FOX’s new series is a look at the Black elite.
Our Kind of People, executive produced by Lee Daniels, is inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham‘s book Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class. The story follows single mother Angela Vaughn, played by Yaya DaCosta, who travels back to Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard for a summer with her teenage daughter to follow in her late mother’s entrepreneurial footsteps and make an impact with her natural hair care line.
Of course, being an outsider leads Angela to uncover secrets about her mother and her connection to the high-class Franklin and Dupont families – who have controlled the community for generations.
The series premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 21, and also stars Morris Chestnut, Nadine Ellis, Lance Gross, and Rhyon Nicole Brown. Ahead of the show’s premiere, DaCosta spoke with BET.com about why now was the perfect time to step into Angela’s “crown” and the importance of Our Kind of People‘s story.
BET.com: Congrats on Our Kind of People! How excited are you to step into this new chapter after saying goodbye to Chicago Med?
Yaya DaCosta: I just feel so full of gratitude. Full of respect for timing and serendipity. It’s not an easy task leading a show. It’s my first time doing it on television in a series, and I’m just really grateful and happy. I don’t have much time these days to feel what’s going on because we’re so busy filming and working such long hours. It can get in the way of presence. I’m doing my best to soak in this moment and enjoy the ride.
BET.com: Would you say the pandemic influenced the change, or were you just ready to step out and take on a new role?
DaCosta: The change felt like good timing. The way things happened was pretty organic. Nothing was forced, and you got to flow with the current. Many other opportunities were coming up at the same time, and this is the one that really felt most significant right now. As far as the themes being talked about in the show, they are significant for the culture and for me personally as an artist.
BET.com: Can you break down Angela Vaughn in your own words?
DaCosta: Angela Vaughn is a go-getter; she’s driven, passionate, fun, witty, strong, and very tender and searching. She is searching for answers and for a clear vision of her past. She knows where she wants to go, and she doesn’t know exactly what it will look like—searching for acceptance and love. She’s also searching for forgiveness from her daughter for not being as hands-on as she would have liked. There are a lot of themes that will be addressed in this show, and Angela is a catalyst for a lot of them, but all in all, she’s a really sensitive woman with huge dreams and lots of determination.
BET.com: Like Angela, you have always rocked your natural hair. Did you feel a deeper connection to her because of the shared love and pride for your “crown?”
DaCosta: One of the main themes that my character gets to play with is hair. It’s something that I’ve always been passionate about. I’ve only had natural hair, so my relationship with hair from a very young age has been intuitive and playful. I like taking risks. Luckily the stylist who does my hair on the show also loves taking risks, so Angela gets to use her crown as a billboard as she’s walking out on the bluffs and promoting herself.
BET.com: How significant is it to you for the world to see natural hair embraced on primetime television?
DaCosta: To me, it just reflects what happens in real life. Yes, in the 70s, a lot more people were rocking their afros, but after that stopped, it was a long time before people could do that again in a way that was celebrated, accepted, and not judged. We’re in a year where the Crown Act is a big discussion, where suddenly it’s okay not to be penalized for just wearing your hair the way it grows out of your head. We’re in a time where the culture is shifting, and it’s really powerful to see some of that reflected on screen, but it’s in a very light or fun way
BET.com: How significant is it for you to have the world see not only Black characters like Angela but to see a screen full of elite Black characters in high society?
DaCosta: It’s important to tell all the different stories. There has definitely been a monopolization of narratives in the parameters we have been allowed to express ourselves as black artists. There are so many different ways to be Black. So to celebrate the things that highlight the diversity of our experiences is very important. Retelling the same stories is old. It’s also very inspiring to see people who live a life of normalcy and wealth and not athletes or entertainers but professionals of other kinds (doctors, lawyers, or teachers). They are people who have amassed wealth and then maintained it for generations. It’s important to see ourselves. All it takes is a suggestion of another possibility, especially for a young person, to see that possibility in their own lives.
BET.com: How exciting has it been to see the fans’ reaction and anticipation for the premiere?
DaCosta: I’m here for the vibes! As an actor, we show up, we say our lines, and we trust that our intentions were felt and that they show through when the finished product arrives. It was really fun to read some of the comments when they came in. It’s been amazing just feeling the buzz, the excitement, and getting messages from old friends driving past the billboard who are excited. I’m just excited to see the actual response when people are watching the episode.
BET.com: What do you hope viewers take away from Angela and the series as a whole?
DaCosta: I think the audience will get hooked pretty quickly to these characters to these storylines. I hope they find the themes being spoken about relevant because we all have different versions of these themes, whether it’s a family drama, family secrets, striving to be accepted by a new community, or even parents. When it comes to Angela, I hope they see humanity, and they see her drive. I hope they see either themselves or somebody they know in her and root for her, root for her business to succeed, and for her to get what she wants in life. Even if they don’t love her, I hope they love to hate her because that shows they are really tuning in.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.