Yaya DaCosta talks about hair and heritage as seen through “Our Kind of People”

Yaya DaCosta makes her debut in her new drama Fox.

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, Fox’s Our kind of people is a dramatic tale of family secrets, the effect of the past on the present, class and social divisions, and black elitism set against the backdrop of historic Oak Bluffs in Martha’s Vineyard, MA.

DaCosta takes the lead as Angela Vaughn, a hair care entrepreneur with ties to the black elite of Martha’s Vineyard who may be deeper than she thinks. After inheriting a home in the upscale enclave after her mother’s sudden death, Angela decides to move to her childhood hometown with her daughter, seeking a fresh start and answers to her own past.

For DaCosta, the role of Angela is a welcome challenge. After a successful six-season stint with an ensemble cast on NBC’s Chicago Med, she now carries her own show in the lead role. While she says her leadership position on the show is a lot of work (we chat with her as she shoots even more on the set of Season 1), she enjoys taking on all the intricacies of her character.

“I love her self-esteem, her determination, her ambition, the fact that she has flaws and that she has things to discover about herself and to heal,” DaCosta said of Angela.

“I especially love her obsession with hair, because I have one and always have,” she laughs.

That’s right, since we first discovered DaCosta via The next American top model Cycle 3 in 2004, her big healthy mane of 4C hair was one of the features of her physical beauty that stood out the most for fans. Her cast is perfect for a show with natural black hair care as part of her tradition.

“Being on a show where I can actually express my creativity working with my hairstylist Chioma Valcourt is so much fun,” she says of the way hair is presented on the show. “I wear my hair on the show, but we also play with extensions and parts. It’s really exciting to be able to show off all these different looks while still maintaining the health of my hair.

Viewers of last week’s first episode got a taste of the betrayal the wealthy Dupont and Franklin families can inflict in the face of the presence of societal and socio-economic strangers. As such, with the series being loosely based on the nation’s true 1% black, it’s safe for fans to consider whether Our kind of people hopes to examine issues of elitism and division in the black community.

While these points are addressed throughout Season 1, DaCosta says she doesn’t think there is an agenda in the show to criticize black people and the well-to-do.

“I don’t think there’s anything we’re trying to say about the black elite,” DaCosta told us. “I think they’re saying something about the Franklin’s, they’re saying something about the Duponts in particular, and any other character you might meet.”

“There are stories, of course, about the exclusivity of Jack & Jill and so on. Yes, sometimes it’s an exclusive community. But it also changes and evolves with the world.

Episode 2 of Our kind of people airs tonight on Fox at 9 p.m. ET. To learn more about our conversation with DaCosta, watch the video above.

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