Angela Lewis has brought ‘Aunt Louie’s character to life on FX’s hit crime drama series, “Snowfall.” The Detroit native, returns for season 4 of the late creator, Academy Award-nominated writer & director John Singleton’s show which explores the dynamics of the 1980’s crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles. A few weeks ago, Angela spoke to Mireya Hernandez about what we can expect in this season, the void John left, how she prepared for her most important role to date, motherhood and the work she’s doing with Kindred Space L.A.
Mireya Hernandez: Snowfall season 4 premiered last night and Aunt Louie is back. We saw her step up and take care of the business while Franklin was recovering. She now has her own club. Things have changed for her.
Angela Lewis: I’m so glad that Louis gets to kind of taste a bit of what she’s been dreaming for the last four years. I think it’s been a lifetime of waiting for the opportunity to feel herself in a position of power, the way that she has when Franklin was away. And I’m just excited to go on this journey with the audience as we explore what happens when Franklin comes back, and she’s got to give up some of that power.
Speaking of her being strong, she comes across as tough, ambitious, but it seems like there’s a lot of pain and hurt inside. We get glimpses of her vulnerability, but we don’t know much about her. Will we learn more about her in season four?
We will. I think that we will continue throughout the trajectory of the show, including this season, but not limited to this season of seeing more and more pieces of Louie start to come to the surface.
From season one to season four, how has she changed? Or how do you see that character has changed?
I think once she was out of the claws of Claudia. It’s kind of like a chicken and egg. I think that her being on this journey with Franklin and really being aware of her contribution to his growth and the growth of the family business, she became more confident and really understood that she can really do this. She can really be the boss, she’s good at being the boss. She’s good at playing chess. I think that allowed her to feel differently in the presence of Claudia. I think Claudia was able to sense that and she didn’t like it. Once Claudia was out of the picture, it really provided the space for Louie to blossom. It’s just been really fun watching and being a part of Louie’s evolution into force to be reckoned with.
Absolutely. We also saw at the end of season three, her being pregnant. The relationship with Jerome was up and down, but it seems like in season four, it’s a little more stable. Will we continue to see that relationship grow and evolve?
Yes, we will. So actually, in our finale, what was happening was that we were exploring this sort of alternate universe, it was like a big what if. What would have happened if Franklin had not come across cocaine and crack? What would have happened if he had just gone to college? So when we see Louie pregnant, it’s like, what if he [Franklin] never had never gone down this route? Louie would have never gone with him. Jerome would have never gone with him. It is likely that Louie would have ended up pregnant. They still would have been in the weed and water game. So in actuality, Louie was never really pregnant. But in terms of Louie and Jerome, yes we definitely see their relationship evolve and it’s definitely going to be up and down. Definitely lots of tumult.
I imagine playing a role like this is probably not easy. Did you do anything to prepare for it? And has it inspired you in any way?
Yeah, I mean, I would say my biggest preparation for Louie was to explore her backstory and explore and create because I definitely did research on the various drugs that she was into. We have a consultant on set who taught us how to rock it up and all of that. That’s the easy stuff. The hard stuff is, Who is she? How does she get to the place that she’s at? Especially when we first meet her.
How do you get to a life like that? It allowed me to really have a deeper level of compassion for her. It allowed me to really want to protect her, and to protect her humanity, and to show her humanity. That is really important to me. And so as our story progresses, I always check in with that. What is Louie protecting? How can I protect her in that? What is she really saying? Is she feeling like her voice is being heard? Is she feeling threatened? I think Louie feels threatened a lot. So how does she protect herself from feeling threatened? Or how does she protect herself from the threat? That allows me, Angela, the softy to be able to really step in her shoes.
So we see at the end of season three and again during the first two episodes this season, we started to see all of the damage that the crack epidemic is causing in the community. And then now with the gang wars. I know you grew up in Detroit. Did you find any similarities between Detroit and L.A. in any sense?
Oh, absolutely. There are so many similarities. It’s, it’s rare to find differences. The differences are just how people talk and some minor cultural things, how people wear their clothes, or how they tie their gym shoes or something like that. But the effects of crack on the community, are the same. When we go on our press tours when John was still with us, he would often ask the audience if they had personally felt the effects of crack over the years. And inevitably, half the audience raised their hands. So this story is the same everywhere, and that’s why the story is so important. People can see that they’re not alone. They didn’t do this to themselves.
You mentioned the passing of John Singleton, and from my understanding, Snowfall was one of the last projects that he was working on since his transition. Is there anything that’s different or has changed?
I mean, yes, there’s a void. John was a big presence. I think in career-wise, production-wise and then personally he played a huge role in a lot of people’s lives. He changed a lot of people’s lives. So to not have him is still felt and it will always be felt. And because it is always felt, we honor him. We do our best to honor him. We honor him in our work, we honor him in continuing to tell the story, and we honor him symbolically. We keep a chair [director’s chair] on set for him. No one sits in it. A lot of the crew members have hoodies that have a quote, “tell your story.” It has his name on it so we never forget. The thing that is the same is the intention and the integrity of the show. The thing that is the same is that John [Singleton] fought really hard to make sure that our show was diverse and inclusive in front of and behind the cameras. And that those opportunities are still intact, the desire to have that live on is still very much alive and thriving.
So his presence is still very much felt and present there. You mentioned that he oftentimes would ask people if anyone was personally affected by, you know, the crack epidemic and everything that was going on? Do you feel that’s part of the lasting power of Snowfall and kind of what brings more people engaged in wanting to watch the show?
I think the thing that brings people to the show is the word of mouth and the entertainment aspect of our show. The storytelling is crazy. What keeps people watching is the truth. Seeing themselves and their family members on the screen. Seeing the before, middle, and aftereffects of crack on the community. This is what it was like before this happened. This is what it looked like. This is what I grew up in. I wasn’t alive, before the devastation and this is how it happened. Or, I was alive and I remember this is how it happened. So that’s the thing that keeps people coming back.
It was so much going on in the first two episodes. We see Franklin playing both sides, you know, with Manboy and Skully. How does Louis feel about that?
You know, Louis, she actually said how she felt about it. I think her eyes are definitely on Manboy. That’s because I think as crazy as Skully is, you can depend on him to be crazy. You know, whoa, what is going on there? But Manboy is I think more cunning and more similar to Franklin. I think Louie is well aware that, that’s the person we need to look out for. So we’ll see during the course of the season, how Louie feels about the effects of the kind of double team that Franklin was looking to do.
Yeah, and on top of that, we see Franklin and Leon’s relationship change. It seems almost like Franklin lost control of a bit in power and is trying to regain it. So in season four kind of, that’s what happens. We see all the different relationships, I guess, come together or fall apart.
Definitely, we’re seeing that they’ve all the relationships are tested this season in ways that they have never been tested before. They’re making way more money. And so what does that do to people? People are itching to have more power. People that have power, like Louie, are perhaps losing that power. How does that make people claw themselves out of the corner? Everybody is being backed into corners. What does that do to the person? What does that do to relationships? What does that do to what they built? They built those things on relationships and loyalty and trust. So when those things are threatened, how do they keep things from falling apart? I guess it’s gonna get even crazier.
“It’s really been a testament to how badass working moms are and moms in general are. We are superheroes, and I’m honored to be a part of the sisterhood.”
Well, we’re excited for it. The first two episodes were great. So now I want to talk about another role and probably your most important role. Which is being a mother. How has that been for you?
It’s been amazing. My daughter blows me away every day. She’s 16 months now. And she’s super smart, loving, and laughs all the time. She’s a great communicator, which she’s been since before day one. But in terms of work, it’s a challenge. You hear working moms all the time talk about their challenges. So you know that there’s going to be challenges, but it’s nothing like living it. But I am blessed to be surrounded by support. My husband and my sister are here. My greater family, my parents call every day and get on FaceTime with her twice a day. My close circle of friends is supportive. Snowfall is supportive, my milk pumping schedule is built into the production schedule. It’s really been a testament to how badass working moms are and moms in general are. We are superheroes, and I’m honored to be a part of the sisterhood. It feels good when things get accomplished. To know, like wow “I did that.” My team, we did that. When things fall apart, it’s like okay. The learning to not beat yourself up. To okay, so how do we fix it? How do we make it better? How do we do better for next time, but not get down on ourselves? Because everything is not going to go perfectly all the time?
It sounds like you have a great community. As you said, your family, your friends, the Snowfall cast, did you do anything to prepare for this role? I know at times, mothers especially, if it’s something you’ve been planning, they do different things to prepare. To just be the best mom, in the best shape, mentally, physically, that they can. Was there anything that you did?
Yeah, for sure. I became vegan. When I knew that I wanted to start preparing the space for a baby. I hired a trainer. I work out twice a week, at least. Just because it’s important. I got to be able to get on the floor roll around with my daughter. When she gets up and starts running around and I got to be able to chase after her and pick her up because she’s not getting any lighter.
I know that you recently started working or part of what led you to work with Kindred space was you yourself becoming a mother and just seeing the inequalities that black and brown parents face with regards to access to education and lack of resources? What is the goal in working with Kindred Space?
My organization is called Birth Queen and I’m working with a woman named Rachel Nicks actress and model brand ambassador and she’s amazing. She teaches yoga and she’s out of New York and we are working together on a multi-faceted program and one of the programs. One aspect of the program is we’re looking to provide resources for women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to have access to said resources like a doula, a birth doula, postpartum doula breastfeeding classes, birth classes, a lactation consultant, yoga classes, all of these things that so when I was pregnant, I did things like that. I took a breastfeeding class, I took a birthing class, I took a hypnobirthing class. I had an understanding of how breastfeeding works. I did end up needing to call a lactation consultant to come in and help me make sure the baby was getting the milk that she needed because she was spitting up a lot. And I was like, “what’s happening?” Is she eating and is she getting the nourishment? And I was able to find out? Yes, she is. And this is how you know this is what she looks like and sounds like when she’s swallowing? Oh my gosh, there are so many little things that nobody tells you. Even in terms of your mental health. I think every woman should have access to and you shouldn’t have to be a rich person in order to have a safe and healthy birth.
And that’s wonderful that you’re positioning yourself in a space where you can help other women who don’t have access to that or aren’t even aware that such things exist. Is there anything else that you’re currently working on?
Well, my husband and I do some work with a company called UVOL, United Voices of Literacy. They work with underserved children, in teaching them how to read, and how to get to perform how to read with intention and to feel confident when they’re speaking in front of people. They’re an after-school program. When we went under lockdown and children started having to be in school from home it was discovered that once again, money and resources play another factor and that things are not fair. Some children have access to computers and healthier learning space than others. So with the help of volunteers, including my husband and myself, we provided some computers and some healthy Wi-Fi for some students. So I’m really proud of that. I am wanting to just shine a light on United Voices of Literacy because they’re really doing amazing things year-round.
Sounds like you’re doing amazing things on-screen and off-screen with Snowfall and this organization you talked about and just being a mother. We look forward to seeing you continue to grow and share with us on the screen and off the screen. I just wanted to thank you for the time and thank you for season four. Congratulations on season four!
Thank you so much!
Check out the official trailer for season four of Snowfall below!