Queen Latifah: ‘Black Women Have Been Equalizing for Years and Years, From Hatshepsut to Kamala Harris’

And we’ve been carrying a lot of things on our back,” says Latifah, who is also an EP on The Equalizer. Latifah says she’s especially proud of the addition of Toussaint and Hayes. She’s the real deal. These things come naturally, and it’s time for the world to just see it on a normal basis and in a very natural way.”
“Tell it through the lens of a Black woman,” she adds. RELATED STORIES

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Queen Latifah is using everything in her arsenal to bring the titular Robyn McCall to life on CBS’ The Equalizer (Sundays, 8/7c). “From Hatshepsut to Stacey Abrams to Kamala Harris, to my mother and my grandmother, seeing a Black woman equalize is not a new thing to me. We don’t see that quite as frequently, and I think we need to see more of it, if anything.”

To her point, Latifah is one of only several Black women to lead a one-hour drama on network television, joining a list that includes Teresa Graves (Get Christie Love), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Viola Davis (How To Get Away with Murder), Kylie Bunbury (Pitch) and Simone Missick (All Rise). Seeing it on network TV once every week? Robyn McCall is a divorcee who lives with her Aunt Vi (Lorraine Toussaint) and her 15-year-old daughter Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes). “We see three generations of Black women, not just one,” she says. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and everybody will enjoy the ride.”
It’s a ride that includes having water dumped on her head while being waterboarded in one episode, and having rain frizz out her curls in another. “And it’s tough because she’s basically in every scene right now. “There’s a dance to it. With Living Single, everything is timing because it was a sitcom. I need to have this fight over by the time this chorus is over in my brain.” That may be a little newer. Although Woodward, who wore a hairpiece, never had to worry about such things, Latifah is a Black woman. “Unfortunately, sometimes, we’re not lifted up in the way we should be when it comes to how much we actually carry and how much grit we have. It’s choreography,” she says. “And I ride motorcycles, but there are certain things I’m not doing on bikes at this point. That’s why it just fits her so well.”

There are marked differences between character and portrayer, of course, aside from the CIA background. And it was still raining while we were out there, and it was Queen Latifah’s last shot of the evening, and finally she goes, ‘Screw it. It becomes a song in my mind, where I gotta whoop you by the time that hook comes. But when it comes to being the first Black woman to take the lead in the franchise’s history, on either the big or small screen, Latifah (née Dana Owens) is tapping into her genetic memory. That’s the most important thing, making sure everything looks sharp and crisp.”

Latifah, who won a Grammy at 24, also fights to a beat only she can hear. Being a rapper/singer/artist has helped me throughout my career in terms of rhythm. “Honestly, from the very beginning, it just made sense. Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington picked up the role in two movie versions beginning in 2014. She’s so grounded, and about fairness and justice. But despite all of this, Chase and Latifah saw an opportunity to tell the story anew. One minute, Robyn is beating up baddies with a clipboard, and in another, she’s dashing off to see her daughter sing in a youth choir. (The two previously worked together on the 2010 rom-com Just Wright.) “When Dana said yes, it clicked. But I can take guns and disarm people in various ways and handle them deftly. Obviously, I can’t do all of the stunts, but I’m able to do the intimate, close-contact fighting and things like that.”
“But I’m not getting crashed on a table,” she makes clear. She’s all the things that Robyn McCall is. I’ve known Queen Latifah for a long time,” Chase tells TVLine. In Episode 2, “we were out shooting on the Jersey City Promenade,” Chase relates, “and she meets Chris Noth’s character with a red umbrella, and it had been raining all day. And how much determination we have, and how powerful we are and how magical we are, you know? I’m just going with the hair. We developed this character for Queen Latifah, and we spent a lot of time talking about what this show should be and who this character was going to be, so Robyn McCall is, in many ways, Queen Latifah with her own special sauce. I’m just letting it go.’ She was in the rain, and it was at the end of the night, and that’s where we are in 2021. In my 20s, maybe, but not now! Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim created the original 1985 series (also for CBS), with a gray-haired white man named Robert McCall (the late Edward Woodward) doing the equalizing. “Everything is by beat. “I love all of the action sequences when I get to really kick some butt,” Latifah says. “Black women have been equalizing for years and years,” says Latifah, who stars as a former operative who leaves the CIA behind to help everyday people in need, while also raising a teenage daughter. Marlowe, says Latifah was born to play Robyn McCall. She has a former handler, William Bishop (Chris Noth), who checks up on her, and two sidekicks (Liza Lapira’s Mel and Adam Goldberg’s Harry) who have her back. The former rapper and singer relies on her musicality when it comes to fight sequences, and her sense of justice as someone who was bullied as a kid growing up in Newark, New Jersey. “Tell it through me.”
Debra Martin Chase, who exec-produces The Equalizer alongside Latifah and Castle creators Terri Edda Miller and Andrew W. She is a badass, and she’s super-smart and also warm, compassionate and sensitive. Sometimes, as Black women, we have to just let the hair do what it does and let it go.”
Besides, being an equalizer requires a lot of physical work. “The world needs to see what life is like for us. “It’s a lot of work, so I have a great amount of respect for stunt people and what they have to do to accomplish making people like me look really good. “We’ve been doing what we have to do. She’s putting her body and soul into this.”
“Dana’s doing a lot of her own stunts, and she’s training for that,” Chase shares. That helped me then, and that rhythm is helping me now, with the fight choreography. The latter is a nod to what Robert McCall did in the pilot, except his son Scott (a young, Karate Kid-era William Zabka) played the violin.

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