Jasmine Cephas Jones (305576)
Credit: Photo courtesy of Patrick Wymore

The Starz television show “Blindspotting” is based on the 2018 movie (“Blindspotting”) co-written and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. Dripping with prose-poetry, the film focused on the bond of two friends who called the quickly gentrifying Oakland, California home.

Re-imagined as a half-hour comedy/drama series—the rebirth of “Blindspotting” is a breath of fresh air. It’s as sharp as it is witty and more to the point, it’s smart, insightful even, and all that without breaking a sweat. Every series that I reviewed had something political and social about it, the commentary is real and it’s nicely wrapped in powerful, spoken-word-fueled musical numbers that work. It’s the whole vibe; dreamlike, a hip-hope fantasy merged into the real, gritty world.  

The series picks up on New Year’s Eve, six months after the events of the film, with Miles being arrested (drug possession), and his longtime girlfriend, Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones, reprising her role from the film) in shock, is left holding champagne bottles, broken she watches the police care drive away. 

Ashley tries to keep her head above the rushing waters of life, but when Miles is slammed with a brutal sentence that will keep him behind bars, for years, she is faced with some hard financial realities. To survive Ashley moves her, and her son, Sean (Atticus Woodward) in with Miles’ mother Rainey (Helen Hunt) in a house he grew up in.  

Pushing into Rainey, she’s that groovy, white bohemian type of mother. And Hunt, the actress scores tens across the boards. The dialogue that spills from her character’s mouth is refreshing and eye-opening. I mean Mama Rainey has a ’60s hippie pop about sex, relationships, drugs—and how to raise children. An Emmy nomination for Hunt might be forthcoming. 

The series (thankfully) is told from Ashley’s point of view and one of the best characters to add spice to the series is Miles’ half-sister Trish (Jaylen Barron), a vibrant sex worker who also lives in Rainey’s house, and often has her co-workers over for posting sexy pictures and videos to increase their social media presence. Her mind firmly on her money. 

Then there is Janelle (Candace Nicholas-Lippman), who is back in the neighborhood after five years of traveling the world, trying to find herself. She and Ashley are loyal and loving to each other, unlike Trish, who does her nephew but doesn’t claim Ashley as part of the family and blames her for Miles’ troubles. 

Then there is Earl (Benjamin Earl Turner) a wonderfully, unique character that not only brings humor but the common sense. Poor Earl walks around with an extra, extra, extra, extra-long extension cord so he can keep his ankle monitor charged. This is based on someone in Digg’s life, he shared with me during a recent Zoom interview. The struggle is real. 

The stylized elements that made the film so interesting is also present in the series, and that includes Ashley breaking the fourth wall to deliver a spoken-word performance, diving into the challenges she’s facing. I love the way she looks at life—with the people around her often breaking into body-contorting dance moves that highlight the emotions running through her brain. 

All of the characters have an interesting story to tell and just as interesting as Ashleys’. Sure, she’s suffering from separation anxiety, survivor’s guilt and a broken heart all because her man will be behind bars a long time—she doesn’t completely break down. Ashley steps into her big girl/Mommy pants and recognizes that she’s intelligent and resourceful and more to the point, she has a little boy to raise. All this on the shoulders of actress Jasmine Cephas Jones, who handles it, beautifully.