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Olivia Washington & Kara Young Share Why “I’m a Virgo” is Needed Representation

Olivia Washington & Kara Young Share Why “I’m a Virgo” is Needed Representation

*This press was established and completed prior to the commencing of the SAG-AFTRA strike*

Boots Riley is no stranger to creating worlds that challenge us to think as we are being entertained. Boots’ latest project, “I’m A Virgo,” is no exception, bringing a thrilling intellectual journey to his latest series.

From the start, we’re introduced to an abnormally large child by the name of Cootie, played by the Emmy-winning actor Jharrel Jerome, who spends his early years blocked off from the world by his parents’ protection Martisse (Mike Epps) and Lafrancine (Carmen Ejogo). You can’t exactly have a 13-foot Black boy running around the streets of Oakland, California. As he nears 21, Cootie learns of life outside of the world built for him. A world beyond comic books, monitored food, and astrology––he frequently explains his personality by him being a Virgo.

Once out in the real world, Cootie meets Felix (Brett Gray)–a car lover with a wild spirit, Jones (Kara Young)–a young community organizer with her own superpower, and Scat (Allius Barnes)–a selfless friend and fellow comic book lover, who quickly befriends the awkward giant, and soon after, he meets his love interest Flora (Olivia Washington). Flora’s just as different as Cootie with her superspeed and aspirations of becoming a chef. 

Within the comic book-like storytelling of this show, Cootie admires someone he views as a hero, ironically named The Hero, who he’s read about in comics and, eventually, comes face-to-face with in the real world. It is through his encounters with Jones and Flora, that he learns that he is not the only one with the will to change the world, and grows in his social awareness – understanding that not everyone with the title of hero, is one.

Boots’ “I’m A Virgo” tackles tough topics like gentrification, mass eviction, media scrutiny, healthcare, and exploitation in the city known for being the founding ground of the original Black Panther Party. In “I’m A Virgo”’s Oakland, both Jones and Flora are used as vehicles for change of dreaming bigger for their marginalized community. It is in this space, that we see the characters fight to realize that they have power all along.

“You have the Eviction Defense Committee as the Saviors here. We’re not the Saviors. We want the people to know they can save themselves.”  –Jones, played by actor Kara Young

In an interview with Kara Young (Jones) and Olivia Washington (Flora), GROWN talks a bit about what it means to be powerful, and their relation to their characters and the world around them built by Boots Riley.


Shonette Reed: What drew you to this story and what drew you to your individual characters? 

Olivia Washington: I love how Flora saw the world. I think that you rarely get a character like Flora that is soft and, yes, you can relegate her to being the love interest of Cootie. But, she has such a full life inside of her and how she sees the world is so beautifully different. Some might see that as a superpower. Some might see that as something that’s taking away from her ability to experience the world as others do.

I just loved her point of view and Boots’ input in creating this young person who is different.

Kara Young: I feel like Jones is a vehicle for letting the people know that they have more power than what they’ve been told. And I feel like Jones wants to bring people together. At the source of that, it’s love for all humans living in an oppressed environment. 


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Shonette Reed: What’s something that you learned about yourself as you played these characters on screen?

Olivia Washington: I was saying this before, that so often in our world and some of the stories that we get to tell, some of the people have a way of directing you, or telling you who you should be, and how you should act. And what I loved about “Flora,” and what I loved about what Boots asked of me in playing “Flora” is the very thing that people ask you not to do. Maybe that’s the very thing that you should be doing. And I think that’s something that I expanded on during this project.

Kara Young: I learned so many things about myself while playing “Jones.” I learned that “Jones” and I have very similar things about us, but I think there are so many differences as well. There’s an active calling to the people, which I feel is something that, in the theater, that is my foundation, that is about the active call to the people, to the audience, and really feeling like you’re changing the world. You know, step-by-step-by-step, moment-to-moment-to-moment. 


Shonette Reed: In this first season, we see the beginnings of the transformation of each of the characters brought on by a major event about halfway through the season. What was it like to navigate that as the actors behind these characters?

Kara Young: Without giving much away, I feel like it is a response to the failure of something that’s very important in our society, that all should be able to receive. By our response, it becomes a force of immediate change and how we can actually help this be prevented.

Olivia Washington: The call comes more immediately, as opposed to waiting for actionable steps. 

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