You play a real person in Fruitvale. How did you prepare?
I didn’t want to mimic [Sophina]; I wanted to represent her. To prepare, I hung out with her in the Bay and became familiar with her environment. It’s different from the East Coast in a lot of ways, and has a certain vibe I wanted to inhabit.
Are there any similarities between you and Sophina?
We’re both women of color, who grew up in urban neighborhoods. I’m from New York City’s Lower East Side projects, and I understand how hard it is to be young and trying to survive.
You worked with Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer. What is she like?
She’s like the awesome aunt that everyone has. Octavia is unconditionally supportive and I feel blessed to know her. She’s really incredible.