CocoaFab caught up with the talented actress to get the scoop on the film, the upcoming season of Grey’s Anatomy, and working with Shonda Rhimes.
She co-stars alongside Halle Berry and Phylicia Rashad in the film about a woman with multiple personalities.
“The presentation was ‘Halle Berry is doing a film and she wants to know if you’re interested in playing the sister and Phylicia Rashad is playing the mother,” and I was good. That’s all I needed to say yes,” she says.
“Once I got the script and saw the tremendous journey my character was going to get a chance to take part in and the dynamic that had been shared all her life with her family, that behavior had a name. Not only does it have a name, but that gives insight to family and puts her on a journey to be able to finally be healed and that was exciting to me.”
Chandra says mental illness is a subject that more African Americans should pay attention to and she’s glad that she has had the opportunity to shed light on the often overlooked issue.
“We are fortunate today that we have names and labels for things that didn’t use to have that kind of identity in the past. People just fell between the cracks for being labeled for ‘behavior’ issues instead of realizing something could really be going on that needed to be addressed and could lead to a better quality of life for these individuals,” she explains.
“I think because of where we are in this time and because of the knowledge of ADHD and learning disabilities, our peers are better equipped to listen to the problems. We have a name for the emotional problems and educational problems and we can probably address it better than we did before.”
She also got a chance to tackle the subject as Miranda Bailey on her hit show, Grey’s Anatomy.
“I was really excited about that storyline and continue to be. When you’re talking about mental illness, there’s a progressive nature to it. It manifests in one way at one point and then it may manifest in another way at another time,” she says.
“Right now, Dr. Bailey is taking a nice little pill and dealing with feeling unstable and off her game and not centered and not feeling grounded as a woman in her marriage and as a doctor. Even though those things are stable for her now, I doubt there won’t be another manifestation that occurs when you don’t have the brevity that you need.”
She also weighed in on what it has been like to work with Shonda Rhimes for eleven years and how it feels to be one of the first leading black women she created for the small screen.
“It has been such an interesting progression of how we got to where we were. Prior to season 3, I don’t think anybody knew what Shonda Rhimes looked like. Certainly not that she was a black woman unless they were really paying attention,” she says.
“Here you have a hit television show with a multi-ethnic cast that you were comfortable with. I think people figured out they were comfortable because it looked like their every day. It looked like it looks when you go to the grocery store or to the doctor’s office. It looked real.”
According to Chandra, her character’s role has had a significant impact on the show’s audience over the years.
“Slowly but surely, seeing Miranda Bailey on the show every week on a major network has been influential for the people that watch. There are folks in college now who were watching as kids who are in medical school because they watched her on Grey’s Anatomy. We have become a generational show. The look of the show, we have been copied a few times, and it is the accepted look of America.”
She also says there are still big things in store for the show when it returns this fall.
“What’s really exciting about going into Season 11 is we’re ahead of the pack when it comes to social media. The Grey’s cast is slowly but surely moving into it and there’s going to be a new social media movement with that Thursday block. From ‘Grey’s’ to ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ where we can interact with our audiences during those three hours,” she says.
“Shonda continues to be trailblazer in things like that. I don’t even know how intentional it has been for Shonda to be a trailblazer in the way that she has been but she has been smart enough to welcome the opportunity and look at 11 season later, what she has been able to create. She is still incredibly humble about the journey that she has made but recognizes how significant the presence of these characters have been on television.”
As far as her character goes, Chandra says she never tires of her role as Miranda Bailey.
“Miranda never gets old to me. There’s always something new I’m being made to discover about her. Her journey isn’t finished yet and there’s still stuff for her to do. Roles like this don’t come along very often,” she says.
“I never would have predicted eleven season but it still needs tone significant. I really want to make that experience as fulfilling for the audience as possible. I don’t get the luxury of being bored because there’s still a story to tell.”
Frankie & Alice is available now on DVD.