“It is very empowering because representation matters and to see a full cast of people and know that the creative team behind it is Black as well is pretty big,” says Canadian actor Ronnie Rowe Jr., who plays lead character Zeke.
Toronto actress Mouna Traoré, who plays Marlene, says she’s proud to have a show like this. “Finally, there’s something that when I have babies, I’m going to want them to watch and I’m going to want them to be inspired by and I don’t think I’ve felt that way about any kind of Canadian TV.”
She adds, “I think also about what it says as a statement to the industry—like a show with this many talented Black actors on this many creatives on both sides of the camera, at this scale, and it’s going to be a smashing success—what that says to the industry about what we’re capable of doing, and setting a new kind of standard. I mean, there’s no excuses for Black-led shows, for Black creatives, not to have the same opportunities as their white counterparts. We’ve done it.”
“There’s no excuses for Black-led shows, for Black creatives, not to have the same opportunities as their white counterparts. We’ve done it.”
For Canadian actress Olunike Adeliyi, who plays Miss Queenie, the experience was a moving one that extends beyond the series. “I am a very bold person in my own life, whether it’s speaking out about certain injustice, that’s who I am,” she says. “I always say that if I was coming up in probably any other era, I’d be killed. I’d be killed because I’m extremely rebellious. My family has always said, ‘Oh, you’re the black sheep, or you’re going to get yourself in trouble.’ But who I was, was exactly who I was supposed to be for this character, where she dares to see herself equal, if not better than white men in a time like this as a gangster doing what she does for her community so well, and so ruthlessly and unapologetically. So I feel that I am that person in my own life. Now she is way on another level than me, but I’m aiming to be a Queenie. I’m playing her, but I’m aiming to be that in my life.”
British actor Aml Ameen, who also serves as EP, plays Junior Massey, explains that his characters journey is one we’ve seen throughout Black history. “Junior wants to create avenue for his family, and family’s at the core of every decision he makes. That’s something I genuinely relate to. Something I’ve grown into that I really like about the character Junior is how unapologetically alive he is, and that he realizes like this is his time to garner the type of world and life that he wants to see. I also think what’s fascinating about Junior is his respect for Zeke, which I think is going to become more explored in a Season 2, which is, ‘I know you can do that.’ You can do that because I do this too. The two things have to co-exist. For there to be a Barack Obama, for example, there had to be disruptors in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. For us to have the movement we had with Black Lives Matter, there had to be this fear of what would occur if justice didn’t prevail.”