Zuri Adele is one of the breakout actresses to watch in the industry and you can see her dive into her character Malika on Freeform’s critically-acclaimed series Good Trouble. A spinoff from The Fosters, Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) Adams Foster embark on a journey through adulthood as they face the trials, tribulations and triumphs of managing a career, love life, friendship and mental health as you move through your mid-20s. As a social justice activist, Malika Williams is a member of the Black Lives Matter movement and boldly takes on any issues that demonstrate racial discrimination or silencing Black voices on social media platforms.
“I love how authentic it’s allowed our story to be by having them there and behind the scenes,” Adele said about working with Dr. Melina Abdullah and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors on set, who her character was loosely based on and inspired by. “Our showrunner Joanna Johnson, who created The Fosters as well, wrote the story so honestly because she was so inspired by Patrisse Cullors’ book and was able to get so much insight from her writing, their friendship in-person and professional collaboration.”
Ahead of the highly anticipated season premiere on Freeform, I caught up with my Spelman sister about Good Trouble, her character Malika’s evolution since the first season and how her HBCU experience expanded her appreciation for the non-monolithic expression of Black culture through art, fashion and beauty.
On collaborating with Patrisse Cullors for Malika’s character:
“It was incredible and one of the most amazing parts about it was having Patrisse, Dr. Melina Abdullah and various leaders of Black Lives Matter LA with us. It really helped to ground Malika’s character specifically because I was able to witness so many different facets of what it means to be an activist. Patrisse wrote When They Call You A Terrorist and she gave so much insight into what it was like to grow up as an activist and the many layers that come with the childhood traumas of her own experience, which I was able to tap into for Malika’s experiences as a former foster child. It also allowed me to dive into the joy and importance of community and the lightness that can be experienced while being an activist.
When filming moments where Malika was getting arrested, standing up during protests or in the middle of an event, it was always really helpful to have Patrisse and Dr. Abdullah’s expertise right there to speak on how things would happen in the heat of the moment. There were many times where we’d be filming and they would say things like, ‘Oh yeah, I was just arrested there last week.’ They would be getting calls from people who they were helping in the movement while we were on set. It was a way to ground myself to the reality and the high stakes of being an activist.
On wearing her natural hair on screen as an actress:
“It’s a complete game changer. Our hair is our crown and the number one top form of our expression despite the flawed pedagogy in education that we’ve been a part of. It’s such a statement to embrace our natural hair for ourselves and such a way to love on ourselves. To see it being done on screen has such an impact for every person watching, especially every person of African descent who can be inspired and encouraged to wear their hair and even have a better understanding of different styles. It also allows people who are not of African descent to have that visual normalized in their lives as they interact with us whether it’s in the workspace or in social settings. It has such a ripple effect and it is a big deal. I really do stand by that.
I love that Malika switches her hair up as much as I would and I love the playfulness. There’s something really amazing about how no matter what our economic status, we take a lot of pride as Black women – and Black people – to present ourselves in a way that feels very royal, regal and authentic to who we are that day and allowing that to shift and change. That’s a big source of pride, creativity and expression for us and even when Malika went from living in the car to living in The Coterie, there’s always an intentional form of expression that she’s got going on with her hair.”
On how her Spelman experience molded her appreciation for Black beauty:
“Oh my goodness gracious! It taught me everything about how uniquely individual I am. Being in Atlanta taught me specifically to take the limits off of what I thought I could be. Because I grew up in a space that was predominantly non-Black and to now see so many Black people excelling, the limits and the lid was off in terms of what I could aspire to do. I was able to see how much diversity exists amongst our community of people and diversity of cultural experiences stemming from so many different places across the African diaspora. Diversity of interest and academic interest from anime to saxophone to engineering to theatre – my understanding of how limitless we are continues to grow.
Through the sense of family and collective reclaiming of our narrative and our story, I was able to ask so many questions. I was encouraged to ask so many questions about the truth of our history and contribution, which led to a much deeper understanding of who we are and who I am as an individual. The diversity that exists among us wasn’t something I always know because a lot of things were filtered to me from a place of a non-Black lens, except when I was home. In terms of media and the schools I was growing up in, those were all filtered through limited ideas of who we are.
On being a Black actress in the midst of racial injustices in the world and practicing self-care regularly:
“I now make it a number one priority to rest adequately, to say ‘no’ a lot more often and to have a really solid grasp on my morning and nightly routine to make sure I’m showing up from a really full place. I incorporate more balance and more wellness. Having a team of Black doctors has been really helpful for me like an acupuncturist and therapy. Having those things on a weekly basis and moving my body everyday while not putting it all on myself has been really important for me. I know I hold onto a lot of emotions, especially Malika’s emotions, in my body so movement and eating in a way that feels clean is really helpful. I’m not eating in a way that makes me feel bloated or lethargic and I’m hydrating.
I’m fully treating my body as the instrument that she truly is. I also have boundaries with social media, particularly because so much around the social justice movement is highlighted and voiced from a very emotional place, understandably, on social media. I make sure that when I’m not filming, I’m taking space from that and that energy. Not being off of it entirely, but giving myself time to rest, recharge and plug myself in like I’m plugging a phone.”
The third season of Good Trouble premieres tonight on Freeform at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT.