JAsmine Lee-Jones, 22, is a writer and actress from London. In July 2019, shortly after graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, his first full-length play was performed at the Royal Court Theater. Seven methods to kill Kylie Jenner follow a digital activist, Cleo, and her best friend, Kara, as they navigate abuse and racism on social media. The play won numerous accolades, including Most Promising Playwright at the Critics’ Circle and Evening Standard Awards. Has been revived in the Royal Court for a period of six weeks ending on July 27.
Seven methods… addresses cultural appropriation, colorism, and misogyny, but often has a comical undertone. What led you to this combination of comedy and darkness?
I knew that cultural appropriation was a very big issue and that everyone has an opinion on it and that it can be very polarizing. [Through comedy] it can make people listen in a different way. I also wanted it to be the experience I have when I talk to my friends; We can be talking about something really serious and then one of us will say, “My God, I forgot to tell you …” and it becomes light and humorous.
I grew up with so much comedy. My biggest inspiration was Jamaican comedian Oliver Samuels, but my parents introduced me to The real McCoy and other sitcoms and I think you can feel that in this play.
What was the origin of the title of the work in relation to Kylie and the Kardashians? And what kind of reactions did you get?
Actually, it was instinctive. It came to my mind and I only remember writing it, even before conceiving the whole idea of the work. There have been various reactions, from blank faces, to awkwardness, to laughter, but the one that stands out is a friend of mine who heard the title just before it was about to be scheduled and said, “I hate it!” It was already too late!
You are an actor. Were you tempted to act in the play?
Definitely, particularly this second time when there’s an opportunity to flip the cast, but I made the decision not to. When I was little, I saw how they treated people who were darker than me and lighter than me. I couldn’t have played Kara because I’m not half-breed. I wrote Cleo as a darker skinned black woman and I’m in the middle of the spectrum. I thought if I was playing one of these characters, I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror. But I will play about 10 characters in my next play. Curious, a solo exhibition at the Soho theater.
What is your dream role??
I would love to play a romantic role. I’m obsessed with the African-American rom-coms of the 90s and early 2000s and wonder what modern love stories are like for black Britons of our generation. I’d also love to try Beneatha Younger at A raisin in the sun – she is such a complex and richly drawn character.
Have you had a good or bad confinement?
It was not very good for the first, during the [BLM] protests last year. I was going through a lot. I kept working and got to the point where I was so overwhelmed that I took a month off and that’s when all the protests happened. People were texting me, but I didn’t have the capacity or the energy to be there.
Do you think we are closer to dismantling structural racism after the BLM protests? On Seven methods … Cleo is writing a dissertation on structural racism. Would you like the progress we have made?
I’m not sure I’m on the front line. She is a critical thinker and sometimes people classify critical thinkers as negative. You can be really satisfied but also critical: the two can coexist. She could be celebrating what happened, but also critical of what it meant and how long it will last and the iconography around BLM.
In her conversation last year with playwright Winsome Pinnock, she said that “the theater space will not adapt to black British history.” That’s right?
It was a brilliant observation and provocation as well. I understand what’s underneath, but I have questions about it. What he might have been alluding to, in part, is the fact that something is easier to look at from a distance. If you have African American history staged in Britain, it’s a little easier for people to digest. Shows about British racism are sometimes diluted a bit to make things easier for the audience.
Your game is about a Twitter storm, but you are no longer on social media. When did you decide to leave?
At the end of 2020. The first thing to disappear was Twitter. Getting rid of Instagram was difficult, but people were getting me wrong and vice versa. You can create an identity on social media and that’s why it’s so powerful for people of color and underserved communities. When you live in a world of structural inequality, you can be seen.
It can be beautiful to be a version of you, it’s almost like a cosplay, but I saw how it was damaging my relationships with people. The nail in the coffin was when I saw how I was denying my ability to communicate with people in real life. I am 90% sure that I have ADHD and I am very happy to do many things at the same time, but it made it harder for me to listen. When I left, I recovered for so long and that is one of the reasons why it is difficult to erase: there is the danger of nowhere and the tyranny of loneliness.
Have you ever felt imposter syndrome and do you feel more fully part of the industry since the success of the play?
I don’t think I ever felt like an impostor, but I was afraid of how much I could do and what I could do. It’s like that quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. “I have been in the industry for two years and I can say that it is not a meritocracy. It is full of isms, schisms and nepotism.
What did you miss the most about going to the theater and have you already come back to see something?
I’ve been watching a lot more TV and movies, but what I’ve missed the most is being in the audience. That feeling that everyone is under the spell of imaginary circumstances. It is truly magical.
What did you hear or see during the pandemic that kept you sane?
I can destroy you it was outstanding. I looked again Adult material – There are only four episodes, but you get everything you need in them. My wife and children, which is a black American sitcom set in Connecticut, also comforted television. I was very happy when Brides It was on Netflix – it was hard to find before and it’s good to see some shows go mainstream after the Black Lives Matter movement. As for music, the album I keep playing is Innocent Country 2 by Chris Keys and Quelle Chris: a heady mix of neo-soul and experimental hip-hop. I feel like the song Black Twitter from the album is the soundtrack to Seven methods …. Shout out to Courttia Newland for the recommendation!
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism