Brow Beat

Stan and Ruby Are #RelationshipGoals

Thirst Aid Kit celebrates a great TV couple.

Husband and wife leaning on each other lovingly
Reno Wilson and Retta in Good Girls. NBC

From kidnapping and money laundering to adultery and blackmail, there’s no shortage of chaos on NBC’s Good Girls. That’s what makes the sweet, stable marriage of Stan (Reno Wilson) and Ruby (Retta) such a welcome respite. On a recent episode of Thirst Aid Kit, Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins toasted the happy couple. This transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Nichole Perkins: Now, Ben and Leslie aren’t the only characters on Parks and Recreation. One of our other favorite characters, Donna Meagle, as played by Retta, she keeps us in stitches. And she didn’t get the screen time that she deserved on Parks and Rec, but we’re not going to go into that right now. Luckily, Retta has moved on to a new show where she is one of the stars. Of course, we’re talking about Good Girls.

Bim Adewunmi: If you’re a listener of the show regularly, you may know that a couple of weeks back we did a full episode on Manny Montana, who is I guess the fourth lead in the show alongside the three women who are the title of Good Girls. Of course, we waxed lyrical about Manny and how he plays Rio and how it’s just this perfectly coiled bag of energy. Oftentimes he’s playing against Beth, who is played by Christina Hendricks. But there is Retta who plays a friend of Beth’s who is in many ways the audience’s avatar, because a lot of the time we’re watching that show and we’re just like, “What are these two crazy white women gonna do next?” Retta as Ruby—if she could, in the manner of Parks and Rec, side-eye the camera, she would absolutely be looking down the barrel of the camera to be like, “You see this shit? You see this shit?” Because that’s often what I’m doing when I’m watching, like “What the hell is this shit?” Ruby is very much a steady sort of normal person, the person for whom this amount of chaos is the most disorienting. It’s so jarring to her way of life and her way of being, and so much of that is because of who she is and who she has made a life with. And in this case, it is the cutest man in the world, Stan.

Perkins: He’s so cute, and he’s so supportive. But one thing that I really like about Ruby’s character in general is the fact that, yes, she’s the only black woman and is a lead in this show, but we get to see a lot of her black family, her black church, her other black friends, things like that. There is no denial of who she is. She’s not invisible. The rest of her life is not invisible. She has a full field of black support. It’s just so well done because it’s not heavy-handed. It’s not beating it over your head. It’s just, yes, she goes to a church. Here are all the other black people in this city. Yes, she has this black family.

Adewunmi: Yes, I agree with you. In casting for this show, we—Nichole and I and our producer—sat down and we were just like, “OK, so if we were to do this show that is about goals couples, people that really give you a mostly trauma-free, happy, textured, nuanced, layered portrayal of people, TV is not great at serving up couples where both the partners are black.” You know?

Perkins: Right. We had to do a little bit of digging. We’ve tried to keep it to network TV so that more people would have access to it and they would be able to go and watch it if they haven’t seen anything before. But it’s really hard finding two black people in a loving relationship, in a marriage, on current television. You have some shows on BET and OWN, BET+, and things like that, but you have to have a subscription or you have to figure out a way to get to them and they’re not really normalizing it for people to have easy access to them. Even on This Is Us, there is a black couple—we’ve talked about Sterling K. Brown before in a previous episode—but that show is so devastating every episode. You can’t watch a single episode without crying.

Adewunmi: Right. And I want to save my tears for other things. We’re looking for portrayals of couples that are more than just sunshine and flowers, of course. We’re not trying to needlessly idealize. But I think what I love about Stan and Ruby in particular is just how casually in love they are. There is a lot of casual touch between the two of them.

Perkins: Yes, they’re so familiar and intimate with each other in those small ways that count. Those ways that if they stopped you would be like, “Something’s wrong. What’s happened?”

Adewunmi: Yes. There are all these moments. They have kids. They have a little boy, and they have a little girl who has been chronically ill for a while. In fact some of the things that push the way that they act into motion is needing to provide health care for their very sick daughter so that she can keep living. And there is something about the way that Ruby and Stan talk to and with their children that really warms every single part of my chest. So often when we think about couples, we’re thinking about how they relate to one another, but again there is another shorthand that is present. If you have children, the children themselves become a conduit for the language that you speak—watching Stan feed his kids or prepare their dinner or just be with them.

At the beginning of the series, he is working as a mall security guy. By Season 2 and 3, he’s a police officer. That changes, but he’s doing long hours probably for not a lot of money, but he’s one of those old-school providers. He comes home late, and he manages so often to spend time with the kids. And you can see Ruby just melt because the kids love their dad, he loves them, and she’s just looking at him like that thing that, every so often, you’re with someone and you feel like, Yeah, we get one another. We know what we’re about. But then they show you something, a side of them that perhaps you hadn’t realized was there. And then, seeing that, a little thing at the back of your mind goes, Huh, I chose well.

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