Written By: Madelyn Gee
Aisha Hinds has seen more than just the daily messes of life.
As a Black and queer firefighter, Hinds’s character as Henrietta “Hen” Wilson on the hit FOX show 9-1-1 is providing necessary representation in the evolving field of emergency medical care. The crew has faced everything from tsunamis to roller coaster accidents. However, nothing could have prepared her for the trials and tribulations 2020 brought to the world.
BGN talked with Aisha Hinds over the phone to discuss her background in acting, what it means to play a healthcare worker in the midst of the pandemic, and the must-watch mashup episode between 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star.
What made you decide to become an actress?
I had a woman in my life who was our PE instructor as well as our after school tap dance instructor. Her name was Ms. Vernetta Johnson. At that time, I was so hype and active. I had a joke for everything and everyone. Laughter is the thing that you sort of use for medicine and give to others. She saw this as some raw giftings and talents. She said to me, “You should look into the High School of Performing Arts in the city.”
I didn’t know much about the vocabulary of performing arts in terms of stage plays and monologues and auditions. I was exposed to things and things resonated with me. I remember Whoopi Goldberg’s one woman show. I think it was on Showtime or HBO. It was produced by Tommy Schlamme at the time and she did a series of characters. Her transforming to these different characters really resonated with me because it spoke to us as Black people not being a monolith and having so many different voices and sides to us and ways that we express and explore ourselves. That stumped me as a child.
When Ms. Johnson guided me towards the high school and I had to prepare a monologue, I had no idea that a monologue came out of a stage play. I relied back on what I saw and what it looked like was Whoopi Goldberg literally talking off the top of her head. I did that for my audition and just started freestyling off the top of my head and it worked out. I ended up getting into the high school from that audition. I remember wanting to nurture and cultivate this voice inside of me that could create these characters and tell these stories.
9-1-1 handles tons of disasters. However, we have never faced anything like this pandemic. How have you been coping with the pandemic and how has it influenced 9-1-1?
9-1-1 was not trying to dance around it or ignore it. Even though we have these wild emergencies, you still want to continue in the vein of letting people know that we see you, we hear you, and we’re with you. We want to take these journeys with you. That’s how we’re moving through the pandemic. Even our characters with the stories are taking place in current times. Our characters are masked up on emergencies and mindful of how it can impact you mentally, physically, and emotionally. For me, 2020 definitely was a year that felt like a mental pop quiz or a pop quiz on character. Nothing reveals character more than crises. What did I have in my toolbox to survive or to deal with emergencies?
Healthcare workers are the equivalent of superheroes now more than ever before. How does it feel to encapsulate this career on such a large stage?
We were definitely always in this perpetual posture of gratitude for our first responders and heroes who literally put their lives on the line each and every day by choice. Even in the context of some of our cases being so far fetched and moments of humor for levity, there was still a tremendous amount of reverence for these people who did this thing day in and day out. Understand that these were the people who did not stop during this pandemic and did not stop during these quarantines. These were the people who continue to day in and day out show up for us and for the world.
I feel honored. I’m sure that the rest of the cast does as well to be able to continue to give voice and give attention and amplify the work that they do. One of the things we forget is that these heroes are humans as well. While they’re going out into the world and into hospitals, clinics, parking lots and doing the work, they have to go home and carry all of the things that come along with doing the job on their shoulders and in their bodies. They are impacted and affected just like we are, but don’t have the option or don’t have the luxury to not do the work that they do.
On your Instagram page, you are constantly posting not only fabulous looks and pop culture, but topics from BLM to politics. In terms of representation, what does it mean to you to be playing a Black and queer woman in the times of racial injustice and political divide?
I think there’s a tremendous responsibility. When you’re given a platform or you’re afforded any percentage or level of privilege, it is your responsibility to posture that privilege to something that is productive and something that is helpful. I definitely am going to see every opportunity that I get afforded to use that platform towards that level of support. It’s a big deal for me to be playing a Black and queer firefighter paramedic. Our audience base runs the gamut, from young people to old people across races, across countries. That really warms my heart to engage with our viewers, even on social spaces, to just touch our audiences and how much they are endeared to Hen’s character. It normalizes her in the space. My hope is that it’ll normalize her and others like her in the world.
9-1-1 will soon be having a major crossover with 9-1-1: Lone Star. What was one of your favorite moments from both of these shows coming together?
When 9-1-1: Lone Star first launched, I started watching from the beginning. I fell in love with their schtick, because they established their own tone and aesthetic. I’m a biased fan of ours and our family dynamic that we have. So I was like, “I don’t know what this is going to be like bringing the two together. How do we make this a collaborative space?” But our audiences were hoping for it and willing for it to happen. I can’t be more proud of the episode, as an individual episode and for the franchise. I think it definitely represents the franchise in such a beautiful way in that it highlights the relationships and the characters in a way that feels incredibly balanced. You get to see the full team in action. All the pieces are working together, and it’s a beautiful harmony. I think that audiences will be really satisfied with the crossover.
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