Interview: 195 LEWIS pt. 2

Interview by: Lauren Murray
Stills & photos provided by 195 LEWIS

Read Part 1 with director Chanelle Aponte Pearson, here!

Co-creator Rae Leone Allen & Director Chanelle Aponte Pearson

Co-creator Rae Leone Allen & Director Chanelle Aponte Pearson


Upcoming screenings of 195 Lewis:


Lauren Murray: Hey Rae! Could you give us some background on 195 Lewis and where did the inspiration for it come from? How did you come up with it? What was your process?

Rae Leone Allen: My co-creator is from Yaani, she is from DC. We both migrated to New York around the same time. We hit it off immediately and ran around in black lesbian scene, essential oils, all of that. I was enamored with NY; I fell in love. Her apartment was the origin of this, it was the original 195, but on a different street. We were kicking it at her apartment and I think we were watching the L word. We were talking and thought about the crazy things we would see in NY and thought it would be amazing to see it on screen. We just started talking characters and concepts and came up with characters. We were both writers and poets but didn't feel like we had the experience to make a movie, so we reached out to people we knew who could help us. Yaani reached out Terrence. Terrence connected us with Chanelle. We gave them the script and put up the money to get things done.

Lauren: How long did it take both of you to write the script?

Rae: It's been a long long ride...we first showed the pilot in 2014. We Had a lot of footage that wasn't finished but we really needed the money to finish. We were blessed with a grant that allotted us the money to finish. It took 9 months to a year to write the script--it's definitely been a long run.

Lauren: Was there a specific experience where you realized that film has power attached to it? You could have stuck with blog posts…but film is different. It’s visual.

Rae: It's nuts. It's crazy. So I mentioned I was in urban studies at Fordham. My thesis project focused on the evolution of black consciousness in the new world. In the process of doing that research, it became clear to me that art making and creative production is the way to resist. It's been the most…. In my life people creating productions have moved me the most to want to know or learn something different. Storytelling in general is how people learn and come to understand.

Then also coming in this age of social media and Netflix has become…. It became media is the ultimate educator. I worked in education and it was interesting trying to teach kids and them knowing every word of a song but then not knowing the slope of an equation. That was nuts to me, so it kind of became clear that media really is a way to educate and when you're really doing it like people don't know that you're trying to teach them something.

Storytelling in general is how people learn and come to understand.
Still from 195 Lewis

Still from 195 Lewis

Lauren: Without giving away too much detail...what was your most positive scene that you felt like you wrote and your hardest scene?

Rae: Interesting. I'm further from the writing now and closer to being a performer. One of the last scenes where a friend from awhile back comes and pops up she needs a place to crash. Chris who moves from Dallas is seeing all these things in the house and is confused because Yuri is supposed to be with Camille and it seems like Yuri has some extracurricular going on. Basically Yuri checks her and has an opportunity to let her know what's going on and stop judging, you don't know what you're talking about. Based on the feedback from Chanelle, it was one of my best performances. It was a good scene too...a lot of what we do in the projected around Black woman relationships. It was a hard conversation to have with your friend, but y'all can struggle through it and love each other–there's going to be a solution.

Lauren: So now that you're in a space as a performer as opposed to writing, do you have any rituals or things you have to tell yourself before you start your creative process?

Rae: I can't say I have rituals but I think all humans are creative people. I think living a certain way allows for creativity to consume you, or for you to become a vessel. I think people are scared of it. Being healthy, striving to be healthy, saying prayers, meditation, things to make me feel inside my body is a good way for any type of creative. For this type of production, there's a lot more deadlines, there's more people involved. When push comes to shove, you have to be ready to go. I remember one time when we were shooting all day until 7 o’clock and I was basically a producer all day and then I had one scene. I really had to go and take a deep breath and get inside my body and be more aware of myself. But I'm figuring it out. 

Lauren: Do you think there are current boundaries specifically in the creative industry if you are within a minority community (black, queer, female-identifying)?

Rae: It's really interesting to me, I run around in a few different circles. We talk about these type of things. I'm not with this woe is me type of mantra. I’m from Dallas, Texas and I know these people. I know white folks, I'm not surprised. I was a little emotionally overwhelmed by the election but I wasn't shocked at the Midwest. It is what it is…. We haven't even done much…. Sometimes it feels like we're just in the space because we are Black and queer and I have to remind myself that it's bullshit. This is conversation I have with myself. If that is reason, I need to be excited about that. I need to be here and a lot of people don't get it. We only need one or two...We don't need everybody to get it. Put out what we want to put out. The premiere we had was so fucking amazing.

We had this room full of mostly full of mostly beautiful queer or creative black women. We have ambitions to get to the greatest platform we can get to ya know but I also don't under-appreciate that. That night was crazy. We're going to keep pushing but I don't want to spend too much time thinking on the white people that don’t fuck with me.

Lauren: Token Black Person.

Rae: I mean it happens. You have a choice when you feel that way. I can either feel bad or insecure or like I'm not supposed to be there or out of place, OR I can peep game (I'm not saying don't act like you don't know) see what this is. Let's talk about being paid for that. This is actually not in my job description. Even beyond that, there is a lot to be gained from being in particular spaces,ya know? Just to see how things go down. I'm not mad, I feel like everywhere I go or I am invited to is where I'm supposed to be at, so I'm looking to learn something.

Lauren: Yeah, you're not going to let it get into your head-space.

Rae: I feel like we as Black people put so much energy into thinking of what other people are trying to do to us.

Still from 195 Lewis

Still from 195 Lewis

Lauren: Do you have any words of encouragement for any aspiring creatives or tidbit of advice?

Rae: Go hard! I feel like it's cliché…. Do stuff that is going to impress your 12-year-old self. Let your younger self be your audience. Everything else will come you know I mean? Don't think about what everyone else is saying. You don't have to be mad at them. Still keep pushing and impress your younger you and then you won't be worried about any of the statics.

Lauren: Who is your girl crush right now? If y'all could go to dinner where would you go and what would you eat?

Rae: I'll take Viola Davis. We have to go somewhere? I'm not taking her to McDonalds...I would take her out though…I want some Chinese food. I'm kind of fiendin' for some duck lo mein. I want to kick it with her, but I also want to talk shop. Like I want to know...hey what's really good, what's going on with this production company?