It was August in Atlanta and I asked my older sister for a favor…
One of my favorite writers Shea Serrano was in the city. He was based in Houston but was in Atlanta for an event. He was going to a chicken spot called JR Crickets. That’s the best way to describe the original JR Crickets, a chicken spot. A beautiful and cultural chicken joint. He announced he was going to be there hanging out and signing any books if people wanted his signature. It was a hectic day in the in the life and she couldn’t make it to JR Crickets that evening.
I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of my sister who was a complete stranger to Shea coming up and saying “Hey my little brother (who was also a complete stranger to Shea) is a big fan of yours and sent me to say hi and ask if you could read his work”. Still nevertheless it felt like a missed opportunity. As if the stars didn’t align in my favor. So I worked on my own constellation.
I did some digging and went on a twitter search to when Shea was pitching bigger platforms as an early writer and found his email address. With no intention of anything but to get my words in front of him.
I reached out and he was gracious enough to read my work, give me some tips and give a compliment.
In the time that I’ve known of Shea he has made former President Barack Obama’s favorite book of the year list, has published three books ( Bun B’s Rapper Coloring and Activity Book, The Rap Year Book and Basketball (And Other Things). He has become a number 1 New York Times Best Selling author and most importantly he has yet to be fired from The Ringer.
Fast forward a few months of us going back and fourth. Me asking questions and him freely giving advice as best he can. I ended up in Atlanta for the first time. Celebrating Christmas with my family at my sisters new home. I went to that JR Crickets with her fiancé as soon as I landed. It’s funny to imagine had my sister came here on that August night what the scene would’ve been.
Bring this timeline along until February. Shea recently announced he is working on his next book Movies (And Other Things) coming October 8, 2019. Which like BAOT will also be illustrated Arturo Torres. It will be available in hard copy and can be preordered now before it’s hits book shelves everywhere on October 8th. I still have an open line a communication with Mr.Serrano. I tell him this story about Atlanta and create an opportunity. I ask Shea if I can interview him and he agrees. A moment that felt as if I orchestrated constellations. Here’s And All The Other Things: My conversation with Shea Serrano.
Mr. Serrano was clearly a teacher once. You can hear it in the matter of fact way he answers a question. It’s very impressive no matter how random the subject matter is you can tell he quickly processes and thinks about what you are asking of him. He then answers you in a way that makes the formality feel as if it is purely casual. He gets his point across without belittling anyone else involved in the conversation. It’s a beautiful trait.
He believes in people, in giving oppurtunities and shooting your shot. So he would be the type of teacher no rapper ever had growing up.
We started our conversation with subtle formalities because we had only known eachother through words up to this point. Via me reading his writing, him reading my blog and us communicating over email.
First thing I realized is that I was pronouncing his name wrong I was saying She-AH like a midwestener who feels the need to profusely pronouce every vowel when really its Shea like the butter. We start with the most imortant thing that came to my mind. Asking what did he have for breakfast?
Shea Serrano: For breakfast I had a barbacoa beef taco, a bean and cheese taco and a Big Red
YLB: Very classic and on brand. Whats your first memory? ( I asked abruptly to catch him off guard).
SS: Like in my whole entire life?
YLB: Yep as far back as you can go.
SS: Shit man, I dont know. I would say in elementary school my friend Trey. His real name was Ezikiel but everyone called him Trey. He uh broke his arm. We were riding bikes he crashed into a car and broke his arm. And like the bone was sticking out. I will always remember that moment. He wasnt crying or anything I think he might have been in shock. We were riding bikes down the street. He just lost control and like slid under a car. It was a parked car. He must have hit something because when he came crawling out he was holding his arm and the bone was sticking out. Right in the middle of his forearm it was sticking out. He wasn’t crying or anything…I was crying but he wasn’t. Thats fucking crazy.
I like asking someone what thier first memory is because you get a sense early on of what molded them. To know where someone came from is to understand how they got to this point in their journey. The second thing I asked Shea is what was one thing your parents taught you that you want to pass down to your kids? I know Shea has threes sons, two of them twin boys. He always praises his wife and speaks fond stories of his father. One of my favorites here. But I have never heard anything of his mother and I wasnt going to push if he did not offer it up. After he answered in the distinct way he did. It instantly crossed my mind to ask about his mother as a follow up question, but the thought felt intrusive. So I simply didn’t. It didn’t feel as if it would add a valuable layer to the story.
SS: One thing my dad taught me that I didnt realize until I became a dad is that you dont have to tell someone how to do something if you are going to show them how to do something.
YLB: The way I first discovered you was via sports. So I want to touch there. You previously put together a San Antonio Spurs all-time starting five. So my question to you is if you could take away one Spurs championship and give it to another team which championship year would it be and why?
SS: I would take away the 2007 championship. Thats the year they swept the Cavalliers. I would take that one away and give it to the 2001 76er’s. So Iverson could have a championship. Kobe has one less. Shaq has one less. That one doesnt mean a ton to me as a Spurs fan. That was our fourth one. We played Lebron in the finals but it was like Lebron and abunch of nobodys. 2005 championship we won in Game 7 at home that was great. 2007 was a whatever one it didn’t feel meaningful at all.
After the Tyron Lue moment it would be magical if Allen Iverson got a ring. He was iconic in a way no other NBA player had been in a era. For him to have got a ring would have been truly impactful. Shea is very impactful is through his social media. He has garnered a following not only because of his writing, but also due to his engagment on multiple social media platforms.
YLB: On Twitter your movement has been called grassroots. Is social media easy for you? Is there a strategy?
SS: I guess it’s easy in I’m not really trying to do anything. There is no real strategy there. Its just like I’m on there wasting time some days. I like to be on there during big moments in pop culture. Like if theres a big game on or the Grammys the other night. Making jokes and talking shit with everyone else. I guess it is easy because I am not trying to do anything special. Same way walking is easy for me.
YLB: How do you combat negative thoughts that happen when you see negative news all the time with how accessible it is?
SS: I don’t think there is any way to combat it. It is coming across your timeline at all times. You have access to more terrible things than anyone has ever had in the history of the world. Seeing them on the regular basis. Everyday there is a horrible crime being committed and you’re seeing it. There is a terrible thing being said or done and you are seeing it. Donald Trump is doing some bullshit and you are seeing it. There is no way you don’t see that if you are on the internet all the time. I think that’s just part of it. You have to learn to deal with it.
YLB: Do you feel it is our job to combat it back with positivity or making it aware we don’t stand for the things that are going on?
SS: I think you do owe a responsibility to say how you feel about that sort of stuff for sure.
He took a bit of a pause before he carried on. Doing that thing he does answering you with care.
SS: Maybe that doesn’t fall on everyones shoulders but I know I feel I have to be as clear as possible about these things forsure.
I told him “Thank You” right after that answer not simply for answering but in he way he did. More to it than that. It means a lot more to so many individuals out there when someone speaks out for them than to simply be comfortable in thier own safe silence.
YLB: I know the next book you are working on is Movies (And Other Things). I want to ask a few movie questions. If you can’t answer I understand, but I tried to be as random as possible.
We both agree that is fine as we go back and fourth on some interesting superhero and movie dialouge. If the number 1 New York Times Best Selling author got the chance to write a superhero script he wants ” What all the mexicans want, I want a mexican superhero”. As the writer of this script it would come with resonable stipulations though.
“I want a Mexcian superhero that’s not like fucking Choloman or whatever. I don’t want his whole identity to be rooted in being Mexican or Mexican American. I just want him to happen to be a mexican guy. Like he works at Apple. He’s in San Francisco and designs whatever. he accidently electrocutes himself and now he can fly. Or whatever bullshit like that. I just don’t want Mexican Man.” he says.
Shea is a Marvel guy and his top three great trash movies are all Gerald Butler movies.
” Law Abiding Citizen, Den Of Thieves and P.S. I Love You. I think he is great at those movies that are undoubtedly bad but he is all the way in on them”. Listed off The Ringer employee.
This is when Shea Serrano is at his best in a multitude of ways. A quickwitted natural that makes follow up questions feel as if you are just catching up with a friend. The random talks you would have on those big central air conditioning boxes outside in every neighborhood growing up
YLB: Hood classic that everyone should see?
This actually turned out to be the hardest question for him to answer because of varying taste.
SS: Shit…See that’s tricky. That is not easy cause you see for me maybe we have different classics you and I do. To me Selena is a classic for me. Maybe a lot of other people havent heard of it or seen it. But I will pick Selena.
YLB: One movie you have to watch every time it is on?
SS: You know what movie I keep saying I dont like but end up watching it every single time? Its on cable right now, Mollys Game. Jessica Chastain as the poker princess.
YLB: I scroll past that every time I’m doing cardio at the gym.
SS: Yeah I watched it the first time and I was like “Oh, that’s terrible”. Now I’ve seen it like ten times.
YLB: A movie you wish you could experience for the first time again?
SS: I would like to experience Get Out again for the first time. That was my favorite movie theatre experience. Either that one or Creed. If I could go in without knowing anything about them. Give me those two.
YLB: Last movie to make you cry?
SS: A Star is Born. I just watched it yesterday matter of fact. Its fucking incredible and very sad. I was under the imprssion it was a romantic comedy. That’s how it was described to me. Maybe the first hour is kind of that, but the last hour is not that at all.
Shea perfectly segue into my favorite question I had for him. A scenario where he is casting his perfect romantic comedy in the 90’s. Drafting a man and woman lead then pairing them with a comedic costar.
For choice of the female lead I gave him Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz and Halle Berry.
Of course ” Well, who is opposite of her?” is the first thing he said.
“That’s the catch you get to pick next.” I replied very content this is going how I envisioned it.
SS: Okay, then its got to be Julia Roberts. Julia Roberts is the greatest Rom-Com actor. If its the 90’s and you have Julia Roberts as your star. That movie is going to open. You know what I’m saying, it is going to be big.
YLB: Yea Pretty Woman is on of my favorite Romantic-Comedies ever. Who are you pairing her with Hugh Grant, Tom Hanks, Denzel, Will Smith or Vince Vaughn?
SS: Hmm. Vince Vaughn doesn’t work. He has the wrong kind of energy, He is going to do his fast talking jokes thing. I dont think Denzel works in that situation. We saw Denzel and Julia Roberts together in the Pelican Brief. They were fine, but I dont know if they could be a couple. I think he’s a little too serious.
YLB: Denzel, Denzeling (yea I made that up but you all undesrtand) Julia Roberts.
SS: Yea there is going to be the moment when he gives her the stare that he does in all of his movies and I don’t know if she is built to handle that. And I have never been a big Hugh Grant fan. Those two were good together when they were in that one. What’s that one? Where she was a big star.
YLB: Notting Hill.
SS: Yeah, they were fine in that. I also don’t think Tom Hanks works either. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are perfect together obviously. If I get to pretend create a movie I want to see her with someone I haven’t seen yet. So I think I’m going to go Will Smith. He fits what she does really, really well. Where they can both be extremely playful like we saw him in Hitch. That was a great Romantic-Comedy. They can also can be very serious and sweet when they need to. A lot of people forget that about Will Smith. He can do that! If you saw him in I Am Legend when he breaks down talking to the mannequin. Trying to get the mannequin to talk back to him. He can turn it on when he needs too and she can do the same thing. Let me see a Romantic-Comedy with those two. That would be cool.
I went on to tell him ” I’d see that today!”.
” Yeah I would too, if it came out I’m in” he replied.
He then went on this elegant rant about Will Smith that probably every good person with any heart in the world agrees with.
SS: Any Will Smith movie. Even when the trailer for Aladdin came out and you were like wow this looks like a really shitty Genie. I’m still going to go see it opening day. Will Smith has been in my life since I was in fucking Elementary school when Fresh Prince of Bel-Air came out. I gotta support Will. Julia too.
YLB: You get one great comdeian to co-star with them. You choosing Eddie Murhpy, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac or Jerry Sienfield? In the 90’s
SS: In the 90’s. You can’t put Martin with them because then it turns into Bad Boys featuring Julia Roberts. That’s not going to work. I think Eddie makes the most sense in this scenario.
YLB: Whats the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for your wife by your standards?
SS: This happened like three weeks ago. We were hanging out. Our three sons were staying the night at grandmas house. We had dinner. We were at the house just sort of relaxing. She fell asleep on the couch. I was watching T.V. I turned on Fast and Furious 6. It was almost to scene where Dominic (Toretto) was about to save Letty when she crashes. He crashes his car too and he catches her in the air as they’re flyin over a bridge. So it was coming up on that part and I woke her up to tell her that it was going to happen. That is the most romantic thing I have ever done.
YLB: Is Fast and Furious the greatest movie franchise to you or top 5?
SS: I think its Rocky. I think Rocky is the greatest franchise of all. Fast and Furious is probably the most fun. Now when you’re talking about greatest. You are talking about can you make an actual movie. Can you go out and win some awards. Rocky can do that. He won the oscar for the first Rocky. He won best supporting actor in Creed. You need that wieght if you are talking about the greatest. So I have to put Rocky at one and Fast and Furious two.
Shea is a contemparary writer. He is a man of the times in such a way that it makes you not completely fear the present. There are those who will say the pure art of writing is dying, but I think it is more so those with the power to manipulate words have to adapt. How we digest words have shifted. If you want the consumer to have an appetite for what you type you must change how the plate is presented. A by product of nuance that is often lost in being a creative is that you need to creativly create. That is something I always communicate to Shea whenever we are in contact. The beauty of what he is doing is that he is finding ways to present his words how he wants and garnered a following in doing so. He is a sum of his enviroment. The sports and pop culture he absorbs but more importantly the people around him. His wife, kids, father. Those at the Ringer he constantly gives credit to during one of his appreciative Twitter rants. Shea Serrano works best when he can be Shea Serrano. I am glad he found people that realize that. In his words it may be easy to him in the way that walking is, but there is still an art in knowing which direction to go.
I thanked Shea for his time and all the times he extended his hand when I reached out. If he comes across this I hope he knows I genuinely appreciate it. I asked him one more question to properly end the interview.
YLB: Can you give me three nice things about Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA fellow Ringer employee and Mr. Serranos sworn enemy)
SS: He is a human man with internet access.
YLB: That’s only two
SS: He is a human man with internet access and straight teeth. He does have straight teeth.
Shea please stay Shea forever.
You can find Shea Serrano on social media via @Shea Serrano
You can read his work at The Ringer
You can purchase his books where books are sold or this Amazon link
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @YoungLionBlog
All links throughout this piece are clickable. Thanks for being in this moment with me.