AUP S2E2: Amanda Seales is Black Outside Part 1


Transcribed: Albert Parnell

Completed: 8/8/22

[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Cortney Wills [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to Acting Up, a podcast that dives deep into the world of TV and film that highlights our people, our culture and our stories. I’m your host, Cortney Wills, entertainment director at theGrio. And this week, we’re sitting down with Amanda Seales. Hello, hello, hello to all of you listeners. It is such a pleasure to be back for season two of Acting Up. We’ve been down for a little hiatus over the summer, but we are back with another fantastic season of interviews with some really interesting people. August is Comedy Month at theGrio, so we’re kicking things off with one of my faves, Amanda Seales, and we’ll be hearing from a lot of other fantastic comedians this month, from Michelle Buteau to Retta and many, many more. We’ve got a great lineup of guests for you this season that include John Boyega, who Gugu  Mbatha-Raw. We’re going to get into the new iteration of Game of Thrones called House of the Dragon, which spoiler alert actually has a lot of Black people in it. We’re going to be gearing up for the Emmys, the woman king, the Black Panther sequel. So many things on the horizon this season and I can’t wait for you guys to come along for the ride. 

Cortney Wills [00:01:24] Today we are sitting down with Amanda Seale, the actress, comedian and now radio host who’s teamed up with Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Radio on SiriusXM Channel 96 to launch Smart, Funny and Black, the new daily morning show, where she delivers hilarious conversations, games, celeb interviews and a heavy dose of commentary on Black culture. She’s also back out on the road, doing standup on tour for the first time since 2019, and I was lucky enough to see the kick off of that tour in Brea, California. It was so much fun. It was so cool to see Amanda back up on stage. It was exciting and weird to be back in a comedy club in close quarters amid this ongoing kind of COVID situation. It was also really wild to be driving there with my sister, on the heels of learning that Roe v Wade had been overturned. It was like we could not be in more desperate need of a laugh. And we also had some really heavy shit on our minds that I was pretty confident Amanda had on her mind. And boy, was I right. Amanda is a person whose commentary I come to rely on, especially when things are going so nuts in the real world. I constantly feel like she’s reading my mind and saying the things that need to be said, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it’s challenging. Like she’s someone who knows who she is, knows what she stands for, and I think holds herself to a certain standard. And that is why it’s so easy for me to respect what she does, because she doesn’t expect from others what she does not expect from herself. I’m also just a fan. I mean, insecure. She was so wonderful in that her stand up is hilarious and I think that she takes a lot of pride in what she does. And, you know, that that makes me take a lot of pride in what she does. So couldn’t be more happy to have her here today as my guest on acting up. Here we go. 

Cortney Wills [00:03:31] Hi Amanda, it’s nice to see you. 

Amanda Seales [00:03:33] Hi. Nice to see you, too. 

Cortney Wills [00:03:35] Its been a while. But I was at your show in Brea the other night, actually. So you didn’t see me, but I saw you. Yes. 

Amanda Seales [00:03:42] You were in Brea.? You got to Brea 

Cortney Wills [00:03:45] I was in Brea. I got to Brea, I brought my sister along for the ride and it was so needed. I mean, we were in the car driving there, like first time seeing each other since this Roe v Wade was overturned. And we were just talking about it in the car and really realizing that, like, as a said, as we were, we were still really trying to find the words. And I was like, well, Amanda gonna talk about it, I’ll tell you that. 

Amanda Seales [00:04:14] Which show did you come to? 

Cortney Wills [00:04:16] La la, la, la. What was that? I want to say it was the first one. It was opening night. I came on Saturday and I was right next to those two White people that were making everyone quite uncomfortable. 

Amanda Seales [00:04:28] Yes. So you are the 8:00 show. That was a good show that you saw the best show. 

Cortney Wills [00:04:35] No, No, I was a late show. I was 9:30. 

Amanda Seales [00:04:37] Yes. Okay. Okay. Now, that was still a good show. I also like the Saturday shows to me are like the best ones because like you’re like in the thick of things. But yes, those two White people were definitely in the mix and I was just like, how did ya’ll get here? Because they were also in the front. 

Cortney Wills [00:04:52] Yes. And before you noticed them, I mean, I could just feel them. She was giving like Sarah Palin. Like where where am I? How did I get here? 

Amanda Seales [00:05:03] She was very uncomfortable and I could feel it. 

Cortney Wills [00:05:08] Yes, Yes. But the show was fantastic. I’m so glad that we went. It delivered a lot of laughs that we really needed and of course, touched on some things that are on all of our minds right now, which is, you know, this dumpster fire that is our country at the moment. 

Amanda Seales [00:05:24] I mean, yeah, you know, and I’m going out on tour in the midst of this and it feels simultaneously like annoying and necessary, you know, like, I mean, there’s a there’s a annoying is not the word, but there’s a trepidation I have just about going into this current America. I haven’t even been on tour since 2019. There’s just like the natural trying to get back into the rhythm of being in the midst of people again, aside from the fact that like we’re getting, I’m doing that in the midst of the biggest reversion this country has ever seen in its history. I mean, I think don’t get me wrong, I never felt like this was a progressive place in many ways. But I think that at the end of the day, we’re seeing such a, it’s the quickness and the immensity at the same time. And just knowing that it’s not being done in a legal fashion, you know, the call is coming from inside the house. I did an interview with Symone Sanders where, you know, she was asking me, do I think like Biden and Kamala, you know, are handling this the best way that they can? I feel like, you know, no, it doesn’t. And she was like, what do you think, you know, people will need to feel like the administration is working for them. And I’m like, first of all, they’re not loud about anything. Like, no one really knows what they’re doing and it never feels like they’re meeting these Republicans with the same energy but in the direction. And that to me is just I’m tired, I’m exhausted. And I’m also just seeing so much infighting between like communities that claim to want the same thing. And that for me is like I’m trying to do my best to really not bite like the bait. You know, to really not bite the bait because you don’t know people’s true intentions. But ultimately, I feel like we are in the fight of our lives and I don’t think a lot of people really understand that. And so there’s a lot of there’s a lot of people just seeing the short side of things and not the long the long road. And, you know, who sees the long road? The Republicans. Okay, they been seen it. And that’s why there is so much surprise on our end and so much excitement on theirs. It’s the biggest gotcha bitch since 1619. 

Cortney Wills [00:07:42] And, you know, we had the Politico leak, right? People are like, you had warning. 

Amanda Seales [00:07:47] That’s why I’m like, you have it. You have it. When they’re saying they’re examining things and they’re putting together committees, I’m like, You had the leak. Yep. Why wasn’t that already started? I just feel like, you know, and then people would say, Well, you don’t understand how the process goes. Well, then maybe I don’t. Maybe the process need to change then. 

Cortney Wills [00:08:05] Right? Right. I remember being I was on a call with Luvie the day that that Politico report came out, and I was like, I don’t know what we were supposed to talk about, but I can’t think of anything other than what I just read. And then though, I think like, what did we do about it between then and now? Like, where was all of the rage? What could have even been done? Obviously that leak was probably, my guess, it was probably one of the justices that were like, look what they are about to do. Like, I can’t fix this. And then this this decision is overturned. And still I was still shocked. I was at CVS in line for my COVID booster and I just read the news. I thought it was like The Onion. I thought it was satire. And then I realized, no, this is a real report. And I just started crying and I’m with my daughter and she’s like, “Why are you crying?” And all I could muster was like, This country just decided that you don’t have the same rights as him pointing to my son. I mean, I’m looking at both of them a year apart and like this just became instantly a very different world. It’s actually a very terrifying time to be a Black woman pregnant anyway. But now I hope nothing goes left to where, you know, thank God we live in California. But I could be somewhere where something would go left right now in my body. And someone would make the call that I just have to die and leave my two living kids alone. Because. 

Amanda Seales [00:09:35] Because of the law. So it is now the law that is supporting your death. 

Cortney Wills [00:09:43] Yes, that’s insane. 

Amanda Seales [00:09:45] That’s what I think a lot of people like failed to recognize, is that criminality is just determined by who’s in power. You know what I’m saying? Like all of a sudden, any of us who needed an abortion for a myriad of reasons, right? Like I had a miscarriage and the physician told me if we were in a different state, I would not be able to perform this procedure on you. And and it is a necessary procedure. And so if I was I never say I would be considered a criminal for that. Right. And the way that this country judges criminality, you know, the way they just this country already shames women. And I mean, the amount of comments that I get on a regular basis just from like other people about like, oh, you’re too masculine in how you talk and oh, you talk too much and oh, her energy is so negative, etc., etc.. I’m like, not, I mean, I, I was groomed in New York. That’s what you, that’s what you’re reading. That’s not negative. That’s New York. But there’s like this very puritanical way that people view women in this country that a lot of people won’t admit to. Right. And so when we talk about the idea of slut shaming and all that, that seems very extreme. But ultimately, when you’re saying that women should be ashamed of making their choices for reproductive reasons, you know, abortion is definitely something that has such a stigma around it. And I also want to see men speaking up, too, because they have absolutely had their lives affected by access to abortion. And I don’t just mean that in the sense of like, oh, they may have gotten somebody pregnant that, you know, they weren’t ready to parent with. But I mean, even in the case of having a partner who may have needed that procedure and it was lifesaving or it was mentally health saving, etc., and that allowed them to be able to show up for their partner in a way that, you know, they didn’t have to go to that next level. All of these things, all these things are real. And I know it sometimes feels like we’re talking into an echo chamber, but a lot of times these conversations are necessary on just a basic note of people not feeling alone and not people and people not ruminating on this to the point of mania. And I think a lot of us who know the scope of what’s going down, it can feel very isolating because this country does a great job with the media and with the Internet in shaping narratives that are simply not actual to what’s going on. And then you have folks who like to throw out things like misinformation and better to die. And it’s like the other reality is that we got to do better at meeting each other with some grace and some compassion and also just informing without insulting. I know that in the past I’ve 1,000% been guilty of that. And I’ve really, in my maturity and my maturation, in my just my healing, I’ve really tried to be better about identifying when I’m doing that and who I’m doing that to. I will absolutely be insulting to a coon, that is just what it’s going to be. But I think, you know, just in behaving it, being able to identify who your enemies are. You know, a lot of people I feel I’m seeing a lot of people just be really willy nilly about that and it’s it’s dividing us. It’s dividing us. 

Cortney Wills [00:13:02] Yeah. I don’t know that I’ve ever been. And there’s been a lot there’s been a lot to be angry about and passionate about. But I don’t know that I’ve ever been like I’m moving in the other way. Like, I find myself less tolerant, like less willing to meet people where they are and try and speak logic about this particular issue. I mean, even like you said, the men, this being framed as a women’s issue is so fucked up and so

Amanda Seales [00:13:28] Maddening 

Cortney Wills [00:13:29] Laughable. 

Amanda Seales [00:13:30] Maddening. 

Cortney Wills [00:13:31] Absolutely maddening. 

Amanda Seales [00:13:32] And it’s a lot of men who are at the forefront of closing this down. So how is it a women’s issue?  

Cortney Wills [00:13:38] Right. How is it a women’s issue? Absolutely. And also, like, where are all of y’all like why are you being quiet now when it’s convenient for your career to speak up about George Floyd or police brutality, you are right there like making sure you are in the shot, saying your sound bite. But when it’s about something that you’ve absolutely I promise you, I know for a fact, experienced, maybe paid for, benefited from or been involved with. It’s, you know, thoughts and prayers for all the women. Like no. How about thoughts and prayers for y’all? What do you think? Who do you think they’re coming for next? They just said we are not equal To men. We don’t have the same autonomy over our bodies and our health decision as men, like on the basis of sex, it doesn’t matter anymore. So what else can they just change their mind about?

Amanda Seales [00:14:30] I think that’s what has kind of just rendered me feeling real hopeless. I mean, I’ll get my hope back, but, you know, just the individualism around this, you know, when I start to see that show up and how people can disassociate themselves from matters that are affecting so many people, you know, and they can just be like, well, it’s not affecting me. So, you know, it’s not my problem. And I think within the Black community, we are very possessive with our energy, right? And we’re very possessive about like let’s not support fights that don’t support us. And I’m not going to I’m not going to front like I absolutely adhere to that in some cases. But as I have watched just the true reality of what’s happening in this country, it’s going to be, it’s going to be, well, and actually, let me just say this. The fight for Black liberation in this country has never simply just included Black Americans. That’s just never been the case. We may have been at the leading, at the forefront and at the heart of and at the soul. But in any case of liberation, it’s always going to end up involving other folks. And when you start to look at who the other folks are, we when we come together, we outnumber the minority that’s acting as the majority. And so we have to consider beyond just ourselves. We have to culturally, I feel, identify, you know, how do we build bridges? And I’m not the first to say that by any means, but I just know that we can’t do this alone. I had someone say to me the other day like, Oh, you know, Caribbean people in America should not speak to what Black Americans should do for independence. And I just and they were adamant and they were like, you know, Marcus Garvey learned what he learned from W.E.B. Dubois. And Malcolm X never fought for Caribbean rights. He fought for Black American rights. So be it. I think, though, the truth is we only hurt ourselves when we limit ourselves from the best ideas. And and the truth is, like, we don’t know who’s going to come with the best ideas. And we have a world of history to learn from and to to look to in terms of liberation movements and revolution movements and abolitionist movements, etc.. And it doesn’t by any means diminish our power as Black Americans to draw from the power that other groups have created in order to find their own liberation. It it doesn’t. And I think when we do that, we are actually mimicking our oppressor who’s great at just pretending that they know everything. You know, America is really great at that. And I know I’m just sad. I’m just. I’m worn out on sad. I’m. I’m frustrated. 

Cortney Wills [00:17:36] Absolutely. 

Amanda Seales [00:17:37] And I feel fortunate to just have outlets like Smart, Funny Black Radio and, you know, stand up and smart, funny and Black lives to be able to connect with community. Because I do feel like I’m not the only one who feels this way. And we have to fight for our joy the same way we fight for the power. 

Cortney Wills [00:17:56] And I mean this hugely monumental thing that I think we are going to be talking about and working on and fighting for for a very long time now, that’s not all that’s going on. I mean, Black outside the store, like you said, it’s your first time since, what, 2019? I mean, pandemic shut us down, kind of shut this whole game of going to comedy shows and being two feet apart from people down and now it’s back. So talk to me a little bit about what that feels like and what, you know, what’s different even about the approach, because if you’re nervous on stage, you know, I was nervous in the audience. I was like, you’re going to put those two people at this table right here next to me. Can I see a vaccination card, please? But I’m also grateful. I’m also ready. And I think we’re all ready to laugh, to be outside, to be together and not forget what happened, but start moving on from it in a way. 

Amanda Seales [00:18:51] No, you’re absolutely right. I mean, this tour is coming on the heels of me really adhering to the stay inside manifesto of the past two and a half years. I mean, I, I recently had COVID for the first time. You know, I thought I was one of the people that they were going to come to my house and, like, ask to draw blood to put together the antibodies serum. That’s like, I’m the last Mohican, ya’ll. But it got me. It got me and led me out. And, you know, I will say that there was certain a certain level of relief, I think, after I got it, because it was like like I guess I have these antibodies now for a certain amount of time and three days maybe, you know, I’ve crossed this bridge, but I will say that being on stage, being on stage again really does feel great and getting to exercise my mind in that way and just honestly getting to connect with people in an analog way, right? Like this computer digital medium, you know, it gets the job done, but it’s not the same as hearing those laughs come through in real time. It’s not the same as being in different cities, right? And being able to see how people are living in those different cities and feeling the love, too. I mean, I’m somebody who is beleaguered by this Internet on a regular basis, right? Like people really wake up and decide like, I’m going to come from an Amanda Seales, today, and I’m going to, you know, just make it my business to defame her or whatever. And then they and then when I say that, people say, well, you’re always the victim. And it’s like, I’m really just over here just talking, just talking. And when I say, Hey, I don’t like that, that doesn’t make me the victim. That makes me an advocate for myself. And I think, you know, when you’re doing that all the time and that’s the only outlet, it really feels like relief to now get to be in front of people in a real way and also in front of folks that have made the decision to understand me. You know, I think that there’s just a constant necessity for comedians to continue to push the conversation to be bastions for truth. You know, we don’t have the same, like, corporate adherence that a lot of folks have who are on shows or who may be representing brands, etc.. You know, we we are truth tellers and in many cases, truth translators. And I take that very seriously. And on this tour, I’m making it my business to talk about Roe v Wade, to talk about gun control. You know, but I also talk about, like, you know, the difference between hood niggas and niggas  from the hood. You know, like, you know, to talk about women’s health and to talk about Juneteenth and to talk about the difference between a White person, a person who happens to be white, an ally and a co-conspirator. Anyone who knows my work knows that it’s always had a political edge to it. These days, though, that seems more of a calling than a style, and I just hope that I can continue in my best efforts the work of folks like Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney and George Carlin. And that means a lot to me. So for everyone who comes, who’s come out to the show and who plans to come out to the show, you know, I really appreciate you even allowing me the space to do this and and spending your hard earned gas money on a ticket. Because, honey, that’s the other thing. You know, it’s just it’s a different time. It’s a different place. 

Cortney Wills [00:22:13] You know, you’ve made me think about something. And that is that, you know, you do you do stick up for yourself. Like, that is something that I have admired about you. I think you and I had something you called me directly years ago about a story that had your name in it. 

Amanda Seales [00:22:27] When I called, you had had out of that call, you though? 

Cortney Wills [00:22:32] I would say very respectfully. I would say very respectfully. But no, but this was a person I mean, honestly, that was one of the things that made me like, you know, what I kind of put out because you could have called me cursing me out. Right. But you called me as a professional in your profession, calling another professional in her profession like there is a problem with this. Let me explain it to you and then you decide what you want to do with it. But there are a lot of people who would not do that, and there are a lot of people who would fear that speaking up for themselves on social media or to a reporter or to anyone is going to, you know, hurt their brand or hurt their reputation or keep them from getting the gig that they want to get. And you are someone who I think has really leaned into who you are. You say what you mean, and yet you still work on screen, too. You’re not just doing stand up comedy on your own terms. You’re being cast. You know, you were a member of a show that was one of the most successful shows in the last decade. And so I wonder if there was a time where you had to decide that you weren’t going to be scared, that being yourself in this business might affect where you could go in this business? And how did you get through that or come to whatever decision you came to about that? 

Amanda Seales [00:23:55] Well, first, let me just say that I appreciate that when I called you, you were receptive to me as a professional. Right? Because I think that’s the other thing that happens. Like I will stick up for myself and then I’ll see people who would have preferred a manager call or would have preferred an an agent or a publicist to call. Right. And even I don’t even the word sticking up for yourself is more so like, hey, like just providing more information, right? Because the truth is the truth is, is that so much just gets away from us on this Internet because there’s so many contributions that are not coming from the actual source. Right. So and and I think journalism has significantly changed where folks don’t go to the source. Yeah, folks see a story and then they take from that story and then they make their story right. Whereas once upon a time it was like, well, we can’t do this story unless we have an actual source that supports this story. And even then it was like, What is the source going to be loud? Or Are they going to be an anonymous source? Because we don’t want I mean, we look at like, you know, the Watergate scandal like that almost didn’t break it almost didn’t come out because of Deep Throat not wanting to be outed. Right. And so I just appreciate that. But I make that decision about being about not being scared. I make that decision like every week I make that decision like every week. And it’s like cancer season right now. So I’m just like it’s like I’m exceedingly emotional, but I make that decision every week and it ends up getting made ultimately because there’s so many folks that will, like, hit me up and say, like, you know, you being honest is helping me with my own self advocacy and, you know, you defending yourself and you really just not backing down from, you know, falsehoods about you, like has given me the empowerment to do the same for myself. But I think also, honestly, girl like the art is the best part of it. And even that has become so difficult to to get out into the world. Right shows get bought. They don’t get made. You know, I was I was just telling my manager this morning, like there’s and I have this in my book also I talk about just the difference between my book, “Small Doses”, are actually available right here in paperback as well and audible, “Small Doses.” But I talk about just like the difference between your self worth and your market worth. Like you’ll know that you have the capability to do all of these things and, you know, to turn shit around and, you know, to turn people out. But the market oftentimes will not get behind you doing that because you haven’t proven it yet. And so it begins to be one of those scenarios where it’s like you need the experience to get the job, but you need the job to get the experience. And so you keep having to chip away. You keep having to chip away and find new routes and new methods to get you the space to do what you do. Right now, I’m in a place where I’ve had to turn my thinking from trying to get an industry to pay attention to like what I consider to be my self-worth and instead put my energy to really just providing for the audience that’s provided for me. And that feels really much more holistic and much more sustainable to like my mental health because it’s like literally counterintuitive to think that an industry that’s built on so many things that so many of us in the industry don’t even support, right? It’s just that it’s the only method for us to get out our dreams, so to speak. So you. No. I make that decision on a regular basis, and I’m constantly just trying to be. Better at demonstrating. You know, I’m constantly trying to be better at not just saying what a lot of parents say. Like don’t do as I say, say as I do. Like, I’m constantly trying to be better at like, doing as I say. Yeah. But when you’re when you’re in the public, it’s. It’s a lonely place. It’s it’s a real lonely place. And when you’re in the public. And you are. Genuine. Authenticity is not like the law of this land. Like this is a country that the words alternative facts were put out there and people like supported it, aided up and started using it. Like, you know, like the fact that like there was a new synonym for lying and people were like, yeah, you know, let’s, let’s, let’s do that. You know, I’m a cancer and I’m a Virgo and I live a very tortured existence in that because I’m a very I’m a very sensitive person in that I’m a super analytical person. So you just find yourself in a in a space of constant vulnerability in a society that does not honor that in any real way. And I’ve had to be better about coming to safe spaces. It felt like a safe space to come on your podcast. I’m saying and I appreciate that. And it’s something that as a. As a person like not as like a person, not as like a celebrity or whatever, but just as a person I’ve had to be mindful of. And I think some people don’t understand how big and vast this Internet is and how different being a public person is now than it was like, you know, even 15 years ago. You know, like pre MySpace. It’s like you just doing what you do. Like, you know, if somebody talks about it, they talk about it. And so in the conversation around like people being afraid to be honest or being afraid to speak to certain topics because they don’t want to lose their job. Like, I get that because it travels so much further now and it travels without as many. Obstacles of ethics. You just don’t have the projects, you know? I mean, like, it’s just it doesn’t have the same thing. There was a situation I was in and people told me that I should that I shouldn’t have taken legal action. And it’s one of the only regrets I have, like in my life I have I have some regrets, but one of them is not having sued a particular individual for defamation of character, because it follows me to this day. To this day. To this day. To this day. Wow. Wow. But. But I know that the people who are advising me in that we’re moving in the space of, like, oh, you know, things, you know, it’s the world. It’s just, you know, things happen. It’ll go away. But on this Internet, that’s not the case, baby. So I, I commend, though I commend the folks who not only stand in their truth, but who also they publicly support me standing in my truth. And I feel like the one thing that that will will always bring me back to, like, Amanda, just you got to just be yourself, is the fact that the elders that I respect respect me back. So Matina took a selfie with me the other day. She she was like, I want to take a selfie with you. And so, like, honestly, it’s life threatening, really, you know? So. 

Cortney Wills [00:31:08] Things are tuning into this week’s episode of Acting Up. Next, we come back for part two of this conversation with Amanda Seales. Because we are not done yet. Download theGrio app to listen to acting up and other great podcasts. See you soon.