Parker McKenna Posey has come along way since My Wife and Kids. Most affectionately known for her role as little Kady Kyle on the hit ABC primetime show, she now stars as Laila James, the struggling and seductive actress looking to make a name for herself on the new BET hit series Games People Play. And while Parker and Laila differ in the way they go about establishing themselves in the world, it becomes clear as we chat that Parker wasn't exempt from adversity both inside and outside of the industry.
The 23-year-old actress admits during our phone call that the journey to get here has no doubt been filled with both let-downs and lessons alike. Taking the form of an acting hiatus while she finished high school, moving out of town, enduring a toxic relationship, unsuccessful auditions, and even a car breakdown the night before her BET audition--Parker assures me that those hardships weren't and won't ever be in vain.
"There were all these obstacles that were testing me in a way, kind of asking me, 'Do you really want this?'" she tells xoNecole. "So to have my manager call me not too long after and tell me, 'Hey they want you to test,' was such an amazing feeling. It was like a sign like, 'This is what you're supposed to be doing and all your hard work has finally paid off.'"
She continues, "It's definitely been a struggle, but I'm just happy to be back working on something that I'm super proud of being a part of. I love the cast and crew, it's all been really fun."
Describe your role as Laila James in 'Games People Play'.
Parker McKenna Posey: Laila James is an LA girl. She's a struggling actress, which is funny. She finds out that it's not as easy as just being talented or auditioning every other day. She realizes that that may not always get the job done, so she takes matters into her own hands. She kind of uses social media to get followers and views and blackmail in a sense. She just uses it for her own gain and throughout the season she finds that all that glitters isn't gold basically. She likes the attention but I think in the end she sees it's not worth it. I think right now people will love to hate her but by the end, people will come to understand her.
Games People Play/BET
How does it feel to be back on TV screens in this way on a network like BET?
Parker: To be honest, that was another thing that was really important to me coming back on-screen. I wanted to be a part of an all-black ensemble. On top of that, just having the chance to be on this network is amazing. I know BET is trying to make a difference on their network and bring more scripted shows and great projects to their network, so to be a part of that is really amazing. And to have an EP that's a black woman and who's been doing this for over twenty years--I feel like that was just an incredible experience to work with her and to just be in the same room as her. The writers are black and I love that. That was really important to me. To be a part of a project that cares about black excellence, it's really important at this time.
You’ve definitely come a long way from ‘My Wife and Kids’. 2006 to 2019, that’s 13 years, what has life been like for you since then?
Parker: We finished in 2006, so it's definitely been a long, long time… I just put it on hold throughout high school and I just focused on graduating and doing my best in school. I was trying to have the most normal experience possible, and then after that I kind of jumped back into it. I was constantly auditioning and try to figure out what the right fit for me. I was getting offered all these roles that weren't really how I wanted to come back and start off my career.
Parker McKenna Posey as Laila James
Games People Play/BET
"To be a part of a project that cares about black excellence, it's really important at this time."
I can imagine the journey between now and then has been filled with many twists and turns. How were able to stay focused and motivated?
Parker: To be honest, acting was all I've known my whole life, you know? Even after My Wife and Kids wrapped, I did a few plays, I've done so many commercials and I've gotten actually involved with modeling--so this industry is all I've known. It's something I've always been super passionate about and I've seen that if I just never give up, I would eventually get my moment. When you follow other child actresses' lives, it doesn't always end up the best, so I definitely wanted to show up in a positive way--and show that it can definitely be done. If you believe in yourself, you can definitely do it.
The name of the show is called ‘Games People Play’ and we arguably get to see a myriad of games displayed through the lives of all of the characters in various areas. What’s something you feel our generation needs to stop playing games about?
Parker: I'm not sure, I'm glad that there is a character like Laila and even if I wasn't playing her, the fact that there is a character like her--I feel like you can learn some things. I think also because people use social media in a lot of different ways, they should see that it's not all it's cracked up to be. People suffer from depression now because we're constantly comparing our lives to the things we see all day long. So I'm glad that my character is representing our age group and how we sometimes play into the social media game. Because it's kind of sad how we base our lives off of Instagram and likes and stuff like that. It's very real, its not just based off some bullsh-t.
You were in a pretty toxic relationship last year and it was unfortunately very public. How were you able to move forward and get back to the heart of Parker?
Parker: Thankfully, I have a really good family and friends who really care about me and my well-being. I'm a normal person, I don't like to really live my life online. I like to live a private life. Last year was really different for me, I just wasn't myself. And I feel like having a good foundation, writing, reading, hearing from other people's experiences and really surrounding myself with people I could lean on--that helped me. Writing how I feel--that really helped me and praying! I've become so much more spiritual. I've always believed in God and my Dad is an Adventist so we were always at church every Saturday until we were old enough to say no (laughs).
But when you're younger, it's hard to have that relationship with God and really understand. I've gotten so much closer to God, just talking with Him and not really asking for anything but just talking to Him about everything and thanking Him for being alive and for my blessings. I really had to come home and figure out what it was I wanted to do. I had to do some soul-searching and get down to the nitty-gritty of because I kind of lost myself. I had to talk with myself, meditate, hike, I got a trainer, worked out, started eating better. You know, you don't really realize how certain relationships can even affect your outer appearance. So I really needed to focus on myself, not do anything but spend time with ME and get ME back right.
"I really had to come home and figure out what it was I wanted to do. I had to do some soul-searching and get down to the nitty-gritty of because I kind of lost myself."
We often hear a lot of established and older women talking about the importance of letting go of dead weight and baggage. Erykah Badu made a whole song about it. But why would you say it’s important for you and those of us in this generation to do the same?
Parker: I really believe in taking care of yourself and letting go of any negativity. It's important to work on your mental state. You can get so much farther in life by being strong mentally. And that can start by doing something like simply working out, it doesn't always have to mean going to therapy and telling someone all of your problems. But just starting with the inside definitely helps because it shows. If your inside is not right, then your outside is definitely not going to be 100. And you can only pretend for so long before it starts eating at you. So it's necessary to let go of that dead weight and whatever you feel is holding you back.
For more of Parker, follow her on Instagram. Catch her starring as Laila in BET's Games People Play on Tuesdays at 9.