Yaya DaCosta Joins Elite Society in “Our Kind of People”



After six seasons playing nurse April Sexton on NBC’s hit medical drama “Chicago Med,” Yaya DaCosta was considering her future in the “Chicago” franchise earlier this spring when she received an auspicious offer. She had the opportunity to direct Fox’s “Our Kind of People,” a soapy new drama centered on the rich and powerful black elite in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, and she was ready for it.

“Whenever someone came to me to tell me they loved April Sexton, the next thing that came out was that they needed to see her more,” DaCosta said in a recent interview. “And it echoed something in my mind that was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do something where I have more screen time, where I have more responsibility. I can wear a show. It’s time.'”

Created by Karin Gist (“Star”, “Mixed-ish”, “Girlfriends”) and inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham’s provocative and bestselling non-fiction book of the same name, “Our Kind of People” releases Tuesday. It follows a single mom named Angela Vaughn (DaCosta), who moves from Boston to Oak Bluffs to start a black hair care line on a property she inherited from her late mother, once a housemaid on the island. But when Leah Franklin-Dupont (Nadine Ellis), a socialite and member of the Franklin-Dupont dynasty, refuses to accept her family in the coastal enclave, Angela discovers a dark secret about her mother’s past that threatens to unravel the fabric of this exclusive, tight-knit community.

“Angela coming in like this disruptive is full of friction and skepticism, but it’s also somewhat refreshing, ”she said. “She’s here to get her last name back and to find out more about her mother and where she can fit in Oak Bluffs.”

During the early stages of development, Gist spoke with author Graham, who died in February, and received his blessing to create a fictional world that was informed by the interviews he conducted, for his book, with some of the most prominent black families in America. Once the creative team, which also included Tasha smith, who directed the first two episodes – received a series commission, they quickly determined that DaCosta “embodies so many qualities that I saw for Angela,” Gist said.

“Its essence is empowered; she celebrates beauty and dark hair, ”Gist said. “She’s very centered and grounded, but she can also impart a bit of spice and a bit of attitude.”

DaCosta first rose to prominence as a contender on “America’s Next Top Model” before performing on television (“Whitney”) and in movies (“Tron: Legacy”, “The Kids Are All Right”). “Our Kind of People” reunites her with two former collaborators: Daniels, who directed her in the movie “The Butler”, and Debbi Morgan, who played her mother in the ABC soap opera “All My Children” and will play her aunt in the new series.

During a recent roundtable to promote the series, Daniels said he was struck by DaCosta’s evolution as an actor.

She “has always been anchored when she played the Black Panther in ‘The Butler’,” Daniels said. “But she has become more grounded with her work showing here, something that age and wisdom have done.”

In a phone interview from Wilmington, NC, where “Our Kind of People” is filmed, DaCosta discussed the responsibility that comes with portraying affluent black communities, his hopes for the series, and his own contributions to hairstyles. inventive of his character. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

In a promotional video for the show, your co-star Joe Morton said, “Our kind of people” represent “a part of black culture that we have never seen before.” What sets this show apart from something like “Empire”?

From what I understood, a show like “Empire” was telling the story of a family that had been self-taught. You see their journey from the “hood” to success. The difference here is that families who vacation in Martha’s Vineyard are typically from a multigenerational wealth, so there’s a different energy, there’s a different ease. They are not artists, they are not athletes, and that is what is new.

How does this show help demystify the black affluent class and provide a broader understanding of the community?

It is not new to see black people with money. It’s new to see communities that were able to defy the odds of the atrocities in history – the burning of Black Wall Street, the decimation of entire communities that were self-sufficient. When the slaves freed themselves and built their cities and had complete infrastructure, these places were literally burned down.

[Martha’s Vineyard] was a place that has survived. People traveled to this place that they heard was safe and used the Green Book. These are families who were doing well but who also had to stand the test of time. And it’s not a place open all year round, it’s a vacation spot. It really is an interesting glimpse into this world, and it will be interesting for people to see how and why this island off the coast of Massachusetts has become this haven where people continue to vacation, connect and to share stories from the past to this day.

What are your hopes for this series? What kinds of conversations do you hope this provokes?

We have come out of a very intense period of highlighting what is wrong and what is wrong with a very a long time in this country. The appeasement of these voices, the different frequencies of peaceful demonstrations, do not indicate a decrease in police brutality on black bodies. It just means that people are tiredness – tired of talking about it, tired of seeing traumatized porn on their Instagram feeds, tired of feeding the narrative. And while it is necessary to never forget and to point out atrocities, it is also important to see ourselves in a light that we want to see more of. This is true on a personal level, and it is true on a societal level.

I’m excited to be working on a project that shows human beings in all their glory – and their flaws too, because you don’t have to represent an entire people and you’re worried that someone will be embarrassed because your character does. a mistake. Whenever I read funny scenes, scenes where there is dancing, uplifting or just plain silly scenes, I rejoice because it reflects my experience in my real life. So I hope people like to see each other, whether it’s an entrepreneur trying to break a ceiling or someone whose family is vacationing in places like Oak Bluffs and can relate to the generational wealth.

Angela arrives at Oak Bluffs to learn more about her mother’s past, but she’s also keen to expand her hair care line. Did you know a lot about this industry before working on this show?

I have always been obsessed with hair. I was going to a boarding school in Massachusetts, so I had girls from all over campus come into my dorm, and I did my hair, and then I did my hair, and I finished all my homework in between. I have always graduated with distinction, but I was known for it. So playing a character, well, where I can express myself and play with the hair like I do in real life, it’s so much fun.

How did you work with the hair and makeup team to determine Angela’s gorgeous and distinctive hairstyles from week to week?

I can do this with my longtime friend and hairdresser Chioma Valcourt. This is the first time that I can bring him on a project. For so long black actresses had to get their hair done backstage and then come and get ready because we never knew what we were going to get. We didn’t want someone to break our hair or destroy our edges i.e. the hairline area.

So i have the most fun with it [Valcourt], talking about what Angela does with her hair because she, her daughter [played by Alana Bright] and his aunt are his biggest billboards. When they walk around Oak Bluffs, they represent their family, and they also represent [her company,] The crown of Eve. So having the real Angela Vaughn with me on set is a blessing.



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