EXCLUSIVE | Andrene Ward-Hammond talks racism, hints at ‘Manifest’ comeback and teases ‘Your Honor’ Season 2
In an exclusive conversation with MEAWW, the actress spills the beans on the possibility of a second season for the Showtime thriller
Once voted “most dramatic” in class, Andrene Ward-Hammond can make you guffaw and giggle with her candor. Growing up in a Jamaican household, she was exposed to a diverse element of culture and art. A native of Brooklyn, New York, she decided to step into the world of acting at an early age and reminisced in an interview, “I could crack jokes, and whenever someone had an issue with me, this made it easier to get out of the altercation.”
Well known for her roles in ‘NCIS: New Orleans’, ‘Being Mary Jane’, ‘Loving’, ‘Just Mercy’ and ‘The Hate U Give’, she won hearts with her power-packed depiction of Big Mo in Showtime's thrilling legal drama ‘Your Honor’. In an exclusive conversation with MEAWW, the actress spilled the beans on the possibility of a second season, her personal struggles to overcome racism in the industry and her forthcoming stint in NBC's ‘Manifest’.
Here are the excerpts:
We love your power-packed role in Showtime's ‘Your Honor’. How did you come on board and what was your response when you first got to know about the character?
I auditioned. I was lucky enough that I was in New York at the time — working on ‘Manifest’ — and I got the audition for two parts. And then they gave me the option of self-taping or going in. I wanted to do this live, in-person, because it was such a colorful role and definitely out of the box, not what I'm used to getting. So, it was really exciting. I did it the old way and went through the whole audition process.
Oh, and about the character... my goodness, you're talking about a woman in power. She's totally unassuming. She can even be seen as villainous. I'd like to consider her a little bit more protective than anything. But to have been introduced to the role and to know that it is a part of a project that has Bryan Cranston. I was on board already, you could have told me I was carrying water across the scene, and I was going okay with it.
The leader of Desire, Big Mo's entry changed the game on the show. What is the one thing you love about the character and one thing that you personally connect with?
I love that she's very protective of those around her. Even if they aren't necessarily a part of her immediate family or her immediate circle, she's very protective of her community, I'm enamored with her confidence. I love the fact that she is not afraid of anything, especially to move within circles that she clearly does not fit in. She doesn't care. And it's always great to see women in power, especially on camera. Hah!
She consumes the room... you can't miss her. And I love that people are receptive of the character itself because, it's she's gonna take, she's taking up space and she's honest. She's okay with that. And like to think that I'm that confident?
Big Mo was a part of the grand scheme of things in ‘Your Honor’ after Kofi Jones is killed by the Baxter family. What was her long game and do you think there was a hidden personal motive there?
Oh, I think that's the best part of the show. She plays along. You don't ever find out if that was vindictive. Was she trying to get into a space where she doesn't belong? What's crazy about all the characters on the show, including Big Mo, is there is a gray area when it comes to morality.
I think, with Big Mo, the end game was to protect her tribe. It's quite similar to Adam and Michael Desiato — going through all of it just to protect his son — but the consequences of his actions affect so many people. So I feel like the same goes for all the characters in there. Everybody is trying to get through this thing, but what really happens in the process is a lot different. And it's the same with Big Mo. She just wants to protect her circle. Probably it might not be the best method done but she does what she's most familiar with to ensure that everybody's good.
Ever since the show began, fans had been wondering what will happen in the end. One of the theories was Michael would take the blame for Adam's crimes... If you were the writer, what would your ending be for the show?
One thing I do love about Peter Moffat's vision for the show as it correlates with life that we don't know what's going to happen. It's still a little uncomfortable. I guess you don't really have a solid answer. If I were a writer, I would want Kofi's family... but I know I can't get Kofi's family back.
How was the experience with the cast while shooting the series and who is the one member you gelled well with on the sets?
I don't have a favorite cast member but I love the young man who plays Eugene Jones — Benjamin Flores Jr and the other one, Little Mo — Keith Machekanyanga. There was never a time when I felt nervous or stressed and it was a really cool experience. Working with Bryan Cranston was incredible. On the sets, you need to be professional but getting direction from him was almost like being with “that uncle that you want to impress”.
‘Your Honor’ was billed as a limited series with 10 episodes. Do you think the show has the scope to move beyond that and get another season?
Oh, yeah, with the writing, I think it does. I love what they've done even in the limited series and it has potential to go a little further. But the manner in which it's written, we can always cross our fingers and hope for more. I'm noticing how much fans want it to be back... and there are enough colorful characters on there for it to go a little further.
Right now, it is in a really weird space where you want to go out on top or you want to stretch it out a little bit. But I think either way, it would be a really cool experience, because there's enough color in there for more to happen and for it to branch. So, keep rooting for us!
You spoke about the current political climate in an answer... Personally, have you ever faced racism in the industry or even outside of it?
I wouldn't say that it was racism. But I do think that there is just a shade of ignorance when it comes to Hollywood getting more familiar with all the cultures. I was on a project, and I had my natural hair during the audition... I asked a producer what they would like me to do my hair. And he abruptly said ‘you can tame your hair’. Wait, tame my hair? What does that mean? ... It is always a kind of an uncomfortable space as a Black woman because we don't know if anybody's going to be able to do our hair or make-up well. Then you start to doubt yourself and wonder, ‘Did I do something wrong?’
This was early on when I just started off and it made me very self-conscious. I don't think he was being racist but he was definitely a little ignorant and insensitive about the process. I try to look at the brighter side because I feel like the industry is just now starting to make changes and approach cultural differences a little better.
Seemingly, it has all had a huge effect in the last few months... Racism has always been an issue in America and it came into prominence as the Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam. So are you seeing any of these changes now?
Absolutely. It's incredible. Not only over the past six or seven months but it's actually been longer than that. More production companies are now hiring minorities in the crew. For example, Michael B Jordan and his production company ensure that minorities are a part of the crew so we see more of a reflection of us in spaces where we were alone, especially in the hair and make-up section. So, it is much more prevalent now, definitely after the protests.
Do you think the Black representation has become much better than what it used to be on films and television?
Yes. We're seeing more reflections of our stories coming out. Not just for Black and Brown people but for the LGBTQ community as a whole. I actually believe it was happening before the protests but this has only exacerbated the experience. Hopefully, the momentum doesn't slow. We just hope that it doesn't die down again and we can stay in our comfort zone. Looks like it's here to stay and I'm excited for that.
Among all your other roles, you are best known for your ‘Manifest’ character Captain Kate Bowers. When can we expect to see the show as more secrets are unraveled?
This season, I have more of a relationship... there's more familiarity with my officers. So it's nice to actually have more trust there. That is good coming off of the season before where everything was kind of a question and everyone was wondering how real is this? I am a part of the chaos and I think it will be fun to get in there. This season, no holds barred for Captain Bowers.
What's next for you? Would you like to share any other upcoming projects?
I'm still shooting ‘Manifest’. I'm really excited for that. I love my ‘Manifest’ family. I have a lot of fun on the sets and finishing it is the goal. It will be premiering very soon!
‘Your Honor’ premiered with Part One on December 6, 2020, and the final episode aired on February 14, 2021. As for Season 2, there has been no official announcement and the makers haven't given a green light yet. If renewed in 2021, the second season of ‘Your Honor’ will be ready for release in 2022. Meanwhile, ‘Manifest’ Season 3 will premiere on Thursday, April 1, 2021, on NBC.