Morris Chesnut On ‘Our Kind Of People’ And Colorism In Hollywood – VIBE.com

Morris Chestnut brings a stern sincerity to his latest television role. Cast as Raymond Dupont in the upcoming drama series Our Kind of People, the 52-year-old actor has high hopes for the trajectory of the show.

Described as a “soapy, thrilling exploration of race and class in America and an unapologetic celebration of black resilience and achievement,” the new show is inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham’s critically acclaimed book, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class. 

Executively produced by Lee Daniels and created by Karen Gist, Fox’s Our Kind of People also stars Yaya DaCosta, Lance Gross, Nadine Ellis, Joe Morton, and more. Based in the aspirational world of Oak Bluffs (a wealthy town on Martha’s Vineyard), the show exposes the conflicts and controversies of the Black elite and everyone who is tied to the community. For Chestnut, his character Raymond DuPont was an exciting role to take on.

morris chestnut in tan suit

Morris Chestnut (R) in the “The Miseducation of the Negro” episode of ‘Our Kind of People.’
Brownie Harris/FOX

Our Kind of People follows the character Angela Vaughn, played by DaCosta, who moves to the area hoping to uncover family truths and simultaneously launch her natural haircare brand. While aiming to make her mark among the seemingly, high-brow crowd, she and swiftly learns the wealthy residents of Oak Bluffs have their fair share of chaos. As soon as the series begins, the drama begins.

In the first two episodes, a decades-old affair is exposed, a modern affair is uncovered, multiple family conflicts hit new lows, a secret LGBTQ relationship is challenged by homophobia, elitism constantly jabs at the working class as well as displays of underage drinking, drug deals, generational trauma, steamy sex, and attempted murder. The non-stop events introduce issues relevant to Black communities, however, as the Not Easily Broken star reminds, the fictional programs’ main goal is to entertain.

Ahead of the series premiere VIBE spoke to Chesnut about the series, his desire to play the Raymond DuPont, his experiences with colorism on-screen and in real life, and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

VIBE: Tell us about your character on the show and what attracted you to this role.

Morris Chestnut: My character on the show is Raymond DuPont. Raymond DuPont is of the wealthy DuPont family, but I married into an even wealthier family, which is the Franklin family. My wife and her father, played by Joe Morton, they’re the biggest family and wealthiest family in Martha’s Vineyard. When the show opens up, I’ve been put into a situation where my company has some challenges with my wife’s father’s company. Throughout the course of the season, you’ll see how the business of my business and their business affects our personal lives, particularly with my wife and our marriage. What drew me to the role was being a part of this world, reading the script, and knowing that these people really exist. I know some myself. Something I wanted to convey to the world is that there are wealthy black people in America, who don’t just play sports, or they don’t… they’re not just entertainers, they are truly businessmen, and there’s generational wealth. So that’s one of the things that kind of really excited me about this part.

How do you think audiences will gravitate towards your character? Or do you think they might be a little bit apprehensive towards some of his actions or behaviors?

That’s going to be interesting because there are a lot of different scenarios at play here. There are a lot of different situations where I think people are going to respond differently. I think throughout the course of the season, I may make some decisions that people may not agree with. Although, of course, in my mind, I justify them because of what I’m feeling. I think it’s gonna really depend upon the person who’s watching, and how they relate my experiences to their experience.

The subject of generational wealth in the Black community can sometimes be polarizing. What do you think this series will say, specifically to the idea of Black wealth, and Back capitalism being a lane to liberation?

I think it’s going to speak directly to that aspect when we talk about capitalism, particularly Black capitalism. One of the things also I’m excited about [for] the show is that it doesn’t just speak on one issue. It doesn’t just speak on something that people are familiar with. We’re gonna have our social issues, we’re gonna have a lot of cultural issues. We’re gonna discuss a lot of different issues. And that’s, I’m excited that we’re not shying away from that.

Colorism is also a topic that is almost always intertwined in the conversations of Black excellence. Do you think colorism has impacted your career in anyway? Do you have any instances in your personal life where you think colorism has played any role?

The interesting thing about colorism, yes. The answer to your question is yes. It definitely has affected me in my career. Going back there was a time prior to Boyz n the Hood, I would always have to read for gang roles. The whole gangster genre was out. When it was coming to a regular part, I kind of felt probably at that time that was if it was a regular part that wasn’t a “gang member,” [it] kind of leaned more towards, you know, lighter skin. And then, I got the opportunity with Boyz n the Hood, and then Wesley came along and shattered all the barriers with New Jack City. 

In terms of colorism, though, I think it affects us deeply in our culture, And I think there are some things that are spoken and some things that are not spoken. I think some of the issues we need to discuss will be covered on the show and hopefully, when they are it will generate a lot of conversation and discussion, real true, deep discussion about those issues. Now we’re not you know… the show’s first priority is to entertain. We’re not putting things out there because we’re trying to solve all issues, but I think if we can at least grow some of these issues to garner conversation I think we did a good job.

How do you think, with it being such a dramatic series, audiences will be able to relate to the show?

I think audiences will definitely be able to relate to this show. It is about the “Black elite and wealthy Black people.” We have characters, including our lead character, who isn’t wealthy, who’s aspiring to be, who is a single mother working towards building her business [who] is the true underdog story. There’s a character play by Lance gross, who also did not come from money, who is also trying to find his way within this community. So, I think we have a lot of relatable characters in the show.

yaya dacosta nadine ellis morris chestnut on set

(L-R) Yaya DaCosta, Nadine Ellis and Morris Chestnut behind the scenes of the “Reparations” episode of ‘Our Kind of People.’
Brownie Harris/FOX

What have been some of your most memorable moments working on this series?

It’s interesting. We have a lot of memorable moments during shooting, but I think being a part of something… I just hope that I’m being a part of something special. When I did Boyz n the Hood, I was just happy to be on a movie, just being on a movie set and being a young actor. I didn’t think, “Hey, this movie is going to be around 30 years, and people [are] still going to talk about it.” Then, when I read the script for The Best Man, I was like, “Wow, this is a fresh concept. A lot of people haven’t really seen this.”

This [series] is something that I’m just excited to do, but I did not think it would be a project that you know, 20 years later, we’d be doing another movie about it. I’m hoping that this project, and you can never project…you can never really expect that to happen with a project. But I’m hoping that this one is one that’s very similar to where we’re exposing audiences to something that they really haven’t seen before to this level, and it’ll be around for a long time.

What is the one lesson, theme, or overall point that you hope that audiences take away from the first season?

It’s really challenging to get one overall theme or one overall point. One of the things that I’m excited about is the imagery that will be conveyed to the world and whoever sees the show, and I think it’s aspirational imagery. It was one of the things where, even when Barack Obama was President, I brought my son in the polling booth to click his name, just so he can see, hey, there’s a Black man, as president. It’s the aspirational aspect of knowing that you can be anything you want to be, and you’re part of that and you can see it and I hope here you know, [people] don’t get discouraged if they are not a top-level athletes or they’re not the best rapper, singer, actress or entertainer, that they can attain what they want to attain by other means.

‘Our Kind of People’ airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET. 

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