Just the other day, a friend was telling me how hard it is for young people to move up in the publishing world. “Basically, you’ve got to wait for someone above you to vacate their position, and enter a chain of movement once they do,” they told me. Those spots rarely open up, they added, because they are often held for an executive’s entire career. Instead, other positions are created, ones that offer new titles but are really just lateral moves within a company. Congratulations: You just got “promoted” from editorial assistant to executive editorial assistant; your reward is no difference in pay and sitting in the same office chair with wonky hydraulics that keeps sinking closer to the ground a little more each day.
Now, try to imagine being a woman of color in this scenario. That’s the experience at the core of The Other Black Girl, a new Hulu series premiering Sept. 13, which is based on the 2021 bestselling novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris. Like the book, the show tracks the career aspirations of Nella (Sinclair Daniel), an assistant editor at the fictional publishing house Wagner Books who’s looking to get a leg up in the industry. Not unsurprisingly for book publishing, Nella is the only person of color in her entire office, trying to trump tokenism and create change from the inside while working toward her dream job.
That’s far easier said than done, especially when the equally ambitious Hazel (Ashleigh Murray) starts at Wagner, making Nella one of two Black girls in the office. Though Hazel’s presence is initially a salve for Nella’s day-to-day headaches of coffee runs and pushing back on problematic manuscripts, Nella begins to suspect that her new co-worker’s presence has shifted the office’s culture toward something more macabre. Though its plot becomes convoluted as tensions ramp up, The Other Black Girl’s consistently terrific pacing and magnetic performances keep the series from feeling too reductive or inconsistent. It ultimately crafts a silly but sensible horror-comedy about the perils of ambition in an industry hellbent on crushing it.