Sasheer Zamata’s natural speaking voice mirrors her personality both on and off screen — impish, confident and always delivered with a wink.
It’s her laid-back yet sharp-witted delivery that has made Zamata the ultimate millennial-hyphenate, racking up credits in television as a writer, performer and voiceover talent over a decade-long career that’s ramping up every year.
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An Indianapolis native, Zamata is a former member of Saturday Night Live, (she killed on every episode of "Black Jeopardy") and she’s brought flavor to dozens of sketch comedy programs you’ve seen in the past five years, from Full Frontal With Samantha Bee to Inside Amy Schumer. Zamata, equal parts droll and charming, effortlessly brings everyday realness to her roles.
Now, just in time for cuffing season, the comedienne/actress’s latest project delivers on what is known as cinematic comfort food — the ultimate romantic comedy.
The Weekend stars Zamata as Zadie, a stand-up comic who is razor-sharp on stage, yet floundering in her personal life. While trying to find some peace and quiet, and trying to find herself as well, she decides to go away for the weekend with her best friend (who is also her ex-boyfriend) — and his new girlfriend as well.
What could go wrong?
“Yeah, Zadie makes some choices that I would definitely not,” says Zamata. “But she’s human. Which is what I love about her.”
Filling out the cast is Tone Bell from The Flash, who plays Zamata’s ex, comedienne Kym Whitley, as her acerbic-yet-loving mom, and Y’Lan Noel, who plays Daniel on Insecure, and directed by Stella Meghie, recently behind the teen romance Everything Everything.
During a hectic schedule, Zamata takes a breather to speak with BET about her favorite romantic comedy ever, how logic and love don’t always co-exist, and why eye-candy is everything.
BET: The characters are creative and the setting is part of the movie — so this movie gives me Love Jones vibes. What’s your favorite romantic comedy?
Zamata: Probably My Best Friend’s Wedding. I was pretty young when it came out, so I probably didn’t see it in real time but I loved it and I’ve seen it a million times. I love it.
BET: The Weekend is going to be one of those movies.
Zamata: Oh, wow, I hope so!
BET: It will. It’s got that chill vibe that people can revisit.
Zamata: That’s the goal!
BET: Now let’s talk about your character. Like many main characters in romantic comedies, Zadie makes several choices in this film that —
Zamata: — I know, I know! You just think to yourself, what is she doing?
Zamata: There is humanness in Zadie. And no, logic isn’t always in play. But isn’t that something we can all relate to in some way or another?
BET: I’m not going away for the weekend with my ex and his new girlfriend.
Zamata: Well, yeah… [laughter]
BET: There were several moments in the film that were so uncomfortable. And you, as Zadie’s character, had no problem waiting that extra moment to just make it even more tough to watch.
Zamata: Yes! [Director] Stella Meghie is great with putting together scenes that are real. And in real life, there are these awkward moments that you have to just deal with.
BET: It has an almost improvisational feel in some moments.
Zamata: It’s funny, I’ve seen the movie three times, and now some scenes I’m not sure if some lines were ad-libbed or in the script. It was seamless in that way.
BET: The legendary comedienne and actress Kym Whitley plays your mom. And while she has snappy one-liners in the film, she also pulls out serious dramatic scenes as well.
Zamata: She’s incredible.
BET: There is one scene, she’s being super-droll, and she tosses off a line: “Comb your hair.”
Zamata: [laughing] Right. Because so many of us know that mom moment.
BET: That’s when I realized that this movie is starring Black folks, without being a Black film, necessarily. It’s rom-com, period.
Zamata: And that’s cool, too. We need that.
BET: More importantly, it doesn’t have a connection, necessarily, to The Big Bad World that exists right now. It’s this simple weekend that seems to exist out of the madness we’re all experiencing right now.
Zamata: Right, and yet we’re putting these characters in realistic situations.
BET: How does the current political and gender-sex equity landscape change how we appreciate romantic comedies?
Zamata: Is it challenging? Yes. We’re growing. We’re aware. We can’t have thin characters anymore. We have characters who are flawed, sure. But we have to make the landscape real.
BET: You are known for your civic-mindedness. You work with the ACLU and have been an outspoken voice on everything from colorism to gender equality. We all have to fight the good fight. But also, is it OK to just want to look at Tone Bell and Y’Lan Noel sometimes?
Zamata: It’s absolutely OK! Sometimes you just want to look at some beautiful Black folks. [laughs]
BET: Like, there are these lovely, lingering camera pans —
Zamata: Hey, who doesn’t need eye candy sometimes!
BET: Of course, we have to ask, how close are you to Zadie?
Zamata: I’m very sarcastic like Zadie, but I have more tact. A lot more tact, actually.
BET: So no weekend trip with your ex and his new boo?
The Weekend is out now!
Photo Credit: Lionsgate