Amanda Seales is a master of many things. Whether through her Small Doses podcast, the national radio show The Amanda Seales Show, or social media, Seales is constantly engaged.

And now, she’s putting politics in the forefront to bring about change and make others aware.

Seales spoke with Blavity about her new documentary comedy special, In Amanda We Trust. If there’s one thing she made clear, it is the importance of keeping Black people politically aware. She also shared how she selects her podcast subjects and why she’s not against interviewing Chrisean Rock.

How did the idea for In Amanda We Trust come about?

Amanda Seales: Originally, I was going to do a stand-up special, and then while I was in the process of doing that, I realized that basically, the footage that I had for the stand-up wasn’t at the same quality level technically and then even creatively. So I decided that I needed to just make an executive decision, and I decided we’re just going to make this part of what was going to be interstitials and just kind of segments that will go in between the stand-up. I made the decision to make that the entire project. And it was the right decision.

Now, the stand-up special you’re referring to, was that in reference to The Black Outside Again Tour? Was that the footage that you were going to use?

AS: Yeah. I had gotten some footage while I was on that tour, and I was basically going to just use that footage and knock it out. But that is what happens in production. You start with one vision, and there are just so many things that could go either way that end up affecting the finished product, and you have to just go with the flow. Luckily, we had the pieces we needed to make the adjustment, and it really ended up being far better than I feel like my special would’ve been good just because I’m a good comedian, but I feel like this is the better option.

Now, doing it this way, I’m assuming that this was your first time doing something of this magnitude as far as a documentary-type thing on your own.

AS: Yeah, absolutely. Again, this was supposed to be five-minute segments that were going to play between stand-up, but when we went and shot, we ended up just getting so much material, and oftentimes, you’re happy with just getting what you need. So, to have the opportunity to get not just what we need but an excess beyond that was really kind of a shock. And I really felt that was a sign, and I kept saying when we came back from D.C., “Dang, we got so much footage, we may not even need the stand-up.” Be careful of what you wish for.

The industry is filled with a lot of people who are on either side of the coin: They’re either really smart or they’re pop culture critics. Few people are a marriage of both. So I often wonder if the people that are so bothered by you, if the reason is because you’re so layered. What’s your take on that? Especially now that this documentary is out, and it merges all of that.

AS: I mean, here in 2023, Brenda, we’re not giving them people any air. 

What was your specific goal in creating this documentary? What did you want viewers to take away from it? Especially because we’re in such an interesting time politically, there’s so much going on, so it’s really hard to break all that down.

AS: Well, I wanted to pique folks’ curiosity. I really feel that is the key to informing yourself and curiosity; it’s a character trait. I feel we all have to lean into it, whether it’s in how we interact with our partners. Like, if you’re in a relationship and your partner isn’t curious about your feelings and isn’t curious about why you respond to something a certain way, that’s going to end up being a problem. Because what it says is that that person isn’t interested in gaining more understanding. And it’s the same with politics. We are interacting with our government. We are in a relationship with our government, and there is not enough curiosity about why it’s reacting the way it is, why it’s responding to different parts of it in certain ways, and where we fit in that.

So I wanted to really use humor and charisma and personality to get folks to think differently about how they can be more involved and, at the very least, informed about the government that is determining their lives. I just, on a basic note, feel like the further we get from politics, the more politics is in us. That’s really that basic. I don’t know why so many Black people are of this mindset that if they just disassociate themselves from being politically minded, it’s going to somehow enhance their value as citizens, but that is not true.

It’s also interesting because there is that spectrum. It’s either the ones who want to disengage and disassociate completely, and then others are fully in it. So, what is your take on the political discussions among younger Black Americans that are taking place or the ones who are heavily involved in trying to stay informed and make a difference?

AS: I think what a lot of people are forgetting is that politics for Black people is about our ability to live as citizens in this country. But somehow, folks started looking at politics like a reality TV show and disassociating it from the way they get to exist. Politics is why we had Jim Crow apartheid. Politics is why slavery lasted so long. Politics is why the 13th Amendment allows for slavery and prison. So when we’re talking about politics, we’re not just talking about these people in suits in D.C. We’re talking about decisions that are being made that change the way you get to exist as a Black person in America. And if that don’t mean something to you, I don’t know what to tell you.

It’s also very frustrating because the generation, I feel like, has disassociated; it’s the reason why there’s this reckoning and reversal that’s happening now, and there’s still such a disconnect there. That’s the reason why there’s this big backlash as far as what’s going on in the educational system as far as erasing our histories in schools.

AS: Yes. People got complacent, I feel. On one hand, people got complacent. On the other hand, people got greedy. And then, on the other hand, I think a lot of people just didn’t have time to really still be involved. So we’ve got ourselves in a situation, and I am a part of that group of people; I am somebody who I’ve always been socially aware. I’ve always been an advocate for social justice, and I’ve always been an informed person in terms of just the Black goings-on, right? But I will be the first to say that I really did not see the immensity of what was taking place in 2016. I thought that Donald Trump was a joke, and it’s because I underestimated how racist this country still was. And I’m somebody who everybody knows, you know, I know this country racist, and I didn’t even realize.

I take that back. It’s not that I didn’t realize how racist this country was. I didn’t realize how misogynist this country was. So I knew people would vote for Donald Trump, but I didn’t know so many people would simply not vote for Hillary because they just didn’t want a woman in the office, period. So I am somebody who has had to really wake myself up and hold myself accountable that I will not be a continual part of the problem, that I identify and inform myself and then take the knowledge that I’m learning and do whatever effort I can through my best platforms and my best skills to get that out.

Now, I remember when the trailer for In Amanda We Trust dropped, and my sister was like, “Is Amanda running for office?” And I was like, “I don’t think that’s what that is, but I’ll look into it.”

AS: Girl, I had politicians texting me. I had people in office DM’ing me like, “Hey girl, I don’t know if this is what it is, but I got your back.”

And that’s what I was about to say because you are such a force in the forefront of Black rights, the Black struggle, Black liberation, Black greatness. You’re just here for us, which we need. Since you got all of those messages, is that ever something that you thought about potentially getting into in your next chapter, running for office? Recently, Hill Harper announced that he was, I believe, running for Senate.

AS: He’s running for Senate. Angelica Ross says she’s leaving Hollywood, and she’s going to Georgia to be a part of the government, to be a part of politics. I will tell you. I don’t believe in really never say never, but sitting right here on this call, that’s just not something I aspire to do. I really want to feel I was put here on this earth in this particular lifetime to use my comedy and my art and just my voice as a bullhorn to lift up the work of others who do feel it is their calling to be in politics. It is their calling to be an organizer. It is their calling to be an activist. I feel like where I serve is I serve as a teacher, a talker and a truth translator, and I don’t feel I’d be able to do those things in the way that I feel most purposeful if I were inside.

Are you sure? Because I feel like you’re already doing the work, you just don’t have the title.

AS: No, but you understand I don’t answer to anybody. That is an integral part of the work is that I don’t got to ask permission to say what needs to get said. I don’t got to apologize to nobody once I’ve said what I’ve said. I have witnessed that, and I’m like, “Damn, how you doing with that? That’s rough.” I have people who definitely keep me honest. You have people that’ll definitely have your back, but I don’t answer to the Democratic National Committee. I don’t answer to a pact that funded me. I don’t answer to lobbyists. I don’t answer to these people who, basically in more ways than one, feel they own you because they have supported you.

Never forget this documentary was done solely out of my pockets. I financed this 100% myself, and I want to take the message of this documentary and my presentation that I do with political trivia and comedy and a Q&A; I want to take that around the nation over this next election season and help to excite folks around voting. So I want to do that at schools and universities. I want to be able to do that in accordance with these PACs and nonprofits that have money for that purpose. I want to be able to do that, and I feel that’s really where I’m best served. I can’t imagine being in a building with these racists and not being able to say flat out, “You a fricking racist.” And I know that’s what they’re going through every day, and I’m trying to live a soft life.

That was something that I wanted to get into also because you mentioned that this was self-funded, and we spoke about that in our last interview. I’m not sure what has changed since then, but I remember you said that you didn’t really have a large team. I’m not sure what your management is or if you have an agent or anything like that, but I know you previously mentioned that that hasn’t necessarily worked for you. But I’m also sure that this is much harder. It takes more work to run your own business. But there’s freedom in that. So, how important is ownership to you, and do you see a surge in the industry now with more people going the independent route to avoid being censored?

AS: I got to tell you, ownership is entrepreneurship. So entrepreneurship and being an artist don’t necessarily go hand in hand all the time because you have to put that business hat on, and that just feels counter to the creative space. So, I do have agents. I have lovely agents that I work well with. I don’t have a manager. I really found myself during this process. It actually wasn’t difficult because I was able to hire folks for this particular project that really came on and did the job. It was a great learning experience to understand how to get things done independently without driving yourself crazy. A lot of times, we think if I’m doing it independently, I still have to do everything myself, and it’s really not that. It’s just that you have to find folks who operate under that umbrella in an efficient way.

And some people need the whole machine in order to make it happen, but a lot of people don’t. They’re independent just like you; they’re just in different spaces. They’re a director, they’re videographers, they’re line producers. So that’s really what I had to do. And it was great because it showed me that I could do this again. I know how to do this, and it was so encouraging to experience that. And I know that a lot of people in the midst of this strike put themselves to the test as well. And a lot of us didn’t necessarily feel we had to do it ourselves because we felt like the system was the only route, but it is not.

Now, I asked you the last time, and you gave me an answer, but I still haven’t seen it yet. I’m such a fan of Smart, Funny & Black. Are there still plans to make this an actual game show that we see on television?

AS: Smart, Funny & Black is necessary. It’s not even just like, “Oh, this is fun.” I believe Smart, Funny & Black is a necessary piece of content for our times and for our people. So to that point, we’re looking at an industry that is always responding to what is happening and what’s happening socially and politically, and quite often, it’s not doing it from a progressive place; it’s doing it from a commercial place. So, on one hand, yes, I eventually would love to bring Smart, Funny & Black to television. At the same time, I have to be able to bring Smart, Funny & Black to television when I am given the space to do the show the way that it needs to be done to serve the purpose that it is made for. And I don’t trust that this is the climate yet to do that.

That being said, I am exploring Smart, Funny & Black being done in the studio as a livestream that people can watch. And I’m in talks with some people that y’all are fans of. Again, now that I did this documentary myself, I’m gassed up now. So now I’m like, “What else can I do myself?” So there’s a version of this that exists in viewing form outside of the live realm before it gets to television. So, there’s a yes with an asterisk to your question.

We also love the Small Doses podcast. You always have great guests on there and great conversations. But I saw a question about why you started interviewing some reality stars. One person, Bambi from Love & Hip Hop, and some were confused about why you took that route.

AS: Well, I explained it at the top of the episode, but she called me. She texted me and said, “I would like to tell my story, but I want to do so in a sophisticated space. Would you be willing to have me on Small Doses?” Yes. Interviewer to interviewer: If I’m going to have you on my show, I’m always going to be me. And that’s the part that I think a lot of people are missing. It’s like don’t ever question why I’m having somebody on my show. I’m going to always be Amanda, right? I don’t pander to nobody. So, the curiosity should be, “Oh, what’s Amanda going to do with this interview?” Because at this point, I have been around long enough, and I’ve been doing this stuff long enough, and I’ve been consistent enough that I need y’all to stop questioning me about something until you’ve watched it. Now, if you watch it and you’re like, “Damn, ma,” then there’s a different conversation. But it’s so wild to me that folks can support you, support you, support you, support you, and then question something without having even taken it on. 

Or you’re not going to have Chrisean and Blueface?

AS: I would interview Chrisean. I absolutely would interview Chrisean. Chrisean needs someone like me to talk to her.

You don’t feel like she’s had enough people try?

AS: Listen, the reality is that I look at us as community. So I look at us as community, and I’m also someone who’s very empathic. And at the end of the day, I’m always going to try and extend myself to help if I feel somebody needs it. Someone like Chrisean, I always say my tennis coach will tell me something eight different times, eight different ways. But by that eighth time, I might be like, “Oh, OK.” All of us know that. You could have so many things be told to you so many different ways, but sometimes it’s just that right day at that right time with that right person that it hits you different.

So, in community, you should never really give up on people that you know are in a place of trauma. If she was hurting other people versus just hurting herself and possibly her child, that’s a different situation. You got to. … What’s the word I’m looking for? You got to boundary those people. But to me, when I see someone like Chrisean Rock, I see somebody who is more of a harm to themselves than anybody else. So that’s somebody that I would have on the show because I would want to pose questions to her that she may have never asked herself.

And at this point in my life, I know that I have something special about me and how I can create a safe space for people. So, I want to make sure to use that in the best, most positive way possible. But I’m not going to have people on the show who I know are coming on to just try to push an agenda that I don’t support or that I think is. … What’s the word I’m looking for? Duplicitous or nefarious? I mean, like when I was on The Real, I think Kenya Moore came on The Real. Kenya Moore is the “Gone with the Wind Fabulous” one, right?

She had come on The Real, and I thought we were interviewing a real person, and I got a Real Housewife. So I wasn’t interested in the interview, and people were like, “Oh my God, Amanda Seales is so rude,” but it’s like, “I’m not performing with you. We’re not going to do a performance.” So that’s why I enjoyed the interview with Bambi. 

Bambi didn’t come on there acting like she was on a reality TV show. I’m sure there are things people disagreed with that she said, or there’s things that people probably found fault with that she said that may have been counter to whatever was on that reality show. But I also know that reality shows are made for that purpose. They’re a spectacle, and so my show is not that, and she didn’t come on there with that energy. And so that’s what y’all got. Y’all got a real down-to-earth conversation that you could take gems from, and you can leave gems from. You feel me? You could take it or leave it. But anytime I’m in conversation, I’m going to do my best to make sure that my audience leaves, like Denzel, with something. I’m leaving here with something.