Dynasty Warriors 9 - Lu Lingqi

I grew up playing video games but since, mostly for lack of time, I've parted ways with the gaming world. Still I've remained fascinated with the art and beauty of them. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that my voice would be featured on a video game that is followed heavily by gamers nationwide. 

Recently, I had the privilege of voicing the extremely bad ass Lu Lingqi in Dynasty Warriors 9. This was truly one of those times where I found myself in a studio jumping and screaming and battle crying and had to stop for a moment and say, "Wow. This is my job.". I could not be more thankful. I hope this is the first of many! 

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The night I became an NAACP Award winning actress

I think every actor considers their Oscars speech. You practice occasionally in the shower. Casually take mental notes to add a line in when someone helps you in your career. And you hope that your career will defy all odds and one day you'll actually be able to deliver said speech. But if you're anything like me, you never expected to make an acceptance speech before then. 

I was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 99 seat theatre for my performance in No Place To Be Somebody by Charles Gordone at the Robey Theatre Company. If you read my post a while ago about that production, you will know it's near and dear to my heart. This was not only my first professional show after college, but I was also performing alongside two of my closest friends. To make matters even better, I fought to nab the role of Cora Beasley who is traditionally (and arguably more aptly) portrayed by an older woman. On paper, I was not right for this character. But in my heart, I knew she lived in me. So when I got in the room I all but begged (and maybe literally begged a little) to read for her. 

And I booked it. 

Fast forward two years later and I find myself at the NAACP Theatre awards among actors I've admired from childhood. Glynn Turman, Anika Noni Rose, Ledisi, Lillias White, Jennifer Lewis, and so many more were sitting at tables just like mine. Only steps away from me. I was in awe of the experience. I would have counted myself lucky to just be there as a patron much less a nominee.

Then the unthinkable happened. I. WON. 

Now I had to make a speech. A speech that I had told my loved ones who urged me to prepare one, was unnecessary. A speech that would be given in front of actors whom I look up to and respect deeply. All I can say is, I will ALWAYS have a speech prepared from now on!

This was truly one of the best nights of my life. I am so honored, humbled, and thankful for this award and this experience. Jennifer Lewis' speech tickled me and educated me at the same time. I hope one day I can meet her. Until then, this video will be reviewed at least once a year. 

My First Feature Film: LowLow

So far I have been fortunate enough to be on camera quite a bit. I have even cameoed on a couple of feature films. However this time, winter 2018, I completed my first leading role in a feature film. 

Low Low, written by and directed by Nick Richey, is a coming of age story about 4 girls from a rough side of town deciding what the next step is after graduation and trying to remain friends through it all. Life throws them all sorts of challenges and the question is, will the adversity drive them together, or apart. 

I play the rough around the edges protector of the group, Lana. Lana was such a joy to embody because we are nothing alike. One of my favorite things about acting is getting to know and falling in love with your characters. That was definitely the case with Lana and I cannot wait for you all to meet her as well. 

An Accident at The Lounge Theater

Once again I find myself on stage! This time I will be embodying Lydia Styrk's deep and compelling lead, Libby, in An Accident with the Griot Theatre Company of the West Coast. 

The show follows Libby, who is hit by a car ends up in the hospital--unable to move. She has a hospital visitor, who ends up being the man who hit her. There are encounters in life that take you somewhere you've never been and never meant to go.

It is a rare gift as an artist to find a play that has so many opportunities to explore the fragility of the human mind, body, and spirit. I am so thrilled to be able to bring this show to life and I'm excited to share the stage with industry vet, Kent Faulcon. 

The show opens on October 6th and closes on the 29th! Tickets are available at: http://www.griottheatre.org/

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Fefu and Her Friends at the Hollyhock House!!!!!

I could not be more excited to work with the wonderful CircleX Theatre company on Maria Irene Fornes' timeless, Fefu and Her Friends. Not only will we be jumping into this wildly abstract historical text, we will be doing so in Frank Lloyd Wright's gorgeous Hollyhock House. 

On a seemingly ordinary day in 1935, a group of women gather to plan a philanthropic fundraiser. The host Fefu is impulsive, unapologetic and boldly leads the women until Julia enters the picture. Once brilliant and fearless, Julia’s spirit was broken when a mysterious hunting accident left her paralyzed. Or did it?  Featuring an international cast of women, Fornés’ 1977 play explores how subtle pressures work on women across the world to conform to an ideal of meekness and femininity.


About the Location: Hollyhock House was commissioned by Aline Barnsdall and designed by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1919-1921. Originally intended to be part of a avant-garde theatre complex, the project halted after the completion of the house. Barnsdall gifted the house to the City of Los Angeles in 1927.  Hollyhock House underwent extensive renovations and the LA Department of Cultural Affairs re-opened it to the public in 2014. FEFU will be the first-ever theatre performance at the house, finally making Aline Barnsdall’s vision a reality.

White Guy on the Bus

White Guy on the Bus will be making it's Los Angeles premiere at The Road Theatre on Magnolia this January and I am thrilled to be the female lead in this timely narrative. 

Ray, a white financial manager from an affluent neighborhood, has a loving wife and liberal family. Shatique is a black nursing student and single mom from the rough side of town. As they ride the same bus to the same gritty prison every week, they seem to be getting to know each other – until Ray reveals his shocking true purpose for taking these weekly rides. As the ties between Ray and Shatique spin into a complex web of moral ambiguity, revenge, and racial biases, they reach a stunning conclusion in this play the New York Times calls “a frank stare-down at racial perceptions today…an unsettling study in cultural disaffection that is likely to spark discussions afterward.”

When I come across a project I always ask myself what message we're sending within the narrative. Why does this story exist? Will our audience leave with an experience? A new thought? A cathartic release? 

After reading White Guy on the Bus I was thrilled with how it answered all of those questions. This is the type of play that you leave not only examining yourself but also with a deep need to have conversations with those around you. We are living in tumultuous times in many ways and certain conversations need to be had if we are ever going to grow out of those times. This play, without a doubt, will help to start some of those conversations. 

 

Served the series

If you've ever worked in, or even attended a restaurant regularly, you know the business has a culture of it's own. Served gives it's audience an inside look at that culture; the good, the bad, the racial/cultural hierarchy, the comedy, and the comradery.

The series takes a look at the classic 'types' we often encounter in restaurants, and gives us a chance to see whats underneath. One of my favorite acting teachers, Paul Perri, often said, "Things are never what they seem; they're usually the exact opposite". Served is a product of that notion. 

Another brilliant product from the mind of Alexander Hanno, partnered this time with the vision of DP and Director, Derrick Cruz, Served is smart, funny, and daring. We filmed the entire first episode in one continuous shot which was such an amazing and challenging experience! Everyone had to be working at the top of their game to make sure things flowed like a well oiled machine and in the end, we created something stellar. 

'Out of Game' Trailer

Believe it or not, this project actually called for me to learn Dungeons and Dragons. I love what I do! Out of Game is a web-series that will follow a group of people who happen to be in the wrong comic and games store at the wrong time.  

It all starts when the zany store owner takes pity on a lonely boy who comes in everyday to play D&D solo. One specific day, he listens to all of the different issues of the patrons in the store, and decides they could all benefit from some time playing the game; playing a very up-close and person version of the game.  

Next thing they know, they're waking up in a real life version of D&D; a wizard, a rogue, a cleric, a barbarian, and a bard. Each of them representing the major characters in Dungeons and Dragons and possessing powers that they have no idea how to use. But somehow they must learn not only to master their own power, but also to work together in order to escape the mystical world. 

The trailer will work as a tool to generate funds to finish up the series. Can't wait!

My SYFY Fantasy

Gianluca Malacrino and I hit the screen again with the wonderful SYFY short, Between! We had the dream team here with a screenplay and direction from the incredible mind of Alexander Hanno, and the gutsy camera works of DP, Samuel Lancaster!

Between tells the story of a young bartender who wakes up after a night out on a beautiful beach. Doesn't sound too bad, right? But before long he realizes that this sandy paradise is completely inescapable. After a few nights of panic and several attempts at getting off of the island, he meets a mysterious woman who seems to live on the island. Will she help him? Or is she the reason that he can't leave?

I have to say this was one of the most fun sets I have had the pleasure of working on. Our entire team was so willing to try new, innovative, sometimes (moderately) dangerous things to make each shot interesting and true that this experience has a unique sense of adventure. Not to mention filming on a beautiful beach all day. No complaints here!

Back on Stage!

I couldn't stay away for long! This time I am stepping into the skin of Jordan Matthews, the lead in Tira Palmquist's new play And Then They Fell, being produced at Atwater Village Theater by Brimmer Street Theatre Co. 

And Then They Fell tells the story of Jordan and Cal, two teenagers who find themselves without stable homes. Jordan has fled a home wrecked by alcoholism and sexual abuse while still trying to graduate high school with honors. Cal is a young transgender boy set adrift by his family’s intolerance and the failure of adults and institutions to help him through a severely vulnerable period of his young life. These two teens find each other, and for a while, they give each other the hope and security they so desperately need.

All ticket proceeds will be donated to My Friend’s Place, a homeless youth resource center in Hollywood. Their mission is to assist and inspire homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives. It is a professionally staffed drop-in resource center serving over 1,400 homeless youths ages 12 to 25 (and their children) each year. The primary goal is to lower traditional barriers to service and provide homeless youth with the opportunity to improve their psychological, intellectual, and physical capacity to reach their potential.

Stepping into this world has been heartbreaking and magical. The scariest part is how true it rings for many homeless young people in the greater Los Angeles area. I hope that this play will raise awareness of those who need our aid but who are often ignored in the shuffle of the big city. 

Instance

It's super surreal when you work on the same project as actors that you grew up watching and admiring. I first experienced this working on No Place to be Somebody with the fabulous Hawthorne James and it's happening again with Instance !

Denise Dowse and T'Keyah Crystal Kemah both star in the film about an idealistic art teacher who befriends a troubled teenage boy in her class. The friendship seems innocent and harmless but when she is accused of an instance of inappropriate behavior, it becomes unclear who the actual victim really is.

It was truly awesome to work with these artists and I am confident that Instance is about to WRECK the festival scene! Can't wait! 

 

From This Day Forward

Marriage, trust, promises, pain, doubt, and recovery--all in one evening. In From This Day Forward tensions rise between this couple as they struggle to return to normalcy after the husband returns from war. 

I really enjoyed working on this film for several reasons but one of my favorite aspects was how we worked as a team to explore the use of long shots to create a tone of fluidity at the beginning that gradually becomes more staccato as the tension rises. 

My first love

I'M BACK ON STAGE! So thrilled to be taking the stage as Cora Beasley in the Robey Theatre Company's production of No Place to be Somebody by Charles Gordone. Gordone's masterpiece explores racial tensions in a Civil Rights-era within a story about a black bartender who tries to outsmart a white mobster syndicate.

The show has had rave reviews and I have had the pleasure of acting alongside industry legends, Hawthorne James and Ben Guillory. I am also working alongside fellow AMDA Alumni Gianluca Malacrino, Allison Blaize, and Meghan Lang. It has been more than a pleasure to create and recreate this production nightly with this talented cast and crew. 

 

 

Cream

As an African American actress, I have dreams of playing so many iconic figures that have contributed to my culture. Cream was the first step in making that dream come true. Although I wasn't portraying Angela Davis herself (yet), I did have the opportunity to play a woman of the Black Panther Party. 

Cream follows a family who's relations have been strained due to their different stances on the importance of assimilating into white culture. The matriarch of the family starts trying bleach her granddaughters skin at a very young age. She begins a nightly regiment where she straightens their hair then forces them to apply skin bleach. The eldest sister, Joy, grows weary of the abuse and runs away, leaving her little sister alone with her abusive grandmother. Cream begins with Joy making a shocking return to her family home. She is in full panther uniform and is obviously on the run from the cops. Will her grandmother shed her prejudices in order to protect her own? Or will both granddaughters continue to suffer the consequences of her narrow minded view?

Cream has become an official selection for five film festivals and counting! I am so proud of the success of this film and I hope that it sheds light on the importance of self-love in a society that doesn't always make it easy. 

Couple Confine

I had the pleasure of visiting the breathtaking Cardiff, Wales to film this gem! Couple confine follows the story of a young couple working hard to build a future; the question is, will it be together, or apart? The two seem to have very different ideas of where their relationship is going and they have every intention of ensuring that their individually preferred outcome, will prevail. Now its a fight to the finish. Who'll come out on top?

I acted opposite the talented Gianluca Malacrino with direction from the fantastic Rebecca Hardy to bring this story to life. With limited time (I was only in town for two days) and a limited budget, we created this short which went on to become an official selection for three different festivals. I'm more than proud to have worked on this film with this incredible team. Here's to many more!