Crystal Hayslett never set out to become a fan favorite on Tyler Perry’s Sistas. She was just pursuing a life-long acting dream.
It was a mission she put on hold for five years while working behind the scenes, until Perry gave her the shot she needed.
“I knew this was something I wanted to do,” Hayslett tells TVLine. “I wasn’t going into it thinking, ‘I hope they like me.’ I knew this was a dream I wanted to come true all my life. When I first saw ‘Fatima’ trending, I couldn’t believe it. I never thought that would happen. Then my character’s name started trending every single week, and it was amazing. Fans really love Fatima and it’s beautiful to see so many people relate to her.”
Fatima’s relationship with her boyfriend Zac on the soapy BET drama is especially appealing to fans who lovingly call the couple “Zatima,” a moniker that also trends on social media. The pair is so beloved, in fact, they’re getting a BET+ spinoff called Tyler Perry’s Zatima that is now shooting and will premiere in 2022.
“We’ve been so conditioned to see toxic behavior in romance in our society, that we praise it,” Hayslett observes. “But it’s good to see Fatima and Zac enjoy this positive and honest relationship where they uplift and push each other. Viewers love that even if they don’t always see that in real life.”
The secret, Hayslett reveals, is that there is a mutual respect and appreciation between her and Devale Ellis, who costars as Zac.
“Devale is one of my closest friends,” Hayslett shares. “When I first got the script, I had no idea where Zac and Fatima were going. During our first rehearsal, I was nervous and timid because he was an established actor and I wasn’t. But that didn’t last, and we both set out to bring realness and relatability to the characters. I trust him and he trusts me and we have each other’s best interests at heart. We’ve created this safe space and in this industry, that’s not easy to find. I am lucky to have such an amazing castmate.”
Hayslett says once she and Ellis established a rapport and a level of comfortability in Season 2, they could envision a spinoff but had no idea Perry was thinking the same thing. The executive producer, director and writer for Sistas broke the good news to Hayslett and Ellis in between shooting Seasons 3 and 4.
“It was all divine intervention,” Hayslett says with a smile. “We had so much fun riffing off each other, we knew there was something there that could be a separate show and to find out that Tyler was thinking the same thing we were thinking, was really a blessing.
“Zac and Fatima will be in Season 4 of Sistas,” the actress makes clear. “But Zatima will explore their relationship in a more in-depth way and include more of their backstories and families. What I can’t say is if Andi or any of the characters from Sistas will be on Zatima. You’ll have to wait and see.”
What fans won’t have to wait for is more “Zatima” drama from haters Karen and Hayden in the Season 3 finale airing this Wednesday at 9/8c. Hayslett couldn’t reveal much more than that but adds, “What did Meek Mill say? ‘Ain’t this what y’all been waiting for?’ Buckle up. We’re taking you on a wild ride.”
In terms of that near-fight between her Fatima and costar Ebony Obsidian’s Karen in Episode 20, Hayslett says it still stands out for her as one of the most intensely emotional scenes this season.
“I ad-libbed some of what Fatima said in the heat of the moment,” Hayslett divulges. “I’m such a happy person in real life and I don’t walk around going off on people. I had to go to a space with my character where I was really, really upset and in that moment, I was present and I knew the script but what came out of my mouth, just came out. When you’re in these types of scenes, you’re tapping into anger and it’s so emotional.”
Hayslett eventually calmed down and when she did, she and Obsidian praised one another for their strong performances, she says.
“It takes a moment to come out of that,” Hayslett shares. “It takes a moment for your brain to register that you’re not really mad. You really have to get back to reality and shut that off. There is a scene where I’m crying, that you all haven’t seen yet, and it took 15 minutes for me to stop. I was exhausted afterward. People don’t realize the muscles actors have to use and the places we have to go to stretch ourselves and give moving performances. It’s a lot.”
That said, Hayslett adds that she never wants fans to forget it’s acting.
“Shoutout to Ebony Obsidian and Chris Warren, who play Karen and Hayden,” Hayslett says. “They are fantastic and incredible actors and human beings who don’t deserve the hateful comments I see on Instagram and Twitter.
“Chris is so funny in real life, I have to hold in my laughter. But fans take their performances so personally,” she concludes. “It’s crazy how invested they are. We love it because that’s why the show’s a hit. At the same time, I want fans to understand these are real and amazing people playing these parts and they’re just playing their parts.”
Are you excited about the Season 3 finale of Tyler Perry’s Sistas and the 2022 premiere of Zatima? Do you have more questions for Crystal Hayslett? Drop your thoughts and queries in the comments.
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