November 9, 2021
Ashley Ray tells the story of a TV show that changed her mom’s life. Featuring Ashley’s mom, Sharon, and Academy-Award-winning filmmaker, Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th, Queen Sugar).
Check out Ashley’s Podcast “TV I Say” on her website here: https://theashleyray.com/tvisaypod
And make sure to follow @theeashleyray on Twitter and @theashleyray on Instagram.
6 — Hey Me!
Seth [00:00:15] Welcome to story time. Today’s episode: Hey, me.
Singers [00:00:19] Hey, Me. Hey, Me. Hey, Me.
Seth [00:00:29] This story is about- get this- stories. The power of storytelling and how stories, even ones that play on basic cable, actually have the power to change people’s lives. This story starts with my friend Ashley Ray Harris. But like any good story, it does not end with her. No. This story takes some twists and turns and has some incredible surprises. A good story that in and of itself is a testament to the power of a good story on a podcast that is itself about storytelling.
Singers [00:01:08] A story that’s about storytelling on the podcast Storytime with Seth Rogen.
Seth [00:01:14] I would say it’s too good to be true, but it’s not. This is true as fuck. Now to get us started, here’s Ashley. To you, where does this story start?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:01:31] Honestly, the story starts from the beginning from birth.
Seth [00:01:35] That’s a good place for a story to start.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:01:43] Hey! Yeah, I think a lot of people say, you know, born this way, born gay. That is very much true for me. It’s like I was born in flannel, like I from a young age used to make out with my My Size Barbie and I would watch, you know, little kid shows about princesses and princes and I was always like, Well, why can’t I just be all princesses? Like, I don’t, you know, it seemed very logical for me.
Seth [00:02:07] You knew.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:02:07] Yeah, I knew. And my cousins would always say, What’s wrong with Ashley? They’d run to my mom and be like, She’s so weird. What’s wrong with her? She kisses her Barbies! And my mom would always say, Oh, Ashley, she’s just, she’s just being funny. I’m going to. I’m going to. I’m going to translate that for you in just cuz I’m going to assume you might not understand that is black parent for gay.
Seth [00:02:32] Just being funny.
Singers [00:02:34] Yeah, she’s just being funny.
Seth [00:02:38] Ashley’s mother knew Ashley was funny from a young age, but I guess she held out hope that maybe it was just a phase. When did she first bring it up, like in earnest to you?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:02:51] I remember it so clearly. I was I was probably like nine years old and I had this huge crush on a girl in my class. And, you know, like when you have like kind of your first crush and you want to like, tell your parent about it and you’re like, Oh, there’s a person I like at school. And I just was like, Mom, I really like this girl Faith. I think she’s like, so sweet. I want to like, get her something for Valentine’s Day. And my mom took me to the living room, our TV, and she put on- it was a Denzel Washington movie. I want to say Training Day.
Denzel Washington [00:03:25] Tell me a story.
Ethan Hawke [00:03:28] What, like my story?
Denzel Washington [00:03:29] No, not your story, a story.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:03:31] And she put it on and she just went, would you ever like a man like this? Do you like Denzel Washington?
Ethan Hawke [00:03:39] I don’t think I know any stories.
Denzel Washington [00:03:40] You don’t know any stories? All right. I’ll tell you a story. This is a newspaper, right?
Seth [00:03:46] He was the heterosexuality barometer, ultimately.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:03:49] Yeah. She was like, If you cannot be into a man like Denzel Washington, what hope is there that you’ll ever be straight? And I think that’s when, like alarms went off in her head like, Oh no, my daughter is like actually gay.
Denzel Washington [00:04:03] Liquor license?
Ethan Hawke [00:04:05] A what?
Denzel Washington [00:04:06] A lick her license. Was she a dyke? A lesbian?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:04:11] I grew up in Rockford, Illinois, northern Illinois. It is a pretty Midwestern, depressing place. It’s like the Flint, Michigan, of Illinois. My mom was like, I’m a little concerned that I have this clearly gay daughter. She, like, almost immediately was just like, Ashley, you know, you’re kind of choosing a hard path in life.
Woman on TV [00:04:32] Look at your body. Are you still a runner?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:04:37] When the L word came out, I was like, Oh my gosh, there’s this culture. There’s this whole thing I can dial into.
Woman on TV [00:04:45] You always had at least two other women on the side.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:04:49] My first crushes were like, Jennifer Beal is on the show. So I used to do the thing where I’d watch it at, like midnight or like super late. And when I heard my mom moving around upstairs, I’d just flip back to Nickelodeon.
Woman on TV [00:05:01] I figured if some gorgeous woman from your past comes along talking about how hot you are…(Nickelodeon song)
Seth [00:05:14] Could you just explain your mom a little bit more?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:05:16] Yeah, my mom… She’s an amazing person. Like, she had a pretty hard life, like she was a single mom at 16. She had my older brother as a teenager. She got married and had this abusive, horrible relationship with her first husband, who like, ended up being a heroin addict and all this horrible stuff. And she escaped that relationship and had three kids and like, built her own business. And by the time I was born, she was running her own daycare. She, like, was this self-made business woman, like strong single mom. And I think really, when she would look at me, it wasn’t so much like I like she didn’t have a problem with gay people. It was more like, You’re already a black woman, Ashley. You’re going to have a hard enough time in life. And now you want to throw being gay onto the pile? Like you’re going to face enough discrimination. And that impacted how she raised me a ton. I mean, my name. She named me Ashley because she was like, I knew it was a rich white person name, and I wanted you to have, on paper, a white girl name. So for her, it was like all about just mobility and thinking, like, if you’re this like black gay girl, it’s just going to be harder for you.
Seth [00:06:27] Yeah. Whatever her reasons, Ashley’s mom eventually realized that if she was going to make her daughter a heterosexual, she was going to have to go beyond screenings of Training Day.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:06:37] She made me go to conversion therapy when I was in middle school.
Seth [00:06:41] Whoa. Holy fuck. Oh my god.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:06:43] Yeah. But we were poor. So even like, you know, the Mike Pence level of conversion therapy, that cost money. That’s not for, you know, your poor bigots. That’s not for someone like me. My mom was a single mother. She didn’t didn’t have the money to get me properly brainwashed. So instead, I would just we went to this like old school Missionary Baptist Church, just like really old like five hour services, Black Missionary Baptist Church and I would go two hours early and just have one on one service with our pastor’s wife.
Seth [00:07:18] And did this- did the pastor’s wife like, really get into it, head on? Or was she just kind of like expounding the virtues of being a heterosexual wlife?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:07:26] She actually was really great. Like to her credit, she knew her assignment. Like she would always be like, being a wife is so dope. I love being a mother. It’s the best calling. But she also just listened to me. Like I would complain about school. I would just complain about, like my mom not understanding me, and she just made me feel really heard. So it’s kinda like the whole thing backfired. I mean, it just it just like gave me a weird fetish for like big hats and white tights and church ladies.
Seth [00:07:55] Because this woman was so nice to you.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:07:56] She was so nice to me and like it was around, I like, there’s a Whitney Houston movie, The Pastor’s Wife.
Seth [00:08:03] Of course. Yes.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:08:04] Yeah, yeah. And that was like my favorite movie, and I was just like, This was a bad combo, mom. Like, all you’ve done here is increase my love.
Seth [00:08:12] Is that Denzel Washington, though?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:08:14] That is Denzel Washington.
Seth [00:08:16] There you go.
TV Announcer [00:08:17] Denzel Washington.
Denzel Washington [00:08:18] I’ve seen the way she looks at you.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:08:20] I was not paying attention a Denzel in that movie, let me tell you.
TV Announcer [00:08:23] Whitney Houston.
Denzel Washington [00:08:25] It’s good to see you laugh again.
Whitney Houston [00:08:27] It’s nice to have a reason to.
TV Announcer [00:08:28] The Preacher’s Wife.
Seth [00:08:37] High school rolled around, which is usually when things kind of blossom. Did you know any gay people?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:08:45] There was one out gay kid at my school. He got suspended for giving head in the kiln room.
Seth [00:08:51] Holy shit.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:08:51] Yeah, he was like a true aspiration to me.
Seth [00:08:55] That’s a suspension!
Ashley Ray Harris [00:08:59] That was a little unfair because he was the one giving the blowjob, and he got suspended for two weeks while the guy who received the blowjob only got suspended for three days.
Seth [00:09:08] Yeah, yeah,that speaks volumes.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:09:12] Oh yeah. And as the president of the Gay Straight Alliance, which was I like in like in middle school, I was like, I want to start the gay straight alliance at my school and was still sort of trying to convince myself and my family that I could be straight. I would be like, It’s the gay straight alliance. So, you know, I’m an ally. And I was like fighting my school about this unfair suspension of this kid. I was like, You’re- this is the- it’s still the patriarchy and you’re subjecting him because he was in the female role. And they were just like, No, he invited a guy for a blowjob in the kiln room. It was his idea. It’s just inappropriate. It was the middle of the school day.
Seth [00:09:52] Ashley experimented with dating women, and she had some bad experiences. And even if her mom knew that her daughter was quote unquote funny, it wasn’t something that they talked about like directly. It was more these subtle kind of coded conversations. Training Day. The Preacher’s Wife. Meanwhile, Ashley was coming to realize that even if she liked girls, it didn’t mean she couldn’t like guys too.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:10:14] And it actually was my senior year of high school, really, that I was like, You know what? I think I could give dating boys a shot.
Seth [00:10:22] You can probably guess what Ashley’s mom’s reaction was.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:10:25] But when I started, like, finally dating guys, she was just so happy. Like she was just- my first, like, real boyfriend, she was just, I mean, ecstatic.
Seth [00:10:33] Ashley went all in.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:10:35] Me and this guy we had like gotten kind of serious. We knew that we wanted to, like, stay together even though I was going to college, which don’t ever do that. Don’t ever do that. That’s my advice to the world. Don’t ever do that.
Seth [00:10:48] I wrote- We, me and Evan wrote a whole unproduced screenplay around when we were college age about a couple who tried to have a long distance relationship in college. And it’s the concept is it’s a disaster and you shouldn’t do it.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:10:58] Yeah, yeah. I mean, we did it all four years.
Seth [00:11:01] Wow.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:11:02] Yeah, we got engaged even when I was 19.
Seth [00:11:06] Holy shit. Always a good idea.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:11:08] Always smart. Always smart to to get engaged at 19. And I think my mom kind of knew this is stupid, but she was just so happy that it was a man that she was like, Oh, heck yeah, you two do it. Get, just do it up.
Ingmar Bergman Film [00:11:22] (SWEDISH)
Ashley Ray Harris [00:11:25] I loved Ingmar Bergman.
Seth [00:11:27] Oh yeah, it’s great.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:11:29] With this guy who I would believed was the love of my life. I coordinated for me to lose my virginity while we were watching The Seventh Seal because Ingmar Bergman meant so much to me.
Ingmar Bergman Film [00:11:47] (SWEDISH)
TV Announcer [00:11:53] Throughout her life, Simone de Beauvoir has defied convention.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:11:57] I was obsessed with Simone de Beauvoir and we would read all these books about like open relationships and polyamory, and I would just be like, I just want to be like Simone and have lovers all over the world. And you know, you understand that you have my heart.
TV Announcer [00:12:10] She flouted the prevailing morality by living unwed and openly with Jean-Paul Sartre.
Simone de Beauvoir [00:12:15] Because I began to be very interested in the feminine condition at this time…
Seth [00:12:24] As Simone de Beauvoir once wrote, One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. Somewhere between losing her virginity under the flickering light of Max von Sydow playing a game of chess with death and her realizing that her sexual identity could comfortably slide on a spectrum, Ashley became that woman, and that woman was a woman who could date whomever the fuck she pleased.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:12:47] We kind of realized it was going to be open and I was poly and I was like, I am bisexual and polyamorous. I found myself. And so when I discovered that I did what anyone does when they find a new kind of an identity, I called my mom to lock it in. And I’m like explaining this to her, I’m like, you know, I love my fiancee and we are just exploring and I’m bisexual and polyamorous, and I’ll never forget what she says. She goes, Oh, so you’re a slut.
Seth [00:13:31] Oh, no.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:13:32] I mean, honestly, she was not wrong. I felt seen. Honestly, she knew her daughter in that moment.
Seth [00:13:41] Ashley had found herself. She broke up with her fiance, moved to Chicago and settled into her new identity.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:13:47] So you’re a slut. As I kind of grew into understanding my bi polyamory, I was like, you know, she’s right, I’m very much a slut. Like, I’m embracing it. I’m going to date like crazy, which I did, really embracing like rotations, dating couples, just living it up in my 20s.
Seth [00:14:24] What did your mom think your your status was at that point?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:14:27] Oh my gosh. She would just call me and she’d be like, Oh, you have a date? Who is it with? And I’d be like, Oh yeah, I’m going out with, like this couple. And then she’s like, Don’t tell me. Don’t tell me. Or I’d be like telling her, like, Oh, I’m going out with this guy. He’s also poly, so I’m excited. And she’d be like, Men just say that so they can get a bunch of pussy. And I would just be like, Mom, I’m getting more pussy than the men I date. And she’d be like, Never say that to me again. She’d just freak out and you just be like, I never want to hear that kind of talk. And that was like my relationship with my mother. And then one day…
Subway Announcer [00:15:14] Doors closing.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:15:15] I’m I’m like twenty six at this point, and I’m on my way to work like my shitty day job, like on the bus in Chicago, like 6:00 in the morning. I get a text from my mom and it’s it’s first there’s like the Kermit the Frog GIF, where he’s like waving his hands around and it says, like, ahhhhh in like capital letters, you know? And then it says, news alert. And I’m like, OK, you have got my attention. Ashley, I am gay and or queer now. Hey, me. And then three exclamation marks. And I’m just like, OK, what?
Seth [00:16:03] I’m looking at the text message right now. News alert. I think I’m gay and or queer now. Hey, me!!!
Ashley Ray Harris [00:16:15] Hey me!
Seth [00:16:19] Hey me. And she capitalized or with the screaming Kermit the Frog emoji.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:16:24] Yeah.
Seth [00:16:29] This is the most Mom way to come out that there possibly could ever be.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:16:33] Yeah, it’s like via text, and then it’s also like, like no time to proofread this news alert. We got to get this out. Gay and or Queer, like you can pick one. Why is she coming out of the gate trying to be gayer than me? I was like, what? Who taught my mom the word queer as a terminology? I’m like, Do you want to get on the phone and talk? She’s like, no, I’m busy.
Seth [00:17:07] Will explain later.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:17:08] Yes, it’s like I’m coming out via text, like, obviously, I’m a very busy person.
Seth [00:17:13] With the screaming Kermit the Frog emoji.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:17:16] She has four kids. I was like, Maybe she has a lot of news alerts to send. And then she just sends a selfie of her and this woman in flannel and she goes, This is Darla. This is my girlfriend now.
Seth [00:17:28] And you believe it. You’re like, This is true.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:17:31] I mean, news alert. You’re not saying news alert with three exclamation marks and then bringin false info to the table.
Seth [00:17:36] The news doesn’t lie. Hey, me.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:17:39] Hey me! I finally get my mom on the phone later. I’m like, OK, been waiting all day mother to talk to you about this big news like, you know, I’ve thought about it and I’m just so happy for you. And I just hope that, you know, seeing me live my life openly and loudly is what made you realize that you could too. And she just goes, What are you talking about? I don’t even see how this connects to what I’m saying. It’s like, she’s just like, Oh, yes, I do suppose you also are a gay. Right. Uh that…
Seth [00:18:27] I didn’t connect those dots, I guess.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:18:30] Yeah, that’s like, what? What was it, mom? Like if it wasn’t me, like, I’m not your gay role model?
Seth [00:18:37] Yeah.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:18:38] And she was like, God, no. It was this TV show on OWN. I don’t want to assume you know what Own is, Seth.
Seth [00:18:50] That’s Oprah’s network. Yeah, I know it’s Oprah’s network.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:18:52] There’s people who don’t know that and they’re racist.
Seth [00:18:54] Oh I know OWN.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:18:58] And she was like, There’s a TV show on OWN and the main character dates men and dates women. And I figured if she could do it, so could I. It it was the show Queen Sugar, by the way.
Seth [00:19:12] Queen Sugar. Queen Sugar, created and executive produced by the Academy Award winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay of 13th, Selma, and When They See Us.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:19:27] That’s it. It was the show Queen Sugar. And just seeing that representation in one character who was a black woman from the South who was bi made my mom go, Oh yeah, I guess I could do that. It’s on TV now.
Seth [00:19:41] That is unbelievable. And so to someone, to someone who doesn’t know, could you just explain the plot of the show Queen Sugar?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:19:50] Oh my god. Oh, OK. OK. Hey me!
Seth [00:19:59] This is Ashley’s mom, Sharon.
Sharon [00:20:06] There’s a family. They’re in Louisiana. The father died, left all this land to them. It’s a sugar farm. And each one had their own personalities, you know, the one daughter was a writer. She was just so out there. I’m going to take this stance. I’m going to see what this is about. And I thought, Wow, OK, I like that. I’m going to try that.
Seth [00:20:34] Wow. What is the character’s name on Queen Sugar?
Sharon [00:20:38] Nova. Nova.
Seth [00:20:39] Nova Bordelon?
Sharon [00:20:41] Yes. Look at that, man. Mmm, sexy woman. Very sexy woman. Yes.
Seth [00:20:54] Tell me about where are you from originally?
Sharon [00:20:57] Well, I was born in Dallas, Texas, 1953, and then we were moved to Michigan. Grew up in Detroit during the time of the riots and then my mom shipped us out of there and took us to Illinois. Rockford, Illinois. Totally different world.
Seth [00:21:14] Totally different world. And what was it like?
Sharon [00:21:18] Well, growing up in Detroit, we had all black teachers. We had all black professional people around us in our whole life. Everything with that. I mean, our church in Detroit was all black and we got to Rockford and it was like, Where did all these white people come from?
Seth [00:21:35] White people go to church?
Sharon [00:21:36] To me, it was like, I was a kid. You got to realize I was a kid. And I’m like, it was a shock. It was a shock.
Seth [00:21:46] Did you always want to have a child?
Sharon [00:21:50] Oh, no. I’m gonna be honest, no. But it was great. It was wonderful. It was a true blessing.
Seth [00:22:05] And what was Ashley like as a as a child?
Sharon [00:22:08] Oh my gosh. She was determined. She had to have her way. She was so hard headed. But I learned a lot from her. I have to tell you, I literally learned a lot from her.
Seth [00:22:30] Did you know that she was, you know, queer from a very young age?
Sharon [00:22:35] No, I never. You know, I didn’t pick it up. I don’t know how, but I did not pick that up.
Seth [00:22:41] She she talks about you putting on a Denzel Washington movie and asking her if if he was doing anything for her. Do you remember-Do you remember doing that?
Sharon [00:22:52] Yeah, I would say, what about him? She remembers all that, OK?
Seth [00:22:56] Yeah, she remembers it being Training Day, which is a kind of a weird performance.
Sharon [00:23:01] Training Day. The manly men.
Seth [00:23:04] She was engaged for a little while. Did you like her fiancee?
Sharon [00:23:09] Ugh. Um…
Seth [00:23:16] I wish there was a timer to say how long the silence was between.
Sharon [00:23:20] He was a nice guy, nice kid. You know, she ran it. It was her relationship. And my friend and I at the time, the person I was dating, he and I both thought, Huh. There’s something with this. You know, he is not- he’s more like a pal.
Seth [00:23:38] Hearing this from Sharon made me think of something Ashley said about her mom’s romantic behaviors during our conversation.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:23:45] She like dated people, but it was never like traditional relationships. Like, I would just be like, That’s my mom’s boyfriend. And he kind of comes and goes. And then when I was like two, she got into her first, like, real relationship with the guy I considered my stepdad. But he would propose and propose, and she would always refuse. She would never say yes to getting married, and the entire relationship was long distance. From the time I was two years old to 18, my mom and her boyfriend were in a long distance relationship where we would drive to Chicago every other weekend, and he would drive to Rockford, and that is what I was used to. I was like, a man is a thing that can be there if you want, but they don’t have to be. And it’s actually easier to get your stuff done during the week if they are gone and you can just see them on the weekend.
Seth [00:24:39] Ashley talks about, though, the kind of relationships you had with men when you were younger. It’s funny because she she describes them similarly to how you describe the relationship she had with men, honestly.
Sharon [00:24:50] Is that right? Oh my God. You’re turning into Dr. Phil on me.
Seth [00:24:57] I have more hair, thank God.
Sharon [00:24:59] Yeah, you do. Way better looking. That’s funny.
Seth [00:25:07] And were you worried? What were your first thoughts when she said that she liked boys and girls?
Sharon [00:25:16] Well, you’re going to make it more difficult for yourselves. But let’s go. Let’s do it. She seemed very happy.
Seth [00:25:25] That’s good.
Sharon [00:25:26] And that’s what’s important, you know?
Seth [00:25:29] And then she starts telling you about the fact that she’s polyamorous and what was that like for you to hear from her?
Sharon [00:25:39] That was a lot. The bisexual, cool. OK, fine. The polyamorous stuff, I am I was born in fifty three now, so I know like is that safe? You can do that? What?
Seth [00:25:56] But then Sharon learned some details about her own father that made her reflect totally differently on this topic of multiple partners and polyamory.
Sharon [00:26:05] Papa was a rolling stone. I’m like, Oh, you’re my brother and you’re my sister. You’re my what? Wait what?
Seth [00:26:10] Papa was a rolling stone. For those who aren’t familiar with the great song by the Temptations released in 1972, here’s Ashley to put it in more explicit terms.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:26:21] My grandfather had three secret families.
Seth [00:26:24] Oh no! He was a secret family person?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:26:25] He was a secret family person.
Seth [00:26:27] Oh, wow, that’s crazy.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:26:29] Not only did my grandpa have secret families, I thought we were the main family. Turns out we were the secret family the whole time.
Seth [00:26:37] You were a secret family?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:26:39] We were the secret family. I my whole life was like my grandma and grandpa, they’re beautiful and in love. And then we found letters from his first wife that were about my grandma and they were like, I call that woman the devil magic because you can’t leave her alone. And I was like, Wait a second. My grandma was the one who, like, stole this man and had a secret family with her like magic pussy that like, like siren called this man?
Seth [00:27:18] I think in training day, Denzel Washington has a secret family.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:27:24] I think he does. I do feel like maybe that was something my mom was like trying to condition me toward.
Seth [00:27:29] Denzel Washington, like, secret families are a thing. Just so you know.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:27:33] Yeah.
Seth [00:27:33] Well, speaking of polyamory, it sounds like your father had more than one family from what I understand.
Sharon [00:27:38] Oh my God so many. Yeah.
Seth [00:27:40] But that’s kind of an old school version of polyamory, in a way.
Sharon [00:27:45] There you go. See, that’s what I’m saying. Exactly.
Seth [00:27:54] And do you think these things happening are what opened you up to like being in a relationship with a woman for the first time?
Sharon [00:28:01] Well, I think it was when I was, you know, the show Queen Sugar. It encouraged me, I guess, to go on and say-
Seth [00:28:12] As you said, to say, Hey, me.
Sharon [00:28:14] Hey, me. Right. Exactly.
Seth [00:28:18] I got to say, this really surprised me. As someone who makes stuff, you rarely hear about a piece of art literally changing someone’s life. But Queen Sugar changed Sharon’s life. If you could say something to Ava DuVernay who created Queen Sugar, what would you say to her?
Sharon [00:28:35] I’d like to know where she gets these characters lives from. Do you know these people? Are there people out there really like that? Well, I guess so.
Seth [00:28:50] Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate this.
Ava DuVernay [00:28:56] I’m really happy to be here with you. This is, it was an out of the blue and welcome request.
Seth [00:29:02] The voice you’re hearing is the creator of Queen Sugar, Ava DuVernay. So what did you- how did it feel to to receive that email and to read that story?
Ava DuVernay [00:29:12] Really, really moved by it. There’s nothing more meaningful for me as an artist and storyteller than someone to say what came out of your mind affected my heart. It’s better than any award, right? This woman changed her life. You know, it’s so interesting the things that make us brave. Sometimes you think it needs to be some grand thing, but this was just a storyline on a basic cable TV show. I was telling my my folks in the writers room the other day, representation is having like the black judge. Like, in any show there’s got to be like a black judge or a black police chief, the black authority figures. But that’s so that’s representation and it’s valuable. But to go into complexity and nuance is what we do on Queen Sugar. And the fact that that touched that woman. The other thing that really got me about it is the way the story came to me. You, who I don’t know, who I know on Twitter…
Seth [00:30:08] The fact that I’m the person to be doing it is as strange for me as anybody. Trust me.
Ava DuVernay [00:30:12] You’re the bridge, Seth. You were the bridge.
Seth [00:30:15] I was the bridge. That’s amazing. When- is there anything that you remember watching that in spite of that, that inspired you in some way? Is there any time you remember seeing someone on screen and being like, Oh, maybe I could do something? I can’t, for the record. So.
Ava DuVernay [00:30:30] I can’t. And I wish I- I mean, it makes you think though even you and your work. Doesn’t it make you wonder? Like, this is a chance encounter that we know what this is, but doesn’t it make you wonder with all your work and with all the making people think, making people laugh, like what that is doing in the world. You know, and it just says that your voice matters. That’s all we want. Any any human being, I believe, wants just to be heard and valued.
Seth [00:30:59] Yeah, it’s so true.
Ava DuVernay [00:31:00] So this does that for me in a way that is even more meaningful than, you know, the the the baubles that we get in our industry. You know?
Seth [00:31:08] Is there anything else you would say to Ashley or her mother, Sharon, who I’m sure will listen to this as well?
Ava DuVernay [00:31:14] I would thank her for her bravery and also for sharing it because there’s a certain, you know, bravery that can be held private. It can be in privacy. But the fact that she’s sharing the story is is a bold and quite beautiful thing.
Seth [00:31:33] Does it genuinely drive you crazy that it that it was this fuckin Queen Sugar show and not you that inspired your mother to come out?
Ashley Ray Harris [00:31:41] It is a good show. I mean, I only watched the first season, and I mean, I will say, yes, I have not returned to the show because I am a little bitter. She always is trying to get me to watch it, too. She’s like, Have you caught up on it? And I’m like, Mom, it’s like in its fifth season now and I have not watched since the first. And she still always just like you got, oh my gosh, you got to catch up.
Seth [00:32:02] It just reaffirms that it’s true that that is truly her love for the show.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:32:06] I truly am just like it was this show, like not even me a little bit. And she’s like, No, literally, what is you being do with anything in my life? But I also love it because I mean, obviously, I’m someone who loves TV. My goal, like my my overall belief, is like, Make TV that’s honest, that’s true. And that’s the kind of TV I want to make. The kind of TV that makes a sixty three year old go, Hey, me!
Seth [00:32:34] Just to like Dr. Phil you again for one more second, like, the way you describe the character on the show that inspired you is almost exactly how I would describe your daughter.
Sharon [00:32:52] Exactly. That’s so crazy.
Seth [00:32:52] She. She gets what she wants. She doesn’t care. She goes for it. She has long braids.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:32:58] Nova dated a white cop. I would never date a cop.
Seth [00:33:01] It’s true. Your mom just said, Yes, you would.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:33:06] No I wouldn’t! I would not date a cop, mom. Nova is annoying.
Sharon [00:33:11] Nova is hot. No, no. Nova is wonderful.
Seth [00:33:16] Do you think it’s brought you guys closer together?
Sharon [00:33:18] I think so. And I think now that she’s older and I’m more mature, like I always tell her, I want to be like her when I grow up, you know? So. Ashley’s my go to person, even though she’s my kid.
Ashley Ray Harris [00:33:37] So you’re a slut. Hey, me!
Seth [00:33:57] Storytime with Seth Rogen is an Earwolf production… Produced, edited and sound designed by Richard Parks III. Our executive producer is Frida Perez. Additional production by Josh Richmond, Renee Colvert, Jared O’Connell, Marcus Homme and Marina Paiz. With special thanks to Amelia Chappelow. Our artwork is by Robin Richesson. The theme music is by Andi Kristinsdottir. I’m Seth Rogen.