On The Come Up’s Star Jamila Gray Names The Important Issue The Movie Tackles About Women Of Color

Minor SPOILERS for On The Come Up, which can now be streamed using a Paramount+ subscription, lie ahead. 

Among this weekend’s new movie releases is On The Come Up, a book-to-movie adaptation based on a novel of the same name by The Hate U Give’s Angie Thomas. The young adult story follows a teen rapper who has aspirations to break into the music industry. However, when she does go viral for an original track, she learns hard truths about the business. One of those pertains to women of color, and we got to speak to the movie's star about it.

In an interview with CinemaBlend, Jamila Gray shared one particularly important message that is part of On The Come Up, when it comes to the double standard her character Bri faces during the movie. In her words: 

I do feel like women and people of color, we always have to work twice as hard in order to be respected. We could be doing the same thing as somebody else, but because of who we are, it won't be seen as the same. So, I really love that the film brings that to light because that is a topic that needs to be discussed. Why is it that for women in hip hop there's this expectation around them to be sexual? Or if they are rapping about the same thing men are rapping about, then why is it such a problem? So I think it's great that the film brought those topics to life for sure.

During our interview, we talked about a particular scene in the movie that takes place after Bri’s big song “On The Come Up.” During the scene, the young musician goes on a radio show and is questioned about her song inspiring violence at a high school. It’s a frustrating moment for the young rapper because she surely grew up with rap music that explores those topics. Plus, her male counterparts didn't have to worry about getting those same questions. 

The double standards women, particularly women of color, often experience in the music industry are still more than worthy of discussion, and many in other industries experience similar situations. On The Come Up explores these inequalities in a couple of instances, one being the release of Brie's song. Another situation sees the character being searched at school and then suspended for selling candy. 

On The Come Up is the latest movie to be helmed by an actor turned director in Love & Basketball’s Sanaa Lathan. When CinemaBlend spoke to Lathan about her directorial debut, she shared that her experiences on “miserable sets” in the past were partly what motivated her to work towards her expanding new role in Hollywood. Not only does she deliver a cerebral film here, but she also managed to find the talented Jamila Gray out of hundreds of audition tapes. 

Sanaa Lathan said that Jennifer Gray’s audition tape gave her a “gut” feeling that she was the right pick for the role. On the other side of that, Gray told us that when she auditioned, she really felt like she “clicked” with the material and the character already felt familiar. The adaptation of Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give pleased critics and audiences in 2018, and, now, it's wonderful to see that On The Come Up has earned positive critical reception as well. And it managed to do so in part because of the filmmaker's willingness to tackle serious issues that affect women and people of color. Do yourself a favor, and check out the movie in theaters or on Paramount+. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.