Interview with Nicole Beharie- Star of American Violet

by Melissa Silverstein on April 17, 2009

in Actresses,Movies

americna-violetWomen & Hollywood:  How did you get into acting?

Nicole Beharie: I think it comes from the moving (my father was in the foreign service).  I was a bully for a while.  I forced my brother to dress up when I was in Orangeburg, SC.  That was a bad place and I went to Greenville, SC and the school was awesome but the only way to go there was to have an arts focus so I went there on an acting scholarship and I fell in love.

W&H: How did you get cast?

NB: My agents gave me a stack of scripts and I didn’t take it seriously because they didn’t set up meetings for me.   I saw this one and said I want to go in for this.  I was moved by it and managed to get in with the casting director for a pre-read and it went well.

W&H: How did you get an agent?

NB: I got the film The Express through my showcase at Julliard.

W&H: Why did this script move you?

NB: Every other script with a young black woman she is dancing or having someone’s kid.  This was a hopeful story.  Somebody standing up for something.  It’s about a woman, a black woman.  You don’t really see parts like this for women under 30.  I didn’t think I was going to get it.  This story is presented in a personal way.

W&H: How do we get people to come and see a movie like this?

NB: Right now there is a lot of escapism but I think we need to ask people to look at what is going on around them with the banks and the drugs.  Some things just aren’t working for us and the more we turn a blind eye the more trouble we’re in.

W&H: The poster says: when the laws are without order and justice is hardly just one woman must take a stand.  That’s a pretty powerful sentence.

NB: I’m totally intimidated by that poster.

W&H: How was it working with Alfre Woodard?

NB: I’ve been watching Alfre Woodard and her work.  She’s one of the people who inspired me to do this.

W&H: How is it possible that something like this happened only a mere 8 years ago?

NB: There are a lot of things happening in this country, and let’s be fair all over the world, that don’t make sense.  But as Regina said communities need to take responsibility for their own community.  People give up and just want to get by day to day and don’t want to have to face anything.  There is a scene in the movie where Dee goes back to get her job at the restaurant and the owner says she can’t rehire her because her restaurant would get shut down.  Everyone is a good person until they have to sacrifice.  I think that people are becoming more involved and especially my generation with the whole Obama thing.

W&H: Do you think Obama will make change?

NB: I hope so.  I think he’s doing things differently already and he knows how to get started and used the internet.  But it’s ultimately politics and money.

W&H: What do you think of Michelle Obama?

NB: I’m excited because as a black woman I never had that imagery and I can’t imagine what girls are going to be like seeing themselves differently. One of the reasons I was drawn to this is because I am used to walking into rooms and for the most part being ignored.  When you walk onto a set people don’t necessarily think I could be the lead of the movie.  Seeing Michelle Obama and seeing girls with someone to look up to makes them believe they don’t have to be dancers or popping their neck.

W&H: Dee refused to be ignored.

NB: Regina will tell you it’s pretty simple- I just didn’t do it.  This system is supposed to protect me and something’s wrong with it.  In the real story Regina was thrown out and isolated by her first church.  It wasn’t easy.

W&H: What is the message you want people to get from this?

NB: I heard this story that if someone is choking and there is a group of people no one will do anything, but if there is just you and me the other person will help.  It’s just a matter of taking responsibility for your place in this world.

W&H: What are your hopes for future roles?

NB: I don’t think I’m going to have another large leading part if I’m being honest.  That’s just not the way things go and with the economy people aren’t willing to take a risk.  I’m glad they took a risk with me.  I’m sure people are asking why did you cast her? Who is this girl?  I hope I get more opportunities.

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