'The Game' Star Talks 'Dip and Pitts,' Black TV

Coby Bell of The Game, which is officially returning for a fifth season, talks to The Root about his character's signature dance and the state of black TV.

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In conversation, the name Coby Bell might not immediately ring a bell. But mention Jason Pitts -- the cheap, former star running back -- among fans of The Game, and you'll probably hear about one of the many jerky things that he's done on the show's four-season run. Or if you're like me, you might remember him on an episode of Smart Guy, as the star basketball player who needed tutoring from a pint-sized genius. (Interesting that he goes on to play opposite Tahj Mowry's older sister, Tia, aka The Game's Melanie Barnett. Small world.)

So on the news that BET will pick up The Game for its fifth season, we caught up with Bell to learn that when he's not playing Pitts, he's busy being a family man (he's the father of two sets of twins), playing and writing music, or chasing the bad guys on USA Network's Burn Notice. In this interview, he talks about the surprising success of the "Dip and Pitts," the state of black television and how he balances a bicoastal life.

The Root: How does it feel being on a show that the fans lobbied so hard to get back on air? 

Coby Bell: It feels great. It feels really good. I think Mara Brock Akil [the show's creator and executive producer] does a good job of understanding our audience. With all her experience with Girlfriends, she's always known exactly what it is that gets people hooked on the show. She just did her thing. As far as Jason, it's a blast playing that jerk. He's a jerk, but he says what people think but they're afraid to say. So they laugh at it.

TR: Could you talk a little about the show's shift from a sitcom to more of a drama? How did that affect your character? 

CB: The show has been evolving since Day 1, really. It started out as a total sitcom, and then the second season we lost the studio audience, started doing a lot more single-camera stuff. Then we went away for a couple years. And we came back on BET and took the opportunity to just make it full-on single camera. Yeah, they are going heavier on the drama. But they've kept my guy silly. I've appreciated that, and I actually requested it. I love doing the comedy.

CB: One of the executive producers came up with the idea of it. Then I got involved with the writing of the song. I went in a studio session, and while we were doing it, we were like, this is kind of dope. On the set, we knew it was silly and fun, but I was not expecting it to go on to YouTube.

CB: It was on the radio? Wow. I've had people come up to me and say, "Hey, I was in the club and the Jason Pitts song came on." The whole joke was that the song was supposed to be such a flop. And Jason was going around saying it was a dance craze that swept the nation. And in the world of the show, it was just a joke: one of those cheesy songs that football players make. The night before we were shooting, I just made it up. I had no idea it was going to do what it did.

TR: Tell me a little about the state of black television from your perspective.