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January 5, 2023 19 mins

In a live interview at MAKERS Women, Zuri Adele shares her story of grit and joy as an actress and activist. Zuri is best known for her portrayal of series regular 'Malika' on the award-winning TV series "Good Trouble,” now in its fifth season.

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
I'm Sam Edis and I'm Amy Nelson. Welcome to What's
Her Story? With Sam and Amy. This is a show
about the world's most remarkable women, their professional and personal journeys. Together,
we'll hear from gold medalists, best selling authors, and leaders
of the world's most iconic brands. Listen every Thursday or
join the conversation anytime on Instagram at What's Her Story Podcast.

(00:30):
Zuri Adele is best known for her betrayal of series
regular Molika on the award winning TV series Good Trouble,
Now in its fifth season, tell us a little bit
about where your story began. You know, it really starts
with just being raised and brought into the world by
parents who are artists themselves and who just really were

(00:53):
steeped in the liberation of people of African descent, and
just being in that household where there was like this
additional curriculum of like learning about our power and our
our knowledge, and having this free space to perform, like
being around my mom and drum circles and my dad
being a performance poet, and just having a lot of

(01:16):
nurturing to really express myself. And I always wanted to
take a stand and where education was also really important,
and I can tell that has fully informed like me
becoming this self proclaimed storyteller grio who I feel like
I am, and I'm really grateful to be able to
embody and share stories through my voice and body. That

(01:38):
leads to that type of liberation work, that abolition work.
So that's the whole gist of it, where like it's
this combination of like community and expression through performance art
with this intention of collective liberation, and that's like, that's
the womb I was brought up in. When you were

(02:00):
a young girl, did you think you would grow up
and be a storyteller? I knew I was going to
express with my voice and with my body. I didn't
know what that was, but I wasn't blessed with the
singing talent, so it's just kind of but no, you know,
what it really was is that I wanted to be everything.
Like I would watch something on TV or go to
a play and I was like, I want to be
a princess. Oh, I want to be a doctor. I

(02:21):
want to be a lawyer. Oh maybe I want to
do all of these things, and sort of the fomo
of it all lead me to want to portray all
of like learn all of these life perspectives and portray
them on screen or on stage. Like maybe that's a
noncommittal version of me too, because it's like, oh, I
don't have to take it home, but for three yeah,

(02:41):
I can do some research. I can learn about this perspective.
I can be you for three months. Yeah, all of that.
If you ever feel though, like I wish I had
pursued a career in law or a career in politics
or anything else, or are you always satisfied with where
you landed, I'm really satisfied and excited about where I ended,
and I am without any regrets. I am really excited

(03:04):
to keep learning more so now that, like, at first,
a lot of my acting was in like self expression
and storytelling was in the former theater and the stage
and the live audience experience. And now that I'm having
a lot of experience on the camera and television, I'm
craving to learn even more about filmmaking and directing and
producing because I'm like, this machine is phenomenal, and I

(03:28):
want to know more and more about like and it,
and it has such a large reach, like motion picture
is such a tool for like socio economic change and
it reaches, it can reach so far so quickly that
I want to learn more now about the behind the
scenes work of how that happens. So no regrets, but
I am like, oh, now I now I want to
learn more how to produce, and now I want to

(03:49):
shadow a few directors and learn that, and I want
to learn how like the money moves to make all
these things happen. So yeah, we just spoke with amazing
and it's amazing to hear nine year old talk about
her career in the present tense. So I'll give you
a little bit of grace here, but like, what do
you think your career will look like when you're seventy
When I'm seventy five, I will be I will for

(04:11):
sure be letting my voice and body to tell as
many stories through that seventy five year young body that
can be told, and I'll be producing and directing content
that feels like it's liberating, uplifting, all in all the
ways that I wanted to. I'll be Boston around, you know,
to be out of the and hopefully it'll be like
on Good Trouble, Like I have this dream that Good

(04:33):
Trouble is going to be like the Gray's anatomy vibe.
So I'm like, let me get my Debbie Allen on
and you know, be this producer on there and and
bring these new generations into the show. So, like I
pray when I'm seventy five, there's something going on there
or at least something that's like an extension of that
type of storytelling where we're focused on activism and abolition.

(04:53):
And my daughter, who is a young activist, she and
I watch your show together. We love it. What would
you say to a teenager growing up today, given the
possibilities and also sort of the angst that has gone
into a world in which everyone is so aware, HyperWare

(05:15):
has access to so much information. I would say, trust yourself,
trust your instincts, trust your inner voice. Like we've learned
so much through that generation that we can uproot any
system that is harmful, and we can take action in
really creative and new ways we can reach people and
really unconventional ways with our work and our content. And

(05:38):
so I would just continue to tell that generation like,
thank you, and trust your instincts, trust your self awareness,
Like keep following that yellow brick road of your voice. Okay,
so you're a storyteller, if you could put your career
story into three words, what would they be? Undaunted by
the fight? I know it was for I know still

(06:01):
I rise. I love it. That's amazing. So you wake
up every morning, and what do you do first? What's
your routine? As best as I can, I read a
morning devotional and like a daily devotional, sort of get
my head in the game and meditate and then right now,
I have two puppies, so I'll take them outside, do

(06:21):
a little snuggles and um. Always I usually do like
a martial arts training in the morning if I can,
or I'll just meditate and go to work if I
have like an early call time, but something where like
definitely a practice of sorts where I'm like grounding and
hearing from the source about how we're gonna stay you know,

(06:44):
present for the day. How do you find a way
to stay connected to the source, the universe, God, whatever
we call it in a really noisy world. I go,
I start with my body, like I do a body scan.
I make sure I can feel, you know, the air
hit my skin, a seat beneath me, my feet in
the ground. It could be on the subway, it could

(07:04):
be anywhere. But just like start with where the body
is and where the breath is. And that helped me really,
like we all just took a breath right now. That
just helps me get present. It's so interesting. Someone said
this to me the other day because I've always thought
of myself as the world's worst meditator, saeb. My brain
is always going. But that's like the practice it is,
sit there and let it flow, let the tabs be open.

(07:27):
If someone explain to me that, truly, in the whole world,
your breath is the only thing that has to live
in the present. Oh, that's why we focus on That's
good even I like that baby's gallery of time spelling
being cross where that's yeah, that is a meditation. You're

(07:49):
getting your breath. Yeah, you're strategizing. Yeah, you're having quality
time with yourself. You're unplugged and plugged in. No, that's good.
That's how you get your brains. Yeah, yeah, you're wu woo.
Don't try to hide it out. OK. So how did
you land your role on Good Trouble? Oh? So I
it was this audition process. So you know how Good

(08:10):
Trouble is the spinoff of the Fosters. So I had
audition for a role on the season finale of The
Fosters a couple of times, and I was excited about
it and didn't end up booking it. And then I,
you know, a few months later, had this audition for
this untitled Foster spinoff I think it's what they called,
and I was like, oh God, it booked that just

(08:32):
in case there was overlap, and um yeah. There were
four rounds think four or five rounds of auditions, and
everyone in the audition room was like looked so different.
You know, everyone was a black woman. It had like
a different you know, body type or energy or um.
There were just so many different forms of self expression.
And I loved how inclusive the character description of Molika was.

(08:58):
And I'm just so grateful I was in for all
the divine reasons. I guess like we were that character
and I were soul made. And I just kept coming
back for round after round with the producers and the
network and each actor, like as we narrowed it down
to like the final three, each one was so talented
that we were like cheering each other on. We were like,

(09:20):
if it's because we were all so different, we just
all have really different like temperaments. It was like, Okay, well,
if that's Molika, then that's Molika, like and it's me
that it was just like, oh, at this point, it's
not about talent. So it really also developed like this
really cool sense of like sisterhood and yeah, but it
was keep the other two I do. Well, there's one
of them was already a friend of mine, which was

(09:42):
really amazing, and yeah, she's doing so great, she's her
career is incredible. So yeah, we keep in touch. Audition. Yeah,
so in particular for TV, you know, you received the script. Besides,
sometimes you receive also the script of like the rest
of the episode or or the rest of the film,
and you may get less than twenty four hours, maybe

(10:05):
you get forty eight hours to prepare it. It could
be sometimes it's like a couple of pages, but sometimes
it's usually like ten pages, and just prepare it and
study as much as you can and film it with
a friend like Sean who helps me with my auditions
all the time and makes them so great and stretches
me and pushes me, and it's helped me find the

(10:26):
joy and the playfulness and like working with friends and
just trying not to see it as like okay, let's
put this job as much as like, oh, we get
to workshop and play with this thing today, and well
that's right now because it's on tape because of COVID.
But before we used to go into the audition room
and audition for the casting directors and eat them. And
I do kind of like now being able to do

(10:48):
it from home and do it a few times and
choose my favorite one. But everyone has like a different
you know, preference on that, and then there are other
rounds where it's like, you know, if they want to
move forward, then then we go in and read with
the casting, you know, with the either the casting directors
and or the producers and the writers. And now I've
been on the other side of that a little bit

(11:08):
more playing Melika, like where other characters will do a
chemistry read with me to like come into my story.
And I've learned that's helped me so much because I've learned, like, oh,
everyone is so talented, like this is the reasons that
like someone will be cast have nothing to do with
by the time it gets to like the final three,
you know, it just hasn't it doesn't have any it's

(11:30):
never personal um and that's helped me. The personalized like
the outcomes of my auditions and just used to have fun.
And now a quick break, you've succeeded in a career
that most don't. Yeah, why do you think that is?
I'm still learning the answer to that, And thank you

(11:51):
for saying I've succeeded, because I don't think I see
it that way. I feel successful, but it's like I
feel like I'm at the beginning of so many things
and still audition and not booking them, and you know,
all the things like good Trouble is like probably the
most recent audition I booked and I was five years ago.
And um, I do think that it's because everything is

(12:14):
in divine order. I know you don't want to hear it.
I know, I really think yeah. But I also think
it's about the energy that we bring into a room.
I think, like, how president you bring the best energy?
And by the way, for everyone listening your outfit, I'm
kind of like Gaga over and I don't like, yeah
like that, so tell me about it and so describe it.

(12:34):
I'll describe it to our listeners. But it's silk and
it's matching, and is it one jumpsuit or is it
it's a two piece? But you know make um oh
for it's this West African company so amazing, Oh f
you you are e it is gorgeous. Yeah, yeah, they
do really great like high Ways two piece, which I

(12:57):
love a set. I love it anyway. So in terms
of your own personal life, what are you doing on
the weekends or with friends or do you date? Tell
us about your your romance. Oh juicy, I'm spicy. Well, listen.
Our schedule is just so my work schedule is. So

(13:18):
I'm still learning, I think, because that's that's more of
an excuse than a reason. But I am still learning
how to balance like the ever constantly, ever changing demands
of my work schedule with a personal life. So I date.
I also just started working with a matchmaker and that's
been Yeah, that's been fun. So I was like, I'm
trying to I'm working on delegating everything. So I'm now

(13:39):
I'm delegating like we've had other guests. Great. Yeah, that's
been a fun ride because it's also just taught me
what I like and like what I'm attracted to and
then how I like to be treated. And it's also
really held me accountable to be honest about like if
I'm feeling a second date or if I'm not, and

(14:00):
just to be clear and unapologetic about what I what
I like, which I love your question about like well
why is it that you are successful, because it's like damn,
I want to be humble. But also I think there
is something strong about saying like it is important the
energy that we bring into a space and like how
present we can be and how people feel when we leave.
Do they feel, you know, drained or do they feel

(14:22):
filled up? And I like to honor that, like I
do my best work to fill myself up so that
I can fill people up when I'm in the rooms.
And I do think that that has an impact on
my career. And I think you can be incredibly humble
and share about your success and other people see it
because yeah, what we don't need right right? Girls? Yeah,
I think it's women especially, it's so important, Like Amy

(14:43):
and I love to talk about women and money, like, yeah,
we want to make a lot of money. And people
are always like you just said that men never cover
their mouths, Like what, so talk to us about money
and your thoughts on money, where you time therapy? Okay,

(15:04):
we're really okay, hold me accountable? Yeah, money, my relationship
with money is growing because I went so like when
I first booked Good Trouble, I was on food stamps.
I was just you know, I was making minimum wage,
working part time at a yoga studio and auditioning you
know at night and by the day, working out a
yoga studio by night. And because I had not booked

(15:26):
like guest Stars or other sort of like less consistent parts,
I went from what felt like zero to a hundred
when I both the series regular contract on Good Trouble.
So there's a lot of like personal finance, like financial
literacy that I needed to learn in sort of a
crash course, and it's been imperative to have people around

(15:47):
me who I trust, who can guide me through that.
I learned a lot about saving, a lot about taxes,
a lot about like whatever we negotiate for ourselves is
really like like we'll really take home half of that
um by the time we you know, pay out our taxes,
pay out our teams, all of that. To keep those
things in mind and to invest. And I'm still in

(16:07):
a crash course, but my relationship with money has really
stretched me lately to remember that there is no lack
like you know, it's always like, well, is this the
last season or are we gonna have more? Should I
save up? Am I not gonna work for a couple
of years? And so it's had me have a little
bit of like a scarcity mindset sometimes, like I don't
ever want to go back to where I was again.

(16:30):
It is a free mindset. I mean that's a thing
that yeah, the corporate salary on that journey. And then
it's also like I like nice things, and because my
schedule is the way it is now, I need to
delegate a lot of things, and so that costs even
more money, but it helps me show up so full
at work. And then when I show up full at work,
I make more money because I booked more jobs and okay,

(16:50):
now I got to delegate more. So it has taught
me that there is this cycle that comes right back
to me. You were in my therapy session. Yeah, my
purpose is gonna be very happy. She asked me that question.
There's no sh would do like a quick speed round.
What book are you reading? Speak up by tune day,

(17:11):
Oh your name? What is your favorite beverage? Charl with
oat milk and a little goving. Where are you taking
your next Vacation Barbados, Who leaves you star struck? Oh
we all star struck, but I do leave me starstruckank you?

(17:34):
Thank you so Amy. Good Trouble was one of the
shows that Ellen and I watched together, and she just
goes gaga oversary. She thinks she's the disknees and I
understand why. She's incredibly charismatic and thoughtful and really smart,

(17:55):
very smart, and she's definitely one of those people you
meet and you and meetly want to be friends and
hang out and want her to succeed because she's one
of those really rare individuals that seems super kind and
ambitious and interesting, like it's a mix you don't see
a lot. Well. I love the fact that she's an activist.

(18:15):
You get the sense that she's not going to take
on a role where she doesn't believe in the ethos
of the show. And I think that that also is
rare in Hollywood. When it's so hard. I mean, you
heard her story, it's just so hard to make it.
And I found her story really inspiring and it made
you think, like, if you're out there and you've gone
all these rejections, all it takes is one right one yes.

(18:37):
Whether you're in business, whether you're in theater. It's just
one yes that can change your life absolutely, and so
the point is to keep going until you hear the yes.
Thanks for listening to What's Her Story with Sam and Amy.
We would appreciate it if you leave her view wherever
you get your podcasts, and of course connect with us

(18:58):
on social media at What's Her Story podcast. What's Her
Story with Sam and Amy is powered by my company,
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