Rosario Dawson is a veteran film and TV actress best known for her roles in Rent and Men in Black II, and most recently, for her role as Claire Temple in the Marvel television shows Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders. Now, in the midst of her first-ever leading role on television, the actress and activist is also featured in and executive producing the second season of the Oakland-set web series The North Pole.
Created by filmmakers Darren Colston, Josh Healey and Yvan Iturriaga, The North Pole chronicles a trio of friends as they try to tackle issues of gentrification and climate change in the California city of Oakland. Starring Reyna Amaya, Donte Clark and Santiago Rosas, The North Pole doubles as both a love letter to Oakland as well as a platform to discuss issues such as global warming and displacement.
Shadow And Act caught up with the actress and activist to discuss the web series, gentrification and the impact of community.
Shadow And Act: There are a lot of web series out right now. What was it about this web series in particular that enticed you to come on board?
Rosario Dawson: I met some folks who were members of The Movement Generation. It’s this incredible organization out in Oakland. They do a class that I’ve been really wanting to take and really getting into the environment and environment justice. I just thought it was so brilliant that this organization decided to create a show that helps amplify different voices and narratives and show different and compelling and inspiring ways in which we could support each other, show up for each other and make an impact in each other’s lives and our communities.
I just thought it was really brilliant that they used this opportunity on the web to reach out to folks and show what’s it like to be four people living together. They’re not married. They don’t have kids. They’re trying to figure out what it’s like to have asthma when there’s wildfires going on, what it is to go through gentrification and see people in their community get thrown out, what it means to have a friend who is undocumented and potentially going to be deported.
As the episodes air, there are different sources they put up that lead you to organizations where you can start to figure out ways where you can be more active and learn how you can share your story. What I love about The North Pole is that they show that some people just need to laugh more, smile more, recognize themselves more and see that their stories are critically important and deserve to be heard and brought in the greater narrative. If we start there, things can happen.
S&A: In the second season, you portray Benny’s immigration attorney as he is at risk of being deported. How do you wash off these roles that closely mirror reality? What is your sense of escape?
RD: Well, the reality is we can’t escape it. We can figure out different ways to approach it and be creative about how we can support each other and not be isolated from each other. Otherwise, the only thing you’re seeing out there is a lot of hatred and a lot of fear. It demonizes people, it shuts people down and even worse things can happen. It’s really important to show love and to show that we see you and that your story is important even if you don’t have the perfect PhD. That’s not the only value you can have as a documented person or an immigrant in this country. It’s still vitally important to fight for each other and to love on each other.
This story and the reason we find that Benny is undocumented is because he stood up for a community member who is going to get gentrified out of her home. Standing up for her, he got arrested and that’s how he became vulnerable. The second season of The North Pole is exploring how him and other folks are grappling with all different kinds of issues and how we can all stand up for ourselves better. That’s what my character is. She’s an immigration lawyer who believes that if you let the system go to play, they’re going to treat you like a statistic. Love can make an impact and make a difference. Community can make an impact, but you need to organize. It’s beautiful to show there are creative ways to solve our problems and to do it with love. It’s better to grow our humanity every single day rather than just be in fear of the rules and regulations that one person counts and another person doesn’t.
S&A: Gentrification in Oakland is a prominent issue on The North Pole. There is an odd dichotomy within Black and brown communities, in which they are devalued and looked down upon in mainstream media, but are valued when it gains new residents and displaces those who have been in the neighborhood for a long time. What are your thoughts on this and what do you think we can do to combat displacement?
RD: It’s a scary and crazy thing. I come from New York and it’s a transient city. It’s constantly changing and evolving with all the gentrification that’s happening. Then, another wave of gentrification happens and the people who gentrified are the ones saying it’s too expensive. They are used to shouting out their stories, being heard and considered. They just did it against a group of people so they figure why can’t they get more favor. That’s when you start to recognize there’s an entire system that doesn’t honor every single individual and what that means. How can we show love better and invest in each other in different ways? Making sure libraries are still going, access to healthcare. It’s not necessarily about one neighborhood being more of a choice over another. All of our neighborhoods have great things about them that make them a safe place to thrive in. What does a greater investment in our communities look like? I love that there’s just so many different organizations that are constantly pushing for that.
The second season of The North Pole will premiere on YouTube on September 10. Watch the first season here. Watch the trailer for the second season below. All episodes are currently on YouTube.
Photo: The North Pole