Published on For Harriet
Aasha Davis once said, “You can still be your true self, even if you are different.”
While acting in her role as “Racey” on popular web series the Unwritten Rules, Davis made this thematic aside in addition to 10 other “Unwritten Rules” for black people—in a predominately white work environment—to follow.
The Unwritten Rules, as it is stylized, has seen eleven episodes (12 if you count ‘The Redux’) and over 18,000 YouTube subscribers since its original posting on April 25, 2012. Based on the book: 40 Hours and an Unwritten Rule: The Diary of a Nigger, Negro, Colored, Black, African-American Woman by Kim Williams, this web series tackled common racial stereotypes and unfair corporate practices in its first season.
“Since I’ve spent the majority of my life ‘being one of the only ones,’ I understand the weight of feeling that you’re representing your culture or sex and that you better not screw it up,” said Davis on the connection she has to “Racey” and the responsibility she holds as a member of an underrepresented community.
As the second season—premiered Wednesday, June 19 at 9 AM PST— unfolds, the audience can expect more complex plots, character development, and breaking down of racial barriers.
While portraying “#NerdyAwkwardPeter,” David Lowe claims to be like his character in quite a few ways…minus the awkwardness. His affinity for black culture is not unlike Peter’s; however growing up with a “post-racial-divide mentality” in conjunction with being a part of the series has shaped how he views racial relations in America.
“Kim has a tremendous amount of bravery to say ‘this is my education and these are my experiences…take it for what it is,” Lowe said.
The production currently takes a journalistic approach, resulting in an atmosphere “where nobody feels offended saying ‘black’ as opposed to ‘African-American,’ so people put up walls,” according to Lowe. “That doesn’t exist on our set.”
On camera, however, that is not the case. Enter Kathy, Racey’s culturally ignorant employer, who’s first outlandish remark to Racey was: “I LOVE your hair! It’s so….whimsical!”
“I do not believe Kathy is racist,” Sara Finley says of her character, Kathy.
“Kathy is insecure and does not like change. She also likes to be in control. When things change in her office and the company she works for, she feels threatened and might say things insensitively, or she may frantically attempt to keep things the way they’ve been. She is also a judgmental person, but that too stems from her insecurity. But she is not a racist and she is not a ‘bad’ person, even though she is not likeable to the audience. I cannot think of her or approach her as racist. I know many people that remind me of Kathy.”
That is what the show aims to address. the Unwritten Rules exposes racial tensions and advises on how to absolve it, rather than “glossing” over it, the way contemporary society often does.
Now for a few more answers that we’re all dying to know!
Cast Member Q&A
With AASHA DAVIS as RACEY
JMR: How do you feel about the terms “blackness” and “ghetto” as they are used on the show?
AD: It is the humorous analysis of these types of words that make me love this show. We all understand what it’s like to be described in one word, it can never explain the wholeness of an individual made up of so many layers and experiences. I understand why they’re so easy to use, so I don’t know how, but I would love to see our society mature out of the use of these types of labels.
JMR: What is production of the show like?
AD: One of the many things I appreciate about Kim Williams is she has so few resources and yet she still creates an organized environment for us all to work in. We have a lot of fun but we get the job done. She works with each actor’s schedule if they have to leave for other commitments (which is unheard of in Hollywood). Our last episode we shot was one of my favorite shooting days in my career. We laughed ’till my cheeks hurt.
With SARA FINLEY as KATHY
JMR: What was the most challenging aspect of acting on the Unwritten Rules?
SF: Race is a delicate issue, and even though the point of this series is to make light of it and have fun looking at race and stereotypes, to me I worried about having too much fun with Kathy and offending someone. I don’t feel free to ‘improv’ lines on this series…I stick to them exactly as they are written. That is hard especially with comedy where sometimes you want to just play with stuff and see how it sounds, but things could turn ugly if something came out wrong or was taken in an incorrect way.
With DAVID LOWE as PETER
JMR: What would you like people to take away from the show?
DL: I’d say the most important lesson to take from the show is to always try to approach difficult issues like racial divides from a place where you’re first and foremost willing to acknowledge and laugh at your own issues of ignorance or stereotypes, and always check your ego at the door.
While plans for a third season have not yet been discussed, the cast and creator of the show have plenty to say on these topics, and will continue to say it.
Jeanine Russaw is a junior at Hofstra University pursuing majors in Broadcast Journalism and Rhetoric:Social Action. She is involved with the Hofstra Center for Civic Engagement. Follow her on twitter @jMarieRussaw or her personal website: jeaninerussaw.wordpress.com
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