Whether you know it or not, Raven Goodwin has been flourishing in the acting game for a minute now. The 22-year-old Washington, D.C. native has graced our TV and movie screens since she was four, and with a resume packed with Disney and Nickelodeon stamps all over it, the young starlet has definitely made a name for herself.
But in 2013, Goodwin traded her kiddie cameos to play an all-around-the-way chick on BET’s Being Mary Jane, as Niecy Patterson, a 19-year-old single mother with two kids. Niecy is the niece of Gabrielle Union’s character Mary Jane Paul, a successful broadcast journalist. This season, we’ll see how their relationship encircled by the dichotomy of their complex circumstances plays out.
Though Raven’s real life does not mirror Niecy’s, she feels all young women can identify with her—herself included—sans having babies. “Niecy is important because she has this aunt who’s fabulous and beautiful, and she realizes that she’s not her,” she told us over the phone. “But she’s on her own journey to loving herself. Every young girl could relate to that. I could relate to that.“
Here, Raven dishes on how Niecy’s relationship with Mary Jane unfolds on Season 2, the most important thing Gabrielle Union taught her and more. —Richy Rosario
VIBE: Would you say this role has been your breakout role, since you’ve worked on so many kid shows before?
Raven Goodwin: I feel like more than a breakout role it was a transitional role. It was smooth. And it was very necessary. At one point I was doing Disney and Being Mary Jane at the same time. But it still felt natural. It still felt organic. When people paint you in an image, it’s kind of hard for them to accept you going from being on Disney Channel with a cowgirl outfit to being on BET pregnant. But I’ve been blessed enough with the talent to make sure I made that transition’s smooth, and I make people love me on any show. I’ve been fortunate. I’m glad that it wasn’t such a huge contract. I’ve been pretty blessed because sometimes it’s hard for people to get over that.
What do you think of Hollywood’s discrimination against black actresses?
I feel like we don’t see enough of ourselves often. Like in Hunger Games, I don’t see why that couldn’t have just been a black girl. There are plenty of things that we should be a part of that we’re not. But we’re making a beautiful mark. We have stuff like Selma, that’s pretty amazing and stellar. I hope that more movies like that will be made this year. And it’s important for us to imitate life, because in life there aren’t just black people, or Latino people or just white people, there’s everything. Especially in America, it’s a melting pot. So everybody wants to see them selves on television. That’s why I love Jane the Virgin. There are so many shows that I love that are so cultured. And we have a lot of different other cultures that come to our country and they probably want to see themselves on TV.
I know a lot of Persian people and especially with living in the Valley in California, that’s all I meet and see. So I’m like, what happens when these people don’t see themselves on TV? Cause you have Shahs Of Sunset, which is a reality show, but you don’t have an actual series. I just think that Hollywood in general needs to wake-up. Just how our country is a melting pot, TV should be a melting pot.
Do you think all types of women can relate to Being Mary Jane?
The great thing about Being Mary Jane is that there is a character for everybody. Even for grandfathers that are dealing with losing their wives or vice versa. You have the young teenage mother, we even have a weed man in our family on the show (laughs). Her younger brother sells weed on the side but he’s this huge scholar. Being Mary Jane is so relatable in a family aspect, because we all have at least three people on that show in our families. It’s a mirror for the world, and I think that’s why we’ve had such a good response. Mara Akil has this niche for making things so natural and she tells our secrets, especially as a woman, in a good way. It’s something that men don’t know that we go through. It’s something that women don’t know that men go through that Mara is showcasing on the show. And she’s a beautiful writer and creator, and to be a part of her vision is amazing. It’s all her vision on the actual stuff that you see, on the everyday stuff that you see. It’s things that she’s seen in herself.
You’ve mentioned before that Being Mary Jane was like going to school for you. What have you learned so far?
I’ve learned so much and I’m starting film school this year. But a lot of people on set tell me, “Why you so quiet?” It’s because I’m just standing back observing these veterans work. When you’re around people of such class and sophistication and they also can act their asses off, you’ve got to make sure that you pay attention. You can’t slack. You have to know your lines, you got to be ready, because these people know what they’re doing and they’re ready to work. I just sit back and I watch. I’ve learned to be more professional working on Being Mary Jane for sure.
I did kid shows back in the day, and I just finished Good Luck Charlie a year or two ago and that was easy. You learn your lines throughout the week, you shoot for two days and that’s it. With Being Mary Jane you have to dig deep sometimes and tap into emotions you don’t really want to tap into.
How do you tap into those emotions while playing Niecy?
At the end of the day Niecy is still a person. She’s still a black woman. And I genuinely feel for her. Because I could’ve been her, just like any other girl could have. I remember that for her, she has to know that her life isn’t that bad. Although it’s not ideal and not what she should be doing at 19, those are the cards that she’s been dealt.
What are people going to see this upcoming season in regards to Niecy’s relationship with Mary Jane?
What people are going to see is Mary Jane still trying to make Niecy better. Not for Niecy, but for Mary Jane herself. But what she needs to realize is that Niecy is going to reach her potential and do her best. And Niecy comes to this realization of, “Listen I just need to be the best me right now. And do the best for me, not what’s best for you.” They definitely bump heads a lot this season, but it’s always some kind of silver lining with them because they love each other at the end of the day. I’m her favorite niece and she’s my favorite auntie and that will always be the relationship. But it still gets a little rocky.
What do you think is Niecy’s own path, what is she trying to pursue?
Niecy doesn’t know what she’s trying to pursue. Niecy is trying to provide. When you’re trying to provide as quickly as you possibly can, your options are very weighed. She’s not fully digging deep into what she wants to do, she’s just more leaning towards what she thinks she has to do. So she’s not really focused on doing something that she loves. She’s just focused on doing something that will take care of her and her kids. That’s why I feel the most sorry for her because nobody wants to walk this earth and not do what they love, but people do it every single day. I’ve watched my family do it and people become complacent in that way, and they end up not seeing the world because they think that their options are none.
What do you think Niecy can learn from Mary Jane?
I think she can learn a lot because most importantly Mary Jane is independent. At the end of the day you have people that are dependent on you. You have two young kids, so you have to become as independent as possible especially when their fathers aren’t as active in their lives as they should be. My mom was a single mom for a long time. She had my sister at 22 and she’ll always say, “You guys wait, be patient and independent.” I hope that Niecy learns a little something about independence. Hopefully (laughs).
What have you learned from Gabrielle Union?
Gabby is huge on education. She’s a huge advocate for not just being an actress, not just having that be your label. And that inspired me. Straight out of high school I was working. I was an actress and I was making money. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so I had to self-search and really reflect and see what it is that I want to spend my money on. Because at the end of the day, a degree and going to college is nothing but putting money behind your name. So I didn’t want to waste a whole bunch of money and not be happy with the degree I ended up with. So I found what I want to do and hopefully this year my schedule permits that I will finally be a college student. That was the first conversation we had. She was like, “Go to school.”
Is Dante more present in Niecy and her kids’ life at all this season?
No, not this season, my other child’s father comes in the picture a little bit this season. My first son’s dad, who is played by Kyle Massey, and he does a beautiful job, who is also a Disney kid.
What can the viewers find surprising about next season in general?
You guys can always expect to see drama from this show, but drama that always somehow is going to get resolved. That’s the beautiful part about this show and life, anything that you go through can always be fixed and resolved. And it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go your way.
Does Mary Jane’s situation evolve?
Mary Jane’s life is complicated, because she’s complicated. She’s a complex woman, so good luck to her. (Laughs) She’s trying to get it together.
What is your advice for young women who can relate to Niecy’s character?
My advice for any woman is to rake up as much knowledge as you can and to be as powerful in your own right as much as you can. Don’t let anything or anybody define you, because you’re 100 times more than anybody can imagine that you are. You have to be in tune with who you are. In your spirit, you have to be able to know that that you can be enlightened for eternity. You don’t know it all. You won’t ever know it all. So just be open to learn. Definitely love yourself through anything, and before everything. You can’t give anything unless you have something to give your self.
Being Mary Jane airs Feb. 3 on BET at 10 p.m. EST
Photo Credit: Instagram