UPDATE: A year since this interview, Reagan has launched a new web series, in keeping with her mission to be self-reliant, continuing to create her own work, as well as work for other artists of color, embracing the digital revolution that’s democratized the content creation, distribution and exhibition process. The new series, an apocalyptic drama titled "Surviving," just wrapped up its first season. All 7 episodes of season 1 are available to binge-watch on Reagan’s YouTube channel, which you can access here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjxC1R1dPhYX9MeS_F5SJ5w.
First read and be inspired by her words below, and then go watch "Surviving" at the link above, or on her website at http://reagangomez.com/. And if you like what you see, be sure to click on the donation buttons as instructed to contribute to the production of season 2.
Well known for her role as Zaria Peterson in the 1990s
sitcom "The Parent ‘Hood," Reagan Gomez-Turrentine has gone on to
appear in a number of film and TV projects, most recently voicing Roberta Tubbs
on "The Cleveland Show" and starring in TV One’s "Love That
Her latest is "Almost Home," a web series that she
writes, directs, produces and stars in opposite brother-in-law DeJuan
Turrentine, as a pair of siblings navigating careers in music and fashion.
Gomez’s husband DeWayne Turrentine co-produces and co-stars as love interest
Scott, while her sister-in-law, independent hip hop artist Queen, also
co-stars. Season 2 of the series is available on YouTube.
Gomez recently spoke with Shadow And Act about creating the
series as well as her thoughts on the online content revolution, her outspoken
social media presence, and more.
JAI TIGGETT: Not
everyone knows that you not only act, but you also wrote, produced, and
directed this season of your web series. Was it always your plan to write and
create your own content?
I’ve been a writer for a long time. When I was a teenager I actually co-wrote
one of the episodes of "The Parent ‘Hood." They didn’t wind up using
my script, but they used my story and it was one of the most popular episodes
that the show ever had, the episode where Zaria wears a revealing dress to the
So after "The Parent ‘Hood" ended I always wrote
scripts, and as a black actress I did it from a place of writing the kinds of
characters that I wished I could audition for. I wasn’t auditioning for those
characters because they weren’t there. But I would take my scripts to my agents
and managers and they’d say, "This is great, but how about that
audition?" So I put it on the back burner.
I was still writing. I had a few TV pilots and feature
scripts, and I’d take meetings here and there, but it wasn’t until I had my
daughter that I got serious about it. That was in 2007, and 2009 was when I got
on Twitter and met Matthew Cherry. We were talking about Black Hollywood, and
then we got together and did our short film "This Time, " which
is on my YouTube channel. I wrote it, I starred in it, he directed it, and that
was my first venture into writing something on paper and seeing it come to
JT: So wearing all
those different hats was a necessity, but you also enjoyed it. What about
directing, writing and producing, going forward?
RG: I’m not gonna stop. I think this is the next chapter for
me in my 30s. I’ll continue to act when the roles are available, and when I get
offered something. But creating original content on my YouTube channel and not
having to go through networks or studios, the freedom you have to just do it
online, I’m never giving that up.
JT: What should audiences
expect from the second season of "Almost Home"?
RG: Well if you watched last season, you know that music and
fashion are the backdrop for the show. So coming into Season 2, two of our main
characters, DeJuan and Ryan, have just gotten a record deal and like a lot of
people who are new to the music business, they think the hard part is over. We
get to see that the real work actually begins after they sign their deal. And
we also get to watch my character, Lisa, start new business ventures in the
fashion industry, and her relationship with
One of my favorite episodes this season will be posted on
Tuesday. I’m huge hip-hop fan. I grew up listening to a lot of amazing women rappers
and emcees, from Queen Latifah to Left Eye, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Lauryn Hill
and Missy. And nowadays we don’t really have much variety. So we have an
amazing female rapper on our show, Queen, and she has a rap battle with a guy in
Episode 3. I’m really excited about that.
JT: You and your
husband star in and produce "Almost Home" together, and Queen,
DeJuan, and lots of your other family members are involved in the project. Tell
me about working with family.
RG: It’s been a learning experience, but it’s really been
great. There are a lot of families out there that just can’t work together and
I get that, but it was great for us. We’re all helping each other out. Even in
Episode 1, we didn’t have a hairstylist so in between scenes my sister-in-law
was putting curls in my hair. It’s really a family atmosphere and that’s what I
want. Whether it’s people who are blood related to me or not, it has to be that
JT: How similar are
the characters to your actual family?
RG: The characters are totally based on them. They’re
exaggerated for show purposes, but my husband’s really a music producer, Queen
is an independent musician, and my brother-in-law is a singer-songwriter.
And I definitely wanted to show the dynamic between a
brother and sister. We see so many shows with sisters – the Braxtons, the
Kardashians. You don’t really see a brother and sister relationship. Especially
if the sister is older, sometimes you feel like a mother figure for your brother
but you still have to let him grow up and be a man. I have a younger brother
and that’s something we went through. So I wanted to show that.
JT: You’ve said that you
plan to produce more content for your YouTube channel, starting with another
web series in the fall. How will that work? Are you collaborating with other
RG: I’m not working with anybody, I don’t have a team, I
don’t have an agent that’s helping me out with the s-. It’s just me and my
husband. I write it and we get the money to film it and we put it straight on
my YouTube channel. At this point it’s just about getting the channel up and
running, but in the future I’d love to work with other people.
For instance, I want all of the shows on my channel to star
women of color, particularly black women. For the next few web series that I
do, I’m not even going to be in them. I want to cast new people, and I’m just
going to direct and let them shine. That’s what the plan is.
“Creating original content on my YouTube channel and not having to go through networks or studios, the freedom you have to just do it online, I’m never giving that up.”
JT: What do you think
about the overall direction that online content is going in? There are a ton of
new projects now.
RG: I love it. There are people who have been doing it way
longer than me, but the more great black content out there, the better. And
when you say "black" it’s always like, "Don’t say black. Aren’t
you limiting your viewership when you say that?"
But do you know how many people have gotten HBO deals from producing
black content? Mf-ing HBO is watching these black series, okay? And they’re
just fine with it. So I’m proud to be producing black content. And we are not
the only ones watching, trust and believe.
JT: You’ve been pretty
vocal on Twitter and YouTube, and connected to your fans. How does hearing
their thoughts and feedback every day affect what you’re creating?
RG: We want people to be involved. Even in the credits for
the cast, we have their social media links. And that’s what we did for "This
Time" as well. We streamed the auditions and the whole production process.
I love being active on social media. The biggest feedback that I’ve gotten from
people is that they want longer episodes, so this season the episodes are a
little bit longer.
You also have to stick to your guns for what your vision is.
You take the constructive criticism, because without the fans you would have no
show. But most of the criticism has been really positive.
JT: You’ve been
working in entertainment since you were a teenager. How do you think you’ve
avoided the pitfalls that a lot of young actors fall into in Hollywood?
RG: I went through my s-. But there were no blogs back then,
so there weren’t people following me around when I was 19 with a camera posting
everything that I was doing. And even if there were, I doubt that people would
really care. There are bigger stars out there than me. But I went through my s-,
as people do as they get older. Going through your late teens and early 20s is
not an easy time, especially in Hollywood. So you just learn your lessons, you
make your mistakes and you move on.
As far as drug abuse and all that – listen, this is
Hollywood. I don’t know how I was able to avoid it, but I’m lucky that I did.
I’m lucky that I had my ace boon coon and my husband and family there with me. And
I don’t take Hollywood too seriously. I have kids that don’t give a damn about
what I’m shooting, they just want dinner. So that keeps me grounded. And I’ve
been broke more than I’ve been rich. I like being in the middle way better. And
I like being able to put out my own content instead of just going from audition
to audition and just waiting and hoping. I don’t have the time anymore.
JT: As far as lessons
go, what have you learned that still benefits you at this point in your career?
RG: I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that no
one owes you anything. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked with this person, or
you have a piece of work that you think is great. It doesn’t mean they’re going
to agree with you and give you money to do it. Sometimes it just takes you
saying, "You know what? I’m going to take the money out of my own
And that’s not easy. I have two kids, I have a mortgage.
Funding the trailer and the first two episodes of "Amost Home" wasn’t
easy on us at all. For the first season we raised $14,000 on Indiegogo, and for
the second season we raised $5,000. So we had to pull a whole lot out of our bank
account. But sometimes you have to sacrifice because you see what the end goal
is. When you have a dream and you want to get it done, you can’t wait on other people.
I was lucky that I’m not in it by myself. I have my family and we all did
whatever we had to, to get it done. But sometimes it’s just on you.
Thanks to Reagan Gomez for the conversation.
Find Gomez’s short film "This Time" and her web
series "Almost Home" on her YouTube channel HERE.
Watch season 2, episodes 1 & 2 below: