New BET+ series Kingdom Business explores the very un-Christian world behind gospel music. Superstar Yolanda Adams stars as “Queen of Gospel” Denita Jordan. Despite the fact that Kingdom Records is struggling financially, Denita is determined to keep her crown away from up and comer/former stripper Rbel, played by Serayah (Empire). Rbel’s relatable story and beautiful voice make her an instant threat to Denita. Adams and Serayah spoke to The Root about developing their characters’ rivalry.
We all know Yolanda Adams as an award winning gospel legend, so imagining her as the beloved “Queen of Gospel” isn’t too hard. However, it’s extremely difficult to see her as the tough as nails, cruel boss behind the empire. For Adams, being mean was the biggest challenge of her career.
“She’s so not me, she’s so mean. We want roles that make us stretch, because if you don’t stretch, you don’t learn,” she said. “I definitely wanted to do this role because it took me into places where I was like ‘Do we wanna go there for real?’ Yes we go there for real.”
More than anything, it was Denita’s selfishness and gatekeeping that Adams had to work hard to portray. It’s no secret that the “Open My Heart” singer is one of the nicest people in the music industry, so for her to be so dismissive of aspiring performers might be the wildest part of the series.
“I would never say ‘You don’t belong in gospel.’ Everybody who loves God belongs in gospel,” Adams said. “I had to find an experience in my life that was that particular moment. If you’re not aware of certain emotions then it’s hard to play that.”
The animosity between Rbel and Denita really pushed Serayah, as she found it hard to be so incredibly disrespectful to a music legend.
“It was hard for me to be in a scene with Yolanda Adams and be cursing and giving attitude,” she said. “I love that we kept an open discussion and were figuring it out. That’s one thing I love about the cast. Everyone’s synergy is so into teamwork and making it the best it could be, that it was one of the best filming experiences for me.”
And of course, we can’t talk about Kingdom Business without discussing the music. Grammy-winner Kirk Franklin is executive music producer, so the soundtrack works perfectly with the emotional roller coaster the series takes viewers on. After joking that her longtime friend Franklin only let them use his music, Adams explained how crucial it is to the story. “Whenever we needed to make a statement musically, it was the perfect statement,” she said.
Co-starring Michael Beach, Chaundre A. Hall-Broomfield and Michael Jai White, Kingdom Business is now streaming on BET+.