The eternal TV teen wants you to know that she’s played more than high school students.
Despite what some may say about her seemingly endless career of portraying young teens, Bianca Lawson would like to remind everyone that she has played other roles.
Lawson, who has starred on OWN's Queen Sugar since it premiered in September 2016, tells ET's Melicia Johnson that although many people recognize her from her plethora of regular TV gigs over the past 20 years, that's because those roles are from shows that gained the most popularity. "It's interesting, because I did a lot of different parts during all of those things and for whatever reason, those are the shows and those are the parts that became really popular," she says, pointing out that before she became Maya St. Germain in Pretty Little Liars, she played an FBI agent on the A&E series The Cleaner.
"It may seem on the outside like I was typecast, but in terms of the work I was doing, I was doing all kinds of ages during that time," she adds. "There were just maybe things that people weren't talking about as much, and they weren't as popular... It just so happens that those are the things that became pop culture staples."
Lawson also points out that her beloved roles aren't all teenage characters. Of course, fans remember her playing teens in shows like Sister, Sister, Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Steve Harvey Show, Dawson's Creek and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But she played supernatural adults in The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf -- in fact, her role as Marin Morrell in the latter had her playing a character who could have been 100-years-old. As for the iconic Emily Bennett on The Vampire Diaries, Lawson notes that she was practically "a bajillion years old."
Part of the zeal around Lawson's seemingly ageless career has a lot to do with fans being "obsessed" with how she seems to be "aging in reverse." The actress, who turned 42 in March, says that she finds it "interesting" how focused people are on her appearance and that, while she considers it a compliment, she thinks there's a danger in basing so much on people's looks.
"I'm aging, we're all aging. As you're living, you're aging every second," Lawson notes. "I genuinely believe you're the age you feel. I know people that are younger than me that are like, 'Why are you living the life of an 80-year-old? You're 20.' Or people that are way older that are living such a youthful life. And I think that there's always a danger when you put too much emphasis on appearance. I don't know that it's great, just for young girls in general."
The actress admits that she doesn't take any of it seriously because one day, people will start saying she "looks her age now." Age, she observes, can become a "prison" if people allow it to consume them. "I think this idea of age... it's how you live your life," she adds. "I think as long as you just keep having passions and feeling fulfilled by life... it's a mindset, really."
She continues, "I've seen too many people throw in the towel on things or dreams or whatever, because they felt like they were too old. But they weren't. And so I think it's how you feel. I think it's how you move in the world. I think that as you get older, you get wiser, you have more empathy because you've gone through more things. I think there's so many amazing things about getting older. And also, honestly, every woman I know, when I got into my 40s, they were like, 'Oh, you were going to love your 40s. You give zero f**ks.' You just don't care. You're like, 'I'm just going to be fully me.' And it's really liberating. I think that this fear of aging is a weird cultural thing here."
As for her very grown-up role in Queen Sugar, Lawson warns that fans will likely continue feeling emotional as season 5 progresses. The actress calls the story that the cast is currently filming for season 6 in New Orleans "really beautiful," noting that the season will continue reflecting "exactly what's happening right now in life." When it comes to the future of Lawson's Darla, the actress coyly teases that there could be some surprises in store for her, Blue (Ethan Hutchison) and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe).
Recalling Darla and Ralph's wedding in Queen Sugar's March 16 episode, Lawson says, "I think a lot of people right now really do need to see some joy, some happiness, because there is so many dark things happening, and so many struggles right now. I needed this wedding, I needed to see this happiness and this love."
"I think it's very reflective of what a real relationship is. It's the ups and the downs, it's the messiness," she says, referring to the show's depiction of the complexities and intricacies of Black love. "Things get hard, you think you're close to breaking up. You're so enraged, but ultimately, it's all of the levels of love. And I think sometimes you will watch a movie, or watch a show and they make it seem so perfect. And it's not real life. So people start comparing their real-life relationships to fantasy relationships on TV. But people argue, they fight, they go through all the things."
"Even when it's hard, when you don't want to, when you can't look at the person one more second but you still show up, and you still try, and you still work through it," she continues. "I think that's real commitment. It's a give-and-take thing. And so, what I love about this show is that it's all of it. And that's what it means to really love someone, and really commit to someone, and be willing to kind of go through all of it with them."
Queen Sugar airs every Tuesday at 8/7c on OWN.