Tonight, audiences will watch Raven Goodwin and Amber Riley in Lifetime’s Single Black Female, a re-imagining of the 1992 psychological thriller Single White Female. In this new take, Goodwin plays Monica, a Houston talk show host who is grieving the death of her beloved father. Riley takes on the role of Simone, a woman who is hired as Monica’s over-eager assistant. For those who are familiar with the genre, you know things go left.
The casting feels particularly appropriate given the fact that people–including themselves at times–have mistaken Goodwin and Riley for each other for years. Goodwin recalls meeting Riley at auditions for Glee when she was 17 years old and it was clear that Riley had secured the part of Mercedes Jones in what would become the hit tv show. But it didn’t occur to her how much they looked alike until they were both on television at the same time, when Goodwin was playing the role of Niecy Patterson in Being Mary Jane.
“When people started getting us mixed up I was like, ‘Oh this is my industry twin.’ Goodwin told ESSENCE. “I think everybody has one. Everybody’s going to get us mixed up for the rest of my life.”
“It was like the Spider Man meme,” Riley said. “I saw it when we started showing up on each other’s red carpet pictures. There were a couple where we wore kind of the same outfit and it didn’t register to me that it wasn’t me.”
Given their similarities, the two were drawn to the prospect of appearing on screen together.
“The opportunity to work with Amber was long overdue but perfect timing at the same time,” Goodwin said. “Also, two Black, plus-size women in a psychological thriller is a dope concept to me.”
Riley jumped at the opportunity to play a villain. “I’m generally offered best friend roles,” Riley said. “I never got to play the villain. Sometimes it was really weird. You had to be super vulnerable and unleash things that you would normally keep inside and then some days it was a nice release and really, really fun. But it was so great to be able to prove to myself that I could do something different.”
The film also gave them the chance to work with veteran actress Janet Hubert, who portrays Monica’s mother. Both Goodwin and Riley had nothing but glowing reviews of the former Fresh Prince star.
“Black opulence. Excellence. Elegant, poised, talented,” Goodwin said listing Hubert’s attributes. She points out that Hubert is also hilarious and down to earth.
“[She drops] MF bombs every now and again. Just the ultimate Black mom. That’s who she is in every sense of the word. She’s just a good person overall and she embraces young talent which is kind of rare in my experience. She lifts us up and makes sure that we’re comfortable. She’s dope.”
The film also stars singer and former reality TV star K. Michelle. Goodwin counts her time on screen with Michelle as one of her favorite scenes in the film because of its level of “Black girl catty.” Riley agreed that Michelle’s “subtle, southern shade” made for a moment.
As the film progresses, things went from catty to downright violent. Both Goodwin and Riley performed many of their own stunts under the direction of a Black-woman fight coordinator and Black stunt doubles.
According to Riley, Goodwin was more than well equipped for the physicality.
“Raven is all woman…but a little bit of man,” Riley jokes about Goodwin’s strength.
Goodwin admits that as a fan of lifting in the gym and boxing, her upper body strength is “kind of lit.”
When Lifetime announced Single Black Female, folks all over social media shared their excitement at watching the potential dysfunction of the original thriller play out with Black women. While the story is fictitious, Riley did share that she wanted to make sure she portrayed Simone in a way that audiences could still sympathize with her.
“Part of my goal was to show the humanity behind Simone,” Riley said. “I wanted to be careful that she wasn’t satirical or a caricature. I wanted to play her very real so you can see why–by the time it gets to the end of the movie–why it got to that point, if you decide not to get help and decide to go left instead of right. That was part of my goal to show the hurt behind her actions. That’s still no excuse but that is what can happen. “
Single Black Female premieres Saturday, February 5 at 8p/7c on Lifetime.