We drank three rounds with Queens stars Eve and Brandy
While they have similar résumés, Brandy and Eve — two icons of the aughts — didn't really know each other before signing on to ABC's new musical melodrama Queens (premiering Oct. 19). "When I came out, Brandy, you were [on Moesha]. And then when I went into TV [on Eve], Brandy went back to the music. So we would maybe see each other in passing," says the "Tambourine" rapper, seated next to her new costar and fellow UPN alum at the bar of upscale Korean-inspired steakhouse Noona, in the Atlanta suburb Duluth. "But I'm, like, her biggest fan. She's one of my faves," responds Brandy. "We had the same stylist at one point, so we crossed paths, but I just know that being here with her is a blessing."
The women, both 42, indulged in some nonalcoholic beverages — they still have scenes to shoot today! — as they compared notes and teased what's to come on their bold new series from Scandal writer Zahir McGhee, where they play '90s musicians regaining their confidence and reclaiming the spotlight (a subject they know a little something about).
ROUND 1: PERFECT PEAR
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What exactly is Queens about, and who do each of you play?
EVE: Queens is about a hip-hop group that was the biggest group ever in the '90s, and they get back together to capture what they had before. But now you also see them in their own individual spaces. I play Brianna (a.k.a. Professor Sex), and as a mom of five kids, she ain't got no time for nothing — especially music at the moment. You see her going through her own family issues, but also wanting to capture Professor Sex, to be that woman again.
BRANDY: And I play Naomi (a.k.a. Xplicit Lyrics), and I'm still trying to be a musician. I'm still playing in crappy bars, but I have this opportunity to get back with my girls and become Xplicit, a rapper. I've been chasing fame for such a long time, to the point where I basically abandoned my relationship with my daughter. But the music that I do as Naomi is about my daughter, and the music that I do with the ladies is just about being as best as we can be. I love it because we get to reunite and also try to build our friendship again, because that's what we really lost.
And sorry if I missed this, is the name of the group Queens or do you guys have a different name?
EVE: No. So the name of the group is Nasty Bitches—
BRANDY: For now.
EVE: Obviously where we are, we're older, we're trying to re-emerge, we've started calling ourselves Queens.
The other two members of the group are played by Naturi Naughton (Power) and Nadine Velazquez (Major Crimes). What can you share about them?
BRANDY: It's been great working with them. Everybody is so excited about the show, so the passion and the drive is there. We all support each other, which is amazing. Naturi plays Jill Da Thrill. She's a Catholic, so she's conflicted between coming back to the group and talking about some of the things that we talked about in the '90s. And then Valeria, who's played by Nadine Velazquez, she's Butter Pecan.
EVE: She's a very driven person. Not that we are not, but her character is so driven. She wants this fame and power, but misses her family. We are essentially her girls and her family.
BRANDY: Well, them.
EVE: True. Us. Maybe not [Naomi].
BRANDY: Because she stole my man.
ROUND 2 GINGER BEER WITH LIME FOR BRANDY, PINEAPPLE REFRESHER FOR EVE
Eve, your former Ruff Ryders labelmate Swizz Beatz is the show's executive music producer. What can you tell us about the music we'll be hearing?
EVE: We haven't really spoken to him just yet because we need to churn things out. I speak with Swizz often, though.
BRANDY: Swizz is cool, I'm really glad that he's doing the music because the music sounds amazing. It sounds like Swizz.
EVE: And it sounds like that time. We have captured that time, literally. And each verse in the songs is perfect for all of us.
BRANDY: Yes it is. And we are really spitting like guys, we're really forward.
EVE: I think people are going to be surprised at how good the music actually is, honestly.
BRANDY: Well, the girls like their studio time by themselves. This is the beginning, so we're still trying to find our pocket and how it's going to go. We want to make sure that we get it right.
EVE: I would say with you, though, when we were doing [a] performance, or in dance rehearsal, there's certain things that you definitely see that I don't think we saw, that's like, "Oh no, we need to be more together." She does do that.
BRANDY: Yeah. If one of us is not looking [like we're] at our best, we all look like that. So I'm the one who [tries] to get everybody going.
EVE: But it's good, we need it.
You have both recorded some of the biggest female collaborations of all time. Is there anything from those experiences that you've brought to this experience? Any sort of wisdom or knowledge?
BRANDY: I would say that I love sharing the light. I think when you share the light, you sparkle brighter. So I'm just taking that experience with people that I've worked with, and just bringing it here. It's good to work with people that are passionate about what I'm passionate about, and want the show to be great.
EVE: I feel the same in that respect, in the sense that it always helps to be collaborative with people who are talented, but also that you are actually fans of. That is a special thing to be able to do.
ROUND 3: STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
Have you compared UPN experiences?
EVE: We haven't talked about it!
BRANDY: We haven't, but I would love to know what that was like, when you first got your own TV show and transitioned from rap. Because I know I was scared. I didn't even want to be an actor. I started on one show, but it got canceled after a year and I didn't have any lines. I was like, "Yes!"
EVE: Same! I didn't really want to act. It was my manager that was like, "We should do this because it's good for your career." And I was like, "Oh whatever." And then he was like, "Look, if you get a script that we like, cool. If we don't, I won't ever talk to you about it again." Then the first script I read, I actually really liked.
With Black sitcoms like Moesha finally coming to streaming, and being held in such high regard, do you all feel even more pride about your shows in hindsight?
BRANDY: Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. In the moment, you don't know exactly what you're creating or what's going on. But when I look back, I'm so glad that I could look back and say, "Wow, I'm glad I was a part of something that really kind of changed the game, changed the culture." That feels amazing because you feel like your work isn't in vain. You feel like a vessel. You feel like it's not about you, it's about the people that you're serving. It's so great.
Eve, did you have people clamoring for Eve to be on streaming? I think it's on HBO Max now.
EVE: Is it? Hold up, you're bringing me some money, maybe. You know what, it is funny though, people do ask me, would I do another one, or would I do a reunion? Because obviously reunions are big, and reboots. And we did talk about it actually, right before Natalie [Desselle-Reid] passed, and it just didn't work out. But I think it's cool, people really did love that show. When I look back on it, it takes me right into where we were and what it was. I was learning so much by being a part [of it]. Sitcoms are hard.
I was wondering too, did you guys catch Girls5eva at all?
EVE: That came to me first—
EVE: Just as a call, but I wasn't at all ready to act. I wasn't at all ready. And I was like, "Oh, that sounds like a cool idea!" But I never even got anywhere with it. I've been seeing it, but I've not caught it.
BRANDY: I haven't seen it. Been just so tunnel visioned on what we have to do.
EVE: I didn't catch her, but I've heard of her, yes. She got an Emmy nomination for Hamilton, right?
BRANDY: Oh nice.
If there's ever a crossover, you guys rapping against each other would be wild.
EVE: She should come on the show maybe!
BRANDY: Yeah she should come on the show.
EVE: But you ain't gon' catch me in no [rap] cypher now, child. She 42.
BRANDY: Yeah she don't need cyphers now, honey. On ABC, she don't.
As we're coming to the end, what Queens story lines are you excited for people to see? I know Brandy, in real life, it's been amazing to see you be so transparent about mental health, really encouraging people to get rid of the stigma. If that transfers over into the show that'd be really cool to see.
BRANDY: That's really important. I definitely feel like we can touch on that. I think we touched on a lot of things that people probably won't expect—
EVE: But a lot of people are going through. And I think that will catch people as well. What we are doing, while there might be a comedy aspect, is real stuff. I'm excited to see the actual chemistry that we actually have, but also there's real friendship that we are trying to capture and bring back in.
BRANDY: Women need each other.
EVE: You need your friendships, whether you're in a group or not. It really is important. And I think people will gravitate to it.
BRANDY: Mm-hmm, and the music. The soundtrack to all of our layered lives.
EVE: Yes lord!