Queens: Pepi Sonuga On Her Character Lauren AKA Lil Muffin And The Relatability Of The Series [Exclusive Interview]

QUEENS – “Heart of Queens” – While Brianna deals with the shattering truths of her marriage, Jill risks losing the safe community she has built for herself when she decides it is time to stop living a lie and comes clean about who she really is. Meanwhile, after a fateful meeting with Cam’ron, Naomi struggles with finally putting herself first on an all-new “Queens,” TUESDAY, OCT. 26 (10:01-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Kim Simms) PEPI SONUGA

ABC’s Queens debuted their third episode this week. So far the series has been a wonderful surprise. The mix of nostalgic and current hip-hop has been a lot of fun. But what is at the heart of the series, is the relatability of the stars of the series, played by Eve, Naturi Naughton, Nadine Velazquez, Brandy, and Pepi Sonuga. Other series that center around the music industry, while entertaining, are sometimes hard to relate to because they focus on big money, superstar problems. Queens on the other hand shows our protagonists in very relatable (and sometimes unfortunate) situations.

Queens
QUEENS – Key Art. (ABC)

To learn more about Queens and specifically Lil Muffin aka  Lauren Rice, LRM Online’s Emmanuel Gomez spoke with Pepi Sonuga. She gives us insight on what we can expect from her character. Also, we chat about what makes Queens so special and different from similar shows. Getting a little more personal with Pepi, she shares with us her experience in moving to the United States and words of encouragement for immigrants trying to live out their dreams. You can check out the full interview down below!

Here is the synopsis for ABC’s Queens

Starring Eve, Naturi Naughton, Nadine Velazquez AND Brandy, “Queens” follows four women in their 40s who reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had in the ‘90s when they were legends in the hip-hop world.

ABC’s Queens can be seen on Tuesday Nights at 10:00 PM.

Emmanuel Gomez: I’m very surprised by the series. Just because I expected so much more glitz and glamor of the music world. What I ended up having is a really relatable, grounded story so far. 

Pepi Sonuga: I love that as well. It’s funny because Zahir, our creator, always reiterates that while our show does center music and the industry and the glamor, we are a show about people and real life. We always have to put that first. I think that’s what I love about our show. It’s relatable to everyone, even if you are not an industry buff.

Emmanuel Gomez: We’ve seen shows like this before. You can’t really relate sometimes with the fame and the money and then some of the issues are going through because of it, it doesn’t seem achievable.

Pepi Sonuga: Right.

Emanuel Gomez: But a mother of five, somebody dealing with their sexuality the way one of the other characters is, and then dealing with fame and it surprised me in a very good way.

Pepi Sonuga:  It surprised me too. I actually enjoy that I’m a fan of the show. I don’t know if I can’t even say that. But it’s one of my favorite shows and I love watching real women. As you’ve said, we’ve seen that premise before and while we all love it, the easiest thing to watch is a show about glitz and glamor. It’s always so much fun, but I think marrying that, with real people. That’s something that ABC does very well, right? It’s this family. ABC is like family, real people, people that we see every day. I think for them to take the chance on the glitz and glamor, but still infuse the ABC trademark of family and people, I think it’s really beautiful.

Emanuel Gomez: I really think it flirted with the line of, of being able to be on ABC. But yes, like you said it has that family aspect, not only individually with who they have, but them together as kind of as sisterhood. It definitely fits the mold. I do want to ask you now about Lauren Rice, AKA Lil Muffin, who after two episodes is becoming one of my favorite characters in the series.

Pepi Sonuga: I love playing her and I’m glad to hear you say that she’s definitely a character I think you either love, or you just don’t love because she’s so out there. She’s definitely someone that forces you to have an opinion about her immediately.

QUEENS – ABC’s “Queens” stars Pepi Sonuga as Lauren aka Lil Muffin. (ABC/Gavin Bond)

ALSO SEE: ABC’S QUEENS PREMIERES ‘NASTY GIRL’ MUSIC VIDEO

Emanuel Gomez: Right, because I’m stuck in this weird spot where I did grow up with Brandy’s music, with Eve’s music. I’m 33 now, I stopped counting after a while. At the same time I kind of understand where like some of my cousins, some of my younger siblings and some of their generation of music and kind of that being present in social media and how they blend. I feel like that’s such a cool blend between her character and these other ladies.

Pepi Sonuga: Absolutely. I think that’s what Lauren’s function is at the moment until we get deeper into what her character is and what she’s going through. But at the moment, it’s really just to show that generational gap. I think a scene where we really see that is the cipher. You know, you have these women who are OGs in the rap game and they’re rapping about real things. That’s what we had back in the day. Even Eve, one of my favorite songs of hers is love is blind. You know, that video showing domestic abuse within a couple, it was so impactful. These women have their cipher, they talk about real-life things. Then you have Lil Muffin who comes in. She’s like in my Bugatti, my Fendy, da da da da da. It’s subtle and it’s still cool, but it just shows how much the music has changed. I think that’s something that’s really cool for us to see.

Emanuel Gomez: There’s something I want to ask you about Lauren, Lil Muffin. I don’t feel like I should also, because I’d rather people experience it in episode two. I think I’ll just generalize it a little bit, but what kind of journey are we going to see her go through in Queens?

Pepi Sonuga: We’ve already started hinting at it. But you’re going to see her become who she really is and try to find her identity. It is a very fine line to walk because Muffin represents gen Z hip hop. Right? The journey she’s particularly going to go on is her slashing these layers off and being who she really is. We’re going to see Lil Muffin. Is that who she really is? It’s a fine line to walk because I don’t want any Gen Z hip-hoppers to think we are insinuating that they’re wearing a mask or so. I think she definitely holds a mirror up to the generation that we’re in right now. When I listen to a lot of the new artists, I wonder what that person is like, just sitting at home watching TV. What do they even like behind closed doors?

QUEENS – “Heart of Queens” – While Brianna deals with the shattering truths of her marriage, Jill risks losing the safe community she has built for herself when she decides it is time to stop living a lie and comes clean about who she really is. Meanwhile, after a fateful meeting with Cam’ron, Naomi struggles with finally putting herself first on an all-new “Queens,” TUESDAY, OCT. 26 (10:01-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Kim Simms)
PEPI SONUGA

Emanuel Gomez: You have this really powerful line, and I’m going to say it out of context just to kind of leave it a little bit mysterious, but you’re speaking to one of the ladies and you say to the effect that you are afraid that they’re going to ask you about Lauren.

Pepi Sonuga: Yes.

Emanuel Gomez: And right there I was like, all right, a hundred percent in. I got to know more why and got to see her go through this and how these more experienced women are going to help her out. Tell me about how girls are going to be able to relate to that.

Pepi Sonuga: Oh my gosh. I think especially the young generation is going to be able to relate to that. Even just looking, sometimes I watch videos from the nineties and I think, oh my gosh, it looks like they just shot this in one room, one makeup look with their hair like they just woke up on a Saturday and it’s beautiful. It’s a classic. And I think that’s what was so powerful about quote-unquote, back in the day. Even just 10 years ago, people were just authentic. You just had to be yourself.

We look at a lot of the rock bands, Yellowcard, they’re in jeans and a t-shirt and that was their video. But now you have to be so much more. People don’t hold attention. I think that has to be exhausting after a while. I think for the young generation, maybe even kids in school, maybe they find that they have to wear so much, be so much just to be noticed and to feel like they exist in the world. Maybe the journey Lauren is going to go on is to show that maybe I just have to be myself and maybe that’s good enough.

Emanuel Gomez: Thank you. That’s a great answer. I want to ask you a little bit more about you because this is not the first time you portray a singer in the music industry, but I’m not going to ask you the typical question of is that the route you want to take? What I’d rather ask you is how fun has it been for you to use your love of acting to dip your toes into other ventures?

Pepi Sonuga: I just have to say though, Emmanuel, you’re just asking such great questions and I’m enjoying myself so much right now. It’s been so much fun. As you said, I’ve always, always loved music and sometimes I sit back in awe because I guess it’s like my higher power just knew this was going to happen. When I was in high school and I decided I’m not going to pursue music, I’m going to put my all into acting. I don’t regret that decision, but when you love something, you always wonder what if I did try.

So it has been really wild that with my acting career, these musical opportunities have come in and as you keep watching Queens, you’re going to see that I get to do so many things that I’m not even sure I would’ve gotten to do if I pursued music. I’m not sure I would’ve gotten to work with… I can’t, I don’t even want to give it away. Muffin just has so much cool stuff coming up and it’s like, wow, I am doing the things that music artists want to do and do. It’s definitely a dream come true.

Emanuel Gomez: I think one interesting thing I found out about you is that you are actually from Nigeria. And you moved over to Los Angeles at 10. So young folks who are immigrants, regardless of where they’re from, what kind of advice can you give them about sticking to their dreams?

Pepi Sonuga: I think immigrants are innately just go-getters and hard workers because I think anyone who leaves their home to come anywhere else, it has to be for a reason because I would rather be home, right? As much as I love America I left everybody that I love. I think just that push alone, we go hard for everything. But I would say for anybody, who’s an immigrant, anybody from anywhere else, even coming out of a different state, moving to LA to follow a dream. Just don’t give up and it’s not going to be easy. It’s a long road. 

Think about it more like a marathon than a sprint. Whether you’re in acting, whether you’re in the industry or whether you’re just trying to get a degree, trying to become a doctor or a florist, I don’t know, just stick to what you’re doing. No matter what anybody says, no matter if you feel out of place, just think about your home and think about all the people that you’re going to help just by inspiring them. Maybe not even help directly, but just by inspiring them. That would be my answer.

ALSO SEE: QUEENS | MATTHEW HEAD ON RECORDING THE STARS OF ABC’S NEW SERIES [EXCLUISVE INTERVIEW]

Emanuel Gomez: Thank you for sharing that. I’m sure that’s going to help some people out there. So I appreciate your answer. I talked to the voice producer for the show, Matthew Head, a couple of days ago. He was telling me about what a joy it was to work with Nadine, Eve, Naturi, and Brandy. So I’m going to wrap this up by also asking you the same question. What has been your experience working with these ladies?

Pepi Sonuga: Oh my gosh. They’re a dream. A dream come true. They feel like my sisters at this point and from the get-go, they were so inclusive of me. They are the Queens and it’s easy to just kind of stay in that little pack, but they’re always so adamant about including a Lil Muffin. And they’re a dream. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m working with these ladies. They’re legends and they’re really kind people.

Queens
QUEENS – “Heart of Queens” – While Brianna deals with the shattering truths of her marriage, Jill risks losing the safe community she has built for herself when she decides it is time to stop living a lie and comes clean about who she really is. Meanwhile, after a fateful meeting with Cam’ron, Naomi struggles with finally putting herself first on an all-new “Queens,” TUESDAY, OCT. 26 (10:01-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Kim Simms)
BRANDY, NADINE VELAZQUEZ, NATURI NAUGHTON, PEPI SONUGA, EVE

Emanuel Gomez: Yeah. I love to hear that just because of the fact that I see them on that same pedestal that you talk about, that Matthew had to about. Just as we know them as. Then to see them on a show and being so relatable is… Even when we were talking in the beginning, we almost went full circle. It’s just so refreshing, right?

Pepi Sonuga: Yes, it is refreshing. I think that it’s going to show the testament of their talent because right now we’re looking at them and we’re seeing Eve and Brandy and Naturi and Nadine. But as we keep going, I think we’re going to morph out a little bit and we’re going to start to see Naomi and Valeria and Brianna and Jill. They’re really talented because now when I look at them, even on set, I see those characters and it’s really hard to do when you’re a legend and everyone knows you and knows literally everything about your childhood and everything, but they’re really talented. And we’re going to get to just focus in on who these women are,

Emanuel Gomez: Pepi, I appreciate your time so much. Thank you for your time. Congratulations on the show. It’s wonderful. I’m not going to be missing a single episode week to week on ABC.

Pepi Sonuga: Thank you so much, Emanuel. Thank you for this interview.

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