Lorraine Toussaint is more than ready to play in a colorblind world
It's been a year since the world pretty much shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And while we've seen some new movies and television shows and even live theatre performed over zoom, things haven't quite got back to normal.
But with the vaccine on the horizon, there is optimism that the entertainment industry can resume its aggressive production schedule and bring us all sorts of new entertainment.
But things won't actually go back to whatever the normal was because there's also been a reckoning in the past year about the continued lack of diversity, behind and in front of the camera i talked to actor Lorraine pissant about some of the changes that we've seen in the past year how we binge watch how we make movies how we use technology but also the popularity of shows like bridgerton.
That break the old casting rules and i asked her now what?
All right welcome the range is on for joining us today i want to start by asking you how has the lockdown and the pandemic been going for you what have you been up to I'm on a personal level.
The lockdown has been and I probably the same as everyone else.
You know, it's been tough.
It's been lonely it's felt isolated.
I've been scared.
Feeling powerless, feeling I'm gaining weight, [LAUGH]
I'm connecting to my center getting quiet again it's been a really wonderful time also of introspection and spending time, With my 16 year old, I feel like, I almost hate to say but the the pandemic has given me one more year with her in a in a kinda inhibitory setting where I can maybe make sure she's fully baked before she's out there.
You know It's given me another year of instruction and life instruction and this has been tough on her as a parent.
You're not just managing your own life you're managing your children's lives to making sure you That you're so vigilant, making sure they're okay, emotionally, physically, academically, creatively.
There's a whole set of managing that goes on, that separate from me.
So I've been very busy, I know a lot of people have been bored in the pandemic.
I got busier in as a result of the pandemic.
I also got quite busy with work because my voice work kicked in in a way that I'd been hoping to have a kick in for years.
And so suddenly I you know, I was finishing up Voiceovers and I've got several voiceover series and I am narrating a Pixar film The Magician's elephant.
And so the whole technology part of the world has come to my doorstep which is I would have to say that's been the most frustrating aspect of the pandemic.
Wait that you've been so busy and you have projects to work on projects to work on.
But where I'm the sound editor.
I see.>> These projects so entire large, hard suitcases, large come to my door, which our entire sound booths in a suitcase and my job.
And when I tell you I'm bad at it is just set.
Set up a sound studio over and over again and that's been tough, doing the testing and the mics in the the computer setting up, so that they can see i can see it, the monitors and the it's been an interesting education.
Are you a tech person to begin with or is this all new?
Dear God, no.
I am though.
Did I stress that taking person.
I mean, it's really helpful to have a 16 year old because The normal call in my houses, how to my teenager?
No, I'm not a techie at all.
When we're talking to each other over Zoom and
Now you imagine you've had many video conference sessions as you said, you you have a sound studio in your home has has the way we've been living this past year.
I mean, we've all been apart but thanks to technology we've been together in an odd way.
Has it changed your view of technology at all?
Are you interested in
I don't know putting together your own production on your smartphone or something.
Not at all.
No, and I know I'm so preaching to not preaching to the to the choir because this is your audience but I've gotten better at it, I've been forced to get better at it, honestly as I should.
It's 2021, and frankly, keep up or get left behind.
So, there's a certain amount of fat that this pandemic has forced me into, that I'm really grateful.
But at the end of the day.
I'm a one-on-one in-person person, I'm a people person.
And the disconnect of technology that presents a virtual simulated intimacy is I'm very clear that it is actually not intimacy.
It's simulated intimacy.
And it is a it is a form of intimacy but ultimately with the self.
Well, I mean that is fair.
And we like to say that technology is not the end.
It's the means to an end.
And so if you focus on what you're trying to accomplish, which I in your case is to create and be part of a creative Our endeavor, Deborah tell stories, in a visual format or, animated, with your voice, as the case may be.
So, you don't need to be a technologist, as we say there are people to do that for you.
And I'm really looking forward to the day when I could walk into a booth and have somebody do that, and some of it works, and some of it I found didn't work, in this pandemic.
I found that the voiceover work, that it works that works.
Once you have got the the quality of all of the technical aspects of it and making sure that it's really fine quality.
I did a play via zoom With the Public Theater, and one that was created for the zoom format, and at the end of the day, I thought it didn't work.
Why is that?
Because there's something about live theater that the live part cannot be underestimated.
Estimated, it really can't.
As an actor doing that piece, it was really hard, it hard because I was pouring my soul Into, I'm accustomed to pouring my soul into the eyes of the other actor and the being of the other actor.
And that energy comes right back into me and fills me so that there is a constant refuelling that happens.
As you're pouring your heart and your soul and your guts out, it comes back to you so that you're just not emptied.
In this medium.
When you are pouring, it goes in no matter what.
It goes into the void
And it doesn't return.
There's no return on it.
Creatively in an interactive way and that i found to be exhausting.
What about as an audience member have you watched some live performances and i asked you this because there's been a lot of exploration of new kinds of storytelling with technology of virtual reality augmented reality.
And I would imagine that part of the joy of performing and I am not a performer, but it's even just to hear people wrestling a little bit in their seats right.
And, of course, they laugh if something is funny or they might make some sort of sound if something dramatic happens, but even just that ambient noise Right of the crackling and somebody coughing reminds you that there is an audience.
That ambient noise is actually energy.
That ambient noise is actually my same partner I'm fully engaged in the scene.
So that a it's never noise.
It's it's the it's my partner.
This is a real intimate partnership and a dance and where we're making love the audience and the actors and Without them, it's a tad masturbatory, just a tad, also fun, but different.
[LAUGH] So there's been a lot of talk that the pandemic has really changed the way we live and work, honestly, in some things.
I don't disagree with you that having that one to one.
Interaction with people and seeing them and just being able to hug your family members who are far away would be a wonderful thing to get back.
But now we're living in the age of streaming.
As you well know from your work on Orange is the New Black which was on Netflix, Has become a verb and there is talk that even when theaters open whether it's a live theater or movie theaters people might not go back right away they're expensive you're paying for an experience but we're now accustomed to just being in a little room by ourselves on whatever screens and so i just am curious what you think about that I think we will always have like theater thing in the human cycle that that have theater to live it, but it really is it up in an intimate, immediate way.
To the soul, and we need that from the cavemen created theater.
Every culture, every society through the ages has had some form of theater or another, there's a reason for that.
It's part of our makeup, our wiring, we need it.
So The face of theatre may change, but I think there is nothing else in the world that compares to walking into a space and having a live interaction with.
With thespians and nothing will change that.
Have you been binge watching anything out of curiosity?
What have you used this time to get caught up on or to watch?
Outlander God love it.
And just when I went to discovery of witches The moment I did your honor although I haven't seen the the finale, I don't know why I have watched the finale.
I sort of Didn't read the script in the finale, but I should.
I'm hoping to watch it.
This Dark Matters I've loved.
We do a lot of stand up comedy shows my daughter and I all probably way too profane for a 16 year old but everyone's education is being upended at this point.
I keep it to a minimum And I keep it intentional because that's also a rabbit hole that you can fall into.
Well, I definitely want to ask you about some of the projects that you've worked on but I read an interview where you said that perhaps you would love to be in something that was just recently stream that was wildly popular which is Netflix bridgerton Can you talk about did you watch bridgerton obviously i would imagine you did and what you liked about it.
Gosh i love you know when i was when i started coming up with this business in the in the 80s and 90s good lord there was the this new invention of colorblind casting and that's when i sort of came into the business and a lot of that was done in the classics and shakespeare and the greeks and
And there was a real move towards colorblind casting in the theater, and then it sort of fizzled out and then it never got to film and then it.
It certainly never really got to television.
I I found myself pegged and typecast in certain.
You could count on black women being cast in certain kinds of roles, in the 80s in the 90s.
you know 2000 came along and things began to change you know Shonda Rhimes came on the scene **** wolf certainly was one of them was one of the pioneers but i'm watching now in between we could never actually enter classic theater, classic script ,period script where People of Color weren't necessarily in positions of power and or beautiful or part of the Gentry or the aristocracy and struggle.
[UNKNOWN] has broken that ceiling.
And it actually harkens back to the 80s and 90s when I was doing theater, when I was doing Love's Labour's Lost, and when I was doing Henry V, and Midsummer Night's Dream with the public where it was a Brazilian theme to it.
It harkens back to early theater of the 80s.
It's a lovely coming full circle and so I look forward to playing some grand old game you know some you know some great old broad in one of those period pieces because I I love period.
I was trained to do period and to be able to do that on film now would be really exciting Well, maybe Mrs.
Dashwood in sentence so that could be fun.
I'm sure like most people I have read now all of the Bridgeton novels there.
There's like eight or 10 of them and there are plenty of parts I think.
I've hit up Shawna.
I sent her an email, Pretty much every couple of months ago hey girl hey
We talked about bridgerton and breaking down the barriers and how you're casting and just showing a different side of how reality could or should be right what do you think about progress that's been made in terms of diversity and inclusion is something obviously as Yeah, we should all care about.
As a woman, I care about it, as a woman of color.
I'm sure you care about it very much.
Are you encouraged by what you're saying?
I'm encouraged, I'm encouraged.
I'm encouraged because of what's happening in front of the screen, but also what's happening behind.
Because there are more women coming into power at the studios.
At the studio level, at the network levels, they're women of colour that are now very high up in the networks.
There are individual producers and directors Ava DuVernay and Gina vinewood.
And there are a whole slew of Filmmakers that are top notch and in the game at the top of their game and so that's how this invest how the industry changes and, and honestly you know the black lives matter that has finally Sort of surfaced in a way that is, that cannot be ignored, that is touching the industry.
It is awakening minds and hearts and opening eyes and I think oftentimes racism isn't particularly malicious but that level of of ignorance.
Is no longer excusable and so we are we are now getting to critical mass void where we are see beginning to see a real shift in, in the business in the industry and we're seeing the evidence of that in imprisonment is huge.
The existence of Bridgerton and the fact that it is such a huge hit is such an affirmation and confirmation of what we in the Black community have always known.
About ourselves as artists.
Well, Lorraine Tucson, thank you so much for your time and your candor and your very fun stories about what it's been like living through quarantine and, and working on some of these amazing projects.
We look forward to seeing more of your work.>>Thank you so much.
It's lovely meeting you.
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