The Women of Starz’s ‘Run the World’ Talk Season Finale and Their Hopes for Next Season
After eight eventful episodes following a foursome of thirty-something women as they navigate life, love and careers in Harlem, season one of Starz’s “Run the World” came to a close with a bachelorette party, one made all the more memorable by the fact that the bride-to-be, Whitney (Amber Stevens West), was pretty much a no-show. While her friends were hanging out in a fancy hotel suite, she was busy finally coming clean to fiancé Ola (Tosin Morohunfola) about her infidelity. Meanwhile, Ella (Andrea Bordeaux) turned a corner in her relationship with boyfriend Anderson (Nick Sagar), which led to a bout of some much-needed inspiration. Sondi (Corbin Reid) also reached a better place in her relationship with her graduate advisor-turned-boyfriend Matthew (Stephen Bishop). As for Renee (Bresha Webb), she is less lucky in the love department, as she is currently going through a divorce from husband Jason (Jay Walker), but finds herself taking a major leap in her career.
All of these developments leave a lot for the viewer to look forward to in season two, and the four lead actresses themselves are especially eager to take their characters to new places. Bordeaux, Stevens West, Webb and Reid spoke with Entertainment Voice about the season finale, what makes their characters so relatable, the importance of positive portrayals of Black love and female friendships, and their hopes for their characters going forward.
Andrea, we see Ella as she rebuilds her career after a major setback. Her book didn’t do as well as she expected, and she’s kind of starting over again as an entertainment journalist. Did you relate to her at all?
Andrea Bordeaux: Yeah, I related to Ella so much. I was very grateful for the character to come into my life at the time that she did because this show was really my first time working in a couple of years. I had done one small guest star role and a couple of commercials, and prior to that I had done my big arc on “NCIS: LA.” I thought I was going to do multiple seasons on that show; I thought I was going to keep being this badass special agent, and then my character went out in a really terrible, fiery death (laughs). She dies a really bad death. There’s a whole backstory there, but I’m not going to get into it right now, but I can laugh now. I wasn’t laughing then.
It was really painful. I had kind of lost my passion for acting, and I was just kind of angry and like, “Why is the world against me?” and “Why is nothing working the way I thought it would?” Living in that space of sort of embittered cynicism that we see from Ella, and being in a place where I’m a little more grounded and a lot more in the flow of things, and then getting to revisit some of those emotions through Ella has been really fun, because I get it, girl. I get it.
Then we have Whitney, who on the outside seems to have the perfect life, with her successful career and her perfect fiancé, but she feels like something is missing. Did you emphasize with her, Amber?
Amber Stevens West: I definitely related. I went through those emotions earlier on in my life, more like in my twenties. I too am I person who has spent most of my life doing the right thing based on what other people expect of me, and not checking in a lot with myself to see what’s actually fulfilling to me, just because I’m a goody two-shoes, so I totally relate to Whitney’s perspective and take on life. She’s really just created a life plan for herself, and has been on that one path her whole life and is finally confronting the reality of all of her choices, and now is so unsure if she even took the right path. I have so much sympathy for her and compassion for that, because I understand what it feels like to try and do all the right things and still not really be sure if you’re happy.
I like playing this character, and I like showing this character on a show, because it’s so easy to judge somebody from the outside, and getting to play a character like this and getting to see behind the scenes of what led her to her choices and what she’s ultimately going to do, I think we’re kind of, in our own real lives, going to give people a break. We don’t need to judge each other so harshly or so quickly, because you really don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors or in someone’s heart.
Bresha, the last time I talked to you was for “A Fall from Grace,” which was very different from “Run the World.” Renee, she’s larger than life and always speaks her mind, but we also see how she has issues with showing her more vulnerable side to her friends. Are you like her at all?
Bresha Webb: I’m a Taurus, just like Renee. I’m always the strong friend in my friend groups. I dress up pretty, and I show nothing, unless I crack at the surface or crack inside, and Renee has that exact same default. You have to pull it out of her, and it’s because of therapy, which I love this show for, for showing how we can help each other and help ourselves, and to do the work and really see those parts that we need to work on. Vulnerability is something that Renee needs to work on, especially expressing that to her friends.
I feel like just what we’ve gone through with Covid and quarantine and being isolated for so long, that I feel like in a lot of my friend groups, I needed to learn how to be vulnerable enough to let them know that I am lonely; I’m sad; I need help. I’m not liking being by myself, all of those things. You don’t think that when you see a woman living her best life that she could be going through the same things that any other person in the world could be going through. You think that they have it all, but they have this internal struggle. I love that we’re showing that in this show, and bringing some lightness to it, and also bringing some honesty to it as well.
Corbin, Sondi’s been a great character to watch as she navigates her relationship with Matthew. She’s mostly happy, but she also worries about how it might jeopardize her academic career. Did you identify with her and her struggle?
Corbin Reid: I’ve never been in her exact situation. I’m an actor. I don’t have a PhD or any of that.
Webb: You do! You do!
Reid: I have a PhD in life, honey. I definitely think of myself as an intellectual. I love to learn. Aside from that, I think the thing that anyone can take away from watching Sondi is that she’s in a relationship in which there’s a bit of a power dynamic that puts her in a position in which she feels a bit insecure. She’s turned into a people pleaser, and she’s trying to be someone who she isn’t in a lot of ways. She’s also giving to the point of becoming unrecognizable to herself. She’s so caught up in giving him what he needs for the relationship to work, that she catches herself in it and is like, “Wait, what am I doing?” and “Why are you putting me in this position? This is not okay.” She’s forced to, which you see [towards the end of the season], confront that. She’s like, “Look, this isn’t working for me. The dynamics have to change here.” She just sort of redefines the boundaries of the relationship to better suit her needs. I identified with that, for sure.
Andrea, I love the scenes in which we see Ella working out in the field as a journalist. We see her go to the press junket where she’s treated kind of shabbily. Then there’s that great storyline where she exposes a famous actor for being a cheater, which leads to some blowback. What was it like playing a journalist, and what was the most surprising thing you learned?
Bordeaux: You know, I had always wanted to be a journalist growing up. There were a couple careers. Of course, acting was always number one, but I was really into journalism, and I always thought that I would make an excellent lawyer. A lot of people told me that I should be a lawyer because of my argumentative nature (laughs).
Stevens West: You would be a great lawyer.
Bordeaux: Thank you! See? I always take it as a compliment. I studied journalism and broadcast journalism in high school, and I used to help produce news segments in high school that would broadcast on every TV each morning, so getting to play a journalist was so much fun. Also, I love writing. I do personal essays more than anything, but I love that art of expressing yourself through word and putting your thoughts on paper. Seeing that Ella views herself as this heartfelt, deep-thinking writer who’s not getting to utilize her talent in the way that she wishes was very fascinating for me, because the type of work that she’s doing at Hot Tea Digest isn’t really her passion, and she’s just paying the bills. For me, being an actor and having to wait tables for 15 years, there was a lot of parallel there. There was some enjoyment that I got out of it, but it felt that I was pulling all of my energy into something that wasn’t really fulfilling me.
What I just learned about it was that, regardless of what career path you’re on, there are so many people out there that are taking paths that aren’t necessary in alignment with them, but they’re really just doing the best that they can. However, there’s also a little tiny bit of self-sabotage that comes with it when you’re working at something you’re not aligned with. I feel like what she did in episode seven with exposing that actor was a tiny bit of self-sabotage. She didn’t do any of it, really, the right way, or what we would call the right way, by not giving her friend a heads up or really sitting with it, just jumping on the trend, which is not integral to who she is. I just find it all so interesting and valid, and like Amber said, we’re all walking our own path and just figuring it out… Sometimes you have to go through a little bit of self-sabotage before you recognize, “Okay, this is not what I’m supposed to be doing. Let me reorient myself.”
Stevens West: Every character does that. Every character sabotages themselves (laughs). But that’s real life, man. You go to your friend, and your friend’s like, “Yeah, you shouldn’t have done that.”
Speaking of self-sabotage, Amber, we see Whitney have a fling with “community peen” Chris in the first episode, and she finally opens up about everything with Ola in this intense, emotional two-person sequence in Sondi’s apartment in the season finale. Tell us about those scenes and everything that went into it.
Stevens West: Man, I was so anxious the entire time we were filming the season waiting to film those scenes, because I just knew how heavy it was going to be and hard. I wanted it to build. I was really worried, because you’ve seen Whitney hold it together this whole time. She hadn’t really even cried about it yet. She’s just trying to hold it in. I didn’t want her to tell Ola and she’s just crying the whole episode. She wants it to work out, but she’s carrying this immense guilt.
I had a hard time preparing for that, but Tosin is the best acting partner, and he and I just figured out what it was going to look like. The two of us kind of staged it ourselves, because we wanted it to feel as organic and real as possible, and we didn’t want it to be for the camera. We wanted it to be whatever two human beings would do in a space like that, because neither of us are in our home. We’re at our friend’s house, so it’s an awkward space to be in. It’s very uncomfortable for both of us, so we spent a lot of time just on our own figuring out what would work for us, and then went to the director and collaborated with her to make it perfect.
I was nervous about it, but I loved the way it was written. She has so much hope and she really believes that he’s going to forgive her, and she’s so sorry, but she’s terrified. She’s tried everything else. For her, telling him is the only option now. She clearly can’t forgive herself. Her therapist told her it’s either a “shit or get off the pot [situation]. Either just forgive yourself, move on, or tell him and deal with those consequences.” She finally decided, “…This is the advice that best suits me in moving forward with my life.” It’s heartbreaking. It’s so sad! (Laughs). You love that character. You love that Ola so much; you don’t want to see him hurt. It’s so good.
Where do Whitney and Ola go from here?
Stevens West: I don’t know. I’m hopeful that this is a couple that can figure it out, but there are so many options for both of them now. They have this immense history and love and respect for one another. They’re already planning their wedding, but this is throwing a wrench in the whole thing. I don’t know if Ola could ever trust her again, because this was a giant betrayal to him. I think the ball’s fully in his court. If and when the second season comes, I look forward to finding out what happens too (laughs).
Then there’s Renee’s relationship with Jason. They’re going through a divorce due to financial reasons, mainly because he invested a substantial amount of their money into his new venture without telling her. Yet, there’s clearly still some passion there. Bresha, do you see them working through this, or do you feel like Renee’s done with him for good?
Webb: I think Renee is ready to live her life. I think she’s been lying to herself in this marriage about what happiness is, and really tapping into what she really is desiring. She wants to be chased. She wants to be desirable. She wants that heat. If Jason can bring it back into the marriage and get his life together, if he comes back with the money that he stole from her –– Let’s be clear, there is definitely some betrayal going on. He has to heal from that, and I don’t think it’s a band-aid type of thing that can just heal [quickly].
It’s going to take time for Jason and her, and I hope that we can revisit that marriage, because I want to be a part of a show that shows Black love and how we can repair it, and restore it and find a balance, and not just be [crazy drama]. I want to tell stories about what really goes on in marriage, and how I see people grow from things and are still together for years to come. I hope that happens, because I love playing with Jay.
Corbin, I love Sondi’s scenes with Professor Baptiste. It’ll be interesting to see where that relationship goes. Do you see Sondi going forward with working with Baptiste and putting aside her insecurities about her relationship with Matthew?
Reid: Yeah, I think you see it the first time she’s speaks to her post-party. I think she goes into there thinking she’s going to punch her in the gut the same way she felt metaphorically punched at her party, just with sort of being called out and being made to feel like her relationship isn’t genuine and she stands to gain something from it. She goes in and is pleasantly surprised, because what ends up happening is Baptiste redirects her thoughts about what she should be studying, and sort of offers what needs to stand on her own, and ends up being asset. It’s a really lovely sort of surprise, and I think Sondi’s open to it, and I think Baptiste is going to be an asset to her moving forward. The people who challenge your thinking, especially in an academic setting, can be the greatest assets, because they can help you move in a different direction and come up with new thoughts and ideas. She’s definitely a formidable opponent, but also, they have something there that could help take Sondi to the next level in an academic setting.
Also, I feel like it’s definitely, obviously, a conflict of interest to be dating the person that you’re studying under. I feel like it’s a lot of the reason why she’s so willing to just, in a lot of ways, give him what he needs, and is forgetting about herself. She needs someone who’s not in an intimate relationship with her to be in that setting. I think it will give her the freedom to really figure out what she wants to do, and what she wants to use her voice to say.
Andrea, the finale ends with Ella taking out her laptop and starting her second book. What do you think the book is about, and what do you see being her next chapter in life?
Bordeaux: I don’t know what the book is going to be about, but I do think that it might have something to do with rediscovering your voice, or overcoming some type of obstacle, and sharing that as a way of being in service to whoever her audience is. I think so much of that is influenced by the fact that she is now more solidified in her relationship with Anderson and has gotten a really good pep talk from him in just remembering who she is and what her gifts and talents are, which I think she had kind of forgotten for a little bit when she was getting sucked into the world of Hot Tea Digest.
This was the first step of, “Okay, I have no idea what’s going to happen, but let me put some words on the page and see what flows from there.” I love that, and similar to Whitney and Ola’s storyline, the possibilities are limitless. It could go anywhere, and I very much look forward to seeing Ella in a relationship and what that looks like. I feel like that could be hilarious.
Sondi has this great quote she says in therapy, “True friends should stab you in the front and have your back.” What do you make of that?
Reid: Your good friends are going to be honest with you even if it’s hard. So, it might feel like it’s slapping you in the face, because honesty usually hurts if it’s real honesty, but, at the end of the day, you’re being honest with that person out of love and to lift them up to make them better, and that’s part of having their backs. If you’re being honest to help push that person forward in love and in the right direction, then honesty is the stab, and it’s also the loving push from the back, the push that pushes you forward.
Webb: I just don’t like violence (laughs). Personally, I’m honest with my friends. I appreciate my friends for being honest with me, and I feel like it’s not a stabbing or a slap. It’s like kitten paws of like, “Girl, no.” Then having your back is like, “I’m going to catch you when you fall. I’m going to hold you to this, but I love you enough to catch you when you fall, and also to push you forward, but also know that I’m still here holding you up.”
You want to do everything with love, and I feel like that’s what I love about this show, that even with the bickering that they do –– one of my favorite scenes is the one in the bridal suite –– there’s so much going on, and it shows such strong women who are able to disagree and bicker and still love each other, and still be able to call each other out. You have to have a Whitney type of energy that is so sweet and so patient, that can call us all out on our shit for us to shut the hell up and get focused on what we’re supposed to be focused on. I feel like all friends need all those dynamics, and always to show that strong women are able to be friends.
“Run the World” season one finale airs July 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Starz.