*Actress Jennifer Freeman is best known for playing the role of Claire Kyle in the sitcom “My Wife and Kids” opposite Damon Wayans and Tisha Campbell-Martin. Now all grown up, she is part of BET’s new hip-hop anthology “TALES.”
The scripted series weaves classic and current hip-hop songs from the lyrics of some of hip-hop’s greatest hits, such as NWA’s “F*ck the Police,” Meek Mill’s “Cold Hearted,” and Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” to name a few. Each episode’s song’s lyrics are transformed into cinematic “song stories” with different writers, directors, and actors.
Of the series, Stephen Hill, former president of programming for the network noted, “Obviously, BET played a lot of videos in its infancy. Now that storytelling has evolved as we work to bring viewers new exciting content that reflects some of the greatest stories that hip-hop has told in the 20th and 21st centuries.”
Created by veteran industry executive Irv Gotti, “TALES” marked the directorial debut of the founder of iconic R&B/hip-hop label Murder Inc. Tuesday’s episode was inspired by Notorious B.I.G.’s “I Got A Story to Tell,” and Freeman plays Instagram beauty and NBA wife-to-be Ashley, whose socialite status overshadows her self-reliant and ambitious nature.
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“I’m really excited about the role because this is my first adult role,” Freeman tells EUR/Electronic Urban Report.
“This is my first role as a woman, so I feel like this is a really important role and that’s why I’m so excited about it and excited to be a part of something that is such a great idea. Like, why didn’t anyone think of this before? I think Irv is the perfect person to do this. I’m excited to reintroduce people to who I am now, ‘cause I have been kinda taking a break for a while. I have my first love scene in this so I’m excited for people to see me grow up.”
Ashley is the woman in Biggie’s ‘Story to Tell,’ and she finds out her man is cheating on her and “then her house gets robbed and all of these things happen in the episode,” she says, adding that the song is about “Who did it?”
“She’s trying to make a decision whether she stays in this relationship or not. Which I can totally identify with, which is what I think attracted me to the role. I think every woman in a relationship, you get to the point of how much are you willing to take? So I think in this role we get to really explore what it would be like if a woman did get to do what she wanted to do, and without giving away too much about the episode, it’s very interesting what Ashley decides to do about that.”
“TALES” is produced by Gotti and his Visionary Ideas production company. The three-act, 60-minute series is also available on Tidal, which will stream exclusive director’s cut versions of the episodes following their initial airings on BET.
Freeman says “guys and woman are gonna have different perspectives,” after watching her episode Tuesday night. “I think it’s going to be interesting to see what people think about the ending of the episode but it’s definitely empowering. I think Ashley makes a good choice in the end. She has to own who she is as a woman.”
“TALES” reflects aspects of the black community that many people haven’t seen before. And so far, it serves outcomes that many in the black community want to see.
From “American Crime Story” to “American Horror Story” and “Scream Queens,” anthology series just work, and audiences remain engaged with this form of television.
“I think what makes ‘TALES’ different from other anthology series is Irv. He really wanted to do this for the people and that is what he kept saying on set. Each episode has a different theme and completely different feel,” says Freeman. “My episode deals with being famous on Instagram and how you can become a target of unwanted attention. It’s really Irv and I think that’s why it’s been so successful so far. I like that each episode has its own feel and it’s own message. And I think that is what keeps it really interesting, ’cause you don’t know what the next one is going be, style wise. There’s so much creativity that’s behind this project.”
Last year, rapper Fat Joe revealed “I Got a Story to Tell” — about B.I.G.’s alleged affair with an unnamed New York Knick’s girlfriend — was about Anthony Mason, the forward who died in 2015.
“When they first told me what the song was, I knew of the song but I’m one of those who kinda sings along with songs and mumbles. So when I listened to the actual lyrics to the song, I was like, wow. I had no idea what the song was really about. I knew the chorus but the lyrics are really interesting. It really is a story. It leaves you wondering if Biggie really did do this.”
According to P Diddy, “That story is true, I can confirm that. I can confirm that, with love,” he shared in an interview with New York’s Power 105.1 in May 2016.
Gotti, who himself was acquitted of money laundering charges after a three-year federal investigation — followed by a five-year hiatus from the music industry — kicked off “TALES” with a reimagining of N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police,” but with a race reversal twist: “black cops brutalizing white people.”
“This was the first time I ever met Irv and got a chance to work with him. I just kinda knew back when he had Murder Inc. and Ja Rule and Ashanti. I only knew the persona of him. So I was really surprised by how he’s like a big teddy bear. He’s so sweet and so nice, and family oriented,” Freeman explains.
“I was telling him that one of my junior high anthems was Ashanti’s ‘Foolish.’ So I think just the nostalgia of that, when we were filming, I was like, wow. That was my anthem in junior high. All of my friends, we loved Ashanti. So that was a really cool experience.”
Tune-in to ‘TALES’ Tuesdays at 8/7c. Get caught up with episodes on BET.com.