Interview with Atlanta's Jasmine Guy promoting TV One's 'Chasing Waterfalls' & other projects

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Friday, May 6, 2016

Atlanta's Jasmine Guy is a busy woman. She is currently shooting a recurring spot on Nickelodeon's "KC Undercover," which is where I caught her by phone between shoots out of Los Angeles earlier this week.

I had also been on set this week for the pilot movie of a BET show called "The Yard," in which Guy plays a professor at a fictional Atlanta-based historically-black college. This is a call back to Guy's groundbreaking work on the  sitcom "A Different World" from 1987 to 1993.

But she called to promote the latest Atlanta-shot TV One film based loosely on a Bible story. After "To Hell & Back" and "For the Love of Ruth," TV One commissioned "Chasing Waterfalls," inspired by the story of David set in the fashion industry. (The press release references "Devil Wears Prada").

Guy plays the imperious Meryl Streep-type character, running a fashion house with her two kids. "I don't like to be told what's right or wrong," she said. "I don't need to be challenged."

Drew Sidora is Olivia, a God-fearing woman who is ultimately brought down by her greed and quest for power.

"It's a coming-of-age story for this young seamstress who is like Norma Rae fighting for the workers" at a textile factory," Guy said. "Then she starts her own fashion line and becomes famous in her own right. She goes through all the ego and fame and forgets about the people in the basement. She has to come to terms to come back around."

Ultimately, Guy's character "grooms Olivia to be like me. But she sabotages her. And Olivia will have to make a choice. I like the journey of our young hero who decides to give it all up. It's a very telling kind of story." She said you often have to make choices in life: money over what makes you happy. They unfortunately don't always go hand in hand.

Guy herself picks projects now based on how she feels about them, not necessarily the paycheck. "I love what I do," she said. "For the right job, I'll do it for $50. I'll do it for $500. I'll do it for $5,000." In the case of TV One (which is relatively low budget), "this was a great role. This is an opportunity to do what I do. I'm playing really interesting roles right now."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

We also talked a bit about "The Yard," which will likely air in the fall. BET is pumping a lot of money into this project, which stars Anika Nona Rose as the new president of a struggling Georgia A&M, a fictional university in Atlanta that was shot heavily on the campuses of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta.

In the two-hour film/pilot, Guy's history professor helps Rose navigate the tricky waters of a male-dominated administration.

"I was very excited they were bringing a series on a black campus," Guy said. "I think it's very important that 'A Different World' was set at an HBCU for many reasons." She likes the quality of the production and people involved including Rob Hardy ("Stomp the Yard," "The Gospel"). "I had seen "Drumline' and 'Stomp the Yard.' I knew Rob," she said. "But the clincher was who was playing the president. I love Anika. She's immensely talented."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

She loved revisiting Morehouse College, which was where Spike Lee shot "School Daze" in 1988.

Then we talked politics. Guy was really active promoting and fundraising for Barack Obama in 2008. "I thoroughly believed in him as a candidate way before he declared," she  said. "His personality, his intellect. Coming off Bush, it was wonderful to hear him speak." Eight years later, she feels he lived up to her expectations but was put off by the "obstructionism" of the Republicans.

"That was very disheartening and discouraging, the underlying racism," she said.

She hasn't wholeheartedly fallen behind candidate this round. But she admires how Bernie Sanders brought to the fore issues that are important, "that affects our children and our parents... The American Dream does not exist the way it did for our parents. He kept pounding that issue."

She attended Sanders' rally at Morehouse. "I was just very proud of all the young people who showed up," Guy said.

She said in 2008, she didn't tell people who to vote. She just wants people to listen and not vote emotionally. "Don't just vote for Obama because he's black but vote for him because he's intelligent, he's educated and he's inclusive."


"Chasing Waterfalls," 7 p.m., Sunday, TV One