I suppose the most important question is what made you get into acting? What was that magnet that pulled you closer to saying “Ok, I’m serious, I want to make this a full time profession?”
I started as a dancer at a very young age and I would do productions of The Nutcracker and other ballets. I always found my favorite parts of doing those ballets were the storytelling with the pantomime and the emotion and the expression. It was kind of a natural progression for me to transition into acting. I did school plays, community theatre, musicals and then I just never stopped.
How would you describe your struggling days and what helped pull you out of a potential funk or destroy the doubter’s voice that can creep in and say, “You can’t do it”?
I felt the most vulnerable not when I wasn’t booking, but when I wasn’t getting auditions. I had so many moments like that where I asked myself, “Should I be doing this?” What helped me was the network of friends who are actors because it’s such a weird, specific career. If you’re not in it, then it’s hard to understand it. So having a network of like-minded people around you and things in your life that you love that have nothing to do with the industry is very important.
You’ve explored both comedy and drama. Which one presents a greater challenge for you? Which one are you more interested in doing as you go further?
The approach to comedy and drama is really the same; it’s just about telling the truth. I think the main challenge is taking the words on the page and making them feel like they belong to a real person and how that real person would say them and what their truth is. I am very character driven, and my favorite characters do both drama and comedy. Finding a character that requires both is the dream.
Since you have worked on some very big television and film projects, if an up and coming director approaches you for a short film that doesn’t pay, would you consider the project, and what would be the determining factors?
Absolutely! If there is a short film that has an excellent script or a director that is up and coming and whose vision I really like, then I can learn and gain a lot from that experience even if it doesn’t pay. The other thing is that on a big television or film set you can’t stop production and ask questions, but in a short film you can learn so much more about the process and maybe collaborate more. So I would totally be open to that.
Atlanta is such a good show because of its voice and community driven content and shifts in tone. What was it like working with Donald Glover? Can you describe the set?
I feel so charmed that it was my first television set. Donald was so down to earth and so collaborative. We would be filming and they would go to change the cameras, and Donald would go back to his trailer and write future episodes while we were filming. He’s just a genius. Everyone was so nice and our director, Hiro Murai, was so wonderful to work with. It was a very diverse set!
How difficult was it to get representation and what advice would you give to actors who are out there looking for agents?
It was hard, really hard. My agency now, People Store, came to see a play because there were other actors in the play that they repped, and that’s how I found representation. It’s hard to get repped if you don’t have great credits, but you can’t get great credits without representation. I would just say to keep submitting, take acting and improv classes and put on showcases and invite agents. It’s a different story for everyone, but it’s not easy. Don’t be discouraged though because it took me a minute to find an agent. Keep submitting.
What is the most challenging role that you have played? How about the most fulfilling one and why?
All of my roles have presented completely different challenges. My instinct is to say one of the bigger roles because there is more material to work through, but when you are starting out and you have these one liners or single scenes, I’d say those are harder because you’re not getting a ton of attention or artistic help from the people around you; it isn’t because they don’t want to, but because there just isn’t enough time. I would say those smaller roles are harder than the bigger ones because your job in those roles is just to deliver information. You’re asked to just say a couple of words and you get in your head and you want to make them real, but you just don’t have that opportunity. My most fulfilling role would be in my new show Outer Banks. It has a lot of fun escapism. I got to flesh out a character more than I have in the past and really be a part of the story and a part of the storytelling. I’m very excited for everyone to see the show.
What if a director doesn’t really give you specific directions but lets you know that what you’re doing is not what they want?
If they’re telling you that it’s not what they’re looking for, then you have every right to get a feel of and ask what they are looking for just so you can do your job. So I would try to understand why. You have to be very flexible when you get to set so I try to stay calm and then try my best to deliver.
"A lot of us now have representation in other cities as well,
but choose to keep Atlanta as our home because we love it here."
What is your personal connection with Atlanta and what made you decide on exploring and working in the industry here?
I was born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, and I lived there until high school. I got really lucky that I got to move here right when the industry was booming. Initially, I wanted to go to New York and be on Broadway. But when I graduated from Kennesaw State, there was so much work here in Atlanta. A lot of us now have representation in other cities as well but choose to keep Atlanta as our home because we love it here. Plus so much of the industry now is self-tape so location doesn’t matter as much. Lastly, Atlanta kind of feels like a team. If a girlfriend of mine books a role here and I don’t, then it feels like a win for Atlanta more than anything else.
Who are some of your favorite actors and who is the one actor that you would love to work with in the future?
I love Laura Dern. Sometimes her choices are so theatrical and off the wall that you wouldn’t think they would work on the camera, but they’re so dynamic and wonderful. I love her. Bill Hader is great and I love everything Viola Davis does. You can just turn on TV and really watch a master class. We’re in this really fun era where there is so much good work happening.
What advice do you have for some newer actors and people who have just decided to follow their passion for acting? How should they choose projects and what can they do on their end to gain maximum exposure?
I would say take classes, but if you aren’t in a position to pay for class or you’re not in a city that offers classes, do community theatre. If you’re first starting out, it’s just about acting as much as you can reading and watching great TV, doing everything you can to live in that world. When you’re first starting out doing shorts and student films, look into what the script is like and what other work the directors have done.
What do you see for the future of the Atlanta film and television industry? Will work trickle out or do you view the infrastructure to be robust enough to withstand potential challenges?
I think as we move away from in-person auditions and move towards self-tapes, it will matter less and less where you live. It will be more about your rep and body of work and less your address. I think that, hopefully, we can keep continuing in the direction where our industry gets more and more respect nationally. We have so many great projects and so many great actors that live here who are out there killing it that I feel good about the trajectory and the future of the Atlanta industry. We all have concerns about certain Bills, not just as an actor but as a human; nonetheless, I have hope for the industry here in Atlanta.