'Harlem': Grace Byers and Shoniqua Shandai on Character Transitions in Season 2 of Prime Video Series (Exclusive)

Harlem is back for a second season. Created by Girls Trip writer Tracy Oliver, the show follows a close friendship group of four successful Black women living and working in Harlem, New York. Starring Meagan Good as Camille, Jerrie Johnson as Tye, Grace Byers as Quinn, and Shoniqua Shandai as Angie, they rely on one another to get them through the ebbs and flows of life. The first season ended off with Angie, a struggling artist, getting the blow of a lifetime after her big break in a local stage play comes to a screeching halt. Her roommate and best friend Quinn finds herself falling for a woman while struggling to understand her sexuality and how it relates to her conservative persona and uptight upbringing. 

Ahead of the Season 2 premiere, PopCulture.com spoke with Byers and Shandai on the evolution of their characters from the first season. They discussed how their personal journeys impact their roles within their friendship group. New episodes drop weekly on Amazon Prime Video. Watch the full video interview on our YouTube channel

PC: Congratulations on Season 2. So excited about it. So, Grace, I will start with you. Obviously, Quinn is on a journey of self-discovery this season. So what come-to-Jesus moments can we expect her to experience within her friendship circle and then also with her conservative mother, who may challenge her journey?

GB: Oh my gosh, there is a beautiful come-to-Jesus moment with her and her mom at some point, that's all I'll say throughout the season. And you don't expect it because it has the qualities of a dynamic that you've never seen between the two of them before. And her mother also holds a key to part of her self-discovery journey. And so I will say that, and I think that that's a really wonderful moment to anticipate for Quinn.

And in her friendship circle, I think we see some really interesting dynamics between her and Angie because some things are changing in the household as far as where Angie may be. And I think that there's some adjustments that happen that are difficult for Quinn and she kind of speaks and acts outside of that. And then I think there's a really interesting dynamic that occurs between her and Tye this season because she's really looking to Tye to help her navigate this new journey, this new facet of the journey for her as she's trying to get some answers to some questions that she really has about herself.

PC: Now we all know that Quinn and Angie are the BFFs of the crew. And Shoniqua, for you, Angie has sort of been viewed as the Lynn Searsy of the group, the one with little direction or kind of floaty, and now she's on the come up. Does this change the group's perception of her or even their dynamic, and how does this impact her already confident and bold personality?

SS: Oh, those are good. I think her friends are incredibly supportive, but I think it's very easy to get trapped in the roles that you play in the dynamics of the group. And because even with – I'm just going to stick up for my girl every time. Sis had two jobs in season one and still wasn't really respected or understood in the dynamics of the group regarding that she still was the broke friend and the joke even amongst that with her nannying and working in a musical at the same time. So I think it's just once you kind of have a rhythm and we know each other, it takes something drastic for you to shift out of that. And they're incredibly supportive, even more down to lying to her about how a play was. But I think the dynamics of that group would need something. She would need to get another deal, I think, at that point, for it to shift just because she's been playing that role for so long within the group.

And for herself, absolutely, it shifted. I think a lot of Angie's inner confidence is based on knowing exactly who she is, and it doesn't really shift too much based on the circumstances around her, but it's more so dependent upon her art. And her having such a low blow at the end of that finale, you really see her knee needing to almost pick herself back together again. She starts season two, extremely broken and unsure, and masking that with jokes and good a good time. But ultimately, the Angie that we've known to be so self-assured is a little frazzled at the top of the season and but easily knowing who she is, just a little bit of going back to the core, tapping into what her center is and reminding herself that the love and the truth of her identity isn't based on anyone else's approval, but what she knows instinctively is that she's amazing. I think you see her bounce back rather quickly.

Harlem Season 2 is currently airing via Prime Video, with episodes dropping on Wednesdays. See a clip from our interview with Grace Byers and Shoniqua Shandai above and watch all of our full Harlem interviews on YouTube.