At this point in her career, Kim Fields doesn’t take on any project she’s not excited about. It’s the reason the actress was leaning away from starring in any more sitcoms. Then The Upshaws came across her desk.
The coup de grâce was the script that felt fresh yet familiar. “Wanda and Mike really wanted to capture the voice of storytellers that we all grew up on in the ‘70s and ‘80s but then slam you right between the eyes with how storytelling is today.”
Fields recognized that they understood the assignment. And while her character on The Upshaws, Regina, has a similar name to the iconic Regine Hunter whom she portrayed on Living Single, the personas are worlds apart from one another.
“Breathing life into a new character was a challenge,” Fields admitted. “It was a woman that I’ve not played before. I’ve been blessed to be doing this for a long time so when you can say that that’s very exciting.”’
Fields likened the material on The Upshaws, which has been renewed for a second season, to a feast. “It’s damn near Thanksgiving dinner.”
And she was all too happy to dive in to make her character real to audiences, down to learning how this woman dressed and wore her hair. Regina is a hospital administrator, wife and mother so busy with her personal and professional lives, she prefers to keep her hair in braids–a decision Fields made after seeing so many Black women on Facebook who had similar lives.
Regina’s practical but when it’s time to turn it on, she knows what to do. Her date night outfits with her troublesome husband, Bennie, played by Epps, are show stopping.
“Don’t sleep on her, now,” Fields said. “She is not a mom, put a nail in the coffin and that’s it. I feel like that’s parents overall,” Fields added. “That sense of male and that sense of female starts slipping away when you put on monikers like mom, dad, uncle.”
“I will rebuke that every time,” Fields said. “I am big sis and this is a #NoAuntieZone. Don’t come up in here with that.”
Writers for The Upshaws are so committed to portraying the authenticity of the Indianapolis based family, that the characters cuss and use the N word. While it was certainly a change for audiences, it didn’t require extensive conversations between cast and crew behind the scenes.
“It wasn’t gratuitous. It was just very how it flows. It wasn’t ad-libbed,” Fields said. “And it’s not how all Black people speak. But The Upshaws isn’t for all Black people and it’s not about all Black people. This is how these characters speak in these environments and situations.”
While The Upshaws is a bit edgier in terms of family shows, Fields is also sure to feed her more saccharine side. The smile in her voice is audible as she begins talking about her latest Christmas film, Adventures in Christmasing, which Fields conceptualized, co-wrote and executive produced. Fields says holiday movies are needed and increasingly important during tough times.
“We need a piece of joy. We need a piece of peace. We need a piece of calm and laughter. We need a piece of comfort,” she said. “And for me, holiday movies really can bring a great of those things together into one pie.”
The adventure rom-com came about when Fields was watching outdoor, survival shows. The idea to place a holiday movie in this setting would not let her go. Not to mention, the project would give Fields the opportunity to do her own stunts.
“Honestly, there’s some ego involved. I’m not gone front,” she said. “But also, I know that I did the damn thing.”
Stunt work is a bit of family trade as Fields’ mom, veteran actress and singer Chip Fields was a self-taught stunt woman. She can be seen hurling herself down a flight of stairs in Claudine.
“I told her, ‘Mom, your stuntwoman legacy is secured.”
As with any holiday movie, there is a lesson–although Fields assures us it’s not preachy. Still, she hopes audiences get the message about how to handle our fears.
“We have that fear in our everyday lives. We don’t know what the next gig is going to be. You’re not sure of the next chapter. You don’t know how your kids are going to do with the new norms in academics. You don’t know how to help your parents while you’re still trying to help yourself.”
But the takeaway, she said, is “Don’t be afraid to let go. Come out of your comfort zone. That’s when things really get amazing.”
You can watch The Upshaws on Netflix and Adventures in Christmasing on the Paramount Network on November 29.