Whether you recognize her from her roles in “The Wood,” “The Brothers,” or “Booty Call,” Tamala Jones has been putting in consistent and quality work in the industry since the early nineties in some of our favorite television and films.
This year, we can all catch her in ABC’s new show “Rebel.” Patterned after the life of real life activist Erin Brokovich, the show stars Katey Sagal, as the show’s lead, Annie “Rebel” Bello. Though Annie doesn’t have a law degree, she devotes her time and energy fighting against social injustice.
Coming off of all that 2020 was and what 2021 still is, we know that the show’s writers won’t be hard-pressed for content.
Joining the cast is Jones, who will play Annie’s former sister-in-law and aunt to her children. Far more than a sidekick, she has her own personal and professional struggles as a recovering addict and Rebel’s investigator.
We spoke to Jones recently about her new role in the show. See what she had to say.
MadameNoire: What drew you to this role?
Tamala Jones: I got to be a part of this. I have no choice. Love. And then I read the script after I got excited about who was Rebel. I love all the characters but I love Lana because of all the layers that she has and how human Krista Vernoff has written her. She’s a character that has issues that she struggles with in her personal life. Then, she’s got the other side of writing the wrongs of the injustice for other people. In essence, we all have to balance our personal with our responsibilities and I love that about her.
MN: Can you speak to the importance of seeing Black women who aren’t just one-dimensional, sidekick characters?
Tamala Jones: Krista made sure that she expressed to me that she did not want Lana just to be a sidekick for Rebel. She wanted Lana to have her own personal struggles, a life outside of what she did with Rebel, her own demons. And I respect that about Krista. It is very important for African American women to have these roles. It produces more of them. People will copy Krista and give us more depth. The importance is there. But what’s even more important is that you have a strong woman figure who isn’t Black, who finds this important and is making it happen.
MN: Lana’s character is pretty physical. How did you feel about that going into the show?
Tamala Jones: That’s something that Krista and I worked on too. She individually interviewed all of her cast, during the pandemic, when we weren’t able to get together. And she wanted to know things about us, things that we were interested in. What is something that you have not been able to do that you would like to do with this character. And I said, ‘I want to like slide on my back and shoot people. I want to do fight sequences and that type of stuff. But I don’t think this character is that.’
She goes, ‘Oh my God, we were just discussing this! We would love to do that with you.’
They told me I could do my own stunts. I did a chunk but because they don’t want me to kill myself, they want me to have a stunt double. And she was great. But that’s something that I always wanted to do and Krista made that happen.
MN: Can you speak to the timeliness of the show airing during this moment?
Tamala Jones: Rebel is loosely based on Ms. Erin Brockovich. And we know what Miss Erin is all about, honey. She’s all about exposing social injustice and righting those wrongs. I think it is perfect for right now because we are all dealing with an injustice in some sort of way, especially with the way this pandemic has happened, the way it was handled. Then we had Black Lives Matter and all of these hate crimes going on against Asians.
Rebel is all about this kind of work. So for a show like this to come along at a time like this, that is so real. And every character has this realness about them, it couldn’t come at a more perfect time. And I hope when people watch this show, they walk away with some internal muscle to make them want to get up and speak up on things that they feel are unjust or wrong in any kind of way. It’s right on time. And I hope it brings people laughter and tears and high inspiration to be an advocate of some sort.
MN: When people see you in the street what role do you they usually associate with you?
Oh my God! Let me tell you, with couples it’s The Brothers because the scene with D.L. Hughley and the wives will say, ‘Me and my husband were just watching you.’ Then it’s some people that mention Up in the Air. They’re like, ‘You’re Karen.’ And it’s like, ‘Uhh what?’ Because you know you say Karen now and it’s something totally different.
Then the other one is always Booty Call.
But when we were getting ready to start shooting “Rebel,” I was being sneaky and went to In and Out. I was fuly covered up, with my mask on. And I’m placing my order and the girl was like, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God is that you Lanie?!’ (From the tv show “Castle”) Busted I had no business in there.
I’m cool with whatever you remember me from, if you remember me at all.
MN: To what do you attribute your longevity in Hollywood?
Tamala Jones: Always challenging myself and not feeling like any role was small. I’ve done stuff where I didn’t have anything to say but the camera was on me the whole time and it was all about my facial expressions. And people loved it. I did a part in Up in the Air, and it was just a little piece. I didn’t care that I wasn’t going to get a credit, I went into the scene with all of those players.
I feel that if you start believing your own hype, perse, then you’ve sealed your fate. But if you are challenging yourself to see what else you can do—and I don’t care if the project stinks after you did it. Get out there and try your best to do different things to see how far you can go. Some things are going to stink and some things are going to be great but that’s how you find out what you’re capable of doing. And that’s helped me in this business.
Rebel airs tonight, April 8, at 10pm on ABC.