BET kicked off Black History Month with the premiere of a new series exploring the black college experience at a HBCU called ‘The Quad’.
The Quad will star Anika Noni Rose, Ruben Santiago Hudson, Sean Blakemore and Jasmine Guy. Guy who became famous for her role as Whitley Gilbert on the series A Different World, chatted with Socialite Heights about revisiting the HBCU experience on The Quad.
Kadeem: How would you describe your character Ella?
Jasmine Guy: Well Ella Grace Caldwell is the Dean of Sociology of a fictitious HBCU called the GAMU Georgia A &M and she befriends the incoming president who is Anika Noni Rose our very first female president of this institution.
Kadeem: How did you prepare for the role?
Jasmine Guy: Well Ella, in my mind I have to create my own backstory when I start a new role. I feel like she’s been there a long time maybe 20 years, and maybe is a graduate of the school as well loves the school, but knows that it has a very male dominated culture. So I think Ella takes upon herself to mentor Anika or Eva as she’s coming into her new post and kind of show her the ropes, and how things are done and how she can implement the changes she wants to make.
Kadeem: The Quad is the third in which you starred that takes place at a HBCU, what draws you to those kinds of stories that involve HBCU’s?
Jasmine Guy: First there was School Daze with Mission College and then A Different World with Hillman. I would say the first two weren’t deliberate. Everybody that knew how to dance, sing and act wanted to be in School Daze. So that was like everybody went up for that and I’m very happy I did that movie. That led to a Different World. Now my choice is a little more deliberate, I’m looking forward to being on a college campus again because there’s so many wonderful storylines that come from being at a university and I think that it’s a good time to help promote schools and higher education with our young people.
Kadeem: What did you learn about HBCU experience by being a part of this series The Quad that you didn’t learn by working on A Different World or School Daze?
Jasmine Guy: I think the comradery that happens on a black college campus and the love and the care from the staff the professors, the administrators they all want you to do well. They’re invested in the students in a personal way and I think that’s what makes the biggest difference in going to a smaller school like that then a big university where you’re just a number.
Kadeem: What are some of the issues that are explored in the Quad?
Jasmine Guy: The Quad issues are mostly in the very beginning, in the pilot episode which airs February 1st is gonna begin dealing with a hazing situation that happened with the marching band. There’s also a sexual assault case that’s brewing on campus and they also deal with the differences in gender issues. Obviously the incoming president being a woman that’s kind of a built in. So we’re looking at the built in issues that are happening on campus but they prove to be a microcosm of what is happening in our country all over.
Kadeem: With the series main character Eva being both black and female and having her be the head leader in charge in the male dominated environment, what message do you think think Eva’s position of power being a black woman is trying to send?
Jasmine Guy: Well I think bringing up current issues in the classroom is very important for the discussion with the students. Making a lesson relevant to their own personal lives and what’s happening in the world around them is kind of the best way to get these lessons in, and this is a very fertile time. This is when young people are becoming adults and they’re starting to think about what do I think, what are my morals, what are my principles, what’s my work ethic what do I believe in aside from my parents and I love that this is a proving ground for that, and I think this show explores that beautifully with the different cast that they have.
Kadeem: It’s been over two decades since there has been a tv series focused on the HBCU experience, why do you think it took so long for another series about the HBCU experience to come about?
Jasmine Guy: I’m not really sure why it took so long. There has been movies. There’s been Stomp the Yard and Drumline. So there’s obviously an audience for it so I can’t tell you why it’s taken this long. But it does take a long time to get a great synergy with an ensemble cast as well a great writing team together. So for me I’m like do it when it’s right and now the time is right.
Kadeem: Can you talk a little bit about mentoring and nurturing the younger actors in the business that you worked with on the series?
Jasmine Guy: Now when I’m working I am working with a lot of younger people. I just sit with them at lunch, I tell stories. Sometimes they ask me questions some are very specific pertaining to career choices, some may be a little bit more on the emotional side dealing with rejection or not getting roles, how to maintain a certain level of resilience in the work that we do. So I do love talking to younger actors who are serious in what they want to do.
Kadeem: What kind of growth would you like to see from your character Ella in the series?
Jasmine Guy: Well I would love for the relationship to grow between her and Anika Noni Rose’s character Eva. I think it’s beautiful to see two women that are really supporting themselves and supporting each other in a way where they’re not jealous and catty. They are actually friends. I would really like to see that relationship blossom.
You can watch The Quad Wednesdays at 10PM EST on BET.