Two words: Annie Ilonzeh. The 27-year-old Nigerian-American beauty is the first Black angel to get her wings in franchise history. But that’s not all that’s a little different. With a tag line like, “We’re not saints, we’re angels,” it’s not the squeaky clean show of the ’70s.
ESSENCE.com caught up with the former “General Hospital” regular to chat about being the first African-American angel, working with Drew Barrymore, plus trading in her Nikes for Jimmy Choos.
ESSENCE.com: What does it mean to be the first African-American Charlie’s Angel in the history of the franchise?
ANNIE ILONZEH: I know now because people pointed it out to me, but really I wasn’t even aware. I was familiar with the original series, but it wasn’t something that clicked in my head immediately. I’m extremely appreciative to have the role in general. Every day I go to work thinking do I really deserve this even though I’ve worked my ass off. I’m so blessed. Being an African-American woman, and the first one, it’s an honor. It’s a franchise that has its own fan base and I’m paving the way and setting a precedent for other African-Americans out there, especially little girls that might think there are all these obstacles; being African-American and being a woman. I just want to motivate and inspire them. Nothing can stop us. You can go as far as you want to go.
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ESSENCE.com: You were recently at the Emmys with your castmates and the show’s Executive Producer, Drew Barrymore. What was it like working with Drew?
ILONZEH: That was so weird. I was so nervous. It was overwhelming. It was the first time I had been to the Emmys or anything that grand. The fact that we were with Drew is insane. Drew is the executive producer so she is definitely involved and as hands-on as she can be. With Drew, what you see is what you get. When she talks to you she’s being real and genuine. She doesn’t give you all the fluff. Who better to be attached to this project than a veteran angel and a woman that’s so successful, who has her own production company? She is the epitome of a role model for me.
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ESSENCE.com: Fashion has always been almost a fourth main character in past shows. What kind of wardrobe can we expect from this revival of the show?
ILONZEH: I’ve been introduced to some huge designers that I could never afford. It’s really cool. Our costume designer is insane… Jimmy Choos and awesome dresses. Hopefully the fashion will be something talked about along with the show.
ESSENCE.com: Beauty has always been very big on the show also. Are you rocking your natural hair on the show?
ILONZEH: That’s my natural hair that my mom and dad gave me. I used to perm it in the college days but I’ve been natural now for seven years. One day, I was like, I’m just going to grow the perm out and see how my hair curls are, and I really liked it. It can be a pain in the ass sometimes but I’m going to stay natural. I’m trying to find the perfect formula. What I really want to do is make my own products. Right now I swear by Argan oil.
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ESSENCE.com: We’ve heard that there are some interesting co-stars and cameos. Can you let us in on any of them?
ILONZEH: [My character] has an ex-fiancé that comes in to the picture, who is Isaiah Mustafa. You see that drama and the resentment between us. It’s that love and that passion when two people terminate the relationship premature. We’ve worked together now two episodes. He’s a really good guy.
Catch the series premiere of “Charlie’s Angels,” Thursday at 8pm on ABC.