Henry Simmons On The Groundbreaking Film Crew Behind Cherish The Day - Exclusive

Behind every hit movie and TV show are hundreds of people you never see: camera operators, sound engineers, and many more. And while audiences rarely notice their work — or even stick around long enough through the final credits to catch their names — their skills and contributions are critical and can make the difference between a good production and a great one.

But like coveted roles in front of the camera, production jobs behind the camera — especially in high-profile productions — are hard to come by, and building a sustainable career as a skilled crew member in Hollywood requires not only technical knowledge but also persistence, connections, and luck, according to Careers in Film. As a consequence, those with less social capital — such as women and people of color — are often shut out of the industry.

Superstar producer Ava DuVernay decided to do something about this: Her latest production, the anthology romance "Cherish the Day" on OWN, features a crew that's not only 50% female but also boasts 18 female crew heads. The production's male star, Henry Simmons, couldn't be prouder to be a part of this series. In an exclusive interview with The List, he shared what it's like to be part of a groundbreaking team.

Henry Simmons has long wanted to work with a more diverse crew

One might think that an actor used to playing comic book tough guys — Henry Simmons is probably best known for his role in Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." — might feel a bit uncomfortable on a set where women are calling most of the shots. But nothing could be further from the truth: Simmons celebrated the opportunity.

"I was so happy. I actually prayed for an opportunity like this," he said. "I prayed to work with not just people of color but women of color. I wanted to work with Black women, and I wanted to work in an environment that was extremely diverse."

He explained that he's noticed the relative absence of other Black faces on sets over the course of his career. "[With] many projects that I've been on, when I walk onto set, there's maybe one or two other Black people," he said. "There aren't a lot of Black people in Los Angeles on the crews, for whatever reason. It's very hard, I guess, to get in crews."

Cherish the Day proved there are plenty of talented Black and female film professionals

Henry Simmons credits producer Ava DuVernay for making an important statement by assembling a majority-minority production team. "What Ava has been able to do is to say, 'Don't tell me it can't be done because it can be done,'" he said. "It can be done with people of color, with women, with all these people that you say, 'Well, we don't have anyone.' Yes, there are people. And not only can it be done, it can be done at an excellent level. So my prayers were answered in that regard."

Simmons couldn't help feeling a personal sense of pride at seeing so many other Black faces on the set. "I was extremely ecstatic when I walked on set and saw everyone. And [seeing] all of the directors that came on to direct the episodes, [I was] extremely ecstatic. [Ava] confirmed everything that I believed, that there are people out there. It's just that they're not being used as often and as much."

Watch "Cherish the Day" Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.