TV executive and producer Nichelle Protho is using her power to share the untold stories of adolescent heroes in her newest documentary, “Two Classes of 1968.” The film documents a group of idyllic African-American Catholic School students in Augusta, GA, who must navigate the direction of their education after their beloved school is demolished. We had the pleasure of chatting with Nichelle about her latest film, her film journey, and her upcoming endeavors, including The Best Man limited series on Peacock that she Co-Executive Produced. Keep reading to check out our interview with Nichelle!

Can you tell us about your humble beginnings, and when you realized you wanted to pursue a career in film?

Being raised by divorced parents, I shuffled back and forth a lot as a kid. My mother and my stepfather lived overseas, and my father was a musician who had a band in Los Angeles. I was usually in L.A. in the summers, and my father would sign me up for anything that was creative. I think he envisioned me to be in the creative business in some capacity, if not as a musician or singer. So, when I was 13, my dad got me an agent and I booked my first acting audition. But I quickly realized that I didn’t really love being an actress. Going through the auditions, I would have really bad anxiety but I was still very interested in being around creative people. So, the year that I was taking a look at colleges, I fell in love with the University of Southern California, which arguably has the best film school in the world. When I got into USC, my mother said I needed to get a degree in something where I could get a real job, so my degree was in Computer Science, instead of film. But, I was just in love with that whole world. I audited film classes, and all of my best friends at USC were film or theater majors, and I would produce films for them. Junior year, I realized I wanted to be a producer and knew that was what I was born to do.

After graduating, what did your path in the film industry look like?

After I graduated from USC, I started working in the film industry right away. About 4 months after graduation, I got my first big break working for a well-known company where I oversaw post-production internally for all of the divisions, and I got to work with Ed Zwick, Marshall Hershevick, and Peter Horton; three of the most prolific writers, directors, producers, and actors in the business. A few years after that, I went off to do independent production, and I helped start a company called Urban Entertainment with Michael Jenkinson, who was Vice President of 20th Century Fox. I oversaw all of the production for Urban Entertainment and we produced this television animated series called ‘Undercover Brother.’ And then we produced the movie. That’s what really put me on the map, and I became a Development Executive by trade. That’s been my main focus over the last 20 years!

Tell us a little bit about your new documentary, “Two Classes of 1968.” How did you come across the story?

In 2017, I got a phone call from Terry Thompson, one of the executive producers, who’s a family friend of mine. She called me and said ‘I want to tell you a story that I don’t think you know.’ So, she began to tell me this [little-known] story about her all-white high school. She wasn’t sure how to preserve the story, and I told her she should shoot it and make it a documentary.

This film in particular hits home because it’s about a group of kids that went to the same school as my mother did. This group of kids from the class of ‘68 were attending Immaculate Conception Academy High School, a Catholic school with all black students and white nun teachers. The Bishop of Savannah, Georgia wanted to integrate the Catholic schools that he oversaw. So, he decided to integrate the black students with the much more elite, all-white, Catholic school, Aquinas High on the Hill. This film is about these students leaving something that they were very comfortable with, and all of a sudden becoming agents of social change and on the front lines of the civil rights movement.

What does this film teach us today about making change?

It’s so important for young people to see the documentary because it really does show how important it is to fight. We all have a voice and a gift, so you can fight the fight from wherever you are. Whether you’re in the medical field, the engineering field, the entertainment field, or the sports field, we all have a platform.

What was it like having Hill Harper, former Mayor Andrew Young, and other notable guests on the project with you?

It was great. The people involved in this documentary have been amazing. Hill Harper is the ultimate professional. I’ve known him since I was at USC, so we go way back. He’s politically active, he has roots in Georgia, and working with Hill has always been a delight. He did a fantastic job. Andrew Young is an icon living. He has the recall of a 25-year-old, and he remembered everything. It was an honor and a privilege, and he gave us such great context of the Catholic Church. My executive producers Terry Thompson and Dr. Joseph Floyd are the best, and they’re also members of the Class of ‘68. I enjoyed co-writing the documentary with Monice Mitchell Simms who is a writer in LA, and she’s fantastic. And I couldn’t have gotten this done without my editor Lester Lowry. I also used a lot of people in the community to help put this documentary together because I wanted people who cared about the story.

What advice would you give to young and aspiring filmmakers?

All filmmakers should consider documentary films. It’s a great way to really learn how to tell a story because you set out for one purpose, but you don’t discover the story until the end, and you don’t get to dictate what the story is. Once you’ve done all of your interviews, get into the editing room, and put the pieces together, the story begins to emerge. There may be a point of view, but the facts are the facts. I absolutely encourage young people starting out in the business to tell stories about their communities, especially because we need them. And you don’t need a large budget.

What else are you working on?

I was a Co-Executive Producer on the limited series, ‘The Best Man: The Final Chapters’ for Peacock, and we’re wrapping that up. It comes out December 22nd and has the original cast from The Best Man movies, so I’m super excited about that! I’m also Senior Vice President of a production company called Loud Sis Productions, and we have a deal with Sony Pictures Television. We have several projects in development right now. We can’t announce any yet, but all I can say is that we’re working with some really prolific production companies and streaming services. Hopefully, we can announce some projects in the coming months! I’m really excited about what’s to come.

For more information on Two Classes of 1968 and to view the trailer, click here!

Photo Credits: Crystal E. Smith