Exclusive Interview with Snowfall’s Angela Lewis

Angela Lewis has been in the acting circle since 2005. Since 2017 she has been a staple on American television with FX’s Snowfall, portraying Aunt Louie. I had the pleasure of getting to speak to Angela about the upcoming season.
Snowfall is finally back for season two! What can you tease about where the show picks up and what Aunt Louie is up to when it premieres?

Season 2 picks up with Franklin and his crew making some serious bank from the new-found crack game. I’m talking life changing bank. We all know how money can change things. Well, it’s changing things for all of them: how they relate with each other, with themselves, with their community, new rules and protections that need to be put in place to safeguard the success of the business and even their lives. Who’s going to stay true and who’s going to be selfish? In terms of Louie, she’s feeling a bit disenfranchised. At the end of season 1, she made a couple crucial decisions, and in season 2, she’s finding that those decisions have backfired. So, how does she find her power? Louie thinks (and has always thought) of herself as a boss. She’s trying to identify who in her tight circle sees her for who she really is. 

Going back to the show’s beginnings, what was it that drew you to this role?

Initially, I just wanted to try that first fight scene on for size! It was outrageously fun to do that scene at the audition because I was actually just fighting the air! Then I booked the show, and the panic set in! The second thing that drew me to Louie was understanding her heart. How did she get to be where she was when we meet her? That’s where I fell in love with her.

The 1980s setting is extremely important to Snowfall. As an actor, how much research did you do about the 1980s to figure out how your character would have lived and maneuvered in that decade?

Interestingly, I don’t think much has changed. The world of Snowfall, in which Louie lives, is a community of color trying to make life happen with the little they have as given circumstances. They’re fighting for the “American dream”, they’re fighting for a come up, they’re fighting for their rights, and they’re fighting for their lives. I know all about that and whatever differences Louie and I have in terms of how we fight, I didn’t have to do too much digging to learn. I watched some Youtube clips to learn more about drugs. I watched Paris Is Burning to get a better idea about the LGBTQ club community in the 80s. Other than that, it’s sad that if you swapped out the hair and clothes, it’s all really the same. It’s one of the reasons Snowfall is, and feels, so relevant and urgent. 

Going off of that, what kind of research did you do, if any, to play a drug addict?

I had to really understand the side effects of the drug; what it’s doing to the brain, how it makes a person behave. Then I had to really understand why a person would do that to themselves. That’s when I gained so much compassion for Louie and those like her. If I had that much heartbreak and marginalization, I might be strung out somewhere too, and wouldn’t a lot of us? Addiction is addiction. The opioid crisis is no different than the crack epidemic. It’s just that the latter was handled with a lot more “law and order” and a lot less compassion. Shame on America. Addiction is addiction, no matter what you do or don’t do for a living; no matter how much money you do or don’t have. Addiction is a sickness, and should be treated as such.

What is it like working with the legendary John Singleton?

John is awesome. He has such an amazing eye and such a humongous heart. He really wants to tell the stories of the community he comes from with authenticity and love. I’m here for all of that!

Your degree is in theater and a lot of your roles in the beginning of your career were on stage. Now you’re a series regular on a major show, how does television differ from the stage?

My favorite aspect of doing a play is the rehearsal process. It’s where everyone is alive and working together to build this world that’s been dreamt up by the writer. I exclusively did new plays, so the words might change, in fact whole scenes might be added or deleted. An actor will have an impulse and so the blocking has to change. The director gets inspired and a whole element is added to support various themes in the play. Everyone is open, saying yes (or challenging a change with insight and intellect). It’s electric. Everyone is there in service of the play. Then, just before opening night, you lock all the choices and the story that is being told (on the micro and macro levels) is set. The challenge, once the show opens, and for the duration of the production, is to tell the story for the first time, every time.

On TV, each episode is a new, sort of mini-production. It is even common for each episode to have a different director. The challenge is to be alive and work off of your impulses in each take. If you feel inspired to try something, do it, and do it now because you don’t get tomorrow. Tomorrow, we’ve moved on to the next scene, and now you’re filled with regret that you didn’t do that thing that would have been amazing! On TV, it’s always electric and alive with possibilities and everyone figuring it out together. Working on camera is like working on my favorite aspect of my craft all the time!

Which role has been the most memorable? Fun? Challenging?

I did a play called Good Goods by Christina Anderson and directed by Tina Landau at Yale Rep. My sweet character, ‘Sunny,’ gets accidentally possessed by the spirit of a 6 foot 2, 240-pound misogynist dude named ‘Emekka,’ who’s mad about his death and the situation he’s currently in. It was super fun playing with the dynamics of these two people who were polar opposites in every way. At one point, ‘Sunny’ and ‘Emekka’ have a physical fight, which took the hysterics to a whole other level!

If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be teaching. I’m a natural. I love being a witness when something clicks for someone and they find themselves in the flow.

All of us at TNWU are nerds who are passionate about something, so we would like to know what you “nerd out” about?

My hair. There’s so much that goes into naturally kinky-curly hair, and how to care for your specific curls/coils. My favorite thing was learning how to test my hair porosity. Such a simple thing, but it changes the game! 

Snowfall returns July 19th on FX. You can follow Angela on Twitter and Instagram

Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

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