Veronica Bars, Ashley Nicole Black, Vanessa Williams discussed on Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart


What happened? It became The CW and it was all about Veronica bars. I mean, Gossip Girl and, you know, all those shows that I love too. But yeah, it's like all the black people. You know, homeboys and outer space. All disappeared. So let's talk about another character. And Trinity is a character that I love. This is Ashley Nicole black's spy character named Trinity, who's able to solve crimes, simply because people treat her as if she's invisible. And being overlooked and discounted is a reality for many black women. April Ryan, White House journalist, interviewed her on my podcast. She told the story of a time when misses Obama as First Lady of the United States walked outside The White House, you know, with no disguise or anything and nobody noticed her. And so way of talking about the invisibility of black women. Talk about the importance of Trinity. Yeah, and I think this character that Ashley has created shout out to Ashton Nicole black and her birthday tomorrow. Give her love. Social media. But she is a genius writer and a genius performer, and she came in season one with this character, and she said, basically, she's a CIA's top agent, not only because she's great at what she does, but because she's invisible because she's just a normal looking plus sized black woman. And I think we can't discount what, you know, larger sized black women in this world have to deal with, but also when you have the trifecta of being, you know, not a glamorous movie star. You're plus size and you're black, all of those things render you invisible. To some degree in society. And I think that her commentary is so sharp in the series. And it's so brilliant. And it's so funny, but so poignant. And I love the fact that she made her so good at her job that the invisibility just allowed her to take it to the highest level, but it's such a great biting commentary on society and how we treat people and how we other people and how we literally just ignore a large segment of the population. And I know she's made a lot of people feel seen. Yeah, and I'm not even a black woman, but as a black person, I totally get that. I mean, that segment, that sketch, always resonates with me. You know, The New York Times said that with each episode, or I'm sorry, with each season, a black lease sketch show has become, quote, less interested in lampooning the world than creating its own. So I wonder how has the show evolved from exaggerating the absurdities that black women deal with to bringing audiences into the world they live in? Well, we are calling it the BLC U, which is the black lady cinematic universe. We now have our own. We've created this cadre of characters who have come back season after season or skip seasons, but now going into season four, we know that we have this multiverse to work with, right? So there's different levels where, yes, it's not the end of the world anymore, but spoiler alert, if you haven't seen the finale. It is a world in which doctor hadassah was elected president, although briefly. So it's not the normal world that you and I know. And so in this cinematic universe, basically, characters started to meet, you mentioned slurred words, which was the Scrabble game. That was a sketch where none of our core cast was in it. And then after that we had a sketch called distraction where Trinity actually meets my character Octavia, who had never been in a sketch before, and they meet and team up in this black lady cinematic universe. So what's going to happen now? Avengers style is that all of these characters we know in doctor hadassah's mind controlled world can interact. And so I'm really excited. For those of us who are for those of our audience who have been on the journey with us for three seasons, but even people who have it, you're still going to be able to jump in at any point and get the comedy out of it, but we're rewarding the people who have been with us from just what seemed like lampooning to now creating our own universe, which was always my intention and I'm so lucky that HBO gave me the bandwidth to do that over multiple seasons. Another thing that makes a black lady sketch show so fun to watch is the roster of guest stars who you have come on the show. I was watching the scene the sketch where Nicole comes with her girlfriend and she comes out and Vanessa Williams is her mother. And she screaming about, oh my God, that's disgusting. This is spider behind her. Ashley, sorry, naturally. Yes, yes. And so Vanessa Williams you've had on. Ava duvernay, Michael leger Rodriguez, Michael ealy, just to name a few of the people who have been on the show, how hard is it to convince this they're seeing the spider. How hard is it to convince them to come on a black lady sketch show? Is it even hard? No, it's not hard. I think, you know, I mean, listen, I have people now who are threatening me with bodily injury if they don't get on the show because they've been asking me for years. And I'm like, I only have 6 episodes people, but no, I think I've been in this business a long time. Despite being very young. I garnered a lot as a writer and as a producer and also on camera, but mostly as a writer, I've gained a lot of fans because I've worked with people behind the scenes. And so it feels like to people in their homes. They might be kind of just getting to know me in the past couple of years, but I'm really entrenched, especially in the comedy world, but I don't know, like Vanessa Williams and I did a movie together years ago. We've done two movies together, actually. And so, you know, just through the smallness of the black community in the smallness of Hollywood, we all, you know, I just know a lot of folks and so I just texted Vanessa Williams and was like, when are you back from London? I know you're doing a show. If you want to come do this sketch and I sent her the sketch and she was like, yeah, I mean, that's kind of how it happens. Lance Reddick though, we got through casting through our amazing season three casting director Vicky Thomas, she was like, Lance wants to do a sketch and I was like, I love him. I loved him on the wire. I loved him on fringe. And he was so goofy. He was in that sketch with Vanessa. He's so silly and goofy. And we've become friends. I love him. And so it all just kind of comes together, but I have to give kudos to Angela Bassett, who was the first guest star we booked season one. Who we called colds, our casting office, and I wrote her a letter, and she said, yeah, I'm gonna do it because no one thinks I can be funny. And you know, she'd never been kind of asked to do anything like this before. So once we had her, it was like any guest star we would call. We'd be like, well, Angela Bassett's doing the show. You might want to do it. So, you know, that's, I think it's become a prestige moment for actors who want to come and text on comedy chops. They know we don't punch down. We're not going to make them look stupid. Everyone's going to be funny. Ava duvernay was like, Robin, I'm only doing this for you. You've got 40 minutes, like let's make it happen. And we did, and she was fantastic. And she was like, just so game and like, she's not a performer or a comedian. Like the fact that she came to do that was such an honor for us. And such a testament to the camaraderie and this community and how much people believe in this show and they've always been so cool. We've had literally well over a hundred guest stars in 18 episodes of television and they have all been stellar. Stellar. Truly, can we talk about you for a minute? Sure. How are you? How are you? How are you doing all of this? You're writing your story. You're acting. You're the showrunner. You're the EP. You're doing all of these things in the profile in our paper in The Washington Post. The writer said you get by on four hours of sleep. How do you do it all? Yeah, not a lot of sleep. Look, I think I spent a lot of years in this business being very broke and very bored and very not in demand. And so I think it's like, yo, when the time happens, I'm not gonna waste a moment of it. And people are like, what do you do.

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