Yaya DaCosta: What led the actress from “Chicago Med’ to “Our Kind of People” (“1on1 with Jon Evans” podcast)
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Yaya DaCosta traded the winters in Chicago for the heat of North Carolina’s coastline when she signed on to the Fox show Our Kind of People. After six seasons of playing April Sexton on Chicago Med, DaCosta now plays the lead character Angela Vaughn on the new hour-long drama that shoots in Wilmington.
“No more Chicago winters, and ready for some Wilmington humidity,” DaCosta joked during an interview to talk about the production shooting in locations around the area. “My goodness! It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity! Wilmington has been good to us for sure. It’s a beautiful town and we think everybody for welcoming us and allowing us to film here.”
Our Kind of People reunites DaCosta with Lee Daniels, the show’s executive producer, who she worked with on the 2013 film The Butler. DaCosta said that was just one of the many reasons she leaped at the chance to join the show’s lineup of talented artists.
“He (Daniels) was a draw, Karin Gist, the showrunner, was a draw, and of course, so many other wonderful actors are here,” she said. “There’s Joe Morton, I’ve also worked with Debbie Morgan in the past. I played her daughter years ago on All My Children. You know, Morris Chestnut. You have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful actors. Tasha Smith, who directed the first two episodes, is lovely. So, it was a real kind of exciting opportunity. I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work. The hours are long, but I really feel like we are investing our time, energy and love into really great that will only get better.”
Many fans remember first seeing Yaya DaCosta in 2004 as a contestant on America’s Top Model 3, immediately after graduating from Brown University. In fact, DaCosta says she wanted to take part in her graduation ceremony before joining the cast, and the show waited for her to finish before starting production. DaCosta finished as the runner-up to Eva Pigford on the show, which helped her land modeling roles in several national ad campaigns. Looking back now, she says the time on ATM3 nearly became an impediment as she transitioned from the modeling world to becoming a full-time actor.
“I wasn’t as invested as a lot of people, and so when it was over, it was a real sensitive time and I had been hurt by my experience there,” DaCosta says. “It took a long time for me to heal on a personal level, and then to be in my profession and have directors at the wrap parties, after the filming was finished, come up to me and say ‘Uh, some extra or background artist said that you were on a reality show. Is that true?’ I was like ‘Yeah, you didn’t know?’ I was told twice, if we had known, we might not have auditioned you, much less hired you. This was in 2005-06 maybe? It was a different time, and it was a lot at that time when I felt I had so much to prove, because if you looked a certain way, it was like ‘Oh, she’s a model!’ Well, sorry, I just wanted to pay off my college loans and Kohl’s catalog is paying me more than this off-Broadway play, so I’m going to do that right now. I stopped after 2007, I didn’t do it very long. But it was something that I had to navigate. Over the years I’ve just learned to be grateful for the experience, now that I’m an adult. As an adult, who did my work, who did my healing and who insisted on being taken seriously in my craft, I’m now at a place of pure gratitude because people remember me from that show and they’ve followed me through Chicago Med and now top Our Kind of People. That’s just really heartwarming and a wonderful blessing.”
Fox describes the show, which is inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham’s bestselling book, as taking place in the world of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, “where the rich and powerful Black elite have come to play for over 50 years”. DaCosta’s character Angela, comes back to the area to reclaim her family’s name and launch her hair care line. She soon discovers a secret about her mother’s past, which sets up tense early moments between Angela and Leah Franklin-Dupont, who is played by Nadine Ellis. DaCosta said that relationship is just one of the many underlying stories viewers will see in future episodes.
“I think there are multiple currents, and they will transform,” she said when I asked about the Angela-Leah rivalry. “What looks like one issue, you’ll discover, is actually rooted in something else that might surprise you. So, for me, the fun part is seeing the twists and turns, and see the unexpected things. Sometimes I get the next script and I’m like ‘Oh, okay!’ It’s fun. It’s fun to discover these things and I hope that the audience has the same kind of ‘Gasp, wow!’ reaction that we do when we do this.”
Viewers will recognize locations around Wilmington and nearby beach communities in the scenes of Our Kind of People. The shows airs Tuesday nights at 9:00 p.m. on Fox Wilmington. I hope you enjoy the conversation with Yaya DaCosta as much as I did.
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