Returning last week for Season 2, Tyler Perry’s drama IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG took fans back into the intense, but determined lives of a circle of women striving to keep their families together while protecting their friends through the trials of life. With scandal threatening to break apart relationships and friendships, Season 2 shows how the characters of Natalie (April Parker Jones), Marcie (Heather Hemmens), Esperanza (Zulay Henao), Kelly (Edwina Findley) and Alex (Amanda Chayton) will stand together and face it all. Proving that there is nothing greater than the love that binds us all together, IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG also shows how powerful love is no matter what the challenge.
In an exclusive interview, star April Parker Jones talked about her character Natalie’s trials ahead, along with the fun she has working on the show, and her dream role if given the chance.
Now that Season 2 has debuted, how does it feel to be coming back so strong?
APRIL: This season started off great. It started off with a bang and I anticipate that the fans are really going to be anxious about what is to come. After [last week’s] episode, we’re going to have to top ourselves, but I’m sure we won’t let folks down.
How would you describe Natalie’s storyline for this season?
APRIL: I would describe her journey for Season 2 as starting to let the wall that she’s built come down a bit — mainly in regards to her relationship with Lushion (Charles Malik Whitfield) and her relationship with her son Joey (Matt Cook). She’s a very prideful woman and a strong woman, and sometimes that pride and strength can be a block. But you kind of see that she starts to allow herself to feel and get in touch with some of those feelings that she has purposely stayed away from. So I think you’ll see in this season some of those kinds of feelings that she has conveniently stayed away from. You’ll start to see the other side of her and I’m excited for fans to see that — that she is not just this strong lioness, but that she is human and she has feelings and she is sensitive. So you will be able to see some more of that in her, along with still being very protective of her cub — her son and her children and protective of herself. That’s a good way to describe where she is headed. And she’s there for her friends a lot in this season. She’s a big support for Esperanza and for Marcie. So you will see how she values her friendships too and she’s there for them in a lot of ways.
Natalie is obviously still very protective of Joey and it seems like she got a little bit into his business in last week’s episode. Is Natalie going to take a more hands-on approach in making sure her son is protected or is she going to let him do it?
APRIL: [Laughs] Yeah, as you saw in this last episode, she certainly decided to take a more hands-on approach when confronting one of Joey’s old friends, who she feels is not doing Joey much good and he is a bad influence. No matter how old her children are, she still feels that need to protect them — and by any means necessary. If that means that she has to go and confront them and maybe even resort to a face slap, then that is what she’ll have to do. She’s not afraid to do that because no matter how hard the veneer is, she really wants what is best for Joey and sometimes she feels like she knows what is best for him than he knows for himself. So you’ll definitely see her taking a more hands-on approach this season and, like I said earlier, you will also see her kind of stepping back at the warning of Lushion — stepping back and allowing him to play his position as the man in her life. So I think that dynamic is really cool for fans to see — that Natalie is going to allow Lushion to play his position in her life, which is something that she has been kind of fighting and resisting for a long time. You’ll start to see that relationship kind of blossom more this season.
Natalie is so fearless when she comes face-to-face with Quan (Dawan Owens). Should she be? Shouldn’t she be worried about repercussions from actually hitting him?
APRIL: She is very fearless and always has been, but Natalie does not really worry about the repercussions because what we don’t see is the history that Natalie and Quan actually have. This is not their first encounter. She’s known Quan for quite some time. She’s known Quan’s mother, and we’re going to find out a little about that later in the season. So that is where that fearlessness comes into play because there is some history there. It is not like she is just meeting Quan, not sure what he is capable of. She’s known him since he was a little boy. So there is that familiarity there and the sense that “I’m not worried about you doing anything to me ’cause I know your mom.” So that’s why I think that Natalie is not really concerned about the repercussions and that she can walk so fearlessly when it comes to protecting her son and with regard to the relationship he has with Quan.
For you, as an actor, what was is like to work with Dawan in that kind of scene? It looked intense.
APRIL: Oh gosh, it was really nerve-wracking because, working in the Tyler Perry Studios a lot of the work we do, we do it in one-take or maybe two-takes. I’ve worked on other sets where there is a scene to be done and takes go on and on, sometimes up to ten-takes for one scene. But working at the Tyler Perry Studios, literally they will call “action” and we’ll do the scene and we may do it at most two times. So it was quite nerve-wracking because you pretty much have to get it right the first time. There’s not a whole lot of going back and re-doing it. So there was the feeling of nervousness and you have all the people and extras standing around looking at you, plus the camera is so close. So it can be intense. You just have to block them out. Block everybody out and live in that moment. Allow yourself to be present with the other actor you are in the scene with and just kind of forget all who is there — because then you’ll get into your head and you won’t be able to be as committed as you should be. So that is kind of the exercise I do. I just kind of try to block everybody out and live in that moment with the other actor so I don’t look around and throw myself off and get freaked out. It is nerve-wracking. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there are not absolutely butterflies because you want to make it as believable as possible. To have all those eyes looking at you, it’s a lot. But that is what we actors do. That’s what we signed on for. It might look like it is easy to do or somebody will say “I can do that!” But I’m telling you, when the time comes and they yell “action,” it is a lot harder than it looks. But I enjoy the nervous energy and I enjoy the adrenaline. It’s kind of a high for me. I just hope that the fans can relate and they can find the reality in it and they can take a moment to suspend reality and really live in that moment with us.
What do you do with your fellow actor after a scene like that? Do you hug them or do you have to back away and let the emotions wear down?
APRIL: That’s a good question. We just have to kind of back away and let the emotions die down. Once you’re really completely committed and invested in it, as with anything when there is intensity involved, it’s hard to just shut if off. So even if in real life, if you’re in an argument with a loved one or a friend and the argument stops, you just can’t cut it off and be happy. So it’s sort of similar with acting, they yell “cut” but those emotions and those feelings are still going. So you just have to kind of breathe and you walk away and you allow yourself a moment to kind of bring it down. But it still races. Your heart is still racing, but you give thanks that it is not real. It’s not really happening and you can go back to your real life after they yell “cut.” But, like I said, it’s a rush. It’s adrenaline-pumping and it’s a thrill that I wouldn’t have any other way.
On the flip-side, you also get to do the fun scenes like with the actors who portray Natalie’s kids. What is it like working with them?
APRIL: Working with the two young girls, who play Natalie’s daughters, and the young man, who plays her son, is a piece of cake because they are so very talented. Their parents are usually there with them on set, so they are just well-behaved, very professional, and very talented, which makes it so easy. The other thing that makes it easy is I have kids of my own. I have two daughters, myself, 5 years old and 15 years old and I nanny part-time. Just recently I had three kids under the age of 5 years old in my house. It’s always been really easy for me to relate to kids and to take care of them. It has always just fallen into my lap with the nanny gigs. Friends call and ask, “Can you watch our kids?” and I’m like, “Yeah, sure!” I’ve always been able to handle kids with ease and care. So that part is a piece of cake. That doesn’t require a whole lot of acting and pulling that from an imaginary place, that’s real life for me. [Laughs] It’s not a stretch at all. It’s what makes playing Natalie so cool — I can relate to her in so many ways. So it is a joy to just bring life to this character who is a lot like me in a lot of ways.
What is your favorite thing to do as you get to play the soft, mother side and the protective mother side, and you get to play the tough friend side? What do you enjoy the most? What is fun for you as an actor?
APRIL: [Laughs] Like I do in real life in so many ways. Actually, I just finished doing a play and it was a comedy. I was the comic-relief of the show and got to wear cute little dresses and show a little cleavage and wear some wigs. That was so much fun — doing live theater. As an actress, theater is always my first love. So any time I get a chance to be in a stage play, it feeds my artistic appetite when I’m doing that as an actor. As far as film and television, typically the majority of my work has been portraying very strong women in positions of authority — which I always call me alter-ego because I get to be so smart and so articulate — so it is fun to get to play those roles and for my daughters to see me in those roles. But I will tell you, a dream of mine is to one day play a superhero — an action hero. I’d love to do that, especially while I am still relatively young. I’d love to get into this kind of cool superhero costume, maybe something leather, and get into kick-ass shape and beat some people up. I’d really like to do that! [Laughs] So if anyone who is reading this article has any ideas for me, let me know because I’m all open to playing a superhero.
Are there any superhero shows that you’re interested in?
APRIL: I’m thinking something kind of along the lines of a Foxy Brown. This kind of cool sister with a big afro and who is beating up bad guys. Foxy Brown, Pam Grier — I’d love to do a biopic too. I don’t know who I could play, but people tell me all the time that I remind them of Pam Grier. So if there were a biopic on her, I’d love to do that. I’d love to do one portraying a strong black woman. We will see what the future holds, but I am certainly open. I know that this is just the beginning and that the best is still yet to come for me and my career. It is just now taking on some momentum and I’m so grateful for that. I’m grateful that I am where I am right now where I’m mature enough to enjoy it and not let it consume me. It’s been great.
Returning to IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG, the relationships between the women characters seem like they are fracturing slightly or are these trials actually going to bring them a lot closer? It seems like they are a little bit at odds given the fact that Alex’s [Amanda Chayton] relationship with Randall [Eltony Williams] is now coming to light.
APRIL: Oh, I know. Well, without giving too much away, I think that their friendship will certainly stand some trials and that friendships will be tested. You will see some cracks in their friendships, but like any relationship, there are trials and cracks in the foundation. But, if they are true, the cracks can be mended and the foundations can be restored. I believe that these women have a true love and genuine support for each other, strong enough to withstand these trials. Just continue to watch the episodes and you will see how relationships can be mended, even in the face of such trials.
It is something to aspire to: to work on relationships whether it be with someone of the opposite sex or with your friends as god relationships take work.
APRIL: They sure do and that’s in any relationship — co-workers, employee-boss relationships, or even just the relationship with the driver on the street next to you. All relationships are work. It is a process and a journey, certainly not a destination. If it is worth working out, you’ll work it out.
We have gotten a glimpse that Lushion with his new job position might be possibly getting into some trouble as Eddie [Joel Rush] might be stirring something up or planning something. Should Natalie be worried about Lushion?
APRIL: Yes! Yes. [Laughs] You probably should be worried about Lushion and any other character for that matter that has to deal with Eddie and his shenanigans. Because when you see Eddie, shenanigans follow. You should be worried. But through the worry, just remember that Lushion is a very strong man. He’s sweet and loves Natalie, but he’s still a very strong man who will stand his ground if necessary. I think those moments of necessary, you’ll definitely see those as the show and episodes progress. But you should be worried.
Will Natalie have Lushion’s back if Eddie’s shenanigans get Lushion in some hot trouble?
APRIL: As you saw last week with Natalie having her son’s back, she fights hard for people she loves. She fights very hard for those she loves and cares about, and Lushion is certainly one of those people who she loves and cares about deeply — although she might not show it all the time. So, yes, she will fight hard to protect him — just as strong and hard as she fights to protect her own children. So she has his back.
I love that about her — that ferocity of spirit that she has.
APRIL: Me too! It’s great and I think it is so relatable to so many women. That’s why I am so proud to play her — because she does have that kind of solid rock of strength, like most of us women do. We have to. We have to be resilient. I feel we are the queens of the Earth — and without us men are not able to do the things that they can do, without the help of a woman. And Natalie is a strong representation of that. That’s why she is liked and relatable to so many women. I admire her too.
To see what lengths Natalie will go to in order to protect her family and the man she loves and if Eddie’s shenanigans will come back to haunt him, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG on Tuesday nights at 9:00 p.m. on OWN.