Antoinette Robertson (‘Dear White People’) ‘knew people were going to hate’ Coco, but she’s really ‘misunderstood’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“I knew people were going to hate her,” says Antoinette Robertson about her role in Netflix‘s “Dear White People” as Coco Conners, a student at a predominantly white college with her sights set on becoming “the second black president.” That drive often rubs people the wrong way, especially Sam White (Logan Browning), an activist who is every bit as political as Coco but much less politic. While Sam rages against the machine, Coco strives to succeed within the machine. Watch our exclusive video interview with Robertson above.

Coco just might be an Olivia Pope in the making, but how did Olivia Pope become Olivia Pope? Coco gives us a glimpse of what drives that kind of ambition, but Robertson knew the character could “be misunderstood if not played in a way that showed you her heart … I saw a girl who was once wounded, and because of that she felt the need to protect herself.” So in a world “that likes to put women in this little box,” Coco projects an image of success, but “her trying to attain this idea of perfection in terms of her outward appearance, that comes from” the “pain she feels.”

The longer we spend with Coco, the more we get to see beneath her facade. That includes a “groundbreaking” episode in season two in which (SPOILER ALERT!!) Coco discovers she is pregnant and must decide whether to terminate the pregnancy. “Women of color are underrepresented when we’re having conversations about women’s health,” says Robertson. “It’s not an easy choice to make,” so this storyline highlights the depth of Coco’s “sacrifice … She really just wants love. The idea of falling in love with having a baby is the idea of having that unconditional love that she never got from her mother or from anyone.”

Robertson hopes we learn more about Coco’s relationship with her mother in the future, but “we’re so used to seeing Coco be her presentational self” that the actress would also like the series to explore the “jovial side of her.” We’ve seen her in her drive for success, but what about “the side of her that gets to be free”? Who is Coco when she drops her guard and “can just be a carefree black girl”?

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