Skye Townsend dishes on MTV’s ‘Pretty Stoned’ and dad’s career from ‘Cooley High’ to ‘Hollywood Shuffle’

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Skye Townsend (Part 1)

We’ve seen plenty of male stoner comedies, from Chris Tucker in “Friday” (1995) to Dave Chappelle in “Half Baked” (1998), so it’s time to put some cannabis cracks in that glass ceiling with women smoking weed.

Skye Townsend stars in the new MTV comedy flick “Pretty Stoned” premiering this Wednesday at 8 p.m.

“It basically follows two girls that work together that do not like each other at all and they’re forced to combine forces when they lose $20,000 worth of weed,” Townsend told WTOP. “It’s a really silly stoner comedy, it’s all female-led and it’s just a really spectacular cast. We had so much fun making it, so we hope people have fun watching it … I’m excited for people to watch and decompress and not take themselves too seriously.”

Townsend plays the role of Leila, a new-age hippie who is the middle (wo)man in an Atlanta drug operation. She laughed when asked whether she pulled from personal experience to do some Mary-Jane method acting.

“I am innocent angel, I have never seen marijuana in my life,” Townsend said. “Leila is so fun because she has so many hobbies. She is so wild … I did a lot of stunts, assisted by my amazing stuntwoman Katrina. It was a lot of fun because Leila is a girl who’s always going to make it through to the next round no matter how crazy or how high the stakes … I got to do a lot of character work and be the highest, silliest version of myself on camera.”

You can also catch her in the Emmy-winning series “A Black Lady Sketch Show” (2019-present), which just dropped Season 4 earlier this month. The show has been a comedic launchpad for an array of talent, including Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis and of course Quinta Brunson (“Abbott Elementary”).

“That just dropped on [April] 14, so that’s now streaming on HBO and HBO Max,” Townsend said. “Then I have another short film coming out called ‘Fake it ‘Til You Make It.’ I’m just keeping busy, going back on the road on [April] 21 to shoot again, so I’m looking forward to continuously doing fun projects. I’m happy to be this busy.”

Born in Santa Monica, California in 1993, Townsend learned her work ethic by watching her groundbreaking father, Robert Townsend, become a comedy force in Hollywood in the late 1980s.

“I grew up around him and his comedian friends and learned at an early age that comedians are super silly but also have a lot of depth and self awareness — just really introspective, interesting people,” Townsend said. “He always says that to be chosen to be a comedian is an honor, but it can be a heavy burden, so I was really schooled on the game from an honest perspective … he’s an O.G., he’s a pioneer, so any time I need advice, he is my first call.”

Her father got his start with an uncredited part in “Cooley High” (1975), which gave Black audiences their own “American Graffiti” (1973) in terms of a coming-of-age flick with a wall-to-wall soundtrack of Motown tunes.

“He had one line in there and it was like his biggest moment ever,” Townsend said. “When I finally saw the footage, I was like, ‘Wow, you were such a little young kid that was a dreamer.’ It’s really special to watch … he put in his 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 hours doing extra work and commercials and then finally get his first line. It’s inspiring to watch that if you put in the work, eventually you’ll get to go where you want to go.”

He tried out for “Saturday Night Live” but lost the gig to Eddie Murphy, then came full circle to direct the iconic standup special “Eddie Murphy Raw” (1987), the follow-up to “Eddie Murphy Delirious” (1983). “He was supposed to be on ‘SNL,’ but then they ended up being really good friends and he directed ‘Raw,'” Townsend said.

Of course, his biggest cultural impact was writing, directing and starring in the cult comedy classic “Hollywood Shuffle” (1987) about an actor limited to stereotypical roles because of his ethnicity. Co-written by Dom Irrera and Keenan Ivory-Wayans, the film influenced other satires to follow, namely Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” (2000).

“It has really held up,” Townsend said. “It was such an intelligent piece of work. It was really silly, but what he had to say in it and just the way that it was shot, the way that he did it off of credit cards and it went to make a hit is really just insane … I think ‘Hollywood Shuffle’ was way ahead of its time. I’m really happy that he’s getting his flowers. I never mind talking about him because we never know what we mean to the industry until we’re gone.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Skye Townsend (Part 2)

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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