July 23rd, 2024

Dionne Harmon is making major moves in Hollywood as a producer. Next up is Sunday’s BET Awards

By Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press on June 28, 2024.

Producer Dionne Harmon, president of Jesse Collins Entertainment, poses for a portrait, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Burbank, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) – If Dionne Harmon never found an old script on New Edition’s biopic, the R&B group’s story might still be sitting on a shelf instead of becoming a highly-rated miniseries for BET.

Same can be said for other projects like “The Bobby Brown Story” and the Soul Train-inspired series “American Soul.” She might not have a household name, but she’s known in Hollywood for working on big projects and major events including the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes. Harmon has worked on multiple Super Bowl halftime shows, becoming the first Black woman to produce the show.

Next up, she’ll be a producer at the BET Awards on Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern. The show will air live from the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles.

The Emmy winner is one of the few Black women to hold a top position in the entertainment industry. She is president of Jesse Collins Entertainment, one of television’s most requested production companies. Harmon reports directly to CEO Jesse Collins, who is her fiancé.

“I’ve been grinding to build my toolbox just to be ready for these moments,” said Harmon, a Harvard University graduate who has worked at JCE since 2012.

She started at JCE as an assistant, a position she was reluctant to take until Collins introduced her to other employees who had gradually rose into high-ranking positions at the company.

Harmon accepted the job. Collins guaranteed he’d teach her everything he knew about the business, allowing her to shadow him in meetings and on phone calls.

“This is a place where you put your roots in and they grow,” she said. “On the surface, it looked like a step backwards. I had to talk down my ego, which didn’t want me to take that step. … But this was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Harmon’s big break came through the 2017 project “The New Edition Story.”

After seeing the tremendous success of TLC’s biopic “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” in 2013, she realized there were more opportunities to explore.

Harmon found an old script about New Edition’s story written by Abdul Williams that had been sitting around for years, took it to Collins and convinced him to pitch the idea to Stephen Hill, BET’s president of programming at the time. The series became a massive hit on the network, but she didn’t receive producer credits.

However, Harmon did well enough to earn a promotion to director of development – without a staff – that resulted into more projects. She led the reworked format for “Hip Hop Squares” that evolved into the creation of three spin-off shows such as CMT’s “Nashville Squares,” BET’s “Celebrity Squares” and “Hollywood Squares” for CBS with Drew Barrymore. She also played a key role in the development and production of the critically acclaimed competition show “Rhythm + Flow” on Netflix, which has now expanded to France, Italy and Brazil.

Erykah Badu said Harmon was instrumental in her return for three consecutive years as host and producer of the Soul Train Awards starting in 2015. The singer called Harmon a “no-nonsense, deliberate producer.”

“With such an enigmatic work ethic, she reminds us that our best work is still inside us,” Badu said.

Under her leadership, Harmon helped JCE’s staff grow from 11 full-time employees to 25. She also spearheaded the company’s efforts to work directly with brands on content production on large-scale events with Nike, Ford, Pepsi and TikTok.

“She’s very passionate, creative and knows how to navigate a very complicated world known as Hollywood,” Collins said. “She really leads with integrity first. That has really helped her grow. Once you build a reputation of trust and you’re creative, all the doors open up for you.”

Harmon became one of the few Black women to co-produce the Oscars. And after co-executive producing the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and others, she was elevated to president at JCE, overseeing creative strategy and financial growth.

Life is grand for Harmon both professionally and personally. Collins proposed to her last year. She said their relationship is a “perfect partnership” and that they both manage work-life balance well.

Harmon often thinks back to her decision to remove her ego and join JCE more than a decade ago. She would joke with her mom that if she married or met anybody, that it would be at the airport or work.

“It’s crazy how one decision can have an effect on every aspect of your life,” she said about when she interviewed at JCE. “I never in my wildest dreams. … It never crossed my mind that I would end up engaged. If someone told me that, I’d be like “˜Oh my God, what is wrong with you?'”

Harmon says Collins is “a great guy” – but at the start, he was just her boss.

“But over the course of working together and really becoming equals and moving together and building this company, it just opened the doors for something completely different.”

Harmon wants to keep building on her and JCE’s success. She wants to create more scripted shows and featured films and someday, produce the Olympics.

Collins sees directing in Harmon’s cards.

“Everything is possible for her,” he said. “But ultimately, she’ll probably end up directing at some point. She has a real eye for that type of detail.”

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