I don’t know how many times I can say that I have an actress/model in my personal circle and even in this instance, it’s a bit weird because although I have never personally met Michelle Valines , but we sort of connected and started an online sisterhood via social media. (it happens)
She actually offered some advice when I was looking for an agency for my son who, in the past, belonged to the Docherty Talent & Modeling Agency back home in Pittsburgh.
Everyone has a back story and today, you’ll read about how actress, model, associate producer and trained production assistant, Michelle Ve got her start.
How did you get started in the field you’re in?
I got my start in the industry in 2002 as a background talent in films such as the Ladder 49 ( A Disney production), A Dirty Shame, directed and produced by Baltimore’s own John Waters; and the TV series, The Wire which were all filmed in my hometown of Baltimore, MD.
A few years later, I invested in professional training to enhance my craft which helped me hone the skills necessary for auditioning and the experience taught me how to create a professional industry resume.
After graduating from the prestigious John Casablancas Acting and Modeling School, I received my first character role as Briana in an industrial video entitled, “Take Control of Your Health”.
I highly recommend anyone who is interested in pursuing acting and modeling as a career, take the time to get formal, professional training at an accredited school.
What was it that attracted you to this field?
I’ve always envisioned myself on stage accepting an award and giving a, “First I want to thank God” speech.
I’ve followed the careers of a few actors and witnessing them give breathtaking performances has inspired me to follow my passion. In my mind, I was convinced that I could do what they were doing but better. All I needed was God and opportunity.
Is this a male- dominated industry?
Yes, it is a male dominated industry, primarily because most of the power brokers in the industry are men and since the 1940’s most of the money makers on the big screen have been men, so unlike the 20’s and the 30’s when there were more female leads on screen. However we have female directors now who are breaking the mold like Rosemary Rodriguez, the director of one of my favorite TV series, “The Good Wife”. In the next 5 years, I hope to see myself following in her footsteps.
What is the most misconception about being an African American in the Industry?
Some of us perpetuate the theory that all African American Actors are the same. We are lazy, never on time for an audition or shoot, like being publicly chided by the media and reality shows is not bad enough for us. We have had to take on negative stereotypes like criminals and slaves just to get a break in the industry. Then there are the misconceptions that one may be too black or not black enough. Very rarely if ever, will you see a white female role undertaken by a black female in Hollywood. There are too many gender specific roles when there should be talent driven roles, this is 2015 and we should be over that by now. It happens all the time with A-listers like Denzel Washington or Will Smith.
What is the most challenging part about being in this industry?
What’s most challenging for me in this industry is staying humbled and focused, especially when you want something so bad and either it does’t happen or it doesn’t happen fast enough. I have solely relied on my faith to give me the strength to continue on this beaten path.
Does this industry disappoint you sometimes? Why?
What disappoints me are people who you want to trust but can’t because it’s a dubious and sometimes shady industry. I have to rely on fate, discipline and inner strength to keep moving.
What are your thoughts about scripted and reality TV?
First of all “Reality TV”, and I can think of other names to call it, has taken over the industry in the worst way. I don’t entertain some shows of which I’m going to refrain from speaking on at this time. Some reality shows have degraded and disrespected blacks, especially women in a way unimaginable that I believe have set back our race for at least two decades if not further. If I was afforded the opportunity to be on one of those shows, I would decline. I like scripted TV because I am able to see real actors magnify their acting talents.
Do you believe in type-casting (does it exists)?
I do believe in type-casting because I see some of the same actors (white and black) play the same roles. Yes, they may be strong in those roles but how long would their career last doing the same thing in every film or TV show. Take Jimmy Walker from “Good Times”, I mean he will always be “JJ” regardless of what happens and it has hampered his career tremendously.
Who has mentored you in your journey?
My friend, big brother David Drew has mentored me since the day I’ve met him in Maryland one 4th of July weekend. He encouraged me to move to Atlanta, GA to pursue acting. I didn’t waste any time. I moved to Atlanta before he did. I’ve made my first guest appearance on one of his TV series “Cool Carolina Nights”.
What do you enjoy the most, writing, producing or acting?
I enjoy acting the most because I love capturing and pulling the audience into my world on stage and or film.
What projects (that you were a part of) that you are most proud of?
I am proud and honored to star in my first miniseries called “Prentice Place” which is a spin-off of a book called Augusta Nights, written and produced by David Drew. I play the role of Tammi Prentice, a lobbyist, business woman and the only daughter to Armstrong Prentice. Tammy portrays a role similar to Olivia Pope in Scandal.
Why is this industry so challenging for those looking for work in most markets? (Greater opportunities in LA or NY versus MD and PA?
It’s just like real estate, location, location, location. However in the past few years Atlanta has become the hot bed for the film industry. It’s being called Hollywood South because of the tax incentives provided by the state to the motion picture industry it’s about location; you have to be in the right place, prepared and available for work. ..
What are your plans in the next 5 years?
I plan to be a full-time actor, director and producer and I am looking forward to mentoring upcoming talent.
If anyone could play you in your story, who would you want to play you and why?
I think Taraji P Henson would do an outstanding job playing me. We’re both multifaceted; silly, super sweet, serious, a little hood, mean, if you take us there, and the list goes on. She’s versatile, I see me in her.
What’s one role that you would absolutely, positively not play?
It’s hard to answer that question right now. I’m not sure it all depends on how I feel at that time. I am a parent of a young son so I would shy away from nudity right now. But who knows what the future might hold.
If I could ask a close friend to describe you in three words, what words would they use?
She or he would describe me as being tenacious, zealous, and strong.
Any new projects coming up that you’d like us to know about?
I’ve been nominated for a 2015 Bavarlee Bernstein (BB) Award in the category of “Most Beautiful”.
How can people reach you?
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER/IG @JustKiKiBrown
FAN ME ON FACEBOOK @MsKiKiBrown
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