'New Edition Story' taps into major love

The cast of "The New Edition Story."

Story highlights

  • BET is airing a three-night miniseries on the group
  • Fans have been eagerly awaiting it

(CNN)BET head Debra Lee knows what New Edition means to her audience.

The R&B group became a crossover pop success in the 80s. They become heartthrobs as teens and now they're the subject of a three--night miniseries called "The New Edition Story" debuting Tuesday on BET.
At the series premiere Monday, Lee told CNN she completely understands the nostalgic appreciation for New Edition.
    "BET started in 1980. New Edition came out in 1984 and they were one of the groups that were so important to our viewership," Lee said. "They've been together the whole time we have been on the air and they've grown up on our air. We've seen them have relationships, go on to have different careers and come back together, so we understand their story. "
    The miniseries traces the rise of Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe and Ricky Bell. The five were kids growing up in projects of Boston when they shot to stardom as a boy band. (Johnny Gill joined the group after Bobby Brown left.)
    New Edition hits like "Candy Girl" and "Mr. Telephone Man" helped pave the way for other boy bands, including fellow Bostonians New Kids on the Block.
    Bivins, DeVoe, and Bell went on to form Bell Biv DeVoe (a.k.a. BBD) and recorded hits like "Poison" and "Word to the Mutha!"
    New Edition fans have been buzzing on social media ever since the project was announced.
    DeVoe said New Edition members have been just as excited.
    "This has been in the works for 10 years," he said. "We are so happy that it's finally here."
    The series is candid look at the music industry and the group -- portraying their fights, drug use and Brown's arrests.
    Elijah Kelley, who stars as Bell, told CNN the series gets gritty because the group was.
    "The perception of guys doing pop music is that you were polished, you were manufactured," Kelley said. "But these kids were from the hood."
    Gill said he hopes viewers come away with an understanding of the group's struggles, as well as the support the men offered each other.
    "Nobody does this on their own," Gill said. "There were so many trials and hazards that we had to go through to get to the level we wanted to get to."
    Gill added that he was happy with the casting of singer Luke James to play him in the series -- all the actors used their own voices to sing on the show.
    "When I saw [James] interacting with the guys in the film, I said 'Yeah we've got out guy," Gill said. "I've always been the hell raiser, the no nonsense guy, the protector, and the older guy in the group. Watching him and his personality, that all came natural to him."
    James said the story of New Edition is a vital one for not only the African American community, but also for music lovers.
    "This is one of the all time greatest groups, ever, in the music industry," James told CNN. "They were just a group of kids trying to make their way in this busy and treacherous world and they survived."
    "Empire" star Bryshere Y. Gray portrays Bivins in the series. He said he felt the expectations of fans and a desire to make Bivins proud.
    "As an actor, I wanted to embody him as much as I could," Gray said. "I worked with a dialect coach and did boot camp for three weeks. We all worked hard and I think the fans are going to love it."