Every now and then, a show comes along that changes the course of television history — especially when it comes to portrayal of Black culture in America. Personally, growing up, The Cosby Show and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air showed me that Black families could be rich, educated, and successful.
As a teen, I lusted after the glamorous lives of Joan and her #GirlSquad in Girlfriends (imagine a Black and funnier version of Sex and the City). And now, as an adult, that show is Dear White People, the Netflix series which has quickly become a pop culture phenomenon.
But it’s not just a funny show with quips, a bangin’ soundtrack, and a killer wardrobe. (Although seriously, can someone send me every shirt Joelle wears in the show? Please and thank you.)
Dear White People, which is based on the movie of the same name, is “more than just a show, it’s a movement,” according to actor Marque Richardson, who plays Reggie in the hit show. We caught up with the star to talk about the importance of #BlackLivesMatter, how to balance activism with self-care, and more.
HelloGiggles: With the recent shooting of Jordan Edwards, your episode of Dear White People is even more timely and relevant. How did you prepare for such a poignant episode?
Marque Richardson: It was so interesting because when I read the script multiple times, I cried and cried at the thought of what we were doing. It wasn’t like the writers called for Reggie to break down at the end and all that. That party scene was just so real and this is a thing that happens daily. For me, as Reggie, I was humiliated, dehumanized, and enraged. On top of that, I’m thinking about my nephew and realizing he’ll have to grow up with that as his reality as well. That was real. Those were real moments.
HG: Why do you think it’s important for Dear White People to tackle these tough topics onscreen?
MR: Dear White People is a mirror of society, and Netflix gives us the freedom to be able to tell that truth, which you don’t often get the opportunity to do on network TV. The show is a microcosm of America. Yes, Winchester is a fictional university, but it’s so real. Just the responses we’ve gotten since the show premiered have been overwhelming in the best way. People love seeing themselves on TV and seeing their stories told.
HG: Absolutely, representation is everything. Toward the beginning of your episode, Joelle tells Reggie that sometimes being carefree and Black is an act of revolution.” How do you personally balance activism and self-care?
MR: That’s a great question because I’m finding that out as I go along, especially in this environment with this administration. For me, it’s a matter of turning off the notifications on my phone sometimes. A couple of times a week, I’ll dive into the news and see what’s going on.
HG: You’ve mentioned that Dear White People is “art as activism.” What are some other ways people can stay woke during these trying times?
MR: You’ve just got to find your own way to stand up for what you believe in and do good. We all know what it means to do good. We all know what’s morally right and how to be a good person.
HG: Your character, Reggie, definitely fits the “good guy” bill. What’s it like playing someone so serious?
MR: I absolutely love playing Reggie. He’s a militant dude, and I’m not like that in my personal life, so I feel like I’m playing a superhero. He does take himself very seriously. Sometimes you’re watching him and it’s like, “C’mon, man, smile!” But I’m so glad you get to see his layers in the fifth episode. He’s more than just the justifiably angry Black man — you see more of his vulnerability. I love Reggie and he is the first character that I’ve been able to explore what it means to be young Black man in America. It’s been very therapeutic for me. It’s more than a show, it’s a movement.
HG: What was your favorite behind-the-scenes moment from filming?
MR: There were so many because it felt like summer camp. Everyone gets along so well and we’re a tight group of friends. But the scene when Sam walks into Reggie’s room and he leaves the door open, we kept laughing throughout that whole sequence. We had to shoot it so many times. We could not keep it together.
Dear White People is streaming now on Netflix.