Welcome back to I Wish I Knew! This is our first milestone…we’ve reached post #5! I want to take a moment to thank all of my beautiful colleagues who have taken time to share their stories, their wisdom, and their advice with this amazing StageAgent community. If you missed these interviews, make sure to read my previous posts in the I Wish I Knew series.
We have met artists from all walks of life, and this week we are meeting another actor: the Tony nominated Michelle Wilson.
I met Michelle (she/her/hers) through my boyfriend, Carlo Albán, when the two of them performed in Lynn Nottage‘s Pulitzer Prize winning play Sweat together Off-Broadway at The Public Theater and then on Broadway in 2017. Michelle is an incredibly talented actor who was able to inhabit the character of Cynthia with grit, class, humor, love, sorrow…the list goes on and on.
What I love most about Michelle though is that she is one of the most open, compassionate people I’ve met in New York. When she and I talk, Michelle always asks me questions about myself. When she listens, she looks me in the eye. Even when I’m like ‘She has so much going on, how could she possibly care about me?’, she is there making me feel like the only one in the room. I’m sure these personality traits are a part of what makes her such an extraordinary actor.
Michelle was most recently seen in New York Theatre Workshop’s production of The House that Will Not Stand, and she has also been seen in multiple films and on television. Her next appearance will be in an Indie film called The True Adventures of Wolfboy. While you wait to watch her work (on stage or on screen!), read our interview below and get inspired!
Q: When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?
I knew before I even had words for it. I would stand in front of the T.V. and force my family to watch me interpretive dance. As the youngest and only girl in my family unit, I was used to getting and holding attention.
Q: What do you love most about being an actor?
There are very few professions where new projects can still terrify you 30 years into the craft. The fact that I can take on roles that still make me wake up screaming is what I love most.
Q: What is your biggest challenge associated with being an actor?
Q: What are 5-10 things you wish you knew before you became an actor?
1. Other people’s expectations say more about them than me a.k.a. “what you think about me is none of my business”.
2. Be in touch with the reason you practice this craft, and watch it evolve. The answer is often small (perhaps even petty), but it’s important to know “your WHY” so that you can have some perspective as it evolves. For instance, while I always loved attention as a child, by the time I got to college I was discovering my first stage of evolution: my raging need for attention vs. my intense insecurity. Then, storytelling gave me somewhere to step outside of myself while using all of myself at the same time—Stage 2 of my evolution. Finally, as I continued to evolve, I’ve landed in Stage 3 where, as a woman of color, I can rage against the social/cultural invisibility that is practiced on me through acting. So, my why has changed but I’ve always checked in to make sure I never lose sight of what it has become.
3. Build and nurture your creative community because so many of your creative opportunities are about nurturing other artists and their vision.
4. Find tools that help you take care of yourself because it’s so easy to fall into bad habits that suck your soul. Drugs, alcohol and craziness do not make you a better artist; Instead, they are soul-sucks. Tools like therapy, meditation, exercise, yoga, diet, and hobbies can save your psyche.
5. New York is a brilliant city but it may not be the place to build your bones. A career is a process and going to a smaller city and actually practicing your craft and building a resume is important. This is my second run at NYC. I came as a kid, got sidetracked to Chicago for 7 years, and came back with a resume to conquer. It still took over 5 years for me to get on NYC’s radar, but I understood my tool when the opportunity arrived.
Q: What is a one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?
Take the note! It was the biggest lesson I learned in Chicago Theater. Take the note, and truly try to apply it with conviction and integrity. If it doesn’t work, it will reveal itself and you and the director can explore another choice.
Q: Where can people find out more about you?
Latest posts by Nemuna Ceesay (view profile)
- I Wish I Knew: 7 things to know as a director! Interview with Jeffrey Lo - May 18, 2019
- I Wish I Knew: Thinking About Grad School? Interview With Shanelle Leonard - April 19, 2019
- I Wish I Knew: Tony Nominated Actor Michelle Wilson - March 19, 2019
- I Wish I Knew: Interview with Director Amy Anders Corcoran - February 7, 2019