Watching Bresha Webb can warm even the coldest of hearts. With her radiant personality and multi-layered characters, she goes beyond clichés to craft deeply personal — and often hilarious — performances. Recently, Webb starred in the acclaimed series Run the World, which brought forward a story of four black women from the heart of Harlem, showcasing their real struggles and adventures. Bresha Webb talked to Schön! about her career, acting, childhood and much more.
Growing up, how did your environment influence you to want to start acting?
I grew up loving watching TV and movies at a very young age. I loved watching soap operas with my babysitter while everyone else took naps and watching action movies with my Dad. I loved imitating people at my church and anyone around me. I enjoyed the arts. I went to an incredible arts school, Baltimore School for the Arts, and they nurtured my gifts. I had amazing teachers there who encouraged me to be different. My parents and my teachers gave me the courage I needed to keep going.
What eventually inspired you to act?
I’m a dramatic person naturally. I was born to perform. I would have been too much in any normal work environment. I’m glad I get paid for being a performer. I’ve worked a day job and I practiced my voiceover acting by doing different characters and accents when I worked the front desk. I just did what naturally made me happy and trusted God to do the rest.
When you were younger and looking to start acting, who were your role models and why?
I loved Jada Pinkett- Smith. She was the only person I knew from Baltimore, Maryland that made it. I enjoyed A Different World, and she was representation for me. The more I got into the craft of acting I looked up to Cicely Tyson, Whoopi Goldberg, Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington and so many others. Representation was so important to me. Seeing them made me see myself. When I was in high school I made a vision board of black women in the industry I adored, and I would dream of myself being with them on set. And dreams do come true. I’ve worked and have met most of the women on my vision board, and I’m so grateful.
You seem to be a hyper positive person with a prominent, beaming smile. How do you keep a positive attitude? When life’s trying to get you down, what picks you back up?
My Faith has kept me grounded. My belief in God and knowing that there is a higher purpose over my life and I seek it daily. I want to spread joy and happiness everywhere I go. I am blessed to do what I love, and I want to encourage everyone to live fearlessly and lead with love. I smile and have a positive attitude because God woke me up and started me on my way, and I will continue to give him the Glory. AMEN!
What is your favourite film that you are never tired of or bored with?
I have so many, but I love The Wedding Singer. It makes me so happy. I love 80s Pop/Rock, and I’m very goofy. I also love The Color Purple. That movie would come on every Sunday when I was little, and I would be mesmerised by the performances and the music. I love all kinds of genres of TV and film. I also love live theatre, and I look forward to seeing and performing more when the pandemic subsides.
You have played plenty of comedy roles throughout your career. Watching such films gives an impression that working on them is great fun, but what are some of the challenges for you as an actress while working on a comedy film?
Keeping a straight face. I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazingly talented artists. I’m always the first to break. I just can’t help myself. Marlon Wayans knows how to get me in a scene and at any moment break me. It becomes a game: who can we make laugh first? Some of the best takes come from that because we are trying to ‘out-funny’ each other. I love comedy, and I’m grateful that I have studied the craft and have worked with some incredible comedians. It is so much fun to just laugh all day and bring joy to people. I’m honoured.
You are famous for roles not only in comedies but psychological thrillers/dramas as well. What do you like about portraying a diverse range of characters?
That I get to play. I get to lose myself in the world and play make believe for a day or a month or more. I am still so inspired by artists who have several gears to their gift. I’m still growing and stretching and learning. Playing diverse characters gives me an opportunity to be brave and scared of something. It keeps me going. I can’t wait for more.
Generally speaking, how do you prepare for a role?
I let the spirit of the character speak to me. I allow the character to flow through me as I read the script. I like to build a world around the person and let that influence everything. Costume, personality, movement, etc. I love playing dress up and creating what a person would look like and be like in different situations. It’s a very childlike and spiritual energy I like to stay in when developing a character or preparing for a role. I also read the script a thousand times and take copious notes.
What’s one role of yours that sticks with you — that changed your outlook on acting and the industry overall?
A Fall from Grace. We filmed it in 5 days. I got to work with giants in the industry including my idol Cicely Tyson. I really didn’t have time to doubt myself or allow negativity to cloud my mind. I had to make a choice and trust myself. And I learned a lot about myself and my craft. Tyler Perry believed in me, so why can’t I? I learned to speak to fear and run towards my truth. And the truth is, I am enough and I deserve to be here.
So let’s talk about Run the World. What did preparing for this role look like?
Preparing for this role, I did a lot of sit-ups [laughs]. Reneé is snatched and slays at life, and COVID body was not going to get in the way of my slaying. I pulled a lot from my life experiences and I depended on the script and the spirit of the character. I could closely identify with “Renee Ross”, so a lot of Bresha Renee Webb was in there. But it was pretty cool to meet who “Renee” is lightly based on, and “Renee” is her absolute twin. That was truly rewarding for me.
It’s unfortunately uncommon for relatable stories from the black community to be told in a real-life way for wider TV and film audiences. How do you envision the impact of projects like Run the World on the film and television industry more generally?
For people to see that POC and specifically Black People live well too! We have gone to Ivy League schools and live in NYC and dress well. This show is more like my life than anything else I’ve seen on TV. I live well. We have so many more life experiences and stories that don’t revolve around traumatic generational experiences. That is not my experience. I want to laugh and look at people who live in my world and look like me. Representation matters, and what we see will reflect what is, and people will act accordingly. The people in my life are colourful, beautiful and different. If we want a better world, TV and film need to reflect that for the future generations to come.
It feels like there’s complete synergy among all actors and crew on this show. How would you describe the process of filming Run the World?
Incredible. We absolutely love each other. We filmed during the pandemic so we only had each other. We were anxious and we knew we were making something very special. We all are so grateful that people are loving and enjoying the show. Our creator Leigh Davenport shared her world with us, and I am so excited for more stories to unfold.
Did the series and your character Renee make you realise anything new about yourself, or re-establish any relationships with anyone or anything?
Playing Reneé was intense. She is a bull in a China shop. I was falling in love with my fiancé, and I was very hard on him because Reneé is going through a divorce. Let’s just say I brought some of that energy home sometimes. But I learned to forgive, be gentle with myself and ask for help. And Renee learns that as well in season one. So that was pretty cool. We both grew.
What message do you hope to deliver by playing Renee? And why this message specifically?
I hope Reneé teaches people to be bold and courageous about what they want. She makes strong choices and decides to walk it out even if she’s terrified of the outcome. But she trusts herself, and she takes the chance and will apologise for it later… if she has to. She lives her life to the fullest. She wears her best outfit on a Tuesday and she doesn’t wait for the weekend. I hope she encourages the viewer to LIVE TODAY! Don’t wait.
We’re super excited about your future. What’s next for you?
Well, I’m excited to play more characters and do more in this industry that scares me. I will take a page out of Renee’s book and live for today because tomorrow’s not promised. I have a movie coming out next year, cartoons, and more. Get comfy, because I’m not going anywhere.
Season one of Run the World is out now.
photography. Angella Choe
fashion. Christina Pacelli @ The Only Agency
talent. Bresha Webb
hair. Cynthia Alvarez
make up. Grace Pae
fashion assistant. Marissa Perez
words. Nino Sichinava
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