Back for a second season, the Starz series Run the World continues to follow the lives, loves and friendship of Whitney (Amber Stevens West), Renee (Bresha Webb) and Sondi (Corbin Reid) on their journeys of self-discovery and self-fulfillment. Their bond with each other can get them through anything in the lowest of times and empower them when they need to be uplifted, as they figure out what they really want from love and their careers.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Stevens West talked about returning to this character and world for Season 2, what she most enjoyed about her character arc, what most surprised her about Whitney’s journey, ending every episode with a cliffhanger, how her real-life friends are as important as her TV friends, bonding with her co-stars, having Cree Summer play their therapist, and her dream for a possible third season.
Collider: What was it like to come back to this show, dig deeper into this character and her friendships and relationships, but also do so without one of the friends? How was it to reshape the friend dynamic with one of the friends not there now?
AMBER STEVENS WEST: We didn’t really have to reshape anything because the friendship was already established between the three characters. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the Ella (Andrea Bordeaux) character this season, but we talk about it talk where she is. We love her. We pack up all her things and help her move on to her next exciting adventure in her life. So, we didn’t have to reestablish our connection with each other. We really just got to embrace each other even more, and dive in deeper with these characters. It was exciting. I didn’t really know exactly where these characters would go because we were left at such a fork in the road for all the characters, so I was really excited to get to read the second season to see what choices they were going to make and which directions they were going to go. I was surprised at every corner. You think that they’re on one path and on a mission for one thing, and they really pivot and make some more exciting choices for their lives. It’s super fun. It’s fun to watch these girls find themselves.
Were you given a full overview of what the season arc would be? Did you know all of that, going into Season 2, or were there things you were still learning along the way?
STEVENS WEST: Before we started, we had an idea of where it was headed. I didn’t know exactly, every step of the way, but they had pretty much blocked it all out. When we talked to (executive producer) Rachelle [Williams], our showrunner, before starting the season, she broke down each character and was like, “This is what we’re thinking. These are the choices that we think they’re going to make. This is where we end up in the episodes.”
It seemed like your character, especially, was left in this place of wondering what could possibly come next for her. What did you most enjoy about the things that you got to dig deeper into, the further layers you got to peel back, and the new things you got to explore?
STEVENS WEST: I really loved where we took this character because it’s so relatable for this experience. When you’re in a relationship with someone for 10 years, they’re such a big part of your life and your identity, as a person. Of course, you’re going to fight tooth and nail for it to work out because that’s what’s familiar. But in the second season, Ola (Tosin Morohunfola) is not gonna make it easy for her. He’s not going to just forgive her and move on, and they have a wedding and a happily ever after. He is a person with integrity who really wants to almost punish her a little bit for the choices that she made, but he also loves himself and has to do what he thinks would make him feel safe. And so, she is fighting for him and wants his forgiveness, but also really needs to confront herself, and really look in the mirror and think about why she made the choice that she did, if there’s a deeper meaning behind that decision, and find out more about who she is, as a person, maybe just with without a relationship for a while, or at least without Ola as her crutch. I’m really grateful for the storytelling that we do because it feels real and that’s so important to me, in a show.
What most surprised you about what you learned about Whitney from her journey in Season 2, and what do you think most surprised her about herself?
STEVENS WEST: I don’t wanna give away too much about what happens in the season. There are so many little moments. But she has to learn so much about herself and why she made the choice that she made, to basically blow up her life. She’s such a confident woman, in so many spaces. But when it came to this relationship, she thought she was always doing the right thing by putting her relationship first, and she was ignoring herself and the things that would maybe bring her pleasure and joy and excitement. So, I was excited to see that in the second season. She’s confronted with having to face all those truths. And then, she has a lot of fun on the journey of figuring that out. She’s still at her job, and she loves her job. She’s still got her girlfriends. But in her love life, she’s now insecure, for the first time ever. In Season 1, you learned that she’s a character that’s always gotten everything she’s ever wanted. She’s always been smart and well-liked, but now she’s fumbling. It’s fun to watch her girlfriends assist her through that.
How did you feel when you learned, in the first season, that all of this was going to happen and that she was going to blow her relationship up? What was your initial reaction to that? Are you the kind of actor who finds out about something like that and wants to try to find ways to convince the writers to do something else? Do you just embrace it and jump in?
STEVENS WEST: I am definitely not an actor that wants to change the writing, unless there’s a specific line that’s being said in a way where I’m like, “I don’t think she would talk that way Let’s find a way to say it differently.” I leave the story up to the writers because that’s what they’re there to do. I signed onto the show because they told a great story and they had dynamic characters. I’m just there to put what’s on the page in front of the camera. I get excited, just like any viewer, to get a script and see where it’s going to go and to play in the scenes. Tosin was such a fun scene partner. We would get together and rehearse together, to try to figure out to make how to make things the most honest. I just had fun with all of it.
Is there a certain level of comfort, in returning to a series where you know the character and the world they live in, or is there a new level of pressure once you set the bar at a certain level in that first season, and then have to reach and surpass that?
STEVENS WEST: That’s a good question. There’s probably both. There’s certainly a level of comfort because you know what you did was working, so you feel good about the choices that you made and confident that you know how to do that, so you can continue to do it, and do it some more. But also you wanna please the audience and make sure that they’re excited to come back for another season. As far as my performance of the character, I just did what I did the first season, but had even more fun with it. You explore the character with what’s on the page. The pressure is on for the showrunners and writers of the show, to make sure that they keep the ball moving, but they definitely didn’t disappoint for Season 2. It’s really fun. Every episode leaves with a cliffhanger where you’re like, “Oh, what’s gonna happen? What are they gonna do? Where are they going?” They do such a great job of that. You really feel like these people are your friends, so you get excited to find out where they’re gonna go and what they’re gonna do next, and go on the adventure with them.
Where would Whitney be without her friends? How much does their bond mean, not just to her, but to them, collectively, as a group?
STEVENS WEST: Their friendship is immensely important to their existence as women. They lean on each other, more than anything. They support one another. They have fun together. They’re just living their best lives together, and that’s what brings them fulfillment and joy and confidence. I very much relate to that, in my real life. I don’t know where I would be without my girlfriends. Life wouldn’t be worth living without friends.
Did you feel that way before doing the show, or did this show give you a new appreciation of your own friends, that you might have taken for granted?
STEVENS WEST: I already felt that way. My girlfriends and I are all very vocal about how much we love each other and support each other. We’re non-competitive. Some of us are in the same industry, and we’re like, “Girl, it better be you or me. Let’s do this.” We’re on the same team. We just love on each other really hard. All of my girlfriends, including Corbin [Reid] and Bresha [Webb], are aunties to my kids. That’s what they call them. They’re family. When I met my husband, I told him, “If my friends don’t like you, this isn’t gonna work out. I’d choose them over you because they’re my tribe and my people.” I was so grateful when I read that the show is also a supportive group of friends because I so relate to that. We’re not competing with each other, in any way. That really is one of the coolest things about this show. They really just wanna uplift each other. They aren’t really ever mean to each other. You can do a little dig and tell them the truth and hold up a mirror to their face, but it’s all from love. That’s what really good friends do.
As the audience, we get to watch this friend group and how diverse they are from each other and what they represent to each other, but what was that like to find with each of your co-stars? When you join a show, you come in as relative strangers. Did you immediately find that bond together?
STEVENS WEST: It took no time. Bresha and I actually knew each other already, so when we were both approached to do this show, we were texting each other and saying, “I’ll do it, if you do it. Let’s do it together.” We weren’t close yet, but we had known each other for 10-plus years and had a lot of friends in common. Corbin was a newer friends to both of us, but we met her in the casting process, when we were doing chemistry reads, and it was very apparent, as soon as she walked in the room, that she was our friend, she was here for life, and we were never getting rid of her. It was clear that she was the character, but also that she was going to be someone important to me and in my life, forever. You can’t really fake that. You either have that chemistry and click with somebody, or you don’t. We just got really lucky that we truly are friends, in real life, so playing the chemistry with each other, laying in bed together and on top of each other, and calling each other to grieve, we do in real life anyway. That part was easy.
I love that you all have the same therapist, and that it’s Cree Summer. What was she like to work with? What did she bring to her character?
STEVENS WEST: She’s just so cool and so at ease. She’s such a perfect person to play a therapist on a show because she’s who you want to talk to. She just feels nonjudgmental and here to listen, and she’ll just casually point out some things about the mistakes that you might be making and another choice that you could make. It feels gentle, but not patronizing. Her approach, as a therapist, is very kind and cool. And working with her was so cool. All of us left that day and we were like, “We’re all best friends with Cree now. She’s our best friend.”
Do you personally feel like you share the most in common with your own character, or do you feel like you’re personally closer to any of the other characters, in real life?
STEVENS WEST: I definitely feel closest to my character. She’s a person who wants to be well-liked and appreciated and acknowledged, and I like those things. I certainly like people and want to bring comfort and joy, and I think she’s the same way. She’s certainly a loyal friend, who will show up no matter what, and I like to think that I’m that way, as well. I definitely have the most similarities with my character more than the others.
Do you feel like, by the end of this season, Whitney is any closer to learning what she wants from a romantic relationship, or is she still on a journey?
STEVENS WEST: I think everyone is always on a journey, so she’s still on it. We are always learning more about ourselves and the things that bring us peace and fulfillment. That’s a never-ending journey for her. That’s where we’re left.
Have you had conversations about what the next step for these characters could be, if there’s another season? Have you talked about where you would like to see her end up, somewhere down the road, whenever that might be?
STEVENS WEST: I have a dream that there’s a Nigerian wedding of some kind. Maybe it’s not Whitney’s character, but there needs to be a Nigerian wedding on television. I would love to see that on this show. It would be so much fun. So, if Ola gets married to somebody and it’s not Whitney, there will be a good reason why, but I aspire for that moment on television. Otherwise, no, I have no idea where we would head. I’m sure that Rachelle has a bunch of stuff in her mind, for where we could take these characters. But where we end up in Season 2 is really fun, and I’m grateful for the direction that she took our show.
Run the World airs on Friday nights on Starz.