LisaRaye McCoy And Monique Coleman On Lifetime's Greed - Exclusive Interview

"Greed: A Seven Deadly Sins Story," premiering Saturday, April 23, is the fourth installment in T.D. Jakes' "Seven Deadly Sins Anthology." The films are inspired by Victoria Christopher Murray's books, each of which explores one of the seven deadly sins. This installment follows a young interior designer Zuri played by Monique Coleman. At the start of the film, it seems like Zuri has everything going for her. She has a promising career, a loving family, and a supportive partner, but greed threatens to destroy all of that when she meets entrepreneur Godfrey Anderson (Eric Benét) and his fabulously wealthy aunt Miss Viv (LisaRaye McCoy).

Monique Coleman and LisaRaye McCoy sat down for an exclusive interview with The List to discuss their roles in the film. During their conversation, the women discussed why they think the message of this movie is important and how easy it can be to fall into greed. They also revealed how close they'd become while filming and what the biggest lesson they've learned in Hollywood is.

Why Monique Coleman wanted to make this film

Was there anything specific about this project that initially drew you to it?

Monique Coleman: First of all, I love Bishop T.D. Jakes and everything that he does from the pulpits to business, and now also in film. The opportunity to be attached to a project that he was involved in, I thought, was really incredible. I also am off of the tail end of doing another Lifetime film, "A Christmas Dance Reunion," which came out over the holiday. I had such an incredible experience working with Lifetime. That combination of things made it something that I was immediately attracted to.

Specifically, the idea of greed and playing this role of someone who teetered on the line of morality was really enticing to me. I have some personal experience as well being on the receiving end of fraud, embezzlement, and that sort of thing. As an actor, we get this really neat opportunity to wear someone else's skin and to wear someone else's story and to understand their mentality and where they're coming from. It was a really healing opportunity to face some things in my own life and also bring something to screen that people have never seen me do and will be unexpected.

How LisaRaye McCoy picks characters

LisaRaye McCoy: Love that. Every time I pick a project, and especially lately in the last couple of years, I'm choosing characters that are different to be able to challenge myself. Let's be honest, we've all gotten stuck watching Lifetime here or there in our life,  sitting down, watching movie after movie, because it's engulfing. The story also, I like to be engaged in stories that have a message and are not just entertaining. You'll get the message that's not clean across your forehead, but it's nestled inside of the entertainment. 

I love the character that I play, Miss Viv, and I love the opportunity to be able to meet and work with new actors. When I say new, [I mean] new for me, it's such a small business for us, but we don't get an opportunity to work with everybody. When you get a chance to, you are able to walk away with a different type of relationship and respect for that person.

T.D. Jakes, he is my pastor. He's everybody's pastor, but I've had a chance to work with him and [have] him pastor me personally on my journey, spiritually, especially during my show when I had "LisaRaye: The Real McCoy," and he set me on a path in which for me was important for me to grow spiritually in my life. He sat me down and told me some things that resonate with me even now. Cut [to] two years later, being able to work with him alongside Lifetime is a bucket list, checklist now for me, so all the way around, this was a great project for me to get involved in.

How LisaRaye related to her greedy character

You both mentioned, LisaRaye, your character's fully on the dark side, and then [Monique] you have this moral gray area for a lot of it. Did you find ways to relate to your characters, or did you have to come at it from different angles because of that?

LisaRaye: When you do the research for your character, it is not so far away from what you initially have inside. It's like you're pulling from something that you've learned, something you've seen, even if you've seen it on TV before because we're not reinventing the wheel here. You're making it your own. I have been involved in some greed myself, personally — to be honest, to tread the waters lightly. It's like, "Am I being greedy? Am I being too content? Am I being too humble?" Humility is here, but I want more, and what does that mean? [Jesus] died for our sins to be able to allow us to live life abundantly, so I want abundance." You're always trying to check yourself to make sure that you're proper in what it is you're trying to do for life. I have some of that inside of me, for real.

I mix that with a little bit of what I've seen in life, and I wanted to play the character and breathe life into the words which the writer had on the paper. She was neurotic, she was greedy, she was manipulative. We've all been some of that in our life, if we want to be honest. I picked a little bit of that and added a little bit more to it. We can have some levels and dynamics in the character.

Working with the cast, while we would run lines, it was like, "Okay, if you say yours like that, then I'm going to say mine like that." That's what's so great about working together with seasoned actors because we know what we bring to the table. When you come together, that's when the magic happens.

Why Monique Coleman doesn't see her character as a victim

Monique: Absolutely. Lisa really hit on something too — the fact that, yes, her character was like ten-timed. The seed of that is inside of all of us. [We all] have that part of us that can take something too far, and honestly, a lot of that has to do with our trauma and not really facing ourselves and not really seeing what's motivating us. We might think that we're being motivated by ambition or drive, but really we're being motivated by insecurity, or we're being motivated by some part of our life experience or our childhood where we didn't feel like we were enough. We felt like the world was unfair to us in some way.

Playing Zuri, I really had to tap into the fact thatm yes, she was taken advantage of, and she was targeted by these two people, Miss Viv and Godfrey, but at the same time, she was not a victim to her circumstances. At some point, she made a choice, and that was very interesting for me to really reconcile, because I don't like for there to be like, "Oh, she was just dumb and didn't know." No, you knew full well, or at least you felt it. So often, we don't listen to our instincts. We don't trust our gut, and we allow ourselves to be blinded and to make these small micro-decisions that ultimately end up having huge consequences.

How LisaRaye 'went out on a limb' for this movie

LisaRaye, with your character, as you said, it's magnifying these things [and] taking them to the next level. Was that fun in a way to like take it to this far end?

LisaRaye: Look at you, trying to get all inside my head. It was absolutely fun. I'm going to be honest — people don't really realize what we go through behind the scenes and what kind of conditions we are filming under and what kind of stress. We deal with our personal life and have to leave that on the side, to jump into somebody else's skin and story. Then, you have the pressure of knowing your lines and hitting the marks and performing to the utmost and doing this all under a time constraint, and it was very cold in Canada because we filmed in Canada. Very nice, but it was cold. 

Sometimes when you're filming a spring movie, and it's got to look like it's springtime, you can't wear a sweater or coat. And so we have that, but I think that it's just nice to be able to play a character that's different because you get to play pretend on a whole different level and try things. I love to be able to stretch it. At least they can say, "That's a little too much, dial it back some or come back." I went out on a limb, and I spoke with the director and said, "how far is she?" 

She was classy though, and she was an experienced greedy person. She knew how [far not to go with the character] until, and I'll give you this bit right here, until the end. At the end, it all comes crashing down. Then, you lose your marbles a little bit because inside, you know you were doing wrong anyway, and you know that they're going to get you, but don't know when. That, in a nutshell, would be Miss Viv's character.

The best and worst parts of making this movie for Monique

What do you feel like were the most challenging elements behind the scenes and also did you have any favorite parts?

LisaRaye: Oh Monique, I'm going to let you start that one girl.

Monique: The most challenging thing was honestly the time constraint, more than anything. We all really understood our characters. We knew what we were there to do. We had a great time doing it. [It's] wanting more time to explore. We shot this whole film in 15 days, which is highly ambitious. There were moments where we, and like LisaRaye said, we did our homework. We prepared before. We really were there for each other, as artists and as characters, but if it were up to us, we would've had even more time. We would've had even more takes because there were so many places that these characters could have gone.

I feel so blessed and grateful for the opportunity to work with Ms. LisaRaye and to work with Eric Benet and Nathan (Witte) and Troy (Scott) because you brought things that I didn't even see on the page, like you would show up and I would be like, "Oh my gosh."

I remember talking to Troy and saying that Zuri's relationship with Miss Viv was the only one that I didn't quite understand the tone of, and he said, "But did you see LisaRaye on that table read? Follow her, let her lead you and follow." When I did that, it brought so much to it because I was able to step into Zuri's shoes. As Monique Coleman, I look at LisaRaye, and I'm like, "Oh my God, what a goddess. This woman is so powerful, and so confident." There were moments where I was able to look as Zuri through my own eyes and seeing this woman and realizing, "I'd want to be like you too. I want to be like you when I grow up." It definitely led itself to some ease in that regard.

LisaRaye shares how she and Monique bonded

Did you (LisaRaye) have any challenges or favorite parts of filming?

LisaRaye: I enjoy everything that I touch. One of the most dynamic parts is finding a new friend and building a new friendship. Most people don't really realize — they probably do now — but I'm like a sensitive pit bull in a skirt, and so us girls, when we get together, something happens with us that allows us to communicate on the level of which our hearts needed to connect. Sitting with Monique in my room that night, we could have talked for hours. Matter of fact, we did, and the connection is something that I will never forget, and that this young lady now has a friend in me. 

That is when you can leave a project, and after the movie premieres and after people see it, I'm still going to be able to see this young lady and use my phone to call her directly, because now I'm developing a friendship with her. That is the dynamics of working with people that you can now put into your life and be able to walk away from. I will forever remember this project because of her, too. It is such a joy to be able to have all the scenes that we had because the ones that we were supposed to laugh in, we laughed, the ones that we were supposed to be sensitive and crying, we did. 

The ones that [were] mysterious and [felt] like I was the Big Bad Wolf, and I was coming to get her, she felt it. I saw it in her eyes ... and we got it. Put up your hands and go, "Scene down, next scene." All of our scenes with everybody, I [saw] dynamics with her and other characters that, as an actress, I was able to sit back and go, "That was a great scene," because we watch each other. When she comes off after them hollering, cut, and she looks, it's like, "You did that, girl," and she's like, "Really? You think so?" 

It's like, "Absolutely did. Y'all can take that to print." Then, we go on to the next scene. Working with a true professional, and I was a fan of hers before I even met her, I know about her body of work, so to get a chance to work with her, I was like, "Yes, let's do it, girl." I'm thrilled all the way across.

Monique: You are the absolute best. I love you so much.

Monique Coleman shares why social media makes it easier than ever to be greedy

This movie has this theme and moral lesson throughout it. Do you feel like that theme of greed and envy is something that's easy for people to fall into themselves?

Monique: Absolutely. Specifically, because of social media, I think back to growing up and not having so much access to information and other people's lives. Essentially, [now], everybody has a highlight reel on their phone, and you can share your best, your brightest, your most dynamic moments, and really create a story that can make people believe something, but they don't see all of the rest of your experience. Now, more than ever, the idea of being content, the idea of being satisfied with your life and happy with what is in front of you and what you've created and cultivated is more difficult than it's ever been because of the fact that we can so easily look across the way.

There was a meme I saw once that said, "The grass is not greener over there. The grass is greener where you water it." We've stopped investing in the things that matter to us. We've stopped investing in the people that matter to us because we know how many options there are out there. Instead of going deeper, we try to go wider, and then we spread ourselves too thin and we have nothing.

How they balance ambition and greed

LisaRaye: With my life, it's such a thin line, between greed and ambition, but I don't want to be content either. I want to experience life in a way in which I'm still growing and still learning. I choose to call it something different. I know what greedy is, and I don't want to ever be that at the expense of someone else's feelings, emotions, and spirit. I want to definitely look within to be able to say, "Yes, I live in a nice home, but I've always dreamt of having upstairs with the balcony and the winding staircase." Well, then I need to work hard to get there. I'm going to have humility in that, but also, I want to be able to have bigger, better, more for my life.

I tread that, where I'm checking myself saying, "Wait a minute, are you being too greedy? Are you being greedy, girl? Is that what you're doing, or [do] you, in the name of the Lord, want more?" That's what everybody does. It's normal. We try to check and balance ourselves in life all the time, and that's why being able to see a movie like this and being thoroughly entertained, with a message that's in there as well, will give you food for thought to be able to help you balance as well.

Monique: The difference is when you start compromising yourself and your values, because like LisaRaye said, there's nothing wrong with wanting abundance, with wanting the life that you have pictured in your mind, but when you start chipping away some parts of who you are, when you start being willing to do things that you know are wrong, or that hurt people in your life, and when you stop listening — one thing I realize is that when I stop being transparent and forthcoming with information, usually, there's a reason behind that. There's something else going on. That's what happened — Zuri stopped listening to her dad. She stopped really seeing the man that she chose for who he is and recognizing like, "They're not trying to keep you down. They're trying to keep you safe," so that you can get there, but you can keep it because you can have all the abundance in the world, but if you're empty, or if you sacrificed yourself to get there, it won't last.

The Biggest Lesson they've learned in their careers

With this movie, Zuri is learning a lesson throughout it. Do you feel like there was any big lesson that either of you had to learn, at the start of your careers?

LisaRaye: When you're new in the business — and we call that being green — you try to walk soft and slow so you can become observant to your surroundings. You speak soft, [and] I was really never that kind of girl, but I had to learn how to hold and when to fold because I tend to be so boisterous [that it can take people aback]. I had to learn, again, life is just a balance. I am the true Libra that I am. That's the scales that I have to balance.

I've learned a lot by keeping a couple of actress friends around me. They've been there before me, where they've encountered more things than I have. I was able to say, "Hey, I got this new show. I have this new contract they're trying to sell me and pitch me on this. Is this right? Can I ask for this? Is it appropriate to? How do I say this?" They would actually help me and prepare me for my own pitching or negotiations, if you will. When you're working on something like this, we share information with ourselves personally, and we say, "Hey, we're working for 30 days here. Are we getting 30 days worth of pay? What are you getting?" "This is what they offered me. They said it was across the line, is that for you? What's your experience?" We talk because we also are a community of people that have to look out for each other. As much as you may not see us together as a rat pack, we come together on a project, trust and believe we communicate, and we talk.

Monique: Absolutely. The beginning of my career was simply that I didn't understand my value. Sometimes, I still don't. That's why having, like LisaRaye said, that first night when we really connected ... Yes, we connected on very deep and personal things, but it was also a part of me [that] really watched this woman, know her value. When we can model that, and that's what happened with Zuri, she was so eager for someone to like her and to like what she had done, that she was willing to do all kinds of things. I do relate to that. When you don't know your value, but other people do, that is a very dangerous situation.

Greed: A Seven Deadly Sins Story premieres Saturday, April 23rd at 8/7c on Lifetime.