Baltimore — The skating rink has been the place to go for generations, especially as a teen. Disney's new sitcom “Saturdays” highlights a trio friend group, We-B-Girlz skate crew, who leave their heart in the rink to skate every Saturday in Chicago.
Peyton Z. Basnight plays Ari, the butterfly-studded, energetic, fashionable friend who is the glue to the trio. Ari, along with besties Simone and Paris, can't wait for the weekend so they can show off their skills on Saturdays at the skating rink — where everything goes down.
Basnight sat down with YR Media and talked about her experience, including the surprising fact that she had to learn how to skate for the show.
"I definitely did not know how to skate before this. I went skating a little bit when I was like maybe four. But the stuff that we do in the show was not anything that I did really. I don't even know if I could have made it around the rink, if I'm being completely honest," the North Carolina native said.
Her hometown was not heavy on skate culture like Atlanta, Los Angeles or Florida, but she understood the importance of it and was thrilled to learn for the show.
The center of the show is friendship — three best friends with a tight bond that you can feel from behind the screen. Basnight said there’s importance in friendship, even if it is with just one person. Upon moving to Georgia, she experienced some difficulty finding a friend group.
"I think having friends is one of the best things someone can have," she said. “I definitely went through a lot of bullying, and so I did have a good set of friends, and then, you know, life happens and then I ended up not having friends for a very long time.”
Basnight added that she often had to grapple with loneliness and the heartbreak that came with it.
“Watching everybody else be happy around you and have friends was something that I really struggled with," she said. Now she has an amazing friend group who she is constantly talking and laughing with, "I love them."
"I think that friendship is something that everyone needs, having someone that you can just talk to about anything and everything and knowing that it's safe with them, is something that you need. You don't have to have eight friends or six friends. Having one is enough. And I think that doesn't even have to be a person that you go to school with," Basnight shared.
While the show is about friendship, it also captures a prominent staple for the Black community — skate culture, she said.
"We're making history here in Disney being like one of the first all Black shows, Black showrunner, Black executive producers,” Basnight said. “I really hope that it touches the little black girls that are really seeking to find themselves." She hopes that this show can be an inspiration for everyone and all races to get encouraged so that they know they “can do whatever you put your mind to.”
Marsai Martin is an executive producer on the show and was inspired by the roller skating vibe and aesthetic. The show also includes some other major actors such as Omar Gooding, Golden Brooks, Daria Johns and more.
"We have like legends on this show. We have Miss Yo-Yo, we have Ms. Golden, we have our showrunner Norman Vance who did “Roll Bounce”, “Girlfriends”, “Beauty Shop”. Black staple movies, movies that everybody needs to know," she said.
She said that she grew up watching black-ish and watched Marsai grow up on the screen, "I watched her grow up because I was watching “black-ish” … she was a comedic genius on black-ish."
Basnight is excited to have the opportunity to learn and grow with her castmates and production crew “who have been in the industry for so many years.”
Although this is her first time on Disney, like most, she grew up watching shows on Disney Channel like “Shake it Up” and “Ant Farm.” It still has not hit her that she is on Disney yet, she said "I will find myself literally like, ‘Oh my God! I'm on Disney Channel’ or I'm like, ‘Oh wait, I'm an actress, I forgot!’ I catch myself off guard off like all the time, so it doesn't feel real for me. I don't know if it ever will. It's a surreal experience, but it feels amazing to have the opportunity," she said.
“Saturdays” can be streamed on Disney+.