Vanessa Baden has been a recognized and respected face for many millennials growing up in the 90s. As an Emmy award winning actress, many of our audience will recognize Vanessa from her work as a child in hit television series Kenan and Kel and Gullah Gullah Island.
Now an accomplished writer, Vanessa Baden is ready to release “Far Away from Close to Home: A Black Millennial Woman in Progress”. We spoke with Vanessa about what that writing process was like for her, why this was an important story for her to tell, and still being a part of work that represents so many happy memories years later.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Vanessa Baden:
Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind “Far Away from Close to Home: A Black Millennial Woman in Progress” and how it came to be?
I wrote Far Away From Close To Home because a mentor who frequently read my writing realized that there was a consistent theme: Home. I was always looking for it and always trying to create it. We discussed why that was and it grew into this robust conversation about what home means, especially to a black woman. As I explored that answer for myself, it felt like something other people might be thinking about.
How was the writing experience for you? What was the most difficult part about getting started?
The writing experience was hard. This was the most difficult piece of work of my life. Especially the pieces around Black Lives Matter. I was writing during the uprising and sometimes the words would flow because I was working through so much. But then I would have to edit. It felt like having to relive the hurt over and over.
“Far Away from Close to Home: A Black Millennial Woman in Progress” shares what “Home” can mean to a Black millennial woman during this time. Why was this an important story for you to tell and share with your audience?
I think we are taught from an early age what home and family “should” look like. But so many of us have only varying versions of that idea. Some of us have not experienced any of it. But we are still part of families and still have homes. So there comes this moment where we must reconcile our ideas of how things should be with how thing is. Dealing with that helped me tremendously in my life and although I don’t think my story is everyone, I hope that by asking the same questions that I was forced to ask myself; folks will find that they are a lot more “together” than they may think.
What advice do you have for others who want to try their hand at writing to tell their story?
Just write! It’s never a good time. The sentence will never be perfect your first time. The story might not even start strong. But you can’t fix something that isn’t written.
What are some books that you’ve read lately that you would recommend to others?
I read the “Vanishing Half” in three days. I could not put it down. I’m currently reading “Nomadland” and I think it is brilliant.
This is a bit different from your previous work and many readers may recognize you from your success as an actress. I grew up watching you on television, in series like Gullah Gullah Island and Kenan and Kel.
With the debut of Paramount+, I’ve been able to revisit and enjoy these episodes. How does it feel to have an audience that still holds work you’ve done in such high regard? Some of your work is iconic and still brings so much joy to others.
I love it. I love that memories and images I have from my childhood that were so important to me and so much fun and so eye opening even for all of us at the time still can do it. It speaks to the timelessness of art that is done for the right reasons. I feel like both shows, especially Gullah Gullah were created to represent a portion of society that didn’t have much representation in the kids show space and it is still doing that.
What originally inspired or motivated you to get into acting as a career?
My mom and my grandma did it! I would try and recreate news broadcasts every day after the five o’clock news and they said to each other “We have to do something with this kid”. It was just acting classes. We had no clue it would turn into anything.
What else are you working on? What can your audience look forward to from you next?
I am currently finishing writing the last season of Animal Kingdom on TNT. I recently wrote on Mindy Kaling’s new HBO Max show Sex Lives of College Girls that will debut later this year. The new series Guilty Party (Paramount +) starring Kate Beckinsale will premiere this year too. I wrote on that last summer and it was so much fun.
Thank you so much to Vanessa Baden for taking the time to speak with us!