Tomorrow night TBS will premiere its new sitcom Clipped, which follows a group of coworkers at a Boston barber shop, and there are a few reasons you should watch. First, it stars a few women we already love, including Ashley Tisdale (aka lesbian magazine editor Logan from Young and Hungry) and Lauren Lapkus (Orange is the New Black). Second, George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) and Reginald VelJohnson (Family Matters‘ Carl Winslow) play an adorable and hilarious gay male couple. But the real reason we think you should tune in is newcomer Diona Reasonover, an out comic actress who is also playing queer character, Charmaine.
Diona talked with us about getting her start in Detroit to moving to LA and nabbing her first regular gig on television and her spot-on Whoopi Goldberg impression.
AfterEllen.com: How did you start getting into comedy and acting in Michigan? When did you move to LA to pursue it full-time?
Diona Reasonover: I was part of the Mosaic Youth Theatre, a program that really helped kids connect to theater, but I wasn’t like, “And now I’ll move out to LA!” I just kind of went to college and thought I’d eventually find something that I wanted to do and just kept taking acting classes and sort of transitioned into acting. I was working at a museum when I first got to LA and that was kind of wonderful. The Skirball Cultural Center, that’s where I worked. They taught me African Drumming, so should you need African drums for a ceremony, just know I can do that.
AE: Now I know how who to call! So how did you get into TV, then, and now starring on Clipped? What was the audition process like?
DB: I did this show called the CBS Diversity Showcase, which is a stage show—Kate McKinnon actually went through that process the year before me and then she got SNL. That was cool. And the casting director [of Clipped] had seen me in that showcase. So here’s the thing: Normally with auditions, people think, “Oh, you just audition and you get it,” but that’s not it at all. I had to send in a tape of me performing, then I got called in for an audition and then a call back, then the producer session, then the network test—all through the whole thing, I kept thinking, “There’s no way it’s gonna go for me” because I had never tested for a pilot before. Like, I had never really done any of this. But Julie Ashton, the casting director, was absolutely amazing and remembered me and was really willing to take a chance on me. It worked out for me! My girlfriend got so sick of running the lines with me. I’d wake her up in the middle of the night and she’d be like, “Babe, it’s three in the morning—go to bed!”
AE: How would you describe your character, Charmaine?
DB: Charmaine feels like a Detroit girl. She really does. She feels like someone I’ve met. I do a Detroit accent as Charmaine and I’m specifically doing my sister, Elisa. Some people hear me and they’re like, “You sound so different!” I’m like, “You have to meet my sister Elisa!” Did you ever have that friend growing up who had something to say and once she said it, you were like “Damn, yup—she’s totally right”? That’s Charmaine. She’s real, sharp-tongued, she’s a lesbian’s lesbian, I like to call her. She’s queer. It’s very exciting. We have some pretty special guest stars in the series that you may see and you may recognize from the community, from a very beloved, queer performance. I want to spoil it so bad! I’m about to fax you the script, I’m so bad at this because it’s so exciting. I will say that the person was so amazing and so sweet and an amazing icon to work with.
AE: We’ll have to do an updated call when that episode happens! You are working with such a fun cast. What’s it like on set?
DB: I feel so fortunate. We actually hang out all the time and we spend the whole time cracking each other up. The problem with being with so many cool people on set is group text messaging. If I put my phone down to take a shower, there will be times when I pick it back up and it says “You have 55 notifications.” I’m like “No!” It’s like all day. And you can’t start at the bottom and work your way up because at the end it’s just like, “PINEAPPLE!” and you’er like “What? What is going on?!” … It’s such a stupid thing to complain about. But I’m lucky. I get to work with really good people. Ashley is hilarious and so nice and so sweet and funny. Lauren is insanely talented. George Wendt is literally a living legend. Reginald VelJohnson….for this being my first job job, I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
photo by Jessica Castro
AE: So was your character written as queer or did they change it after you were cast?
DB: I don’t exactly know. [Show creators] David Kohan and Max Mutchnick are very interested in our voices, too, so they wanted to—they did a really great job of talking to us and there are little things that are in there that are really us. It wasn’t in the pilot because I don’t know that it was necessarily germane to the pilot, but when I found out that they were writing it in, I was like, “Great, awesome!” I think she just is who she is and her being gay isn’t necessarily a plot point or an attempt to get ratings or an attempt to pull in a certain audience. It’s jut who she is. Like I’m queer in real life, it’s just who I am.
AE: I was watching your reel earlier and I love your Whoopi Goldberg impression. I hope you have the chance to do tat in front of a lot of people very often!
DB: Oh thank you. I’ve never had the chance to do it for her. I want to become Whoopi Goldberg when I’m older. I just want to wear huge pants and say whatever I want.
Clipped premieres tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 16) on TBS at 10/9c but you can watch the pilot online right now.