For the past several months we’ve posted episodes of the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, and it seems the male cast Lyman Johnson (White Jay), Madison Shockley III (Fred), Andrew Allan James (A) and Tristen Winger (Darius/Baby Voice) have developed quite a fan base here. I thought it would be fun to catch up with the guys. Click here for my interview with Tristen and Andrew.
Are you anything like your ABG character in real life? Do you draw anything from your real life experiences to play your characters?
Lyman (White Jay): Am I awkward? No. “Awkward” these days seems to mean you’re not only clumsy, but also a bit neurotic. I might be a terrible dancer, but I have enough good sense not to lose any sleep over it, or worse, decide to stop dancing because of it. Contrary to what J says in episode 1, there are far, far worse things you can be than awkward. Judgmental, for one. Do I date interracially? Oh yea, you bet. There are so many wonderful, interesting people in the world that it seems like a bad idea to limit yourself based solely on where you were born. Who knows where your soul mate might come from or look like?
Our world is full of too many arbitrary, mean-spirited societal barriers that isolate us, and exist only in our minds. Some of that probably stems from what Carl Sagan called “dangerous, evolutionary baggage — propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, and hostility to outsiders”. The rest is fallout from slavery and other colonialist practices. Whatever the case may be, we shouldn’t let any of that stuff stand in the way of people today falling in love with whomever they want.
Madison (Fred): I’m definitely not a “heartthrob” in real life. Thats a hilarious question to answer by the way.The main difference between me and my character Fred is that he tends to be indirect and beat around the bush when it comes to women. I’m definitely more direct and honest about my feelings, even if I’m extremely awkward in expressing them. Unlike Fred, I like to show my interest in a woman by taking her out and learning about who she is before trying to close the deal, if you know what I mean. This is my first time really acting, so in several episodes you can find me smiling a lot. That’s how I am in real life and now I’m consciously trying to tame the smile a bit.
You all fit your roles so perfectly! Can you give us some insight into the casting and character development?
L: As far as developing new storylines or dialogue, my contributions so far have gone no further than the occasional ad lib or word swap. But that said, the words on a page are only a part of what makes a character come to life. The rest falls on the actors, and to succeed they have to pour themselves into their characters. Furthermore, a good writer will take that evolving personality into account when writing later material. So in that sense my Jay is probably very different from what might have come about had they chosen a different man for the part.
I originally met Issa and Tracy through an old college friend. I heard they were casting an “awkward white guy” so I sent them my reel. Something in there must have worked, because I heard back from them the very next day. By the way, if any readers are interested, they can find my reel, as well as some full projects, at www.youtube.com/lymanjohnsonwork. My full, professional website is still under construction.
M: I knew Issa Rae from childhood when we were in Sunday school together. We re-united via Facebook. Soon after, we met up In Hollywood at the Roosevelt Hotel to discuss working together on one of my projects. A couple weeks later she asked me to be in an episode of her new web series. With no more information than that, I agreed to do it. The producer, Tracy Oliver, who also plays Nina, saw me play guitar one day and thought it was a talent worth showcasing on an episode. That was one time that my real life talents/personality were incorporated into the show.
One of the reasons we love J is that her hair is natural. Are you feeling natural hair?
L: So much of what girls do to look the way they do is a mystery to me. If “natural” just means not-straightened, then bring it on. I love dreads and loose, wavy curls, but I’m not sure where those sorts of styles lie on the “natural” spectrum. However, I’m not married to any particular hairstyle or color; what looks good on one girl might be horrific on another and vice versa. So much of what makes a hairstyle “work” also depends on the shape of your face and your personality.
M: I’m definitely feeling natural hair, always have. I think black women with natural hair exude a sense of self confidence and individualism that’s really sexy. Instead of trying to conform to a mainstream standard of beauty by using chemicals and weaves, natural haired women embrace the attributes of their hair with styles that make them look beautiful and often unique. J’s mini fro is a perfect look for her and makes her more attractive to me than if she wore a long weave.
Are you single?
L: I’m actually dating a very sweet and gorgeous girl from Botswana.
M: Yes I’m single.
Describe your ideal girl.
L: My ideal girl is sweet and silly, with a foul mouth and a healthy disregard for decorum. She also has to be honest and good at communicating when we hit rough patches.
M: I love smart chicks. Intellect, ambition, and being down to earth are some characteristics that come to mind. I’m not simple, so a woman who takes the time to know me and what makes me tick is real important to me. I love all shades and sizes of women so “ideal” for me pertains mostly to a women’s mental. Growing up, my older sisters instilled in my head that I would walk a black woman down the isle though.