ATLANTA — If you thought a Mary Mary reality show would focus on gospel songs and Bible study, think again.
There are plenty of raised voices, hurt feelings and snide comments on the gospel duo's self-titled WEtv series, which debuted this week. While the craziness doesn't rise to the level of an episode of "Basketball Wives," Erica and Tina Campbell say it's enough to show people that despite their Christian faith, they're far from perfect people.
"There is a great level of dysfunction," said Erica, who is an executive producer of "Mary Mary" with Tina. "We're real sisters. We're black sisters with egos and strong personalities. But what we do know is that our mission and message is much bigger than that."
The hour-long, 10-episode series delves into the personal lives of the Grammy-winning group as they seek to balance their own households as mothers and wives while promoting their music. Their upcoming album, "Go Get It," is expected to be released in May.
"I think people have a misconception of what a Christian is," Tina said. "I don't know, some think we buy Christian soap, or go to like Christian restaurants. Everybody thinks we're so spiritual, but that's not the case. We're gospel artists, but we make mistakes. We're normal people who praise God and everybody will get to see that on the show."
Erica was a mother of two and pregnant at the time the show was filmed; her husband Warryn is Mary Mary's producer, and they recently had a daughter. Tina has four kids with her husband Teddy, a drummer for the Ricky Minor Band, which plays nightly on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
The show also includes Mary Mary's parents (who have been married to each and divorced from each other three times); a sister Alana, who is engaged; another sister Goo Goo, who is the duo's stylist and feels like she's underpaid; and their manager, Mitchell Solarek.
On one episode show, friction arises when Erica brings her family to Atlanta for their Thanksgiving concert, leaving Tina feeling lonely and left out. Later in the season, the sisters argue about how to move forward as a group, leading them to seek counseling to resolve their issues.
Initially, Erica wasn't ready for the cameras to follow her on daily basis. She worried about how she would be judged when the camera caught her talking about her sister, but she eventually understood that it would be beneficial to viewers to see the good and bad of their lives.
"With the show, we live out our faith as opposed to telling you," Erica said. "In church, you hear someone preaching and telling you how to live. On the show, you'll see how it looks to live it out. The scripture says to forgive, but what happens when you are really mad? Those are things we will work through."
The duo hopes viewers won't put them on a pedestal and expect them to live a perfect life.
"Don't put me up higher than what I'm supposed to be because I'm going to let you down," Tina said. "I'm not perfect. I don't have all the answers. ... It's not always a storybook life. It's OK to fall and get back up. It's OK to get back up and repent. It's OK to work hard and get it right."
Since Mary Mary released their first album 12 years ago, the duo's goal has been to spread their message of Jesus to those who are reluctant to attend church. They have been one of the few contemporary gospel acts to gain mainstream appeal by blending urban R&B beats with traditional church music.
Now, the sisters say the new show gives them a bigger platform. They believe it will open doors for the gospel genre and lead them to possible movie roles and endorsements. They already have released two books and are featured judges on the BET series "Sunday Best."
"Maybe we can be a breakthrough for other gospel artists who want a reality show too," Tina said. "For us, our whole goal is to reach people. We just don't want to sing in a church. We want to sing to everybody. We want to have an impact on people in so many different ways."
Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mrlandrum31