DeWanda Wise: She's Gotta Have WHAT!?! DeWanda Wise, the star of She's Gotta Have It and the new Twilight Zone reboot, recalls how a high school teacher pushed her towards acting as a way to stay out of detention.
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DeWanda Wise: She's Gotta Have WHAT!?!

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DeWanda Wise: She's Gotta Have WHAT!?!

DeWanda Wise: She's Gotta Have WHAT!?!

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(APPLAUSE)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Jonathan. Our first special guest stars in the Netflix series "She's Gotta Have It," based on the original Spike Lee movie. Please welcome DeWanda Wise.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Hello, hello.

DEWANDA WISE: In Brooklyn, no less.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(CHEERING)

EISENBERG: So I read that you got in trouble in high school.

WISE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: And your high school teacher offered you a choice between serving detention or auditioning for "The Music Man."

WISE: "The Music Man."

EISENBERG: What did you do?

WISE: I was late every day...

EISENBERG: Every day.

WISE: ...Like, just socializing in the hallway...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WISE: ...Just hanging out, just generally being the worst.

EISENBERG: And so finally your high school teacher was like, I'm coming down on you.

WISE: He decided to, like, be my "Dangerous Minds," you know...

EISENBERG: Well, I - you know...

WISE: ...Be my, like, Michelle Pfeiffer.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Right.

WISE: And you know, it was. It was very simple. He was like, I see promise in you, you know?

EISENBERG: Oh. So it was someone that saw potential in you. It wasn't...

WISE: He did.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WISE: He really did.

EISENBERG: And you auditioned.

WISE: And I auditioned. You know, I sang a song that I don't remember. And I feel like I was, like, one of the "Pick-A-Little" ladies, you know? Musicals are not my forte exactly.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) But you could - you did this one.

WISE: But I did it well enough.

EISENBERG: Yeah. You co-star in a new movie called "Someone Great" on Netflix...

WISE: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: ...With Gina Rodriguez.

WISE: I did.

EISENBERG: And you have known each other for a long time.

WISE: I have known Gina half my life at this point. We trained together at NYU. She was my first manager.

EISENBERG: What do you mean manager?

WISE: So (laughter) - so Gina - I'm putting her on blast. So Gina started interning at this, like, boutique management company. And she gave herself an alias, like a fake name, to pitch herself.

(LAUGHTER)

WISE: Like, she's always been such a hustler.

EISENBERG: So she's an actor, and she needs money. So she works as an agent on the other side.

WISE: So she works as an agent. Yeah, we were all interning. Like, I was interning at a theater company...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WISE: ...In college. And she was interning at this management company. And I was her first client.

EISENBERG: So she pitched you.

WISE: Never missed an appointment.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And did she get you any jobs?

WISE: I don't think so.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: But that's amazing. I mean, that's - that shows real tenacity, too.

WISE: Thorough.

EISENBERG: Amazing. So "She's Gotta Have It" is coming back for Season 2 on Netflix.

WISE: It is.

(CHEERING)

EISENBERG: This is - this series is based on the 1986 Spike Lee film by the same name. You star as Nola Darling, who is a sex-positive pansexual, doesn't believe in monogamy...

WISE: Right.

EISENBERG: ...My kind of hero. And I know from researching it that you initially turned down this role.

WISE: Is that out?

EISENBERG: Sure is.

WISE: I did turn it down.

EISENBERG: Why?

WISE: So I get the appointment. My husband of however many years it was at the time - speaking of polyamorous, I am not.

(LAUGHTER)

WISE: So he was like, you know, I mean, I don't know how I feel about you having fake sex a lot on TV. So it was a conversation, then I taped for it anyway because I did marry a feminist. And then when it became a thing, you know, I found myself in New York with my director session with Spike. And Spike just goes off gate. He was like, do you want to do this? And I was like - oh, this is real? And so in that moment, I couldn't say yeah. I hadn't had the conversation.

EISENBERG: Right.

WISE: So I said no. I said...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

WISE: ...I just - I don't know how much couples counseling costs. Like, I've never...

(LAUGHTER)

WISE: ...Had to pay for it. But right now, I don't know if it's in the budget. So I'm going to have to say no. And then it was like - that Friday night, the casting director texted me. She was like, hey, Spike is going to reach out to you. And I was like, OK. So then the next morning, I get this text message. And it's like, hey, this is Spike Lee.

(LAUGHTER)

WISE: And I was like, what is my life? OK.

EISENBERG: So Spike texted you and said, are you doing this, basically? Like...

WISE: Yeah. And we had the conversation. Like, you know, over a couple of days, I read all the scripts. My husband will not watch the show. He has not seen a single frame, and we are fine with that.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WISE: He believes in my talent. I don't need his approval.

EISENBERG: That's great. Exactly.

(APPLAUSE)

WISE: Exactly. So we got our little system.

EISENBERG: The character of Nola Darling in "She's Gotta Have It" has been making men feel uncomfortable...

WISE: It's so great.

EISENBERG: ...Since she first debuted.

WISE: They hate it so much.

EISENBERG: Yeah. In 1986, she made people uncomfortable. Now - 2019 - she is still making people...

WISE: She really is.

EISENBERG: ...Men uncomfortable.

WISE: I'm sorry to laugh with glee.

EISENBERG: It is. Well, I was going to say...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...Do you find it empowering on some level?

WISE: I mean, I do. I find it really funny, mostly because I think anything that people, like, regurgitate...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WISE: ...Like, at this point, it just becomes cliche. Right? Like, you don't even know why you think or feel that way. You're just regurgitating something - some, like, respectability politics thing. And it's just - makes no sense. Like, I'm not your wife.

EISENBERG: Right.

WISE: Like...

EISENBERG: Why am I dealing with this?

WISE: And this person isn't real. It's a fictional character on television. So...

EISENBERG: And they take it so seriously.

WISE: They do, which is beautiful. I mean, on one part, you know, I don't think I've ever been in anything where people have been, like - had neutral feelings about.

EISENBERG: Right. This is a very strong feeling.

WISE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: So you are in the new television reboot of Jordan Peele's "Twilight Zone."

WISE: Love a reboot (laughter).

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Did you watch any of the original "Twilight Zone"?

WISE: All of it.

EISENBERG: All of it - so you were a fan.

WISE: Every single one.

EISENBERG: Did you find them scary? Are you someone who found them scary or thrilling?

WISE: No, I'm not scared easily. I did - I found them, you know, reflective. Like, every episode, I was like, would I be the person that would leave the diner...

EISENBERG: Right.

WISE: ...Or would I be the person who would get on the ship, you know, and get eaten?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: In a interview, you were talking about your character in an episode of "The Twilight Zone" reboot. And you were - you said that you were surprised you hadn't played the role of Alexa Brandt before...

WISE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Because there is an element of your background that fits directly. And then I just saw a clip of the show, and you're wearing a spacesuit.

WISE: I am wearing a spacesuit.

EISENBERG: So I - can you...

WISE: I can.

EISENBERG: ...Clarify what this means?

WISE: I can. Absolutely. When I was in high school, I was in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. So I was in the JROTC. And so I have, like - and I come from a military family. I have a strong military background. I almost joined in college - right? - to pay that very large NYU bill.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WISE: So I was super-duper close to being in the reserves. And I just - I've never played anyone who is either, like, former military or military before, which I was just, like, kind of surprised by...

EISENBERG: Wow. So what it...

WISE: ...'Cause it was on my resume, you know? No one reads your resumes.

EISENBERG: No.

WISE: If you're an actor, they're not going to read it. It's fine.

EISENBERG: They just, like, see...

WISE: They're still going to ask if you could do that thing, and you're still going to lie and be like, absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

WISE: I'm amazing at horseback riding.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: So did you not go the path of going the military route because you discovered acting?

WISE: No, I think I - like, I discovered acting at 15, you know? And so I continued JROTC because I just - I loved it...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WISE: ...So much.

EISENBERG: What did you love about it?

WISE: There's an element of performance (laughter).

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

WISE: You know, when you're doing, like, the drills and you're, like, learning all the - I mean, it's so cool. It's so beautiful. And also, I just - I do - I believe in service. I come from a service-oriented family. And, you know, when it's right - when it's under the right direction...

EISENBERG: Yes.

WISE: ...It's - you know, it means a lot. It means a lot to serve our country.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: That's right. All right.

WISE: OK.

EISENBERG: DeWanda, are you ready for your ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?

WISE: Ready to fail. Let's go.

EISENBERG: No, it's going to be great. All right. Dewanda, your game is called She's Gotta Have What?

WISE: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: You're starring in a reboot of Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It," so for your game, we imagined what would happen if the show was rebooted again, but with a different twist.

WISE: OK.

EISENBERG: So I'm going to pitch you a reboot...

WISE: Lit.

EISENBERG: ...And - where we've replaced the it in "She's Gotta Have It" with a word or phrase ending in it.

WISE: OK.

EISENBERG: So if I said, in this reboot, Nola adopts a pet bunny, you'd answer, she's got to have...

WISE: Rabbit.

EISENBERG: Adorable.

WISE: I'm going to be so good at this.

EISENBERG: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And if you get enough right, Austin Bordelon (ph) from Marksville, La., will win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's cube.

WISE: Why is the Rubik's cube on me?

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah. It's going to be great. Nola becomes a violinist in a Broadway production and sits in the area below the stage, where the musicians play.

WISE: She's gotta have pit.

EISENBERG: That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Yeah. She's gotta have orchestra pit. That's right. (Laughter) You're already basking in the glow of getting it right.

WISE: (Laughter) Doesn't take much.

EISENBERG: Nola becomes a preacher in this series named after the lectern sermons are delivered from.

WISE: She's gotta have pulpit. She's...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WISE: Is it?

EISENBERG: That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

WISE: My mother is a lay minister. She's very happy right now.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

WISE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: She's giving you thumbs-up.

WISE: I got you, boo. I got you.

EISENBERG: She's giving you a high-five.

WISE: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Nola teams up with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in an attempt to leave the European Union.

WISE: She's gotta have Brexit.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Sure. Sure.

WISE: Don't we all?

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Is this happening? Who knows?

WISE: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: And your final one - for some reason, Nola is sick of having perfect skin and tries everything she can to get a pimple on her face.

WISE: I love popping pimples so much. She's gotta have zit.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: You got them all. Congratulations, DeWanda. You and Austin Bordelon both won ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's cubes.

WISE: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: DeWanda will be back later in the show to play another game. "She's Gotta Have It" is streaming on Netflix. Give it up for DeWanda Wise.

WISE: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Want our next special guest to play for you? Follow ASK ME ANOTHER on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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