College is a big decision for any freshly graduated teenager. Of course, the first thought is to get as far away from home as possible. LOL. For a select few, the decision is a little different and culturally based. The option of attending a Historically Black College and University add a little more than a degree to your resume. There are bonds that are built, a sense of community, and a feeling of belonging and pride. My HBCU experience was monumental to the person I am today. Johnson C. Smith University taught me things about myself that I couldn’t guarantee would have been taught at a “regular” state university. Adding to my experience was being a member of The International Institution of Sound, the Johnson C. Smith Marching Golden Bull Marching Band. (As you can see that pride still remains.) So when I heard that a young actress by the name of Zoe Renee had a chance to get a brief look into the character lives that are so familiar to me, it makes me smile a bit and become extremely curious as to how this project made her feel.
Zoe plays “Noni Williams”, an eager, wise-beyond-her-years musical mastermind, who is willing to do anything to be accepted into Georgia A&M’s prestigious band on the new BET series The Quad. Though Zoe was born and raised in Atlanta, (where she currently still resides) in her younger years, Zoe spent a lot of time traveling the world with her family. During which, she developed a love for fashion, food, and culture. When Zoe isn’t busy acting, she can be found enjoying nature with her German Shepherd/Beagle mix, “Harlow”, taking part in her love for photography, or giving back to the community. That said, she was already well prepped for an HBCU experience. However, there aren’t too many things that can prepare you for HBCU BandCamp.
SUAVV: How did you come across the role and what about the project appealed to you?
Zoe: My agent called and was so excited about a new project about HBCU life! I read for Noni and instantly fell in love with her and her love of the HBCU legacy. I wanted to know more! The project caught my attention because we haven’t seen a TV show based on historically black schools since “School Dayz” and “A Different World”!
SUAVV: How did you enjoy what you experienced as the HBCU experience?
Zoe: I thoroughly enjoyed my HBCU experience, seeing the pride and community that the students/alumni have is such a beautiful thing!
SUAVV: If you are of college age, did this movie make you want to attend an HBCU?
Zoe: Before filming The Quad I had never considered attending an HBCU. Honestly now having spent time on the different campuses I can’t imagine going anywhere else!
SUAVV: What is your biggest takeaway from this project?
Zoe: I’ve taken away so much from The Quad, but one of the biggest gems was definitely working with Anika Noni Rose and Jasmine Guy. They exhibited the perfect balance between professionalism and straight up silliness.
SUAVV: HBCU bands are the pride of the campus. What did this experience teach you about that process?
Zoe: Filming The Quad’s band sequences gave me an appreciation for how hard these bands train. The other Quad band members and I went through an extensive boot camp focusing on the fundamentals of marching. I’m so excited for the audience to see more as the series progresses!
SUAVV: Oh, yeah. Bootcamp is not for the weak. What was your most challenging aspect of filming as a band member?
Zoe: The most challenging aspect of filming The Quad was having to learn and perfect the extravagant marching band choreography.
SUAVV: Are you musically inclined? Do you play any instruments?
Zoe: I’ve been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember! I like to say I know how to play very little of a lot of instruments, including the drums, guitar, ukulele, piano, and now the alto sax.
SUAVV: Your father is the very aware hip hop artist, Speech, of the prominent 90’s Rap group: Arrested Development. How has his influence impacted you as a child and as a young lady?
Zoe: My father’s awareness permeated our home, which taught me that having a free thinking mind was ok. As I get older, I appreciate growing up in an environment that allowed me to express my own ideas.