It’s been discussed repeatedly amongst television and movie fans alike, the specific type of roles given to Black women. Actress Lara Rossi shares her latest role, however, breaks the mold allowing her to be a full human, full of flaws and full of truth.
Staring in BBC America’s new show “The Watch,” Rossi plays the last scion of nobility, Lady Sybil. The show follows a group of misfits, The City Watch, who find themselves saving the world while simultaneously figuring out who they are. Mixing comedy with a bit of thrill, “The Watch” brings to life trolls, werewolves, and wizards who fight against an evil plot to resurrect a great dragon which would then lead to the end of the world as they know it.
Met by an all-star cast, Rossi shared how excited she is to play the role of Lady Sybil and the ability to bring such a complex Black woman to life in a way nearly every viewer can relate to. Having been an actress since her high school years, Rossi shares that this is has been her favorite role to date, “I actually mean that I’m not just plugging the show,” she admits.
“Lady Sybil, she’s a vigilante. She’s a woman on a mission who has taken justice into her own hands and has a very big problem with how the city is run. She is bombastic. She’s entitled, she’s, I would say she’s privileged, obviously, but she also has an enormous heart and enormous capacity for patience,” Rossi tells of her character. “She believes in humanity, and she believes in me, in the ability to change.”
As a member of The City Watch, her role is seemingly that of a rehabilitator, “That is probably one of the things that I think I’ve learned the most from her is really believing that we can affect change and that people can change.” For Rossi, Lady Sybil’s willingness to allow others room to grow is an instinct and a lesson in patience for yourself and others, as well as a firm belief in the good of others. For Rossi, this role became so special to her due to the growth it awarded not only her but her character and the image of a Black woman.
“She grows a lot throughout the show, and I’m excited for more of that. She’s somebody who starts off alone and even though she believes in humanity, I think she’s given in to the idea of being alone, of loneliness,” she details. “It’s exciting to see someone go through the character arc of seeing that it’s possible to believe in the notion of family again. I think she gave up on that, and you see her sort of start to believe in it again, she gets quite excited and she becomes quite cute. Which is quite a fun journey to play.”
Though it can be depicted on screen between Rossi and co-star Richard Dormer who plays the captain of The City Watch, Sam Vimes, their connection is the one that brings Lady Sybil back to a place of togetherness. “There’s a spark and they see each other. I think that’s how she begins to think that perhaps there’s hope in another human being that she’s not necessarily trying to rehabilitate, but she actually perhaps ought to believe in,” Rossi describes. The show, which was filmed before and during the pandemic offers an escape from our reality, while also allowing one to see that there is hope during times of loneliness and uncertainty. For Rossi, the role gave her, not only the lesson of patience, but the ability to stretch her resume and perform a role that lives the true and full life cycle of every human.
“What this character has managed to give me as an artist, as an actor, as a Black woman is for the first time in a long time, and maybe ever for my own journey at least, was the ability to truly experience freedom in her eccentricity, in her sort of messiness,” she says. Lady Sybil can be characterized as clumsy yet precise, funny, heartfelt yet entitled, and privileged. “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, there just aren’t that many characters for Black women that in which you can play with those kinds of characteristics,” she continued. “So often [we are] expected to be the strong Black woman and it was just really freeing to not have to play that although she is that, she’s not just that. I got to be a clown. I got to be ridiculous, whatever, it was freeing.”
She continued to share that every day her excitement to show a different characteristic was energizing. A concept she says is important to realize as a rarity, though it should be common amongst Hollywood and beyond. “This needs to keep happening for everybody. Everyone needs to experience this at this level of freedom in their work. You should not have to be telling the same story over and over again.”
For Rossi, the role of Lady Sybil holds a strong significance in her heart and career. Leaving nothing to chance, she plays her role and plays it well. “The Watch” premieres on January 3, 2021, at 8 pm ET on BBC America. Excited for its debut, Rossi’s only hope is that Lady Sybil lives as an example of the complexities that lie in the roles and lives of Black characters. “This is the beginning of something new and not just for me but just the beginning of a new narrative.”