“I Run This” is a weekly interview series that highlights Black women and femmes who do dope shit in entertainment and culture while creating visibility, access and empowerment for those who look like them. Read my Nina Westbrook interview here.
Bresha Webb is arguably one of the most versatile women in comedy. Her quick wit and infectious humor make it hard for her to not stand out in anything she’s in. And her list of credits is lengthy. From dramas like “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy” to comedies like “Night School” and “Marlon,” Webb has been quietly a force in Hollywood for years.
In “Run the World,” Webb combines her experience in drama and her comedic expertise for her character Renee Ross, a bold and hilarious marketing agent balancing her budding entrepreneur journey and a pending divorce. The show, which first premiered in 2020, is rooted in sisterhood as it follows a Harlem-based friend group as they navigate love, life and growing pains.
Webb said the show came at a time when she wanted to lean into more grown, sexy and dynamic roles in TV.
“Literally the description of the character was kind of like me,” the Baltimore native said. “It said a Chihuahua in heels, and a Taurus, and all of these things, and my manager was just like, ‘Bresha, I think we just saw you on page,’ and I fell in love from the first page.”
Webb, whose middle name is also Renee, said that the fact that the women on the show were written to be dynamic, funny and relatable made it easy for her to say yes to the opportunity.
In Season 2, which premieres on May 25, audiences witness each woman in the group experience their own growing pains while in respective transitional periods. For “I Run This,” Webb spoke about her own personal transitional periods while filming the show, her pivot from drama to comedy and the importance of “taking the stairs” and trusting the process in life.
Your resume is longer than a CVS receipt. How did “Run the World” get added to that?
“Run the World” came into my life at a time where I wanted to be sexy, fun and free. I was manifesting and praying, specifically, for something that I would like to watch. I love “Sex and the City,” I love “Living Single,” and I was just talking about it to all of my friends. I was like, “You know, I’m getting to a certain age where I’m going to have to be thrusted into a mom category.” Not to say mom category isn’t what’s hot, but I wanted to be sexy. I wanted to do something really cool and sexy and fun and funny, like those shows that I loved, and “Run the World” came along and I was like, “Oh my God, this is it.”
It’s been a minute since Season 1. What is different between Season 1 and Season 2? I mean, you all recorded Season 1 before COVID, right?
Yeah. The pilot we definitely did before COVID, and then Season 1, when we started filming, was during COVID, at the height of COVID in New York. I cannot believe that we even did that. We had such a strong team — Starz, Lionsgate around us kept us very safe and protected.
We leave it on such a cliffhanger in Season 1, right? Now it’s about us characters living in the transition of what we already set up. There’s supposed to be a wedding, there’s supposed to be all of these things, Renee leaves her big job and now she’s betting on herself. She’s single now. Sondi is figuring out mom life and boyfriend life and going into doing other things in her profession, if that’s going to work for her.
Everyone is in this transition, even Ella is in a transition. She’s starting to write her own book, and create her own voice. We’re all going through this weird transition and we’re navigating through very uncomfortable situations, and relying on each other to remind ourselves of sisterhood and self-identity, because life be life-ing. I think in this next season, you really get to see us deal with the consequences that we put ourselves in.
I love Renee’s arc this season, because she is balancing this newfound independence, career-wise, as well as having her own romantic conflict. How did you see pieces of yourself in Renee for this season? And in places where there might be some unfamiliarities in her story, how did you find grounding?
Renee is like, “I’m a boss. I’m doing this,” and there are these moments where you can be insecure in those boss moments and you actually have to try something new. When I was reading the scripts, I could just find how she was trying to find her footing in a new space.
Me, being engaged and me trying out new things and navigating with my life, I was also going through that too, just trying to find balance of being this working actress and a boss in my own life, and trying to find a balance with my now-husband and with my family, and I feel like that’s the balance and you’re trying to figure things out. Of course, on her end, she doesn’t know what she wants at some point.
I think that’s what’s so cool is to see her walk it out, and I think in my life and several of my girlfriends’ lives, we’re all just walking it out together and some of those spaces, we’re not as confident but we learn and we stay committed and we might fall, but we rely on our sisters to pick us back up. I think it’s about walking it out and trying something new, and maybe you never know, maybe your heart wants what it wants, and you go back to what feels good, and I think that’s also what’s so beautiful about Renee’s arc is that she’s listening to her heart for the first time, and not what her mind is telling her to do.
She’s been by the book her whole life, you know, trying to rewrite history but now she’s having to check in with herself. I love her arc this season, and I love that she’s embarking on her new journey, and also following her real instincts for the first time.
Random aside, but that reminded me of your song “Think From Your Heart.”
Yes. That was ministered to me.
I mean, it’s a mantra. My mama is always like, “Ugh. Have mercy.” But you know, that helped me come into myself as a woman, and just like, what are you doing? You have to really think from your heart and really move from your heart space and it could be from there and not from anywhere else, but do what your heart, do what your instincts, your holy spirit, all of that, is leading you to, and trust that, because that’s who you are. Of course, make it funny, but that’s what I was meaning, and I love that Renee gets to do that this season.
I want to talk about your pivot from drama to comedy, because it feels like comedy comes naturally to you. What sparked that pivot and what kept that going?
Where I’m from, you’ve got to be good at everything, you’ve got to sing, you’ve got to dance. I’m from Baltimore City, so my mom and dad were like, “You are not going to Los Angeles and you’re not going to be the best,” so I’m classically trained, she does Shakespeare and Ibsen. Chekhov. She does all of those things.
But I think all of the people that I really was inspired by could do it all. Jamie Foxx, Marlon Wayans, Regina Hall. When I think about just Old Hollywood, Old Black Hollywood, one of my favorite people is people that do stage: Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr. They could just do it on the spot. They could do whatever it was that they needed to do, so that’s the school that I was always around.
My transition into that was just saying yes. I remember I was doing “ER” and I was doing all this drama stuff, but I knew in my heart I would keep everybody laughing. And then, when I got the opportunity to be on “Love That Girl,” Bentley Kyle Evans, who is the creator, and Martin Lawrence were like, “You need to go onstage,” and it just happened that two of my best girlfriends, we were all going to go onstage together, so we just jumped off the cliff together and we just happened to be really great at it.
I dibble and dabble, but I was able to trust my instincts and I love the stage, and doing stand-up really helps me get that off. I want to do Broadway, do a hot 10, or do my one-woman show and that makes me happy. It makes people see me differently and the more comedians that I work with, and people that help me express my gift, it teaches me more stuff. I’m just grateful that I get to learn and be a sponge and soak up all the goodness, but I’ve always been inspired by everyone that can just do both. You got to be able to tell a joke. I mean, don’t take yourself too seriously.
In a previous interview, you said you manifested your role on “Marlon.” It feels like you’ve been certain of your path for a very long time. Has there ever been a time of fear or doubt, or has that just not been a factor for you?
Of course there’s been fear. Of course there’s been doubt, but I said I was going to do it. I mean, I just look at little hints and little clues, like driving and pulling up at a red light and seeing Marlon Wayans, that was, like, a God thing. That was just like, “Yeah, tell him that you’re going to work with him, and see what happens.” You never know, but that was just a clue, like I’m in the right direction, and there’s things that happen to me that I’m thinking about and then it just happens.
Even during “Run the World,” I was in a transition of: What do I want to do next? I want to be sexy. I still want to be funny and flirty and all of that stuff and play really bold characters and be vulnerable. Then “Run the World” comes up. There’s always some trepidatious energies but I just rely on God and the angels to guide me through it, because that’s all you’ve got. You plan and you try to do as much as you can and you put your best foot forward and you just release it.
I’ve been saying I want to be an actress since I was 4. Listen, as my friend says, they threw me a going-away party, so I can’t mess up now. I can’t go back home.
If you could pick one kind of role that is your favorite to play, what would that be?
I would love to play a biopic. I really would love to do a biopic.
Anyone in particular you’re thinking of?
I always say Diana Ross, but I really love Falana. Lola Falana and I feel like her story needs to be told, especially to this generation. She was the first Black Vegas show act that was coming up in the game with Sammy Davis Jr., and she was an Italian actress and she’s from Philly. She is just fabulous. I see people take pieces of her and they don’t even know who she is. She could dance, sing and act, and she could do it all. She has such a phenomenal story that I think needs to be told, and I would love to tell it.
You’re always so booked, so busy. It still feels like you’re criminally underrated. Do you feel like you’ve gotten the credit that you deserve?
I just do what I came here to do. I came here to work and to do great work and to sit here and to have you tell me about my credits is so beautiful. Thank you so much. I just know that there’s a plan in it all. I mean, of course, everyone is famous nowadays sometimes for salacious things. I’m actually grateful I’m not. People are seeing my gift first.
That’s what I came out here to do, and I trust the journey, I’m taking the stairs and I’m enjoying every step. Every job is a gift. Every person I meet on set and work with is truly a blessing. That’s more of a gift to me. If you know me, you know me. If you don’t, you don’t. But I’m grateful. I’m grateful to be working and doing what I dreamt about doing my entire life.
What’s your most pivotal moment in your career that has especially impacted where you are right now?
I think in life — I’ll be completely honest — I lost my father while I was filming “Run the World,” and so that impacted me so much, because I was proud of myself for continuing to go to work and showing up every day, and, for me, that impacted my career, because I didn’t know I was that strong. I didn’t know that I was going to have angels and people around me that would hold me up and that came, for me, specifically, at that time.
I remember I was doing the funeral scene in Season 2 while I was about to go to my father’s funeral, which was like mirroring, it was a lot of the same type of things that I was going through as a character, that I was relating to at home, and with my life, and trying to find that balance and just walk through it.
I think that really impacted my career as of right now, because now that I know how strong I am, and I’ve shown myself, I can do anything. I can do anything.
Thank you for sharing that. My deepest condolences to you.
Yes, but it’s all a joy. He held me up. My husband held me up. My girls on the show were my girls in real life. They held me up. I was just so grateful. I just didn’t even realize that I had that much support around me, and it takes something like that to realize that there’s love all around. And that you’re stronger than you think. It’s OK to move through it. Walk it out. It’s OK. I was so grateful and I’m still grateful that I was able to show myself that.
What do you want your legacy to be?
How I made people feel. I want people. It’s like, yeah, my work is great. I love that my work can speak for itself, that’s an honor in itself, but also how I made people feel, and what it meant to them.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.