SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers from Season 6, Episode 3 of “Snowfall.”
With the Saint family at odds, chaos and killings run rampant throughout L.A. in the sixth and final season of “Snowfall” on FX. But even amidst the turmoil of a drug war, Leon (Isaiah John) and Wanda (Gail Bean) were able to have their moment in the sun.
Episode 3 titled, “Door of No Return” opens to find Leon wearing an unusual getup that strays from his typical white t-shirt and dickies as he walks the streets of Ghana with Wanda with a haunting question that looms over their heads. (Fans may remember Season 5 left off with the two deciding to run away together to Africa). Do they leave their overseas sanctuary to go back to their home that’s essentially a war zone — or do they stay and build a new life for themselves without the harm of the past holding them down?
The couple embarks on a spiritual and informational journey examining several harsh realizations about the Black experience during the slave trade which leaves them questioning the damage they’ve been a part of as drug dealers/consumers playing an integral role in the creation of America’s crack epidemic. All of which pushes them to their final decision to go home and help fix the problem they caused. But not without solidifying their own union first.
In a surprising and sweet scene, Leon and Wanda hold an impromptu wedding ceremony on an African beach, exchanging rings against a sunlit backdrop over the water. The stage serves as their final moments of peace before they leave their Ghanaian love nest and are catapulted back into the violence and grit of South Central L.A.’s drug game.
Following the episode’s airing, Isaiah John and Gail Bean broke down the episode with Variety. Read the interview below. “Snowfall” airs on Wednesdays on FX, and is available for next day streaming on Hulu.
What was it like shooting in Ghana?
Bean: For me it was a return because I’ve been to Ghana before and I have a brother that lives over there. It was amazing to actually get to go this time for business. It was beautiful to do something I love in a country that I absolutely loved and to watch these characters get to go because I’ve gone as Gail. So to go to Ghana as Wanda, that was just mind blowing. It was definitely a blessing. Very, very empowering both for myself and my character Wanda.
John: For me, it was my first time in Africa. So, just stepping off the plane and taking in actually being there was amazing in the fact that I was there and the show that I love is the reason why I’m there. It just made that experience so much more amazing because I was there to do what I love to do and I was able to experience a whole new perspective on life.
The trip seemed to be a very emotional, spiritual experience for your characters, Leon and Wanda. Was that something you all felt while you were there?
John: Absolutely. I plan on going back again this year, because I felt like I needed to spend more time, I need to meet more people. Even going to the castle that we went to, that was an experience of itself because walking around that castle and knowing what took place there, touching the walls and looking at those gates, and really understanding what took place there was a lot of things within myself that made me appreciate my ancestors and made me appreciate people who came before me and what they endured for me to be where I am today. It helped me gain so much more appreciation for life.
Bean: It’s one of those experiences that’s very empowering. You go over to Ghana and you feel safe as a black person. I think that’s probably the only place in the world that I’ve ever been where I genuinely felt that the people around me want nothing but good and to see me thrive. I believe that’s what Wanda feels, which is why she’s begging him in episode three to not go back to where they want to sic dogs on you and attack you, and put drugs into your neighborhood.
I think what I felt personally, it poured something in me that makes you feel like you can do anything — like you have the spirit of the ancestors and the strength of them to be able to overcome. Because if they were able to overcome certain things like slavery, regardless of their involvement, because we see the crack epidemic and yes, we are involved, but we know we are not the origination of that, right?
We see Teddy and his hands on experience of bringing this to the black, black and brown communities to say, ‘yes, we might have participated in it and there were moments where, of course, we were willing, but we can also escape this.’ We can also overcome this and I think going to Ghana, for Leon and for me showed me that we can overcome and escape anything.
Tell me about the wedding. What is this moment like for Leon and Wanda to make it down the aisle?
John: They’ve had literally everything working against them for so long. For them to come to this moment where they want to spend the rest of their lives together, it’s a beautiful thing to witness because it just shows that when two people love each other, it doesn’t matter what she experienced what you go through — maybe a little detour before you get to the final destination —but that’s still the destination, regardless. I think that shows that their love conquered everything that they experienced.
Bean: When we have all these seasons of two people who love each other, wanting to be together, but allowing the forces that be to hinder them, other obstacles to get in their way, or not truly confess their love because of past hurt or people and what they may think, it was so beautiful to watch them not only get married, but be married in front of a body of a large body of water that our ancestors traveled over coming to America and some of them didn’t even make it. Some of them died.
It was so powerful in that moment to know love has no boundaries. This ocean is big enough to hold everything that we’ve been through and more. It was just watching two people truly be free in the Motherland. Free to love and free to love unapologetically, free to forgive each other for hurt. Free to look at one another without judgment, free to finally say, ‘we’ve done five seasons with these characters of wanting this, of missing this, of loving, and rooting for one another, and finally they get their happiness. This is what we’ve all been waiting for. Leon and Wanda got to Ghana as to individuals and now, they’re going back to L.A. as one.
Isaiah, what did you think of Leon’s wedding suit when you saw it?
John: I definitely asked the wardrobe that we had out there in Ghana what everything meant. I knew everything was intentional and knew everything had a meaning. Basically they dress Leon around being a warrior, so he wore a lot of warrior garments in Ghana because his character is a warrior. He’s a warrior from South Central.
The fact that he still was able to represent him being a warrior in Ghana, I think is amazing because that just really stamps who he is as a person. Everything even down to the wedding, the bracelets that I had on, the necklace I had on, everything that I had on was something relating to a warrior.
Episode 3 starts in Ghana before Leon and Wanda transition back to Los Angeles. What was the shooting schedule like for this episode?
Bean: We went to LA about December. I think we were on episode six. Or seven by then. We shot a lot of stuff in L.A. first, and then we went to Ghana beginning of December and shot episode three. We shot a lot of footage and then we came back and finished up some of the episodes where we shot in between so that back half that you saw in episode three, we had already shot that before we went to Ghana.
When these two characters return, it’s a sobering scene as it immediately becomes clear that those same issues that plagued Leon and Wanda before are still around. Wanda struggles with her addiction, and the streets are becoming even more dangerous for Leon. How do you think the relationship will play out over the next few episodes?
Bean: It challenges both of them individually and it challenges their marriage. I think playing out throughout the season, we just really see how strong their love is and if you can withstand the times and the obstacles of war of a family. One thing I loved/hated about last night’s episode is Jerome (played by Amin Joseph) says to Leon, you’re not family and for me, this entire time — I’ve been a fan and watching since season one —So I’ve always looked at Leon as this is his family. But I think it’s that realization of we’re coming back from Africa and being in the thick of this. Now he finally does have a family. That wasn’t his family because Wanda is his family.
Leon has, to me, been the most loyal character of this series of all the seasons. Sometimes I think just because you’re not blood doesn’t make you not family. I think we can look and see. Leon is moving more like family than Jerome and Louie (Angela Lewis).
So, what do you all make of everyone seeing Louie as the villain this season?
John: It makes sense but we can’t forget the main villain in this story is Teddy (Carter Hudson). It’s the government who put these drugs in these neighborhoods to destroy them strategically. I feel like we can get our feelings wrapped up in saying Louie is the villain. In our own right, we’re all the villains and would agree we’ve all had our hands in destroying these neighborhoods, selling crack, knowing what it was doing, knowing what it does, and not caring.
Leon is still trying to right his wrongs but I think it makes all the sense in the world that people feel like Louie is the villain because of the demise of Jerome and Franklin’s (Damson Idris) relationship. It makes a lot of sense.
Bean: I’m not going to lie, Louie’s been pissing me off. The government is definitely the villain as a whole, but I feel like Louie went and made things worse, worse off than it had to be. It didn’t have to be that way. As women we know our power, right? We know we know how persuasive we can be. She started out as a sweet, loving person, but I think sometimes it’s the thing of pride and greed. She wanted so much for herself that I think it becomes the demise of not just the family but of everything.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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