Didn’t you make documentaries before you started acting?
Well, since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be an actress. I would put on plays in my parents’ backyard and wear my mom’s dresses—playing dress-up was my favorite thing in the world. But in high school I became friends with this guy who was this Spike Lee wannabe, and he took me to see Do the Right Thing, and it just changed me. From that, the idea that I could create stories and characters for black women and men to play who weren’t just stereotypes, was incredible for me. I actually made a couple short films after that.
Is that inner revolutionary still inside of you?
Absolutely, but maturity has let me know that there’s a way to deliver a message and still entertain the audience. Back then, I didn’t care about entertaining anyone— I had a point to make, dammit! [Laughs.] The most important thing for anyone who wants to make movies is to entertain people. If you find a way to layer it, give them more depth, and make them think about things, that’s the ultimate success. It’s sad, we now live in a place where commerce is more important than art, but you have to move with the times.