welcome to My favorite moment ! In a new week-long series, IndieWire spoke to the actors behind some of our favorite TV performances of the year about how the on-screen moment they’re proudest of came together.
The Starz adaptation of the 2018 feature film “Blindspotting” is one of TV’s boldest and most thought-provoking series, helmed by the incredibly capable Jasmine Cephas Jones. Reprising her role as Ashley in the feature film, the series sees Cephas Jones play a woman struggling to raise her young son following the recent incarceration of her boyfriend Miles (Rafael Casal).
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The show’s mix of humor and social commentary led to several beautiful and unique moments, including Ashley’s many verses on camera, a crazy mushroom trip, and a date between Ashley and her subconscious version. of Miles which is totally romantic. But for Cephas Jones, who spoke to IndieWire via Zoom, his favorite scene comes in the show’s second episode.
Ashley, who spends her days working at an upscale Oakland hotel, has just been proposed to by a male guest and verbally scolded by that same guest’s wife. Meanwhile, Miles was sentenced to five years in prison. In her anger and frustration, Ashley walks into the rude guests’ hotel room to give him an idea.
The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity, and reorganized to improve the flow of the conversation.
IndieWire: What is it about this moment that makes you consider it your favorite?
Jasmine Cephas Jones: There are so many layers to this scene. We only did it a few times because we lacked light; it was the show’s second day of filming. Day two is like a guinea pig of how are we going to run the show? It’s the first time everyone has gotten used to each other, other people trying to figure out what the show is about and how people work. It was a very long day, a 16 or 17 hour day, something like that.
You got stunt people in there, special people [who] work with the special sugar glass. The choreography of, “Okay, so on that word, remember, take the tennis racket and do it on this side.” It’s so many things you have to think about and people don’t realize that going to a TV show or a movie or a theater, something so big and heightened and really paid out in a way that’s not your normal situation. There are two bedrooms, the bathroom [and] the bedroom, then I go to the living room. I did it twice in each room. So I only had two tries and thank goodness.
Due to the logistics of the scene, how did it work to maintain the emotion, flow gracefully across the room, and perform the spoken verses?
The [were] four main things I had to hit on some lines. I repeated being in space with the director, Seith Mann. But I couldn’t throw anything or go through the choreography until the day of shooting. Much of the day I was going in and out of rooms with a fake tennis racket and crossing lines; “that’s where I break it here, and then you [have] to take the tennis racket and go around your body, and make sure you do it from this angle because it will look better when it hits the ground. That’s how detailed these things are.
So the [were] four or five things that I had to throw away, the TV, the picture on the wall, the shower, the mirror, the vase in the living room, and then at the very end there was this big ass piece of furniture [I] throw to the ground. It was so much fun. When do you get to do this? Never. But [it’s] a lot of pressure to make sure you’re destroying everything on the right word and make sure you’re doing it from the right angle, and when you’re caught in the whirlwind of it all, you have to be on point because you tend to forget, there are so many feelings coming out of you.
How do you mentally prepare not only for a physical scene like this, but also for one where Ashley is emotionally drained?
A lot of the verse scenes that Ashley has, those are very important moments for her in the season. They’re probably the most intense, and when she’s most emotional and shares that with people. I look at these verses as Shakespearean monologues when I begin. These are not easy verses that Raf[ael Casal] and [Daveed] Digg writes. They rhyme and then they don’t rhyme. It’s very, very specific and they write it in a very specific way.
The first thing I do with these scenes is I go straight to the text and anchor it in my head, so I don’t have to think about it. You tackle thoughts, rhythms and how you study them, then throw them out the window and play. So a big part of preparation is studying, walking around my house and saying words all the time, and trying to do things while I’m saying those words out loud so I don’t get distracted. Usually when I have big scenes like I have to cry, or scream, or something really intense, I do the opposite first and like to meditate or isolate myself from everyone on set. I find a quiet room and I try to be as grounded as possible so I’m calm [and] to be relaxed as much as possible so that I can release that deep anger or cry.
Anything before that scene, whether it’s racism or misogyny, that’s something I don’t have to look up to. It’s happened to me in my life, and it’s something that I recognize as a woman, as a woman of color. I don’t need to go looking for that, it’s definitely a feeling that, unfortunately, I know pretty well. And so you combine all of that together and you can stand for a while and do the thing that so many women want to do and can’t do because they’ll be called a bitch, or too bossy, or crazy.
Did you need a decompression period after filming something like that?
I go to the next room and give myself about seven minutes to come down because I’m still crying and I still feel that emotion. I think it’s also healthy to give of yourself, especially for something so intense like this, [time] come back to reality and get out of it so as not to bring her home. What’s even crazy[ier] it was only after I finished that I was filmed walking down the corridor. So it wasn’t the end of the day! We had to stop because we lacked light. I paused then we went straight into the choreography to walk down the hall. I remember being so tired at the end of the day, but also so happy to have done it.
Season 1 of “Blindspotting” is available to stream now on Starz.
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