‘The Other Black Girl’ Director Mariama Diallo Shares Secrets From that Shocking First Episode

The Other Black Girl, based on Zakiya Dalila Harris’ best-selling novel, premiered last night on Hulu, and our heads are still reeling. Here’s a quick recap: 

We meet Nella, who’s been quietly suffering as an editorial assistant at a lily-white publishing company. She’s overjoyed when Hazel, another Black girl, starts at the firm. Nella believes she has made an ally and foolishly opens up to Hazel about a stereotypical Black character in an upcoming book they are about to publish. Hazel encourages Nella to share her concerns with the author, the company’s most lucrative client and promises to have Nella’s back. Of course, when Nella does, Hazel stabs her in the back by siding with the author. Then there’s that chilling ending when Nella finds a note in her pocket demanding she leave the company!

Director Mariama Diallo wanted to “capture this feeling of the unknown and excitement, but also the incredible relatability of Nella’s story,” she shares with EBONY. “I was involved in creating a suspenseful feeling, particularly in the first episode, which sets the tone for the rest of the show.”

There’s an eeriness invoked every time Nella enters the company office, which was a deliberate choice. “Wagner Books is such a central part of the story. And I think we all know what that an office looks like, but we will each feel something slightly different.” Working with production design, the team began to “think about what the space would look like, how we could evoke it and what kind of aesthetic is going on in there,” Diallo explains. “All of those questions were incredibly exciting.”

While the show is pegged as a thriller comedy, it’s steeped in the microaggressions Black women often deal with in the workplace. “When I direct, I always like to work with the actors and pull from their lived experiences,” Diallo shares. “A huge credit goes to our cast, particularly Sinclair Daniel, who plays Nella. I think she was able to draw from a combination of her own experience, her observations and her incredible talent as an actor to make those situations feel real because it’s so important. There are so many fun and fanciful elements of this show. But at the core, there is a truth that we all were trying to connect to.”

The suspense is only going to build over the next nine episodes. “Nella’s journey certainly charts a course that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from the show’s first episode,” Diallo exclaims. “Something really exciting about this series is its twists and turns and that it takes you to places that will likely be unanticipated. I leave it to the viewers to go in with an open mind, see where the show takes them and see if they saw it coming. I think they will find it very satisfying by the end.”

The Other Black Girl airs on Wednesdays on Hulu.

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Updated: September 14, 2023 — 3:02 pm