Jerrie Johnson on ‘Harlem,’ her groundbreaking character

Johnson speaks to the importance of queer characters existing outside of assumed gender roles in the latest episode of ‘Acting Up.’

Jared Alexander 

Harlem on Prime Video is taking audiences by storm. On the latest episode of theGrio‘s Acting Up podcast, Jerrie Johnson opens up about playing her queer character Tye.

In Harlem, Tye breaks new ground in media representation: she’s a successful Black lesbian woman who faces various issues within the healthcare system. Johnson knew immediately when reading the Harlem script that she could “get into the pocket” of Tye.

“It felt like, even thought the character is from Georgia, the language to me felt familiar,” she shared with theGrio‘s Cortney Wills.

Through the clothing she chose for auditions, along with the language of the script, Johnson was quickly able to find where she feels Tye inside of her. “It feels familiar, it feels like somebody that we’ve never seen before, the fact that this character talks like this and walks like this,” she added.

“Tye is breaking the mold of how we create characters, how we create queer characters and what’s possible.”

Tye is a queer character operating outside of the often pigeonholed visuals we see in media — many queer characters stick to masculine or feminine presenting modes.

“Androgyny is just so important in culture now,” she explained. “It’s creating a conversation that is outside of the binary.”

Johnson explained that society has grown accustomed, through learned gender roles, to ask things like, “How can you be a person who likes women, who likes to wear suits and more masculine things, but also might wear a heel?” Even in queer relationships, many recreate gender roles, but Johnson is disinterested in relationships that “exist in that way.”

“I am just such a fluid person, that there has to be some symbiotic fluidity, whereas we are just existing as people who are sharing space with each other,” she shared.

Tye, perfectly represents this mindset, especially through her clothing.

“Clothes are an extension, they are an expression, they shouldn’t define who you are, but should be a tool that we play with to express how we’re feeling on a day to day basis, and knowing that that can change,” Johnson said.