Vixen Chat: Robinne Lee Talks ‘Being Mary Jane’
VIBE Vixen: How did it come about you getting the role?
Robinne Lee: I auditioned for it. When the pilot was being shot, I read for two different shots, I read for my part and the part played by Lisa Vidal, it was either best friend or the nemesis. Even when I was reading it, I was really, really drawn to the role of Avery Daniels because the material was so strong, surprising, and different from anything I’ve ever played before. Sometimes you go in there with blind faith and hope you can do the best you can and you give them everything you’ve got and just hope. That’s pretty much what I did and I was really lucky to get it.
How similar are you to Avery and how different are you?
I’m similar because I’m kind of an overachiever and I’m married, and I’m trying to juggle it all. I’m a little Type A [laughs] so I think that’s the things we have in common, but that’s where it ends. She’s much more tolerate of her husbands infidelities than I’ll ever be and she’s much more harder to read. I feel like she put up this wall and she’s very reserved, not cold but just removed. I’m very emotional and I let it show and I feel like for her it’s the complete opposite.
Being that she’s so different, how did you prepare to get in the role?
I feel like I turned something off in myself. For me my natural instinct is to show everything. As an actress your learning that camera reads through your emotion so your goal is to convey what you’re feeling so the audience could read it. I feel like for this character it’s the complete opposite and that was my struggle—keeping things under wrap and things private.
How important do you think Being Mary Jane is to women in general, but mainly to women of color?
I think it’s huge because it is something we have not seen before. It’s a portrayal of a Black woman that is very real and very multi layered and multi faceted. It’s not this character or cliché of what people think and because it’s produced by a Black woman who’s got all these insights but wants to go about it in a subtle way and make it very real and not just go for the laughs or the craziness of it, it’s real life. A lot of situations are heightened but I still think the responses and everything that’s happening are real. This is one woman’s experience, but many of us have gotten ourselves into very similar situations. it’s relatable. It is written about and for a Black women but it’s not just a Black woman’s story. I think men will be able to relate to this and I think it’ll be able to cross the board.
If there is, is there any show that’s out there right now that’s similar or goes in the same direction as BMJ?
Not right now, no. I think people are going to want to compare it to Scandal because it’s a hot show right now and Kerry [Washington] does such a wonderful job and it’s great to see a Black woman carry the lead in such a powerful role. But I mean Scandal—and I love Shonda Rhimes—but its much more fantasy and if it’s not fantasy, it’s not every Black woman. Black women are not having a current affair with the president. BMJ is pretty much how we are now. It’s not a fantasy, it’s a woman’s life and it’s real and it’s relatable. Both of them that I really do like and Shonda has done a great job and Mara [Brock Akil] the same thing, these shows allow us as Black women to see us as desirable, vulnerable, and flawed. I don’t feel like we’ve seen that. Either we’re the sassy one and we don’t get to be vulnerable or we are unattractive because we’re aggressive in the business area, or we’re the sidekick and we’re not seen as desirable or we’re so desirable it’s like the hot character and we’re not seen as flawed or vulnerable. I like that we’re being touched upon and both those characters are educated, and it’s a wonderful image for girls growing up today to see that you can be all those things.
It is and that’s my next question–are you hoping that it alters the direction of TV and movies in the way that black women are depicted?
Very much so, we haven’t seen that in a while. I’m trying to imagine the last time we saw Black women in those roles and I can’t [remember], there was Girlfriends and it was slightly different because it was multi-camera comedy. Coming from that way you’re going for the laughs. Even the shows that I can think of where we were in abundance like the Cosby Show, they were sitcoms; they weren’t dramas. It’s been a long time for a good Black drama.
It’s refreshing but you also ask yourself why wasn’t this done a long time ago.
I know, it’s a no brainer, but it’s also getting the studio to believe in you and I think BET is probably the first one. I think Shonda Rhimes has been doing wonderful with ABC and not just with this but with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice and just having very multiracial and cultural cast. She does a really great job with that but this story is really about a one woman’s story. It’s not focused on a hospital or doctor’s office but this is a woman’s life and all parts to her life.
Photo Credit: Trailer