Howard Alum Creates Popular Web Series
Eboni Bryson | Correspondent
While carrying the weight of extra-curricular activities, hours of work, and the struggle of trying to maintain a social life, the little things we see on the Internet can provide us with the most entertainment. Ashford Thomas wears many hats as the writer, director and main character of his online series Howton U, based on his own experiences during his years at
Howard University. During an interview, Thomas tells the Nubian Message the vision behind his HBCU-inspired Internet comedy.
Nubian Message: Tell me about your college experience. What was most memorable?
Ashford: Well, I went to Howard and I’m from Greensboro …I always wanted to go to an HBCU, but I wanted to branch out and go somewhere outside of A&T, so I went to Howard. The experience was once in a lifetime, something you couldn’t get from a textbook. Some of my experiences were completely once in a lifetime.
NM: What inspired you to create this series?
Ashford: I just really want to create A Different World, meets Martin, meets Fresh Prince– the shows I used to watch back in the day. I wanted to emulate Martin Lawrence who I watched every day back in the day. I wanted to bring back that vibe. Nowadays, a lot of shows are based on scandals, and not really laugh out loud sitcoms. I feel like we’re missing three dimensional characters that we can laugh at, laugh with and go through their high and lows with.
NM: You play many different roles in the production of Howton U as the main character, director and more, which do you enjoy the most?
Ashford: I really like acting–I really love acting. I love making sure that I’m hitting my lines and making sure everyone is laughing. And also editing, I taught myself through YouTube tutorials. Now that I’ve played these different roles, it’s made me appreciate everyone else’s. I felt like I had to wear a lot of hats because, little do many know, actors such as Eddie Murphy write as well as act. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
NM: You are currently in the process of trying to turn your series into a T.V. show. How’s the process going?
Ashford: [laughter] I don’t know about a T.V. show. I was basically trying to get funding but I do I want to do a tour for HBCUs and the younger generation, that I’d like to call the “106 and Park” generation.I don’t feel like our generation has shows like we did back in the day. But I may want a T.V. show, let me not jinx myself! [laughter]
NM: What kind of response have gotten from the series, positive or negative?
Ashford: As far as the storyline, the professional quality and the show, I receive a lot of positive feedback and we are very grateful. It’s mainly when I receive positive feedback from my target audience that I know I’ve done my job. I never really received negative feedback except for production due to lack of money! [laughter]
NM: Have you received any feedback from current Howard students about your show? If so, what?
Ashford: Yes. I actually had a screening at Howard University and it was very positive, but I definitely hear a lot about bringing in more female characters. I’m a male writer so it’s natural for me to write from a male perspective. So we’re striving to have some balance. They find it very truthful and honest, which is what I’m aiming for.
NM: What moment would you choose to relive from your college years?
Ashford: I would relive the dormitory life and the relationships I made. I stayed in Drew Hall, I called it the “Heat Box” because it didn’t have A/C–probably still doesn’t! [laughter] It was the freshman boys dorm at Howard. But it was just my first time living with a bunch of guys, with different backgrounds and different cultures that you don’t realize until you’re in the presence of others. I didn’t even know that I was country until I got to Howard, when people told me I was country!
NM: What do you hope that your viewers will take away from your series?
Ashford: A great laugh, good entertainment, and also a three dimensional look on young men and women in the community. Especially young black men, since the vision of black men has been warped. It really laughs at the growing pains and makes it humorous. Just bringing back that vibe of Fresh Prince and A Different World.