How Iantha Richardson Is Controlling The Narrative in Hollywood

Iantha Richardson arrives at the premiere of “White Men Can’t Jump” held at El Capitan Theatre on May 11, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Salangsang/Variety via Getty Images)

Iantha Richardson never meant to become an actress.

“I just knew I was going to dance overseas in Europe and do contemporary ballet, but life didn’t happen like that,” the star tells ESSENCE. However, through life’s happenstance, she chanced upon a new passion that has led her to instead perform on screens in over 9 million homes weekly.

The star of ABC’s hit cop drama Will Trent and of the recent Black-cast re-tooling of the 1991 cult classic Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, the DC native relocated from New York to Los Angeles with the hopes of using her pointe shoes in the professional arena. Instead, she landed square in front of the camera after trying out an acting class with a friend.

One class led to several, which led to an agent and management, which led to Benny Got Shot, an AFI thesis film directed by Malcolm Washington, son of Denzel and Pauletta. This led to her playing adult Tess on This is Us, which opened the door to even more opportunities.

Though she will always be in love with dance – “it is something that I still have in my back pocket,” she tells us – acting on one of Primetime TV’s most popular shows is consuming most of her time these days. And rightfully so.

How Iantha Richardson Is Controlling The Narrative in Hollywood
WILL TRENT – ABCÕs ÒWill TrentÓ stars Iantha Richardson as Faith Mitchell, Jake Mclaughlin as Michael Ormewood, Ram—n Rodr’guez as Will Trent, Erika Christensen as Angie Polaski, and Sonja Sohn as Amanda Wagner. (ABC/Art Streiber)

As Will Trent‘s Faith Mitchell, the title character’s reluctant GBI detective partner, Richardson brings depth, wit, and charm to a character that on many other police procedural programs would be of no consequence to the story at large. A Black woman in a politically precarious position, harboring contempt toward her partner for whistleblowing on fellow police yet consistently demonstrating a drive to be on “the right side of the law” herself, Faith is complex, and interesting, with her own insecurities to hurdle and private demons to overcome.

“I love her tenacity. I love her resilience. I love her heart, most of all,” Richardson says of her character. “I think that as a Black woman in a male-dominated space, a space that you wouldn’t think about, in 2024, somebody Black or brown wanting to be a cop. But, I think that she does it for the right reasons and she doesn’t sacrifice who she is while doing so.”

Inspired by a close personal friend, a real Black female detective in Washington, D.C., Richardson informs her character’s compassion and care with lived experience.

“I love the fact that she has built her way up to being a detective from being on the police force. And I’m like, ‘Well, how do you do that? How do you feel about that? What does it look like in there?’ Because police get such a bad rep, specifically through our lens. But she is literally one of the most compassionate officers, and the one who does it because she wants to help people.”

How Iantha Richardson Is Controlling The Narrative in Hollywood
WILL TRENT – ABC’s “Will Trent” stars Iantha Richardson as Faith Mitchell. (ABC/Art Streiber)

“Episode seven is really fun,” Richardson says of tonight’s episode of Will Trent. “For me, personally, not even for Faith. I got to do action in a lot of stunts, which is right in alignment for what I want to do moving forward, which is be an action hero at some point in time in my life.”

“There’s a lot of family stuff in there, there’s a lot of really cool action, and there’s a lot of Will and Faith partnering up in such a beautiful way, their relationship has evolved, and you see that in this.” Richardson teases. “Right now they’re on a tightrope of communication, and they really just get each other.”

On top of her work in front of the screen, Richardson is stepping behind the lens to produce and direct her own projects. The starlet is currently in the process of shopping a show for the first time. Tentatively titled “Attached” and set in Detroit, it’s based on the concept of soul ties. She’s also looking forward to directing her first episode of television soon.

“As I get more into this business, I realize that it’s really important to be able to control the narrative in your own way,” she says.”As actors, you’re often servicing somebody else’s story – which is really cool as well, to be able to be a servant and to be able to play these great characters like Faith. But, I am really excited to collaborate with other artists to tell other stories that I think should be at the forefront, and I think producing gives the ability to manage and bring together different voices to make something that’s new and fresh and unheard of.”

In the wake of last year’s strikes, Richardson is aware of the challenges ahead of her as a creator of color seeking to get original content greenlit. But never one to let statistics daunt her – “I think if things are supposed to be made, they are going to be made,” she tells us – she has faith in what she’s making and trusts that it will find its platform and it’s audience.

“I think people are still looking for content from people of color. I think that it just really has to be special,” she explains. And Richardson is passionate about shining light on narratives and points of that aren’t often placed front and center.

“I like telling stories that aren’t necessarily the things that people think they want to hear, but things that are real.”

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