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How ‘Harlem’ creator Tracy Oliver is making her mark in Hollywood

The "Girls Trip" writer is working to show "cool and unique" stories in her projects.

The journey has been worth it for Tracy Oliver.

After playing Nina on Issa Rae's comedy web series, "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl," which became the basis of Rae's hit HBO show, "Insecure," Oliver has since gone on to do amazing things.

She helped co-write 2016's "Barbershop: The Next Cut," 2017's "Girls Trip," and 2019's "Little" before she created her two TV shows, "First Wives Club" and "Harlem," which both focus on Black female friendships.

Premiere Of Universal Pictures' "Girls Trip" - Arrivals
Tracy Oliver attends the premiere of "Girls Trip" in Los Angeles, California.Jason LaVeris / FilmMagic

"I like that Blackness is not monolithic," Oliver said during an appearance on "TODAY With Hoda & Jenna" on Thursday. "There's no right or wrong way to be Black and there's so many different versions of it. So I just want to keep seeing cool, and unique, and just interesting stories."

While remembering her time on “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” Oliver said it felt like success was out of her reach because when she would do business meetings with Rae, the two would frequently receive negative criticism.

"People thought, 'OK, you guys are funny, but there's not really a buyer for this,'" she recalled. "At that point, they just weren't any women of color in starring roles in comedies on TV."

But Oliver changed that. Her work on "Girls Trip" made her the first Black woman to ever write a $100 million film, and she was widely celebrated for her writing on the film.

"I think it's validating because I think for so long people were telling me that our stories didn't matter, that they weren't viable, that they are niche and not universal and I just didn't feel that way," she said. "My mom, I don't know if I can say this, but my mom was like, 'Girl there are white people in this theater.' So she was like, 'I think it's a hit.'"

With "Girls Trip" under her belt and a Stanford education, Oliver began working on even more exciting projects, including Amazon's "Harlem," which is currently in talks for a second season. Oliver said her personal experience helps make her work stand out.

"I just really write what I experience. I am painfully self-aware, and intuitive, and vulnerable and I think you have to be all of those things to really write stuff that resonates," she said.

Harlem
(L to R) - Grace Byers as Quinn, Shoniqua Shandai as Angie, Jerry Johnson as Tye, and Meagan Good as Camille in "Harlem."Sarah Shatz / Amazon Prime Video

Amy Poehler, who is an executive producer on "Harlem," sees the road that Oliver is trying to take.

"Tracy is a really smart woman," she said, adding that Oliver has a very "interesting mind."

"I think she will probably be a mentor and a guiding light for a lot of younger, Black female showrunners looking to say 'How are you doing it?'" Poehler noted.

Oliver said that now that she has found success, she does want to serve as that guide for others who are just starting their careers.

"I was raised with this mindset that you pull people up if you get the opportunity to do it," Oliver said. "And so now I'm kind of like, 'You can ask questions, and I can hire you, and you can learn through me and kind of bypass some of the stuff that I had to go through.' ... If I have the power and the position to be able to bring somebody up, why would I not try to do that?"

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