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Exclusive interview: Deborah Joy Winans on TV One’s romance film Don’t Waste Your Pretty

Deborah Joy Winans
Deborah Joy Winans is the star of TV One’s original film, Don’t Waste Your Pretty. Pic credit: TV One

TV One is stepping up their game with director Tamara Bass’s romance film, Don’t Waste Your Pretty, starring Deborah Joy Winans cast in the role as Jeanné.

The film features an ensemble of women at different ages and stages of life looking for a solid romance and chance at real and enduring love. Winans appears along with actors Keri Hilson, Redaric Williams, Kaleka, Jasmine Burke, Raney Branch, and Kaye Singleton.

It deviates from the typical TV romance film as the writing (thanks to screenwriter Katrina O’Gilvie) and lensing of this film has a strong cinematic feel, not cookie cutter claptrap with cheap overly bright lighting and effects.

The film excels in moody and evocative interior shots and energetic locational montages. It is laced with authentic dialogue and situational happenstance that creates a “lost in love, found in love” catharsis for nearly all involved in the teleplay, not just for one person.

About Don’t Waste Your Pretty

Don’t Waste Your Pretty is based on the eponymous book on dating and relationships from author, life coach and award-winning blogger Demetria L. Lucas.

It serves as the anchor of the film that sees four life-long friends—plus Winans’ character Jeanné’s own mother (Mama M), a widow, navigate the modern dating scene— in their collective attempts to find love.

Two of the stars, Amma (Kaye Singleton) and Aisha (Jasmine Burke), are in a same-sex relationship and it shows their ups and downs as a couple as well.

Another bright spot is Lisa (Raney Branch), the executive assistant to the high flying professional Mykah (Keri Hilson) who makes it her mission to break Mykah out of her dating slump. Branch delivers her lines with expert comic flair and is a great addition to the core cast.

The story centers primarily on Winans’ workaholic Boho-chic-styled cafe owner, Jeanné, a woman done very wrong by a man she loved with all of her heart.

Her bestie Mykah has a twin brother and their families go way back.

Deborah Joy Winans is well known for her work on Oprah Winfrey’s NAACP Image Award-winning drama series Greenleaf. The series basted an all-star cast portraying a flawed megachurch family. That series allowed her to show off her incredible vocal skills as Charity Greenleaf, the youngest daughter.

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Monsters & Critics got to interview Deborah Joy Winans about all of this and more.

Exclusive interview with Deborah Joy Winans

Monsters & Critics: This film was a happy surprise for me. I’m not a romance movie person. I gravitate towards Lupin (Netflix) or Gangs of London (AMC+) in my TV picks. This romantic film is nothing like a going nowhere Hallmark romance film. It feels like this is how modern romance films should be with of all the female energy behind the production, as well as in front of the camera. Can you talk about that?

Deborah Joy Winans: Oh, absolutely. I think that it starts with our fearless and amazing leader, our director, Tamara Bass. She got this script and she came in with a real vision.

I always think of this Scripture and people are like, ‘why do you equate Scripture to everything?’ But I just think it’s very interesting that without a vision, people perish, we would not have anywhere to go.

If we don’t have a leader who understands where we’re supposed to be. Tamara Bass came into this with a true vision. I’m so grateful that she wanted me to be a part of this film and she allowed us to just discover these people and to be sincere with these people.

She did not let us get away with halfway doing anything. It didn’t matter how big or small in the grand scheme of the film. The lighting that she created with our DP, was just extraordinary. I think it’s something that you haven’t really seen with TV One. and I think that people like you will be shocked in a delightful sort of way. behind the scenes…I think it starts with Tamara Bass, and her vision and how she was able to pull it off.

M&C: Another aspect of this film that I appreciated was that everybody got a chance, and got a resolve to their pressing loneliness and being open to accept somebody in and not be fearful like with your character. Talk about Jeanné. And when you read her character and how you wanted to present her?

Deborah Joy Winans: Absolutely. Jeanné, when you meet her, she’s a divorcee. And when I read her, I thought that there’s so much that she wants and because she’s so fearful.

Jeanné was hurt by her toxic marriage, she puts everything else in front. So she takes care of her business. Her business is thriving, it’s booming. She takes care of her mother. She is always trying to help others and be this vibrant being that I think she wants to be so badly inside and doesn’t know how to get there.

So it’s all kind of reflected outside. It’s hard to see what’s right in front of you when you’re so focused on what has hurt you. You can’t look in front if you’re, if you’re constantly thinking about the past and it’s not until Michael sort of breaks down that door.

And she truly begins to realize she’s got to let go of if she’s ever going to find that love again, that she so desperately desires.

M&C: Yes. Those scenes with Michael (Redaric Williams). Woof.

Deborah Joy Winans: All right, April!

M&C: Was there any impromptu ad-libbing? He picks you up a couple of times and he’s sexy without being overt. It was old school romance and real like classic movies. Did you all talk through those scenes before they were filmed?

Deborah Joy Winans: Initially when we first met, we just introduced ourselves to each other, but because it happened so quick, I think I flew from LA to Atlanta, maybe who days before him. Then we met during a virtual Zoom reading of the film. And then we met on set, and he’s such a lovely person, he’s really just a nice guy. He’s from Detroit as well.

And I didn’t know that before I met him and I was like, Oh, yo, this is dope. And so we already had that in common, which was really great. He is such a great actor and an amazing scene partner. He came ready to work. And honestly, all of the scenes were choreographed.

Again that was Tamara Bass, our director who made sure that everybody was comfortable and it was so choreographed. I love the fact that it was still able to be real and sincere and sexy without being too much. You don’t need that much. You know what I mean?

You just see the two people and you see that they love each other, and then that’s that. He is a great sport, and a kind and giving actor. I don’t think I could have asked for a better scene partner. He was awesome.

M&C: Your scenes with Mama M, played by Kaleka were wonderful…

Deborah Joy Winans: I tell you she was so lovely; I only had a couple days with her. Um, but she was so lovely. She was beautiful and so sweet and so sincere. Like every single moment just was so loving. And, um, and I love, I agree with you.

I love the fact that she was telling her daughter that she had to be open to love, but she was also showing her that she was open to love and it was just a beautiful dynamic and I had so much fun working with her.

M&C: Jeanné misses her father yet she allowed her mother to find happiness again, she didn’t make her mother feel badly about finding a life beyond her loss…

Deborah Joy Winans: Yes. And it’s not easy, but I think that parents can always be the guide. And when there’s no frustration, there’s just love, I think that Mama M just truly showed so much love in every aspect that I think it just would have been hard for Jeanné to see anything else other than that. And I think that’s just a testament to what her mother and her father taught her and poured into her, which I thought was lovely

M&C: Your work as Charity on OWN drama series Greenleaf speaks for itself. And there are many productions right now centered on the Black church and church families in general, from Henry Louis Gates’ PBS documentary to HBO’s parody comedy The Righteous Gemstones…Do you feel like the definitive television project has been done or are you looking for more story within the church?

Deborah Joy Winans: I think that there are more stories that can be told. I think for me, a lot of people have really begun to equate the drama of TV with just real life church itself. I think what’s been great is that in, we started conversations.

I think that it has sort of lifted the rug on certain things and allowed people to really dig in and to get therapy and to get healing and to just sort of find their way. I got to play this lovely character.

I loved Charity Greenleaf. I thought from beginning to end, I loved her journey. I thought it was real. I thought it was interesting. And she just was, she was a fantastic woman to me. She was a fighter. I think she showed that we all make mistakes and, and the biggest mistake of all is just not getting back up. And every time she got back up, you see a flaw of family, but a real family, a family full of love and faith as their foundation.

For me, Deborah Joy. I just think that it also has shown the world that at the end of the day, God is love. And so I think it’s made it a bit easier to sort of pick out the people or the entities that say that they’re about Christ and they don’t reflect love. I think that has made it easier to say, Oh, okay, well that can’t be right, because there’s no love here. And without love nothing else matters. That is absolutely what the Word says. You can have all of these other gifts, but if you don’t have love, you have nothing because that is who God is. That is what God represents.

And if we’re not moving in love, then let’s not talk about God because you don’t have it, you don’t have him. I think if there’s more drama, because drama is interesting and fun and exciting, but if it can also reflect the truth of who God is…then I think, yeah, let’s keep doing more. That’s lovely. That’s great. I’m an actor and I love acting. That is what I love and I don’t pick projects based on my faith. My faith is going to be my face regardless.

I love that Greenleaf happened for me. I’m so grateful every day to Oprah Winfrey for seeing me, for fighting for me, for believing in me, when I didn’t have the resume that said, I should have that part. But I love acting. I have my BFA in it. I have my MFA in it. I have studied in Russia at the Moscow art theater school. This is my love. I pick projects based on, okay, what character is this? How can I find my way in this? How can I bring this to life?

So I don’t know that I will be doing any more sort of full on church dramas for myself, but if they are made and if they are done well, I think they’re very interesting and fun and exciting, but hopefully they also start real conversations and allow people to find and see the truth of God, which is love.

M&C: What’s on the horizon for you?

Deborah Joy Winans: I just wrapped another film that should be coming out this year sometime. So that was very, very exciting. Something also very different, a character that I’ve never approached, never done. And so that’s exciting for me.

I’ve got some music coming out in about a month. I’m excited about that. I’m just doing what I love, and I’m so grateful and I’ve prayed that if any piece of it touches somebody, then I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

So that’s what I’ve got going on. Just working girl!

Don’t Waste Your Pretty will air Sunday at 8P/7C on TV One

April Neale
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