Starz’s Blindspotting is nearing the end of its first season and so far, the show has covered topics like the effects of the prison industrial complex, gentrification, sex work, and last Sunday’s episode tackled colorism. The show follows Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones) and her biracial six-year-old son Sean (Atticus Woodward) as they try to find their footing when his dad is sent to jail for five years. With the help of family and neighbors in their Oakland neighborhood, the mom and son duo begin to figure out what life is going to be like with their loved one behind bars. In the sixth episode of Blindspotting titled “The Secret’s Out,” while Ashley struggles with how to tell her son the truth about his dad’s whereabouts, her friends Nancy (Margo Hall), Janelle (Candace Nicholas-Lippman), and Earl (Benjamin Earl Turner) are trying to find ways to have Sean embrace his Blackness more.
The child, whose dad Miles (Rafael Casal) is white, refers to himself as being “honey brown” and sends his mom’s friends and his aunt Trish (Jaylen Barron) into a frenzy. The group then gets into a deep conversation about what it means to be Black and what defines Blackness, and the beautifully orchestrated conversation between them covers aspects of colorism, classism, and the spectrum of how Black and mixed-race people are viewed and defined in their own communities as well as in the outside world. Like other biracial children, Sean’s identity gets questioned and his Blackness is tested by whether or not he has watched The Wiz or if he likes Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The characters delve deep into what it means to be Black and explore why some people are accepted more than others.
Janelle opens up about her struggles with colorism as a Black woman with darker skin, who grew up surrounded by women like Ashley who had a lighter complexion. It’s an experience many Black women who live in multicultural environments have to face and grapple with. She shared her feelings about what it was like to be overlooked while the other women’s closeness to Eurocentric beauty standards was celebrated. “Growing up, everybody used to say how beautiful Ashley was, right. Everybody always said her hair was so pretty, they always wanted to know what she was mixed with. Everybody was fronting their mix,” Janelle says in the clip. “Meanwhile, I’m over there rocking afro puffs standing next to bitches who look like you and they’re over there telling me that I need to get my fucking hair pressed!”
Nicholas-Lippman opened up to Complex about filming Episode 6 during a recent “Conversations at Home” panel for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation. “That’s actually one of my favorite episodes. I love that Rafa and Daveed (Diggs) are having this kind of conversation in this show, especially me being a dark-skinned Black woman. Everybody knows it was really hard for me during shooting this and Rafa had to give me notes to help me shift it because I have all of my own trauma, growing up and being a dark skin woman. So everything that they wrote about, the great writing, literally was me. I was like I have literally lived this and am still living this as a Black woman,” she said. “I love how they have said that Janelle is going to be and how they’ve allowed me to develop her. Janelle is not just one-sided. She’s not this bitter, hateful, angry Black woman. I don’t have to be this sassy Black woman in this show. Janelle gets to be multi-dimensional. I love that they are allowing me to do that as an artist. She’s very multi-faceted. I love that viewers get to see a dark-skinned Black woman, who is multi-layered who’s rocking her locks, who is unapologetically who she is as a dark-skinned Black woman. Listen, I love it. I’m so honored and grateful for all the little dark skin Black girls and all the Black women that are looking at Janelle and being like, ‘Man, I could see myself finally.’ I love that we are now shifting that narrative that Black women are way more than that, so I’m very grateful.”
During the conversation, Earl also brings up the point that the Black experience isn’t just one set thing. Blackness isn’t defined by what kind of movies people have or haven’t watched, their skin tones, whether or not a person can play Spades, or where they grew up. Whether they were raised in a neighborhood like Oakland or in the suburbs, everyone’s experience is unique and a person’s Blackness remains despite their external circumstances. “This conversation is some Black privilege, and I love it,” Nancy tells them. “So keep on having it.”
Watch the full conversation in the clip above. Tune in to Blindspotting on STARZ on Sunday at 9 p.m.