There is a timelessness in the career and legacy of Bianca Lawson. At age 42, the effervescent artist has been praised for her ageless appearance. But to center her beauty without recognizing her talent would do the Queen Sugar actress a significant disservice. Lawson began her career in the early ’90s as a teen with roles in My So-Called Life, Dawson’s Creek, and the Black slayer Kendra on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Since then, she’s done voiceover work for video games, starred in shows like The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, and given us perhaps the most emotionally vulnerable role of her career as Darla in Queen Sugar. While so many people have taken stock in her looks, Lawson has done the very real work of bringing some of the most beloved characters of our time to life. Some, like Darla, have been vulnerable, looking to rebuild their lives. Others have been self-assured and unyielding, taking up space when Black women and girls were told to fall in line. Lawson’s most iconic roles are just a tiny glimpse into the full tapestry of her work.
Rhonda in Sister, Sister
Bougie, petty and perfectly dressed, Lawson’s Rhonda in Sister, Sister had no qualms about boasting to her frenemies, Tia and Tamara, at every opportunity. “I loved playing Rhonda,” Lawson told Buzzfeed’s Cocoa Butter. “There’s something really delicious about playing characters that just didn’t care. She was so devilish in a way.”
Bossy and witty, Rhonda was the ultimate mean girl long before Regina George. She also embodied Drake’s “nice for what” when dealing with the opposite sex. it was a breath of fresh air to see a young Black woman lean into her more sinister character traits without being stifled by the stereotypes of being angry or broken.
Nikki in Save The Last Dance
All attitude, neck rolls, and side-eyes, Lawson was not one to play with in Save The Last Dance. In her role as Nikki, a chick from the South Side of Chicago, the actress kept it all the way real. “I wanted this so badly,” Lawson reflected on the role to Buzzfeed. She recalls it being the role that solidified her transition from being a “kid actor” to an actor who could take on adult projects.
Nikki was more than just the turning point in Lawson’s lengthy career. The character was villainized in the narrative. But in truth, Nikki was unapologetically herself. Sure, she had some jealous ex-girlfriend tendencies. However, her confidence and willingness to check Sara (Julia Stiles) on her white privilege and her desperate desire to take up precious space reserved for BIPOC made Nikki iconic.
We’d like to think that Nikki was who Rhonda grew up to be.
Darla in Queen Sugar
When fans were introduced to Darla in the first season of Queen Sugar, she was a scared young woman, working desperately to get her life on track. At odds with her then-ex and now husband Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), Darla clung to her sobriety while trying to reconnect with her young son, Blue (Ethan Hutchison).
Throughout five seasons of Queen Sugar and into season 6, we’ve watched Darla blossom. We’ve seen her confront her past, including her overbearing parents, as well as deal with the pain from her sexual assault. Moreover, it’s been stunning to watch her repair her relationship with both Ralph Angel and Blue. So much of the first few seasons of Darla’s journey were filled with hardship. Now, she’s settled into a new chapter as a wife and mother.
While Queen Sugar reflects what’s happening now in our society, Lawson’s quiet and graceful role on the show has been beautiful to watch. In a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight, Lawson also hinted that fans might be a bit surprised with what Queen Sugar Season 6 has in store for Darla.
With a career that has stretched across three decades, Lawson’s biggest asset, in addition to her staying power, has been the focus on her work. Notoriously private about her personal life, though she is literally Hollywood royalty, she has been able to get lost in her characters, which is the ultimate objective for an actor.
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