Exclusive: Nikki Beharie Talks AfroPop’s 9th Season, Life After ‘Sleepy Hollow’

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Exclusive: Nikki Beharie Talks AfroPop’s 9th Season, Life After ‘Sleepy Hollow’
Posted by Wilson Morales

January 23, 2017

Currently playing from January 16 through February 15 is the 9th season ‘AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange’ with actress Nikki Beharie (Sleepy Hollow, Shame, 42) as its host.

Previous hosts of AfroPoP include Idris Elba, Anika Noni Rose, Wyatt Cenac, Gabourey Sidibe, Anthony Mackie, Yaya DaCosta and Jussie Smollett.

A compelling documentary series about contemporary life, art and culture across the African Diaspora, AfroPoP is produced by National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) and co-presented by series distributor American Public Television (APT).

Viewers can be part of the conversation directly following each Monday’s premiere, as NBPC hosts Twitter chats at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PT; follow NBPC on Twitter at @BLKPublicMedia.

AfroPoP also airs online at worldchannel.org. APT will release the series to the nation’s public television stations in February 2016.

For three seasons until 2016, Behave plays detective Abbie Mills on the Fox fantasy series, ‘Sleepy Hollow.’  She will next be seen in Will Packer Productions’ remake of Jacob’s Ladder, opposite Michael Ealy. Her other film credits include ’42’ with Chadwick Boseman, director Steve McQueen’s feature Shame with Michael Fassbender. Her breakout role was the critically acclaimed feature American Violet opposite Alfre Woodard.

Blackfilm.com recently caught up with Beharie on the host of AfroPop and leaving Sleepy Hollow.

Let’s talk about AfroPop, how did you come to be the host for the 9th season? Did they reach out to you?

Nikki Beharie: Yeah, you know what’s funny? They reached out and our director for the show reached out and was sort of filling me in about what the show is. I was just like, “Hold up, stop for a second because I have been watching this program on and off for years.” I seen it in Atlanta, when I sort of like visit my family. As I would travel you can actually find it in different countries. Of course, they’re on different stations but I happen to just really love what it stood for. I didn’t know specifically they were all documentaries about the diaspora, I just felt like it was a really good documentary program.

The minute that they brought it up to me, I was like, “I’m game, lets do it.” I’ve told her, “Lets do this!”

What does that entail, being a host? Introducing it to fans and giving background in terms of the stories?

Nikki Beharie: I think it’s just amazing, I get to watch all these amazing documentaries and get insight. Personal insight from the filmmakers and the people who selected the films. The whole idea is just to sort of bridge the gap from, I guess we want to say the american viewing audience. Really, sort of bridge the gap of the diaspora, realize that there are so many untold vastly different stories. That don’t tend to get a lot of attention on the main stream media or even as narrative. These stories, I don’t even know if some of them would work. In terms of narrative or people would be bold enough.

We have a few in this season that are really difficult to stomach. I’ll at least throw this in there, they have like positive turns at the end but really difficult hard-hitting stories. I just don’t think anyone else would be brave enough to tell. Stories about, whether it’s like tribal warfare or issues with children, environmentalism. I just really get to dig in and learn as much as I possibly can about each individual episode or documentary. Then I just introduce them, which is the easiest part but really I feel like I was getting that education by being a part of this whole thing.

We’ve seen a lot of documentaries this year getting a lot of spotlight. It’s hard to tell which stories are going to catch an audience. Do you think showing it on TV is a better way to do it than theaters?

Nikki Beharie: Yeah. It’s kind of a small group of people that are making this thing happen and it’s really beautiful. These are filmmakers and people that don’t necessarily find the platforms all the time. To highlight the work in it. It’s really good work, beautiful, thought provoking, and life affirming work. If not life affirming just like being aware of what it’s like being a human being on a planet in all these different ways. I just feel like it was really grounding and extremely refreshing to get different takes on having brown skin and being on planet earth. There’s a lot of different versions of that, we just tend to just feel maybe like four or five versions of it.

You got a slew of stuff happening this year, including Jacob’s Ladder. It’s good to see you back on the big screen. Do you know when that’s coming out?

Nikki Beharie: Thank you. I don’t know exactly when it’s coming out, I think we actually have to go in for some re-shoots. To clear up some things and hangout more with those beautiful talented actors I get to work with. I have a few things that are cooking right now too, also in the film and then in theater but I haven’t signed on anything. So I really shouldn’t talk about it but yeah, I’m really excited about this year. It’s looking like a good busy year, I feel like I’m back on track.

Your fans will miss you on Sleepy Hollow. Was it a mutual decision not to come back or is it a different direction that the show wanted to go into?

Nikki Beharie: There’s a whole history behind that, that goes back to the very first year. It’s kind of one of those hieroglyphic, look at the puzzle pieces kind of thing. You know? Diehard fans know what’s been going on, I’ll say it was mutual, sure.

It’s always tough, obviously you’re not the first actor of a series to leave. When there’s a fan base there that they love your character, it’s hard for them to stomach your absence.

Nikki Beharie: Yeah, it was a really a wonderful opportunity and I really loved playing that character. I can not tell you how much I loved those fans, and I did have some really good times on the show. Sometimes things just take a turn. I haven’t seen the show this year because I’ve really been away and working on other things. I really do hope that it’s doing well and that people are still enjoying what they’ve been coming up with. There’s some really great crew and cast there, and some great creative thinkers on that production. I wish everybody well but I do think that my time there was up. I don’t think they were able to do anything else with my character, or couldn’t imagine it.

That’s kind of that but that goes to say, I’m doing writing now. Working with people and also working for other people as an actor but going into being more of a behind the camera type person. I realized that there is lots of stories that people don’t really understand or that they see for a woman, a woman of color, young black woman. They don’t understand sometimes nuance or corks. There are just certain stories that people can’t imagine telling with someone that looks like me. We have to sort of be a part of that tipping point.

Last year had lots of women of color break through in different areas from behind the scenes, on stage, and on television. What direction do you want to be seen more in? Is it being more of a film actress? Are you entertaining to go back on TV?

Nikki Beharie: Really the focus is just, in these times with what’s going on today. Different rights and people realizing there are a lot of issues that have gone, on both sides un-communicated. There is so much of a undercurrent of fear and just lack of identification of the humanity of people on both sides. I think it’s important to do anything that kind of speaks to that, anything.

Anything that’s well written and that’s kind of about something. Not hitting you over the head with it but anything that speaks to that. Asks you, doesn’t preach, but asks you to sort of see what part you’re playing in it. Whether it’s a play or a musical or whatever. I’m really open to just really great material. I’m really excited to be free and doing the things that I love to be completely honest.

What’s a good reason to start tuning in now to AfroPop?

Nikki Beharie: Well, a lot of what’s on television is for ratings and advertising. I’m not knocking that but there’s a lot of information that’s like “The revolution will not be televised” kind of thing. It actually will but as public media. If you want to go a little bit deeper, dig a little bit deeper. Just be a little bit more aware about some things. It’s important to see these things (at AfroPop), if you don’t happen to have the subscription to IFC, or you can’t fly to Sundance, or go to Cannes or whatever. You really want to see some really great hard hitting documentaries and support the arts, and support the community.

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