As a child, Nikki Love drove her mother crazy, acting out scenes from every show and movie while the family was watching (and she was rewatching) TV. “She said, ‘You’re so dramatic, we have to put you in a theater program,’ ” Love said.
On the surface, acting seemed like “the logical choice,” but it actually wasn’t really what captivated Love, a self-described introvert who also later did modeling. “I was always immersed in storytelling,” she said, adding that she’d be walking through Chicago with her friends with her nose in a book. “They’d have to say, ‘Nikki, a car is com ing.’ ”
Love’s acting and modeling careers are long behind her. She is now senior VP of development and original production for ALLBLK (formerly Urban Movie Channel), the streaming service for Black TV and film owned by AMC Networks.
“I was never a fan of being in front of the camera,” she said. “I was always looking at what was going on behind the scenes and asking questions.”
Still, Love never would have predicted she’d be working for such a large company. “I’m a little rebellious,” she said, adding with a laugh, “but I’m working on it.”
Her career shifted when she realized she could do better than the producers on the low-budget films she was acting in. “I thought, ‘I’m way more organized than them,’ ” she said.
To help her move into producing she had side hustles doing makeup, ghostwriting, volunteering as a production assistant, helping in camera departments. “It wasn’t one set path,” she said. “I’d work for free because it was my own version of film school.”
As she built a career line producing and executive producing on a wide array of projects, Love turned down jobs at established companies. “I wanted to make my own schedule and pick and choose my own projects,” she said.
But in 2019, general manager Brett Dismuke, who had joined AMC, invited her aboard. “The first thing I asked was how much autonomy I’d have,” Love recalled. “I didn’t want a company telling me how to tell Black stories.”
She realized ALLBLK offered the best of both worlds, working for a major company but at a pioneering Black streaming network within it that was essentially a startup. At ALLBLK, she felt she could really shape the future, noting that the subscriber base was tiny when she arrived. While AMC would not provide numbers, she says it has grown significantly since then.
“I have a real job,” she said gleefully. “I’m adulting, finally.”
Love has relished the opportunity to take a chance on up-and-coming talent with innovative or unusual ideas. She has brought on MC Lyte (Partners in Rhyme); Michelle Ebony Hardy and Katrina Y. Nelson (Lace); and Kaye Singleon (Covenant). Other hits she has overseen include Craig Ross Jr.’s Monogamy; the Daytime Emmy Nominee Stuck With You; a psychological thriller, Terror Lake Drive; a male dating comedy, For the Love of Jason; an artist profile docuseries, A Closer Look, and a new multicam comedy, Millennials. Love is involved in script development, production and post-production and is the on-set executive for all original series.
“She’s attentive and engaged in the process, but she’s also easy to work with and she’s always feeding you positivity,” Nelson said. ■
Finding Ways to Give Back
As ALLBLK has grown, Love is getting more scripts from new and more established talent, but she’s also now realizing the potential of being part of a larger entity, saying she is bringing more of these shows to fruition by expanding their budget in co-productions within the company, with Shudder or AMC or other family members.
And she has immersed herself in the company in another way, emerging as a leading voice in AMC Networks’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) objectives. She participates in the company’s employee resource group VIBE (Vested Interest in Black Employees), where she mentors other group members and is also part of the DEI Content Task Force.
Giving back like that fits right into what she loves about the job itself. “I love that we’re changing the game for Black streaming,” Love said. “It’s very important to me to feel like I am serving my community.” ▪️
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Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.