Vanessa Baden Kelly of 'Giants' on Millennials Leading the Mental Health Conversation

Journee - Giants

Grab your roommate. Grab your lover. Grab your therapist ‘cause James Bland’s “Giants” is back on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel! For those living under a rock, the scripted drama digital series tackles stigmatized issues including mental health, sexual identity and unconventional means of economic survival. This season, the must-watch, critically acclaimed series is back with SIX half-hour episodes and an hour-long finale.

Rebellious Magazine caught up with actress Vanessa Baden Kelly (Journee) for a quick chat about how “Giants” and Millennials are helping the conversation on mental health.

Along with longer episodes, season two seems like it will be covering the show’s themes in a heavier way. Pregnancy aside, how was your experience filming and tapping into your character, compared to last season?

Vanessa Baden Kelly: This year was a way heavier lift for me. Journee’s entire arc this year was about finding her way and all the twists and turns and bumps along the journey. She sees a therapist. She invites new love. She deals with old wounds. It was a lot, and I felt it emotionally. But it was a great. Giants is the only place right now where someone like me would have an opportunity to have a role like this that is so complex and so layered.  

The show was celebrated for authentically depicting the Millennial experience. What feedback have you heard from non-Millennials? As a Millennial, how have you approached discussing taboo topics with older and younger relatives?

Personally, I’ve only had really positive interactions with people of all ages regarding the show. Even folks who I expected to take issue with certain parts didn’t do that with me. They were more excited to be presented this view. I’ve mostly seen negative stuff in the comments. At first, I used to like to troll them, but now I let it be. If “Giants” doesn’t open someone to a new perspective, that’s OK. Nothing will ever speak to 100 percent of the viewership. I just readjust my sights to who it does speak to. 

By season’s end, we learn that not all giants can be slain. Some we tame and learn to live with. From your life experiences, how do you identify opportunities for personal growth?

I think everything in life is about community. However big or small your tribe is, I can tell you how much you are going to be able to grow and self-care based on them. I feel like my therapist is part of that tribe. As is my ‘Framily’it’s really hard for me to separate friends and family. My mom and Grandma treat my friends like their own. I’ve always been an avid reader, so books never fail me in aiding in growth. But really the stuff that used to work for me doesn’t now. And I rely on my friends to constantly be challenging me mentally and spiritually to find what works for me now. 

Thanks for chatting with us. We’re really excited that season two is back!

I’m so excited for this season. This may be the hardest I’ve ever worked for anything. I really hope you all enjoy it.  

Giants stars James Bland (creator), Vanessa Baden Kelly, and Sean Samuels. Season Two is streaming now, and new episodes drop on Wednesdays. You can see full episodes on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel. Follow the series on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Top photo credit: James Bland Productions.

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Onicia Muller is a Caribbean writer and comedian currently freezing her buns off in Chicago. A former crime reporter and children’s columnist, she's found her happy place writing about women in entertainment. If you're into oversharing, read her weekly humor column Just Being Funny in The Daily Herald’s Weekender.