In 2013, Emayatzy Corinealdi garnered an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead for her acclaimed performance as Ruby in Ava DuVernay’s Sundance darling, Middle Of Nowhere. What followed were roles in Karyn Kusama’s acclaimed horror film The Invitation, starring alongside Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead and a role in the 2016 remake of Roots.
Corinealdi was our choice to play NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to travel in space, in a potential biopic, as well as one of our fan casting choices for a feature film adaption of the children’s book, Ruth and The Green Book. Corinealdi is currently in the midst of promoting her upcoming CBS drama, The Red Line, which is executive produced by Ava DuVernay and Greg Berlanti.
S&A had the chance to sit down with her to discuss to her character, how implicit biases impact the workplace, the subject matter and the show’s potential impact.
S&A: In The Red Line, you portray Tia Young, a woman who gave up her biological daughter up for adoption, only to see her daughter’s adopted father become the victim of a police shooting. What can you tell us about Tia and how her proximity to the tragedy impacts her on a personal level?
EC: Tia Young is a young mother, married with a son and living in Chicago. She’s living life and doing well. When this tragedy happens, she realizes she is connected. That turns into action, in which she asks herself, what can she do as a regular, everyday citizen in her community. What can she do to make a difference? So, she decides to run for public office. In doing so, her past comes to her forefront and she’s forced to deal with it. She’s forced to deal with the reality of her birth daughter coming back into her life in a way she never expected.
S&A: There are commonalities between Tia Young and Ruby, the character you portray in Middle Of Nowhere. Aside from the fact that Ava DuVernay executive produces The Red Line, both are Black women that deal with the emotional labor of seeing Black men on the brute end of a corrupt criminal justice system. What similarities did you notice between Tia and Ruby?
EC: It’s specifically not something I thought about in taking on Tia in terms of how she compares to Ruby. If I had to pick something that would tie them together, it would be what you said — being in a situation where some sort of injustice has happened. Specifically, in Tia’s case, she hasn’t been in this situation before where she runs for office. She’s not familiar with politics or anything like that, but she realizes she has to do something. It’s that important and that pertinent to what’s happening to her community, in the city of Chicago and this country we’re in right now. We have an issue and the show is attempting to get at the heart of that issue, which is asking all of us to examine ourselves. Take a look at that implicit bias that exists and how that bias affects us in our everyday lives. When we are working in fields that require you to think first before you react, whether it’s the medical field or legal field, we have to have a conversation about that because people’s lives are hanging in the balance. I read an article and they were talking about just the medical field specifically and how Black women disproportionately die at childbirth in comparison to white women. It’s really only due to an implicit bias that people have, feeling that Black women and their pain threshold is much higher. They’re not believed when they say they’re in pain. Things that go back to something deeper. The same thing applies to something like law enforcement. If you don’t look at someone as another human first and already place our own judgment and assumptions on that person, more than likely you’re going to allow an emotion to take over. That’s the heart of the show; we want people to stop, take a second, see themselves for better or for worse and hope a conversation will take place about how these issues affect all of us.
S&A: How does The Red Line stand out from other shows dealing with the subject of shootings of innocent Black people by police officers?
EC: What I do know with The Red Line is there’s an opportunity to see this one tragic moment have an effect on three very different families and how their lives are changed as a result of that moment and what they do after. What happens in the aftermath of that and how they’re all connected. The show really attempts to get at the humanity of the whole situation. I believe that’s what makes The Red Line different.
S&A: What would you say to people who may not want to watch because it deals with a subject that hits close to home, especially for the Black community?
EC: I would say the fact that this is something that’s present and happening. I understand. There’s this exhaustion at these kinds of topics because they happen so often. We read about it, we watch it on the news. Shootings that happen somewhere. There’s an exhaustion that comes with that and we all feel it, especially the Black community. But that shouldn’t allow anyone who doesn’t want to watch the show to sit for an hour, because we are all here. We are all of the same human race. We are all living in this country trying to do better and be better every single day. There’s really not a way to become a better person if you don’t really stop, take stock of yourself, and then take the opportunity to get to know something about someone else you know nothing about. We don’t live in these bubbles. I would just ask that person to take a moment. In order to grow, we have to see each other, and this show is hoping to get [to] a part of why we react and respond in the ways we do. This is an issue really permeating through the fabric of our society right now. We all have to do our part and this is a way we can do our part.
The Red Line debuts April 28 at 8 p.m. on CBS.