Posts tagged with "KJ Smith"

Tyler Perry’s “Sistas” Season 2

360 MAGAZINE had the chance to sit down with the cast of BET’s hit show “Sistas,” which comes from mastermind Tyler Perry, to discuss the second season of the show.

The second season premiered Oct. 14 with a special two-episode event. You can see the third episode of the season on BET Wednesday, and you can catch up on the first season on BET.

Friendship and relationship drama are center stage in this show about four women in the middle of the Atlanta dating scene. Is Mr. Right out there in 2020?

360: What are you most excited about with your characters in season two?

Novi Brown (Sabrina): The drama. I’m just excited to see how far Tyler’s going to take these ladies, and one of my acting teachers says, “Crisis shows character.” We saw Andi in a crisis right when season one ended. Is she still on the road? What is she doing? What is Danni doing? Is Karen over there with Zac because people are dying around them? It’s getting really crazy. Then we have the whole situation with Calvin and Sabrina. Then there’s Olonzo and Maurice. I just feel like you guys should definitely expect every seed that was planted to start budding and cultivating on its own, but you can’t direct how it’s going to be. This is Tyler’s show. We just show up. That’s all we’re going to do. We just want to entertain you guys.

Crystal Hayslett (Fatima): I’m more excited because you actually get to learn who Fatima is. You get to learn more about her. You get to see a lot of different layers she has. Season one, you don’t really get to see that. All you see is that she’s a “ride-or-die” for Andi. This season she continues to do that, but it’s so much more to Fatima.

Trinity Whiteside (Preston): I’m just excited about Preston’s growth. I think with Preston being a mid-season reveal last season, we didn’t get to get into a lot of background as far as Preston individually. I think in this season you get to see a little bit more of him as an individual.

Kevin Walton (Aaron): I’m excited to see more of Aaron in a different kind of space. Season one was plenty of drama in things that were around him. I feel like he gets associated with that space as if he is that. With the opportunity in season two, you get to know him a little bit more beyond just that drama. I’m excited for people to get to see that and see how they respond. Right now everyone is like, “Red flag, Aaron! Questions! Questions! Red flag!” Soften it up for him, please. I’m excited to see that happen.

Devale Ellis (Zac): I’m excited for the evolution. Zac is not going to be the same person he was in season one. Typically that’s what happens in television. Season one to season two you see an evolution of the characters, but I’m excited for people to see where Zac goes in the season.

Anthony Dalton (Calvin): I’m excited to see the interaction with new characters coming in, especially with my character and some of the other characters on the show and the new dynamics that come with that.

Brian Jordan Jr. (Maurice): I’m most excited that people get to see more of Maurice this season and more into his personal life and not just him as an auxiliary to other people but really a deep delve into his life. I’m so excited about that.

360: How does the show’s balance of comedy and drama reflect real life relationships and real life itself?

Mignon (Danni): Life isn’t all anything. Things come to pass, right? Nothing is permanent, except for what you decide to hold dear, and I think comedy and drama being balanced is only necessary for authentic storytelling.

Crystal Hayslett: I think it hits spot on. In life, there’s a balance to everything, and Tyler, with his writing and the way he wrote everything, is the perfect balance and the perfect depiction of what real life is.

Trinity Whiteside: I think, in life, much like with the show, you take the good with the bad. You get the comedy with the drama, and those are two things that I believe drive the show and what has fans from different walks of life enjoying the show.

Kevin Walton: Funny is money. When people laugh, it kind of holds up that heart space, and we do that in general, and we do that in life. When you have comedy and drama dance like that, it is that space where you know where things hit home, and you can find ways to laugh about it and create more humor. Like Crystal said, TP does that beautifully in that space. I think it mirrors life in that way.

Anthony Dalton: I feel that it’s just the human condition. There’s pain. There’s sorrow. There’s laughter, especially amongst the black community. It resonates with the fans, and that’s why we got a season two, and that’s why our numbers are the way they are.

Brian Jordan Jr.: I feel like there are so many situations on this show that are just crazy, and I have been written in with comedic things that happen right in the middle of them. Personally, I’m a person who deals with sorrow, deals with trauma, with comedy. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. People look for joy in those types of situations, and laughter is the way we heal. Especially black people, I feel, we heal from laughter. Laughter is healing for us. I feel that it would not be an adequate depiction of the black experience if you didn’t have humor, so I think it’s perfect.

Devale Ellis: I would have to agree with Brian. I feel like we laugh sometimes to hide our pain, and Zac, in particular, was not supposed to be a super comedic character, but in order to bring some humanity to who Zac is and what he’s been dealing with, dealing with recidivism and some of the choices he made, I decided to make him a little bit funny because I wanted people to root for Zac. If you look at Zac in season one, it was hard to root for him because he made some really poor decisions, and I felt like if he was funny, it would allow Zac to be likable. He’s a charming guy. Even though he’s a little bit doltish and he makes some poor decisions, he’s not an evil guy, so for me, the comedy brings a humanity to my character.

360: The cast has made a point to say they want viewers to see themselves and people they know in this show. What has the fan reception been like, and what work is still left to do in season two and going forward?

KJ Smith (Andi): I think that, from the feedback I see, they do see themselves. They see themselves in each of our characters. We are multi-faceted, diverse human beings, and we all have different layers. I even see myself in all of us, so I think that what we’re doing is translating what it looks like to be a single, black female in this time and space, and I think people can really relate to that.

Crystal Hayseltt: People love that Fatima rides so hard for Andi, but in season one, they didn’t like the way that Andi treated Fatima. They were like, “She’s going for you. Why are you so mean to her?” Going into this season, you see more of a friendship and a bond built, which is beautiful. The fans are in for a treat for sure.

Trinity Whiteside: With Preston, I think it shows that a man can love a woman for who she is, despite how she feels or the insecurities she may have. There are people out there who love you just the way you are, and they don’t need you to change or be something other than simply who you are.

Kevin Whiteside: I feel like the fan receptivity drives the show in that space and in the relatability of those situations. As crazy as these things can be, it isn’t far-fetched from things that happen on a daily basis and in every day life. That’s where TP draws his inspiration from for these stories. That relatability is one of the successes of the show. It lands for people. When we get to, as people and the character, see, like the Twitter feeds and people’s responses, you’re seeing the things that land and people’s struggles and connectedness. They’re like, “Why would you do that? Don’t do that!” Then people go, “Damn, I’ve done that.” You see that, and I feel like that space is so important for the show because that’s what keeps people engaged. You see the drama, you want it to change, you know where you’ve done that and you’re just hoping someone makes a different decision. I think that’s huge, and I see the way that strikes a chord with our fans and is what makes them so awesome. It’s like they’re right there with you and emotionally engaged and calling us out.

Devale Ellis: I think this room here is a perfect example. We’re three of the six men on the show who represent the black men on the show, and we’re all different versions of black manhood, which I think is so important because now you have different versions of black men being represented on television for the first time. Everybody’s not a criminal. Everyone’s not gay. Everyone’s not toxic a masculine man. Everyone’s not super heterosexual. There are so many different versions of black masculinity, and I think it’s good for TV, and it’s good for us as a culture.

Brian Jordan Jr.: I think that we just continue to live and learn and be open to learning. For anybody who is creating content, anybody who is acting, there are so many different types of people in the world and so many different types of black people. There’s a quote they use on Boomerang that’s also on BET, and they say, “There’s not only one way to be black.” I think that when you continue to explore the different types of black men, different types of black women, different sexualities, different socioeconomic backgrounds and things people feel and breathe and experience, you continue to open your mind to learn, and you can always display them on television and make sure everyone is seen. The growth continues when you continue to learn.

Anthony Dalton: There’s not one way to be anything. I think that this show shows that there’s not one way to be a man. There’s not one way to be a woman. We all deal with certain things, and if we have conversations about them and try to get a dialogue and have an understanding, I feel like we’ll progress.

360: How has Tyler Perry helped get the show off the ground and get it rolling the way it is now?

Novi Brown: Besides the fact that he is Tyler Perry, he became who is is because he built it on his faith. There are so many years that he got so many noes, and I’m sure even until now some people still doubt what he’s capable of. Mignon says it all the time. He’s a maverick. He’s a leader. He’s a pioneer. He’s a person who really just shows us you can do whatever you want to do. That’s what I really, really love about our boss. It’s the best class in the world.

Mignon: We told him he should do a MasterClass. It doesn’t even have to be about filmmaking. It could just be “How to direct the course of your own life.”

Crystal Hayslett: It’s amazing. Working with him is fun. We really get to play. I love when he throws lines at me. He’s like, “Ooh, say this. Say that.” It’s a lot of fun, and there are moments where I’m laughing so hard. Then I’m trying to hold it all together because he’s so funny. At the same time, he’s so supportive. As soon as you finish he’s like, “Yes, you killed it!” He’s so supportive and makes you feel really good about your work.

Trinity Whiteside: People don’t realize how much fun we have in between takes. Tyler Perry isn’t “on-screen funny.” Tyler Perry is funny all the time. Just to have that kind of feeling around you all the time, the looseness, the comfort, it makes it easier for everyone, especially as an actor, to be able to be loose and to be free.

Kevin Walton: There’s this air of dedication in him because you see what he’s amassed and the work that he does, and there’s that space of working with him where you want to contribute to that dedication, work ethic and him pouring his heart in. Then there’s the lightness. He’s just funny, and there’s all these moments that happen outside of shooting where you’ll laugh, and you’ll play with it, then you have to get yourself together an go, “Alright. Let’s get the scene.” He’s personable, so it’s a really dope atmosphere to play with, then it also demands that you bring more, especially at the rate he shoots. It’s a really comprehensive experience when we reflect on it. Working with him is really cool. There’s that demand, discipline and his dedication, then the fun and lightness of it because he likes to crack jokes and mess around, and we get to have that fun, too.

Anthony Dalton: It’s monumental, putting that Tyler Perry stamp on this show. Him doing the Viacom deal and everything gets us into a bigger market, and it allows everyone to see themselves on this show. Tyler Perry is an icon, and to be in same presence as him, and to be a part of a successful show that he’s the head of is monumental, and it just means that the sky is the limit for, not only Tyler Perry, but for us and anybody else who walks through those doors.

Devale Ellis: For me I think it’s, one, being an example. He completely obliterated this idea of the gatekeeper mentality. Tyler Perry bulldozed his way into Hollywood his own way. He didn’t follow anyone’s rules. He didn’t go along with anyone’s ideas of who he should be in order to make it, and now he owns the largest studio in all of Hollywood. He’s one of the most paid and most celebrated producers and directors in all of Hollywood, and people continue to support his projects, so he’s an example. Also, he’s smart enough to understand that he has to change with the times. This show is a different type of Tyler Perry. We saw a lot of his Bible Belt content where he was speaking to the older generations, but now this is more of a millennial or Gen Z type of show. You have younger people getting introduced, which is crazy to me, to Tyler Perry for the first time. When you have teenagers saying, “Oh, I didn’t realize that he also did these types of TV shows,” it shows that you can have longevity if you stay with your people, you continue to research what’s going on and you keep your feet ten toes down to what’s going on in the world. Him being an example and using his following to help us push our numbers means a lot, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Brian Jordan Jr.: Tyler Perry did something that no one else was able to do. He created a genre of media as a playwright first. People never really call him that, but he’s a playwright first. He created a style of television and film that included and showed a people who had been forgotten in Hollywood. In this time where we are observing the disparities in African-American people, I think that Tyler Perry is revolutionary with the things that he has created to serve the people who had been forgotten since the beginning of time, purposely. I think that is something that should be praised an always observed. Nobody else can do it. Nobody else has done it. He has created, and also cornered, this genre, and it’s something people will always be loyal to because he is the author of it, and that is revolutionary to me.

360: What does it mean when he is actually on set, laughing at the jokes and tying in emotionally with the show?

Mignon: He’s there every day. He directs every episode. It’s him.

KJ Smith: He’s hands-on creatively in all facets. It’s at his studio. He’s the writer, the producer and the director, so he’s on-set with us every moment of every day. If Andi doesn’t have any scenes, I can go back to my trailer. I can go back to my space. He’s there regardless. He’s there most times before people get there and after people leave, so he’s extremely hands-on, and I think his dedication and work ethic is shown in the things that he’s been able to do for so many people and employing so many people. Changing the film industry, changing the city of Atlanta as a whole. He’s an incredible human being. I love Tyler. He’s just great.

To learn more about BET’s “Sistas,” you can click right here.