Previous to BET’s Let’s Stay Together, Erica Hubbard was an actress most commonly recognized from her role on Akeelah and the Bee, but her resumé displays much more. She has lended her acting chops to several other projects, such as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Everybody Hates Chris and recent theater credits. Currently, she plays the boisterously outspoken and fun-loving single woman, Kita Whitmore, on BET’s new show that details the dynamic and interactions between her and two couples, one married and one engaged. While she was not busily working on her self-titled, non-profit organization and adamantly advocating great health, she chatted with VIBE Vixen to talk about why Kita is important to African American, why single ladies should be praised, not bashed, and the three things she can’t stand about certain guys. –Niki McGloster
How much is Kita from Let’s Stay Together like your real personality?
She’s about 85 percent of who I am. The reason being is because I grew up on the Southside of Chicago, and my influences are very outspoken, they don’t hold their tongue, they say what’s on their mind, they speak the truth, they’re very genuine, they’re sassy and they’re extremely down to Earth. And I like that. I like that free-spirited person that’s going to tell you exactly what’s on their mind. I just like to walk in honesty and be fun-loving about it. At the end of the day, you say what’s on your mind, people get over it but at least you know where somebody stands.
You say that the two of you are 85 percent alike, but what are the main ways in which you two are different?
I like to date [Laughs]! You know? With Kita, I don’t know what’s going on. I went to the writers!
Can fans expect for Kita to have a man in the second season?
I think that I spoke it up so much that [the writers] started asking me what kind of guy Kita would date, and they say that it’s going to happen. As a matter of fact, one of the executives emailed me, and she was like, ‘Ooh, your script is hot!’ That’s all I have to say.
What influences did you draw from to develop Kita’s character?
Just being in an urban city. Also, I like her independence, and I have to say that ‘cause a lot of people don’t talk about how independent she is. They talk about her accent or her dialect, but they never say that she’s a single girl living in a fabulous apartment and she has her own sense of style and she’s independent. The fact that she has a job and is bringing in a steady income, that says a lot about a person.
How important is it for young African American women to see the independence of Kita?
Extremely important. You can have a great job, have a beautiful apartment and be the one that people ask for advice. If you look at a lot of the episodes, people are going the Kita asking her for her advice because she’s so outspoken and genuine. Everybody is kind of like, ‘Oh, what am I going to do in this situation?’ But Kita is pretty much like, ‘Look, this is what I want to do and this is who I am as a person.’ That speaks volume.
It really does, and although she’s very relatable, how is Kita different from your previous roles?
She is 100 percent different than Cassie from Lincoln Heights. Cassie’s so shy and she’s an introvert and, you know, she’s just so withdrawn. Those two are total opposites, but the reason why I related to Cassie is because I grew up in the inner-city, but I went to school in the suburbs for the last two years of high school. I was drawing from those experiences. For Cassie, I had to actually work on and develop being Cassie.
Oh, okay, so you had to really dig deep to play her.
That is what I call training [Laughs]! I had to really train to be Cassie. I went to Columbia College, and I studied theatre there, so a lot of the stuff I was using and portraying Cassie were tricks I got from being in theatre school.
That’s what’s up. I really like the dynamic of both characters and to see that you completely develop both. Cassie wasn’t single, but there’s something I like to call the “single woman stigma.” There are people who believe single women who dish out advice to couples don’t really know what they’re talking about or are bitter in some way. What are your thoughts on that?
To each his own. My thing is when we start judging and labeling and talking about somebody’s lifestyle, then we don’t have time to focus on what’s going on in our life. Everybody’s at a certain place [in their life] for a reason, and with Kita, she doesn’t want to date right now until she finds the right guy, but if you notice, she’s taking notes on what her brother’s doing, what Joyful Drake’s character is doing and that’s actually smart. She’s taking so many notes on what to do and what not to do by looking at the married and engaged couples that she should be really smart when it comes to relationships. But as far as the stigma, take your time until you get it right, and don’t listen to people who say too much negativity. If you have people around you that say too much negativity, that’s the issue; that’s the problem there! Don’t make it your problem. Live in your own identity. Set your own standards and be comfortable.
Exactly, and Kita has watched many things test the relationships of the couples, especially Charles and Stacy. What would you say are three main deal-breakers in a relationship?
If the guy is too negative, always complaining. Oh, I can’t stand complainers! That would be first one my list. And I don’t like uptight people. People that are too uptight and can’t crack jokes or take a joke or make a joke, no! You gotta have a sense of humor. I need to see you smile every once in awhile [Laughs]! Another deal-breaker would be if a guy is too frugal; too cheap. You know, you’re supposed to treat a young lady always. Always treat her.
I feel you because gold-digger issues always come up when a woman expects a guy to come out of his pockets, but it’s about gender roles.
You are a queen. You are a young lady. A guy is supposed to treat you like that and treat you to dinner and the movies and everything. He’s supposed to make it seem like he can take care of you. If the guy can’t take care of you, no, no, no, no! You can have a job making whatever, as long as you take care of you queen with whatever you have.
Very true! Now, what can fans expect from you in the future? What other projects are you working on?
I’m getting more into the movies. I did a movie called The Ideal Husband, and I worked with Jackée Harry, so it was refreshing to see her again. Clifton Powell, Ginuwine and Darrin Dewitt Henson. It aired on TV the month before last, so they’re going to be releasing the DVDs really soon. And my character is very different from Kita and Cassie! She’s actually torn between two love interests, so it’s different [Laughs]!
And you have another movie coming up too, right?
Yes, I’m in this movie called Dysfunctional Friends.
When does that release?
Well, they’re screening it now. Somebody just called me and they were screening it on the Tom Joyner Cruise, just to see how people react to it. But I was just happy that my work’s out there!