Q&A with Karyn Parsons on new film “Sweet Thing”

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Parsons playing her character “Eve”

Actress Karyn Parsons has been doing a lot since her days as “Hilary Banks” on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or the school counselor in Damon Wayans’ Major Payne.

Parsons has been in numerous films and TV series since, started the non-profit Sweet Blackberry, and wrote a historical fiction called “How High the Moon” which follows a girl in Jim Crow-era South Carolina who attempts to rekindle the relationship with her mother and unravel secrets about her father.

But Parsons continues to work as an actress, starring in recent indie film Sweet Thing, following two siblings trying to cope with their split family — an alcoholic father Adam and their absent mother Eve, Parson’s character. In the interview, we talked about the film, what it was like working on Sweet Thing with her family (her children Lana and Nico star in the film, while her husband Alex Rockwell wrote and directed it), and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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When you first read the script, what were your thoughts about the story of the film?
I thought the story was beautiful, it was very much like a poem of childhood. was familiar with what Alex was drawing upon in writing this character (Eve). But I loved being able to be a part of it, even if I did have to be the wicked witch.

When approaching a film, do you know what points you want to hit with a character or is it more so things reveal themselves after watched you’ve watched it the first time?
Sometimes you can see things more clearly after you’re done. When you’re writing something, reading the script or watching a film at the movies, you see all these connections and things start to click. But to be perfectly honest, I think for the most part, when I’m working it in, I’m really in it. When you start seeing the bare bones of your character, you’re too deep inside of it and don’t see how things affect the story metaphorically.

What was it like working on a film with your family?
Working with my family was pretty incredible. One of things that was so great was my husband did so much of the funding through Kickstarter, so he didn’t have anyone over his shoulder the whole time. It was real guerilla filmmaking—stealing locations, doing things that you wouldn’t normally do on a film set. That kind of freedom you can see in the film. It changes the way you work—there’s no rigidity to it, it’s loose, and it flows. It’s not literally dangerous but it has that feeling that anything can happen. To watch them (my kids) work was really neat. It was also really weird to be mean to my daughter (laughs), but she can take it.

What do you think were some of the messages or takeaways from the film?
It’s a testament to childhood resilience. There’s a real beauty to the characters’ childhood, because it’s also tragedy right underneath it. Children can be in horrific situations, but there’s this magic that kids often find. It’s part of their natural survival. The film goes there and lives there for a while. Not that there’s a message, but the film taps into a piece of us, all of us.

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Joshua Adams is a writer and journalist from Chicago. UVA & USC. Taught media and communication at DePaul & Salem State. Twitter: @journojoshua

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