Starz just debuted a new series titled Survivor's Remorse this month. The half hour scripted show tells the story of the world of professional basketball and the drama behind the scenes. The show comes from the producers of such hit shows as The Cosby Show, Roseanne and Glee.
Erica Ash plays M-Chuck, the lesbian sister of star Cam Calloway. Viewers may know her from Scary Movie 5 or fictional reality series The Real Husbands of Hollywood. In the past she performed in sketch comedy programs such as MadTV and The Big Gay Sketch Show. She was also seen in Broadway's The Lion King.
Windy City Times met with Ash and Teyonah Parris ( from TV's Mad Men and movie Dear White People ), who stars as Reggie's wife Missy in the series in Chicago during a recent visit.
Windy City Times: First off, tell me about your characters on this new series.
Teyonah Parris: I play Missy who is Reggie Vaughn's wife. Reggie is the cousin of Cam Calloway the main character. Reggie is the Maverick type of character that handles the money and spending. He monitors everything. Missy is the classiest one of them all.
Erica Ash: We will call my character raw and rugged! She's the older sister of Cam Calloway. The thing I immediately love about her is she doesn't change. She is who she is. She is the same in Boston but just because we moved down to Atlanta doesn't mean she is going to change who she is.
WCT: Is she based on someone?
Erica Ash: I think I based her on a few different people. First on me as I am the older sister of two little brothers. My relationship with Cam I draw from that. I have always been fascinated by the mob family dynamic. That can be extremely stereotypical based on what I have seen from Mob Wives or Scarface. I always feel like someone has to be the heavy so I feel like I owned that role in this family dynamic so I base it on that too. Some of it is just creative; I make it up as I go.
WCT: M-Chuck seems like a fun character to play.
Erica Ash: It is one of the most fun characters that I have ever played definitely. There is so much room. I love the fact that we are starting off with her making all kinds of mistakes in terms of dealing with girls because she is a lesbian. It is like a kid in a candy store. She is not an unattractive girl but I am sure she has never got this much action and attention as she does being the sister of Cam Calloway. He's got money...
WCT: And she's got play! What is M-Chuck's type?
Erica Ash: The type that says, "Yes!"
WCT: You are straight?
Erica Ash: I am, yeah.
WCT: You were on The Big Gay Sketch Show so that is why I asked.
Erica Ash: My manager told me to get ready to be hit on by women a lot because I am single [with] no kids, and I don't even have a boyfriend. I am still trying to convince people I am straight even though I did The Big Gay Sketch Show and now playing this lesbian character. I can't tell you the number of lesbian roles that are coming through the office. I just don't want to be put into the box of only doing lesbian roles. People don't think I like guys now. For the record I am straight.
WCT: Your real story is interesting because you were moved around in the military but wound up in Japan.
Erica Ash: It was random but still very kismet. Having grown up as an Army brat really took away the fear of being able to go away and not know anything about a country to live there. I got over all of that as a kid.
My father told me we were going to Germany and I was in third grade. We had just learned about the concentration camps in school so I was convinced that the army was sending us into a camp to live. I was scared to say it out loud because I thought they would take me right then. It was a fear I had. When we got on the plane I remember having so much anxiety. We we got there it was a rainy overcast day. I didn't even think it was a Jewish thing that people had to endure. We had slavery and they had the camps. That didn't even cross my mind. When the military people came up to greet my dad because he was an officer they had their guns so it was traumatizing. When they took us to our quarters we saw there were other kids there and looked like a happy place. Then, Germany became one of my favorite places. It was a beautiful wonderland and completely changed my opinion about traveling.
WCT: Are you a New Yorker now?
Erica Ash: I say that I am from Atlanta because my family spent the most time there but I live in New York and LA.
WCT: And you, Teyonah?
Teyonah Parris: I am from South Carolina but I live in L.A. right now. I was in New York a few years before that.
WCT: How did you both get on the show?
Erica Ash: I was sent the script last November. I went in to read and they told me to read for Missy. I read the script and got all prepared. Literally the night before they called and asked me to read the role of M-Chuck. I didn't hear anything back for a couple of months so I let it go. They had me come back in for the part again. There was a long wait period after that.
Teyonah Parris: I first saw the script in January but didn't audition until March. They had some strict prerequisites coming in such as nudity. I couldn't do it so I passed on it. I was real sad but had to let it go. In a month they hadn't cast anybody yet so they came back and made it into a conversation. I got a callback and met with a bunch of the producers. I got cast but kept calling my manager every other day to make sure I got the job. I hadn't heard from anybody. Usually you get a call to welcome you to get things rolling but nothing. They finally sent me the official welcome letter. A week later Mike O'Malley called. I missed the call but I still have that message on my phone right now. That made it real!
WCT: With having the producers of these great shows and LeBron James producing how is it?
Teyonah Parris: I think we have a dream team of producers. The amount of credibility with Tom Werner from The Cosby Show and like O'Malley having worked on Glee and Shameless have been so good to us as far as input and our thoughts on building and shaping these characters.
Erica Ash: You would think with guys of that stature and professionalism that they would be untouchable. You might not be able to even speak to them but they come onset and visit us. They treat us like we are all on the same team not a hired hand. It is a very symbiotic relationship. Everyone's opinion is validated. I have been on shows where that is not the case.
Teyonah Parris: Exactly.
WCT: Where did the title come from?
Erica Ash: It actually came from LeBron and Maverick. When they pitched it they didn't pitch that as the title. It was a title they created. It was a term to best explain this conversation they had been having. They are both from the same neighborhood and they grew up without a lot.
Teyonah Parris: It is about that feeling of escaping your circumstances and feeling like giving back. Who can you help from the neighborhood and who can't you help? Learning how to say no even to your family. We watch Cam Calloway the basketball phenom deal with those same issues.
WCT: Was it originally supposed to be on Starz?
Teyonah Parris: I think so. Maverick Carter said that's who they pitched it to.
WCT: Where is the show filmed?
Teyonah Parris: Atlanta.
Erica Ash: It is my hometown so I love it. My mom and dad are thrilled because they both still live there.
Teyonah Parris: I thought I would not like it but I actually love it too. My family is a three hour drive away and it is the closest I have been home as an adult for an extended period of time. The food is good too, nice and buttery!
WCT: Did you run into any Atlanta Real Housewives down there?
Teyonah Parris: I didn't see any.
Erica Ash: I think that I did. I shot Scary Movie 5 there so a couple of the Housewives were on set for a fight scene, surprise! [Laughs]
WCT: The show The Real Husbands of Hollywood is going well. You must have a hundred Kevin Hart stories.
Erica Ash: I do. One of my favorite things is to chase him around set. Everyone thinks we are married because the rest of the cast is married to each other. I am the only fake wife. I would play into that and talk about the kids and how much money he owes me. He would scream, "It's not real. You are not my wife!"
We are going into taping season four. Season three [started] on BET Oct. 14. October is an amazing month!
Survivor's Remorse runs Saturdays at 8 p.m. Central Time on Starz. Visit www.starz.com for more information.