The FX crime drama series is sure to be an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s one that Isaiah John, who stars as Leon, and Gail Bean, who stars as Wanda, promise to put a nice ribbon on as the late John Singleton’s final project.
John and Bean spoke to us about their journey on the show, Singleton’s legacy, the show’s impact and much more. They also dished on what their plans are for transitioning out of the series.
Congratulations on the success of 'Snowfall.' Obviously, fans are so disappointed, but still excited because it is the final season. What do you think the show's impact has been on today's culture?
GB: Honestly, I feel the show has been educational because there are a lot of things that people don’t know when it comes to the crack epidemic. It’s been eye-opening and it’s allowed the culture to come together. We have like a whole Snowfall family community going on, which is beautiful.
IJ: I feel the same. This has been such an entertaining, educational moment in cinema. So I think that we were able to expose the truth. I just feel very accomplished that we were able to have this big of an impact in the culture. Because specifically with [last week’s] episode, it was the first time a lot of people, especially African Americans, were able to see Africa. So I know that that was a huge impact on the show, and I’m just glad that Gail and I were a part of that.
Isaiah, what has been the biggest part of your character’s journey? What do you feel has been the most exciting for you as far as his character development has been concerned?
IJ: Oh, man. For both of those questions, I would say going to Africa, that’s such a huge deal. You know, like that’s not a small thing. And for my character, he had started going through his mental training [and] a spiritual change when he accidentally killed Tiana, and he was able to shed in person all of the demons and what he was feeling from that situation. Going to Africa was like a refreshment for his soul. He needed that. And even personally, I needed that. It was my first time in Africa. So, I was able to experience life from a whole different perspective. And it was beautiful and amazing.
We've also seen a lot of changes with his character as far as him starting a family. And it seemed as if there's been a little bit of back and forth about whether or not he should stay in the game, and contemplate on getting out of the game. And obviously, he felt an obligation to the family. So this season, how do we see him continue to navigate how family can be a driving force or having to figure out the difficult decisions of putting yourself before your family or making that difficult choice when you feel like you may not have another option?
IJ: Right. Well, you know what? What Leon chose to do was very wise. And when he got back, he decided to have a sit down with everyone separately to gather everyone’s perspective so he can have a perspective of his own. And so now, he can have a game plan of how he wants to go about the situation. He’s about trying to fix what’s broken and trying to have connectivity with his tribe. So the fact that he comes back and there’s no more connectivity, and there’s actually war against the family, [it] definitely weighs on him immediately. I think just right now, he just has a responsibility to fix what has been broken. And we get to see that play out for the rest of the season and we see where they really are.
Gail, what do you feel gives your character of Wanda the strength to keep going herself, even when others continue to judge her by her past actions?
GB: Wanda’s strength [comes] from self-love. I think there came a time when she was, of course, rock bottom–and no pun intended. She was starting to forget. She looked in the mirror when she lost her tooth and didn’t even recognize herself. So I think now, she’s coming back to that self-love. It’s very much self-love. It is very sobering. That’s what’s allowed her to push through and persevere, despite other people still reminding her of her past actions and what she did when she was high.
How has it also been for you as an actress playing a role like Wanda, because it is such deep subject matter. Do you feel as if you have been able to continue to diversify your profile, or are you sometimes feeling typecast because of this role?
GB: Playing Wanda is actually very invigorating because her arc is so beautiful that it allows others to see range and variety in me. I was telling someone before that Wanda is the comedic relief in the show and she also has heavy parts and sobering parts. She’s [battling] addiction and she’s also the love interest and the character next door. There are so many roles in one with Wanda. So I don’t feel in any way, shape, or form that this is a role that would typecast me. If anything, this role creates longevity in my career. So I’m just very grateful for that. It is a challenging role in the sense that you go through so many phases in life, but I welcome it.
You both mentioned a lot about the educational portion of the show and how it has really opened America's eyes an even more specifically, really told the truth to Black America about how this has really plagued our community and how it's been embedded in our history. Do you guys feel like this was a good season to close out with or is there more. Is there potentially a spinoff that you think would make sense to do?
IJ: Well, if we answer that question, that kind of we’ll give a huge spoiler who we could see at the end of the show, but I feel like it’s ending on the right note. There are so many events that happened in this specific time where the show could continue. But at the end of the day, we need to keep the integrity of the show, and we need to close on a high note for the sake of our legacy. This was John Singleton’s last baby before his departure. So to make sure that the integrity of the show continues to stay on a high note, which is going to end on a high note, we want to ensure that we continue to keep John proud, because at the end of the day, this is who we’re all here for.
He’s the one who got us all together. Gail says all the time, ‘we’re here for him.’ So I feel like, ideally, we could keep the show on, but if we do that, now we’re tampering with it. Keeping it on, is it going to have the same effect three seasons later past season 6? So I think ending [it] now is it’s perfect. It’s really perfect timing.
GB: You know what John does so beautifully is he creates a stage for us to grow and be bigger than when we came into the situation. So many characters have grown and their demand has grown. So you don’t want to trap them into something for 20 years or 16 or 18 seasons you want to do other things with. So it’s saying, ‘OK, there is not enough time to do it….so it’s now we let people go off and do other things.’ It’s time to grow and expand. But yeah, these are easily enough stories that could go on forever because some people live [and] some people die. But regarding spin-offs, you just got to watch the whole season and see if that would happen. Who would be the ideal characters? How could this go? How would you see it? You know, we are in the ’80s right now. So then after that, then what’s next?
It’s been beautiful to actually see the show continue and have success after John's unfortunate passing, which I'm sure was difficult in the beginning to foresee how that could even be possible. You guys touched on it a bit, but what can you say that this show was like getting an ending it deserved? John has already contributed so much to American film and television, especially with pushing Black stories forward. So how do you feel as if this is a good way to tribute what he's already done?
GB: I think it just shows how beautiful his life was. You know, our legacy is a reflection of our life. So it shows that he impacted and left so much of himself. And each and all of us were able to carry it forward with authenticity and genuineness because he truly loves his city, he loves L.A., he loves Snowfall. He truly loved this project. So we were able to continue with that same intention and that same dedication that John had himself [and to] continue to uphold his legacy. And I think what he continues to do, even from beyond, is leave a landmark that will help open the door for other Black filmmakers and Black storytellers and Black stories to come after him. He did that with Boyz N’ the Hood. He did it with Poetic Justice [and] all of his films.
But for so far, to do what it’s done in six seasons shows really aren’t doing six seasons or more with a Black lead and with Black stories driving the storyline being the focus. It goes to show you that you can build and we will come. We do support our projects. We do make good work. We do have quality content. We do have stories worth telling. So it’s just a give. He left us all with a gift to continue to do and create.
Now that the show about to be over, what are you hoping to get into next? Obviously, you have other projects in the works, but what are your dreams for the next phase of your career?
IJ: My goal specifically is [to get into] film and that version of storytelling. Because being a part of a show for six years set a great foundation for me as an actor, and now I just want to get into telling stories that are like a one-and-done type situation. I will always love TV. I don’t mind ever going back to television, but I definitely want to tap into the film space and just tell stories that continue to touch people because. It would be doing myself a disservice.
I feel like finding that dope script, finding that dope director, that dope producer, just people who are really passionate about whatever story they want to tell. And just being a part of that passion is what I’m striving for because that makes that project of that story. It is that much more important to me when everyone around is passionate about their story.
GB: For me, I say this all the time, but I want [a] Marvel [project]. I have 17 nieces and nephews, so I need them to be at least able to watch one project I do. So I want Marvel for myself…it’s always been a dream since forever. I loved Marvel as a kid before I knew I wanted to act. And I want to find producers and writers and directors that I just continued to collab with and build a longstanding working relationship with. I want exposure for myself as a writer and a producer. So those are some of the things I’m going to tackle. I would like to get back to the theater. I’m trying to get on Broadway, so I would probably make the leap to New York at some point, and I’ll continue in television and [do] film when I’m not doing TV. I love both and will probably continue to bounce around back and forth, but my heart is definitely called into the theater, and my intention is to gain exposure as a writer and producer.