From The Lion King to Us, this talented teen has made a name for herself in Hollywood. Now, Shahidi Wright Joseph talks new series, Them, in a recent interview with Collider.com.
The story is set in the 1950s during The Great Migration when a Black family — Lucky, and Henry Emory, along with their two daughters, Ruby, portrayed by Shahidi Wright Joseph and Gracie, portrayed by Melody Hurd, move from the South to an all-white Compton. The Emory’s find that they will have to not only protect themselves from malevolent forces, but from their next-door neighbors who will go to any lengths to protect their way of life from the new strangers.
Take a look at a snippet of her interview below as the teen actress talks about her bond with her Them family, taking her character to the next level, overall career goals, and her desire to one day write and produce her own work.
Collider: How did bonding with your Them family compare to bonding with your Us family? Did it feel like you had two very different families going on there?
Shahadi Wright Joseph: Most definitely. I would say that it was not necessarily easier. They were two different experiences, just because of the two different time periods. I feel like it was easier to have a dynamic as a family during Us because it was closer to who we are as people today and we could relate to the characters more. With Them, you have to yourself from the character and become this totally other person to really have an accurate representation of what that experience was like in the ‘50s. So, yeah, I would say that they were very, very different.
When this project initially came your way, what was the pitch for it? Before you got to actually even read any of it, what were you told about what this would be?
Joseph: All I was told about the project was that it was gonna be a horror anthology series that takes place in the Jim Crow era. I immediately had some initial thoughts about what it would be like, and I was so drawn to it and attracted to it, as soon as I heard about it. I was very, very excited to start working on it and to have the opportunity to work on this with Little Marvin and Lena Waite and the rest of my Emory family. It was just fantastic. This show requires a lot from its younger cast.
When did you realize just what you were getting yourself into? Was there a moment when you wondered whether you could do it?
Joseph: That moment was probably after I had read the first three episodes. I remember finishing those and I was blown away. I was excited to start working on it, but I had a moment where I was like, “This is going to take some hard work. This is going to really take a lot out of me.” I had the time to prepare myself, but it wasn’t too bad of a gap, between first booking the role and actually shooting. I really did try my best to make sure that the character was still lovable and sensitive and accurate to the Black teenage girl experience.
Now that you have finished the project, what’s it like to reflect back on it and see how it all came out? How does that feel, not just an actress, but as a young woman? How much do you feel you learned on this and how much do you feel you grew, as an actor?
Joseph: I feel like I grew a tremendous amount, just from doing this project. It almost feels like an immersive history lesson, going back in time to this time period that I, of course, know nothing about because I was born in 2005. You really have to take a second to transfer yourself into that time period, and that can be difficult for an actor. I really tried my hardest with all of the challenges, that the script was giving us and that the story was giving us. I got a lot of help from my Emory family. We worked together to get us through that whole process.
To read the remainder of Shahidi’s interview, click here. Have you seen Them? Tell us what you think. Sound-off and comment below! We want to hear from you.