Fans of Degrassi: The Next Generation might recognize Andrea Lewis from her time on the show playing Hazel. (I never got into Degrassi, but I'm told by my coworker Madeleine that Hazel was lucky enough to have dated our good friend Drake but their relationship didn't work out because she "didn't support his art enough.") But her new project is a web series called Black Actress that'll be premiering on Issa Rae's YouTube channel next month.
Lewis wrote the series and also stars, though she's not in the preview clip seen above. That clip features actresses Ashley Blaine Featherson and Nikivia Dionne, both of whom show up to audition for the role of Beatrice in 12 Years a Slave, a character described as a "very dark-skinned, has obviously had long days in the fields." Insert a short rendition of "We Shall Overcome" here.
In a conversation after that scene, Featherson and Dionne discuss their own experiences auditioning for roles. Featherson says she doesn't mind being labeled a black actress, saying, "I am a black actress and I'm totally happy and comfortable saying that...I think there's a uniqueness in that. Yeah, it sets me apart. I'm black and I'm an actor." Dionne feels differently: "I don't want us to be an actress 'of color.' I want us to be a standard." On her website, Lewis writes:
This is a sketch for all of my aspiring actresses out there. Only in the black community do we make a big deal over complexion but the truth is Hollywood can’t tell the difference and they don’t care! So the first tip is don’t worry about your complexion, just do a good audition and hope that the part doesn’t go to someone who isn’t black! Good luck!
Black Actress premieres November 5.