DeWanda Wise on ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ Season 2: ‘Nola Darling is still a Brooklyn girl’

Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) is back and this time she is… in a serious relationship!

She’s Gotta Have It Season 2 offers a timely and topical portrait of rising talents, with free-spirited artist Nola at the centre. Struggling with newfound success this season against a backdrop of black art and culture, Nola must decide if she will remain true to her creative ideals or give in to the corporate world.

Her journey of self-discovery helps transform the lives of those around her, including friend and sometimes lover Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos), who sets out to pursue his true passion of music, as well as her inner circle of Opal (Ilfenesh Hadera), Greer Childs (Cleo Anthony), Jamie Overstreet (Lyriq Bent), Clorinda Bradford (Margot Bingham), Shemekka Epps (Chyna Layne) and Winnie Win (Fat Joe).

Anthony Ramos as Mars Blackmon in ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’

Their journey expands to new destinations this season beyond their home base of Fort Greene, the vibrant Brooklyn enclave, that continues to evolve and change as gentrification remakes the neighbourhood.

Created by legendary director Spike Lee who also executive produces the series alongside Tonya Lewis Lee, all nine episodes of Season 2 will be released on Netflix on May 24.

Ahead of the release, Global News spoke with Wise about the changes Nola goes through this season and how she was able to go from having a roster of men to just one lover.

Global News: What’s going on with Nola Darling this season?
DeWanda Wise: Nola is in a… relationship. She’s in the middle of an interesting kind of artistic block when we first come across her in Season 2. She’s trying to navigate art for commerce, art for art’s sake. There’s this kind of intricate more introspective battle where in Season 1, we saw what it’s like to literally have something external — like an external confrontation — the confrontation with Bill in Season 2, it’s more internalized. That’s what we start and she travels some in this season to Puerto Rico and Martha’s Vineyard. She actually gets to leave the borough of Brooklyn.

Yes! The San Juan episode is so good! But Nola says ‘I love you’ this season. I was shocked. I didn’t think we were going to jump right into that. Did you think that she would do that coming out of Season 1 with her roster with Mars, Greer and Jamie?
(Laughing) Well, I mean, it’s like 18 months later. I feel like a lot can change. As someone who got married in three months, I feel like so much can change in a year-and-a-half. Plus her and Opal have relationship history. I feel like rarely are we ever starting from one in life. Usually, it’s some interesting prelude or a continuation of things that were already in progress.

Do you think that people can stay friends after a relationship or a fling like how Nola stayed friends with Mars and Greer this season?
I think so. I mean it depends, it absolutely depends on the nature of the breakup. Sometimes there’s a kind of recognition that you’re mutually not compatible with each other. And again, it’s like, it’s a matter of time and how much time? The last time I went home, my mom and my stepmom were talking about how my dad used to dress and it was like the trippy and most strange thing. But it was real life and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s been hundreds of years.’ You stagger over it and move on.

It took Nola a long time to get on-board with the Earwave campaign. Do you feel like it’s important for artists to stay true to their work and think long and hard before taking a deal or maybe selling out in their own mind?
 I don’t know the extent to which artists and our generation are concerned with selling out. When I was filming it, I remember thinking like, ‘Oh does this feel like something that Nola would be grappling with?’ And then immediately afterwards in just in my own career and kind of thinking about what I want to do and the directors I want to work with. I was like, ‘Oh, I want to still do it.’ You’re not going to walk into a situation that you know won’t be sustainable for you. I can’t fake it, I can only work on things that I absolutely care about. Otherwise, it’s just like you can tell. I can’t speak to anyone else’s process or what’s right or wrong for any artist. I would never do that. Also, how can you because if you are able to make money as an artist, you’ve already won. I wouldn’t dare say what anyone should or should not do. I would just tell them to think about what’s sustainable and to not allow anyone to burn you out so to speak which is the real danger.

Nola and Cheryl ran into each other at the school. Nola really kept her cool in front of the kids. I know I wouldn’t have reacted like Nola because Cheryl was saying some things that would push me to the limit. Do you have any tips for people on how to remain cool when they’re in those types of high-stress situations?
Oh yeah, I’m a pro at it at this point (laughing). I feel like the more you can kind of step outside of your own ego and just see what’s actually happening in the moment. Normally, people are projecting their fears, their anxieties and often it’s a misunderstanding. And I always call it. I’m just like sometimes, you gotta let humans, human you know. And that’s exactly what it is. But it was wild because I remember shooting that scene and feeling internally very hot. And I think Spike was watching and he was like that’s why she has that one line and that one Fort Green moment because she’s still a Brooklyn girl. Like I don’t know how much she could just keep taking this on the chin. You know what I mean?

Yes, for sure. When she yelled “WORLD STAR” I wanted Nola to turn around and go back! But this season, Opal always calls Nola the kid in the relationship. Do you think that type of repetition could take a toll on someone and potentially ruin a relationship?
Anything that’s set in repetition is just toxic. My husband and I, we got married super fast and one of our only rules is we can’t say always because it’s just not true (laughing). But there are certain triggers and everyone has certain things that are super triggering. I’d imagine for Nola chronically and constantly being called immature especially when you’re doing your best to make strides, you can absolutely just get exhausted.

Have you ever broken up with someone in a public place and now you refuse to return there like… Coney Island?
Yeah girl! I’m the worst. I was not fun to date. I’ve definitely broken up with somebody on the way back from the trip at the airport. Not proud of it but we did that. We still had to sit together on the flight.

Oh no! That is the worst. I had a friend do that in a similar situation but she just left instead of leaving with him.
Did she leave? (Laughing). She was just like, ‘Not worth it.’

Yes! They took different transportation to the airport because she didn’t even want to see him.
There’s something about the clean break. I feel like everyone feels that way. That’s why people break up before holidays, before the new year. You’re just like, ‘I don’t want to enter this new year with this person.’ So a clean slate is a clean slate.

The Martha’s Vineyard retreat was all about getting inspired and creating all the amazing art that you can. Where do you get your inspiration from in real life?
I think all over. I have some of the most brilliant friends so we’re always sharing books and recent musings and ways of thinking and seeing the world. My very best friend is a phenomenal writer. And then also, I’ve always been a bit colours of the wind (laughing). I was always that kid that could just be out in nature. Or in the context of New York, my husband and I, we walk the city so I’m constantly inspired. I love finding places where you can still people watch without people just being on the phone. It’s still possible, little pockets of the world (laughing). So I find inspiration from all of this.

Opal’s daughter comes to Nola’s apartment after she talks to Virgil about what happened between Nola and Jamie. And she seemed really upset and wanted answers. Do you think it’s important to hide things from children if they’re part of the relationship or involved at all?
Yes! Yes! These parents that tell their kids everything, I’m just like, ‘What are you doing?’ (laughing). When I was a kid and I knew too much, I’d be like, ‘I don’t want to know all of this.’ My little human brain does not want to know all that either and cannot process it or just brings me anxiety. So can you guys work this out as adults, please? Adult, so that I don’t have to.

I feel like we’ve watched Nola go through so many things but she remains so relatable and real throughout each storyline. Now that we’re in Season 2, do you feel like you made the character your own but still with some touches from the Nola Darling from Spike Lee’s original film?
Oh yes. Good question definitely. I feel a lot of ownership. I remember thinking I’m never going to be that actor that’s like ‘my character will never…’ And then I got to Season 2 and there were things for sure that I was like, ‘This doesn’t make sense’ (laughing). I was automatically the worst. There’s for sure a tremendous amount of ownership over that character and I feel like we have that beautiful moment from Season 1 that was kind of passing the torch in a way between Tracy Camila Johns and me. I can’t tell you what that moment was like but just having her on set was spiritual. I think between all of us — but definitely between me and Spike — kind of drawing the bridge and taking aspects of her characterization, leaving others to update her and dramatize her. I think Tracy Camilla’s performance felt far more like she had her sh*t together, far more than our Nola does.

How has it been for you working so closely with Netflix on the show and also on ‘Someone Great’ with Gina Rodriguez and Brittany Snow? (Which was amazing by the way.)
Clearly, I felt really supported by Netflix — it’s a huge company. But whenever I had any issues or anything came up, they’re super responsive and attentive and they keep making things and characters that I love so I’ll be around.

Amazing to hear because you do such an amazing job. My friends and I all put the release date for ‘Someone Great’ on our calendars so we could watch it together. The best part is when you walk in the apartment and start singing Lizzo’s Truth Hurts.
It’s the best song. And I’m just like, ‘Thank you Jenn Kaytin for introducing me to Lizzo.’ She’s a global treasure.

What are you most excited for viewers to see this season?
Probably the Puerto Rico episode. I was training in the dance style in New York before we left and they were kind of describing what it feels like spiritually. I learned the choreography loosely but it’s just a style you have to follow and you follow the rhythm of the drums. So they’re telling me, they’re describing it, they’re like, ‘It feels like this.’ And I was like, ‘I feel like when I’m in Puerto Rico dancing by the water, I won’t need to act. And that’s exactly what happened.

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

She’s Gotta Have It Season 2 drops on Netflix May 24.

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