The ‘Harlem’ Cast Talk Pivoting, Priorities, & The Principles Of Joy
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The ‘Harlem’ Cast Talk Pivoting, Priorities, & The Principles Of Joy

They’re back! Angie (Shoniqua Shandai), Quinn (Grace Byers), Camille (Meagan Good), and Tye (Jerrie Johnson) are back on Amazon Prime for another season of Tracy Oliver’s brilliantly written original series Harlem. Life, love, relationships, and careers can all be a bit daunting to handle at once when you’re navigating through a culturally courageous city as potentially intimidating as the Manhattan subsidy, but that makes for more great binge-worthy episodes.

The ladies of Harlem caught up with xoNecole to discuss what it looks like when it’s your season, how they define joy, and what it means to embrace the power of the pivot.

A Real Season Debut

“Every season is my season and I'm going to take every season as my season, and I think it's being intuitive as to what the season is requiring,” Shandai told xoNecole about defining what it means to be in her season.

After an affirmation from her junket-sister and castmate Byers, Shandai continued to share what her seasons looks like from isolating oneself to “cultivate your voice” to being rooted in hardcore discipline. “I think it's being very, very in touch with spirit and self and praying,” she added. “I would say don't take anything for granted. I look for the lessons and the seasons. Even when I go on a vacation, I'm like, 'okay, what am I supposed to get from this land and this place?' Being incredibly intentional, I think, is the best way to master any season.”

The Definition of Black Joy

As mentioned by Harlem series creator Tracy Oliver, this season would be filled with laughter, love, and joy, but what does joy mean to our thespians off-screen?

For Byers, joy equates to freedom. “I think joy looks like freedom in a way because I think that's where joy lives. It lives in an uninhibited place and I think a lot of times it's difficult for us to express that because there's so much outward criticism as to what it should look like, how it should live, or how you do express it,” she told xoNecole.

As a personal favorite, Byers prefers “big gut laughter” with side holding and crying as an expression of joy, but she does not fail to recognize that joy comes in multiple layers and lives a multifaceted life that shows up as “sadness and chaos” or “resistance and gratitude.” She continued, “It's the freedom to do each of those things and so I think it's having that open space to be able to express that type of joy inside of you.”

Shandai added, “For me, joy is really looking like healthiness and this era of my life and really prioritizing self, and not in a way that's selfish, but making sure that I'm taking care of me in a way that I haven't done before, I hadn't prioritized before. I was so focused on output that now the joy comes from what I'm inputting, and I feel like real joy is not as uncircumstantial.”

While she jested at the fact that she believes she had “made that word up” on the spot, Shandai went with the flow because for her, happiness is a result of what’s happening but joy is everlasting and effervescent. “It doesn't matter what's going on in your life or career or finances; it's something that lives within. I think in order to have that inner joy filled, it's what you're putting into you as well.”

Stop and Breathe, Sis

A self-proclaimed nomad, Johnson attributes her constant need to move and be on-go to her Aquarian nature. From being in college and moving up the ranks from resident to RA to orientation leader and fast forward years later when she catapulted her career by moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles to New York, the actress has never been too shy to make the necessary moves to put her where she needs to be. But that doesn’t take away from the idea that she wants to practice stillness and bask in her own ambiance.

“I kind of feel like I'm getting to a space where I want to own something and I want some roots. I want a place that I can always go back to and I think for me, that home space will be the grounding force to where I think I will be able to be more open to the craziness of where am I going next?” she shared candidly.

Johnson continued to explain how she relates to super producer Metro Boomin’s notorious “want some more” ad-libs, and how she brings it back full circle to her own career endeavors. “I'm like, what's happening? Why haven't I done this yet? Why haven't I done this yet? People are like, oh my God, you're so good on this show, but why?” she began to explain.

“But I think that that voice gets louder when I'm not in a space that feels like me, like my space, like I'm safe in this space. I'm grounded in this space. I want to be connected to the earth in this space,” Johnson added. “I think finding that one thing that grounds you is helpful for when you are trying to figure out the what's next of life. It can be your home, it can be your car, it can be travel, it can be your partner. Whatever that thing is that brings you back to your center can be helpful when you're in the chaos of life.”

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Featured image by Arnold Turner/Getty Images for Prime Video

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