the only Martha's Vineyard town that welcomed black tourists as other towns on the island did not allow black guests to stay in inns and hotels until the 1960s.How many people are Brazilian in Martha's Vineyard? ›
20% of the island's population is Brazilian, according to the 2021 Duke's County report.Is Cape Cod or Martha's Vineyard more expensive? ›
Overall, Martha's Vineyard is more expensive compared to Cape Cod. In fact, Martha's Vineyard is rated as the second most expensive destination in the US after Montauk (NY).Where are Martha's Vineyard refugees now? ›
Four months later, nearly everyone in the group is still in Massachusetts. Many are in small cities near Boston, and others remain on Cape Cod.What is the difference between immigrants and migrants? ›
Differences Between Immigrants and Migrants
A migrant moves to another country temporarily. An immigrant moves to another country intending to settle there permanently. Migrants can be people simply moving from one region to another within their country or people crossing international borders.
Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard may get visas after being declared victims of crime. A Texas sheriff has certified that 48 migrants who were involuntarily flown to Martha's Vineyard were victims of a crime, a procedure that would immediately qualify them for a US visa or green card.Is Oak Bluffs still a Black community? ›
While Martha's Vineyard overall is still heavily populated by mostly white residents, Oak Bluffs comes alive each summer as thousands of Black people descend upon the town for annual meetups, events and to simply take up space in a place that hasn't always wanted us there.Where do blacks stay on Martha's Vineyard? ›
Though Oak Bluffs is known for being a home to the African-American elite, a history of segregation and classism was prevalent throughout Martha's Vineyard. Blacks historically resided on the north side of the island in Oak Bluffs, while whites settled on the east side of the island in Edgartown.What is the Hispanic population of Martha's Vineyard? ›
Population is about 15,000, although the summer population can swell by tens of thousands more. Most of the towns in Martha's Vineyard are about 90% white, according to the local government's statistical analysis of the region. Hispanics make up about 2% of the population. What about that name?