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The Shop: Behind the Scenes of Season 5’s Premiere

As “The Shop” returns for Season 5, co-creator Paul Rivera gives Boardroom an inside look at the LeBron James-led conversation series.

The day afterSuper Bowl LVI,LeBron James, Donald Glover, J Balvin, Maverick Carter, Paul Rivera, Lamar Jackson, and Quinta Brunson pulled up to the backlot of a storefront on a nondescript block in Marina Del Rey to film the Season 5 premiere of SpringHill Company and Uninterrupted’sThe Shop.

Unlike previous Emmy Award-winning seasons of the conversation-driven series on HBO, Season 5 will air exclusively on Uninterrupted’s YouTube channel as part of the company’s mission of empowerment and making its content more accessible.

The episode goes live Friday. And as it was captured, Boardroom was there to witness this utterly unique meeting of the minds.

As part of its platform shift, episodes of The Shop will additionally live as audio-only podcasts on Uninterrupted channels. There are also plans to drop episode-specific merch and apparel designed by Salehe Bembury, a branded men’s grooming line, and plans for a physical barbershop in Los Angeles that will host the filming of future episodes.

Through the back door and a perilous step-down, a large room that served as the episode’s set was decorated with a vintage Chevy Impala, an old-school Porsche 911, well-worn leather couches, a bar, and the familiar barbershop trappings that have been the jumping-off point for the frank, unfiltered conversations between superstars of various genres and backgrounds that fans have grown accustomed to since The Shop’s August 2018 debut.

Rivera with actor, writer, and producer Quinta Brunson

The Shop started with Paul Rivera — a panelist on the show and Uninterrupted and The SpringHill Company’s CMO— and Randy Mims, James’ chief of staff. Once they created the concept, they carried it out for several years at NBA All-Star Weekend. It has grown over the years into a larger sounding board for an incredible list of generational guests that includes President Obama, Jay-Z, and Tom Brady.

“These conversations are often in those small rooms, in those boardrooms, and kind of bringing those to the world,” Jamal Henderson, an executive producer on The Shop and The SpringHill Company’s chief content officer, told Boardroom.

Paul Rivera

Rivera grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he said kids that look like him don’t have the opportunity or access to face time with major players in sports, business, music, and culture.

 “I’ve learned more in those rooms than I learned in college, if I’m being honest,” Rivera said, adding that the show takes the responsibility of empowerment seriously — that’s why you won’t see chatter about ranking the greatest rappers or basketball players.

Under a black tent in the parking lot, we watched the premiere being filmed on a split-screen that depicted every angle. Carter and Rivera led a wide-ranging, free-flowing conversation discussing everything from:

  • Super Bowl LVI and its star-studded halftime show
  • Regional dialects
  • How music gets you ready to perform
  • How LeBron sometimes finds slights to use as motivation
  • Jackson’s coach with the Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh
  • Glover’s FX original series, Atlanta
  • Brunson’s ABC comedy Abbott Elementary,

And of course, a whole lot more.

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“While people do get excited about the big names we get, which is great, we get really excited about knowing that if we put certain individuals in a room, the conversations we’re gonna get are gonna be like nowhere else,”Rivera said.

Jamal Henderson

Henderson noted that the conversations Carter and Rivera are able to curate are organic and real, which stands in contrast with the rehearsed answers we typically hear from talent on-camera at press junkets. Rivera is able to build a room where there’s instant chemistry between stars like J Balvin and Glover, who had never met before they arrived on set that Monday. (They stayed around and exchanged numbers after filming concluded.)

It’s the sort of environment that made it possible for a Season 4 episode featuring Brady, Draymond Green, Kid Cudi, and Chelsea Handler, and another that boasted Jay-Z, Bad Bunny, and Nneka Ogwumike. The guests may all have differing views on the go-to cultural topics and social issues of the day, but the tone stays respectful and the dialogue says engaging.

“One of my personal proudest moments on The Shop was when we had Jay-Z on the show and he was sitting to my left on the chair, and he whispers to me, ‘Hey, P, when do we start recording?’” Rivera said. “And I’m like ‘We’ve been recording for 25 minutes.’”

It confirmed for Rivera, Henderson, and the rest of the show’s crew that they had created an environment where guests feel comfortable enough to speak genuinely and candidly, knowing all the while that nothing is going to be sensationalized in the editing room or taken out of context to drive cheap clicks on social media.

James had just come from Lakers practice, but not only acclimated quickly to the conversation on-set, but grew more animated and lively as filming progressed. James, Rivera, Carter have these types of conversations every week together in their private lives, whether they’re traveling, out to dinner, or at James’ house splitting a bottle of wine, so taking that spirit and applying it to The Shop felt easy and natural, Rivera said.

Rivera with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson

“Maverick and I don’t have a list of 100 questions,” he continued. “Our job is to kind of guide the conversation and get out of the way.”

Despite the new home for The Shop this year — and its expansion into audio, more merch, and an eventual brick-and-mortar location — the show’s look, feel, and goals have not changed. Uninterrupted still wants to continue and empower the next generation of executives to know that they have the ability to be in these types of rooms one day, too.

“We’re just getting more wind in our sails,” Henderson said. “We’re fortunate to have the same crew, the same barbers who are real, and the people do actually get haircuts. It’s just more opportunity for us to continue the mission of empowerment with the discussions we have and talk to some of the people that are moving and shaping culture throughout the world.”

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