There are wild stories being told on Sistas. Tyler Perry delivers exactly what we’ve come to love about his writing, from the laughs to the shocking twists to the cliffhangers that keep us coming back for more. But beyond that, Sistas has a lot of heart, with dynamic multi-dimensional characters that are pulling in a diverse audience that doesn’t typically get to see themselves portrayed on television. The leading men of Sistas have shared the importance of celebrating diversity on the show.
Devale Ellis plays Zac, an ex-con, on the show. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his experience, and he disclosed that this role in particular was one he had previously vowed not to take. After his son's reaction to seeing him in Power, Devale Ellis told his management team he wouldn't play another ex-con. Here’s what he said:
I’d played an ex-con so many times on television that when my son saw me in Power, he said ‘dang, you always have on that orange jumpsuit’ and I had said I really don’t want to play this character no more. But then I really got a chance to see who Zac was. Here’s a story of a Black man who was unjustly arrested - people don’t’ know the story of Zac, but he was unjustly arrested and given more prison time than he should’ve been given - and having to deal with this, something that Black men typically have to deal with when they’ve been arrested even for non-violent crimes, trying to get back on his feet, and the struggle he has trying to build a family and love the person that he wants to love. With stuff being thrown at him right and left he's still trying to be on the straight and narrow. I felt like this was a story that needs to be told, especially during this time. In Season 2, it gets even more in-depth on how they’re able to dangle prison in front of him as a way to keep him in check as a Black man. I think that it’s a story that people need to hear and I’m excited to continue to tell it.
I’m certainly glad Devale Ellis took on this role because he is excellent. He delivers a dynamic performance as Zac Taylor, one that gets a lot of laughs but also for me he's the character who earns the most sympathy. He's the one that, as a viewer, I'm truly invested in seeing succeed. I’m excited to see more of Zac’s story unfold as Season 2 continues.
Brian Jordan Jr. also shared the challenges and rewards of playing his character, Maurice. Maurice is a proud gay man who serves as a voice of reason on Sistas, helping other characters to identify their biases and come to terms with how they see the world and others and how they may go about working to have a more open mind and broader perspective. Here’s what Brian Jordan Jr. told me:
When I signed on to do Sistas, I did not know that I would have to get into full drag. So when I found out, that was something that was daunting to me and I had to kind of go through a process to accept it and also to get comfortable enough to be able to adequately portray a group of people who I didn’t really know much about. I had to do the research and learn in a short period of time. When I did episode 19 where the hate crime was done to Maurice and I was in the drag, the amount of response from it was something that I would have never imagined. So many people who have never felt seen on television. People who are gay or drag queens or even larger Black men who felt that they hadn’t been seen on television reached out to me and it was beautiful because it really [emphasizes] to me how important it is to understand that acting is a service to people. A public service. And so I think it’s beautiful. I think that so many variations of people on this show is probably the best aspect.
Sistas has many appealing aspects. It’s had me in tears from laughing, screaming at the TV, and dropping my jaw to the floor, but I agree that the variety of people displayed on this show is one of the best things about it. It’s obvious the cast is working hard to do right by the communities they represent. As summed up by leading man Anthony Dalton who plays Calvin:
“Acting is a service. And you tell these stories for people that cannot get their stories out. I was blessed to play this character and blessed to be a part of this cast and this show.”