Not only does Trinidadian-American comedian Kerry Coddett brilliantly play Jasmine on Showtime’s new comedy Flatbush Misdemeanors, she’s a staff writer on this hilarious show as well. Versatility matters. Coddett has written on Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas (HBO) and has worked on countless comedy shows, including Ramy (Hulu), The Funny Dance Show (E), and the upcoming Pause with Sam Jay (HBO). BGN spoke with Brooklyn native Kerry Coddett via Zoom.
How did training at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) improv impact your career?
It was the first time I got to do improv, and I always like to joke that performing comedy with an ensemble, like a group, made me realize I wanted to do it by myself, so it really made stand up for me. [Laugh.] I’m gonna be honest. It taught me how to navigate predominantly white spaces. I never had to do that in my life, really. I grew up in Brooklyn, so all my schools were Black, mostly Black Caribbean, even in high school. I’ve never really had a traditional job, I’ve never done the corporate thing. Straight out of college, I started my own clothing company. Being at UCB, which was a predominantly white place, trying to climb to the top with people who had like-minded goals and finding myself like an “other” definitely helped thicken my skin and made me cut my teeth. And, I have friends I met at UCB in the industry and they’re still my friends, the people that I started with. I met really great people and collaboration is key.
What’s your “skin thickening” process?
I try not to take anything personally. So I’m not emotional when it comes to getting notes or feedback on my work, especially when you’re writing for someone else’s show. Ultimately, your job is just to make their job better and to give them what they want.
‘Flatbush Misdemeanors’ is fantastic. Were you hired as an actor then a writer or vice versa?
The show started as a web series in 2017. I played Kevin’s love interest in one episode, just a quick episode, one scene. I’ve always been a fan of the web series, so I was following it. When I saw that it got picked up, I just texted Kevin, “Congratulations,” and I was also like, “Don’t forget your Flatbush friends.” The quarantine was a blessing because it gave me time to work on my own original writing sample. If you are funny or you’re a stand up, that’s great, but if you’re going to be in a writers room, they need to know that you can write a script. When it came time to staff, they reached out and were like, “Do you have a sample?” and I happen to have my sample because, look at God! We stumbled into six months of free time and so I used it to work, sent him the sample, the rest is history. I ended up being in the room.
It was never clear that I would be on the show. I remember when I came to the writers room the first day, part of my “manifestation” was like, “I am Jasmine, I am Jasmine.” But as we started writing the show, I was just happy to be used however they want to use me. There’s so many people who make decisions that I was just like, “If it’s not for me, it’s not for me. What is for me, is for me.” But then they loved me so much in the writers room, word got back to Showtime and they basically were like, “We want her to audition for every part that is a Black adult female.” And I did it. I actually only auditioned for that one part, and they gave me that one part, and so it was kismet.
How does it feel to be writing diverse Caribbean American characters while including the nuances of so many cultures?
It feels great. I feel a great responsibility to make sure that I get things right. It’s opened my eyes to the ways in which being a Caribbean American is a distinct identity. Even when I’m writing for the Trinidadian characters in the roti shop, I have to double check. I literally call Trinidad. And I’m like, “Did I get this right?” And a lot of times it’s like, “No b*tch, you didn’t get it right!” And my family’s from Trinidad! So this has forced me to be honest. When we had Haitians in the script, I asked my Haitian friends. I wouldn’t dare to speak for the Haitian community or any Caribbean communities I don’t belong to.
As we are in this current “movement” of using art to come into people’s homes and show them the truth of who and what Blackness is, how does activism and philanthropy factor in?
I’ve always been motivated by a need to tell the truth since I was small. Whether it was spoken word at the Nuyorican, or rapping or doing stand up, I think ultimately, as an artist, my responsibility is only to tell the truth about the things that I care about. Not everybody’s gonna care about that. That’s fine if that’s not your truth; it just happens to be mine. So no matter what I do, my truth is going to leak out. It’s just what I care about. It’s what I’m driven to do no matter what.
I know you love dance. How important is dancing in your life and what is your favorite form of dance?
Oh I love this! I literally cried yesterday about bringing dance back into my life and realizing that once I stopped doing it for a living, that I forgot that it was my most favorite hobby. So today I literally put on my headphones and danced outside. My favorite genre, hands down, is dancehall. I love dancehall. I was a dancer, choreographer, toured with Mr. Vegas; dancehall makes me happy.
How are you connecting to joy?
Leaning into gratitude. Every single day I write down what I’m grateful for. I meditate, I smell the air, I make up my bed, I walk with my dog, every single moment brings me joy.
Don’t miss Showtime’s Flatbush Misdemeanors Sundays at 10:30pm EST.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.