To know Terri LaCroix on ABC’s American Crime is not to like her—and that’s the point.
It is one of the reasons Regina King is having so much fun playing her. Terri is nothing like Aliyah, the militant Muslim character King played in season one of American Crime, which earned the actress a well-deserved first Emmy. Terri, an upper-class elitist, is meaner but also a lot more identifiable.
“Everyone knows a Terri,” King, 45, said in a recent phone interview. “Terri enjoys the power and enjoys being in control. She’s so far from Aliyah and she’s so far from me. She’s stuck up and I so enjoy playing her.”
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This time around, the John Ridley-produced and created series is tackling racism, classism and homophobia through the prism of an alleged sexual assault against a working class teenage boy. Terri’s son Kevin (Trevor Jackson) is a handsome high school basketball star who also happens to be one of the accused attackers. When the accusations start to fly and threaten all that Terri and her husband Michael LaCroix (Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000) have worked so hard to achieve, Terri wastes no time lawyering up and going on the defensive.
“She’s unlikable but most Black people, who I’ve had conversations with, understand her position and where her thoughts live in that space,” King said. “They may not like her and she may not be their friend, but most Black people who are upper middle class understand why Terri is who she is. To get where Terri is, is no easy feat. So why would you ever want to leave? That’s how she looks at it.”
In season one of American Crime, most of the African-American characters were middle and working class. But this season includes a Black family that is wealthy, well connected and downright snobbish.
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“Elitism is not a Black thing,” King said. “It’s just an elite thing. I know quite a few people like that, not just Black people. But isn’t it great that this time around, the elite family is a Black family? You don’t see Black people like that on television.”
But don’t let the elitism fool you. As it does for King and most of us, family comes first for Terri.
“She becomes vulnerable. Family is the most important thing to her,” said King, who has been in the business for 31 years. “For the first time in a long time, she’s one of the little people. Meryl Streep said – and I know I’m messing up the quote – one of the most wonderful things about being an actor is that you get a part that is nothing like you. But part of your job as an actor is to find a bit of you in that character because that’s what makes it real for people. So that’s always fun and that’s what has made me love this art form so much.”
Unlike Aliyah, Terri is married and has an undeniable physical and emotional connection with her husband. Talk about a power couple. When asked about the on-screen chemistry between her and Benjamin, 40, King chuckled.
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“He’s great,” King said of her TV spouse. “He’s a great man. He really is. It was an easy ride. We do have great chemistry. We both are parents of boys. My son (Ian Alexander Jr., 20) is one year older than his son, Seven. Both of us are single parents of only children and we both love to smile.”
We’re smiling too, Regina. We’re smiling, too.
American Crime airs Wednesdays at 10 pm ET on ABC. If you’ve missed the first three episodes, you can catch up at ABC.com.