“The first thing I did was call Grace because I heard that she had gotten Quinn,” said Good, referring to her friend and eventual co-star Grace Byers, whose response was “Don’t tell me you’re coming in for Camille!” The pair ran lines together.
The second number she dialed belonged to actress Regina Hall, whom Good appeared with in the rom-com “Think Like a Man” and its sequel “Think Like a Man Too.” Good, who was cast as the sexy girlfriend for the early part of her 30-plus year career, wanted Hall — largely regarded as the crème de la crème of comedic actresses — to lend her expertise.
“First of all, girl, you got this,” Hall told her. “I’ve seen you do comedy. You are this character.” But Hall also offered a few notes about improvisation that Good took to the audition which would eventually land her the role of Camille, a quirky anthropology professor who deals with the fallout of risking it all for her one true love.
For Good, who talked to The Washington Post about “Harlem,” which begins its second season on Friday, it was all a bit of life imitating art: The show highlights how Black women show up for each other.
“The great thing is when you meet tribal people that have the same heart, the same mind, the same desire to see everybody win, it changes things,” said Good.
Q: Why did you want to fight for the role of Camille?
A: It’s everything that I would want. I’m still doing drama, but it’s also comedy. A lot of times I play the straight man, but this was a little bit of Lucille Ball physical comedy. It was all the things that I knew that I wanted to do. And so I left that audition thinking I got the job — and then I didn’t hear anything for two weeks.
Q: But you obviously didn’t give up.
A: I had another great audition. Then didn’t hear anything for another two weeks. Finally, they called and said, “You got the job.” I just burst out crying. Because I was like, after being in the business for 30 years, I can still change people’s minds about what they think I’m capable of. And I can also still surprise people. It gave me this feeling in my spirit, like, as long as I’ve been doing it, it doesn’t matter. The best is yet to come.
Q: You’ve been in the business since you were 4. Does a show like “Harlem,” starring four unapologetically Black women, feel like a shift in the kinds of stories Hollywood is now willing to tell?
A: I remember Tracy [Oliver, “Harlem’s” creator] saying that she took “Harlem” around town before “Girls Trip” and everyone’s like, “Yeah, but are Black female friendships really a thing?” Then “Girls Trip” made over $150 million and they were like, “What was that thing you had?”
Even 10 years before that when I was doing “Deception” and it was the first time in my entire career that I looked around and I was like, “Wait, Gabrielle Union is the star of a TV show. Taraji is the star of the show. Kerry Washington is the star of her own TV show. Viola Davis is the star of her own TV show. I’m the star of my own TV show.” I had never seen that before, and I didn’t realize I had never seen that before.
Q: So things are changing?
A: We have a long way to go though, but we’re still coming along.
Q: None of the women on the show have it together, so to speak. In Season 2, Camille says, “blowing up my life seems like so much more fun than the misery it actually was.” How important do you think it is to see characters of color, specifically women, in these roles where they’re not always the strong one or the sassy best friend or the no-nonsense police chief?
A: That’s who we really are. Sometimes it’s messy, and sometimes we do get it right. It’s super important that the ways that we show up in both film and television are authentic to who we are as human beings. It gives Black women the license to be human beings, to not always have to have it together, to be vulnerable, to deal with mental health, to have the issues that everybody else has and the issues that are unique to our experience as Black women.
Q: The title of Season 2’s first episode is “Takesie Backsies.” Is there anything in your career that you would want to take back?
A: I think everything has led me to where I am. Even things that, when I finished and I saw it and I was like, “Oh no, why’d I do that?” Those are the things people come up to me on the street and are like, “Oh my God, I loved you and this character.”
I remember seeing this interview with Kevin Spacey where he said the biggest mistake an actor can make is thinking they’re bigger and better than they really are. You have to take everything in humility and appreciate the fact that we even get to work. So I don’t regret anything.
Q: A major theme in the show is the idea of “happily ever after.” Those are three words fairy tales will be forever obsessed with. Is that something we can really define?
A: I think that happily ever after oftentimes gets blown up in real life. We can define it but ultimately, for me, it boils down to peace. Even though I just went through a divorce, right now I feel like I’m having my “happily ever after” because I got me. I’ve rediscovered me in a lot of ways.
Q: And now to the sexy stuff. The show is incredibly sex positive. Black female sexual pleasure is front and center. Why does that feel new?
A: Obviously coming out of my divorce, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about all of it and what’s right for me. But what I do know is that we should have the option to make the choices that are right for our lives without being shamed either way. I don’t think you should be shamed for having sex or for not having sex. We need the freedom to figure out our own paths. I love that it is a conversation where everybody [on the show] has the freedom to figure it out for themselves.
Q: You’ve found a lot of freedom in directing. Is that next?
A: I figured out that I loved it in 2012 when I directed my cousin’s music video. I realized I knew exactly what I was doing. I realized that I knew exactly what my vision was. I know what the lenses are, even if I don’t know the exact name of it. … I love coming to set with no hair, no makeup, a beanie and some sweatpants and serving everybody else and helping somebody else shine.
Q: So Meagan Good the director is for hire?
A: Yes she is. I will come direct anything and everything.