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Hollywood is Using a Chicago Coffeeshop as Inspiration for a TV Show

Daman Wayans Jr. and Mayim Bialik’s companies are working on Cafe Hope, a show where Hope For The Day’s mission of suicide prevention is central to the plot

Sip of Hope is the inspiration for a TV show.
Sip of Hope/Becca Milligan

Hope For The Day, the nonprofit that operates the Sip of Hope Coffee Bar in Logan Square, has grown since 2018 when it opened it unveiled a cafe staffed with mental health professionals dedicated to suicide prevention. For one, the organization (whose slogan is “it’s OK not to be OK”) began roasting its own coffee. Founder Jonny Boucher says his company wanted to have more direct contact with coffee farmers in Nicaragua, Mexico, and Papa New Guinea.

Now comes word that companies owned by stars Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory, Blossom) and Daman Wayans Jr. are developing Hope Café, a potential NBC show based on the coffeeshop. Sip of Hope founders Jonny Boucher and Dave Kunicki are listed as consultants in the Deadline piece that announced the news. It briefly described the show’s premise as “think Freud, with tattoos and a frother.” There’s no casting news and Boucher wouldn’t speculate on an air date.

The TV show likely won’t be set in Chicago, but Boucher says that’s all right as long as the show nails Logan Square’s ambience and the diverse crew of personalities that make up Sip of Hope’s community.

“I have to be honest, their team’s approach to this has been phenomenal,” says Boucher. “They’ve taken us seriously from the start, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with such a diverse creative team.”

Sip of Hope opened in 2018 and is staffed with mental health professional who provide access to services to a variety of people, including those don’t have health insurance. Many in Chicago’s service industry fall under that umbrella, and the pandemic has made it tougher. COVID-19 has turned the cafe into a takeout-only operation, and while not being able to hang out in a coffeeshop is an inconvenience, it’s a bigger problem for the organization’s mission if people can’t meet in person to participate in programs like 86 The Silence. That’s Hope For The Day’s mental health education and outreach initiative aimed at the service industry.

But since 2014, Hope For The Day has made its voice heard across the country. Before the pandemic — way back in January — Boucher was in LA at the Comedy Store where comedians like Bill Burr and Zach Galifanakis were part of a fundraiser for Hope For The Day that honored Brody Stevens. Contrary to belief, it wasn’t the show that put the coffeeshop on Hollywood’s radar, Boucher says. Wayans Jr. reached out on behalf of his company, Two Shakes Entertainment. Boucher remembers the first Zoom call with the show’s developers — a team member was wearing a Hope For The Day hat and drinking the coffee. Boucher says he was worried about being part of a gimmick, but right away he found that the development team cared about the organization and its mission.

As Zoom therapy sessions become more popular during the pandemic, folks need new ways during the pandemic to find support, Boucher sees that a TV show could be another way Hope For The Day makes a positive impact. Boucher explains “mental health has been traditionally been on the bottom of the totem pole as it comes to funding and support from the government.” The pandemic hasn’t helped elected officials understand what resources their constituents need.

So that means Boucher is on the lookout for new avenues to education. Conversations with the TV show’s producers has led to talks with NBC executives about how to better portray mental health struggles on other shows, Boucher says. The organization has also met with the Chicago Blackhawks, talking about things the importance of using the right words when describing suicide. The matter is important to Boucher as he’s known 16 people who have died by suicide.

“I figured out a long time ago that I can’t be the only one,” Boucher says.

  • ‘Hope Café’ Comedy Executive Produced By Mayim Bialik & Damon Wayans Jr. In the Works At NBC [Deadline]

f you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.

Sip of Hope Coffee Bar

3039 West Fullerton Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 661-6986 Visit Website

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