Jalen Rose talks ‘Bel-Air’ with Cassandra Freeman
Before actress Cassandra Freeman landed the role of Aunt Viv in Peacock’s “Fresh Prince” reboot “Bel-Air,” she took on a heavy role and told her manager she wanted to play someone who was rich and was beautiful She wanted light fare.
“That’s it, I don’t want to do any more sad stories about black people,” she told me on this week’s episode of “Renaissance Man.” “I’m like, ‘I’m done. I don’t [want to] Crying in the street for my dead black boy. I’m done with it.’
“But when this role came up, I was like, ‘Well, no, not this,'” she added. “And my manager called me. He’s like, ‘That’s basically everything on your list.'” But Cassandra didn’t think she’d book it. Her excitement was unwarranted.
“Then finally I saw Jalen Rose Morgan Cooper’s trailer is his take on this thing and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’ Cooper is a genius. “
She was on her first holiday post-Covid, in Greece, when she found out she had taken part. His manager told him that he needed to pick up the phone, even though it was 3 o’clock
“Ever since I said, ‘yes’ to this role, my life has been a very high and very extreme roller coaster,” she said. “I’m so relieved how much the culture has embraced this version of the show. I like to say it’s not a reboot. It’s a deepening of ‘The Fresh Prince.’
Last month, Peacock’s adaptation of the sitcom was renewed for its third season and Cassandra’s Aunt Viv continues to grow. To make a strong TV mom, the Florida native said Phylicia Rushd as Claire Huxtable And Marla Gibbs in “227” was the inspiration. He also channeled Diane Carroll in “Descendants.” And she’s got some all-star mom work under her belt. In 2016, she played Kevin Durant’s mother in the Lifetime movie “The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story.”
Her first acting gig, when she was fresh out of NYU graduate school, was working with Hollywood legends Denzel Washington and Spike Lee in “Inside Man.”
“They were everything I would expect anyone to be on the set of their first film, where they didn’t treat me like a child. They treated me like I was a part of this world.
Cassandra was accustomed to strong male figures. He was raised by his father, Mac Freeman, Jacksonville’s first black television reporter, and the man who turned him on to “Star Trek.”
His father also taught him the virtues of the Bible “The Godfather.” He would refer to them both “in the same sentence,” he said, “He was like Martin Luther King to me. He would have these booming speeches and he was very pompous. And women love Mac Freeman. He used to have his own radio show. He was like DJ and he used to be Black Panther. I really grew up in the shadow of being Mac Freeman’s daughter. It felt like I was a princess of something. “
She also got a big boost — and a career pivot — from Chris Rock, with whom she starred in the 2007 rom-com “I Think I Love My Wife.” Cassandra was filming a scene with him and after they cut, he made a crack about Whitney Houston, which he said was a great joke.
“He’s like, ‘No, no, but you’re really, really funny.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ So I started my stand-up career because of Chris Rock. I worked at the Comedy Store, but it was really because of him. I’m such a fan of Chris Rock, and he’s been a huge help in my career, ” Cassandra said, adding that he is always checking on her, advocating for her and asking if she is getting paid right.
“I’m saying, like he’s a supporter of black women here.”
But the biggest MVP in her life is her husband, Tom Paul. “Even on my lowest days, he still thinks I’m a queen,” she said.