Jeffrey Wright’s American Fiction opened in select theaters earlier this week. The film followed Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, a frustrated author and college professor fed up with his books being stereotyped as African-American fiction. Notably, the comedy-drama starred Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Erika Alexander as its leading ladies.
In a cover story published by ESSENCE today (Dec. 19), the trio drew parallels from the movie to their own lives while discussing how Black womanhood is conceptualized, showcased, and observed.
“I think the three of us are people who’ve made choices in our careers and have played roles in our careers where we do have a whole life and a whole story,” Ross explained. “It is not easy as an actress — as a woman and as a Black actress — to find roles where you are not written in the context of something else.”
She continued, “Where your identity is not because of something, or you’re just the setup for someone else, or you establish something, and then you’re gone, and just used in that way.”
“Black women do a lot to thrive, but first, they have to survive. They have to survive society’s expectations and then their own ambition,” Alexander chimed in.
Speaking on Sintara Golden, her character in the movie, Rae added, “I think that so much of being a Black woman is sometimes like that — like, ‘You’re going to try to play me, but I will overcome, and I’ll play the game better.’ And I honestly love that part of it.”
Rae, Ross, and Alexander are trailblazers in their respective lanes. Rae was the second Black woman to create and star in her own comedy with “Insecure.” The show won big at the 2021 Webby Awards and 2022 NAACP Image Awards.
Meanwhile, Ross became a cultural icon through roles such as Joan Carol Clayton on “Girlfriends” and Bow Johnson on “Black-ish.” In addition to becoming the epitome of Black womanhood on screen, she also executive produced Hulu’s “Hair Tales” in 2022.