Hannah Yohannes on ‘Mutuals’ and Inclusive Storytelling in Film & Television

Meet Hannah Yohannes, the creative force behind the groundbreaking “Mutuals” series. In this interview, she shares insights into the challenges faced during development, the importance of authenticity and representation in storytelling, the influence of motherhood on her creative process, collaborative efforts in bringing her vision to life, empowering advice for aspiring creators, the impact of Toronto’s diversity on the narrative, the contribution of “Mutuals” to inclusive media landscapes, and the meaningful takeaways she hopes viewers will experience. Discover the essence of “Mutuals” and the exciting future ahead for this captivating project.

As a writer and creator, what challenges did you encounter during the development and production of the series? How did you overcome these obstacles?

During the development of our “Mutuals” series, one of the primary challenges we faced was finding alignment with Canadian broadcasters and networks. Our series, which aims to empower Black men and challenge traditional narratives, didn’t always fit the stereotypical roles and tropes typically seen on TV. Initially, this misalignment made securing support challenging. However, through perseverance and determination, we found interest from international networks for distribution. This not only opened new avenues for our series but also validated the importance of our storytelling in the global landscape. Despite the obstacles, our commitment to authentic representation and impactful narratives drove us forward, ultimately leading to greater opportunities and a broader audience reach.

The themes of Black masculinity, friendship, and relationships are central to your series. How did you ensure authenticity and representation in portraying these themes?

In our “Mutuals”series, authenticity and representation are not just goals; they’re foundational principles that guide every aspect of our storytelling. From the very beginning, we recognized the importance of accurately portraying the themes of Black masculinity, friendship, and relationships, and we were committed to doing so with integrity and depth.

To ensure authenticity, we embarked on a collaborative journey, engaging with individuals and communities whose experiences mirror those depicted in the series. We listened intently to their stories, perspectives, and lived realities, allowing their voices to shape and inform our narrative.

Moreover, we prioritized diverse representation both in front of and behind the camera. Our casting process is deliberate and inclusive, ensuring that our ensemble cast authentically reflects the rich diversity of Black experiences. Additionally, we made concerted efforts to hire BIPOC talent at every level of production, from writers and directors to crew members, creating an environment where diverse voices are not only heard but valued and celebrated.

Furthermore, we approached the portrayal of Black masculinity, friendship, and relationships with nuance and sensitivity, recognizing the multifaceted nature of these themes. Through compelling storytelling and multidimensional characters, we sought to challenge stereotypes and showcase the complexity and humanity inherent in each individual’s journey.

In essence, authenticity and representation are not checkboxes for us; they’re the heartbeat of “Mutuals.” 

Your dedication to your son, Sami, is evident in your work. How has motherhood influenced your creative process and the stories you choose to tell?

Motherhood has undeniably been a profound influence on both my creative process and the stories I choose to tell. Becoming a mother to Sami has brought an entirely new dimension to my life, shaping my perspective and infusing my work with a deeper sense of purpose and empathy.

As a mother, I find myself constantly attuned to the complexities of human emotions and relationships. This heightened sensitivity to the human experience often finds its way into the narratives I craft, allowing me to explore themes of love, resilience, and growth with a richness and authenticity that resonates deeply with audiences.

Ultimately, my dedication to Sami fuels my passion for storytelling, inspiring me to create narratives that not only entertain but also inspire, uplift, and empower. Through my work, I strive to leave behind a legacy of love, compassion, and understanding, shaping a brighter and more inclusive world for future generations.

Building a creative project like “Mutuals Series” often involves collaboration. Can you tell us about the team behind the series and how you worked together to bring your vision to life?

Absolutely! Collaborating on “Mutuals” has been an exhilarating journey, fueled by the incredible talents of our team members. From our visionary composer, Aubrey McGhee, to our meticulous wardrobe stylist, Maidene Morris-Dixon, and our exceptional Director of Photography, Darrell Wonge, each member brings their unique expertise and passion to the table.

What truly sets us apart is our seamless communication and shared commitment to realizing the vision of “Mutuals.” There’s a beautiful synergy within our team, where everyone’s input is valued, and ideas flow freely. This collaborative spirit fosters a sense of mutual respect and trust, allowing us to navigate challenges and celebrate victories together.

Together, we’re not just creating a series; we’re crafting an experience that resonates with the vibrant spirit of Toronto and its diverse communities. Our collective dedication to storytelling excellence drives us forward, propelling “Mutuals Series” to new heights of creativity and impact.

In the context of the entertainment industry, what advice would you give to aspiring writers and creators, especially those from underrepresented communities, who are looking to share their stories?

For aspiring writers and creators, here’s some empowering advice to ignite your journey:

1) Trust your intuition: Your voice and perspective are unique strengths. Embrace them wholeheartedly, and let them guide your storytelling journey.

2) Stay curious and open-minded: Keep exploring, learning, and growing. Curiosity fuels creativity and helps you see the world from new perspectives. Remember, there’s always more to discover.

3) Be proactive: Take charge of your dreams and aspirations. Set goals, take initiative, and relentlessly pursue them. Your passion and determination will propel you forward, opening doors to endless possibilities.

4)Flexibility is key: In both the dynamic film/TV industry and life itself, it’s crucial to cultivate your adaptability. Embrace the skill of pivoting seamlessly when challenges arise or circumstances shift. Consider incorporating a daily grounding practice like meditation or exercise to foster stability and enhance your resilience in navigating change. This habit not only anchors you but also empowers you to confront transitions with confidence and grace.

Remember, your story matters. Embrace your truth, seize opportunities, and watch your creative vision soar. The world is waiting for your unique voice to shine!

The city of Toronto serves as a backdrop for your series. How did the cultural diversity and dynamics of the city influence the narrative and character development in “Mutuals”?

In “Mutuals,” the vibrant tapestry of Toronto isn’t just a backdrop; it’s a character in itself, intricately woven into the fabric of our narrative. The city’s cultural diversity and dynamic energy serve as catalysts for our character development and storytelling, enriching our narrative with layers of authenticity and depth. From the eclectic neighborhoods to the diverse communities, Toronto’s influence is palpable, shaping the experiences and interactions of our characters as they navigate the complexities of life, love, and friendship. In essence, Toronto isn’t just where our story unfolds; it’s an integral part of the story itself, lending a unique and compelling perspective to “Mutuals.”

Representation in the media is an ongoing conversation. How do you see projects like “Mutuals Series” contributing to a more inclusive and diverse landscape in film and television?

“Mutuals” doesn’t just participate in the conversation about representation; it leads by example, showing the industry what’s possible when inclusion and diversity are not just buzzwords but lived experiences.

Beyond entertainment, what do you hope audiences will take away from watching “Mutuals Series”?

I envision our “Mutuals” series as more than just entertainment; it’s a mirror reflecting our lives and the myriad challenges we encounter as we navigate our thirties. Beyond the captivating storylines and characters, I hope audiences find resonance and relatability, perhaps even seeing aspects of themselves reflected back at them. By delving into themes of self-discovery, friendships, and life-altering decisions, I aspire to ignite meaningful conversations and dialogues about the complexities of this pivotal life stage.

Through the “Mutuals” series, my aim is to lessen the sense of isolation that many feel in their journey through adulthood. I want viewers to feel seen, understood, and validated in their experiences. But more than that, I hope the series serves as a catalyst for both tangible and intangible growth, inspiring individuals to reflect on their own lives and consider the changes they might need to make for personal evolution. Ultimately, my greatest aspiration is for “Mutuals” to contribute positively to how we navigate and engage with the world around us, fostering greater empathy, understanding, and connection among its audience.

Lastly, what’s next for you and the Mutuals project? Are there any upcoming developments or future plans you can share with us?

We’re thrilled to continue the journey of the Mutuals project! We’re actively seeking enthusiastic investors and sponsors to join us in bringing the Mutuals series to life. Follow us on IG at @mutualsseries to stay in the loop with all our latest developments and future plans. Together, we’ll turn this vision into an exciting reality! 


Mutuals Curated Spotify Playlist:  


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by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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