Written by | Ray Cornelius 

When Teyonah Parris was a drama student attending The Juilliard School she had the opportunity to be in a production of the ancient Greek tale Lysistrata. Now, the acclaimed actress of Dear White People and Survivor’s Remorse is starring as the lead in a contemporary version of that same play and this time under the direction of Spike Lee.

In Chi-Raq, Parris plays ‘Lysistrata,’ a round-the-way-girl from Chicago who organizes a movement that challenges the nature of race and sex after the murder of a child by a stray bullet. She convinces her girls in the hood to withhold sex from their boyfriends who are involved in rival gang activity. The film is a satirical illustration of the current on-going violence that is plaguing Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods much like the war-torn streets of Baghdad, Iraq.

I had a chance to chat with Parris recently about her role in the project and the lessons she learned from Spike Lee. We also dished about what she gleaned from her überly famous co-stars Angela Bassett, Wesley Snipes and Samuel L. Jackson and what she hopes audiences will take away from the film.

“I think the message of ‘Chi-Raq’ is that we have to self-assess and we have to take action and sometimes it only takes one person to affect the change and get a community to mobilize behind them. We all just have to do our part! Whether that’s us in the government and working down into the community or starting from the community and working up to get some policies and things like that changed. It only takes one person.”

Check out the rest of my exclusive audio interview below: