Our favorite trio of wives is back for the second season of BET+’s First Wives Club, and they’ve brought a whole heap of drama for the ride. Jill Scott, Michelle Buteau and Ryan Michelle Bathé return to the screen as best friends Hazel, Bree and Ari, ready to take on new hurdles as they navigate their demanding careers and hectic love lives through the enviable bonds of their friendship. The introduction of Michelle Mitchenor’s Jayla makes the group a fierce quartet that brings laughs, tears and intense closet envy.
Season 2 picks up exactly where the first left off and sees the women taking control in both their tumultuous romances and their complicated professional lives. We watch as Bree and Gary (RonReaco Lee) stumble through rekindling their romance, figuring out how to find their rhythm as a couple and deal with the past creeping into their present. A Los Angeles-bound Ari struggles to balance her work and her long-distance relationship with David (Mark Tallman) as he’s fulfilling his first term as State Senator.
Hazel has gone all-in with her record label, Ladies First, and butts heads with her partners as she tries to get her first artist signed while planning an over-the-top wedding to her young new beau, Nigel (Mikhail Keize). Jayla joins the foursome as a powerful lawyer who provides a refreshing perspective in the group, as well as some hilariously light hazing from Hazel, who cannot let go of college grudges.
Following the premiere of season 2, ET spoke with Buteau and Scott about the friends’ journey throughout the season and why everyone should be tuning in on BET+.
ET: What was it like getting back on set, especially considering the insanity of the world at the time?
Michelle Buteau: It was like the wild, wild west. It was like every episode of Naked and Afraid because we were filming within COVID and in Atlanta. So we weren’t in New York this season, but wow. I don’t know how they made it look like New York, but they did. And it was a joy. It was also crazy because we had to be vigilant with our health. But when we did get to take our masks off and act and play, it just meant so much more because we did so many things to get there. I mean, the COVID testing alone, it’s like a pap smear in your face every day.
Jill Scott: [Laughs] Yeah, initially it was weird because we were all behind these plastic thingies, these masks, where we could see each other’s faces, but we couldn’t hug each other. That was odd. Having to take a test every day was weird. It was a strange beginning because, typically, we get together and instantly connect. We had to find different ways to reach each other and, eventually, we did.
What were you excited to tackle in this installment?
MB: Season 1 picks up in an interesting place, where the women haven’t seen each other for a while and they’re sort of coming into their power. In season 2, you get it right away. They’re booked, blessed and busy. They know what they want. They know how to ask for it. There’s no, “Please.” It’s just all, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome.” And so that has been the joy of season 2 is to play just a fully realized woman who does not have to apologize for what she wants and how she wants it.
JS: I was really excited about seeing Michelle Buteau and Ryan Bathe. I missed them. We had such a great connection from the first season and we talked a lot during COVID, but to see them and hang out with them, I missed them. There’s something special about the three of us together. I can’t call it, but it’s like kismet energy. We were there for each other through some pretty tough times. I feel like it resonates onscreen.
Oh, absolutely. It’s a true sisterhood, and fans can see that. There’s also a new face within the sisterhood, Michelle Mitchenor as Jayla. She spends a lot of time with Bree and Hazel while Ari is on the West Coast. How did y’all bring her into the fold off-screen?
JS: It was weird because we weren’t allowed to hang out with each other. Anytime we were not shooting, we had on these masks, and Michelle had a bubble she would sit in between takes. It was very strange. So, we had to start liking each other real fast. [Laughs]
MB: [It was similar to] the way you would bring any other friend that started high school senior year, it was just easy and natural. She’s got a beautiful name! [Laughs] It was just really fun to play and meet someone new, to be honest, and to add something to the show.
How would you describe your characters’ mindset and growth going from season 1 to the new season?
JS: Hazel is doing things big. I think she had her mind on her money, but more than that, she had her mind on living. Since she’s gotten divorced, she really wanted to live and be happy and free. It took a minute for the money part to come to it — that’s important because you need some money. That happened later. But I think it’s just about the largeness of love and the possibilities of love she’s into. That’s kind of a new Hazel. We’ve never seen her really like anybody.
She’s having the time of her life and it’s a stereotype, but from what I understand, it’s very true. She’s gone to Jamaica and found her a lil’ thing and she’s just loving that part of her life. I think every woman over the age of 40 should do it just once!
OK, I could agree with that. [Laughs] Speaking of her doing it big, she started her own record label, which is female-oriented and different from what we’re used to seeing onscreen. But as we see in the first couple of episodes, it’s not kicking off as smoothly as she would hope. As a legend in the music industry, what do you want the audience to gain from watching Hazel’s journey?
JS: That this ain’t easy. That, you have to think outside of the box often, you’re going to get told ‘no’ plenty and you have to stay steadfast in what it is that your dreams are, believe in yourself. Those are the reasons why I like her, but we’re so different. I think Hazel is exceptionally self-centered, but that’s one of the parts about her that I’m like, “Oh, this is fun.” I like to escape there. I think she’s materialistic. That’s not a judgment of her, it’s just an observation, and I like that about her too. She likes stuff, as well as she should. I think she’s ready to just jump off the bridge when it comes to love and romance and dating. I am not. No, I’m molasses, snail-slow.
So, if you could speak to Hazel during her journey in season 2, what advice would you give her?
JS: I would tell her to just slow down.
I don’t think that she would listen.
JS: I don’t think that she would either. [Laughs] She don’t even know me, but she knows Bree and, she gave Bree the business for even trying to talk reasonably to her, which I love. That is so fun.
Speaking of Bree, I love that she’s been bold and brash since day one. She says what’s on her mind, regardless of who wants to hear it. Michelle, how would you describe Bree’s growth from when we first met her to where we meet her in season 2?
MB: I think there was a lot of resentment in season 1 between Bree and Gary, you know, coming off of your partner cheating and trying to work that out. Season 2, they’re just sort of like, “We have been through it all. So now if I’m asking you something, I mean it.” And it has been interesting to play a married couple and a woman who’s holding it down. Like, she’s a surgeon! [Laughs] I can’t even take off my eyelashes without being scared.
Not just a surgeon, but she’s getting pushed to become chief of surgery. And it’s so huge for her because she’ll be the first Black woman to do so. If you were her friend, what would you tell her?
MB: Oh my goodness. I would just be like, “Do it. Do it for everyone. Do it for your daughter. Do for all the little girls who are like, ‘Should I be a nurse or should it be a doctor?’ Just break that glass ceiling.”
Bree and Gary have been through all this therapy, and when we go into season 2, they’re together again. How did it feel to work on their relationship and what are your hopes for them?
MB: I mean, that’s a great question. People are married for a long time, and I think there’s a certain generation where you sort of grin and bear it. You get separate bedrooms, you go through it and, you sort of lose yourself and just go to bingo and eat the same thing every day. And what I love about Bree and Gary is that they’re trying to fight for who they are, for who they want to be.
And just because you’re approaching your 30s, 40s or 50s, doesn’t mean that you can’t take on something new. I mean, you’re always entering a new phase of adulthood when you’re an adult, and nobody tells you that. You don’t have it figured out all of a sudden, and I think partners — especially Black couples because we never talk about mental health in the community — for them to go to seek out therapy and say, “We need this and we need an outside opinion. And we’re not saying we’re perfect, but we’re not saying we’re broken. How do we survive?” I think that is such an important message. And the fact that we can add a little stank and make it funny is even better.
I have to ask because, during their therapy scenes, I’m always thinking, “I could not be this therapist. I would be laughing at them half of the time.” How often do you get to ad-lib or add your creative input on those scenes?
MB: What if I was like, “No, it’s all handmaid’s tale. It is by the book, black and white, honey.” [Laughs] Of course. I think, especially for me to do a job, I have to make it different every time. And that’s how I keep it interesting for me and everybody else. And one of my personal goals on-set is to break the other person, make them laugh so hard and take them out of the scene. And if I can’t do that, then I haven’t had a good day.
I love when I look over and see cameramen just, like, shaking their shoulders because they don’t know what to do. That’s really fun for me. And it also lightens the mood because, again, not to take it back to COVID, but she’s still here. And we’re out here just thinking about when we can go outside and take our mask off and eat something or have a cigarette, whatever everybody else is doing. And so it’s nice to have fun and forget about what’s going on for 2.2 seconds. We’ve done so much to get to this point. That’s why this show means something this season. That’s why I want everybody to watch it.
I’ve heard actors say that they try their best to live in their character’s mindset and believe what they believe. Since you’re playing Bree, do you usually find yourself agreeing with her and her choices and the things she says, especially in therapy?
MB: No, Bree’s a mess. [Laughs] Just kidding! Everybody’s different. I don’t know what it’s like to be an orthopedic surgeon, let’s just put that out there. I can barely get through the GPS, let alone have somebody trust me to cut them up. I think about it as a friendship. And in friendships, especially when you’re a woman of a certain age, you have to let the judgments go and realize that everybody has their own journey. They’re going to figure out what’s best for them, and you’re just there to guide them and help them along the way so they don’t hurt themselves or someone else, like a big-tittied Brené Brown. [Laughs]
What were your favorite scenes to film this season?
JS: Honestly, anytime I can be in a scene with Michelle Buteau is a good day for me. We didn’t have a lot together, but I miss her.
Aww, that’s so sweet!
JS: Also, my favorite scene was the dinner scene with the entire cast. It was with everyone, guys included.
MB: [For me it’s] all the sex scenes. Anytime there’s full, frontal nudity, I’m like, give it to me because honestly, I’m body-positive, sex-positive. Let’s get into it. We need to normalize D’s and let people know that everybody’s worthy of love. So honestly and truly, not sound like a creep, but that’s why I really appreciate Tracy Oliver. Because she’s like, “Well, this is what she would go through.” I’m like, “Yes, it is.”
The hardest scenes were anytime I had to be mean to Hazel because it’s so hard for me because I love [Jill] so much. And she’s always one of the smartest people in the room. So for me to be like, “Hazel, you don’t know what you’re doing?” She always knows what she’s doing! It’s so hard for me, and I don’t want to be mean to her. But it’s also fun when we spar and, like, can get into character and start fighting, but it’s usually met with laughter right after and hugging, like, “I didn’t mean it. We didn’t mean it.”
So what are you most excited for fans to see in this season?
JS: I’m excited for them to see the levels of relationships and the acting. We had a really good time, and the storylines were intense. I like that we went back to divorce, particularly with Essence Atkins and Michelle Mitchenor. Michelle’s a divorce attorney and shows how divorce can be. People with good sense, people who love each other or are at least friends, all of that goes out of the window when you use the D-word. Divorce is ugly. It’s just ugly, and people who know each other and love each other turn into enemies more often than not. So, I was glad, because it is the First Wives Club. We’re still dealing with wives and relationships and divorce.
We’re not talking about our beauty or beauty standards regularly on this show. They’re four women living life, and that isn’t the priority. Happiness is their priority. I love that.
MB: I think I’m most excited for fans that love the show to see more of it because it’s been a wait. [Laughs] We’ve waited a long time, and people have joy-watched it multiple times. Also, just a huge shout-out and thank you and a big teddy bear hug to everybody who not only watches the show and likes the show but also subscribed to BET+ to support all the original Black content being made. Because that’s important too. If everyone’s saying, “Where’s our stuff? How do we see ourselves in Hollywood?” Go to BET+.
Season 2 of First Wives Club is now streaming on BET+.
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