The premise is simple: a web series starring a historical actor portraying Lizzie Mae, a housemaid to George and Martha Washington, at Mount Vernon answers questions from tourists. It’s funny. It’s very funny. It goes viral.
Former DC based actress Azie Mira Dungey is the writer and star of the “Ask A Slave” web series. We’ve been a fan of Azie since 2011, when she was in the cast of The Walworth Farce at The Studio Theatre, well before anyone thought a web series about a slave housemaid could be hilarious. After graduating from New York University Azie spent some time working as slave. A working actress portraying a slave. The questions that came from those roles are what makes up the questions on “Ask A Slave.”
We spoke to the soon-to-be-famous actress about the series, why it might be popular and the potential to be an American sweetheart.
Brightest Young Things: I’m assuming it’s been a couple of crazy days for you.
Azie Mira Dungey: They’ve been totally wild.
BYT: Because you’re not a comedian, right?
BYT: You’re a real dramatic actress who has spent lots of time on stage.
AD: Well, yeah.
I did not expect that this many people would care that I put this web series up.
AD: I don’t know. I must have struck a chord. I’m really happy with them.
I think one of the main reasons is it’s about America and we’re kind of obsessed with ourselves.
I think that without knowing it or planning it I’ve captured two aspects of media that we really respond to: talk shows and reality television. It kind of blends those two things so it’s a format people get. Even though it’s totally scripted it kind of feels like a talk show and a reality show.
But I had no idea why it’s popular. I thought it was the weirdest thing ever. I didn’t think people could think they could laugh because it’s about slavery. I had no idea people would like them this much.
BYT: When did you film these?
BYT: How many more videos are there?
AD: Three more and we’re planning to make more, we just have to figure it out. We had no idea they’d be popular.
We’ll be releasing one each Sunday. I have three weeks to figure out how to get more done.
BYT: Are you afraid you’ll be pigeonholed in this role? No one else is doing this but this isn’t why you got into theater.
AD: That is a concern but I won’t allow it. I hope the success of this will let me allow to launch more things. I definitely want to be involved in a contemporary story.
BYT: You can still comment on a lot of things in the present day with this character.
That’s true. As a writer it’s very interesting and there’s a lot of different places I can go with this. As an actor and a person I want this to be a part of my future but have it be just a part of it.
BYT: Have your former co-workers seen it?
AD: They have certainly seen it. There are only four other actors. They’ve seen it and love it. The historian at Mount Vernon adores it. She’s been very supportive from the beginning. She’s very happy with the way people are receiving it.
BYT: What’s your dream role?
AD: Well, my favorite role that’s near and dear to my heart is in the musical Ragtime, the role of Sarah.
If I envision a role for myself in the future, honestly, I’ve always envisioned myself wanting to do comedy. I’ve never seen an African-American woman sort-of be an American sweetheart. Maybe, short of, in a Halle Berry movie. I mean in the way of Julia Roberts. In that kind of a status. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be that, but I know I’m black, but I wanted to be that, does that make sense? I don’t know.
BYT: That absolutely makes sense.
AD: I feel kind of vain saying something like that.
BYT: How is that vain in any possible way?
AD: Well, I mean, I don’t know. The idea of me wanting to be a huge movie star.
BYT: But that’s why you made this video. That’s why you went to school to be an actor. You put yourself out there for a good reason.
AD: Yeah, that’s true.
BYT: Own it. Take credit for it.
AD: Thank you.
BYT: You’re very funny in these and you can totally be America’s sweetheart. Have you trained in comedy?
AD: I’m a student at the Groundlings. It’s why I came to LA.
I think that my heart has always been in comedy and musical theater.
I should say that the man that plays the abolitionist (in the second episode of the series) was the teacher of my first Groundling’s class.
Jordan Black, the director, is also a Groundlings alum and he also directs at the Groundling’s and created the stage show The Black Version. The fact that he was involved really helped everything.