Have you ever watched a show and almost instantly connected with a character? Not because they remind you of yourself, but because they’re giving the vibe of a ride-or-die homie and childhood bestie? That’s the feeling we get watching Candace Nicholas-Lippman’s character Janelle in STARZ’s new series Blindspotting.
Premiering Sunday, June 13, the TV adaptation of Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs’ 2018 original feature film picks up six months from where the film left off. In the pilot, Ashley Jones (Hamilton‘s Jasmine Cephas Jones) is in for a hell of a shock when she returns home to find her partner of 12 years, Miles, being abruptly taken away by police. Her boyfriend behind bars, Ashley is forced to find somewhere for her and their young son to live so she moves in with Miles’ mother Rainey (Helen Hunt) and half-sister Trish (Shameless actress Jaylen Barron). In the midst of her existential crisis, Ashley finds comfort and support in one of her closest friends, Janelle.
“What attracted me to the project is I could literally relate to it, as well as Janelle,” Nicholas-Lippman told ESSENCE, explaining she never says yes to just any project. “I could relate to the people and the characters in the story because I lived this myself.”
The former Good Trouble actress describes her and her character as “two women just trying to exist in the world.” Before she even landed the part, Nicholas-Lippman saw herself as part of the cast. “I will tell you, I have a lot of faith. I believed I was Janell from the very first audition that I even wrote on my wall,” she confessed. After multiple callbacks, auditions, screen tests, and chemistry reads, she turned out to be right.
“I started screaming, praising God,” she said of being cast. “I got a FaceTime call from Rafael and Daveed. I even showed them my thing on the wall where I was believing and manifesting, and telling them like, ‘You guys, I believed from the very first audition that I was Janell, even though it didn’t look like it.'”
While the racial diversity of the cast as a whole, which includes Black, white, and Latino actors, is notable, Nicholas-Lippman expressed gratitude for being able to portray a conscious Black woman on screen. “I’m a dark-skin Black woman in the show, and I feel an extreme responsibility to do her justice. I want every little dark-skin, brown-skin little girl or woman that’s watching Janell to be able to see themselves,” she said passionately.
The California State University Los Angeles grad also praised the Blindspotting as a “collaborative workspace,” thanks to Casal and Diggs, explaining she had creative freedom on the set that she never experienced before. From suggesting headwraps and protective hairstyles to shaping Janell’s word choice, Nicholas-Lippman’s creative additions show the complexity and authenticity of Black women through style and language.
“As Black women, we are so versatile. We are Black girl magic all the time,” she said. “I want to make sure that everything with Janell is extremely relatable and authentic to all the other Black sisters that are going to be watching the show. I want them to be like, ‘Man, that’s my sister right there. That’s my cousin. That’s me.'”