Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Actor, poet, arts activist Jerrie Johnson talks new Amazon show 'Harlem,' other work
by Carrie Maxwell
2021-12-20

This article shared 2076 times since Mon Dec 20, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Jerrie Johnson's mission to book a series regular role six months after finishing graduate school came to fruition when they (Johnson uses they/them pronouns) were cast as Tye, a lesbian dating app creator/CEO (who uses she/her pronouns), on Amazon Prime Video's Harlem in late 2019.

"People told me how unrealistic that was," Johnson told Windy City Times. "I did not have a SAG card or reel, and people did not know who I was. They said it would take 10 years. I did not receive that. I went to a performing arts high school so, at that point, it had been 11 years. I used that timetable instead. I started to write down and manifest how I would feel on set, the kind of people I wanted to work with and the freedom I wanted.

"The next day I got a call that they wanted me to audition for [the Freeform show] Good Trouble and then, later on that day, the Harlem role. I said, 'This is great. This is amazing.' I was in such a place of surrender that to me it did not matter the outcome. I was just happy to get to read a script that was this good. I booked this job six days before my six-month window was up. When I booked Harlem, I had to let the guest-starring Good Trouble role go."

Great writing is what makes a role satisfying for Johnson, and they found it with their Harlem character and the show as a whole. Johnson said when the scripts are bad it makes the job very difficult because they are editing the dialogue and not fully immersing themself into the role.

Harlem began shooting scenes in January 2020 and went through the middle of March 2020. This was when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its earliest stages. Johnson said everyone on the show thought they were taking a two-week break—but that was not the case. The show did not start filming again until January 2021.

"For the rest of 2020, I was thinking about what could possibly happen and wishing that my show would have come out before the world was ending," said Johnson. "By the time we came back, everybody had protocols and that included a COVID-19 team. I was getting tested five times a week. They were constantly on top of what was going on with our health and we did not have any issues in that regard."

As for Tye's story arc, Johnson can only say the person viewers meet in the first two episodes does not reflect who the character is as a whole.

"It breaks down all of the assumptions that can be made about this person that you initially see which is masculine presenting or an androgynous queer woman," said Johnson. "There are so many things that she experiences, which to me is a testament to the writing because it could be very one-note or you serve as our diversity character, but this is also a person who goes through some things so let's explore what it means to be in this type of situation for a queer person. Let's say a barbershop or hospital. Those experiences are real and we do not talk about them a lot because they are complex."

Johnson was instrumental in how Tye was presented to the audience, including the rolled beanie they wore to the audition that made it into the show. They said costume designer Deirdra E. Govan was insistent on Tye not being a typical lesbian stereotype.

"The goal was not having her go to such a masculine place because she is this CEO; or a super-casual place; or a super-butch lesbian place, with her style and mannerisms," said Johnson. "Deidre wanted to re-create the conversation of what queer people can be through the clothes/fashion choices. The character is a world traveler because she has to be due to her CEO role so what type of European styles does she adopt; also, some Brooklyn and Harlem designers to have a conversation about the place where she resides. It really was a collaborative effort."

In terms of Johnson's favorite scenes, they said the one that comes to mind is the one in the first episode where the four main characters are sitting around a round table talking about what kind of women Tye likes to date. This was one of the first scenes they shot as a group—and one that Johnson said was a "laugh riot" because of the ad-libs involved. The other scene Johnson particularly enjoyed filming was one in which their character unloads on a male character "because it was really relieving to stick it to the man."

An intimacy coordinator was present on the show to create realistic queer sex scenes since the sex partner was not a part of the LGBTQ community. Johnson called this process "a great experience."

As for working with the showrunner/creator, Tracy Oliver, Johnson said it was "amazing and collaborative" and they were able to shape how Tye was presented to the audience. Johnson worked with Oliver and the writers (some of whom are queer) to "spice things up" with the storytelling.

Johnson called all of their co-stars—such as Grace Byers, Meagan Good, Shoniqua Shandai, Whoopi Goldberg and Jasmine Guy—a "sisterhood" that she loves and is obsessed with.

When asked what drew Johnson to the role of Tye on Harlem, they said there is a need for this character because it is important to show that a Black queer woman can not only work in the tech field, but can also succesfully run their own company. Johnson said that someone reached out to them on Twitter and said Tye is their story, adding how great it was to see their life reflected back to them on a TV show.

The statistic that shows only 4 percent of Black women, as a whole, are working in the tech field troubles Johnson, they said. They hope Harlem spurs more Black women—specifically, Black queer women—to work in tech. Johnson said this starts with proper school funding in every part of the country, especially in underserved neighborhoods. They want those students to be ready for the kinds of jobs that await them as adults, including in the tech sector. Johnson added that of the 12 million tech jobs in the United States, only about 600,000 belong to people of color.

"Tye, like many other Black people who are creators, [is] doing this out of a need for queer people to be able to date safely and I think that this starts a lot of conversations," said Johnson. "People who are not queer do not have to think about how it is not safe for queer Black people to date. People who are Black might not have to think about how unsafe it is for queer Black people to date. These are the different components of the conversation we should be having now. These spaces are triggering for anyone who is not a cisgender hetrosexual white male. How are we shifting the conversation? How are we creating a safe work culture for everybody and not just perpetuating the same things that have been done in the past?"

This is where Johnson's art activism comes into play. They are looking to help create equity for queer people of color, queer women of color and underserved neighborhoods like the ones she grew up in Philadelphia so they have the resources necessary for everyone to achieve their goals in life.

Johnson's journey began in Philadelphia, where they went to high school as the fifth of eight children. Johnson was the first in their family to go to undergrad (Penn State University) and graduate school (American Conservatory Theater, in San Francisco). They did this without any financial, emotional or mental support from their family. Johnson knew this was the right thing to do to achieve their acting and change-maker goals. One way they did this was to also focus on African American studies and art entrepreneurship at Penn State.

"Sometimes, as artists, we do not think of ourselves as the CEOs of our business," said Johnson. "It is the starving artist mindset that does not have to be a reality. It was very important for me to learn about the business of me and the history of being Black on this soil. To really understand the oppressions and traumas that my mom had to navigate in America so I could understand her and we could have a better relationship."

Johnson said that, as a first-generation educated person in their family, there was a desire to dismantle the generational trauma that was in their family. They added that the pressure they felt to keep going on to the next thing "is a form of white supremacy" and it was important to recognize that and take a moment to appreciate their accomplishments. This feeling was a direct result of Johnson growing up poor and having to wear their older sister's shoes.

When Johnson is not acting, they spend time writing poetry, teaching classes at Penn State and developing "healing pods" for underserved communities.

The healing pods idea has been in Johnson's head for a long time. They have a mission statement written to help the Philadelphia communities where it is most needed. Johnson said that the high crime rate in Philadelphia is what spurred them to do this because it hits close to home. Their family has experienced gun violence and they want to combat that with these pods.


This article shared 2076 times since Mon Dec 20, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Jane Lynch, Dwayne Johnson, 'Star Trek,' Beyonce, Shea Coulee
2022-08-07
NBC has renewed the Jane Lynch-hosted game show Weakest Link for a third season, Variety noted. Season three will run for 20 episodes. The series is based on a British format distributed by BBC Studios that ...


Gay News

TELEVISION 'They/Them' cast members reflect on making the film
2022-08-06
They/Them (pronounced "They-slash-Them") is a new 2022 film from Blumhouse Productions in which the terrors of an LGBTQ+ conversion camp invade the lives of a diverse group of young people who spend a summer together. The ...


Gay News

Actress Anne Heche in critical condition after car crash
2022-08-06
Actress Anne Heche reportedly crashed her car into a house in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles on Aug. 5, setting both the vehicle and the house on fire, according to CNN. She is now ...


Gay News

Judge: Kevin Spacey owes almost $31 million
2022-08-04
On Aug. 4, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana confirmed that embattled actor Kevin Spacey must pay House of Cards producer MRC nearly $31 million for alleged sexual misconduct behind the scenes of the ...


Gay News

TELEVISION Darwin Del Fabro ('They/Them') talks horror, love scenes and inner strength
2022-08-04
Queer Brazilian singer/actor Darwin Del Fabro is one of the cast members of the horror movie They/Them (pronounced "they-SLASH-them")—a slasher movie (get it?) set ...


Gay News

Hollywood medium Tyler Henry at Hard Rock Live on Nov. 17
2022-08-03
-- From a press release - Medium Tyler Henry—the openly gay star of the NETFLIX series Life After Death with Tyler Henry and E! Entertainment's megahit television show Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry—will bring his national live show to Hard Rock Casino ...


Gay News

Cubs keep Contreras, Happ; White Sox win; Sky lose
2022-08-03
In the wake of a 6-0 loss at the St. Louis Cardinals (55-48) on Aug. 2, the Chicago Cubs (41-61) did not trade catcher Willson Contreras or outfielder Ian Happ, WGN-TV noted. Both were listed in ...


Gay News

THEATER 'Cabaret' coming to Metropolis Arts on Sept. 15
2022-08-02
Musical Broadway classic and hit film Cabaret re-creates the decadent and complicated world of 1929 Berlin at the Arlington Heights venue Metropolis Performing Arts Centre on Sept. 15-Oct. 22. Cabaret is Kander and Ebb's legendary musical ...


Gay News

Showrunners send abortion-protection letters to Hollywood execs
2022-08-02
Recently, more than 400 TV creators and showrunners—all of them women (including Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Natasha Lyonne and Ava DuVernay)—sent letters to top executives at Hollywood studios ...


Gay News

Billy Masters
2022-08-01
"Mike, you's in danger, man."—Whoopi Goldberg paraphrases her line from Ghost (or, as Barbara Walters always called it, The Ghost) in response to Pence's former aide Marc Short revealing what almost happened to the VP on ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Comic Con, WNBA player, Timothee Chalamet, Kate McKinnon
2022-07-31
Out Magazine listed at least seven LGBTQ+-related characters and projects that were unveiled at San Diego Comic Con. Some of them include Michaela Coel (from TV's I May Destroy You) as a queer character in the ...


Gay News

Gene Siskel Film Center running 'Pioneers of Queer Cinema'
2022-07-31
In partnership with the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. Clark St., presents differing, often radical explorations of sexual orientation and gender identity in the series "Pioneers of Queer Cinema." ...


Gay News

Show about trans+ women models to debut Aug. 5 on Here TV
2022-07-29
The Here TV docuseries Road to the Runway—which focuses on trans+ women models—will debut Friday, Aug. 5. The series profiles the 20 hopefuls competing in this year's annual Slay Model search. Cameras follow the women to ...


Gay News

Billy Masters
2022-07-24
"First of all, I'm glad to have a president who can ride a bicycle."—Pete Buttigieg's response to Rep. Troy Nehls' quip that Biden "falls off bicycles." Anyone can sue over anything. There is no guilt or ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Broadway, 'Game of Thrones' prequel, Dexter Mayfield, Shania Twain
2022-07-24
The Broadway League announced that theaters will continue their recently adopted mask-optional policy for audiences at least through August, Deadline reported. The mask-optional policy—in which audiences are encouraged but not ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.