‘Star’ season 3 preview: Brandy gets full-time status, rejoices working with Queen Latifah

Credit: Wilford Harewood

Credit: Wilford Harewood

Originally posted Thursday, September 27, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Fox’s “Star,” like its sister show “Empire,” is unabashedly a soap. This means more than your average number of murders or attempted murders per screen minute.

And the season two finale featured two sisters - played by Queen Latifah and Brandy - pointing guns at each other. We also hear a gunshot. Classic cliffhanger! (J.R. Ewing is smiling from heaven.)

No reason to give away what happens as season three opens Thursday night at 9 p.m., but both women were on set recently in Atlanta to meet with press and shoot scenes. Plus, Fox has released press photos of the two of them, both ambulatory. So it’s not exactly a spoiler that the two characters are still alive.

We spoke with the two veteran singer/actresses who have known each other for nearly a quarter century. Queen Latifah was part of a group that added a rap interlude to a remix of Brandy’s first hit single “I Wanna Be Down” in 1994. Now they are stars on the same TV show.

While “Star” never became the water-cooler breakout hit “Empire” did, the Atlanta-based drama pulls in solid ratings for Fox and is a perfect companion piece to “Empire” on Thursday nights.

Here are excerpts of interviews with Queen and Brandy:

Queen Latifah (Carlotta Renee Brown, salon owner, now a senior record executive at Midtown Records)

On facing off with Brandy: "You gotta keep her serious. She's so ingratiating. I've known her since she was a kid. It's always this little sister/big sister kind of thing with us. So it's the cutest thing in the world. She is like, 'I can't do this to Queen Latifah!' 'My girl, if you don't punch me, if you don't shoot me. We gotta get the job done!' She's a chameleon. She can pop right into that. She can go from comedy into singing, then murder somebody right there. Her ability as an actor is fantastic cos she can bounce in between everything Cassie is capable of doing, which is fun for me. We have fun playing these scenes. We enjoy each other on set. We listen to music, then try to kill each other!"

On the Take Three girls: "The girls are always capable of doing their own solo projects. Keeping them as a group has always been a challenge between them getting in their own way and other people getting in their way. It's hard to keep these girls together as a group, as the sisters Carlotta would love them to be. There's a lot of tension. They are at odds with each other at this point when we see them again... we don't know if they'll make it as a group... The two sisters are at odds with each other... You'd never seen them have such a chasm... We see how that gets resolved." (She has to somehow convince them to do a final album together to help her label.)

On losing Benjamin Bratt's character Jahil season two to murder: "It was planned in advance but it's still such a big deal. For me, Latifah, I loved working with Benjamin every day. For Carlotta, this was the love of her life. He was not just killed but by her very own sister. Normally, Carlotta would deal with that person on a street level but when it's your sister, what do you do? You can't do anything. You're torn. She's so torn apart. We see Carlotta go through a lot emotionally and mentally. Physically? Not so much. She can still eat up a storm! She didn't realize how much she loved Jahil til everything happened. She's not really prepared for it."

How does she handle the pressure? "She has this new job and is running this whole company and looking out for the girls she's not managing anymore. It's not as easy to wrangle them. She has all these emotions bottling up inside. The joint's eventually going to blow!

Lee Daniel's special magic: "In life, people are dealing with loss and depression and the ups and downs of life and how to handle them. We're going to show a lot of this, how we deal with something like gun violence. We'll be tackling it this season. Lee doesn't shy away from an issue that is relevant to us now whether it's settled or not. He's always willing to confront an issue and see how it's dealt with in real life through these characters."

Brandy (Cassie Brown, Carlotta's criminal sister)

On her promotion to full-time status and her character: "I'm so excited to be here full time. I dreamt for this. I wanted this to happen because everyone embraced me. Cassie is a riot. I love playing this character. This season is a little more challenging because you'll get to know who she is. I'm going to have to go to a lot of emotional, vulnerable places. She has a past where she's emotional. There are pockets where she'd hid things that nobody really knows about.

Lee Daniels wanted her: "I didn't audition her for this role. I think they needed somebody right away. I got the call Tuesday. Cassie worked Thursday. Mr. Daniels has always been promising me something. He saw me on Broadway and he was impressed. He wanted to put me on 'Empire,' but then he had this. He was like, 'I got something for you. Think gangsta b****!' I said, 'Okay. That's it. So when do I start?' He said, 'Thursday.'" I was like, 'Okay, so I don't have to audition. I got the part!' I was running around the house. 'I don't have to audition!' I suck in auditions, too. I probably wouldn't have gotten the part.

Finding out she'd be blood to Queen Latifah's character: "Oh my god, Queen Latifah is a beast in a good way. She's great at what she does. I was like, 'Oh my god, no audition, no prep, so what, you gotta bring it. It's in front of you, you can do it!' That's what I kept telling myself. I got there, it wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be. Mr. Daniels was there. I had my first scene with Queen Latifah and Miss Patti LaBelle. I felt so comfortable. It was great."

Her relationship with Queen Latifah: "She is an older sister to me and I love her so much her like she is my sister. I told her the other day I wish she was my real sister. But it's hard to go head to head because I feel that way about her and because her spirit is so sweet and humble. She's cool to everyone around her. She speaks to everybody. I love this woman!"

How to be mean to Carlotta: "This is what she told me. 'I don't care who I am to you in your life. I'm Carlotta and you gotta to bring it!' So now I'm starting to feel like, 'I gotta bring it home for the show. I gotta bring it home for Cassie. I gotta bring it home for Queen. Like I have to do my job or else it's not going to read... Fox is going to be like, 'She isn't wanted for season four!'"

So who will get shot? It won't be Cassie. "Somebody gets shot but you just don't know who... and you're talking to me! I'm still in the building!.. If you don't see me in the building next year, I probably got shot!"


“Star,” 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fox, season 3 starting September 27, 2018