ESSENCE.com’s “New and Next” column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we meet actress Susan Kelechi Watson, who recently played comedian Louis C.K.’s ex-wife on season 3 of the comedy-drama Louie.
ESSENCE.com: There’s been a lot of buzz about your being cast as Louie’s ex-wife, and mother of his two White children. Tell us about your run on the show.
SUSAN KELECHI WATSON: It’s been really fun, and quite a surprise because going into it I didn’t know much about the role. I just knew I was going in for the role of Janet. I’d seen the show before I auditioned so I knew the kids on the show. [Laughs] And they were White. So when I go into the audition I say, ‘I don’t know what part I’m auditioning for but I know it can’t be his wife because I’ve seen his kids.’ They were like, ‘Okay, we’re just gonna press record.’ After I got the role I was still thinking it can’t be to play his ex-wife, maybe his friend, but not the ex-wife. I just thought it was hilarious, and that Louis [C.K.] was kind of brilliant for casting it that way.
ESSENCE.com: The show has a cult following. What’s been the reaction to your character?
WATSON: I think people have found it to be a lot like what Louis’ been saying all along. If you follow the show you understand that there’s no real continuity, and that Louis is a bit of a maverick in terms of not having any allegiance to doing something one way. People see it and go, ‘What? This makes no sense.’ And then they go, ‘Oh, that’s ’cause we’re watching Louis.’ And they take it with a grain of salt.
ESSENCE.com: The casting feels like ‘a moment,’ you say.
WATSON: I think it’s remarkable because for so long we’ve been saying we just want to see each other as human beings. Our culture is very important, of course, but this feels like a moment where someone has said, ‘Your culture is irrelevant at this moment. It’s more about whether you feel like you’re right for this role and what you’re brining to it.
ESSENCE.com: What’s been your experience as a Black actress working in Hollywood?
WATSON: I was in Los Angeles doing television, shows like NCIS, Medium and Private Practice. But then I returned to New York and started with another talent agency. Since then, I’m doing a lot more in television and theater. I trained in theater. I loved Los Angeles, but I’ve found New York to be successful for me. I don’t know that I constantly think about being a Black woman. There’s a ton of things we could say about how many opportunities are there, and the quality of opportunities out there. I tend to veer on the side of saying that we also have the opportunity to contribute. This is an age where you could put anything on Youtube, people can make films on their own.
What’s next: Watson stars on the upcoming CBS drama Golden Boy, and stars in the indie film, Small, Beautifully Moving Parts. She is also working on a new reprisal of A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Phylicia Rashad.