Lucifer fans — who will see the cult fave Netflix series return on May 28 with the second half of its penultimate fifth season — know Lesley-Ann Brandt as the demon and bounty hunter Maze. Around her home, the South African actress is simply known as "Mom." Brandt and actor husband Chris Payne Gilbert welcomed son Kingston in 2017, and now divide their time between acting roles and their duties as room parents at the local preschool.
Since becoming a mom, Brandt has been an outspoken advocate for maternal health, highlighting in particular the issues facing women of color. Here, the TV star shares how she felt "empowered" by having a doula and midwife during her labor and the lessons she's passing on to her son.
You're active with the maternal health organization Every Mother Counts, and have been vocal about having a doula and midwife when you gave birth. How did that impact your entry into motherhood?
In the most special way. I think it was incredibly empowering. I did an Instagram Live recently with this incredible woman, Jennie Joseph, who is a midwife and she's Black and she is the first Black woman to lead an accredited midwifery school based in Florida. What I noticed was the business of birth here is very privileged. Obviously I'm not from America, so there's a cultural difference in our approach to birth. Here, I felt so much of the focus is on pain [versus] really trusting my instincts and knowing my body... What I got from these two incredible women was not just the care with prenatal and during birth, but the postpartum care and the emotional care.
When we look back at history, as far as birth goes, in Africa your entire community helps raise a child. Your aunts, your grandmas, your sisters — they're your doulas and your midwives. We lose a little bit of that just by design. It's a busy city, it's Los Angeles, we're transients...
These women empowered me during labor, and then also in those very vulnerable, precious weeks [afterwards]. It was a long labor, but it was a beautiful reminder to me of just how strong we are as women, and that our bodies know exactly what to do, because we've been preparing for it with all those periods.
Has your South African background influenced how you parent?
There's not so much [in terms of] customs. There's certain things that I'm a stickler for, [but] I don't think it's anything new. Manners are a big thing for me, and ensuring that even at 3 years old, my child is as independent as he can be at that age. So he gets himself dressed every morning; he knows how to put clothes on and he knows how to grab things out of his drawers.
I was raised very strict, like, "Do it because I say so," and that's a very South African thing. But what I'm trying to do is really listen to my toddler — he's so smart. I don't spank him. I'm trying to listen to [him]. "OK, why are you frustrated? Are you tired? Are you hungry? What's going on?" And when I get down to his level and just acknowledge his feelings, all of that dissipates. It's a really easy way to kind of stop the tornado that's getting crazy and just acknowledging and his feelings in those moments. Sometimes it's really effing hard [laughs]. I'm like, "Can you just listen to me?" Janet Lansbury is a great author. She talks about how to be a mindful parent in that way.
But yeah, manners are a big thing for me. I grew up around lots of poverty, obviously coming from South Africa, so ensuring my child knows that how we live and the privilege we have is not how 99.9 percent of the world lives. His family in South Africa don't get to go to Target always and buy toys and have everything they need.
What's your goal in terms of raising a boy right now, given all the conversations around toxic masculinity?
Again, it comes to acknowledging your feelings. If you feel sad, please feel it. If you're frustrated, I understand. You're allowed to feel those things, and then let me guide you to a place that's a better way to sort of look at something. My son loves to wear pink, and he and one of his best friends play dress-up. I do not at all have any opinion about it other than, he's being a child, and I encourage that kind of imagination because he does have an incredible imagination.
We read the book that my friend Meena Harris wrote, Ambitious Girl; she sent us a copy. And I'm explaining to him when we read the book, "Sometimes girls don't get to do the things that boys can do," and he's like, "Why?" And then I'm like, "Exactly — because they can do it. So if you ever see that, you think of your [female] friend and you tell her, 'You can do anything.'"
I kind of [teach him] with his books... I try to incorporate the lessons and the sort of values I want to instill in him through his books.
How do you find time to carve out for yourself?
That is very important for me. I went back to work six weeks after I had him, and it was really hard. I was breastfeeding, I was running between my trailer and the stages and I had no nanny at the time — it was just my husband. Part of me feels like I was robbed of that postpartum experience.
I always had my foot in both worlds. My career was still progressing and moving forward. I was on a show at the same time [as being a new mom], so I was learning firsthand how to juggle both worlds; I had no choice. And what I found throughout that process is that I'm a better mother when I'm doing what I love. I really am.
So it's important that it's quality time, not quantity. I have stay-at-home mom friends who are burnt out, and it becomes really challenging for them to be as attentive as they want to because they're just so tired. I really thrive when I have 20 single balls in the air. That's just my personality. So working out is a big thing for me; I have to carve that time out. I have morning meetings I have to attend, but come 3:30, when I go pick up my son from preschool, I'm not available. That's his time. My husband and I are clocking off of work and picking him up. We're really very actively participating in the school. We're the room parents for his classroom, so we're sending out emails to all the families, and we try and really be actively involved. If you don't know any different other than to juggle, then you accept what you do.
What are your post-Lucifer plans as the show approaches its sixth and final season?
I'm really interested in producing... I'm in the wonderful position where I have a show that's going to be on the air and I can take a minute to figure out what that next right move is for me, acting-wise, but [in terms of] producing, there's millions of things happening right now, which I'm grateful for. It's exciting.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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