‘Diarra From Detroit’ Is a Love Letter to Diarra Kilpatrick’s Hometown


No matter how much Diarra Kilpatrick is her own guiding light when it comes to what art she makes, it always feels good to have it hit home with an audience. Such is the beauty of the week of screenings Kilpatrick has been attending lately, getting to sit in a room with viewers, who have proved to her that while she may have made her new show for her, they’re happy she did.

“I subscribe to the whole Jordan Peele thing of ‘make the thing that you desperately want to see.’ And so that’s really where I’m coming from. When I’m making all the decisions, I really try to speak to myself as the viewer,” Kilpatrick says. “But then of course, you hope that it resonates with other people. That’s the part where you’re like, ‘I’ve made myself happy, but will I make anybody else happy?’ So that really feels good.”

Kilpatrick is the creator, producer and star of the new series “Diarra from Detroit,” out now on BET, which follows a teacher in the midst of a divorce who decides to investigate the apparent disappearance of a man she met on Tinder. 

“I had a friend, we were talking at a party, and his mom just kind of casually mentioned that she worked as a PI for a while,” Kilpatrick says. “And I was like, ‘what? That’s crazy.’ She was kind of like a middle-aged woman, not in necessarily the best shape, just a regular woman. And I was like, that makes a ton of sense. Not only has every woman turned into a private investigator at some point to get some kind of information on someone that we’re dating, but also we’re underestimated. And when we walk into a room, no one feels endangered necessarily. And so I thought a regular teacher who moonlights as a private investigator would be a really fun show.”

The one word Kilpatrick keeps hearing from people who have seen the show is “unique.” Kilpatrick says that while mystery shows are something we’re all familiar with, her take on the classic genre was something she personally hadn’t seen before. 

“There’s a nostalgia for [mystery shows]. A lot of us have watched them with older generations, but people have never really seen a younger Black woman in the driver’s seat of those kinds of stories,” she says. “I grew up reading Nancy Drew and all those novels, and we just haven’t seen the edgy version of that yet, especially mixing it with comedy.”

Kilpatrick, who is known for her Emmy-nominated web series “American Koko” as well as her role in “Perry Mason,” grew up watching mystery shows with her grandmother, whom she describes as “that old fashioned grandma.”

“She cooked, she cleaned, she watched television. And so I watched what she watched, and a lot of those shows were white shows. But because I watched them through her point of view, they became Black shows to me,” she says. “Her commentary on them, the way she thought about what they were doing or who she thought had committed the murder and why they were always for very Black female reasons. And so I think that genre was born in that moment.”

Diarra From Detroit: Season 1. Photo Credit: Vanessa Clifton/BET+

Diarra Kilpatrick in ‘Diarra from Detroit’

The idea for “Diarra from Detroit” first came to Kilpatrick in 2020, and took another two years before she got to pitch the idea to BET. She knew early on that she wanted her next project to be set in Detroit, her hometown, following the failure of a pilot she had written for Showtime starring a character from Detroit.  

“I realized I had the most fun writing the scenes that were about her friends from back home. And I just really enjoy writing about these people. I feel these characters that are quintessentially Detroit I don’t think people have seen, particularly with a softer kinetic point of view,” she says.

“I just think everyone’s a stand-up comedian in search of a stage in Detroit. Everybody has a one-liner, everybody has a clap-back. Everybody has a kind of a humorous point of view. I think that when you think about Detroit, you think about it’s fast-paced or it’s aggressive or it has a masculine energy to it. But I think a sense of humor has been so important to the resiliency of its people,” she continues about her hometown.

“We can have a tough exterior, but I think the mark of a Detroit character is when you get all the way 360 degrees around a person and all the way inside a person, you realize why that exterior is so tough. There’s usually a gooey center on the inside. And unless you know those people intimately, you might not get to see that. So I really wanted to show that to the world.”



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