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In a tumultuous year where several beloved shows have faced numerous delays or outright cancelation, fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief that Rap Sh!t has made it back to our screens. Since its premiere in July 2022, the Max comedy from creator Issa Rae and showrunner Syreeta Singleton has been a favorite of Black Twitter, where viewers have passionately followed the fictional rap group of Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion)—along with their ambitious manager Chastity (Jonica Booth)—as they hustle their way towards the top of the Miami music scene. While the show has garnered praises for its realistic depiction of the time and effort it takes for women to come up in the rap industry, the show itself began to mirror the dynamic as its premiere date was delayed due to the writers’ and actors’ strikes.
When speaking to ELLE.com in phone and Zoom interviews conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, Rap Sh!t’s leading trio acknowledge the persistence and dedication that it took to bring the series to life. Each of them made their impressive acting debuts in the first season, and their confidence in their roles is evident from the first moments of season 2. The new episodes take Shawna, Mia, and Chastity out of their comfort zone as they head out on their first tour, and the actors skillfully rise in dramatic scenes as their characters work to establish themselves and gain respect in the male-dominated industry. As KaMillion says, this season represents “elevation and execution.”
Ahead, Osman, KaMillion, and Booth speak to ELLE.com about returning to their fan-favorite characters, filming the series in L.A.’s coldest winter, and the lessons they’ve learned from their life-changing roles (several of which, understandably, stem from working with Rae.)
What was it like getting back into the mindset of these characters as they go into the next part of their journey?
KaMillion: I think [season 2 is] true to life, number one. I think it’s gonna be interesting to see how each of [their] lives elevates from just a viral moment, from stepping out with faith and following something that we felt that we had special. You also see how relationships change when you’re going up in life and money starts to come or opportunities start to come and you are exposed to new people. I think it’s definitely relatable. I think our acting has stepped up as well. Shout out to Jonica. Also, I’m proud of myself. I think this season represents elevation and execution.
Booth: Thank you, KaMillion. She did her big one too. Watching [the episodes], I was proud. As far as the characters, Chastity left her pimp life. She’s trying to step away from it, and you can see her determination. It’s really like, what does she have to bring to the table? At the end of the day, Chasity actually brings a lot. I just think it’s gonna be interesting to watch the tear down and the buildup, because it does happen to a lot of us in life.
Osman: Shawna just doesn’t know what to expect right now. She has ideas of what tours are like, but I think she thinks it’s gonna be a lot more glitz and a lot more glamor. It turns out to be just trying to make their way through this shit for real, just trying to make their way through their first tour. They’re not headlining, they are supporting the supporting act. They are the bottom rung on the list. It’s gonna be difficult for Shawna to adjust to this. Music isn’t even really fun for her in this moment, where she’s at in episode two, but she needs to figure out how to get back on track with her friends, and how to make something that they both can feel creatively fulfilled by.
Did you feel more familiar with your characters while filming season 2?
Osman: It was cool. I was in the writer’s room again for the second season, for the first half of it. I got a chance to carve out a character that already had a framework. There were personality traits that Shauna had that we can now build on, which was really fun. We got to play a lot more. It was cool because I feel like I’ve lived inside Shauna’s voice, and there’s a lot more freedom once we know what the character sounds like.
KaMillion: I think I felt just a little bit more comfortable with my acting this season. Especially like getting nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. It’s like, oh girl, you could do this. I think anything that’s done with confidence, you get a totally different outcome. And then the storyline also goes into something a little bit different, where we’re on the road. I was able to channel some of my experiences as an artist myself, because I’ve seen that. I really was focused on being a better actress. I think TV and film are my niche now. That is what I really wanna do, and music is secondary.
Booth: For Chastity…no confidence, none of that. What I did was I got my butt in acting classes. I’ve always been in them, but this time I had something to hone in on. I had a character that I was trying to truly bring to life. I went and sat around friends of mine that are truly like Chastity, because I wanted to make them proud. I didn’t wanna take Jonica to this role. I wanted to be Chastity. It was the motivation from the LGBTQ+ community from seeing them out after the first season. Some of them were crying and were like, “You really showed who we are, and thank you for putting that on TV.” Since I knew this is what I was being met with, I said, let me go and hone in on this craft. I just wanted to respect the actors. They put this work in and go to these classes. You can never stop being better, you know?
Were there any scenes from season 2 that stood out or were extra challenging to film?
Osman: There was one scene where I felt really, really fulfilled once we did it. Amy Aniobi, the director for the episode, came and she was crying and she was like, “This was amazing. I can’t believe you could access this emotion.” And I didn’t either. I don’t have formal training in dramatic acting, so when I had to do a scene that required a massive anxiety attack, I really just had to draw on a lot of things through my own life and bring up some painful stuff. I found that it actually helped me close those things and put vigils around them, and not feel so traumatized by things that had happened to me. And after, Issa came and high-fived me. Syreeta [Singleton] was dapping me up. It was a beautiful time. I felt like I really did something on set that day.
Booth: We filmed in Los Angeles and it was freezing. Nobody would know that. You cannot see it on camera. Shout out to our cast, the crew, everybody who worked on Rap Sh!t. Like, you don’t understand. L.A. was making records of being the coldest it’s ever been, and we had to film as if we were in Miami. So we’re in these little clothes. Chastity is wearing T-shirts and I’m freezing. The girls had on dresses. But imagine just shivering and next thing you know, they’re saying action. and we’re just like, la di da. That’s when we realized we were in our bag, cause we were dying.
KaMillion: Everybody cold. And we had a shorter time span to shoot this show, so you’re getting three, four months even less of filming. Our hours were a little longer. It was just the conditions that we were filming in. But we did it.
Rap Sh!t has arguably been life-changing for all three of you. Have there been any specific lessons or experiences from filming the show that you’ve brought into your life going forward?
Osman: I guess it just made me more confident. As you watch Shawna shed layers of her personality and herself and her fears, and even her clothing in season one, it forced me to go on that journey with her. And as the shows came out, I found myself feeling a lot more comfortable. I think the most beautiful thing that happened that I’ve carried with me filming season two and for life now is a lot of women of all different sizes coming up to me, and thanking me for just being present and being myself and not starting to feel insecure in my skin ‘cause of my weight. There’s not a lot of women who are fronting television shows that are like larger than size eight, and then if they are larger than size eight, the plot line is about how they’re big girls. It is just really cool to be like a full-figured woman and not have to worry about my size being hidden, or being the focal point of my storyline. I’m Shawna, Shawna is me. We’re both attractive, and the world reflects that as well. It’s really empowering.
KaMillion: Issa’s never late. Issa’s never been late. She has a whole bunch of businesses, and she’s always prompt and she never makes excuses. Seeing her do that changed my whole outlook on everything, you know? And be totally prepared for anything. Whether it’s weather, a script change, a costume change. You can’t let your attitude and what’s going on around you affect your state of mind because you gotta be able to deliver those lines. I don’t give a damn what’s going on in your personal life. The bottom line is executing these lines so that the audience can enjoy this show and really empathize with what is being written by these writers.
Booth: As far as social media, I come from the influencer world. So it’s a dial back for me to not post about things that I normally post about. The running joke that I’ve been saying with my friends lately is, “Would Issa do that, or would Zendaya do that?” That’s literally all I’ve been saying. They were all at this club and I pulled up to it. KaMillion was in the car with me. [to KaMillion] Did you hear me when I said Zendaya wouldn’t go in there?
That’s how I’m starting to view things, because from the life I come from, if I get into it with somebody, I’ll post about it. But now I have to kind of carry myself differently. And keep in mind you don’t have to. People like the raw and the hood, and I’m not taking nothing from that.
These interviews were conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Quinci LeGardye is an LA-based freelance writer who covers culture, politics, and mental health through a Black feminist lens. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.