Approaching the highly-anticipated finale of Season 4 on April 21st, the show has viewers on the edge of their seats as they continue to wait patiently in seeing what unfolds from episode to episode.
Written by acclaimed author Walter Mosley, who executive produced the project alongside John Singleton, “Snowfall” takes place during the height of the crack epidemic in South Central Los Angeles in the 80’s.
Amin plays uncle to Franklin Saint (played by Damson Idris), while Michael plays his dear mother. It seems everything Franklin does affects his family and close friends, faced with the decision to continue the hustle or surrender altogether.
AllHipHop: How did you get into acting?
Amin: I’m from Harlem, New York. I’d done plays when I was a young kid in middle school, but when I first started taking it serious, I was on the basketball team. My coach told me to go downtown to audition for a commercial because I used to be on the bench cutting up, talking mad smack. I wasn’t getting in the game at all. He knew I wasn’t gonna cut any playing time so he said “yo man get off my bench, go downtown and make some use of yourself.” That’s my first foray into professional acting, the commercial world. I decided to take it serious and learn theatre. I grew up in the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, ended up going to Howard University and studying there in the conservatory under the late Al Freeman Jr.
Michael: I went to Howard too and grad school, we both went to the same program. Didn’t know each other, when did you leave there Amin?
Amin: I left in 2001.
Michael: I was there ‘87 to ‘91 or ‘92, probably ‘91.
AllHipHop: What’re you most excited for with Season 4 well underway?
Amin: I feel good. To have a show about black culture, a certain time period, I feel a circle of truth around my head that we’re telling the story of the late great John Singleton. We’re carrying on his legacy being able to still employ people that he handpicked, that he personally tapped to help their trajectory in this career — that gives birth to a new era of filmmaker and creative, that we’re telling our story made by one of our most prolific filmmakers ever. That feels good to be on our fourth season doing that.
Michael: I agree with Amin. I look at the messages on Twitter and Instagram, I’m grateful that people are connected to the show as they are and they continue to be. Because of Hulu, there’s been an increase in viewing which is beautiful. I love that we’e reaching as many people as we are.
AllHipHop: Amin, how did you feel when you saw Danileigh’s tweet that she couldn’t get into “Snowfall?”
Amin: I think it’s been quite overblown. What I really was speaking to is nothing about the sister personally. A lot of times when we think about the word ‘black’ when it comes to this country, there’s the black people speaking literally, then there’s black culture. “Snowfall” is about black culture, it’s about knowing the history so that we won’t repeat it. When I say it’s a black thing, someone might not understand: if you’re not really investigating the black culture and the relevance this story has to black culture, then perhaps you’re missing something.
AllHipHop: Starting out, did you think the show would be this popular?
Michael: Well you attach John Singleton to something, you know it has wings. I’m not one to really pay attention to numbers, but I knew that it was going to be a beautiful artistic experience. I knew that it was going to be truthful because that’s what John reaches for.
Amin: I thought we would’ve blown up. I thought we would’ve been the biggest thing coming straight out the gate. It’s John Singleton, it’s LA in the 80’s. This is a period piece, it’s on FX, one premium networks in all of the world. Come on, we have talent like Michael Hyatt. Are you kidding me? The young man Damson Idris, Angela Lewis, Carter Hudson, we have a phenomenal cast. I always thought this show would get the eyeballs. The fact we all were dealing with the pandemic, the show was first shown to the audience during the cable paradigm. Now, everyone’s into streaming. Now that people can stream this next day on Hulu after watching it on FX the day before, it opened up a bigger fanbase. No one makes a show for it not to be seen. Being critically acclaimed, that’s up to media, up to critics. Especially a show like this, you want people to see it so people can understand this point of view, this particular type of perspective. I’m glad it’s finally finding an audience. It’s always had a small niche audience, but it’s finding a larger audience like Michael said because of Hulu. We’re game for it all here.
AllHipHop: Walter Mosley said most actors were new to big-time performance, minus you Michael. He said you all were very interesting, intelligent people. How does that feel?
Amin: It’s freaking Walter Mosley, let’s be real. He works on a sacred ground of fiction literature so to have him as one of our collaborators in the writing room, it brings another authenticity. He’s another person personally tapped by John Singleton. Looking at things now, we’re able to see things not from hindsight, but in pure view. What a great pick that was for John Singleton to get with someone like that, to be able to continue to steward the story.
AllHipHop: How was it seeing your character develop from season to season?
Michael: I am learning. Every season, I don’t ever see it coming where Cissy is asked to go. I’m surprised as the next person. I’m grateful for the opportunity to stretch and flex muscles that are necessary to make Cissy come alive. It’s really beautiful, it’s a lovely artistic experience. It really has been for me, and a spiritual one. It’s been a lovely journey.
Amin: You never know what we’re going to be thrown. We do realize with this subject matter that more than likely things are not going to end up well for all the characters we attach to. We’re watching them live their lives, not knowing the ramifications of their actions that we’d see later on. How we could look back in history and see how people were engaged in the selling or the taking, the destruction of their community, the moral fibre of their spirituality, you didn’t see it. I surrender to that each year and see where the writers are taking the story, try my best to embody and surrender to that.
AllHipHop: Talk about the growth of Franklin Saint from asking his cousin for advice to being the boss.
Michael: Working with Damson is watching a child evolve. Damon is so in tune, he’s so passionate about telling the story. He’s new to the game, he’s eager, and he’s wide open. It’s lovely to watch this young man evolve into his manhood, into his artistic adulthood. Whenever we’re working together, he’s incredibly generous. It’s a wonderful energy to feed off of, we thankfully feed off each other really well. He keeps me on my toes. The evolution of Franklin, it’s heartbreaking to see someone who truly had a pure dream to change his community for the better. Truly thought he was doing that not only for his family, but the community as well. To see him go through this journey of learning how to play the chess of life, finding out the hard way that sometimes your best intentions without a clear understanding, you’re going to trip. He’s tripping and he’s trying to find his way. As heartbreaking as it is, unfortunately it’s part of the journey for so many of us.
AllHipHop: Favorite episode this season and why?
Amin: My favorite is Episode 407, so much happens in this episode. It’s one of those episodes. We have our episodes that seem like they’re setting the story up, setting the season up. A lot of those you get that preface, that exposition to set up the season in the beginning episodes. We’re starting to turn that corner to those episodes that make the season what it is, the conflict time. Episode 7 is my favorite for this season because there’s so many things that happen in this episode, it turns the world to where we end up at the season finale.
It’s crazy, we really start seeing the world start to crumble. Things that have been held together, things that Cissy has held together for so long, Franklin, Uncle and Auntie, we see things spraying. People are barely able to hold on to their concept of reality, this episode is quite the shift.
AllHipHop: Michael, do you have a favorite episode?
Amin: Michael doesn’t even watch our work. Michael doesn’t even watch “Snowfall,” she’s the only person we let go with not watching “Snowfall.” She doesn’t believe in watching her work. Therefore, do you have a favorite episode from reading the script? Which will probably be the best way to approach Michael on that.
Michael: I seldom get to work with Amin in the seasons, so there’s a storyline there that I get to work with Amin.
Amin: I’m very sure Michael has been a big advocate of the love between Cissy and Alton. The work that they do this season is phenomenal. We’ve seen some of it, but it’s going to really blossom in the next few episodes. Iit shows really the stakes and what it does, what this whole world is doing to these really fragile relationships of people and the loving bond they have together. I know she was proud to fight for that in this season.
Michael: It’s been a joy to work with Kevin Carol specifically, because he brought to Alton a true fierceness of intensity of passion that only he could have done. Kevin’s a tremendous actor, tremendous human being. He brought such life, such compassion, feeding off of him is so organic and effortless. The energy we have on camera is really effortless. It’s been a joy to go through this journey with Kevin, definitely.
AllHipHop: How was it filming after the passing of John Singleton?
Amin: As one would think, we lost our helmer. We lost the guy who was steering the ship. You can’t replace John. I’m glad our production didn’t go “here’s the new replacement to John,” because it’s impossible. His enthusiasm, his wit, his genius, his creativity, his charisma, that can’t be replaced. What you can do, you can relish the time spent. You can remember the lessons, you can be thoughtful of how you treat your fellow crew member. You can be passionate in telling the story. You can be laser focused into making sure we speak truth to power where it needs to be. Those are things I take from John in a whimsical, child-like enchantment with the filmmaking process. I’ll never forget that about John: he wasn’t serious about filming, it was always a collaboration. It was always enthusiastic, I really loved that about him.
AllHipHop: How do you feel about Freeway Rick Ross saying you guys stole his story?
Michael: Lovingly, I know very little of what’s his name. I’ve heard from other people ‘cause I remember when we used to do the press tours, there’d be some questions about whether the story was his life. I remember John saying “no, this is the life of so many people who lived this journey.” I don’t know Mr. Ross’s experience but it seems to me from the stories I’ve heard from so many people around the country, that this journey is something many people can relate to. I believe what John told me, that this isn’t specifically his autobiography.
Amin: To give another POV from it, I personally know Freeway. I respect Freeway and his story, he has a story to tell unapologetically, through his own lens with his capabilities. He’s a competent businessman and he definitely has a story to tell. There are plenty of similarities in the story that we tell, but Freeway deserves an opportunity for his narrative to be told by him. There’s love and respect for him.
AllHipHop: How excited are you for Season 5? Saw it was renewed, congrats1
Amin: Thank you, we’re back in the saddle. The thing about each season is working with people like Michael, working with my sister, working with Damson my young brother, Isaiah, Angela, Carter, Sergio, Alon, Kevin, that’s been the joy. The personal relationship with our crew, the people we’ve been in and out of this with for the last 5 years, it sounds crazy. With Covid it’s extended a bit so it’s almost 6 years. It doesn’t sound splashy but that’s the real. I’ve had a child, a daughter. Michael has a young son that I’ve watched grown up into a brilliant young man during this time. John was about that as well. John has a young son, he has a birthday coming up this next week. He’s a “Snowfall” baby, he was born the second season of Snowfall. Those things really mean the most to me going into Season 5, ‘cause who knows what those writers are gon’ put us through.
Michael: I concur with everything that Amin said. It’s a joy coming to set for the first day and seeing all of these amazing faces that we haven’t seen for 6 months. Catching up and diving in, creating art. At the end of the day, we’re all artists. Grateful to be employed, grateful to be telling our stories. We’ve all had our rollercoaster, trials and tribulations that artists have. To be here in this historical show, telling the stories we’re able to tell, having the story that we now have as a part of our lives — the stories with John, the stories with Walter, it’s been a phenomenal experience. I’m grateful that we’re able to extend it for another year.