This article contains spoilers for “Snowfall” Season 6.
Despite the death of his character in this season of “Snowfall,” Amin Joseph’s job on the series wasn’t quite finished with that. The actor, who starred as uncle Jerome Saint, returned to the FX series to direct this week’s episode, “Ballad of the Bear.”
As “Snowfall” inches closer to the series finale, Gustavo ‘El Oso’ Zapata’s (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) important decision to choose a side takes center stage in this week’s episode. After being approached by the CIA, the DEA and the KGB to turn on his associates, Oso must figure out whose side he’ll stand on — will he continue to stay loyal to Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) or former agent Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson)? Or will he choose to put his faith behind a third party player, Ruben, the former Cuban national with Russian heritage, working for the KGB to expose Teddy’s corruption and weaken America’s status?
For Joseph, directing this episode was his way of honoring Oso and Peris-Mencheta, who also grew as a supporting character and ultimately became a beloved figure in Dave Andron, Eric Amadio and John Singleton’s story about the early days of America’s crack epidemic.
The actor and director spoke with Variety about his time on “Snowfall.”
Tell us more about the journey you’ve had playing Jerome Saint.
I started this series knowing that this was really a supporting role. Very early on, it was a bit two-dimensional. With this long run of six seasons, I found that humor. I found humanity. I found a family. I found the PTSD. I found the wild side. I found the anger and passion and it started to really become a composite of a three-dimensional character. Still, it wasn’t as though my actions were driving the story. I’m proud of that work. I’m proud of work that is just part of the composite. It’s part of the entire story, but it’s not the driving force. To be impressionable there, to leave a mark, it feels good to be seen in that way.
When we last spoke, I asked you at the red carpet premiere if Jerome would be happy with his ending on the show. Now that we know his fate, is Amin happy with Jerome’s ending?
There’s other colors to this character that really were actualized in Season 5 that I feel like you can see his desires, his wants. Before that, you just didn’t know the truth.
We got a lot of exposition about Jerome even in Season 6 right before his demise. I wanted to go out saying something. I wanted to go out meaning something and I feel like this was a man that could. No matter where he went, there he was. He could not break this cycle of violence and greed and power, that his family and he was consumed by. Ultimately, he is a cautionary tale of someone that knew from the jump that they shouldn’t have done this and was coerced by his nephew and his wife to enter into it knowing it’s wrong. But [he thought] perhaps I could get my own shop. Perhaps I could get my own chain of Jerome’s. Perhaps I can open some restaurants. But there’s no peace in that.
He couldn’t find solace and even at the end where he tried to break away — maybe I’m gonna fly and go to another country like Leon (Isaiah John) did, or maybe I can just forget about this and go see old friends — there was no safe haven for him. As a cautionary tale, it was poetic in that sense.
Selfishly, I would like him to have taken off, to get out of here. I wish that he said, ‘F it all’ and took whatever he could take in a bag and dip. There’s something to that. I’ve been very vocal about Black men, and especially in art or in life, that oftentimes, there is nothing redeemable. There are no second chances there. It’s like karma is always ready for us. That we are more valuable dead in art and in life than us living. Jerome is an example of that — that there was no second chance for him. That he had to be sacrificed in a sense. He couldn’t start a new life somewhere. No country for an old Black man in a sense.
In this latest episode, which you directed, were there any takeaways you were able to gleam in leading this cast as opposed to your time working alongside them?
There wasn’t much to surprise me in that in that way. I’m really close to my cast and I know the characters that they’ve played for the last six, seven years. I know the people that play them even better. So [I had] this wealth of experience and knowledge, and spirit. Sergio, for instance, this is “The Ballad of the Bear.” When has there been an Oso episode? This was my ode to Oso. He’s been the background. He’s had no autonomy for an entire six, seven season run. I talked about me being two dimensional. What about Oso? Oso is the heavy for the Villanuevas. He’s taken out of the world of Lucia and then he’s dropped right into the world of Teddy McDonald and in the bidding of the CIA. He’s never had a moment of his own autonomy to make decisions for himself. Now when he makes that decision, I’m able to direct that and use the decision he has to make. Is he going to save himself? Is he going to fight with the CIA? Is he going to save Franklin?
To me, it was so pivotal and I get to do that with an amazing actor that has never been able to really show his love. With him leaving Xiomara, having that moment for him to use his librador mask and his past and leave that with the young children. All these selfless things that he was doing and these moments and these close ups that I was able to, to put him in these extremes of showing his thinking process and what he’s going through. That’s what this was about. This was not about finding something new, but showing what we already know. That these are amazing actors and have a wealth of creativity and story that lives within them that they’re dying to get out. It was like that with every actor.
That’s why the extreme close up was something really important to me in this episode. I can find moments — Louie in bathroom showing her humanity. People hate this character, hate who she is. Here she is going where everyone is talking about Jerome. But his wife is dealing in the moment. She still needs to make this deal with the devil. She has this private moment publicly and she’s in the bathroom. Then you just get to see her because now she’s trying to calibrate that math, right? Putting lipstick on and mascara, trying to try to go back to the present, and you get to see a moment with her. Then you get that extreme closeup of who she really is. To be able to do that with Angela, that’s my ace. This was my partner through this. So to be able to direct that — but am I really directing? No, I’m just saying, ‘This is the story. This is the moment we’re about to achieve.’ And then I let her rip.
I’m glad you mentioned this because I was going to ask you specifically about that scene and working with Angela this season.
Angela’s done remarkable work on the show. I just wanted to humanize, because, I think she was humanized a little bit more in the episode of my funeral, 607, just a little bit more than 606. 606 is like “it’s her fault.” No one could get by that. By 607, you still feel like that but you start seeing a little in both ways. Perhaps, Franklin is also a bit responsible. But by this episode, I think moments like that extreme close up moment of really getting and seeing her deal with what she’s dealing with, you start to empathize and that’s what we’re looking for here. We’re looking for you to relate to these characters. Not necessarily go, “this person is good. This person is bad. This is a villain. This is a hero.” It’s about you in this moment. You in this moment might do the same thing. You might feel like you don’t have any choices either. If you grew up the way Louie grew up, if you were abused, if you grew up with trauma, would you perhaps make the same type of choices, right? That’s what she’s given us every week.
What can you tell us about the last two episodes now that we’ve seen the tables turn in Franklin’s favor again?
The rabbit got the gun now, right? This is two episodes left. This is the wrap up. This is why you do six seasons to completion. And oftentimes we’ve seen stories where you go, “oh man, they dropped the ball.” So far through eight, we are right there. We are right there and I feel like we are going to finish strong. I feel like this audience is going to be left with a harrowing tale. We’re going to look back at the journey of a young man who like we say could choose anything in life. But he chose this and we’re going to see how that all ends. We’re going to see how the community ends up, we’re gonna see how the family ends up, we’re gonna see how our government agencies perhaps had some nefarious dealings in what happened in some of these inner cities, like South Central. We’re going to see what becomes of all of that and that was a lot to wrap up. The writers got in it, Dave Andron and our writing team, along with Walter Mosley and the FX execs. They just put together a really a really beautiful story. So, I can’t wait for audiences to watch.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
“Snowfall” airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.
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