‘The Underground Railroad’ Star Mychal-Bella Bowman Discusses What She Learned from Barry Jenkins

The Underground Railroad Star Mychal-Bella Bowman talked with AfterBuzz TV about what she learned from Barry Jenkins, her character Grace,  what surprised her the most about the 19th century & more!

The Underground Railroad itself was a network that consisted of secret routes and safe houses throughout the United States in the 19th century. The enslaved African Americans used to escape to free states or Canada.

Credit: Amazon Studios

Bowman was able to talk with Chae’ Jones during a Zoom interview to talk about her work on the Golden Globe Winner The Underground Railroad that streams on Amazon Prime as the character Grace, working with Barry Jenkins, what surprised her the most from being on the show and more.

In The Underground Railroad, Cora seeks help from the local Underground Railroad station agent, Martin Wells who hides her in his home along with another runaway named Grace played by Bowman. When asked who Grace is for those who haven’t watched the show yet. Bowman replied, “Grace is a very smart little girl. Grace also has another name, Fanny Briggs. That’s her real name. I mean you have to watch it. Grace is a very smart girl. She taught herself how to read and write. She’s just living.”

When asked how it feels for her to film to be a part of telling a piece of history that is very important to the black community. “It was different because, one, it was different on set rather than when they edit it and they add special effects and things like that. So when I was on set it was like I understood it but I didn’t but when I actually watched it helped me get more of the gist and kind of understand the Underground Railroad more. Of course, they teach you in school but they don’t teach you the actual truth. They cut out the important parts. So watching The Underground Railroad helped me learn the important parts.” Bowman said.

Barry Jenkins has been in the business for years but gained recognition and Oscar buzz for his directorial of Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. When asked what she learned from working with Jenkins and even in her acting from the experience, Bowman replied, “One of the things that Barry taught me was to always be comfortable and let him know whenever let’s say, I wanted to improv a couple words into a scene or if I don’t feel very comfortable with one of the scenes. The bathtub scene. I remember he’s like Mychal. He pulled me to the side. Me and my mom. He was like how do you guys feel about this? Even though I had on this bathing suit and this little tube top. He was like how do you feel about doing this very intimate scene? And we’re just like tell me who don’t need to be here to get out and come back in when we’re finished. I was just very grateful he gave us this option.” Bowman shared.

Since the show is a time period piece set during the early 19th century, there were a lot of things about the way of life people used to live that could still surprise us all. Like some slaves names were taken from them by their masters and given new names. When asked what surprised her the most about the way people lived back then, Bowman said, “I feel like not much of it was surprising because you can still see it. If you pay attention and you like look through your everyday life you can still see some of that being used today. Which is just horrible how they haven’t left that in the past. I feel like the most surprising is that they would take like Mr. Martin how he tried to save me and Cora. They killed him for just trying to save us and he was one of the good ones and that was really sad to see.”

Find out what are some of Bowman’s favorite tv shows she’s watching, her audition process for the character Grace, and more by watching the FULL INTERVIEW.

The Underground Railroad mini-series is based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-award-winning novel and follows the harrowing journey of Cora who after growing up on a plantation in Georgia, makes the decision to escape her enslavement and find freedom. All episodes are currently available to watch on Prime Video

About the Author

Chae Jones

Chae' Jones is an actress, host, and writer in Los Angeles. She currently hosts Disney News Weekly on Popcorn Talk Network.