You’ve probably seen Cassandra Freeman on some of your favorite shows, like Atlanta and Blue Bloods, or in iconic 2000s films Inside Man and I Think I Love My Wife, but now she’s one of the stars of Bel-Air, and you won’t be able to look away. Her captivating performance as the iconic Aunt Viv is all her own, so leave your comparisons behind. Bel-Air is a dramatic retelling of the beloved The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air set in the modern-day. Freeman shared with us why she almost didn’t audition for the role of Aunt Viv, her favorite gentle makeup remover and why she’ll only drink water from one specific bottle.
How did you make such an iconic role your own?
“Well, I think it starts off with the creator of the show Morgan Cooper. He did a really great job saying from the beginning that I didn’t have to have the pressure of trying to be like Janet Hubert and Daphne Maxwell’s version. He was like, ‘these are your shoes. Feel like you can create your own shoes’. So that really helped alleviate a lot of stress. I definitely looked at what Jan and Daphne did and tried to keep some of their essence while adding something new to the role at the same time.”
Was it intimidating?
“Oh, for sure. I was so intimidated that I didn’t even want to audition for this. I threw my hat in the ring because my manager just kept saying, ‘you need to try. This is so perfect for you.’ When I interviewed with Morgan Cooper, the creator and Rasheed [Newson], who’s the showrunner, they had such a great vision that I forgot to be intimidated. I was much more enthusiastic about it. It felt like they were trying to create something really innovative, and I thought ‘oo I want to be a part of that.’”
How did hair and makeup help you get in character as Aunt Viv?
“Hair and makeup was so important for Vivian. It started with [considering] what was the story we want to tell? This was a woman still becoming who she ultimately will become later on in life. So I thought, what does the Bel Air woman of today look like? I felt like because of what’s happening with Phil’s life, running for a campaign, her look would be a bit more conservative. I felt like who would be the person she would look at? That would be Michelle Obama. So in the first few episodes, I think it’s obvious that she’s sort of like a paper cut-out doll of Michelle Obama. She even references Michelle Obama in one of the episodes, so her look and style is very reminiscent of that.”
How do you center yourself during weeks of crazy filming schedules?
“I practice TM [Transcendental Meditation]. I meditate two to three times a day. I practice the Alexander Technique too, which is all about alignment of your spine. If you have a healthy spine, you have a healthy life. When I have moments in my trailer, I just lay down in rest position, which is basically knees are touching and you’re lying on your back, you can do a deep state of rest like that, but actually feel more energetic. I do gua sha on my time off every day in the morning and the evening when I take off my makeup.
Acupuncture really helps ground me—that’s a necessity shooting a show like that. Acupuncture is like a cure-all. You sit down, and by the time you leave in 15 minutes, it’s like boom, I feel like the most powerfully centered itself. So acupuncture is definitely one of the big things.”
Has meditation always been easy for you?
“I think meditation changes every day, just how we change every day. Even still, there are days where it’s hard for me to sit down and do it, and then there are other days where it’s so simple. But I always feel like when I sit down to meditate, the first minute feels the hardest, and the second feels less hard and by then, 20 minutes might just pass.
I’m looking at meditation as my alternative to coffee or wine. So much so that coffee and wine aren’t even my first go-to. I sort of check into my body and think, ‘What is it that I actually need right now?’ Sometimes it’s just water and lemon. That’s what’s great about meditation—it makes you notice the subtle body and what the subtle body needs to restore itself.”
What beauty secrets have you learned over the years?
“It’s important for me and my skin to use something really gentle to remove my makeup, so I use something called Spa Water. I love that stuff. I use that and cotton balls to take my makeup off almost every day.
The simplest things are the truest things, so I drink a lot of water, but my water is always infused with lemon or cucumber. I have my favorite water bottle. It’s like I’m a three-year-old. I won’t drink water unless it’s in this certain water bottle that I have because I like room temperature water. It keeps it at the perfect temperature, and actually for women, it’s best to drink room temperature water anyway.
My makeup hacks and tricks have changed so much over time. Right now, I’m literally just using the smallest amount of concealer right under my eyes. I feel like it’s just more natural. I almost am starting to believe in the world of heavy makeup. I almost want to believe it. The results are so great. I have days on YouTube Where I just watch makeup artists and how they do what they do. I’m like, ‘what a great trick,’ but I could never replicate the trick.”