Love is not seen realistically through the eyes of black women. There happens to be a show that expresses how women of color should love. Creator Mara Brock Akil takes her personal relationship later turned into marriage to television. Each Tuesday we are invited into her early career and relationship during the 90s. Michele Weaver expresses her role as Nuri (who plays the young Mara).
ATM: What is your favorite episode on Love Is?
MW: This is so hard. I would have to say episode nine. There is a lot that happens in this episode. There is a major breakthrough that challenges their love. There is also a challenge in the dynamic of their relationship. They both work in the same industry but are in different places. They deal with a lot of things people are afraid to talk about.
ATM: How did acting become your communication with God?
MW: I have always wanted to act. My mother signed me up for an acting gig and it turned out to be a fraud. A lot of agencies are like this in schools. I participated and was very active in my school’s theater. I kept going down this path. I took the roles for colleges that no one would take. I took it on a whim and schools were interested in me. I was not spiritual at this moment, but I knew this was it. I had my instincts and could tell that God was pulling me in this direction. I felt this pull.
I was not getting cast. They were not color line casting me. They had no idea what to do with me. I could play the sassy white girl, but I was not super ratchet. I liked Shakespeare. It was so sad. These are the politics of acting. I ended up getting a Native American role. There was a monologue with a woman talking to her ancestors and mother nature while giving birth on stage. I had to tap into something to play this role. I started to pray to God.
I did not want to tap into crazy spirits. Something broke through that it was not about me. I started to spiritual tap into playing this woman. This opened up my communication with God deeper than before. My acting started to get highlighted once working on my relationship with God. It happened in a particular way that allowed me to get led to certain things. I was willing to give up acting. I have so much passion to give back. I thought about working in missionary.
I kept being led to play characters after praying. This is when I realized this was it. It always ended up where I would play a character. I wanted God to show what he wanted me to show in these characters. I started to get an understanding of things other than this character. This character dealt with things similar to my friends and family. You have to tap into something that is not you as an artist. You have to tap into humanity. You are going to end up seeing yourself in a way that is different.
ATM: What lessons from God have been implemented in your portrayal of Nuri?
MW: Forgiveness. You will understand once seeing all ten episodes.
MW: This is a good question. I am more fearless and unapologetic. I am also more sure of the things I already knew.
ATM: In what ways has this show made you go deep within yourself.
MW: You explore things when playing a real character and a character that you can relate to. I have been in a real relationship with a guy who had no money. I had no money when we started dating. We both had five dollars in our accounts in the beginning. I ended up surpassing him. Unfortunately, I had progressed faster than him. We had to let each other go. We were not instinct anymore. He was not less than a man. However, this guy had a different journey than me. I had to witness what went wrong in my relationship. I see the differences between Yasir, me, and this guy. It is about maturity. People can hate on Yasir all that want but he has a maturity about him. This is why Nuri is attracted to him. He is also unable to handle certain things, which causes him to lash out. We have all had these moments. Especially when you are dealing with things all at once. Life is hard. (Laughs).
You have to look at love. We recognize that when relationships fail something it was not supposed to last for someone, there are issues in a relationship you have to take responsibility for, you have to forgive that person and yourself. It is a two way streak. It takes two to dance. You have to forgive to receive. If you hold on, then you will not be open for love. As actors, we pull from what we know. Also, writers write what they know. I might not have a child or a place to put the child. However, I can imagine what it feels like to lose my brother. This is what I know of as a child. I would have pulled from my own experiences. I pulled from my own heartbreak whether it was subconsciously or not. I knew what it was like to be with a guy who claimed he wanted me but not really. I knew what it was like to want someone to be serious. Nuri represents the things woman go through. We have gone through rejection with people saying we cannot do it and people underestimating us. We have gone through putting ourselves in predicaments. We have gone through being overzealous. You have to look at yourself.
ATM: Would you have been as successful if you were an actress in black Hollywood during the 90s? Explain the possible progressiveness of how your career would have been.
MW: This is another good question. In some terms, it would have worked to my advantage. However, I am also a light-skinned African American woman, which would have caused me to have a lack of opportunity. Would I have been able to play characters like Nuri? No. It would have been very very competitive. It would not have been as many opportunities that are in front of me right now.
ATM: How are everyday African American voices heard outside of Nuri and the entirety of the show?
MW: Women want to see themselves excel, in love, and with joy. Nuri represents the dream in a way you have to fight for it. It is also in the way that you fight. Mara said something to me at the beginning on set. She has been in the business for a long time and has seen the representation of black women on television. She wants there to be a Julia Roberts in black movies. Mara wants a black woman to be allowed to laugh, love, and be romantic. Mara felt this was not being represented. She wanted Nuri to represent this. We can be bubbly, joyful, and head over heels in love like any other woman. In the 90s, there were so many romantic movies that starred white women.
ATM: When do you think this will happen? If it is happening already, then what do you think is still needed?
MW: I think it is happening right now. It is going to take time. Love Is and other shows are putting diversity out there. They are noticing that it works. We have been crying out. If you they let us use our voices, then people are going to be drawn to it. People were in denial. Now they cannot deny it anymore. It has been a proven fact that people can relate to a black woman in similar ways like a white woman. As audiences we should keep showing up, desiring it, and showing the industry that we love diversity. They know where the money lives. If people are watching diversity, then trust me diversity will be on every channel and in the movie theaters.
ATM: Express how you grew to work with Yasir and William.
MW: I have known him for five years. I am used to being in acting class and doing chemistry reads with strangers. That beautiful thing about humanity is that you do not have to know that much about a person to connect with them. I feel safe with Will. We can go straight into the process without over-analyzing it. Mara explained to me before the chemistry read about how Yasir affected Nuri. This is why our chemistry read was so powerful. Will gave me everything that Mara said Yasir gave. It hit me because it related to what Mara told me. It started to not be Michele or William, but it became Nuri and William. It is very hard to explain but it is an out of body experience. You let the words live for you once you can trust someone. You do not need to overthink even though you are present. You are not forcing anything. You have to let the words connect you and your heart. Meisner technique talks about this. It is a new adventure.
MW: I would be surprised because no one has said this to me before. I would respect it. It is impossible to go through life without using someone to a certain degree. The point in a relationship is to utilize each other. Mara tried to explain this. We use each other and become better people. Every relationship should challenge you to be a better person. If a relationship does not challenge you, bring out the best in you, then it is not a good relationship. You grow together in relationships or friendships.
ATM: Explain the aspects of love you have learned or noticed since co-starring in Love Is.
MW: Love is very complicated. You decide what comes with a person or decide what is too much. This is okay. I talk about this with Mara. If someone baggage is too much for you, then it is completely fine to let them go. Your love for them should be greater than all the baggage. It is not that serious. It is very simple. Love is seeing someone despite and not because of. You love someone despite all the baggage. You have to be able to stay or to let go. Every single person has baggage. It is the imperfections of love that makes it so simple. You have to recognize this. Nuri recognizes this and sees this man has a lot going on. She does not let go. You see her not stringing other guys along. This one is different. I know people who are married who say, “I know his faults are this and that, but I can deal with it. I will deal with it for him.” This decision is a mighty one.
ATM: How should a person trust their gut with love when people close to them are controlling their desires? For example, in the Valentines Day episode your mother and the rest of your family was telling you Yasir was not worth it.
MW: Girl, when you find that answer let me know.
ATM & MW: (Laughs).
MW: Oprah said something to me. Oprah said, “At the end of the day you know what you want and what you need to do. If you have to ask ten people, then it is a bad sign. This means they are not in tune with what you want and what you know.” She was talking about the book “Seed of the Soul.” She was talking about intentionality. Oprah said, “You must have the self-awareness to know intentionality.” It is one thing to seek advice from the people who know you well as a mentor or as a close friend. You know what you want to do at the end of the day. It is okay to be wrong to see if your gut is right. I feel we put so much pressure on ourselves when making a mistake. It is okay to make a mistake, but it is not okay to not learn from it. Every decision is either a lesson or a piece of the wisdom you learned from the mistake. These are the only two divisions. This is a hard question. We are all trying to figure this out. You should ask Mara this question. Mara is the one that said I love you on the first night. She is still saying I love you to the same man 20 years later.
ATM: Too many people, it becomes more a risk than a connection when getting with their lover. This risk is about not knowing if this person is the one. Some people feel the energy. Most people are together and then break up for a couple years then get back together. Once they get back together the question is no more about being the one. You are always questioning yourself.
MW: Yes, you do question yourself because love is something that you give, and it is an infliction. There is something beyond this. You cannot put it on a chart or calculate it. It is hard to confirm it. This is the difference between love, wanting attention, and not wanting to be alone. Through time you start to realize this through relationships. Some people say, “They did not really want to be with this person. They did not want to be alone and were hacked up in their emotions.” Love is beyond the emotions. It is when the honeymoon stage is over. This is a part of the five elements that are written in the book The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chatman. Chatman said, “Any I love yous mean nothing unless you have been with them over two years. Your I love yous are based on emotions unless you are out of the honeymoon stage. A feel good emotion.” He is saying love is when you do not feel like it. This makes sense. This makes you think about your family even if you do not feel like them. You love them. I recommend people read this book.
ATM: Love is not tangible. You cannot touch it but can only feel it. It is a four letter word that everyone wants.
MW: Oh, it is not about wanting it. You need love. Everybody needs love. God is love to me as a Christian. The best relationship is with you and God. He loved you before birth and will continue to love you until eternity. There is nothing you have to do to earn this love. It is so powerful.
Weaver goes through an out of body experience to portray her character Nuri. It is the elements of her love in her personal life that reflects the performance on screen. Love is represented in different ways and highlights black women in a way of not needing sex to express love.
OWN’s Love Is airs Tuesdays nights.