Columbia Native Teyonah Parris Talks SURVIVOR’S REMORSE, Hollywood Success

Teyonah Parris (PHOTOGRAPHER: Ben Miller, HAIR: Felicia Leatherwood, MAKEUP: Beatrice Sandoval, STYLING: Toye Adedipe)

Teyonah Parris (PHOTOGRAPHER: Ben Miller, HAIR: Felicia Leatherwood, MAKEUP: Beatrice Sandoval, STYLING: Toye Adedipe)

Teyonah Parris (PHOTOGRAPHER: Ben Miller, HAIR: Felicia Leatherwood, MAKEUP: Beatrice Sandoval, STYLING: Toye Adedipe)

By Damion Smalls

The career of actress Teyonah Parris continues to shine bright as past, current, and future projects has steadily raised her profile from ‘Ms. Lower Richland High School’ to bonafide Hollywood favorite.

In the past five years, Parris has more than made a name for herself for her roles in movies such as “How Do You Know,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Jack Nicholson as well as the film “They Came Together,” starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd. Prior to her work in the Starz comedy SURVIVOR’S REMORSE, Parris was best known for her critically acclaimed performances in the long-running AMC series MAD MEN and the 2014 independent, crowdsourced satire “Dear White People”.

Parris describes “Dear White People” as “special”, “great” and is “elated” that it has been so well received by moviegoers and reviewers alike. Her character in the movie, Colandrea ‘Coco’ Conners, is at odds with her blackness and identifies more with the white students at Winchester University, an Ivy League-level institution with a clear line of demarcation between the races of students. The depth that Parris displays as an intelligent but insecure beauty has translated well with audiences that are tired of seeing one-dimensional parts for Black women on the screen.

SURVIVOR’S REMORSE is a television series that premiered in October 2014 that centers around Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher), a professional basketball player that moves his close-knit family from Boston to Atlanta after signing a star-making deal with the city’s team. NBA star LeBron James is an executive producer of the show.

Calloway initially enters the league undrafted, but after a breakthrough season with his former club in Memphis, he earns a life-changing contract with Atlanta and relies on those close to him to keep him grounded, protected, and promoted as paragon professional athlete. His best friend and confidant is his cousin Reggie Vaughn (RonReaco Lee), who is also his manager and the husband of Parris’ character Missy Vaughn.

Missy, a business school graduate, seems to be hit hardest by the transition down south. Parris describes her character as “just getting acclimated to the fame” that Calloway affords the group. Reminiscent of her role in “Dear White People”, Missy is smart, feels out of place in her surroundings and is not entirely comfortable in her own skin. She starts off the series hilariously complaining about Atlanta’s humidity and the prevalence of Confederate flags in the area. Throughout the season, she attempts to normalize her new life, but finds herself dealing with a personal crisis concerning her choices in a racial sense by the end. Parris shares that in the upcoming season, Missy is “more in her element” and “getting the hang of the new lifestyle”, though. Her journey remains an intriguing one.

The rest of Calloway’s family that joins him in the ATL is his mother Cassie (Tichina Arnold), Uncle Julius (Mike Epps), and big sister Mary Charles, or “M-Chuck” (Erica Ash). They all hold vital positions in Cam’s inner circle as his primary supporters and advisors, but are quick to keep him check as the young baller struggles with immaturity and wantonness.

Parrish is enamored with the show, calling the premium cable network Starz “great to work with”, and heaped high praise to showrunner Mike O’Malley and her castmates. Talking with Teyonah was a true pleasure as she remained affable, candid, and expressive throughout the conversation last week. It’s always good to hear someone excited for the work they’re doing and appreciative of the prominence they rise to, while not forgetting her roots.

Teyonah Parris is a woman who takes her craft and status as role model for Black girls everywhere seriously. She is big on “promoting self-confidence”, “self worth”, and “natural beauty” for Black women, as well as other underrepresented ethnicities. Parris seeks to spread positivity and “her truth” through her appearances in the media. A Juilliard graduate and AIDS awareness advocate, she exudes the quintessential aura of Black women in Hollywood rising above stereotypes and minuscule opportunities to become on the most stellar young actresses in the game in 2015, regardless of race.

In Spike Lee’s forthcoming film “Chi-Raq,” Parris plays Lysistrata, which is a play on the Greek comedy of the same name. Featuring a cast that includes industry veterans Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Dave Chappelle, and Wesley Snipes, “Chi-Raq” is an Amazon Studios production set for a 2016 release. The movie has been labeled as a musical satire (“funny, but serious”) in the backdrop of the reality-based Chicago crime wave that has turned into a virtual warzone in recent years. “Chi-Raq” has already garnered controversy for its title (which hasn’t even been confirmed as the actual name of the film), the potential tax breaks involved, and the filming in the Windy City’s neighborhoods.

The second season of SURVIVOR’S REMORSE starts Saturday, August 22 at 9:30 PM EST. The first episode has been made available for free on James’ Facebook page. Keep up with this star from the Palmetto State on Facebook (Teyonah Parris), Twitter (@TeyonahParris), and Instagram (@TeyonahParris).

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