Yaya DaCosta Joins Elite Society in ‘Our Kind of People’

After six seasons enjoying the nurse April Sexton on the hit NBC medical drama “Chicago Med,” Yaya DaCosta was considering her future in the “Chicago” franchise earlier this spring when she obtained an auspicious provide. She was given the chance to steer Fox’s “Our Kind of Individuals,” a soapy new drama centering on the wealthy and highly effective Black elite in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Winery, and he or she was prepared for it.

“Each time somebody got here as much as me to inform me they cherished April Sexton, the following factor out of their mouth was that they wanted to see extra of her,” DaCosta mentioned in a latest interview. “And it echoed one thing in my spirit that was like: ‘Sure, I need to do one thing the place I’ve extra display screen time, the place I’ve extra duty. I can carry a present. It’s time.’”

Created by Karin Gist (“Star,” “Combined-ish,” “Girlfriends”) and impressed by Lawrence Otis Graham’s provocative, best-selling nonfiction ebook of the identical identify, “Our Kind of Individuals” premieres Tuesday. It follows a single mom named Angela Vaughn (DaCosta), who strikes from Boston to Oak Bluffs to start out a Black hair care line on a property that she inherited from her late mom, as soon as a maid on the island. However when Leah Franklin-Dupont (Nadine Ellis), a socialite and member of the Franklin-Dupont dynasty, refuses to simply accept her household into the coastal enclave, Angela uncovers a darkish secret about her mom’s previous that threatens to unravel the material of this unique, tight-knit neighborhood.

“Angela coming in as this disrupter is fraught with friction and skepticism, however it’s additionally variety of refreshing,” she mentioned. “She’s there to reclaim her household identify and to find extra about her mother and what place she will carve out in Oak Bluffs.”

Throughout the early phases of growth, Gist spoke with the creator Graham, who died in February, and obtained his blessing to create a fictionalized world that was knowledgeable by the interviews he carried out, for his ebook, with some of essentially the most distinguished Black households in America. As soon as the inventive workforce — which additionally included Tasha Smith, who directed the primary two episodes — obtained a collection order, they shortly decided that DaCosta “embodies so many of the qualities that I noticed for Angela,” Gist mentioned.

“Her essence is empowered; she celebrates Black magnificence and hair,” Gist mentioned. “She’s very centered and grounded, however she will additionally give a bit of spice and a bit of angle.”

DaCosta initially discovered fame as a contestant on “America’s Subsequent High Mannequin” earlier than occurring to behave in tv (“Whitney”) and movie (“Tron: Legacy,” “The Youngsters Are All Proper”). “Our Kind of Individuals” reunites her with two former collaborators: Daniels, who directed her in the movie “The Butler,” and Debbi Morgan, who performed her mom on the ABC cleaning soap opera “All My Youngsters” and can play her aunt in the brand new collection.

In a latest panel dialogue to advertise the collection, Daniels mentioned he was struck by DaCosta’s evolution as an actor.

She “was at all times grounded when she performed the Black Panther in ‘The Butler,’” Daniels mentioned. “However she’s grown right into a extra groundedness along with her work that reveals right here, one thing that age and knowledge has accomplished.”

In a cellphone interview from Wilmington, N.C., the place “Our Kind of Individuals” is filmed, DaCosta mentioned the duty that comes with showcasing prosperous Black communities, her hopes for the collection and her personal contributions to her character’s ingenious hairstyles. These are edited excerpts from the dialog.

In a promotional video for the show, your co-star Joe Morton mentioned, “Our Kind of Individuals” represents “a component of Black tradition that we’ve by no means seen earlier than.” What units this present other than one thing like “Empire”?

My understanding is {that a} present like “Empire” was chronicling the life of a household that was self-made. You see their journey from the “hood” to success. The distinction right here is that households that trip in Martha’s Winery usually come from multigenerational wealth, so there’s a unique vitality, there’s a unique ease. They’re not entertainers, they’re not athletes, and that’s the half that’s new.

How does this present assist to demystify the rich, Black higher class and supply a broader understanding of the neighborhood?

It’s not new to see Black folks with cash. It’s new to see communities that had been capable of defy the chances of the atrocities of historical past — the burning down of Black Wall Road, the decimation of total communities that had been self-sufficient. When enslaved folks freed themselves and had been constructing their cities and having full infrastructures, these locations had been actually burned down.

[Martha’s Vineyard] was one place that survived. Individuals traveled to this place that they heard was protected and used the Inexperienced E-book. These are households that had been doing nicely but in addition needed to navigate the occasions. And it’s not a year-round place — it’s a trip place. It’s actually an attention-grabbing peek into this world, and it’ll be attention-grabbing for folks to see how and why this island off the coast of Massachusetts grew to become this protected haven the place folks proceed to trip and join and share tales of the previous to at the present time.

What are your hopes for this collection? What varieties of conversations do you hope it provokes?

We’ve come out of a really intense interval of highlighting what’s unsuitable, and what has been unsuitable for a very very long time in this nation. The quieting of these voices, the completely different frequencies of peaceable protests, doesn’t point out a dip in the prevalence of police brutality on Black our bodies. It simply implies that persons are drained — drained of speaking about it, drained of seeing trauma porn on their Instagram feeds, drained of feeding the narrative. And whereas it’s essential to always remember and to focus on the atrocities, it’s additionally vital to see ourselves in a light-weight that we need to see extra of. That’s true on a private degree, and that’s true on a societal degree.

I’m thrilled to be engaged on a challenge that reveals full human beings in all of their glory — and their flaws as nicely, since you’re not having to signify a whole folks and concern that any person goes to get embarrassed as a result of your character made a mistake. Any time I learn scenes which can be humorous, scenes the place there’s dancing, scenes which can be uplifting or simply foolish, I rejoice, as a result of that displays my expertise in my actual life. So I hope that individuals take pleasure in seeing themselves, whether or not it’s an entrepreneur making an attempt to interrupt a ceiling, or somebody whose household holidays in locations like Oak Bluffs and might relate to generational wealth.

Angela arrives in Oak Bluffs to be taught extra about her mom’s previous, however she additionally desires to develop her hair care line. Do you know a lot about that trade earlier than engaged on this present?

I’ve at all times been obsessive about hair. I went to a boarding faculty in Massachusetts, so I’d have women from round campus coming to my dorm room, and I’d be doing their hair, after which I’d do my hair and end all of my homework in between. I nonetheless graduated cum laude, however I used to be identified for this. So to play a personality, lastly, the place I get to precise myself and play with hair in the best way that I do in actual life is such enjoyable.

How have you ever labored with the hair and make-up workforce to find out Angela’s lovely and distinctive hairstyles from week to week?

I get to do it with my longtime good friend and hair stylist Chioma Valcourt. It’s the primary time that I’ve been capable of carry her on a challenge. For therefore lengthy, Black actresses needed to get their hair accomplished behind-the-scenes after which come to set prepared, as a result of we by no means knew what we had been going to get. We didn’t need somebody to interrupt our hair or destroy our edges, which is the hairline space.

So I’ve essentially the most enjoyable with [Valcourt], speaking about what Angela is doing along with her hair as a result of she, her daughter [played by Alana Bright] and her aunt are her greatest billboards. After they stroll round Oak Bluffs, they’re representing their household, and so they’re additionally representing [her company,] Eve’s Crown. So to have the real-life Angela Vaughn with me on set is a blessing.

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