I've been A Teyonah Parris fan since she brought Dawn Chambers to life on a little show called Mad Men. The first black woman to work for fictional character Don Draper at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, was feisty, beautiful, and smart, yet real. She was facing some very real life issues, and Teyonah Parris brought such grace to the role. To put it simply I was a fan of her work.
So naturally when I learned she'd be starring in a new Starz show produced by LeBron James, I couldn't wait to watch. I gave it three episodes but somehow I just didn't connect with the writing. I skipped the second season all together only to wind up sitting dead center at the NYC premiere for season three. By this time I'd also seen Teyonah in Dear White People and Chi-Raq and yup I was still a big fan of her work.
So I was willing to give Survivor's Remorse another chance. Hosted by TV personality and NYC socialite Bevy Smith, the premiere brought out a host of celebs including Teyonah Parris, her co-star and Independence day Resurgence star, Jessie T. Usher, Straight Outta Compton star, Corey Hawkins, RonReaco Lee and even Bill Bellamy was in the mix.
We settled in our seats at The Roxy Hotel to watch the first two episodes. I reached for my popcorn and it was no time before I was completely enthralled, laughing and connecting with this awesome nuanced black family dealing with real life. They had me open with the mention of #BlackLivesMatters and they won me over with their #BlackGirlMagic commentary. I won't give too much away, but episode two finally addresses the other side of colorism. RonReaco Lee and Teyonah Parris are a match made in black millennial marriage heaven. I believe every second of their relationship.
To put it simply, I don't know how I've been missing out on this super smart topical show about black life and you shouldn't miss out either.
Checkout the Season Trailer below:
I also caught up with Survivor Remorse budding starlet Teyonah Parris at ABFF to talk about her approach to navigating the business and her first major callback. Checkout out our chat below:
When did you decide to be an actor? Was it a tough decision?
Teyonah Parris: I knew very young. I was a little ham as a kid. I always wanted to be in front of somebody--somebody pay me some attention. And as you get older it seems very unrealistic, so I thought I'd be a forensic scientist. So then I started on that path. But then I also kept going with the acting and I was able to kind of go with that. So I guess I was blessed.
What has been your most pivotal callback?
Teyonah Parris: I would have to say that the most impactful callback was the one I didn't get for a year. There was a point in my career where I decided to move from New York to LA. And I was doing really well in New York; I'm like yeah I'm going to go to New York. I'm going to do some television. And I got there and nothing happened for a whole year--Not even a callback. But in that moment, that was a time that I really had to tap into who are you outside of this industry? And who do you want to be? What's going to fill you besides this? It was about 3 or 4 months where I was like I got to do this, I got to change that. My hair needs to be straighter. I got to lose some weight. There was about 3 or 4 months of that and then I just surrendered and I said okay I don't know what I'm supposed to do. And it was a moment where my relationship with God strengthened and I just tapped in to who are you as a person and what is going to make you happy outside of this industry? And what's going to keep you grounded? So I would say the most important callback I got was the one I didn't get.
What do you see as the new wave or trend in the industry?
Teyonah Parris: I think with the emergence of new platforms and ways to tell stories like You Tube, where you can make your own content; people are putting their own content on line by themselves and producing shows that are television worthy that show "us"--that show black people black women and black men in ways that have yet to be put in the world. Now you have the big networks which are considered the major networks starting to try to snatch those shows up like Issa Rae for example with Awkward Black Girl. She started that on her own, with whatever equipment she had and now its on a huge network. So you can't tell me that we don't sell. You're just not willing to--its not even take a risk--I don't want to say that because you're just comfortable where you are and now that there are other ways for our content to get out there its shaking the business up and its forcing networks to actually get behind shows.
What's next for you? Have you ever thought about doing some behind the scenes work as a director or producer?
Teyonah Parris: I've always wanted to produce. I'm not a writer. I'm not so much interested in directing right now, but producing is something I wanted to do and I actually recently got a chance to do that with TV One and the Miki Howard story. I was really grateful to them for even allowing me to take that position. They probably thought I just wanted the title and I wasn't going to be all up in their business, but I was all up in that business and I'm grateful for them letting me take that role as a creative producer and really work with Christine Swanson our director and the network to try and shape this story and tell a dynamic story. And Miki's life is just dynamic already but [we wanted to] really bring our sensibilities and our artistry to it.
Was it tough transitioning from actress to producer?
Teyonah Parris: It was a struggle. It was not easy because you deal with networks that are already established and they have certain ways of doing things but they wanted to collaborate and they wanted to work together. I'm proud of what we put out there. And I learned so much. And I was like yeah I want to be a producer but when people are calling you at two in the morning like we need this voice over picked out you're like 'Oh my god' so I grew a lot and I'm really grateful for that. And I wan to continue to stretch that side of my artistry. Actually my first thing producing--it broke the network ratings. It was their highest rated original.
Checkout some more awesome moments from the premiere below: