Our Kind Of People

Yaya DaCosta (far left) in promo image for “Our Kind Of People” Courtesy Photo

In a recent interview, actress Yaya DaCosta “Chicago Med” tells Baltimore Times that a few personal experiences exposed her to people like those depicted in her new series, “Our Kind Of People.” She states, “ My character Angela is going to Martha’s Vineyard for the first time, and she’s not from that world.” The world to which Dacosta refers was
memorably chronicled in Ivy League-educated lawyer and author Lawrence Otis Graham’s 1999 nonfiction book of the same name. The series, which costars Morris Chestnut (“The Resident”), Joe Morton (“Scandal,” “Justice League”), Debbi Morgan (“Eve’s Bayou”), and Nadine Ellis (“All American”), is loosely based on Graham’s book. New York City native DaCosta attended elite Massachusetts boarding school Northfield Mount Hermon and Ivy League Brown University. “I’ve had friends and roommates who would vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, or were members of Jack and Jill growing up so I was able to hear some stories of their communities and families,” she states.

The experiences allowed her some insight into a version of Black life almost never explored in the media. “I gained an understanding of what it means to be nurtured by a set of expectations about who you might be when you grow up, what you might do for work, who you might marry. That world seemed to have more of a consensus about those expectations.” As “Our Kind Of People” begins, DaCosta’s character Angela Vaughn, is relocating to Martha’s Vineyard, specifically the upscale, historically Black enclave of Oak Bluffs. There, along with her aunt and her teen daughter (played by Alana Bright) she sets out to establish her hair care business and finish what her now deceased mother started years ago.

Vulnerability, DaCosta asserts, is what she feels is Angela’s greatest strength. “Angela has had experiences of heartbreak and neglect over and over again. That can really make a person cold and detached, so the fact that she’s still able to have moments of vulnerability, really does show her humanity and her softness.” DaCosta points to Angela’s fiery disposition as her biggest fault. “She is a hothead. Her temper is her greatest weakness.  There’s no question that Angela doesn’t exactly fit into the Martha’s Vineyard crowd. And she makes a few missteps when trying to do so. DaCosta says she has never really had that issue. “I have always mostly accepted that I’m  different and have always been grateful for that.”

The series reunites DaCosta with veteran actress Debbi Morgan, whose daughter she played in the iconic daytime soap “All My Children.” They’re family once again in “Our Kind Of People”; this time with Morgan as Angela’s wise and gregarious Aunt Piggy. States DaCosta, “I’ve grown so much since then, this is an entirely different experience. She is such a young-spirited person, so even though she’s playing my aunt, we feel more like sisters. It’s lovely. She’s a powerhouse and I’m so excited to be working with her.”

In May 2021, DaCosta announced her departure from drama “Chicago Med” where she played nurse April Sexton for six seasons. “Six seasons is a long time to be on a show fostering relationships with the other actors. So it was bittersweet.” DaCosta states. “I loved playing a character who was in service.” As much as she loved the character, cast, and fans, DaCosta hints she felt her character had probably gone as far as she was going to go. Fans often told her they wanted April to have more of a storyline. “At a certain point, I realized,” says DaCosta, “she may have a new love interest, but when it comes to her and her career, she’s not necessarily going anywhere different.” The experience of working on “Chicago Med” though, will always be meaningful for her. “I’m so grateful to everyone that I worked with. I learned and grew so much.”

If the first episode is any indication, “Our Kind Of People” is going to be very juicy and very scandalous, offering everything nighttime drama fans expect from the genre. Additionally, DaCosta says she would like fans to come away feeling that they are seeing something new. “In the past it’s been easy to fall into a certain cadence, or way of delivering lines. A certain energy or attitude is expected because that sells and or that’s considered quote unquote Black.” DaCosta says she is “proud ‘’ Our Kind Of People isn’t falling into those traps. “None of the characters is just a new version of something already played out. We’re actually bringing living, breathing characters to the screen  who get to be all the things.”