Separation hasn’t been all bad for Chloe x Halle. It might inspire their next album
Onstage and on the charts, Chloe x Halle are a singular force. The R&B duo — signed and mentored by Beyoncé — showcased an unapologetic sophistication on their sophomore album, “Ungodly Hour,” and pioneered COVID-era creativity with live performances from their spectacularly transformed tennis court.
Onscreen, for three seasons and counting, the Bailey sisters have been underrated comic relief on Freeform’s “Grown-ish,” peppering the collegiate misadventures of “Black-ish” breakout Yara Shahidi with delicious deadpan. As twin athletes dubbed “the Venus and Serena of track,” their characters, Jazz and Sky Forster, recently participated in the qualifying rounds of the Olympics — and only one made it through. They confront their diverging paths in an emotional scene airing Thursday.
Filmed in late 2019, the bittersweet episode comes as they’re spending some months apart — a rarity for the Grammy-nominated siblings: Chloe, 22, is home in Los Angeles after filming the Russell Crowe thriller “The Georgetown Project,” while Halle, 20, is shooting Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” movie in London. The Times recently spoke to the pair about sharing scenes with your sister and navigating a period of physical and Instagram separation without losing touch creatively. The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What was your first impression of your prescient “Grown-ish” storylines?
Chloe Bailey: We’ve been following these sisters who are so close and do everything together, and this [episode] showed how their bond is still so strong, despite their different pathways.
Halle Bailey: And how they deal with that together too. I thought it was a really beautiful thing for them to write in.
Was the scene difficult to film?
Halle: Not at all. Acting with Chloe is just like, “OK, we’re just gonna say these lines to each other.”
Chloe: It’s like a comfort. It was easy to act like we were being vulnerable with each other because that’s how we are every day. We just had to open up and cry and yell at each other in front of the cameras this time.
Halle: Singing or acting, I’m not really nervous about anything when I do it with Chloe. I miss her so much.
Chloe: It feels like our scenes are always the quickest to shoot. I think because we never have to try, we never have to be in our heads: “How does this look? How do I look? Am I doing this line right?” It doesn’t matter at that point, we’re simply just being who we are: sisters and best friends.
What has impressed you the most about your sister as a scene partner?
Halle: What surprises me, but also doesn’t at the same time, is just how vulnerable and honest my sister can be onscreen. In our regular lives, she’s a very emotional person as is. But for her to be able to do that and translate it so easily on camera is amazing to me. I feel like I’m the opposite — I’m the type of person who tends to hold everything in and bury it, and tries to put up a front and pretend to be tough like nothing hurts me. Chloe will put her emotions all on her face. You can tell how she’s feeling in everything.
Chloe: Halle is able to be so natural with her acting, and it’s just so impressive. Like, sometimes you’ll be saying lines, I’ll be thinking I’m actually just having a regular conversation with her. She can make it feel so real and authentic to the point where her own sister, who is constantly with her, forgets that we’re acting.
And I know she sometimes feels like she’s closed off but in my opinion, when it comes to music and acting, that’s when she opens up the most, like a flower. And it’s so beautiful when you’re disciplined enough to keep some things to yourself and decide what to share, because not everybody deserves access to your heart. That’s where the art and the beauty comes from, when you can do both.
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You’re self-taught musicians. How do you help each other grow as actors?
Halle: For me, it’s been a journey with acting, because I feel like I haven’t really dived very deep into it until now. It feels like a “whoa” moment — I’m realizing I have to be so vulnerable in front of everyone. And I think that’s how we keep each other sharp: reminding each other to be honest with ourselves and with our journeys. We always heard this quote growing up: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And we never want to let what God has given us go to waste.
Chloe: I think what also plays a huge part is experience, which is truly the fuel of artistry. We know this firsthand with our music — years ago our songs were cute, but they really didn’t have much depth because we didn’t experience the things we were talking about. As we got older and became adults, writing songs for “Ungodly Hour” literally felt like teatime sessions, and we got to flip the perspective of the narrative so it comes from a place of power. Doing that same thing with acting — when you pull from your life experiences and how something makes you feel — is when things truly become authentic, because you’re coming from a place of honesty.
What is it like to be on set without your sister?
Chloe: Weird, weird, weird. Our trailers are always next to each other, and I miss being able to just walk over and bang on her door and bother her.
Halle: I’m the little sister, so I’ve always looked to her as a guide, the one who will go through it first and then be like, “Come on, Halle, it’s safe.” So with her not around, it is very like, “Oh my goodness, I have to do this on my own.” But knowing she’s always there for me, I just call her when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Chloe: She amazes me every single day, even seeing from FaceTime how she’s flourishing out there in London. As the big sister, I feel like mama bear No. 2 sometimes, I just want to be protective of her and I don’t want her to feel stress or pain or anything. But it’s incredible to see how she’s pushing through it. She’s growing and thriving and coming out even stronger.
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You’ve officially created separate social media accounts after sharing a joint account for years. What’s that like?
Chloe: It’s not weird having our own accounts because we’ve always had private ones with our friends. A lot of the stuff I post is just content from my old account. It’s fun, though, for people to dive deeper into who we are as individuals.
Halle: I’m still trying to figure out my Instagram — I’ll post whatever, it’s not that serious to me — but I think Chloe is killing it. She is so beautiful, and I’m so proud of her confidence in herself and her body and inspiring other women to do that as well, because that is so important. And anybody who hates on that can talk to me.
Chloe: I feel there’s such power in women who truly love themselves and own who they are, whether they want to be completely covered or showing skin or whether they want to be outspoken or completely quiet. It’s our right as women to choose who we want to be and how we want to be seen in this world and not be judged for it, because men can be all of those things and no one takes another look or says anything about it. I’m not really doing anything new, I’m just being myself.
Have you discovered anything about your own creativity or artistry in being alone?
Halle: Well, if I can be honest, no, because from the beginning, we created a safe space where we never felt we had to lessen ourselves or compromise ourselves to do stuff together.
Chloe: I feel the same. She knows me, the real me, everything about me, and I know the same of her. We’ve always been completely different from one another. When we’re in creative spaces together, I think we allow each other to flourish separately, and putting those differences together has been where the magic has happened.
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Have you been working on any new music while apart?
Chloe: For “Ungodly Hour (Chrome Edition),” we finally released “80/20,” which we played for fans on Instagram Live months and months ago. It was fun to mix it together virtually and send notes back and forth.
Halle: And we wanted to add a bit more to the song, so we recorded some extra backgrounds: I recorded here in my room in London, and Chloe recorded at home. We were scared that we were going to do the same backgrounds but, funnily enough, they were different in their own way and fit perfectly together. That was really nice, completing something together from separate places. I think that was the first time we’ve ever done that.
Chloe: Otherwise, I’ve been making a lot of beats. Usually, I’ll only make a beat when we’re writing a song together. Since I don’t have my writing partner right now, I’ve been experimenting with my production.
Halle: I’ll play some stuff on my guitar but it’s not complete thoughts yet. Just random emotions, which feel like a roller coaster on some days. I’ve just been trying to journal throughout this whole process. But I know, when I get older, I’m gonna want to remember how I was feeling during this time.
Chloe: I mean, if you think about it, if I’m over here doing the beats and Halle is journaling, who knows what will come out of that when we start making our third album?
When was your last live performance with an audience?
Halle: Dec. 4, 2019, at the Fonda Theatre. It was the first show we had done in a while — we were singing “The Kids Are All Right” songs and previewing a few songs from “Ungodly Hour” for the first time.
Chloe: I can’t wait to tour with my sister again. When that day comes, we are ready, but I honestly don’t know when that will be. So instead of getting my hopes up about it, I’m just gonna be glad we were able to perform and share our artistry from our backyard, and that people have been so receptive of it. I’m really grateful for what we were able to create in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)
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