‘Reasonable Doubt’ Directing Producer Pete Chatmon Talks Show’s Success And Y’all’s Outlandish Theories

The finale for Reasonable Doubt streamed Tuesday on HULU and both Michael Ealy and his character’s name, Damon, ended up trending on Twitter.

Source: Jameel Saleem / Jameel Saleem

Reasonable Doubt is the first scripted drama from the Onyx Collection. It follows the life of Jax Stewart, a high-powered criminal defense attorney from Los Angeles who uses unconventional law methods to ensure that her clients are innocent. The series stars Emayatzy Corinealdi as Jax Stewart and Michael Ealy as Damon.

Prior to the finale airing, BOSSIP Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden caught up with Reasonable Doubt director and co-producer Pete Chatmon about the drama series, which premiered September 27th. Chatmon is best known for his award-nominated work on The Flight Attendant, Black-ish, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, You, and Grey’s Anatomy.

Chatmon directed episode two of Reasonable Doubt — “Family Feud” as well as the series finale “Already Home.” He set the tone of the characters by exploring more of their personal lives. He dove deeper into the plot lines and characters entering Jax’s world, one of them being Damon, played by Michael Ealy, as he is released from prison. Pete collaborated with Emayatzy on Jax’s character to make her more personable. As the co-producer for the show, Pete wanted to be a resource for the other directors, so he put together a 25-page deck containing notes, bios about the cast and crew, and details of how the show shoots preps for 7-days and shoots for 9-days. Pete was there during prep for each director, meetings, and location scouting.

Source: Jameel Saleem / Jameel Saleem

Check out our Q&A with Pete Chatmon below:

On What Brought Him To Reasonable Doubt:

Kerry Washington directed the pilot, Raamla Mohamed created the show. They both had worked together on Scandal. What they had on that show, and what they have on a lot of one-hour shows is a directing producer. It’s Debbie Allen on Grey’s Anatomy, it’s Tom Verica on Scandal. It’s the person who’s there all the time who does the bigger episodes of the show and does the most episodes on the show but is also there to help the guest directors that come through. They set them up to make it a great episode and let them know what the lay of the land is in terms of our creative DNA, our personalities, to be honest, and here’s what you’re in for.

Having done like 50 episodes of TV where I’ve just been hopping around, I always kept stock of ‘I like the way this show did it,’ and ‘I don’t like the way this show did it,’ so I put together a really sleek deck that gave them the lay of the land, then I was there for them while they got through all of there prep so by the time they got to shooting, it’s like a handoff and the set is theirs.

On making the show for HULU, the spiciness of Episode 7 and the gritty dialogue and sex scenes:

Episode Seven is the one that is really dedicated to Lewis’ perspective, so you’ve got Meek Mill opening up to really set that table. It’s more through his eyes as an A story. I think what happens sometimes is there a respectability politics that happens. I went to a meeting, a pretty bigwig meeting in an organization I’m part of and I’m like, ‘Oh man maybe I should take my hat off,’ and then an older white guy came, he had the baseball cap on, he probably wasn’t even thinking about those things. Obviously, we’re always concerned about how we’re going to be viewed through the lens of how people view us, and what I think the show is trying to do is say, ‘This is for you, warts and all,’ and we’re going to get you a window into how some people communicate, whether it’s for you or not.

On Reasonable Doubt Being the first scripted series for Onyx Collective:

You know they came out the gate and got that Oscar with Questlove (Summer of Soul won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature). I think for them, this being the first show, they want to have something that hits. They have such a diverse slate of things coming behind this, even in terms of people who’ve gotten deals set up at Onyx. What I like about what they’re trying to do is, it appears we’re here to represent a point of view and we’re gonna complete the picture of stories about Black folks, about Brown folks about Asian-American folks. I think the guiding principle of the shows that come out at Onyx will be an honest nuanced look into people’s lives and that will change with the genre and each show.

On Audience Theories About Who Killed Kaleesha:

You know what’s interesting when we were shooting, a lot of folks in like hair and makeup would be like, ‘Now here’s my theory…’ and they would run it down. And even the biggest reach, there would be something they would pull out of an episode that was never meant to be taken that way, but it would be anchored in that. I’m just like, ‘If you gonna die on that hill… I guess I could see how that could be that person in the background at the courtroom…’ As far as like specific ones – I’ve had people think it’s Brayden’s wife, I’ve had them think it’s Theo, I’ve had people think it’s Fallon, Kaleesha’s cousin or Brayden. What I’m waiting to hear is for someone to think it’s Jax. We live in a conspiracy driven world.

On What’s Next:

Right now I’m doing Fatal Attraction, there’s a reboot of the movie into a TV show, then I’m about to do TMinx, and a new show for HBO called Dead Boy Detectives. I’ve got a pilot in development I’m trying to get greenlit at Showtime hopefully and some other writing I’m trying to finish in my downtime.

On How He Chooses Projects:

It’s gotten much more specific. There’s this point at the beginning where you’re like, ‘I don’t even know if I’m going to be hired again so I’m taking all things.’ And then it gets like, ‘I’m viable and I’m working,’ and you start pivoting toward being more selective. Like Reasonable Doubt was something I was excited about because I’ve never done the producing director job. I’ve never been that involved in the process beyond just popping in for an episode and leaving in 9-10 days. It’s about really thinking, ‘does this project say what I like to be talking about? Is it challenging me? I had a meeting about something yesterday that has a lot of action in it, this thing has like car chases and stuff like that, so that will be fulfilling to do something different and challenge myself.

On The Finale:

The only thing I’d say, is that what’s been woven into the season well is the questions of ‘Who Did It? Who Done It?’… what happened to Jax when she’s bound in the pilot? What happened to Kaleesha? What is Damon’s fate — dealing with recidivism and post-prison life? All of those things are going to get wrapped up in the finale and it’s going to be exciting for people.

On Michael Ealy Going “Michael Ealy” In The Last Few Episodes Of Reasonable Doubt:

It’s funny, I read Demetria Lucas’ wrap-ups on IG and she gets into the weeds analyzing it. It’s really funny.

On A Potential Second Season For Reasonable Doubt:

I haven’t talked about it but maybe Raamla and the writer’s room have tossed around a few things. It’s probably better for your sanity to wait for the announcement.

For the folks who watched, what did you think about Reasonable Doubt?

Pete’s podcast, Let’s Shoot! with Pete Chatmon is available on YouTube, iTunes, and all podcast platforms. In January 2022 his book, Transitions: A Director’s Journey + Motivational Handbook was released by Michael Wiese Productions. Follow him on Instagram @petechatmon and @letsshootwithpetechatmon.

Leave a Reply