Kiersey Clemons on playing Diggy, the lesbian tomboy of “Dope”


With producers like Forest WhitakerPharrell Williams and Sean Combs, Dope was destined to be infused with the kind of cool that its title professes. Equal parts comedy and drama, the Sundance hit from writer/director Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood, Brown Sugar) follows a trio of misfits living in Inglewood, California. Surrounded by gangs, crime and drug deals, Malcom (Shameik Moore), Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori) spend their time playing in a punk band and trying to steer clear of the inevitable bullies that line the hallways of their schools and hang around the corners of their neighborhood.


Diggy is a tomboy and a lesbian, and while she’s completely adorable, she hasn’t had much experience with girls just yet, a commonality she shares with her two best friends. They’re a tight-knit trio who fall into trouble when they get invited to a party that ends with a rival gang busting in and shooting up the place, and without Malcom’s knowing, he leaves with his backpack full of Molly (aka ecstasy or MDMA) and a gun. The rest of the film is spent with the friends figuring out the best way to rid themselves of the responsibility of their newly acquired illegal activity while also wanting more for themselves than what society provides them. 

Although the film’s major focus is on Malcom, Diggy is in most of the film and Kiersey Clemons plays her with an adorable affability. Diggy’s feelings are most often seen on her face instead of through words, as she deals with a grandma who wants her to put on a church and go to church to pray the gay away, and guys who refer to her as “Boys Don’t Cry” when they find out she’s a woman. But despite a lack of bravado, Diggy has a tough exterior and effortless style that indicates she’ll have no problem meeting many women of her dreams after she graduates high school.


We spoke with Kiersey Clemons about playing the role and her favorite scene to shoot in the super fun and simultaneously thought-provoking film. What did you know about Diggy going into the part? Was there any backstory or one that you created for her? We don’t see a ton of her home life.

Kiersey Clemons: Yeah, I actually put a lot of effort into giving her a backstory because I think a lot of what goes on at home is a lot of who Diggy is. I don’t think that the things that go on at home really bother her as much. I made up so much stuff. [laughs] I made up so much of Diggy’s life. There’s something in the script where her grandmother prays the gay away—or tries to. Originally, it was her mom, and I just didn’t feel like she would come from—I didn’t feel like her mother would be that way. So as I was learning her backstory, I went to Rick and said, “Can you change this to her grandma?” So we talked about that and I feel like she probably has—I don’t think she’s attacked at home for who she was. I feel like there’s not much attention put on her and the things that she struggles with, as a matter of fact, and that’s what explains a lot of why she is the way she is. But, yeah, definitely created a whole life for Diggy.


AE: In that moment where Diggy is at church and she is so uncomfortable in a dress, how is it to play someone who isn’t comfortable in something like that? Because you are the kind of person where I see you rock both tomboy styles and ultra-feminine looks.

KC: I don’t think Diggy was uncomfortable. I think she that she felt like “This is so silly.” [laughs] “It’s not uncomfortable, I just think this outfit is ugly.” I don’t think she dresses the way that she does to prove a point or to let people know “this is who I am.” For her, getting dressed in the morning is like art; a way of expressing herself. And she knows when she’s wearing the dress and cardigan that she is still Diggy—she just has to wear this hideous outfit. [laughs]


AE: Diggy is such a great friend—a real ride or die type. She and Malcom and Jib are self-professed geeks and in a band together, but what is it that really bonds them?

KC: I think it’s the obvious. They’re all living in this area and going to school where individually they feel like outcasts. They owe each other their loyalty because their friendship is very important to each of them individually because without each other, they feel they would be alone. If you have friends of great quality, you’re going to go to the end of the earth and back for them. So it’s gonna take a lot to get in between them.


AE: What do you think Diggy would have gone on to do after graduation?

KC: I think she would continue to play drums and definitely go to college or university, probably be exploring her sexuality a bit more, because I don’t think in high school she had any of that experience. [laughs]

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