Karimah Westbrook – Second Down
Words + Interview By Lucky Smith
Karimah Westbrook is an actress and “NAACP Theater Award” nominee that has appeared in various television shows and films. Currently, the Chicago native can be seen in season 2 of the CW hit TV series, “All American” which is inspired by the life of Spencer Paysinger. Following up with Karimah after our cover story on her in issue #50, we discussed “All American” and what to expect from season 2, women empowerment, giving back to the community and more.
First, I would like to say thank you for doing a follow up interview with us. Personally, I am a big fan of the CW’s “All American” and I have so many questions going into season 2. You have appeared in quite a few projects. How does it feel being part of “All American”, especially being that it has gotten such a great response?
I feel very blessed to be a part of All American. The response is humbling. I think it’s a great series, it’s very relatable and grounded with so many important messages. Our writers tackle so many timely topics which gives us actors so much to explore and play around with.
Your character and her story are relatable to both men and women. Some men go through situations where they are not sure if they are the father of a child and also children grow up not knowing why their father chose not to be in their lives. What advice would you give the mothers in this type of situation?
My advice to mothers in this type of situation is to take responsibility for your part in all of this and find out the truth, even if it may hurt. At the end of the day, the only person that suffers in all of this is the child and they deserve to know.
When preparing for this role, how deep were your conversations with Spencer’s mom and did she help you really get an understanding of what she was dealing with at the time?
I spoke to Spencer’s mom a couple of times at the very beginning, before we started filming season one. I wanted to meet and get to know her. She’s lovely, a great mom and she shared some wonderful things with me regarding her and the kids. Those things did help me understand her perspective but as an actor my intentions were not to try to portray her. Also, I want people to remember that All American is inspired by the life of Spencer Paysinger, which means that every storyline you see may not be exactly what he experienced.
Season one had a lot of things that touched the heart and made its viewers think. Were there any episodes that affected you in that way?
There were so many episodes that affected me. If I can think back I would say episode 10 (written by Natalie Abram and Cam’ron Moore) titled m.a.d.d City. In this episode, Spencer tries to stop some gang members from beefing in the park. He gives the guys this heartfelt talk. He says things like “we taking out all our pain on each other. Watching bodies drop like flies like it’s normal.” He tells them that “we’re all we got. If we destroy ourselves who’s gonna be left to fight for us?”. He yells “This. Is. Not. Normal.” I felt that. A lot of people felt that because it’s so true.
Going into season 2, was there anything in particular that you wanted to accomplish with your character and acting in particular?
I’m just going with the flow of it all. Our writers are great and so far, they’ve given me so much to play with and explore regarding my character and my acting.
What can we expect from season 2? Lol, no spoilers.
In season 2 you can expect more drama of course but also, you’ll see the ripple effects of the affair that was revealed at the end of season one between my character, Grace James, and Taye Diggs’ character, Billy Baker. Spencer has some really important decisions to make this season and I love that teen mental health will also be explored this season amongst many other timely issues that teens are currently facing.
How did you feel about being nominated for the “NAACP Theater Award”?
As an actor, any time someone recognizes your work and wants to honor you in some way for it is exciting and humbling. It’s also a reminder your commitment to the work is paying off.
As an actor, what advantages come with doing theater work? Do you think more actors should take advantage of it? Why or why not?
Actors should definitely take advantage of doing theater. I love theater, there are no breaks in living out the reality of the story on stage doing theater. On stage, you tell the story without stopping. You also have more time to develop your character.
You become real clear about your process with acting and you have more time to do so. You get to play, explore your craft and you have multiple opportunities to do so. With television and film, once a scene is filmed, that’s it. You’re on to the next scene. In theater, you can come back the next night and do it all over again, trying and learning new things. It’s a great way to explore and build your craft/acting muscles.
Who are your “Top 5” actors of today?
My top five actors of today are Joaquin Phoenix, Jharrel Jerome, Viola Davis, Patricia Arquette and Michael K. Williams.
Being a woman, how do you feel about the “#MeToo” movement, overall?
I think the #MeToo movement is great overall.
In addition to that movement, we also have an influx of women showing more of their bodies publicly, a lot of twerking and a lot of them seem to have no limits to the things they are doing. Can there be a balance or do you think some of it is being taken too far?
I’m choosing compassion versus judgement and allowing people to be where they’re at because it’s usually deeper than what we see. I feel I can see past it. When I see those things, sometimes I just see a need to be seen playing out and not in a negative way but in a way of people’s unfulfilled needs, mainly stemming from childhood, trying to be met. When we heal and understand the effects of traumas or unfulfilled needs, we make choices differently in life and that includes how we present ourselves.
If you had the power to change 3 things in politics right now, what would you change and why?
My head started hurting reading this question, lol. There is so much I would want to change but I’ve decided to stay away from politics at the moment. There is too much smoke and mirrors around it all.
Is “giving back” is an obligation for entertainers?
I’ve kind of gotten out of the business of telling people what they should or should not do, especially regarding something of this nature. Giving back is important though as it can inspire and help those who need a helping hand and you could potentially change someone’s life and or outlook on life. That’s a blessing. Entertainers with visibility have an advantage of having people’s attention and respect, especially from kids so they are in a much more powerful position to plant long lasting seeds while giving back. So, if one can recognize that and move forward with giving back, that’s a beautiful thing.
Beyond just entertainers, I think it would be great if everyone gave back in whatever way they can. I think we are all vessels and are here for each other. I think it’s a part of that saying “make the world go-round”. Overall, no one is obligated to give-back, including entertainers but it’s a blessing if they choose to do so.
Tell us about “A Place Called Home”.
A Place Called Home is an at-risk youth organization in South Central Los Angeles where I spent years volunteering and mentoring.
Thank you again for spending a moment with us. Is there anything else you’d like to speak about?
I just wanted to congratulate you guys for creating and building Twenty4Seven Magazine. You guys are synergy for us artist and entertainers. Thank you for interviewing and supporting me on my journey.
Follow Karimah Westbrook on Instagram @Only1Karimah.