Five seasons into Good Trouble, and Zuri Adele continues to learn from her character Malika Williams.
“Malika is my soulmate,” Adele tells Los Angeles Confidential ahead of the season 5 premiere. “She definitely has opened up a whole new life for me.”
A spinoff of Freeform’s The Fosters, Good Trouble follows Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Callie Adams Foster (Maia Mitchell) to downtown Los Angeles and zeros in on the careers and relationships of the sisters and their roommates-turned-friends in the Coterie.
Among the tight-knit eclectic group is Malika, a former foster kid whose roles have varied from student to bartender to intern and, most importantly, activist. Most recently, she accepted a job with a city council member, which put her morals to the test last season as she navigated the world of politics.
“We are expecting a lot more growth spurts,” Adele promises as the new season approaches. “She’s really merging the rules of the political world with her passion for justice. And that's requiring growth spurts in terms of her choosing how to navigate personal relationships and her professional relationships and merging them and learning what causes to surrender to and what to keep fighting for and where to put her own sort of passions and ego I don't want to say aside, but how to balance those with sort of like, the rules of the game.”
“Now we're seeing this chapter of Malika being like, ‘Hey, what's it like to also put me first?’ She's often fighting for justice for so many others,” she adds.
Malika’s willingness to choose herself is something Adele is most proud of. Since the show began in 2019, Malika has exemplified an impassioned boldness that makes her the ultimate partner, friend and activist. And as Malika found her life’s purpose, she became more self assured.
“She trusts her gut. And she's not afraid for her gut to end up sending her to a crazy place or the wrong direction,” Adele says. “She knows she'll be able to pivot and maybe cry about it, but be able to get herself out of it and onto the right path. She's always very solution oriented and ready to figure something out for herself personally— for her wellness and well being— and also for someone else who might be suffering or needs advocacy or just needs a listening ear.
Read more from our conversation below.
Malika’s activism has brought her to work to make change from within the institution. Why do you think that was the right path for her?
Based on what we've shot so far, what I feel is that Malika is really doing this long game whether she knows it or not. She’s staying fiercely led and positioning herself in the far end to have the power to make the change that she wants to make now and may not really have the capacity or knowledge to make. So she's putting herself in the institution and all that to learn more about the game, about the system and flip it over and she should have more of a voice, more of a say at the end. I try not to give stuff away. But I think she's really positing herself in a place of power so that she can start to merge the two more and more.
Good Trouble highlights how important it is to not just to have a few great friends, but a whole supportive community. Why do you think that's important for audiences now to see?
I think it's always important, and I think more than ever. We've been in a space, especially for the last several years, of isolation. A lot of isolation and then also this increase of virtual engagement and I think that it's really important that—I mean, we don't have COVID in our storyline. And that whether we had it or not, I love that we are portraying this example of making sure we actually show up for each other in person and we don't try to hold every struggle in. It's really tempting to present online a lavish life or positivity or that everything's going great, and I love that we do put chosen family up on this pedestal to be like, “Let's be vulnerable together and real about where we are and imperfect and also show up for each other” without it needing to be that deep because now showing up anywhere is a whole, for me sometimes, like a whole frenzy. It's a whole added thing. But it's a time where we need it the most; we need community organization the most right now. And it's also a time where we've been in the most isolation that we've had. So I love that we get to reflect the importance of community on the show and I hope that's having an impact.
You just called Malika your soulmate. In the past, you’ve also called Good Trouble your soulmate, too. As your acting career continues, is it important to you to be able to personally connect with roles?
Absolutely. One thousand percent. We become this vessel like our bodies, our voices, our every single thing from head to toe and also just internally emotional vessels for these stories.
Now even more, I can’t even imagine not believing in the story I'm telling. What draws me to acting is the idea of being this griot, this storyteller who gets to pass on history or the truth— truth that we don't get to learn in traditional textbooks. I get to be that with my body and voice, and so that's why I love to act. I love to be that storyteller. That's something that I know my ancestors did for sure when it came to sharing history outside of textbooks and making sure that we get as much knowledge as we can about how powerful we all are. And it’s something that I want to make sure I always get to do with my vessel as an actor, creator in every way.
You became certified in yoga in 2015 and have been practicing consistently the last 10 years. Do you feel like doing yoga makes you a better actor?
First of all, I used to hate the idea of doing yoga. I did not understand it. I did not want to do it. I'm still shocked that I'm such an advocate for yoga. I love it now. And that's the thing is that it started helping me be a better actor. And I was like, “Oh, I gotta keep doing this.” It’s made me so connected to my body. We have to know where our body is in time and space, in relation to others at all times, to be able to make those choices in our scenes and help them feel effortless and have a full, real gauge. Our body really is the instrument that we carry around. So making sure that we have full range of motion and can fully recover and the work that we do is so athletic. Having these 16-plus hour days of so much movement and emotion and yoga has helped me move that emotion through my body and process and brainstorm in my mind while I do so and it also helps my voice so much. It helps me warm up my voice and expand my breathing. It helped me, especially when I first started practicing yoga, to have more breath awareness and breath work. I actually started practicing yoga in a voice class in college for acting and it was part of our vocal warmup.
You don't always feel like working out or taking that time, but once I do, there's always so much breakthrough. I do love practicing yoga by myself. I also love practicing it around others. It's a great way to be in a community without needing to engage, which can be exhausting to constantly engage and talk. Sometimes you just want to move and brainstorm and strategize. It's so empowering to move near other people and remember that we're in this together, especially when the things are hard and you carry that off to the mat into the rest of the day.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Good Trouble season 5 premieres on Freeform on March 16.
Photography by: Tayo Kuku Jr.