When Netflix scheduled June 19th as the release date for season 2 of its Ryan Murphy-helmed show The Politician, they probably didn’t anticipate that 2020 would see the public wholeheartedly embracing the holiday of Juneteenth for the first time in the history of mainstream American culture. For cast member Rahne Jones, the only Black series regular on the show, this led to mixed emotions: why promote a show on a day when so many other things were happening? But at the end of the day, she decided, Juneteenth is a celebration of Black joy—and Jones’ performance as Skye Leighton, a character whose ambition rivals protagonist Payton Hobart’s (Benn Platt), leaves plenty to be joyful about. Skye is a delight: take-no-prisoners, enviably suave, and, of course, stylish as hell.
As it happens, all those things are likewise true of Jones herself. Living in Brooklyn with her fiancée, Jones has spent the last few weeks learning how to balance her love of entertainment—she’s a consummate film buff—with her commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement. The result: online activism, scrambled eggs, and lots and lots of movie nights. Read on to see what Jones had to say about classic-film favorites, streamlined skincare routines, and self-care in the face of burnout.
How are you doing?
I’m doing okay, to be honest! The last month has been really intense in so many ways. You know, you got the pandemic, you got all the protests for racial justice, and then our show came out, and it’s just been a lot going on, and I’m a little mentally tired. But other than that, I’m healthy, I’m here, and I’m good.
I know you said something on Instagram about having mixed feelings promoting the show. There’s already a weirdness about having a new project in the middle of a pandemic, and then you add in the fact that we’re in the middle of a civil uprising.
Listen, I’m happy to be living through it. I mean, not the pandemic, but the uprising—I’m here for that! [LAUGHS] And, you know, I struggled—we knew the show was coming out June 19, and then everything kind of imploded around when George Floyd was murdered, and it seemed to me that entertainment wasn’t important. Now I’ve realized that entertainment is for people to step away from reality and get a little bit of joy into their lives, but I had to think, like, “Rahne, people do need to be entertained, still.” My struggle with it was actually with it falling on Juneteenth, and I didn’t wanna take away from that moment, especially when Juneteenth was finally being celebrated in a way that it should have always been. So I had decided that I wasn’t going to post anything, because I thought it would be insensitive, and my fiancée was like, “You’re the only Black series regular on the show, you deserve to be proud of the work that you’re doing, and Juneteenth is literally to celebrate you.” When she told me that—thank god for her—I felt more empowered to say, “In this moment, I’m not necessarily celebrating the show, I’m celebrating me on the show.” I’m proud of the work that I did, and I’m grateful that people are able to see a speech that Skye gave about cultural appropriation, and it felt pretty timely. So it’s a balancing act, and I’m just trying to get through it.
It’s interesting, because no one expected we’d be in the middle of a pandemic and this upswell of the Black Lives Matter movement, but in a way The Politician feels suited to this moment. It doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, but does so without making everything about tragedy, which is also important.
Well, yeah, and that’s been the critique of a lot of cinema as it relates to Blackness—a lot of “Slavery! That’s the Black experience!” And while, yes, that is a big part of our history, I’m like, let’s celebrate Black joy, Black love, just Black positivity. I hope in this moment that things shift to seeing a wide variety of Black stories being told. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the fact that we’ve been oppressed this whole entire time. Let’s talk about us as three-dimensional beings and humans.
I hope in this moment that things shift to seeing a wide variety of Black stories being told. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the fact that we’ve been oppressed this whole entire time. Let’s talk about us as three-dimensional beings and humans.
What’s your daily routine looking like these days? Are you going out to the protests?
Every morning, I wake up and I either watch CNN or MSNBC just to see what’s been going on. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of activism from inside my home, and I’m doing a lot with social media. I’ve been finding resources and creating a Linktree that’s linked to my Instagram account where there’s resources for the Black Lives Matter movement. A couple weeks ago, I did go out to the big protest in New York City. That was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. And there’s also a queer march in New York on Sunday that’s tied in with Pride, and it’s focusing on Black queerness in general, so I’ll be going to that and encouraging people to go to that. But as far as activism, you don’t necessarily have to be out there marching every day. There are other ways to do it, as long as you are educating people and putting the resources in their hands for them to do the work on their own.
I think a challenge of this time is to figure out how to make activism a sustainable practice rather than overloading and getting burnt out.
Exactly. The burnout is real. There have been a couple times when I’m just like, “I can’t talk about this anymore. Today I wanna sit and I wanna watch Goofy Movie and I wanna watch Coco and I just wanna chill, and then we can start it up again once I’m refreshed.” And it is heavy, because as a Black woman, you know, this is a lived experience that I’ve had my whole entire life, so now that everybody’s just like, “Oh my god, this is happening to you?" It’s exhausting trying to be like, “Yeah, girl, where you been?” [LAUGHS]
What do you do to take care of yourself and find joy? I saw that you do felting, right?
Yeah, that’s actually something I started with this year, before quarantine, actually. One of our friends is really big into crafting, and she had a craft party where needle felting was one of these crafts, and I fell in love with it. I have like 15 or 20 little animal creations, and they’re so cute! It’s super cathartic because you can focus on something for an hour, and it kind of frees your mind from other stuff, and you create something that you can keep forever. And I love movies—I watch all the classics whenever I feel like I need a little bit of a boost. All About Eve is my favorite movie, so I watch that any chance that I get.
What are some of the movies you’ve been watching?
I recently watched James and the Giant Peach for the first time.
You’d never seen that before?
I’d never seen it! It kinda brushed past me when it first came out, and I missed it, but it was really great. I loved it, and I was like, “Where have I been?” I’m watching some TV, some 90 Day Fiance—that’s a show for ya! [LAUGHS] I like South Park, just for something mindless. And I have the Turner Classic Movie channel on my fire stick, and they have a wide variety: Picture of Dorian Gray, they got Whatever Happened to Baby Jane on there—
Oh my god, that’s one of my favorites.
“You are, Blanche! You are in that chair!”
It’s so insane! I can’t decide whether I love it as a horror movie or a comedy.
It’s both. It’s camp like you’ve never seen it. Bette Davis probably caked on the makeup over and over and over again for that look, and Joan Crawford is just the queen that she is. It’s a great movie, it’s definitely one of those that I can rewatch anytime.
Do you gravitate more towards camp in general?
You know, what’s interesting is that I’m a huge fan of documentaries as well. Lately I have been watching ones that center Black voices—like, I watched Four Little Girls recently, which is about the Birmingham church bombing. I’ve watched it several times, but I always revisit it just to keep in mind where we came from. And I’ve also watched some lighter ones. I watched a documentary on Clive Davis that’s on Netflix, and that was phenomenal because he’s been so prolific through the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and today. Some ID Channel, because I love an unsolved crime—I mean, I don’t love it, but I’m entertained by the story. [LAUGHS]
I don’t know about you, but I’ve really been grappling with true crime as a genre that glorifies the police but is also perversely comforting.
Yeah, you’re totally right, these shows are absolutely invested in police work, and they have to be. And in this movement right now, I’m like, “Are y’all solving the crimes?” [LAUGHS] But, yeah, I love ID Channel, I could keep it on for forever.
What else do you do for your mental well-being? Do you journal?
I’m really not into journaling. I’ve tried so many times, and I just can’t stay consistent with it. I do struggle with expressing my feelings a lot of times. It’s not great, but I’ve always been the type of person that kind of keeps everything until I finally can let it go on my own, which is—I probably need to go to a therapist or something about that. I will say that I have an amazing support system in my fiancée, whom I absolutely talk with every day in terms of how I’m feeling in that space. I don’t write it down in any way, I just try and voice it the best that I can to her, and she is able to receive it and encourage me and tell me that everything’s gonna be okay. I’m glad that I have her. If I didn’t, I’d be sitting in this house like… [LAUGHS] But for me, honestly, the movies do it for me. That’s my escape, that’s literally what I go to. When I’m feeling down about something, when I’m stressed out about something, I’ll sit and watch my favorite movie, and I’m rejuvenated and ready to go.
What about physical wellness? How does that factor into your self-care?
We live near a park in Long Island City, and we walk almost every day. We moved in last October, so we kind of got stuck with the winter and couldn’t explore. So now we’re exploring our neighborhood, even though we can’t quite dine in or anything like that. We’re taking note of things to do when all of this is said and done. We’re cooking more, also which is… it’s interesting, because I am not a cook. I literally just learned how to make scrambled eggs.
I’m making them every morning. I’m like, “Babe, do you want eggs?” She’s like, “No, girl.” I’m like, “Okay!” Making my eggs, real proud of myself at 33. How did I make it this long? But my fiancée will mostly cook, and I will prep, I will cut some things—slowly, because I don’t know how to use a knife—and then I will do all the cleaning, so it’s a good trade-off.
Do you have a skincare routine?
For a long time, I was like, “I guess I’ll fall asleep with my makeup.” And then I realized as I got older that you can’t fall asleep in your makeup! So I definitely wash my face to get the makeup off. I don’t like the heaviness of creams and stuff like that, but I just got a package of skincare from this company called Ogee, and it’s a lot of oil-based products. It’s basically just a cleanser and I think a jojoba facial oil, ‘cause after step three, I’m out. I got a short attention span, so I need to get it done.
Haircare is a bigger one for me. I’ve had locs, but I picked them out over quarantine and now I’ve let my natural hair out, so I wash my hair once a week. With Black hair you need to make sure you have the products that don’t dry out your hair, and I really stick with Cantu’s whole line of shea butter products, but the next brand that I want to try but haven’t tried yet is Carol’s Daughter. And I shave my own hair on the sides, which is pretty cathartic for me. So that’s my beauty routine. Lately I haven’t been wearing a lot of makeup, but I’ll throw on some foundation for a Zoom call to not look like a ghost. Or deceased… which is the same thing.
Well, you can be a corpse or a ghost. Similar but different.
A ghost is like, “I have unfinished business.” A corpse is just like, “I’m dead.” [LAUGHS]