It's a timeless TV sitcom premise: A blue-collar family whose members are just trying to provide for their loved ones. And, the new Netflix series The Upshaws is the latest such show to hit streaming. Whether or not these shows succeed amongst their competition can often be determined by the strength and chemistry of the cast. The Upshaws cast is led by comedian Mike Epps and features some well-known names, including Wanda Sykes and Kim Fields.
On top of some of comedy's heavy-hitters, The Upshaws features severa new talents among the Upshaw children. So, whether you're simply unfamiliar with their previous projects or are just being introduced to them, let's take a look at where you might have seen these actors before.
Mike Epps (Bennie Upshaw)
Mike Epps, a longtime standup comedian who might be best known as Day-Day from the Friday movie franchise, plays the Upshaw patriarch Bennie Upshaw. Bennie is a mechanic in Indiana trying to do well by his family, but as his father was not around to teach him how to provide, Bennie's kind of winging it and making plenty of mistakes along the way. Epps' other movie credits include How High, Resident Evil: Extinction and Resident Evil: Apocalypse. He played Black Doug in The Hangover and was the title character in the 2016 Uncle Buck reboot. A couple of his stand-up specials are currently streaming on Netflix.
Back in 2014, Epps was cast as Richard Pryor in a biopic about the legendary comic, a project that has been stuck in development for years. With a new director coming on board last year, there's hope anew that the biopic will happen, but there's no way to know at this point if Epps will still be attached.
Kim Fields (Regina Upshaw)
Kim Fields, who is best known as Tootie from The Facts of Life, plays Bennie's wife Regina, and mother of three of his four children, on The Upshaws. Fields appeared last year in an episode of Insecure and in 2016 was on Season 22 of Dancing With the Stars. Fields also joined The Real Housewives of Atlanta for Season 8.
A lot of Kim Fields' recent work has been in TV movies, as the former child actress has dabbled in the holiday movie world, including You Light Up My Christmas and Wrapped Up in Christmas. TV appearances from earlier in her career include Living Single, The Steve Harvey Show, The Drew Carey Show, Kenan & Kel, Martin and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Wanda Sykes (Lucretia)
The hilarious Wanda Sykes plays Regina's sister, Lucretia, and she definitely doesn't seem to cut her brother-in-law any breaks. It's a good role for the actress who is known for movies such as Friendsgiving, Evan Almighty, Bad Moms, and Pooty Tang. Sykes also does voice work, appearing on animated series such as Bob's Burgers, Vampirina, and Harley Quinn and has done a number of standup specials, including Wanda Sykes: Not Normal, which is streaming on Netflix. She is known on the small screen as Daphne Lido on Black-ish, Barb Baran on The New Adventures of Old Christine, and played herself on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Page Kennedy (Duck)
Page Kennedy plays Bennie Upshaw's childhood friend who works with him as a mechanic. Viewers might recognize Kennedy as quarterback Radon Randell from Season 2 of Blue Mountain State, or fugitive Caleb Applewhite on Desperate Housewives. He played a drug dealer on Weeds and also had guest appearances on Six Feet Under, The Shield, NYPD Blue, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Justified, Rush Hour and more. In 2018 the actor/comedian/singer played DJ in the sci-fi action film The Meg, which should see a sequel in the next couple of years.
Jermelle Simon (Bernard Jr.)
Jermelle Simon plays Bernard Jr., Bennie and Regina's son who was conceived when his parents were high school sweethearts. The Upshaws is Simon's first sitcom, but he's got a few other acting credits, including an appearance on Animal Kingdom. He is trained in theater and has done some commercials and modeling.
Diamond Lyons (Kelvin)
Bennie’s teenage son Kelvin, whom he fathered with another woman, is played by Diamond Lyons, a newcomer to the acting business. Lyons' only other credit is a guest appearance on a 2020 episode of the Urban Movie Channel series 5th Ward.
Khali Daniya-Renee Spraggins (Aaliyah)
Bennie and Regina’s older daughter, Aaliyah, is played by Khali Daniya-Renee Spraggins, another actor who's fairly new to television. But, fans of Empire might recognize Spraggins from the show's flashbacks as a young Cookie. No word on if she'll get the chance to reprise the role in the upcoming Cookie Lyon spinoff. In 2016, the then-11-year-old Spraggins starred in the YouTube mini-series Khali's Homeschool Hijinx.
Journey Christine (Maya Upshaw)
Journey Christine, who plays Bennie and Regina's younger daughter Maya, may be new to the small screen, but her career as a model and commercial actress began at one year old. Her resume includes modeling for Disney, some runway work, and commercials for numerous companies, including Kohl's, Honda, Home Depot, and Walmart. Christine also had a small role in the 2019 Netflix movie Let It Snow.
Gabrielle Dennis (Tasha Lewis)
Gabrielle Dennis plays Tasha Lewis on The Upshaws, the mother of Kelvin, whom she and Bennie had when Bennie and Regina were on a break. Dennis is currently part of the hilarious cast on HBO Max's A Black Lady Sketch Show, but she's also well-known for her roles as Denise Ray on Blue Mountain State, and Janay on The Game.
Other notable television roles for Gabrielle Dennis include Pippy Rosewood on Rosewood, Tilda Johnson on Luke Cage, Brianna Harrelson on S.W.A.T. and Candice on Insecure. In 2018, she portrayed Whitney Houston in the BET mini-series The Bobby Brown Story and the next year played Tina Turner in an episode of American Soul.
The Upshaws combining comedy veterans like Mike Epps and Wanda Sykes with TV sitcom newcomers makes for an interesting dynamic that's fun to watch and adds a layer of realism to the parent/child relationships. After you're done with this series, be sure to check out our 2021 summer TV schedule, and find your next binge with these 2021 Netflix TV premiere dates.