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I just had a truly amazing time working on the NBC’s Constantine. Based on the wildly popular comic book series “Hellblazer” from DC Comics, seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult John Constantine (Matt Ryan, “Criminal Minds”) is armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and a wickedly naughty wit. He fights the good fight – or at least he did. With his soul already damned to hell, he’s decided to abandon his campaign against evil until a series of events thrusts him back into the fray, and he’ll do whatever it takes to protect the innocent. Now I must admit sci-fi/horror is not typically my thing. I try my best to stay in the light (you know fake fluffiness full of fairy-dust) and Constantine is always in conflict with “supernatural dark forces” (which I believe are real). However the story in episode 106 – Danse Vaudou – written by Christine Boylan made me re-examine my art boundaries. The script was so sincere. I saw it a a spoonful of medicine for the should that had to be laced with gore to make it easy to swallow by the masses. Plus working with the great John Badham was a luminous experience. This director, known for the disco film Saturday Night Fever, was not only full of knowledge but full of life. Like literally I would be napping in the corner during over-night shoots and he would be telling jokes. I loved it. I appreciated how patient and encouraging he was of me walking through my creative process while boldly challenging me to stretch myself to take the more difficult acting choices. Badham pushed me to new levels by reminding me that “Fear is easy in a spooky scene, if you can find joy then you are a really acting.” Like my character Madeline, I let go, sent FEAR (false evidence appearing real) back to hell, and stayed alive! Take a moment to enjoy the episode here. I pray that as you watch your heart releases people, guilt, and un-forgiveness so that you can live.
When working on a historical film like Selma, it is important to spend plenty of time doing research prior to the start of filming. For me, this is a golden rule to honoring the character being portrayed. I literally soaked myself in 1965 the entire time I worked on this film (Selma). Everything that I watched or listened to was connected to the Civil Rights Era and my character, Viola Lee Jackson. I physically willed myself back in time to attach to this lady (character) and grew the gray hairs to prove it. When I hit the set, I was confident that all my “character” coursework was complete.
But from my first lunch on set, when the director, Ava DuVernay, stopped fixing her plate to come over, shake my hand, and welcome me to the project, I knew that I had just enrolled in a new course of character study. Ms. DuVernay was the professor, and she daily gave visual lessons on how to appropriately lead a big-budget, big-studio, big-deal motion picture with small town values like kindness, accessibility, and respectful collaboration. I observed how she interacted with each department head; not with an iron fist, but with more of a considerate Glenda the Good Witch wand – giving room for them to be joint artists in the production.
Ava demonstrated that fatigue was not an excuse for rudeness, nor was a job title a pass for haughtiness. The spirit of service enveloped her as she stepped out of her Director’s Chair to pass out water or pat extras’ backs with encouragement. Rain delays were not an opportunity to complain but a chance for Ava to take a moment to notice the beauty of God’s rainbows. She was definitely the boss, clear and competent; yet, somehow she made rookie me feel like a valuable teammate in this iconic film.
Selma will forever be a lesson of the excellence and determination embodied by the African American community. From remembering the acts of fearless leadership demonstrated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s to watching the new affirmative, heroic vision of directress Ava DuVernay, the Selma movie audiences’ personal character will be positively changed. Thanks for the lesson Ms. DuVernay on the appropriate character of women in film, I was already a fan but I am now forever #AVAator 🙂
Check out the trailer here and Go see the movie on Jan. 9th