On Wednesday, March 8, viewers will board a nostalgic ride through one of life’s toughest decades, our twenties. The series — named after that ten-year period between adolescence and full-blown adulthood that’s full of highs and lows — follows a trio of friends (Hattie, Marie and Nia) as they chase their dreams, navigate relationships, and juggle love and sexuality in the City of Angels. Stumbling through the doorway of their 20s, post-college and pre-success, Twenties is a hysterical wild ride through an unavoidable reality.
The eight-episode series from the mind of Emmy Award-winning writer Lena Waithe, loosely based on her life, follows the adventures of a queer Black woman, played by Jonica “Jojo” T. Gibbs in her first role as a lead. The series features a rare lead role not often depicted on the silver screen — cable or otherwise — with Gibbs playing the naive and lazy (yet endearing) Hattie, who bulldozes her way through the entertainment industry as an aspiring television writer.
During an advanced screening of the show in Chicago last week (the birth city of Waithe, who also serves as executive producer), BET caught up with Gibbs, as well as actors Christina Elmore (The Last Ship, Fruitvale Station) and Gabrielle Graham, who play Hattie’s best friends in the series.
Gibbs dished on her very first heartbreak, something she admits she experienced plentifully during her twenties:
“The first time I dated a woman, I got heartbroken. Dealing with those types of things, you have to realize that you need to give yourself time, you can't just put a bandage over it,” she says. “You have to give it time to heal just like a scab on your knee. Also be nice to yourself through the process. Try to be smart and make sure you know your worth, regardless of the situation, in terms of dealing with heartbreak, and try to move on in the healthiest way. Don't be a hoe.”
Christina Elmore chimed in, sharing her thoughts and advice for combating the trials and tribulations of your twenties. “I think the most important thing for me in my twenties was to find a group of friends that you can connect with deeply- whether that's friends from college or high school or friends you meet around the way, but that’s the key,” she says. ”You got to have a crew!”
Aside from a supportive girl gang, the L.A. native offered another solution for positive mental health. “Seek counseling and get therapy! Mental health is so important,” adds Elmore. ”And in your 20s your brain is just finishing its developmental processes and that's when a lot of mental health issues pop up. Don't think that you can push through, you don't have to, there is help.”
Gabrielle Graham (On The Basis of Sex, 21 Thunder) agreed with her co-star, but shared how “scripture is helping a lot [and] just believing in something.” She also named how “music has been very therapeutic for me and helps so much.”
As we bypass our 20s, we often look back at those hurtful — yet required — lessons we had to learn. When asked what advice they would give their 21-year-old selves, the ladies held nothing back.
Gibbs shared how “21-year-old me had just experienced her first significant failure. And I took it hard. I would say failure or loss can be God's protection in a lot of ways and you need to just realize that everything that you want isn't necessarily for you or for your best interest.”
Graham would encourage her younger self to “be kinder and nicer to yourself and take time out for yourself. Things may not come right away or as you expect it to, but keep pushing.”
Elmore added how she’d tell her younger self “that none of the decisions you make are necessarily permanent right now. It's okay to risk and fail because it doesn't mean that the rest of your life is going to look like that. Whether it be jobs, relationships, school, friendships — these can be temporary.”
Not only does the series highlight the ills of relationships, sexuality, the pursuit of happiness and everything in between, the friendship between the leading ladies is not only refreshing, but incredibly relatable.
“In order to receive great friendship, you first have to be a great friend. You get what you put out. And if you are finding that you’re having trouble with friends, then maybe you should do some inner soul searching. A great friend is someone who supports you, who wants the best for you, who sees potential in you and shows you love,” Gibbs described when asked what makes a great friend. “[A good friend] is consistent even when you're not around or in their face. And in order to receive that from someone you should first be that.”
“Good friends don't judge each other, but good friends should be able to be honest with each other and to hold up a mirror of yourself back to you. Sometimes you might not see your trifliness or see your accomplishments. Sometimes you're not recognizing how much you are killing it,” Elmore commented.
Graham shared how “a lot of the times we can get so caught up in life that we only think about ourselves and you can get on the phone and talk about ourselves and not ask how our friend is doing and really engaging with them and seeing how they’re doing.” She encouraged others to “check up on your friends, see how they're doing, really ask them and really talk to them.”
Guest stars for Twenties will include Sean “Big Sean” Anderson, Jenifer Lewis, Rick Fox, and Vanessa Williams, amongst others.
Twenties premieres on BET this Wednesday, March 4.
(Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET)