Brandy Norwood's New Show 'Queens' Brings Back '90s Nostalgia

CUL PS Brandy Norwood
Singer-songwriter Brandy attends 2019 Black Girls Rock! at NJ Performing Arts Center on August 25, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty

"I think seeing four Black women on television leading a show, it's a beautiful thing."

Nostalgia for the '90s is more popular than ever. You can see it in fashion, music and, of course, television. Now Brandy Norwood, one of the women who dominated the decade's pop culture, is back with ABC's new series Queens (October 19). "If you're not from the '90s, you want to either be from the '90s, or you wish you could have witnessed a lot of the things," she says. The show follows a fictional hip-hop girl group getting back together in modern-day to rekindle the magic. Eve, Naturi Naughton and Nadine Velazquez fill out the rest of the cast: "Our bond and our energy together, we lift each other up. It's like a real group." But fundamentally the show serves as a statement for something that is desperately lacking on television: diversity. "I think seeing four Black women on television leading a show, it's a beautiful thing," Norwood says. With her sitcom Moesha being added to Netflix and the 1997 live-action TV film Cinderella streaming on Disney+, Brandy is having her own '90s resurgence: "It's just great that a new generation gets to feel the magic."

What excited you about doing Queens?

What excited me the most was the music. Music is my first love. So when I learned this was a musical about rappers and I got a chance to sing on the show, dance and act all at the same time! I mean, it's such a dream! Also a dream cast. And then I got to know the characters and how layered these women are, I was just blown away. When I read this script, it was a page-turner. I went through so many different emotions. I've never felt like this. Reading the script, I was like, this is different. It was just something that I had to do.

You're working with a powerhouse cast. What's it like working with the likes of Eve, Naturi and Nadine?

Oh my god, we hit it off right away. Our bond and our energy together, we lift each other up. It's like a real group. I think that's what makes coming to work so much fun. It's what makes the 18 hour days not bad, because we're around people that we love and admire. I'm just so blown away by these women and they really helped me step my game up, and I love being around a cast that makes you shine even brighter.

What do you think it is about girl groups that make them so popular?

I think because you get so many different types of people. The group comes from this bond and chemistry and they make this great music together and every single one of them has different personalities. What I love about our group is that there has never been a hip-hop girls group. The closest would be Salt-N-Pepa, but never like four women where it's a group-group. I love that we're kind of rewriting history in that way and placing ourselves in the '90s as a legendary hip-hop group that never was in the '90s.

Queens sort of speaks to the resurgence of all things '90s. What do you think it is about the decade that makes people so nostalgic for it?

My daughter always says, "I wish I was from the '90s." It's the fashion, and it just seemed like you had to be really talented to make it back in the '90s. It just seemed like everybody had their own style, their own flavor, and they were really trying to reach for the brightest star by being unique and different. And it was a great time for music. I mean, everything was happening in the '90s, from hip-hop to R&B to fashion, mixing different genres of music together. It was a different type of vibe in the '90s. If you're not from the '90s, you want to either be from the '90s, or you wish you could have witnessed a lot of the things. It's a beautiful thing that we can reintroduce it. Queens is very true to the '90s. We're going to be going back and forth from now until then.

In some ways, it feels like '90s TV was more diverse than modern television, particularly in sitcoms. What do you think happened?

I'm really not sure what happened, but something did change. I'm so glad that it's changing back because we need to see more shows like Queens. I'm so glad Queens is part of that change. I think seeing four Black women on television leading the show, it's a beautiful thing. I'm just so excited about that.

I feel like after people see Queens, they're going to get into the '90s vibe and think, "OK, when is Moesha getting rebooted?" Do you think there's a chance that could happen?

I definitely do. The talk about Moesha is very real. Of course, Queens is my focus right now, but I've always dreamt about either redoing Moesha or doing something special around it like a movie or something to answer a lot of the questions that we didn't answer because the show ended on a cliffhanger. There's such an audience for Moesha, especially since it's been on Netflix. So I really feel like it has a chance for sure.

People went crazy when Cinderella hit Disney+ last year. What do you think it is about that version that resonated so well with people?

Number one is the cast. The cast was so versatile. It was colorblind casting. It was just so different, but it also felt so natural. And then, of course, Whitney Houston being the fairy godmother and the person to put this all together with the lovely Debra Chase. It was just so different. It was one of my biggest dreams to ever come true to even work with Whitney Houston. So to have that dream come true and then to make history being the first Black Cinderella and her being the first Black fairy godmother, in hindsight, we were able to change people's lives with that film. And now it is on Disney+ and people are reliving it. It's just great. And the new generation gets to see it and feel the magic.

With everything you've done, you must get the whole range of reactions. What's something you're always surprised to hear?

It's hard to pick, but I always connect with the people that have connected with music that really didn't soar. When someone is crying and just really appreciating the work that you've done, and it's not so much about "I just met a famous person," it's more about the work that you did. Those are the ones that mean the most to me because then you feel like your work wasn't in vain. Even though it didn't sell a bunch of records, it's like that record saved this person's life, and that's the point. That means a lot to me.