SHEEN Magazine chatted with BET’s The Quad actress, Zoë Renee, about her role in the show, her time in “college”, and beauty tips for healthy, natural curls.
What has your experienced been as a newcomer on the acting scene, as well as on BET’s The Quad?
Honestly, filming The Quad has been one of the best experiences of my life. It’s my first TV show, so being introduced to the whole cast and how many veterans we have in the cast and learning from them and experiencing all their knowledge and soaking it all in. It’s like going into school for the first time with all the new friends, the new people, plus I’m the baby on set and they’re extremely protective of me and its truly really fun experiencing this whole thing. I took a gap year between high school and college, so this is my first experience “in college” being at Morehouse and being able to hang out with all the Morehouse students. It was really cool, it was getting a chance to experience that.
You pursued a gap year after high school, did you apply to any colleges before you started acting?
I applied to SCAD (Savannah College for Art & Design) and I applied to a few colleges for acting. I decided to take a year off mainly because I didn’t know if I was ready to go, I didn’t know what I wanted to do necessarily, so I wanted to take some time. My older brother did the same thing and I saw how much he grew in that year and I thought it was a good idea to do the same. I had never even thought of going to an HBCU, now after seeing the show, if I have time afterwards, once everything slows down, I would want to go to an HBCU now.
The show is filmed at Morehouse College in Atlanta; you’ve never gone to actual college but how does it feel just being in that environment?
It’s been crazy! It was really awesome, I had only been to a college campus to tour campuses and I did that a few times during senior year. It was really awesome being able to socialize with my peers my age and hang out with them and they were really curious of everything that was going on in The Quad and they were excited to see a TV show filmed on campus. And, college guys are pretty cute, too! That was fun, but it was a really great experience being able to hang out with them and see what maybe my life could look like in a few months.
How are you similar or different from the character you play on the show, “Noni?”
Noni and I are similar in a lot of ways but probably the main one is kind of going into a new situation, she’s entering college and I’m starting a new TV show, we’re entering the next chapter in our lives, but we’ve been training for this moment for so long, so I can relate to her hunger and her passion. It’s been kind of cool having the same fire.
Your character, “Noni,” plays the saxophone, do you have any previous experience playing the sax or did you learn for the show?
I actually don’t play the saxophone. I didn’t have a lot of time with it, I did learn a few songs. Before the TV show, I never played the saxophone, I had a lot of mentors and people watching me to help me make it as real as possible, it didn’t do the instrument justice. It was the first time I played the saxophone.
With any show, it has its fans and its critics. How have you dealt with all the attention, good or bad, the show has received?
It’s been interesting. Of course the good attention is better to realize than the bad but honestly, I’ve been seeing a lot of positive feedback and a lot of people who have gone to HBCU and colleges who have had similar experiences in a lot of different memories that the show is bringing up for them, so I think it’s really cool to go back and allow them to have those moments. But of course, there are critics and people who say we are not touching the topics that they’d like us to, but the thing with the show is it’s not a documentary, its truly a drama. While there are things that touch home to plenty of people, there are some things that are dramatized, some things that are put in the show purely for entertainment, but you know we touch on a lot of different things. It’s just shining a light on the HBCU world while trying to make entertaining TV. I think people are enjoying the whole spectacle of going back to college.
What tips would you give women who are inspired by your beauty look and curly, natural locks?
Through this whole ‘Quad’ experience, I have really been able to embrace what my hair is naturally, to embrace what is does; with the kinks and the curls and all that. The team on set has literally showed me how to take care of my hair. I’m 19 years old so I’m learning so many new things that I’ve been doing wrong but I think the first step; I’m grateful, I want it to look good, I don’t want to mess it up when I’m on set. They’ve really educated me on what to do, I’ve been using It’s A 10 Keratin Leave-In and the look that “Noni” has most of the times is just a wash-and-go, that is detangled and defused, and then we throw in a little of leave-in condition on it and we’re ready to go and let it air dry. It’s tough because when I’m not on set, my hair doesn’t get all the attention, but its really cool having that workshop where they school me on what I need to know and how to keep the curls popping.
You recently worked in L.A. for your upcoming movie, Jinn, how did you handle that change in environment and city life?
It’s interesting. Atlanta is home, I’m truly a southern girl at heart, I really love just being out in the country and the feel in Atlanta, but being out in L.A. was awesome, my entire team is out there so I really get a good chance to connect with them and talk about future projects. I think I grew a lot during that time while I was far from home but I was also living my dreams while doing it. I was able to figure out a lot of things on my own, working through it on my own without my mom or my family. That was interesting, jus that little taste of independence was fun but I was also like ‘I don’t know if I want do this.’ But L.A. has such a place in my heart and I hope I can get back there and do a lot more things in L.A.
What can we look forward to once your upcoming project, Jinn, is released?
Jinn is a film about a young girl, who is free and light, her name is “Summer,” and she is looking for that big what. What am I going to do with my life? What am I going to go to school for? And in the midst of all this confusion her mother is questioning her religion, she has always been not very religious and she meets a woman and decides to learn more about it. It’s a film that I think is very important for this time, everything that we have going on shows us that this is a time where we need a film like this that humanizes women and men.
What are some of the other upcoming projects that we can look forward to seeing you in?
I have a few projects coming up that I’m very excited for you all to see. They’re very different from “Noni” or “Summer.” Everything will be up on Twitter and Instagram, @TheZoeRenee. I’ll be announcing some of them pretty soon.
The Quad comes on BET on Wednesday nights at 10PM EST
Photo by Brian Love