*In part one of our chat with Cassandra Freeman about her role in the upcoming lifetime biopic “The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story,” she opened up about some of the emotional challenges she endured while bringing the story of NBA player Kevin Durant’s mother to the small screen.
The project reunites Freeman with Queen Latifah, who is executive producing the pic for her pal, director Nelson George. The two previously teamed on “Life Support,” and Latifah and Cassandra last worked together on the series “Single Ladies.”
In part two of our chat, the actress talks about the joy of working with creative and powerful women like Queen Latifah and Denzel’s wife, Pauletta Washington, who plays Freeman’s mother in the biopic. She also explains how the overall message of the story will resonate with and inspire women, especially mothers who are battling depression.
How inspiring is it to collaborate with creative women such as Queen Latifah, and what types of energy does she foster on the set?
Cassandra: I want to talk about Queen Latifah, Tracy Thoms and Pauletta Washington. Ya know, it makes sense her name is Queen Latifah, because when she walks on set, there really is this very earthy, nurturing powerful feeling that comes on the set. She really epitomizes what it is to be a full woman, because if you’re a nurturing woman, it’s such a powerful thing. If you’re in control of whatever is feminine about you, it’s so powerful. Everytime I meet her I feel so humbled. Obviously I feel humbled because she’s given me two huge opportunities with “Single Ladies” and this project. She’s been such a role model to me way before I ever met her.
Actress Tracy Thoms plays Freeman’s best friend in the movie, who Cassandra describes as “So wonderful in this film, and funny. She’s so powerful in this character. I’ve always wanted to work with Tracy Thoms. She’s like a full force of nature as an actress.”
Cassandra: And talk about a force of nature is Pauletta Washington. From day one when I met Pauletta, we had such a great connection, and I can only hope on screen that people see that connection too, cause she’s the most loving and forceful mom. You can really see within her what it means to be the grandmother and the mother to such a strong woman. I think people will be very surprised to see that dynamic. To me, it’s a very truthful dynamic about what mom and daughter relationships looks like in the world. No one gets beat down with a broomstick in this. It’s a very common story. What Pauletta does is beautiful, and she sings in this. Get ready!
READ RELATED STORY: Cassandra Freeman Talks Playing Kevin Durant’s Mother in Biopic [EUR Exclusive]
Would you consider this role the most significant in your career so far?
Cassandra: This is the biggest, most challenging role of my life for sure. Before I booked this role, I said to my group that I really wanted to play something that felt like it cost me something. Ya know, emotionally and physically. As of now, that’s this role. It cost me a lot emotionally and physically. Emotionally, it was a roller coaster ride for me. [Wanda] delves into the depths of depression in this movie and then she’s on top of the world, and then she falls back down into the depths of it.
You mention Wanda’s battle with depression, how will her story inspire black women who are battling depression and don’t have access to proper treatment and support?
Cassandra: I think the thing that brings [Wanda] out of her depression, which the movie points to is: family, faith and community. The more that she was aware that she had family, a community and faith, that’s what really pulls her out. One of the major through-lines is the importance of goal setting. You see how her mom teaches her goal setting, and how she ends up teaching her sons goal setting. Having goals became like a game to win at. The game to be challenged by. The goals in this movie became the things that helped lift them up, because this movie takes place during the time when D.C. is the murder capital of the country. The crack epidemic is still very present – gang violence. You have to look at Kevin Durant’s life. He wasn’t involved in any gang violence. He’s never been involved with drugs and womanizing. She went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure she taught her kids integrity and character. And she did that through goal setting. Family, faith, community and goal setting is the very big message in this movie.
Check out “The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story” when it premieres on Saturday, May 7 on Lifetime.