On Thursday, the second season of Issa Rae’s unscripted reality TV series “Sweet Life: Los Angeles” came to a close on HBO Max. Likened to BET’s “Baldwin Hills” series and led by showrunner Leola Westbrook, the series follows a group of Black 20-somethings in Los Angeles as they navigate life, love and careers together.
Most of the ensemble cast returned — except for Hypland designer Jordan Bentley — and a few familiar faces were added as series regulars. In Season 1, Bri and Jordan ceased their on-again, off-again relationship, P’Jae rented a McLaren to bring to Amanda’s birthday trip, and Jerrold launched a podcast that erupted in arguments over privilege. When Jerrold left Tylynn’s boyfriend Jaylenn to fend for himself during the conversation, she called him a sociopath.
Season 1 ended with “The Group Chat,” a debrief in which cast members gathered and hashed out their squabbles from the previous season. In Season 2, no stone was left unturned as the group talked about everything from club squabbles to abortion, long-distance relationships, kids and marriage. Though Tylynn and Jerrold mended fences on the group’s trip to Mexico, Season 2 ended abruptly as Tylynn learned that Candiss’ boyfriend Keilan had reportedly discouraged Jaylenn from proposing to her.
HuffPost talked to Jerrold Smith II about the lingering questions from the second season, navigating social media as newfound reality TV stars, and how the cast’s relationships have evolved on- and off-screen.
Season 2 of Issa Rae’s unscripted reality TV series, “Sweet Life: Los Angeles,” returned to HBO Max on Aug. 4.
When we begin Season 2, audiences see tension among the guys, specifically you and Keilan, over a previous incident at the club. There was an on-camera discussion between the two of you, hashing things out, but a distinction was made between Inglewood and “The Wood.” Could you unpack that?
First of all, “The Wood,” the movie, is one of my favorite movies of all time. I grew up with just a sister, so I didn’t have any blood brothers that I actually call my brothers. I went to school in Inglewood my entire life. Through going to school and playing basketball, I was fortunate enough to find guys that I, to this day, consider my brothers. Being that the movie was a favorite of mine and a couple of my friends, it’s basically our group chat name. Our group chat name is “The Wood” because we’re a group of guys who would rely on each other like brothers. I tell them every day that they’re my brothers like my mother’s sons. I love them to death.
Last season on your podcast, there was a heated exchange about privilege. Some viewers see privilege as a constant motif in the show, impacting the way the boys engage with one another. Keilan implied that he was from “the other side of Inglewood,” the other side of the tracks, so to speak. How would you explain that interaction to those who may accuse you of being elitist?
What I don’t want us to get into is kind of glorifying the struggle, right? Because I feel like we all have our respective struggles. Just because I grew up in Ladera [Heights] doesn’t mean that I didn’t have things that I dealt with on a daily basis that shaped my character. I think it is just a lack of communication between [Keilan] and I, and understanding that we’re the same in more ways than we’re different. Growing up in LA, and experiencing a lot of things that we experienced, just because I was afforded certain privileges because of where I grew up, doesn’t make me any different than anyone else. That wasn’t something that I was trying to combat him on.
I wanted him to understand that I understand where you’re coming from and why you may look at certain things like this, because not only [did I go] to school in those areas and grew up with friends in those areas for my entire life, and never would want anyone to feel like they were beneath me for any of those reasons. Obviously, we’re in the same place, we’re doing the same things. We may have gotten there through different routes, but at the end of the day, we’re here, and that’s what matters. It’s all about finding understanding and where each other’s coming from. I think that was kind of his way of trying to find that understanding. It just came off in that way.
I noticed Jordan Bentley wasn’t a part of the cast of young men this season. How has his absence affected the group, and what prompted his departure?
For one, it was so fun to be able to do it, Season 1, with all of our friends. Jordan is a really good friend of mine and still is. I literally just saw him yesterday. But, you know, I think his absence was felt a little bit. He was such a big part of last season and everything that was going on amidst a lot of our relationships. At the end of the day, what’s most important for him is his business Hypland, which needed a lot of his attention this year, and prompted him to make that his main focus, amongst other things. We’re more than happy to support him and his business, just like he continued to support us and the show.
“With both of us, with guys often, comes neither of us wanting to put our pride and ego aside … And we don’t always have to see eye to eye, but we got to be able to be copacetic in the same spaces, which we are,” said Jerrold Smith of his relationship with Keilan.
What is your relationship like with Tylynn, and how has that shifted throughout the season? Especially in that moment at dinner in which you all were apologizing to one another?
I think it’s interesting, because the beauty of the difference in Season 1 and in Season 2 is we had that time to sit with everything that happened since. That was a real rift in our friendship to where we hadn’t talked about it, really, until you saw us talk about it in Season 2. What was important was that whether you love or hate the internet, the internet took sides. It was important for both of us because we were able to gain a bit of perspective on how I may not have seen her side of things or how she may not have seen mine.
I said it in the scene: I’m not in the business of losing friends. I never would have wanted our argument to be the catalyst in our friendship. But I think that you see a lot of growth from her, specifically, throughout this season, which I 100% admire, and it’s only going to make our friendship stronger in the work that she’s doing herself, and vice-versa. I’m working better to understand where my friends are coming from in these situations and not be so guarded, closed off, and just completely sticking to the way that I feel in a situation, understanding that other people’s viewpoints are valid. And I hope to see those early on rather than things getting to the point that they got to. But Tylynn will always be and still is a great friend of mine and has been since high school.
We don’t know whether there’s going to be a “Group Chat” following the finale, like last season. Do you have any details on whether there’s going to be a debrief?
No debrief, no “Group Chat,” where we ended is where we ended. It’s unfortunate where we ended, but that’s the point that we’re at in our lives.
What has it been like for you, from the perspective of a young man who’s now engaged, to see a lot of these conversations? How has it impacted you and Cheryl?
It’s tough for one to compare because Cheryl and I’s relationship is so different from Ty and Jaylenn’s relationship, which is so different from Amanda and Rob’s and so different from Keilan and Candiss’. A lot of times, we’re all kind of just looking for a perspective, and making a lot of really, really, really big life decisions with cameras in front of our face can not only be a little bit intimidating, but you struggle.
Obviously, you rely a lot on the advice and guidance of your friends. But at the end of the day, I think that everybody’s running their own race, and it’s really important that we see the different stages that each of us are at in our relationships because that’s how it is in real life.
Just because Cheryl and I are engaged doesn’t mean that it adds any type of pressure to Ty and Jay, or changes how Keilan gives advice to Jaylenn or whether or not Amanda and Rob move in together. The beauty in this cast, in this show, is that you get to see us at all different points in our lives. Me having been in a relationship substantially longer than most of the other relationships on the cast, I feel like my viewpoint often is a bit jaded, because Cheryl and I have that foundation of being together for so long to where I don’t ever question our relationship.
There was never a moment in which I wasn’t sure that I wanted to propose to her. It was kind of just a matter of when. Because at the end of the day, we want each other to be happy in our respective relationships, and how we end up getting there and the paths that we take are unique to ourselves, but happiness is the end goal.
Jerrold Smith II proposed to Cheryl Des Vignes in June 2022.
Though it wasn’t featured in an episode this season, you proposed to Cheryl in June! Share with us what that was like, as well as the timeline.
First and foremost, there are some things that are meant to be just for us. I love, love, love Cheryl to death, and to be able to go through this process with her is a blessing because I feel so much more comfortable having her there while we’re doing all of this.
At the same time, we are real people, we have real lives. It’s that much more special when we’re able to do it with our family, and making sure that they’re comfortable in that situation is very important. Cheryl is a huge, huge fan of the beach and the water. I did it out in Malibu at Mastro’s, a private room overlooking the water with some of our really close friends and family, to where it was just a moment for just us. You got a little clip of the actual proposal itself in the credits, and I think that was really important, especially the way the season ended.
As some of our friends were working through these issues throughout the season, there kind of wasn’t any riffs between Cheryl and I. It was important for the audience to see that, given everything we had went through the season before. I’m just really excited to take on life with her by my side.
Becky went through a lot, particularly last season with social media. After this season, even Tylynn changed her Twitter handle recently. How have you all as a group reckoned with that and managed social media reactions? How do you keep each other intact and check in on one another even though you might not be on the best terms? What has it been like to be plunged into that spotlight?
First and foremost, it comes in waves, right? Because I think there were some of us, Becky, for example, who caught a lot of it last season, and less this season. Then, some who caught less of that last season and more of it this season. Not to say that it’s good that some of us have experienced it in waves, but we know how to console each other, and can tell when things are getting kind of tough on the internet, how we can support each other, and be there for each other, but really just reinforcing the fact that it’s the internet.
As controversial as Dave Chappelle is, I love Dave Chappelle; in one of his recent standups, he was like, “They dragged me on Twitter. But I don’t care because Twitter is not a real place.” Oftentimes, a lot of the things that people say on Twitter they would never say to your face, and it’s tough to deal with it, but you gotta understand that people are entitled to their opinions.
What’s good is that they watch the show. It’s important that everyone in our friend group just knows that we’re here to support each other and they’re not going through it alone. It takes some getting used to, but it comes with the territory, in a sense. I wish people would understand that we’re regular people; we’re humans with feelings. I think some get it, and some it takes a little bit longer to understand.
Well, there was one new face this season, Myami’s friend Robb, who was very keen on saying everything to everybody’s face. When he left, you were visibly elated. Can you talk about what that interaction was like when he called you Mr. Sociopath?
For one, that kind of goes back to Tylynn and I’s argument since Season 1. It was less about the argument that we had — and as you saw through her growth and development this season — and more about some of the terms that she kind of tended to throw out when arguments did get heated. The “sociopath” term wasn’t necessarily one that really emotionally and physically affected me. It more so was my wherewithal to understand that there are people in the world that are really going through issues like that on a daily basis, that being a very serious disorder that people have to live with and understand how to negotiate society with.
It’s tough that that was the term that was being thrown around, but I tried to convey my thoughts on Twitter to get people to understand it was a misuse of words. What you saw in that moment, when [Robb] said that to me at dinner, was me kind of trying to process my thoughts. I was in a position to not give him the power to be able to hold that over me and try to control my emotions in that moment. At the end of the day, I didn’t want to be seen only as the guy who blows up on reality TV every single time. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a social butterfly.
On the group trip to Mexico in Season 2, Tylynn apologized to Jerrold for their fallout in Season 1.
From Twitter to TikTok, Tylynn, Becky and more cast members have shared what it’s really like being on a reality television show — and the toll of keeping up with certain storylines for the sake of plot and drama. You work in entertainment at Westbrook, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s production company, so you know how these things really are. Has it been exhausting for you, personally?
I wouldn’t say that it’s exhausting; I would say that it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because, for as long as we harp on certain issues, it forces us to work through those issues. I like to think that I was pretty stubborn in the fact that Tylynn and I hadn’t discussed our issue in over a year, but because of the entire process of this TV show, it was very important that we did not only for the development of our real-life friendship but onscreen for people to see where we were coming from and how we got to where we got.
Obviously, with anything TV comes some sort of production, but I like to think that in comparison to a lot of other shows on TV, a lot of what we’re doing is really authentic and really true to ourselves and the nature of our friendships. Sometimes that comes with edits because we film hours and hours and hours of conversations. With the way that Twitter is talking, I feel like some people might sit there and watch hours and hours of us talking to each other. I don’t really, realistically think that anybody would want to watch a three-hour episode of us talking about some of the same things. That’s the nature of the game.
With regards to closure, at the top of the season, we saw you and Keilan were at odds. You both came to the conclusion that you weren’t going to see eye to eye. How are you two now?
With both of us, with guys often, comes neither of us wanting to put our pride and ego aside. I think that we’re definitely in a reasonable place amongst each other. Because I’ve known him since we were in high school. I’ve known his girlfriend Candiss since I was in college. We’re gonna be around each other. And we don’t always have to see eye to eye, but we got to be able to be copacetic in the same spaces, which we are.
What would you say to people watching, even those that are irritated by your friend group?
For one, I would say thank you. Thank you for watching. As fun as Season 1 was, we don’t get to do Season 2 without the support of fans and viewers, whether positive or negative. So thank you for watching, and continue to watch because we hope we get to Season 3. It’s important for people to view and to have their opinions, because like I was saying before, people are going to see us go through things. They’re going to choose sides on who they may identify with more or less. But the point is that we’re making really good content.
We don’t see a lot of shows with individuals that look like us at our age and doing some of the things that we’re doing, whether in LA or outside of LA. I don’t take that representation lightly. But it’s also tough. It’s interesting. I think that the ones that say they can’t stand us, the ones that say they love us, just know that we love you. The fact that you’re even talking about us makes us elated and makes this process so much more fun.