This Black History Month, Black Girl Nerds sheds light on the lack of representation in the entertainment industry. This is an issue that must be addressed. For years, there has been a need for diversity in a multitude of television shows, specifically, soap operas. With major soap operas consisting of predominately white casts despite their length on screen, there is much need for improvement when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and equality.
Despite the lack of diversity remaining present in entertainment, many television shows are slowly opening the door to equal opportunity for actors of color by expanding on-screen representation. This is an aspect of television that must continue to expand. In recent years, the Emmy-winning soap opera Days of Our Lives has welcomed several new Black actors to its cast, including Raven Bowens, Jackee Harry, and Elia Cantu.
Shifts like this aim to change the trajectory of television. Days of Our Lives actor Raven Bowens, who plays Chanel Dupree, spoke to Black Girl Nerds about representation on the show, the significance of Black voices on television, and what this means for future Black actors.
The diversity in Days of Our Lives has continued to evolve since its original airing in 1965. How have you seen this play out in the show?
Our family has just expanded. We have Jackee [Harry] who is an icon, and we have Marla Gibbs, who is also an icon. We have Abe (James Reynolds), who’s been on the show forever and we have his son Theo (Cameron Johnson) and my sister Lani (Sal Stowers). Our family is so big. We did the Juneteenth wedding episode, and that was a great experience to be a part of. There were just so many beautiful brown faces in all different hues. It was incredible. So Days of Our Lives has done a really good job in expanding our voice and always making sure that there was a presence in Salem.
How do you think that the presence of Black actors on the show has provided a platform to help their stories be told?
We have a very diverse audience that watches the show. So I think that it’s nice. I love BET, but BET is mostly a Black audience. We have a more diverse audience so I feel like with that representation, people get to hear our stories, our point of view, and see our families, who aren’t tuned into BET and channels where it’s a primarily Black cast.
Can you talk about the importance of having Black voices on the show?
It’s so important. The thing I love about the Black community is we are small. I wish we were bigger, but we make up about 13% of the population and we are loud. If we have a problem, you’re going to know about it; if we love something you’re going to know about it; if we hate it you’re going to know about it. There is an authenticity to the Black voice. It’s very important because we express things that a lot of other people think. When we’re speaking, we are speaking from a Black perspective but we are not just speaking for Black people. We are speaking for the human condition as a whole, and we’re saying things that other people may be afraid to say.
How do you think this evolution of diversity has opened doors for Black actors in soap operas?
I think that it opened doors in soap operas. For instance, I play a sexually fluid woman who owns a bakery. So I’m a businesswoman. I’m open and out with sexuality, fearless. She has a lot of really great qualities that she expresses that I think at a different time wouldn’t be as welcomed on the platform. It’s a beautiful thing because the expansion is showing that there are so many different walks of life that Black people choose and experience. We’re starting to show more and more but as time goes on it’s going to be as fluid as my character. Theo is autistic, my character is sexually fluid, and my sister is a cop. There are so many different stories that we’re telling that show that the possibilities are endless.
Do you think this rise in diversity will influence other shows that may lack diversity?
Definitely in the daytime space for sure because if we are doing it then everyone should be doing it. I think that it opens up those doors. I love social media especially Twitter (now X), soap Twitter. A lot of the pages that share things about Chanel share things about the other Black actresses on other soap operas. I think that we have a good amount of diversity in soap operas. When I go to events I see a lot of Black women who are doing it and I’m so proud of them and I feel like there’s a shared sense of sisterhood. I think we need to get another Black man on Days of Our Lives. We have my stepfather, and that’s all we have right now.
In previous interviews, you talked about how landing the role of Chanel Dupree was like an omen. You also talked about the significance of your grandmother in your career. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
My grandmother passed away in January of 2021, and I had already screened-tested for the show. I didn’t get the role. I went on to do another show in New York. I was gone and I was out there filming. In that show, my grandmother was in hospice, and I came home to shoot the audition for that show while she was in hospice. I posted a picture of myself, and then someone commented, ‘Oh my God, you look just like your grandma here.’ That was such a funny thing. Then right after my grandmother passed away, I found out that I got that job.
I went to New York and was filming, and then on my birthday Days of Our Lives reached out to me. They asked me to audition for the show again. I looked at the material and was like, they already tested me, why do they need to see me do this again? My manager was like, “You know what, you’re right; I’m going to tell them that.” They said, “You’re right; we want to offer it to you.” That was my birthday.
I didn’t even know that it was a recasting for the same role. I looked at it and was like it looks very similar. My grandmother’s birthday is April 9th, and that was the day I started filming. So that’s when I said that it felt like an omen. When I started my production company, I named it after my grandma. I named it Pearly Mae Productions. My grandmother wanted to be an entertainer back in her day. She had kids, and it was harder at those times. So she never really got to go after it. She was always very encouraging to me and inspiring. My career was a bonding source for my grandmother and me.
Can you give fans any hints of where you would like to see your character Chanel Dupree go in future episodes?
I think you guys already know that somebody is going to put a ring on it. So there’s some fun wedding stuff coming up. It’s not going to be the wedding we expect. There is a turn that happens.
Catch Raven Bowens on new episodes of Days of Our Lives streaming weekdays on Peacock.
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Beverly is a Technical Writer by profession who enjoys all things celebrity news and pop culture.