'Concrete Cowboy' And 'The Equalizer' Star Lorraine Toussaint On Seeing And Inspiring Active Change In Hollywood
Photo Credit: Jessica Kourkounis / Netflix
Film , Interviews

'Concrete Cowboy' And 'The Equalizer' Star Lorraine Toussaint On Seeing And Inspiring Active Change In Hollywood

Lorraine Toussaint is proving that life only gets better with age. The Trinidadian-born actress made her on-screen debut in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. She’s currently on the hit reboot of The Equalizer alongside Queen Latifah. The CBS drama has already been renewed for a second season.

When speaking to Shadow and Act right before the renewal was announced, Toussaint beamed with pride over the series and was happy about the female influence in the reboot.

“Premiering right after the Super Bowl, that was a real validation of CBS’s belief in us,” she said. “We are surpassing their expectations of the show, which is really terrific. I play Aunt Vi, who sort of a young aunt and at the center of our show. The great thing is that The Equalizer is derived from a franchise of three films. And the difference between our show and the original franchise is that those guys were lone wolves. They were psychologically really off of off the grid and brooding male vigilante figures.”

While she’s currently on a hit series on primetime on a major network, Toussaint has been around long enough to see the industry transition from opportunities that at some times were few and far in between, to now having an abundance of content available on primetime, cable, internet and streaming services.

She’s been part of the transition, bridging the generational gap by appearing in one of Netflix's first major original series, Orange Is the New Black. Being part of the change has been rewarding for Toussaint.

“The numbers of platforms that now exist that didn't exist when I certainly started out 40 years ago - And the diverse kinds of platforms that provide a plethora of work opportunities and creative opportunities and innovation its phenomenal,” the actress explained. "Back then, we were sort of stuck in three networks. It was even harder to break into film as a woman of color. Now, there is a lot more work out there, a lot more really interesting work. I feel very fortunate to have these opportunities. [It's] only just begun. I'm very excited about the direction in which I'm seeing the industry go.”

Thanks to the number of networks and streaming services, Toussaint is booked and busy on a  regular basis. In addition to The Equalizer, she played a judge on the Showtime limited series Your Honor. She’s also in the Netflix film, Concrete Cowboy, where she stars alongside Idris Elba. But she’s not keeping score of her acting credits. She does it out of pure passion.

“I always forget what I, what I've done because my intention is just to keep working and doing work that really interests me,” she said. “I'm at the point in my career where I really am pretty much only focused on the work that interests me. I don't take that for granted.”

If anything, Toussaint says the key to staying in-demand is versatility. By being flexible, she’s able to participate in projects that reach a far wider audience.

“I seem to continue to reinvent myself by virtue,” she says. “I'm always interested in people and I'm interested in young people.” Having a teenage daughter, Toussaint is able to stay current.

Her daughter is also the driving force behind some of the activism she’s doing outside of the Hollywood screens. Toussaint is very involved in voter registration, particularly among minorities. In 2020, she created the Mothers & Sons 2020 Project with the goal of highlighting the importance of Black lives and the power of their vote.

“I continue to teach my daughter that she has the rights to protest and peacefully protest - she has the power to bring about change,” the actress said. “I teach her that if you don't like something, change it. The voting project was one of my responses to what’s going on in the country.”

As an actor, Toussaint says it’s her job to use her art and platform to inspire change. There’s a constant evolution of Hollywood, especially around the subject of diversity and inclusion. For Toussaint, who is 60-years-old and has a career spanning four decades, she says Hollywood’s response is sufficient but there’s still work to be done.

“I know that there is a shift happening - I can see it and I can feel it,” she explained. “When I turn on Netflix or Amazon, the number of Black and Brown faces is far greater than what I saw 10 years ago, 15 years ago, certainly 20 years ago. That also speaks to blowing the myth out of the water that somehow people of color don't make money overseas. The exposure streaming provides is instantaneous and the results are immediate. It’s clear that as far as content with people of color, we are highly sellable. In that regard, money talks, always.”