Bubbly actress Joyful Drake has come a long way from her days as an honor student at the University of Wisconsin.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Drake eventually landed a position as a dancer on the Milwaukee Bucks dance team. After two-plus years of dancing, Drake decided to move to New York in order to achieve her dream of becoming an actress.
While in New York, Drake landed her first recurring role on the Showtime drama “Soul Food,” and the rest is history.
Drake now co-stars on BET’s “Let’s Stay Together” as Tasha Lawrence-Woodson, a housewife and mother to two twins. (Or is she? More on that in the interview.) BET.com recently chatted with Drake on how she landed the role of Tasha and whether fans are picking sides between “The Game” and “Let’s Stay Together.”
How did you land the role of Tasha Lawrence-Woodson?
I came in like five times and read for it. I’m a method actress, and my character has twins, so I just remember going to Target and taking little pictures of things twins would have, like car seats, cribs, bottles, to really get that in me. Comedy is really my thing, and I love it a lot. I just emerged myself with Tasha and came up with this crazy person that Jacque [Edmonds Cofer, executive producer], Tamara [Gregory, BET executive] and Loretha [Jones, President of Original Programming at BET Networks] seemed to love.
You mentioned the twins—the same twins that we haven’t seen on camera all season.
I haven’t seen them either, so don’t feel bad. I think Jacque keeps them away from me in order to protect the twins. It’s probably a good thing.
What challenges have you faced as a Black actress in Hollywood?
I’m multiracial. I’m French, Indian and Black. I don’t really like to say I face this as a Black actress, because sometimes for parts I’m not Black enough and sometimes I’m too Black. I just think that as a whole, the industry has changed during the last five to seven years. You had the writers’ strike for like three years, which put a whole lot of people who were working for 20-years-plus out of the business. If the people who write for me aren’t writing, then the jobs are few far and less. That’s why it’s so important what Debra Lee[president and CEO of BET], Loretha and Tamara are doing over here because they are giving people who are on the bubble, maybe people you have seen before but you don’t really know, a chance to make ourselves household names.
What’s been the reaction from people on the street about the show?
I get so much love. Every once in a while, I’ll get a hater comment on my Facebook. But for the most part, 98.9 percent of the time, everyone comes up to me and says great things. We get compliments not only about the show but how we look. Our glam squad is the real deal. Kim Kimble and LaLette Littlejohn. Women just like looking at us to see what we are going to wear and how are we going to relate to our mates. The reaction has been positive. I know people that [Tuesday] is their night! They make dinner, they got the bottle of wine, and it’s going down, “The Game,” “Let’s Stay Together”—and I think that says a lot. As a kid, I had that with “The Cosby Show” and with “Martin.” I say Tuesdays are the new funnies.
Do you think fans are choosing sides between “The Game” and “Let’s Stay Together?”
I hear that sometimes, like on Facebook and Twitter. It feels like they are cheating on their boyfriend. If they like “Let’s Stay Together,” then it means they don’t like “The Game.” Or if they like “The Game,” it means they don’t like “Let’s Stay Together.” You can like both shows. “The Game” is single camera. They have a cult following. I love “The Game.” I actually worked on “The Game” when it was on The CW. “Let’s Stay Together” is a new and different show. It’s OK to spread the love. I think they are both great shows and you can enjoy them both. Why have one when you can have two?
Have there been talks about a second season?
And is it official?
I can’t officially say we are official, but we are going to go back and shoot the remainder of the first season. With our numbers, I know we are doing really well, better than their expectations were originally. People are coming around. When you give somebody something new, sometimes it’s hard for them to like it. It’s like a woman going into a store and she sees a 100 dresses. She can’t just say she likes that one. She might have to try it on a couple times and come back and look at it. But once she realizes that it’s a pretty good dress, she’s probably going to buy it. I think that’s how our show is.
You mentioned shooting the rest of the first season. Are you shooting another nine episodes?
Yup, we are. We are going to start this spring, probably in April. Get my crazy cast mates down in Hotlanta and play around and have some fun.
What was the relationship like on set between the show’s five main actors?
Everyone is different. The beauty of being an actor is everyone has different methods. Some people are quiet. Some people want to hang out. I spent the most time with RonReaco [Lee] because we are married on the show and we have these kids you never see [Laughs]. So my friendship with him blossomed really fast and naturally. With Erica [Hubbard’s] character, we didn’t have that many scenes together, so we had to find time to get to know each other. But we are both Midwest girls. She’s Chicago and I’m Milwaukee, so we do have a lot in common. The same with Nadine [Ellis]. She’s from New York and I use to live in New York. I think it’s about not forcing anything, but letting it be what it’s going to be and letting things grow very gradually and naturally. If you try to force something, it’s going to look forced.