"It’s my nature to stay true to myself—and in doing that there have been some sacrifices professionally," says Bonet.
Lisa Bonet guest stars alongside her husband, Jason Momoa, in the Sundance Channel’s new dramatic series, The Red Road, playing Sky Van Der Veen, a Lenape Native American lawyer who returns to her hometown to call for justice following a brutal crime against a member of her tribe.
She spoke with ESSENCE from her Los Angeles home, which she shares with Momoa, their children (son Nakoa-Wolf, 5, and daughter Lola, 6), dogs—Scout, Arrow and Zion—and ball python, Orpheus.
ESSENCE: How did you choose to do this particular role?
Lisa Bonet: Jason and I had done a film together, and when he was in the process of booking this show he sent the film to the producers. They really appreciated our chemistry, which was nice.
ESSENCE: The show is very thoughtfully written. The shooting style is intriguing. Are there things about it that you think people should know before tuning in, or is it just that people should watch it?
Bonet: On paper, it read like a film, and it definitely unfolds like a good series should. You know, it’s fun to go on a discovery and not really know much about it.
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ESSENCE: You said earlier that the producers of the show saw the chemistry between you and Jason on-screen, and that’s why he asked you to do this part. How is your chemistry at home different from your chemistry at work?
Bonet: The chemistry between the characters we’re playing in The Red Road is a bit stiff, because we’re still uncertain where our rapport is leading us. Off camera, in real life, we are a very goofy couple. One of my favorite things about him is that he makes me laugh.
ESSENCE: Goofy how?
Bonet: Goofy like, we just laugh—we love curling up to watch Saturday Night Live with a thing of popcorn in front of us.
ESSENCE: So you guys are allowed to watch TV, but not the kids?
Bonet: Well, we have a computer—we’re not that much in the Stone Age! I feel strongly about remaining as media-free as we can. I really want to cultivate my children’s imaginations. I love that they can go off and play for hours making paper airplanes.
ESSENCE: How did you and Jason meet?
Bonet: [Laughs] We were both at a club to hear this 80-year-old toothless blues singer named Mickey Champion. We had a mutual friend who introduced us. Jason actually came with all his boys, and it was the birthday of one of my good friends, so I had all my girls with me. It was like the meeting of two different posses.
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ESSENCE: We have long admired your sense of individuality. Have you had to make some difficult choices in maintaining that?
Bonet: It’s my nature to stay true to myself—and in doing that there have been some sacrifices professionally. Just my look is a little untamed.
ESSENCE: You’ve referred to yourself as scrappy.
Bonet: [Laughs] Yeah, I fall somewhere between a princess and a peasant. A princess not in the fashion sense but more in the sense of a certain standard, a connection to nature. And in terms of a peasant, I feel like I’m very of the people. I’m not afraid of hard work. My hands are definitely not manicured.
ESSENCE: Have you ever felt torn between this idea of princess and peasant—between commercial success and staying true to yourself?
Bonet: Yeah. Definitely. First of all, my nature itself is very quiet and private, so the fame game has been something that has always challenged me. I think in some ways the artist in me feels under-explored. Sometimes when I’m working, feeling myself from the inside, and looking at what I have—not so much attained, but I guess just in terms of fulfillment. I’m still a seeker. I know I’m an artist, but where’s my art?
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ESSENCE: Your 25-year-old daughter, actress Zoë Kravitz [her dad is Lenny Kravitz], is clearly super media-savvy. How does that work for you?
Bonet: It’s a whole other generation. When she’s in her relationships, she talks about how they communicate, which is pretty much through texting. I’m just like, Okay.... That’s how it’s done nowadays. She’s awesome. She’s a well-balanced young woman, and so not affected, and deep and funny and thoughtful. I mean, really, for a parent to have a child out in our insane world and not have to worry about her other than the general “may she always be protected”—in terms of her making decisions for herself, I feel completely at ease with that, and that’s such a great thing.
ESSENCE: Do you give yourself some of the credit for helping to make that person?
Bonet: Sure. That, I guess, is the return. When I talked about the sacrifices earlier—that’s part of what I get back. I became a mother very early [at age 21], and she was my priority.
ESSENCE: How much media or social media do you absorb? It doesn’t seem like much.
Bonet: Yeah, we are television-free here. I’ve never been on Facebook. It’s just not on my radar.
ESSENCE: There are constant conversations in the social media sphere about feminism, Black feminism and what it means to be a feminist. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Bonet: I suppose so. I feel like I support justice, equality, the wild and nature. I guess I don’t think of myself exclusively as a feminist.
ESSENCE: Some think of feminism as this kind of bigger spiritual thing. But maybe it’s just one way of linear thinking.
Bonet: That sounds like a perfect way of defining it.
The Red Road premieres Thursday, February 27 at 9pm on The Sundance Channel
Rebecca Carroll (@rebel19) is the managing editor at xojane.com and the author of several nonfiction books, including Sugar in the Raw and Saving the Race.