For many, she is known as ‘Snoop’ from the infamous HBO show, The Wire. While actress Felicia Pearson shared her name and Baltimore roots with her character, she definitely has done more good for her city than bad and plans to spread that love with her talents. From candidly writing a book about her life and experiences to popping up on A&E giving Alicia Keys and America a tour around her city, Pearson is utilizing her voice and platform to spread knowledge of injustices and fight for human equality. Recently, Pearson took the time out to talk with RESPECT. about her controversial upcoming movie Chi-Raq, giving back to her city, and the importance of living your truth.
RESPECT. Magazine: For someone who fell into acting, you definitely take your craft seriously. You’ve taken diction classes, acting classes, and have gone out of your way to portray a character that’s the complete opposite of yourself in an effort to perfect your craft. Steven King has even attributed to your talent as he has stated you portrayed the, “most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series.” Which actors do you look to or which resources do you utilize for inspiration and methodology when it comes to your approach to acting?
Felicia “Snoop” Pearson: First, I go to my brother Michael K. Williams, who played ‘Omar’ on The Wire, because he’s been doing this longer than me. [For] this role that I had got for Da Sweet Blood of Jesus when I played a prostitute, I had to look at Wesley Snipes when he played that drag queen because I never played a…I’ve never been a girl, per se, like heels, makeup, and all that type of stuff. It was easy for me to see and practice off of Wesley Snipes for a role like that because he’s a man trying to become a female so I’m a female trying to become a female (laughs). It’s hard to say, but I’m an aggressive female. Everybody knows that I don’t dress up like that on no everyday stuff or nothing like that, but for me to prepare for that role, that’s what I looked at.
RM: You’re starring in French Montana’s upcoming movie, Respect The Shooter alongside your co-star from The Wire, Michael K Williams. Tell me about your role in that movie and what the movie is about.
FSP: They don’t really want me to speak about it for real because everything ain’t ironed out on that so they just said, “Hold out.”
RM: You’re also starring in Spike Lee’s latest upcoming movie Chi-Raq alongside Angela Bassett, John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, and more. What’s it like to get casted to be in a Spike Lee movie not once, but twice? I feel like that would be his way of saying, “You’re a valued talent and I trust you to portray my vision.”
FSP: I feel honored. Spike Lee’s a legend, you know what I mean? He’s a genius. Chi-Raq…that movie has a message. Everything that Spike does always has a message to it. I was just blessed for him to even think about me like, “Come on, let’s do this.” (laughs) I was just blessed, not once, but twice. I was like, “Wow!”
RM: What do you have to say to the Chicagoans who are in an uproar over the depiction of their city in the trailer?
FSP: If I wasn’t in the movie and I would have heard the title of it, I would think it’s like some wild wild west type stuff. A lot of people said, “How you gonna get this person to play a gangsta?” I’m like, that’s just Spike. The movie–there’s a strong message behind it, first of all. Some people know how Spike Lee works, so if you said, “Oh, that’s a Spike Lee Joint,” you’re going to think of Do The Right Thing, School Daze…he got a few of them that brings a strong message to it. A lot of older people in Chicago know how Spike Lee works. It’s not that gangsta or nothing. How can I put it? Some people say it’s funny and you making a joke about what’s going on in Chicago. He’s not. You know it’s not. It’s just, it’s a movie; it’s supposed to get you entertained and interested in what’s going on. At the same time, do you think Jennifer Hudson would be in the movie? You know what happened to her family [out there]. You know what she went through. It’s a message. Do you think Angela Bassett would be a part of the movie if it was on some dumb stuff? You understand what I’m saying? It’s a message. It’s a message. All I’m saying is, I just hope people give him a chance, you know. Just give him a chance. Give the movie a chance.
RM: Yeah, I feel like once the movie comes out and people see it, it’ll be a little different because I feel like the people who are in a uproar are just being close-minded and taking it at face-value.
FSP: Yeah, because once you hear Chi-Raq, you’ll think it’s some real hardcore gangbanging, you know what I mean? Spike’s old school, man.
RM: Yeah. Like you were saying, it’s not like people don’t know what his work is about. Alright, so one fact about you that I don’t believe a lot of people know is that you’re a published author and you’ve already signed on for a second book deal. In your first book Grace After Midnight, you told the story of your life. What do you have planned for the second book?
FSP: Just life after The Wire up until now what’s going on in my life. There’s a lot of things like, my books be real life struggles. That’s why people really relate to me. Part one is still selling in Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com, whatever your bookstore is. Tell everybody out there; let them know part two is on the way so you have to get part one. If you don’t have part one, you’ll want to catch up. You’ll want to understand (part two), but you’re not going to understand if you ain’t got part one.
RM: While you’ve alway been candid about your personal stances, you seem to be transitioning into this position as a humanitarian as you’ve been vocal publicly a lot more more, as of late, about your beliefs and stances. You’re associated with the The Same Difference documentary dealing with the struggles of the LGBT community, you’re a part of the Akoo 11xHUMAN campaign detailing corruption in inner cities, and a lot more. What made you feel like it was necessary for you to make more of an effort to be more vocal and take a stronger stance on your beliefs and speaking your truth?
FSP: Because somebody gotta speak up. It’s like a lot of people be afraid to speak up whether it’s…sexuality or being out on these streets dealing with the police with police brutality type of stuff. Just me personally, I’m still trying to find my purpose in this world. I do have a strong background as far as my testimony; I have a strong testimony that I have to let the world know what I’ve been through. Even [with] my sexuality, I don’t care what you talking about; if you see me in a dress, you know it’s about some money.
Me and Alicia Keys was just talking about my past and how I did get harassed on the streets. How the Freddie Gray situation can happen to anybody and it is happening to every and anybody in every state or city. If people look up to me, that’s a blessing because I never expected myself to be a role model, but since I’m turning this new leaf…Yeah, I could help a couple of people if they could listen…if they ain’t afraid to say what’s on their minds. Be blunt. Sometimes when you’re being blunt and outspoken, people will listen. They love that shit because you’re real. You know why? Because they know you ain’t portraying something else or somebody else, you’re just you all the time.
RM: Yeah, that’s when you become trustworthy because people know there’s no bullshit associated. Also, I want to talk about how you seem to be able to weave in and out of the realm of hip hop without even really being a rapper. It seems like it’s really an association thing. I remember recently when the Chi-Raq trailer came out and I was like, “Oh, she’s acting now,” completely forgetting that you were on The Wire! (laughs) And I use to watch The Wire! That’s the main thing I know you from so it’s like, “Damn, why did I think she was a rapper for a second?”
RM: I hope you’re not offended by that! (laughs)
FSP: Nah! That means that if you seen me in Chi-Raq, then my character or whatever on Chi-Raq was very strong. You just forgot all about The Wire. It’s just like, “Wow, she’s a rapper or something. Oh nah, that’s Snoop!” (laughs)
RM: Yeah, because I had to check myself right after like, “What is wrong with you?” But you were on the Out in Hip Hop special on VH1 talking about homosexuality in hip hop. What kind of impact do you think that special had or could potentially have in hip hop?
FSP: Hopefully, everybody will be equal, but like they said, your talent gotta speak for itself. If you’re talented, no one can ignore it. If no one can ignore it, then you’re a beast. Just have talent because [in] hip hop, they’re very, I won’t say judgemental, but they’re very… I don’t know. If you’re a gay rapper, just have your talent speak for itself.
RM: You recently filmed a special for ABC News and A&E where you showed Alicia Keys around your hometown of Baltimore and talked about the issues affecting the city that also reflect the issues of the nation. Why do you think it was important to have such a mainstream media outlet as ABC follow you two around your city as a native and broadcast it to the nation?
FSP: I mean, I was honored especially in my hood. Everything I can do as far as bringing attention to my neighborhood, my city, I always do. They probably wanted to go somewhere else and do the interview, but I was like, “Well, why do we have to go there when I got a whole neighborhood and we can go here?” I always try to give back. Not to glorify what happened down there, but it brought attention back to the city. Then, Alicia Keys, she’s in the hood walking through the alley. I mean, she got down gritty. She’s a very sweet, humble person and everybody was just like, “Oh my God! Wow!” They were just so shocked. Just to see people’s faces, that shit meant a lot to me…I mean I give back, I always give cookouts or stop the violence block parties and all that type of stuff. I just had recently done that, but for a megastar like Alicia Keys [to be] in the heart of Baltimore, East Baltimore in an alley somewhere? Come on, that’s huge! She’s taking pictures with everybody: kids, grown folks, it don’t matter! She was out there really in the streets and I respect that and I love that!
RM: Do you understand the importance of you describing Freddie Gray as a ‘wonderful person’ on national television on a media outlet when there are so many depicting outlets trying to depict him as anything but that?
FSP: That’s what they do because the lies and the negativity is more entertaining than the truth. You understand what I’m saying? You see how you just said, “Oh, you just went on there saying he’s a fun-loving person and they’re trying to describe him as an animal or something.” People pay attention to that. You know why? Because he’s a Black man and he was getting arrested. Come on, man. You have to add negativity to that story. No, let’s get to the nitty-gritty! Alright, he was this, that, and the third, but what happened to him? Don’t escape the real reason why we’re discussing this right now. Let’s get down to the truth.
RM: It’s always just like, “Oh, this person got arrested and…,” it could be, “Oh, this person was jaywalking so the police have every right to do whatever they did!”
FSP: Yeah! It don’t matter, he got locked up!
RM: You’ve got your hand in so many pots; you’re an actress, writer, humanitarian, and probably more things than I even realize. What are you trying to accomplish with all these titles?
FSP: Yeah, I’m an actress and an author or whatever, but I don’t even look at myself as all that. I really still think I’m just a regular person. I just follow my heart. Look how you just said, “You speaking means this, that, and the third.” That means people are paying attention. I must be doing something right. It’s not so I can get in this lane and get in this lane. Nah, I’m just speaking what I feel and what I’ve been through. That’s all.
RM: So, is this your way of telling your testimony?
FSP: Exactly. This probably is why I’m still on this Earth. This is probably the reason because I do want to get a foster care [house], first of all because I’m adopted. I’m ready to get that together because I want to give back. I want each [one] of these kids out here in these streets to feel love. It starts at home. You gotta find some type of love; somebody has to show you some type of love. My foster care’s going to be about love.
RM: Yeah because when you don’t get the right type of love, you look for it in the wrong places.
FSP: Yeah! We go out into the streets and for real, the streets don’t love nobody! Once you go then, somebody’s going to take your place. It’s over.
Watch Felicia “Snoop” Pearson in the A&E special focused on tackling race in America, Shining a Light tonight (11/20) at 10 p.m. EST.
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