If you didn’t know, Kim Fields is not just an actress, she’s also a writer, director and producer, with her latest episodic directorial work being NBC‘s Extended Family.

The comedy series, starring Jon Cryer, Donald Faison and Abigail Spencer, is a hilariously modern take on divorce and co-parenting. The episode Fields directed, “The Consequences of Writing Things Down,” aired this week, and she recently chatted with Blavity’s Shadow and Act about the episode, her longevity in the entertainment business and also shared some background on her directing career, which dates back to the Kenan & Kel show.

Congratulations on everything that’s going on with your acting and directing. Your career continues to bloom, both in acting and behind the camera. At what point did you realize that you wanted to diversify your portfolio and do some things behind the scenes?

Kim Fields: That began in the ’90s when I got out of college and I graduated. And I just thought there were still lots of characters and stories that I wanted to be a part of that were being missed at the time. So, I got my degree in broadcast journalism and TV and film production, and I started producing and directing so that I could learn more of my industry and be able to, at some point, be able to tell the stories that I wanted to tell or portray characters that I wanted to portray. So, it really goes back to the ’90s. Then I started directing with Kenan & Kel for Nickelodeon and Living Single.

I love that you said it taught you much about the industry. What would you say you’ve learned about the industry through your work directing that you didn’t know before as an actress?

KF: They each inform the other. Acting makes me strong. Directing comes after everything else, whether it’s producing or writing. But overall, I think that what I’ve learned the most from wearing these different hats is the strength of storytelling, the strength of characters and character development. Being able to lay out a story in different genres in different ways and being very powerful with that, and using all the tools that we have at our disposal, especially now, from iPhones to different types of cameras — there’s tons and tons of techniques, and there’s post-production magic, if you will. So, I think overall, what I’ve learned is our industry continues to evolve, and it’s very exciting to be a storyteller and a content provider at this point, even with the challenges our industry, or any industry, faces when you’re growing.

How would you describe your directing style?

KF: Oh, wow. You know, sometimes you are brought in to direct something that already has their existing style, whether that’s multi-cam or single-cam. Sometimes, if you’re on, let’s say, a feature or a theater production, a play, you can paint outside the lines a little bit more and create something that isn’t within a set of parameters that have been set up. So, I like to think of my style as being very creative and very detail-oriented, which brings out the best in every department that has a voice in what it is that we’re creating.

You directed an episode of Extended Family titled “The Consequences of Writing Things Down.” Tell us a little about the episode and what you enjoyed about working on the set, with the crew, and the episode overall.

KF: I enjoy the show very much. I was a fan of the show when they first sent me the pilot. I’m a big Mike O’Malley fan who created the show and, of course, a big fan of Jon Cryer, Donald Faison and Abigail. So, it’s just a lot of boxes that [were] already checked for me in terms of the people that I would be working with. The show itself is just very intriguing. It’s a comedy, but it’s not just your typical sitcom, and I think overall, that’s what really drives me in any project that I agree to be a part of or sign on for is being able to do things where it’s just not typical. And so, with this episode, it’s just furthering the unpacking of their lives, the unfolding of their lives as they keep establishing a new norm in a very, not normal environment. I think it’s innovative and it’s fun. Then, the fact that it’s based on actual lives. It was fun to meet the people at the taping whose lives the setting is based on.

Now, you have a lot of experience directing comedies — you’re new to this series, but you’ve done Kenan & Kel and Living Single, Insecure and more. You’re also working on The Upshaws. What about the comedy genre do you enjoy so much?

KF: I enjoyed directing, period. I really enjoy having a voice in every aspect of either the show, the episode or the project. I just love that. With comedy, I think what I enjoy is laughter. People wonder when we first started doing the press tour for The Upshaws. Wanda Sykes said that laughter is such a strong medicine. And I really believe that. So, I really enjoy being a part of projects that can bring people joy and laughter.

The Upshaws is doing well on Netflix. And, historically, a lot of their series get fewer pickups than others may. What about the show do you feel resonates with viewers?

KF: Well, I think the tone that it has — that very kind of throwback to the classic sitcoms, which is what Wanda and Mike, and then Regina Hicks, what they wanted, you know? That nod to the Norman Lear, the timeless Norman Lear comedies and sitcoms. And then from there, do it in a way that was really strong and relevant for today’s audience, which is very savvy, which is very edgy, very no-nonsense in a lot of ways. So, I feel like that’s part of our Upshaws magic, if you will. That we take what has been, and we’ll use that as our core, and then we add to that, and we do our best to bring the thunder every episode.

Going back to Extended Family for this episode that you directed, what are you the most excited for people to see?

KF: I think the idea of trying something new because that’s a part of the narrative in this episode. But certainly, we all learn lessons, like when the old folks used to say, “Your mouth is writing a check that your Black butt can’t cash.” And, basically, it’s when you overextend yourself, you overextend your abilities; you let your ego jump in your mouth and say, ‘Oh, I can do that, I can do that, I can do this.’ And you must go, ‘Well, let me pull back on that.’ So, I think that’s just a fun little nod. But as I said, I’m also looking forward to people seeing more of their lives unpack and unfolding.

How would you say that directing, writing, producing, and acting added to your longevity in the business? You’ve been doing this for a long time. You stay booked because you’re just doing so many things, which is necessary in this industry. 

KF: It’s helped to keep a gig and have a gig and to stay working. That’s always helpful across many different platforms if you will. But it’s also helped from the standpoint of reinventing myself, growing with my industry, and being a part of, again, the storytelling community — the character-creating community in such a profound and prolific way. And understanding there’s really no blueprint for my life or my career. And so I’m certainly very blessed and very grateful. And I’m still having the frickin’ time of my life.