Quinta Brunson is a testament to the world being less extraordinary and more “extra ordinary"; the quotidian absurdity we often overlook in our daily lives. Paying for multiple subscription services being a sign of wealth; the corporate surveys of what makes a “bad bitch”; the soul-sucking obsession with reality TV. She makes us laugh at what society prescribes us and that’s what endeared the world to her on the virally successful 2014 web series The Girl Who's Never Been on a Nice Date, the HBO series A Black Lady Sketch Show, and Magical Girl Friendship Squad, the new late-night TZGZ animated series airing on SyFy. During a global pandemic where wearing a mask to protect people has been described as an attack on American freedom, Brunson is watching…and she’s laughing.
“The funniest thing that happened in 2020 was…did you see those white people who renounced their privilege? That was a moment when I was like, ‘We’re never going back,’" Brunson told Complex.
Magical Girl Friendship Squad [Ed note: Which premieres on Syfy this Saturday, September 26, 2020 at midnight, aka basically Sunday?] is if Sailor Moon was set in Broad City, where bongs and birth control pills turn average women into magical saviors and coming up with rent is as direly important as saving the world. Brunson voices Alex, a dark skin, hoop earring-wearing millennial who embraces her curves as much as she worries about getting a job and becomes a crime-fighting duo with her recalcitrant roommate Daisy (Anna Akana) after a deity in the form of a little red panda named Nut (Ana Gasteyer) bestows them with powers to save the universe and mistakes them for warriors once it surreptitiously overhears the pair reciting John Wick dialogue. That’s not even including the satirical diatribes on internet outrage culture and celebrity, the magical mensural blood rain, and the evil CBD lattes the show somehow packs in 12-minute episodes. For Brunson, representation in an anime genre that seldom features dark-skinned leads was all the reason she needed to join on.
“Really getting the opportunity to play a Black girl that was going into this super hero role. That was pretty much it. I didn’t see a script before I signed on to this project,” Brunson told Complex.
Brunson spoke with Complex about how the NBA ushered her into the new normal of the pandemic, why there’s a bigger Black comedy renaissance happening than people realize, her upcoming ABC show about teachers, and how she’s been able to find humor during these historically unfunny times.
When did you sign on to do Magical Girl Friendship Squad?
I signed on in February and we did all the recording in early March right before the pandemic hit. We were already recording in separate booths. The team was in New York, and I and the rest of the talent was in L.A. recording at different times and not all together. That felt a little strange but it wound up being a good thing when the pandemic hit because we finished recording right as things were going into lockdown.
There’s an episode of the series speaking about outrage culture on the internet and has really interesting human critiques. Are there any critiques from the show that resonate with you personally?
I can’t even remember all of my lines (laughs). I remember seeing the material and agreeing with all of it. I thought it was a good way to layout the premise of outrage culture. One of the characters points to how outrage culture is a bad thing and should not be funding our reading. It should not be what’s embedded in our content that we’re consuming constantly. It’s toxic, we know this. This show does a really good way of showing that and showing who the outrage culture really benefits.
Millennials had Sailor Moon growing up, but I don’t remember a lot of Black leads in animes like there is in this show. What do you hope this show accomplishes beyond laughs?
I think the shows I grew up watching like Sailor Moon and Totally Spies did for me what shows like Batman and Spiderman, which were out a little before that, did for everyone else. I was just like, “Man, I really want to be those girls. I want to be one of the girls in Totally Spies. I do like dressing cute and having fun, but I also want to have superpowers. That’s a cute idea.” That's why that representation is kinda important. I love superheroes. Iron Man is my favorite superhero of all time, but he has a very macho bravado and energy I probably wouldn’t bring to my superhero’ing. I would probably be more like these girls. It’s fun to watch them play out in their worlds and universes. It’s not even about them being women. So many different people from our millennial age group is going to be able to relate to the content.
You said you finished the show before the pandemic hit. Everyone has either a professional or personal moment during this pandemic that let them know we were entering a new normal. What was it for you?
It was the NBA shutting down. I swear. Before that, ask anyone who knows me or Twitter, I was on everyone’s ass about this pandemic when it first hit Wuhan. I was like, “Something is happening and everyone needs to be paying attention.” Everything happened as I thought it would. We had these shutdowns. I was working on a show at the time and was telling my coworkers, “We’re not going to film. This is getting shut down.” But, when the NBA shutdown, I was like, “Oh…my….God!”
What people forget about how crazy that moment was was the fact that it started as just cancelling a night of games and then mere hours later the entire season was shut down. There was no time to process it.
(Laughs) Like WHAT?!! Did you ever in your life think you’d see sports shut down? That was huge to me. That was the moment when I knew we really fucked this up in this country (laughs). But, also, things are never going to be the same. Once you say the NBA and sports can shut down, that means that can happen again in the future, so that was a defining moment to me.
You were working on a TV show. How have adjusted, work-wise?
I’m working on a pilot for ABC that I’m really really excited about and love. Working during his time, I’m not going to lie, has been complicated. There’s so much happening, not just with coronavirus but also the social uprising. It puts you in a hard place where some days you don’t feel like working and it’s just that simple and you want to pay more attention to everything that’s going on. Or, you just to tune out because your brain needs a break. That was a crazy shift for me because I’m a worker who loves to work by nature, so I’ve been having my own mental breakdowns about not being as excited to work anymore. That being said, I’ve been doing more reading and making more efforts to get involved with grassroots organizations and sociopolitical movements that are happening that are not of the mainstream while also getting involved in our upcoming elections, as well.
I’m just trying to be informed about everything going on. Before the pandemic hit, I was dead set focused on what I was doing, but this time has made me want to focus more on being aware of what’s happening in the world and what we can do to truly make it a better place if we make it out of this year. That has gone over into the work of my show. My pilot is about teachers and is a pilot I developed three years ago, but now it feels more prevalent because teachers are now at the forefront and people are realizing how much work teachers actually do. Parents were flipping out like, “We can’t believe teachers do this every day.”
Y’all are still developing the show. Will the teacher’s struggle with reopening during the pandemic make its way into the show?
It’s informed a lot of the ideas that I’ve had. What it really informs is how teachers need funding. They do the base level work of starting our lives off. Your kindergarten teacher starts your development off into the world after your parents. Most school districts are critically underfunded. One of the reasons people aren’t able to go back to schools is because there’s no money for tests. That shouldn’t be the case. We should’ve directed our testing to these schools as testing became available. A lot of that has informed the pilot and how we’re handling those situations.
With shows like Insecure, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Atlanta and other Black-cast shows getting award recognition, do you think we’re in a Black comedy renaissance?
Yeah but that answer is complicated for me because I think with TikTok, Instagram, and all these other social media platforms, Black comedy is always here. It may not always be on television or the movies, but Black people are always finding new ways to get their comedy out there. I think there’s a standup renaissance that isn’t being televised yet, but I know amazing standups in both L.A. and New York who have not had specials yet. If you go see them live, you understand Black comedy is happening. This idea that there’s no more Black standups is sooooo not true. I know people rocking shows. I think we’re in a renaissance, but I feel like we’ve always been here.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened in 2020 that you think could be the source of joke?
The funniest thing that happened in 2020 was…did you see those white people who renounced their privileged? That was a moment when I was like, “We’re never going back.” I try to look for moments like that that are just absurd. Nancy Pelosi and all of them in dashikis. Come on. Please don’t make it hard for us. We have to vote, we don’t want to, and you’re making it really really really hard. We’re going to vote anyway. Those are the moments that I’m laughing at. These are very Boondock-ish times happening right in front of us.
How have you been able to even find humor during all of this?
We have to. I think I’ve just had to. I find things to laugh at. I’ve been watching old comedies and cracking up like I never have before because I need the humor. My natural reaction to trauma is [to] joke about it a little bit, so it’s more of a reaction than a how-to. The answer is how not to. Sometimes I don’t want stuff to be funny and I’d rather just sit in it and have it not be. That’s what I’m working on this year.