There is no denying that Vanessa Bell Calloway is an icon. The talented actress, director and producer brings her creative flair to a new series and genre. Bell Calloway stars alongside a talented group of young actresses in a new supernatural series, “Wicked City.”
Not to be confused with a 1987 Japanese Anime, ALLBLK’s “Wicked City” follows five young witches in Atlanta. Bell Calloway told NewsOne this isn’t all “hocus pocus.” Bell Calloway plays the wise Tabitha, a mentor to the coven and magical guide for Jordan (played by Shaquita Smith), who hasn’t quite manifested her magical ability.
“They possess energies, I would say more than powers, that they’ve learned how to manifest,” she said. “So she’s just trying to teach them how to be responsible in their world with these energies and powers that they have.”
Things heat up when Camile, played by Taylor Polidore, arrives looking for answers after her mother’s untimely death. She gets answers, a coven and more than she bargained for.
Supernatural shows with Black leads and diverse casts have taken T.V. by storm. J. August Richards’ “Vampire Academy” on Peacock and “Interview With The Vampire” on AMC+ are just two recent examples. These shows aren’t simply sprinkling in some diversity to check off a box. They have authentic representation.
“We’ve been doing that for centuries,” Bell Calloway said. “This is not something new to us.”
Early in the series Sherise, played by Chanel Mack, reminds the others that her magical lineage goes back to before slavery in Nigeria. A medium for electrical energy, Mercedez McDowell’s Mona plays a critical role early on, bridging the gap between this realm and the beyond.
Angela Harris, played by Chantal Maurice, rounds out the coven. Angela draws her power from plants and herbs. She’s a healer and, in some ways, a modern-day apothecary.
Showrunner and executive producer Tressa “Azarel” Smallwood shared in a statement that it was her goal to showcase the talent of Black writers and elevate Black characters through engaging storytelling.
“When writers Kristin Iris Johnson and Serena M. Lee approached me with the concept for “Wicked City,” I knew we had something new and different that hadn’t been seen on TV before,” she said. “‘Wicked City’ not only showcases a broader diversity of Blackness, it fills the gap of the kind of Black supernatural content that so many in our community have wanted to see but have been perpetually deprived of.”
Watching with my daughter, who is in college, added another layer of perspective. She was taken in by the diversity of characters and experiences in just the first few episodes. The exploration of self and learning to step into their power resonated with both of us over the course of the series.
“Wicked City” makes space for Black women characters to develop as full complex beings, and not simply the Black version of shows with white leads. Stepping into one’s own power, chosen family and community are really at the crux of “Wicked City.” In many ways, the show parallels the real experiences and challenges facing young women coming of age.
“It’s like in real life when we mentor young people,” Calloway said. “We have to teach them about life, and how to be productive, and you know, how to participate as a community with each other because we all have special talents.”
She said that being in community with others and contributing your special talents is “what makes everything work.”
And like any group of friends, the ladies of the “Wicked City” coven have their ups and downs, but when push comes to shove, they are able to band together. Bell Calloway said she is always rooting for her sisters and hopes viewers can feel the sincerity and community throughout the series. Both on-screen and behind the scenes, the cast and crew represent the power of Black women.
“They’re really seeing the power that women can have behind the scenes, as well as in front of the scenes,” she said. “We’re hoping that viewers can feel that sense of community and support for women.”
Bell Calloway said she’s looking forward to the rest of the series unfolding beyond the first six episodes.
“Right now, is like an introduction,” she explained. “But to me, the excitement is gonna be where can it go from there.”
“Wicked City” airs on Thursdays. You can catch the first two episodes streaming now on ALLBLK.
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