Exclusive: Chandra Wilson Talks ‘Frankie & Alice‘ DVDPosted by Wilson Morales
August 12, 2014
Shot over fours years ago and left in space before it finally got a theatrical release earlier this year, the psychological, mind-bending drama Frankie & Alice, starring Halle Berry, Stellan Skarsgard, Matt Frewer, Phylicia Rashad, Chandra Wilson, Melani Papalia, and Emily Tennant, is now out on DVD.
FRANKIE & ALICE is inspired by the remarkable true story of an African American go-go dancer “Frankie” with dissociative identity disorder (DID) who struggles to remain her true self while fighting against two very unique alter egos: a seven-year-old child named “Genius” and a Southern white racist woman named “Alice.” In order to stop the multiple voices in her head, Frankie (Halle Berry) works together with a psychotherapist (Stellan Skarsgård) to uncover and overcome the mystery of the inner ghosts that haunt her.
For Wilson, who is best known for her role as Dr. Miranda Bailey in the ABC television drama Grey’s Anatomy, the role gave her a chance to be seen on the big screen, which is a field she’s rarely in. It also gave the Houston, Texas native an opportunity to reunite with Phylicia Rashad, whom she met when she made her television debut on The Cosby Show.
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Wilson talks about working with Halle Berry, reuniting with Rashad, her work on the short film Muted, and the new time shift for Grey’s Anatomy.
So you’ve got this movie finally coming out on DVD after spending some time being adrift.
CHANDRA WILSON: Adrift! (laughs) That’s a good way to put it. It’s been out there in the world, somewhere, for quite awhile.
For those who don’t know how long it’s been, “Frankie & Alice” is coming out. How would you describe your character?
WILSON: I play Halle Berry’s sister. Halle’s character is suffering from multiple personality disorder, but up until this point nobody had a diagnosis, so she was just kind of the sister in the family that always caused commotion, just like a tornado every time she came home. Something was always wrong. They never really had a name for all the emotions the family was going through. This sister has a little bit of resentment for the chaos that Frankie has caused in the family. Information finally comes out that there are names for what is happening in the household.
What was the attraction to doing this?
WILSON: Really that story. Frankie, bless her heart, was so fully entrenched in multiple personality and not really having an awareness at all. There’s an understanding that she’s been losing time here and there but not really understanding what that meant. It’s almost like her taking naps and not realizing she’s taking naps. It’s an opportunity to work with Halle, and Phylicia Rashad plays my mom. At first I was like, “I don’t care what it is, I just want to go in there!” (laughs) Nowadays we have names for things, we have clarity about what a person is going through, which wasn’t the case when Frankie was first diagnosed.
“Cosby Show” was one of your early starts. How was it working with Phylicia again on this?
WILSON: It’s like full-circle moments. I remember watching her to learn from her in ’89 when I did “The Cosby Show” and then again on the other show that she did “Cosby.” I was there just to watch and listen and learn. I continue to do that in all the encounters we’ve had. This past year I got a chance to work with Malcolm-Jamal Warner on a short film called “Muted.” As a matter of fact in this film we use a picture I took of us back in ’89! (laughs)
I recently saw “Muted” at the ABFF festival where it won an award. You could hear a pin drop while watching that short. What was your attraction to doing “Muted”?
WILSON: It was the journey this mom, whose daughter goes missing, took. I was really excited about that. There’s so many roles of worry and grief. You have to stretch as many of the actor muscles as you can so you know they’re still working! That was this film, an opportunity to work with muscles I hadn’t worked with in awhile.
You’ve been doing TV for so long, was it different getting into the rhythm of doing a film as opposed to being on a TV set?
WILSON: What’s interesting is the script changes so you never know quite what the final product will be. I come in on my days and make my contribution and hope everything works out. For me it was about being as prepared as I could be but also be open to what Phylicia was going to bring. I think it was a pretty tight shooting schedule, we moved pretty quickly. I tried to understand what our director was looking for so I could deliver that. We really squeezed in what we had to get done at the family house so that felt pretty great.
Why don’t we see you very often on the big screen?
WILSON: We do “Grey’s” ten months of the year, and Bailey is pretty present in all the episodes, and I’ve also been directing two episodes a season. It really is a full-time, all-consuming thing. When something like “Frankie & Alice” shows up where they only need you for three quick days then I do everything I can do to see if I can work things out. Same thing with “Muted,” we did that over a weekend. That’s how we were able to crank that out. I’m one of those actors who feels like they don’t have to do everything if it’s not necessary. I stay in my lane, and venture out every once in awhile to flex my muscles.
How excited are you about the show’s move to 8’o’clock?
WILSON: It’s weird. This is the second time change the show has gone through. Going from Sundays to Thursdays was traumatic, I was like “What are we going to do if we’re not behind ‘Desperate Housewives’?” (laughs) Now moving up there’s a big surge of momentum that’s going behind making all three shows people’s Thursday night television. It’s really exciting, the campaign they’re putting together. I think people are going to have a lot of interest in “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.”
With the show as the lead-in, an established fanbase, followed by “Scandal” and then “How To Get Away With Murder,” it’s now being called “Shondraland Thursdays”.
WILSON: It absolutely is. We have really wonderful social media community. Everyone likes to Tweet all the cast and chime in on Facebook and just kind of keep it interactive. It’s an interesting way of communicating that this block of time is trying to build on. It’s going to be exciting for fans to participate during the shows.
What’s in store for Miranda this year?
WILSON: You know I don’t have the slightest idea. (laughs) I’ve found that works just fine, Miranda doesn’t have anything to complain about. We’re certainly starting off the season with her receiving this amazing news from Dr. Webber and he’s recommending her to abort. The fact that Alex has Christina’s proxy, that’s not gonna work out.
You’re one of the few African Americans who’s been on TV for a long time with the same character.
WILSON: Yeah, I’m trying to catch up to S. Epatha Merkerson on “Law & Order”! She did that show for like 14 years! (laughs) It’s amazing. It’s really about this person on the show who’s been able to be there, for girls in particular, who want to go to medical school because they watch “Grey’s Anatomy”. That’s the amazing residual effect television can have.
What more do you want to do?
WILSON: I go back to Broadway whenever I can. I do regional theater or local shows if that works out. I do voice-overs, I do commercials, other television, other film. Until I retire that’s what I’m doing!
When “Frankie & Alice” is released on DVD and VOD what’s a good reason for people to pick it up?
WILSON: Halle gives an absolutely amazing performance. The sense of range, it’s so much fun. I think that people are going to be really amazed, and the look of the film is really great, just beautiful and gorgeous. Halle did receive a Golden Globe nomination for this role, and she does a great job.