Filmmaker Mara Brock Akil still remembers the first time she visited the Vineyard. It was July of 1996, Jay-Z’s album, Reasonable Doubt, had just come out and she felt so much joy.

“South Beach was filled with Black kids my age,” Ms. Brock Akil recalled in a phone interview with the Gazette. “One minute we’re all on South Beach, then we’re on Circuit avenue, just hanging out. It was just beautiful.”

A seasonal resident of West Tisbury for 13 years now, Ms. Brock Akil is back on Island this week to film an episode of the Netflix adaptation of Judy Blume’s novel, Forever. Ms. Brock Akil is the show-runner and an executive producer of eight-part television series. The final episode takes place on the Vineyard and began shooting at several locations on May 13.

On the set Monday in Vineyard Haven. — Tim Johnson

Location scouts visited in April asking for permission to shoot scenes around the Island, including downtown Main streets, the Steamship wharf, Flying Horses, Gay Head Cliffs and Niantic Park to name a few.

An open casting call was held on April 27 at The Loft in Oak Bluffs, and numerous Islanders have been chosen as extras. The shoot continues through May 24.

Ms. Brock Akil said she is thrilled to bring a story of first love here.

“Doing a full one-hour episode of television here, I’m beyond grateful and thrilled,” Ms. Brock Akil said. “I think I feel a great deal of responsibility to try and to capture [the Island’s] beauty the best way that we can and with care. Filming takes a lot of people and a lot of equipment, and we don’t want to affect the serenity of what’s so special about the Island.”

Ms. Blume, also a longtime Vineyard seasonal resident, published Forever in 1975. On her website, Ms. Blume writes about the novel’s origins: “My daughter Randy asked for a story about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die.”

Judy Blume, photographed on the Vineyard in 2007. — Jaxon White

Ms. Blume was referencing how in the 1970s many books about sexuality usually ended up as cautionary tales with the girl’s life ruined.

While the theme of relationships — romantic or otherwise — remains prominent throughout Forever the series, Ms. Brock Akil updated the story to take place in present day, with Black protagonists.

“We get to experience it through a modern Black lens at a time back in 2017 and 2018 when the world was changing rapidly, especially for Black people and specifically Black boys in a world that felt like they weren’t safe,” she said.

Ms. Brock Akil has had a long and successful career in Hollywood, beginning as a production assistant on The Sinbad Show. As a writer and producer for television she has created numerous shows, included Girlfriends and the Game. She has also written all eight episodes of Forever and will direct the Vineyard episode.

Ms. Brock Akil said her passion for storytelling began while studying journalism in college.

“Whether it be in my journal or in my classes in school, writing always held my attention,” she said. “It was where I lost time and my imagination was ignited and engaged. I chose the path of journalism, and I was so fortunate to go to Medill [School of Journalism] at Northwestern and that was an amazing experience.”

Film and television called to her when she realized that “telling the truth through fiction” aligned with her goals of highlighting Black humanity.

Action! — Tim Johnson

“I want to tell the truth and fiction of the world that I saw through the lens that I lived,” she said. “Even though I write fiction and the facts may not be detected in real life, there’s a collective truth that comes through.”

Ms. Brock Akil said that while media platforms have gone through rapid changes over the decades she feels the beauty of intimate storytelling has remained in television.

“The television is the modern day fireplace or fire pit,” she said. “What makes us human is our ability to share our stories. So the TV also becomes the heart of the home in a lot of ways and acts as that hearth, and can spark a conversation or thought or inspiration.”

Ms. Brock Akil said that filming on the Vineyard was important to her due to the Island’s rich Black history.

“This place is special, but it’s uniquely special to Black families,” she said. “It’s a place where our children can experience freedom and independence, to have a chance for them to run around as little kids and to be around town by themselves to socialize and meet each other.”

Forever is at its heart a book about beginnings, something Ms. Brock Akil also connects to on the Vineyard.

“My kids learned how to ride their bikes on this Island,” she said. “There’s probably a lot of first kisses on this Island. That universal summer love... you see that happening here. I wanted to try to get that on screen in this epic love story of these two kids in a pivotal episode for their journey.”