Clare-Hope Ashitey’s A Vulnerable, Flawed Heroine In Seven Seconds

Seven Seconds is the latest offering that will have fans of cop dramas and municipal intrigue on the edge of their seats. The series takes place in Jersey City, New Jersey following the accidental death of a black teen at the hands of a white police officer. The resulting tumult tears the seams of each of the lead characters, played by an ensemble cast featuring Regina King, Russell Hornsby and Clare-Hope Ashitey, the subject of todays article.

Clare-Hope has starred in a number of quality cinematic and television offerings, including Jimi: All is By My Side, Suspects, Shots Fired and Master of None.  She plays KJ, an alcoholic assistant district attorney who is quickly overwhelmed with the task of bringing the connected killer to justice. The Shadow League had the chance to speak with this outstanding actress recently to discuss her role in the film.

Seven Seconds | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

How long does it take to bury the truth? From the executive producers of The Killing, Seven Seconds premieres February 23 on Netflix. Watch Seven Seconds on …

The Shadow League: In an age in which many are balking at the troupe of the strong, indomitable African-American woman hero who comes in to save the day, what was it like playing a character that completely abandoned that idea?

Clare-Hope Ashitey:

I entirely understand, and Ive had this question of representation of women of color in artistic outlets, and I understand why its important for people to follow those troupes, but I think for me when I read this script and also in portraying the character, I dont necessarily find it helpful when we stick to archetypes and stereotypes when we have characters that fit into one end of the spectrum or the other.  I think its helpful to portray all the various types of people that a woman of color can be.  I think it makes it harder for women of color in their normal lives when that is what the artistic alpha is and theyre expecting to live up to that.  We all make good decisions and we make poor decisions, we do good things and we do bad things.

Were normal people and every person is a complex, layered and not so perfect creature.  For me, having her just put on a cape and go save the day, I actually think you lose a lot of people when you do that because its not realistic.

TSL: You appear to have quite a track record of picking very good roles.

CHA: I think that every production has its own characters and experiences.  You have a different team and that brings something different.  I actually think theres something that unites all these productions, which is a passion for the story being told, whatever that story is.  I think thats something that always attracts me to a project, no matter how different they are, to be involved in something where the people are making it are creatively passionate, politically passionate or artistically passionate.  I think I see (the roles) as having that in common than being different.

TSL: Both Shots Fired and Seven Seconds deal with police involved killings and corruption. What were some of the differences working on these two projects.

Seven Seconds | Clip: He Might Know Something | Netflix

This is just the beginning. Watch it unfold February 23. SUBSCRIBE: About Netflix: Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network with over 117 million members in over 190 countries enjoying more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies per day, including original series, documentaries and feature films. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on nearly any Internet-connected screen.

CHA: I think a lot of that feeling about trying to portray truth and showing truth, both the shows had that in common, but we did it in two different way. I think there was this uniting factor of not shying away from things that are a reality for a lot of African-Americans in this country and using the different tools that we had on these different shows to be honest, which is what were trying to do.  And be honest to peoples experiences.  When you arent honest, and you arent truthful then youre putting yourself in a place where youre actually being exploitative to things that have really happened to people.

I think thats something that both those shows were focused on, and I feel thats something other shows about this subject should aspire to.

All I can say is that Im just interested in working hard, being honest and finding a way to ground every character in something of myself and my experience.  I dont think I have many redeeming features, but I do feel like Im quite a empathetic and compassionate person. When I read peoples stories, when I hear peoples stories, I dont just hear them, I feel them, and I carry those things with me. Im a real sponge in those terms.  I always take it in.  I get that from every story I hear, every trauma lives in me in some small part.

Seven Seconds premieres on Netflix on February 23.

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