'Snowfall' Star Angela Lewis On Her Journey To Stardom, Purpose & Wanting To Work With Regina King
Television has evolved to where episodes are mini-movies, and a show that epitomizes that premise is Snowfall. A drama centered around the rise of government corruption, family, drugs, and violence in Los Angeles during the 1980s, Snowfall has captivated audiences with its raw storytelling. Already renewed for a sixth season, we spoke to Angela Lewis, who portrays the larger-than-life Aunt Louie, about the show, her journey to stardom, her career goals, and much more.
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Purpose is the most powerful tool at our disposal. What made you decide to become an actor?
3-year-old Angela wanted to be a movie star [laughs]. Looking back, I don't even know if it was knowing I would be an actress; I knew I wanted to be larger than life! I wanted to be something bigger than this physical body. Most of my early inspirations were performers.
It sometimes takes people years to find their calling. Did you act on yours immediately?
I would sing in the school and church choirs and dance at the Detroit-Windsor Dance Academy. I would act in school plays; I was in the first grade, and I acted in Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, and they created a character named Young Snow White because I was too young to play the older version.
You were born to be in the spotlight.
It didn't come without a lot of hard work. In high school, my drama teacher's curriculum was strenuous! My school, Cass Technical High School, was a college preparatory school, and my major was Performing Arts. So while I knew what I wanted to do, high school was when I understood the work and how serious I needed to take acting as a craft.
What have you learned about yourself as you've immersed yourself into the craft?
I love telling stories and being able to step into another person to explore what that life and emotions might be like; it's fulfilling and thrilling for me.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed while performing?
I always get jitters, but the only time I get so nervous that I feel uncomfortable is if I feel like I'm unprepared, which is why I take what I do so seriously.
We spoke earlier about your purpose. Who were the people and performers that inspired your purpose?
Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, and my parents, especially my mom! My mother was very vocal about her thoughts on representation. All of my dolls were Black dolls because my mom wasn't having it! I would watch old movies like Cabin in the Sky, Stormy Weather, and performances by Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr.
Watching as many films as you have, do you have a favorite?
I have a couple, but The Color Purple, and as I've gotten older, I've understood the politics that surround that movie and wonder if it should be my favorite, but it's in my muscle memory. School Daze is another favorite!
The passion you have for acting is magical, but what would you do if performing wasn't an option?
I would probably be a teacher. I have always taught; I started teaching when I was 15 as an assistant dance teacher before I had my own classes. I would teach after school, and summer programs would focus on dance and drama.
Do you get the same satisfaction from teaching as you do performing?
There's nothing like seeing a young person blossom and excel at something that they didn't even know that they'd like. There's also something about seeing the manifestation of an idea through the students, and watching them get excited about it makes my heart sing! Then to watch parents come and experience their child perform on stage and go crazy rooting for them is truly beautiful.
Let's talk about Snowfall! What was the most difficult scene that you've had to fil thus far?
There was a scene where Franklin (Damson Idris) gets choked out by the police. That scene was really hard for a multitude of reasons because at the time, there was so much happening between our community and the police, but acting-wise it was hard because Louie (my character) wasn't mentioned in the scene. I didn't think I was going to be called to work that day because I was not in that scene, but I get the call sheet, and now I am.
Your character isn't docile, so I could see why this was hard.
Louie is demonstrative, a fighter, and just that chick! I was nervous because I didn't want to steal focus because the story isn't about Louie at the moment, so I had to think fast. Eventually, I did figure it out, but that was a scary scene because I didn't want to seem like I didn't know what I was doing.
On the flip side, what was the funnest scene to film?
We have so many fun scenes! The one that comes to mind, probably because it's the most recent, is the scene where Louie and Jerome (Amin Joseph) are in the hotel making plans after getting married. Amin and I have such great chemistry because of our friendship that informs our scenes, and he's really good at improvisation.
How do you stay in character during these scenes and moments where someone says something hilarious?
When it's all of us together, it is really hard to stay serious! We have a lot of comedians on our set. We do quite a few takes, but there's this one scene where I almost broke character because Jerome and I were arguing, and he was coming for me! I had to stay on my toes and throw figurative punches back at him, and that was a challenge because I'm not the best at roasting people.
There are a lot of elements to Snowfall, one of which is selling drugs. How do you feel about the vitriol your character gets because she's moving accordingly in the dope game?
I don't know if I'd get some of the reactions I get if I were a guy. I feel like a lot of people think Louie is trying to be too powerful, and there's something about the she that throws me off because the world acts as if women have to know and stay in their place. Louie is her boss' number one asset. The boss had an idea, and she implemented that idea. She had an idea, and the boss implemented that idea. She had an idea, but the boss didn't listen, and everything went to hell! Said boss is always screaming at you, doesn't want to recognize you as a partner, and wants to relegate you to a little corner; wouldn't you have enough and go do your own thing?
Absolutely! The fans are very emotionally invested in this show. Is there any one fan interaction that sticks out to you?
One dude sent me a direct message and said he was going to punch me in the face! It gets crazy at times! I do receive a lot of love when I'm out and about even if they disagree with the character, they still show me love. So there's a difference between online and in-person.
Disrespect, on or offline, should never be a thing towards an actor's performance. With shows like Snowfall, why do you think that violence or death seems to be everyone's solution for things?
I think American culture is obsessed with violence and death, myself included. When I would watch Breaking Bad, I wanted everybody to go except for Giancarlo Esposito's character (Gus Fring), which is ironic considering his death is probably the most memorable from the series.
How similar are you to Louie in real life?
I think we exist on opposite sides of the same coin. I feel like I lead more with love because I try to have an expanded awareness and understanding that we are all connected to each other and the earth. Louie's life has led her to be a person that tends to have on blinders and look out for herself because nobody has looked out for her best interests besides Jerome.
You knew who and what you wanted to be early. Does Louie share some of your fearlessness?
Louie is fearless because she acts out of fear from the life she's lived and she has to push forward. Louie speaks to what she wants and doesn't want, and I've learned from this character because while I have always gone after my dream, I am better at exercising my voice thanks to her.
Let's speak life into your dreams! Outside of people that you've already worked with, who would you love to share a scene with?
My number one person is Regina King! I want to work with her so bad! She is the pinnacle to me, and as much acclaim as she's been receiving, she's somehow still underrated.
Regina King is spectacular! Let's get back to Snowfall; a big theme of the show is family. How does Angela Lewis' family dynamic play into Louie's family dynamic on the show?
My family has always been super supportive, but I've always been an individual! I believe everybody on this planet is here for a specific reason, and this thing, whatever that thing may be, is inside us all, and we have to live our lives based on our own choices. But shrinking my dreams to fit in serves no one and only causes resentment.
Earlier, you talked about the two sides of a coin. How do you feel about now becoming the Black woman that serves as representation for younger Black people?
I'm humbled by that idea, and something that I've learned from our idols is that we're all human beings with flaws and challenges that we're trying to work through. As important as it is to have something to look at or emulate, I think it's more important to understand that we're merely borrowing pieces of the things that resonate with us.
Social media has pulled back the curtain for fans, and a lot of people are understanding that making it is more about progression than perfection. In closing, what would you tell the fans of Snowfall to look forward to?
It's going to be ugly! [laughs] I think Louie will always do what she knows is right, even if that clashes with anyone else's ideologies. Louie has gone from a character in the book, to the one writing her own story, and there's power in that!