Calvin Butler (Cedric The Entertainer) is back on the neighbourhood watch in The Neighborhood S2. And by watch, we mean examine suspiciously. The target of his suspicions continues to be his neighbour, regular nice white guy Dave Johnson (Max Greenfield), who moved in a year back now. All that’s standing between Calvin’s family and some weird new habits picked up from the Johnsons like ticks – or worse yet, gentrification – is daddy Calvin’s disapproval and no-nonsense attitude.

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“One of the most enlightening things we had to deal with is getting people to understand my character had the right to feel the way that he does,” says Cedric. It’s an idea that will continue to come to the front in S2, as Dave starts feeling comfortable, and sets about trying to “fix” things about their neighbourhood. “People can come in and be very zealous about fixing things and wanting to change. But if you don’t know the people, then you don’t know where the real root of the problem is. I wish we could really pull that idea out. People feel like they can come in and solve your problems without asking you what the real problem is,” warns Cedric.

The show can play the situation for comedy because in this predominantly black neighbourhood there’s no Barbecue Betty or Permit Patty phoning the cops to come clear off the “riff raff” every time Dave and his kids set foot out of doors. The worst Calvin can do is grumble and frown, which will earn him a stern tutting from his own wife, Tina (Tichina Arnold), who’s doing her best to help the Johnsons to feel at home, especially her new BFF, Dave’s wife Gemma (Beth Behrs). “We are people living in a world that we have to share. Nobody really has their own section. We have to share it and learn to get along,” says Cedric.

Cedric himself suffered quite the culture shock when he moved from his hometown in St. Louis, to his new house in Los Angeles. “Black people in St. Louis lived on one side of the city. So, I came to L.A., where it was just a lot more diverse in the communities. You know, you just got to get used to what people cook for dinner, how they park their cars, how many cousins come over to visit – it’s that kind of thing that you find out. The experiences actually are pretty much the same. You just don’t ever really see it that way (when) you don’t live next to each other,” he explains.

Good fences make good neighbours

Some things seem the same the world over for neighbours. One of the most serious arguments that Cedric ever got in with a neighbour in real life was thanks to a spat over boundary fences and property lines. “He felt like my hedges went over into his yard, so he pulled out the survey and everything and I was like, ‘Yo!’ So, I got my own survey and (it turns out) the front of his driveway came over to my yard. I was like, ‘You want to cut your driveway, or you want me to move these hedges he was like ‘Ah, I was just sayin’, it’s cool, it’s cool.’ We worked it out, but I had never seen someone go this far as to go down to City Hall and get the paperwork. I was like, ‘Whoa, bruh, that’s a lot,’” Cedric recalls.

Cedric's relationship with his own L.A. neighbourhood has shifted since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in the US. For one thing, he knows a lot more about his neighbours from taking his daily walk. “People that normally we’re all in our cars and just kind of going past each other. Just kind of like, ‘oh that’s the person that lives in that house’, but now you got, ‘Hey, we’re the Steinfelds’, and you’re like, ‘OK how are you guys and your dog? Oh, look at him, what a biggy.’ Now you have a little bit more idea of the people who live next to you. It’s kind of interesting to meet them out on these walks in the neighbourhood,” he says. But so far, luckily nobody seems to be getting comfortable enough to let themselves into his house, read his diary, or tamper with his cooking – all neighbour sins that Dave commits in S2.

The trouble with Dave

One of the pleasures of the series is watching the reluctant friendship (at least reluctant from Calvin’s side) between the two dads continue to grow despite Calvin’s wariness and Dave’s tone-deaf blundering. “I like that Dave is so unapologetic about who he is and unaware that anyone would have an opinion about who he is. It’s all a discovery for him. It’s an awakening to him that Calvin is upset that they’re becoming friends. I think Calvin is feeling he’s vulnerable, that maybe he’s changing.” says Max. “Dave really likes Calvin and has gotten enough out of him that he really believes there’s a true bond. He thinks he’s entitled to this friendship. He has enough evidence on his end to believe not only that they’re friends but very close friends.”

Meanwhile Calvin is gradually thawing to the idea of becoming merely friendly – not best friends, mind you. “In the second season we start to get to know each other a little bit, those idiosyncrasies, those small things that make a person tick and those things that tick you off. It’s in that thread is where you find it's a great bond of uniqueness and friendship. That’s what Dave and Calvin are starting to find throughout the season,” says Cedric.

Watch The Neighborhood S2 on Thursdays on 1Magic (DStv 103) at 19:30 

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