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.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Vickie Cobbin April 21, 2009 at 6:24 PM

Great !! I really enjoy you in this movie Job well Done Hope to see you up coming movie very Strong acting enjoy your may God bless you.

Maya September 2, 2009 at 3:50 PM


Nicole, you were stunning in your role as Dee. Keep up the good work. May more such opportunities come your way. You are a gifted artist. Your looks are nothing to sneeze at either:)

I hope the movie is promoted well. I was a so glad to see a movie with real people with not having to look for metaphors and symbolism and on a contemporary subject. The world can use a lot more Regina’s. Wow, what a gal she was! And how well she took advantage of the forces that were in her favor, like the ACLU for one. She stood for what she believed in come what may.

Yes, truth does set one free, though initially it may not look this way. Mahatma Gandhi was just one example who lived by this dictum. Truth is God if one hangs in there long enough.

All best,

Bailey November 23, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Outstanding performance. I was very proud of this gifted young lady.

Mrs. Williams January 9, 2010 at 6:00 PM

I am so proud of Nicole. She was always a very focused, talented and intelligent young student. On an even more personal note, it makes me a liitle sad to see her quoted saying Orangeburg was a bad place. Perhaps in retrospect she will see things a bit differently one day. I know she will go far!

Marquetta February 27, 2010 at 3:48 PM


I expect nothing less than to see you staring or co-starring in many films. I saw “American Violet” on Netflix by accident. I was not aware of the movie, but the sight suggested the movie. I have looked for your name in movies since January 2010. I was glad to see that you in the commercial for the Life Time movie “Sins of the Mother”, with Jill Scott. I have seen every viewing because of the acting. You were exceptional and that made be go to Netflix and search for your name to find other movies you might have been in. I didn’t find any others on Netflix. I searched on the web to find other movies and found the bio. I have a list of actor’s that I look for and because they are in the movie I watch. You are on my list of actors like Meryl Street, Denzel Washington, Diane Keaton, Will Smith, and the list goes on a little further.

I am proud of your skills at such a young age. Keep up the good work and land some more role.

katherine conner April 13, 2010 at 1:08 AM

A great movie! My neice reccomended I watch it because me and my son is going through the exact same thing in East Feliciana Parish in Louisiana. Me nor my then 17 year old son had ever been in ay trouble in our life. I was falsely arrested and jailed because i stopped payment on a check that I overpaid. The contractor refused to return the check, went and pressed charges against me. I was placed on a $15,000 dollar bond and spent a night in jail. The judge would not let my lawyer present the evidence, ruled that it was no probable cause, and released my bail set my trial for approx.6 months later, in the meantime I could not get a job because this felony theft charge was still in my record. I became angry and reported the DA to the disciplainary Counsel for falsely arresting me in the first place, and I repoted the Judge for covering up for the DA. This past summer my then 17 year old son was accused of indecent exposure by the assistant principal at this school. my son denys this happened, I asked to see school cameras but was denied, no one else was in the area but them, the policeman who took her statement told me her story didn’t add up. When the D A found out this was my son , he went after him. My son spent 6 days in jail because of this, no evidence whatsoever.And the D A sserves as legal counsel to the school board is clearly a conflict of interest, I was found guilty and is going to be sentenced on 4-20-2010. Thsi is a Civil matter but this court won’t refused to dismiss it.

Mikal Selah May 15, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Scanning through tv channels in iowa one night i was drawn into the intensity of a young womans(Nicole Beharie) face on the screen. My first thought was this is film documentary but Sista Beharie brought to the screen an actor portrayal coming of age in an age of shattered dreams, realities and redemption. From now on, I will know that

ms.riquelme August 27, 2010 at 8:56 PM


ramel November 30, 2010 at 8:14 AM

you are one of the best actresses

Tony Prior 519-622-1913 May 14, 2011 at 12:39 AM

May 13, 2011 and I have just watched American Violet with Nicole Beharie. A stunning performance by Nicole and quite frankly Nicole seems to be the most visibly beautiful black actress/woman in North America. The acting was second to none. Her whole persona in the movie was heartwrenching and touching. She has what it takes and no doubts. A beautiful woman and absolutely fantastic actress.

Tony Prior
Cambridge, Ontarior

Bernie September 29, 2011 at 3:38 AM

I just saw your movie on netflix…You are such a beautiful woman and you did a very very very good job. Please believe in yourself. The economy may actually work in your favor. People may actually want to use a young espiring actress for less money as opposed to casting a proven actress that will cost them millions of dollars. Everyone starts from somewhere. Look at the movie “A Soldier’s story”. It was one of Denzel’s first movies I think. he looks pretty young anyway. He was certainly not the leading actor in that movie but look at him now. Keep doing what you are doing and I wish nothing but the best. Again…great job.

avatar the last airbender season 4 April 21, 2013 at 11:22 PM

I have been browsing online more than 2 hours today,
yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

Devon Beharie October 4, 2014 at 4:48 AM

Are you parents from the island of Jamaica cause my last name is beharie just seeing if we related thats all.

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