Melissa De Sousa Talks 'Reed Between the Lines'
Actress also talks about the challenges of being Afro-Latina in Hollywood
Most people know actress Melissa De Sousa from her sassy character Shelby in the 1999 film “The Best Man.” Still, for several weeks fans have gotten to know the Afro-Latina actress as Gabrielle Jiminez in BET’s new hit series Reed Between the Lines.
Loop 21 caught up with De Sousa before the show premiered to find out why she joined the cast, the challenges of being Afro-Latina in Hollywood and her real feelings on her co-stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm Jamal Warner.
Loop 21: Why did you decide to join this production?
It was something when I read the character; it was something different and fun. I love the fact that the show is based in New York because I am a native New Yorker, although my character is from South Philly, who moved to New York. I love that she is Puerto Rican. I’m Afro-Latina and you see more of that on television, because that’s what most Latinos look like in New York. I like her personality. I like that she’s fiery and passionate and funny. This cast ... I mean, how can you go wrong?
Loop 21: Do you feel that being Afro-Latina, you have unique experiences being an actor in Hollywood?
I’m African American as well, so when I first started my career I played African-American roles. I had to fight to play Latin-American roles because my skin is dark. So Hollywood has their own idea. There more in tune to the more Caucasian looking Latin. It was just a battle for me to play Latin. For me, it’s a double-edged sword. Since I have started playing Latin, I almost feel there is more work available to be honest .... It’s just different. People always want to put you in a box. I don’t want to be put in a box. I want to play everything.
Loop 21: You’ve known Malcolm Jamal Warner for a long time. What have you learned from him as a producer, as a director and as an actor on set?
We can laugh together, but he’s very serious and very focused at times when his producer hat is on and when he’s also directing. He was a fabulous director. I really loved working with him as a director. He was very on point. He was very organized. He was great. Having an actor as a director, he knows how to talk to an actor. That’s so important. A lot of directors don’t know how to talk to actors, they just know how to get the shot ... I would like to see him direct more.
Loop 21: And, what about Tracee Ellis Ross?
I had never met her in person, but she is really funny. She’s funny onscreen as well, but she’s zaney and very free-spirited. And I like that about her. She kind of puts it out there and has a good time, and takes chances.
Loop 21: Everyone loved your character Shelby in “The Best Man” and I hear there’s a sequel. What’s up with that? Is there a timeline?
It’s in the works. It’s in the works. I can’t really say much about it, but I would be super, super excited to play that character again .... and I don’t know about a timeline, but yea ... that’s all I can say!
Loop 21: In your opinion, where would you like to see your character in "The Best Man?"
I would like people to see the real human side of her, the vulnerable side. Because most people who approach me on the street are scared of me. Men are like, ‘Oh god, here she comes.’ And women are like, ‘Go ‘head girl! I’m like that too.” [Shelby] is that way, but a lot of that is a cover. She has a heart inside and insecurities. That, I hope is incorporated. I loved playing her. It's fun.
Reed Between the Lines airs on BET every Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET/PT.