Cassandra Freeman is a multi-talented actor who has starred in films such as Inside Man, series such as Atlanta, and most recently, the iconic Aunt Viv from Peacock’s Bel-Air. She is also incredibly passionate about helping other BIPOC professionals grow and excel in the entertainment industry.
Black Girl Nerds met with Freeman over Zoom to discuss Bel-Air’s impact on her life and audiences worldwide. We also discussed how she supports her fellow industry professionals with her organization Creatricity.
What’s your experience working on the Bel-Air series? What has been most rewarding and most surprising?
Seeing people love the show for reasons outside the content is the most rewarding thing. People feel good to see a part of themselves reflected back to them in a beautiful, shiny way. I know what that feels like when someone gets something right about your culture.
The most surprising thing is the expansiveness of the type of people who watch this show, from famous people to people who live across the globe.
Similar to the life of Aunt Viv, has there been a moment in your life where you realized you had to prioritize yourself to achieve your dreams?
I remember there was a point in my past when I had three jobs at three different restaurants. I was a hostess, a waitress, and a manager.
Sometimes, you get so good at doing a specific job you forget that even though you perform well, that job is a pursuit of a bigger goal. You don’t have to continue pursuing something that is not your dream simply because you’re good at it.
I learned this lesson when I helped a man open a restaurant. He had promised me benefits along with the job; however, when the restaurant opened, he went back on his word. So I quit, and at the same time, he fired me. When I turned around to leave, he said, “Congratulations because you are bigger than this job.”
What messages does the show communicate to the modern-day Black working-class family?
Aunt Viv’s storyline hits Black women who are visual artists so deeply. There’s a story of feminine rising. It’s a feeling that you don’t have to apologize for your passions. It’s not about your bank account; it’s about what values you hold and what you’re willing to do to hold on to them.
The show keeps coming back to that. Aunt Viv lets go of her art rather than harm her family. The show is about values and truth and what it costs to speak your truth. Because of the honest portrayals of struggle and triumph, the show makes me feel hopeful about what love and family can be.
Tell me a little bit about Creatricity, why you helped found it, and how you’ve seen it grow.
Creatricity is the word electricity and creativity mixed. Whenever I was around creative people, they filled me with what felt like electricity. That’s how I came up with the name.
Whenever I would hang out with Black actresses, the same questions came up, such as, how did you find your entertainment lawyer? How did you find your agent? So I thought, why not try to solve these problems?
Creatricity it’s a membership house for vetted entertainment and media people. It’s like IMDb and LinkedIn had a baby.
People have left our parties with their next agent or lawyer. It helps make it easy to connect and network. We are integrating more POC into the industry.
Between your various roles acting in drama, comedy, film, and television, what’s something you’ve learned about the industry?
This career is like a circle; sometimes you’re at the top, and sometimes you’re working hard to get back to the top. I did the movie Inside Man and was on the top, and then it took a while for the second big thing to hit. Therefore, you never stay on top but never have to stay on the bottom.
What’s been your favorite role to play? What’s been your most challenging role to play?
My favorite role was Monique Allen, from the FX show Atlanta when I played that happy Juneteenth episode. I loved playing the rich and clueless women. She was the bougie Black woman without friends, but I loved her.
My most challenging role was a role I did on the ABC network show For Life. It was a powerful show. I played a lawyer defending these white police officers who had killed a man’s son. It was difficult to hear the tragedy of someone’s life being told repeatedly.
After that role, I decided I didn’t want to do any more parts talking about the pain of Black people. I wanted to find the joy in being Black, and that’s how the Bel-Air role came to me.
What do you hope to see for other Black female actors?
I think they’re already doing so much. I see Coco Jones; Dominique Fishback is out here killing it. They are doing things that my generation could not do. These women are coming out and producing and making production companies. They’re dropping the ladder to bring more people in. They are being as expansive as they can be. I hope we become more expansive about what it means to be Black.
Season 2 of Bel-Air is currently streaming on Peacock.
What's Your Reaction?
Kiersten is a freelance writer and coach. As a writer, she has written for Travel Noire, Passion Passport, BAUCE mag, and various travel and lifestyle blogs. As a writer, her goal is to write content that inspires others to take action. As a coach, her goal is to empower women to be their most authentic selves. In her free time, you can find her dancing to any song any where.