You don't always have to wear a cape to be a superhero - and Anjelika Washington is proof of just that. Though she plays Elizabeth "Beth" Chapel on CW's Stargirl, Anjelika uses her platform to advocate for Black girls and our younger generation and ensure justice on all fronts. With powerful Black women such as Angela Rye, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Eboni K. Williams, Ilhan Omar, Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris on the front lines of politics, Anjelika Washington is a powerful role model for those inside and outside of the entertainment and television industries.
On a hectic Thursday evening, I had the chance to catch up with the real-life superhero herself over the phone about saving the world on and off-screen through her human rights activism, how she became interested in acting after failing an arts elective and the Black female vote in the forthcoming election. Anjelika and her energy were just the spark my day needed.
After exchanging mental health check-ins with one another, she revealed to me that she was in her hometown taking a week off from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles before returning to Atlanta to film the second season of Stargirl. Though the CW hit series only premiered this year, Stargirl has quickly become one of the DC Universe's most sought-after television programming series. "To be completely honest, when I auditioned for Stargirl, I did not know that I was auditioning to be a superhero. I just thought I was going to be a friend of a superhero," Anjelika admitted.
Because the casting agency had given the auditions specific code names, the character breakdown did not mention anything about a superhero, a superpower or any super suiting up. Though she had an inkling as to where the show was going because of DC Universe legend Geoff John's involvement, who was the co-writer of Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) and Aquaman (2018), she had no idea what she was in for - a life-changing on-screen journey. The day before her screentest, she found out that she was auditioning for Dr. Mid-Nite, Beth Chapel's alter ego, and she was no less than shocked.
"I felt equally obligated to be honest with Beth Chapel's story as my version, as I did the responsibility of playing a Black superhero on TV because I knew I didn't have that growing up," Anjelika said.
As a working Black actress in Hollywood, many will manifest and visualize their dream role, but the feeling of watching your visualization come to life is a feeling like "wow," as she described it. In the midst of the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement, the arrival of Dr. Mid-Nite on DC's Stargirl and watching a Black woman suit up to save the world is no less than perfect timing.
"I don't take it lightly [and] I think I'm very aware that representation matters. It's heavy on me right now, especially with the tragic news that crushed my spirit of no justice for Breonna Taylor. I get to be a superhero on a show that fights for justice," Anjelika noted.
As she continued to express her gratitude for being one of the newest additions to the fictional Justice Society of America as a superhero in her own right, the actress suddenly became speechless and began to trip over her own words. "I'm trying to find the words, but I guess I just feel a very big responsibility to be as honest in my real life and honest in my work - more now than ever," she told me.
"I don't take it lightly [and] I think I'm very aware that representation matters. It's heavy on me right now, especially with the tragic news that crushed my spirit of no justice for Breonna Taylor. I get to be a superhero on a show that fights for justice. I'm trying to find the words, but I guess I just feel a very big responsibility to be as honest in my real life and honest in my work - more now than ever."
With Black women such as Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp as Storm in the X-Men franchises, Emmy Raver-Lampman as The Rumor in Netflix's Umbrella Academy, and Nafessa Williams as Thunder in CW's other hit show Black Lightning, Anjelika believes while there has been some improvement in representation in the superhero universe, there's still work to be done.
"Batwoman is a great start. When I look at Batwoman and I look at that cast, that's what all shows should look like because that's what the world looks like. My world looks like the cast of Batwoman," she said referring to the Javicia Leslie-starring CW series having a diverse cast of white, Black, Asian and Latino actors. "I don't think it's just about Black people having representation. We say representation matters because Asian girls need to see Asian girls on TV; Latina girls need to see Latina girls on TV; Indigenous girls need to see Indigenous girls on TV. Everybody needs to be represented and at this point, I'm just in the fight to hold the entertainment industry accountable and ensure that we make a world that looks like the real world."
Unfortunately, the real world is up in arms as we speak as we prepare to (hopefully) elect a new president into office and Black lives are still at risk every day we're alive. Luckily, Anjelika has no issue using her platform for the greater good of human rights activism and wants to use her celebrity as a means to uplift voices in marginalized communities. "If I'm going to be blessed by God to have any type of platform, I need to be using it for good because it does nothing in the world to sit idly by, watch all of these awful things happen, and say nothing. If I want change to happen in the world, I'm gonna have to be the change," she said.
"If I'm going to be blessed by God to have any type of platform, I need to be using it for good because it does nothing in the world to sit idly by, watch all of these awful things happen, and say nothing. If I want change to happen in the world, I'm gonna have to be the change."
Anjelika holds herself just as responsible as her peers and elected officials to create call-to-action items including encouragement for voter registration or even as seemingly small as signing a petition. "If I believe that holding our officials and people that we elect into office accountable, I need to hold myself accountable and hold my community accountable."
With the election coming up in less than 30 days and the raised stakes of the Black community, Anjelika knows what time it is for the Black community, especially Black women.
"The Black female vote is always important and we're usually always right. I love that about us," she said and added that her brother even encourages people to vote for whoever Black women are voting for. "He's right because we usually are. You look at the numbers and Black women didn't vote in Trump! We didn't do that! We knew ahead of time that this was going to be a very bad idea."
Moreover, she recognizes that Black youth vote just as, if not, the most important element of the upcoming election. Anjelika works tirelessly to engage the Black Generation-Z and millennial vote and urge the crucial note of their involvement. "When you look at what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are committed to doing for Black people, once you actually break it down and go to JoeBiden.com to read his plans for Black people in America, I don't think that any Black person is going to disagree," the actress said endorsing the Democratic presidential candidate's Lift Every Voice plan.
Though she understands the community's anguish about Kamala Harris' past as a prosecutor, Anjelika finds it hard to argue that what Trump has done to this country is not worse than anything on Biden or Harris' resume. "I am willing to risk it all and take my bet on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris any day [rather] than stick with what we have. Think about the last four months of just this year during the summer of 2020 and imagine that being the next four years - are you OK with that?"
With the obvious answer being "no" due to the economic, public health, social justice and climate crises impacting our day-to-day lives, Anjelika encourages everyone, especially the Black community, to get out and vote for Biden and Harris. "Black people assume that their vote doesn't matter because we look at Breonna Taylor as an example and we see no justice. We see that we don't matter, but the truth is the people who made those decisions, we vote in."
When we all vote, we facilitate the change we wish to see. Anjelika's unapologetic stance is a reminder of the superpower we have in us all.
For more of Anjelika, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image by Drea Nicole