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Clarendon-born actress takes lead role in ‘Arnold’s Caribbean Pizza’

Published:Saturday | April 18, 2020 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Judi Johnson plays Carla in ‘Arnold’s Caribbean Pizza’.
Trent Gumbs (left), Judi Johnson and Bentley Kyle Evans.

‘Arnold’s Caribbean Pizza’ is more Jamaican than anything else, at least when it comes to the talent and the writers. Along with Grammy award-winning musician Fabian Cooke taking the lead in the writer’s room, penning most of the first season’s episodes, lead actress of the series Judi Johnson wrote her own episode.

Born in Clarendon, but now residing in Los Angeles, Judi is excited to be part of the team, both in front of and behind the camera. She’s also very excited that the project has finally passed its pilot and made it to Caribbean screens. “As a consumer, I don’t see projects like this in the US territory, and I barely speak for the Jamaican and Caribbean market. But each time I visit home, I don’t really get to see projects like this exist,” Judi told The Gleaner.

Arnold’s Caribbean Pizza premiered on FLOW TV last Tuesday night. Judi, Jeffery Anderson-Gunter, Courtney Nevers, and Mark Anthony Williams, all having strong Jamaican connections by way of being born, raised, or parented here, make up the series’ main cast.

“Fabian, who is also Jamaican, works with Bentley Kyle Evans and Trent Gumbs,” Judi said.

Raising the Bar

Evans and Gumbs are both executive producers of Arnold’s Caribbean Pizza. Raising the clout bar a notch, Arnold’s Caribbean Pizza is also directed by Evans, who was the showrunner of the beloved African American sitcom Martin, starring Martin Lawrence, and is the creator of The Jamie Foxx Show.

Refocusing on the region, Judi heaped praises on Fabian, the element that brings all the Caribbean flavours together in the script. She continued: “[He] is the one who has really taken the reins and come up with these awesome episodic story ideas, and he invited me on the writing team. I’ve been privileged to write one of the episodes that will air this month.”

Judi says that we’ll see more of her acting and writing skills as the sitcom progresses.

The pilot of Arnold’s Caribbean Pizza was shot about two years ago. But since then, Harvest Studios, where Gumbs and Evans call home, has been consistently occupied. Harvest Studios currently has two shows on air, In The Cut (starring Dorien Wilson and Ken Lawson) and Family Time (starring Omar Gooden and Angell Conwell).

“To my understanding, FLOW TV wanted content, and Trent was able to come up with this idea. They saw the pilot, and they enjoyed it. But the timing wasn’t right,” Judi shared.

Though timing was not in the cast and crew’s favour two years ago, this rally for the troops to complete a season saw success. “It was perfect this time around. We were able to finalise everything right before the coronavirus took its hold on everything. I know it’s a trying time, and people are nervous and concerned about health and just staying sane. When I spoke to Trent, his hope is to shed humour, some joy in the atmosphere because we’re bombarded with the fear of what could happen,” she added.

The episode of Arnold’s Caribbean Pizza written by Johnson airs next Tuesday at 8 p.m. on FLOW 1.