Tyler Perry’s ‘Sistas’ Actress Mignon Breaks Down Role of Danni & Power of Sistahood [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Mignon is a must-see in Tyler Perry’s BET series ‘Sistas’ & the star spoke to Kontrol Magazine about her character Danni!
Many in the Black community grew up in a family with one golden rule: Don’t bother your mother during her phone time. You never knew when or how long mom would be on the phone, but you knew you shouldn’t wait around to find out. Why? She was talking to her girlfriends. From church gossip and work drama to marriage woes and parental venting, a mother’s “phone time” was her sacred cow, which was never to be disturbed.
During the pandemic, women — whether mothers or not — are needing more “phone time” than ever before. To maintain their sanity during isolation, uncertainty, and pent-up sexual repression, women are turning to their trusted sisters. And, while there are many types of friends and girlfriends out there, everyone needs a “Danni.”
Danni is one of the latest and greatest creations from Tyler’ Perry’s Sistas, which has become a fan-favorite and primetime television force to be reckoned with. Played by the beautiful and brilliant Mignon, Danni has captured the hearts of fans who relate to this one of a kind woman who doesn’t hold back. She is the “in it til the end,” “ride or die” girlfriend that will get in your business but always has the best intentions. Her unrelenting transparency is only matched by how hilarious it is to watch her walk in her truth like no one’s watching. Yes, in times like these, everyone needs a “Danni.”
Kontrol Magazine had the pleasure of speaking with Mignon about the importance of her role as Danni and her journey into acting on this hit show.
Becoming a Sista
Mignon always wanted to be an actress. “I knew from a young age,” the Southern storyteller and actress said. “It has been a lifelong dream of mine.” Originally from Washington, DC with a Creole heritage and a Georgia upbringing, Mignon began ensuring she was ready for the career she desired. After graduating from Pepperdine University with a B.A. in Film Studies, Mignon was ready to expand her extensive production experience in exciting ways.
Though she is comfortable in front of and behind the camera, acting has always been her first love. That is no surprise since her name always sounded like a Hollywood stars’. “My mom — who was born and raised in New Orleans — named me Mignon after a New Orleans jewelry store in Canal Place.” It seems her mother knew she was going to need a name to match her certain success. Mignon went on to write, direct, executive produce, and star in her own original short film 42 Seconds, which won Best Director at the Women in Film and Television Atlanta Short Film Showcase.
Even with this achievement, she wasn’t certain she would be able to make a career out of acting. “It wasn’t until my role as Danni that I really believed I could do this for the rest of my life.” Without a manager or an agent, Mignon sent a tape in for the role and did a few callbacks. “I was so uncomfortable because I hadn’t heard back from anyone in three weeks. Then, while at my mom’s house in my underwear eating Costco pizza, Tyler Perry’s in-house casting director called me and told me I was hired. That call lasted all of 62 seconds.”
The wait was well worth it. Mignon is now the second lead actress on BET’s scripted show, averaging 1.5 million viewers in its first season and is holding virtually the same numbers since the second season started on October 14 with two back-to-back episodes. Those two episodes were the most socially viewed cable activity that Wednesday night, generating 1.8 million views on Facebook and Twitter. In reflecting on this Mignon said, “We put a lot of faith in the way the system works, but many times it works the way it is supposed to. In this situation, God was my agent.”
What Sistas Talks About
Sistas is a show that deals with real issues in relevant ways. So its return gives women (and men) the “phone time” they need to deal with issues they may not know how to express. Even the official statement from Tyler Perry Studios made it clear that his show was going to keep being “phone time” for our nation:
“This new season will pick up right where it left off, with Tyler Perry taking viewers on an exhilarating ride of emotions and gut-busting predicaments that will test the ladies’ long-standing friendship. This band of women, intertwined with their newfound relationships, must navigate this new-age dating scene as they continue to search for love in their 30s.”
While there are many topics the show addresses, there are a few more important to our readers and viewers of the show.
Many of the characters on Sistas have to confront the theme of being honest with themselves and living authentically. As the show moves into a new season, it has given Mignon a change of heart about how she views her connection with her character. “I used to think I was more like Sabrina, but after season one I am thinking differently.”
It makes sense that Mignon originally found herself relating to Sabrina. “I connected with Sabrina in the sense of wanting balance and wanting homeostasis. She just doesn’t want any beef. You know, she wants to keep it cool. She loves everybody and she’s also the person that maybe hasn’t found their inner voice yet or hasn’t turned it all the way up yet.”
Entering this second season, Mignon has found her faith and her voice. “At my core, I now see that I am Danni. I don’t need to use weed to medicate, but I do want everyone to win. And, I don’t mind telling the truth to see the people I love do better. We align most with our good intentions.”
Sistas follows a group of single black women from different walks of life and careers, who bond over their single status. It’s no wonder why this show deals so heavily with relationships as a major theme. If women don’t talk about anything else, they are going to talk about the relationships in their lives. As viewers delve into the Sistas’ universe, Mignon has her own perspective of Danni and the other ladies’ world from her front row seat.
Who can forget when Danni allowed Karen’s ex-boyfriend to live with her? “That was way too messy,” Mignon said. “That is a clear example of how extreme Danni can be. Danni learned some lessons from that. She had to go through it to learn them.”
What about Danni being the single friend, until she met a white guy named Preston? “Everything was difficult and tedious for Preston and Danni in season one. I would’ve wanted them to have more of an easygoing time. I like where season one ended with them, but there will definitely be more drama as season 2 unfolds.”
Like Danni, many Black women are deciding to open up their possibilities and date outside of their race. “There is nothing wrong with interracial relationships,” Mignon said. “You just have to have the grace and understanding to do different types of work to make them last. White men have to do a lot of work to be with Black women, and they should do that work before they get to her.” Talking about her own situation, Mignon said, “I dated someone who wanted to learn more about Black culture. I told him, ‘Google it.’ That didn’t last long,” she said, laughingly. “I just don’t want to be a racial tour guide. I want my relationship to feel like home and not like more work.”
No Black neighborhood is complete without a beauty supply store and a hair salon. In fact, beauty is one of the biggest industries that targets Black women. With a cast of stunning women, beauty is an understated yet ever-present part of the show, and Mignon has her own thoughts about how Danni relates to it. “Beauty is very important to Danni,” Mignon said, “but not in a traditional way. I would say she thinks of beauty as loving herself. She is able to love herself and be okay with who she is.”
“It’s funny…” Mignon adds, “I am realizing that Danni has the most hair changes than any other character on the show.” After a brief pause she continues: “She wants to look and feel her mood. She often even changes her look. Danni doesn’t mind wearing tight clothes when she’s feeling flirty. She likes to experiment and explore, as all women should be able to do.”
We all know that this year has been one for the record books. With the state of the country and Black culture under strain, Mignon shared how both her and Danni handled this year so far. “The show didn’t reflect the quarantine or pandemic at all,” Mignon explained. “But, if it did, I could see Danni somewhere smoking a lot of weed. She would be one of the few people still working because of her job at the airport.”
Every day people have reacted to the quarantine in dramatically different ways. Mignon her own initial battle with being in lockdown mode. “The first week of quarantine, I did a ton of snacking, but I realized it was a trap. I decided that quarantine would be my time to get better.” Mignon continued, “Since gyms were closed, I used YouTube videos and bands to exercise. I’m getting better daily at yoga and staying rooted to a spiritual practice.”
Why Sistas Is Necessary
For millions, Sistas is now appointment viewing. Those who tune in relate to these single Black females as they navigate their complicated love lives, careers and friendships through the ups and downs of living in a modern world of social media and unrealistic relationship goals. “All life isn’t drama and life isn’t all comedy,” Mignon said. “There has to be balance.” People can feel the balance as they take the exhilarating ride of emotions and gut-busting predicaments that test the ladies’ long-standing friendship as they continue to search for love in their 30s.
Not since the 2000 hit show Girlfriends have we seen a millennial equivalent that expresses the stories and challenges of the modern Black woman. “It’s an honor to be compared to Girlfriends,” Mignon said. “It’s a bit surreal. I looked up to them. I related to each part of them, except Toni,” she said, laughingly. “I understand more now what they felt then. To have this moment to represent Black women’s voices is an honor and a privilege. I understand that what we are doing is more than just acting.”
Yes, it is more than just acting. It is a visual display of what sistahood can and should look like. “We need sistahood more now than ever,” Mignon said. “It is a safe space to laugh and cry, rejoice and be human. Danni has so much depth to her emotions, and she smokes a lot of weed to medicate from the pain she feels. It’s not great for Danni to always be the one in the position to speak the uncomfortable truths. That’s why she needs her sistas.”
We all do. Mignon gave some motivational advice to her followers. “Find your tribe,” she said. “Don’t try to force a tribe. Trust that you can find it. It is an inside out thing. You have to first understand what being a woman means. Then you can say what it means to be a sister to someone else and them for you. It may be temporary but hold on to it.”
In a time where we desperately need community, Sistas represents the power of people coming together to support, encourage and uplift each other. It displays the opportunity to use diversity to solve problems and overcome challenges. The show underscores the once valued “phone time,” creating space for the stories of Black women to be told with truth and vulnerability.
Every sista needs her extended family. That’s why Sistas also stars the dynamic KJ Smith, Ebony Obsidian, Novi Brown, DeVale Ellis, Chido Nwokocha, Anthony Dalton II, Brian Jordan Jr., Kevin A. Walton, Trinity Whiteside and Crystal Hayslett.
Mignon’s final words were crystal clear: “Pay attention to the subtle changes to Danni this season. The women are often on Preston’s side, but Danni’s not always wrong with everything. Just because he’s fine doesn’t mean he’s right.” Now that was said like a sista looking out for a sista.
Tyler Perry’s Sistas airs Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET on BET.
Watch the trailer below.
Photography: Allen Cooley
Creative Director & Lead Stylist: Julian Rashard Lark
Assistant Stylist: Josephine Liemamo
Hair: Nikk Nelson
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