Judge Greg Mathis Sr. has been a familiar face to television audiences for over two decades, but now it’s his son, Greg Mathis Jr., 33, and his partner Elliott Cooper, 38, who is stepping into the spotlight and challenging stereotypes about Black gay men on the new E! reality series “Mathis Family Matters.”
The half-hour show, which debuted on the E! Network in June, follows Mathis Sr., his wife Linda, and their four children—Jade, Camara, Greg Jr., and Amir, as two of their adult children move back to Los Angeles from D.C. to live under the same roof for the first time in years. But as filming begins, Greg Jr. does not return to the Mathis home unattached. Cooper, his partner of six years along with their two French bulldogs—Knox and Dax also make the trip out west. This decision by the previously private couple has positioned them as a rare gay couple on national television where both partners are Black—resulting in their relationship being placed under a social media microscope with teachable moments for viewers that were not planned before their first day on set.
“There were some real moments where I think he [Cooper] and I had a conversation, like, do you want to continue doing this?,” said Greg Jr.
“The key thing that I thought about was the representation,” said Cooper. “When I was younger, when Greg was younger, we didn't see Black gay couples on television. So having that example gives leverage or opens the door for a conversation that needs to be had in a lot of families,” he added.
Amir, the baby of the Mathis family and a staunch LGBTQ ally and producer in Hollywood for over a decade, initially pitched the idea for the reality series to his family, which Greg Jr. tells The Reckoning took some convincing, but once everyone signed on and E! gave the green light for production to begin, it all came together. Most notably, the opportunity to show how the entire family has embraced the full humanity of Greg Jr. and Cooper. A sharp contrast to how the couple has been received by some viewers, who in 2022, still have a difficult time processing the inclusion of Black gay couples on television, and a family who unapologetically love and support them.
“I guess people are not used to seeing this on television, and it really does reflect in the way some people are reacting to it, but it’s just us living our lives and being normal,” said Greg Jr. “I don't see how that's trying to shove something in your face. Gay people exist. And so, just because they haven't existed on television for a very long time, doesn't mean we weren't here all along,” he said.
The potential fallout from his father’s Black fan base of his long-running court show was also a concern for Greg Jr. and Cooper, which Mathis Sr. tearfully addressed in the first episode.
“If you’re homophobic, I don’t watch you to watch my show. If you’re a bigoted racist, I don’t want you to watch my show,” Mathis Sr. said. “So him thinking that it would affect me negatively was the direct opposite. You [Greg Jr. and Cooper] have an obligation to show others, and to help others, and to lift them up. So, I view it as a blessing.”
While Greg Jr. says he has been fortunate to be embraced by his family, their acceptance didn’t always shield him from the homophobia outside of the walls of the Mathis family home.
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