What is your full name? Makeda Declet Where are you from? Brooklyn, New York
When did you fall in love with acting? I used to love watching Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and wanted more than anything to be on those shows. I loved all the cool costumes and the fight scenes. I have an older brother who would always pick on me so I figured I'd become an actress, learn to fight, and then kick his ass! More than that though i fell in love with the idea of being able to play all these different characters who go on all of these different adventures. It brought a lot of hope to me as a little girl growing up in East New York, Brooklyn.
Are your Dreams and Goals different than those of your friends? If so, were they supportive? Was it challenging to be different? I think dreams and goals are unique by definition. I have my own path to follow even if it might look as though I’m moving in the same direction as someone else from the outside. I don’t think it’s challenging to be different but there is a challenge in learning to accept and love my differences no matter what. I have a lot of close friends who are actors, writers, directors or otherwise creatives but we all try to remember that everyone’s journey to success is different. One of the best things i've done is surround myself with people who can support me as well as be supported and who challenge and love me for who I am. It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to collaborate with my peers and see each other climb the ladder. I also have two best friends from high school that I adore: one is in her last year of medical school and the other just moved to Australia. I learn a lot about hard work and adventure from them! It’s nice to have friends outside of the industry who can offer varying perspectives.
Who is supportive of your dream? How do they support you? My mom has always been extremely supportive of me. She's done everything from drive 30 miles a day to take me to a performing arts high school to showing up at every one of my performances. I particularly love how genuinely curious she is about everything I want to do in life. Whether it be acting, hiking or learning to rock climb, my mom always has my back.
What are the steps you took to turn your dreams into action? Including study... Studying was a huge part of it for me. My early exposure to the arts came from learning about theater in school. I attended Philippa Schuyler School for the Gifted and Talented in Bushwick during middle school and “majored" in theater. It was the first time I had studied monologues and scenes and learned where Upstage Left was. I remember we did West Side Story in the 7th grade and I was really rooting for them to keep the Officer Krumpke song but of course they had to cut it out! My family moved out of New York a little before I started high school and I attended Tri-Cities High in Atlanta, Georgia and they had an awesome magnet program that I was accepted into. I had my first experience being up on a big stage when I played Molly Cunningham in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone in the 9th grade. It was an experience I will never forget. Doing anything August Wilson is incredibly challenging but I knew that I wanted to be a serious actor so I auditioned for the role, won the role and then followed through with the work. I had my first on-stage kiss in that show! The summer before my Senior year of high school, I was accepted into the Governor’s Honors Program, which was a program that put high school kids up on a college campus and let them do a six-week intensive in their area of specialty (amazing program!). It was my first experience working with an acting company made up of people I didn’t know, learning about everything from Grotowski to downward dog and living away from home. G.H.P. inspired me so much that I started studying Mary Overlie’s Viewpoint technique which was a huge selling point to college admissions officers and I went on to earn my B.F.A. at NYU- Tisch School of the Arts where Mary was a professor. I’d heard stories of actors who had never studied acting becoming quite successful but I knew that studying was the way to go for me.
After graduating, I found that creating my own work was not only a rewarding expressive outlet but could become building blocks for my career as well. I wrote, produced and starred in my own Web series called Just Makeda - It’s about a girl who lives in a world where alter-egos exist as manifest themselves as puppets (I built all the puppets myself by hand!). Check it out at justmakeda.com. La La La, doing creative stuff, yeah!
When and Why did you make the move to Los Angeles? Were you afraid? How did you push thru your fear? I moved to LA in 2012. I decided to stay in New York after graduating from Tisch and I booked a recurring guest star on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne a few months later off of a self-tape. I felt like I had a pretty good launching pad with the show on my resume and something told me that I needed to explore outside of my comfort zone. I became obsessed with moving to LA and within a month, I had given up my apartment in Flatbush, reached out to a friend in LA to sublet her place, and got on a plane with two suitcases and my mom’s favorite Ankh around my neck. A lot of my college friends were either natives of LA or migrated here over time, so I instantly felt like I had a community. I was definitely nervous but to quote The Alchemist (because I'm reading it at the moment and getting my mind blown), “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.” Moving to LA when I did felt right and supported. My mom was also living in New York at the time and made it very clear that I could always come home if i needed to.
What made you enter Twinkies Hollywood Monologue Slam? I was excited to meet Twinkie because she's a great casting director and a fellow Brooklyn gal. I was also working on a Monologue at the time and really wanted to share the character I'd created. It had been a while since i’d been on stage and from what i’d read on the Slam, it seemed like a powerful and magical event. I mean, how often do you get to go on stage at the Chinese Theater in front of a room full of folks who are there to support you?
What was your favorite Memory from the Slam? The Monologue Slam was such a cool experience!! I loved being interviewed by Twinkie’s team before-hand and hanging with the other contestants backstage. Everyone was so excited to be there and the positive vibrations were almost tangible. I have to say that performing my second Monologue and feeling the audience being so incredibly open and receptive to me was the highlight of the evening. It was as though I had already won them over with the first monologue and they trusted me enough to sit back and enjoy my performance. The room was filled with calm, loving energy. It’s that moment where things align beautifully and you just get a series of affirmations and congratulations for doing good work. When Michael Ealy (who served on the panel of judges) said “see you on set”, I almost melted. It gave me chills!
How has life been since the Slam? An exercise in 'one day at a time'.
Were the Prizes Helpful to your career? Yes! Yes! Yes! I was awarded Bonnie Gillespie’s book ’Self Management for Actors’ and it is a must-read! I don’t have theatrical representation at the moment and reading this book has given me so much hope and self-empowerment! The prize of exposure has also been incredibly helpful. It can be challenging to overcome anonymity within an artistic career so I am very grateful that this opportunity allowed me to showcase some of my unique gifts. The most invaluable and unquantifiable prize, however, was gaining Twinkie as a mentor. Twinkie has been kind enough to show me some of her wisdom, grace, and patience which are qualities needed to have a long and prosperous career. She is an incredible mentor with a huge working knowledge of the business as well as of life. I’ve also had the pleasure of having Niecy Nash (who was in the audience at the Slam) take me under her wing. Both Twinkie and Niecy are incredible role models of how to be a strong, woman of color in this industry! This is something that I didn’t realize I was missing but that has been great nourishment for my soul.
Whats next for you? Well… I just flew back from Atlanta where I was shooting a recurring role on a huge TV show!!! Woohoo! I am so excited to tell you guys more about it when I get the thumbs-up to do so!
AND in the spirit of creating my own work, I am directing a staged reading of a play I wrote called "Nothing Left to Lose” on at The Michael Woolson Studio in LA . Come check it out!
Also, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WhosMackieMarsh
We are Blessed. I say this all the time and its so true "My Network is my Net worth!"
Welp, this time it has lead to questions Answered from my FB Fan Page or my TwinkSTARS!
These Questions are answered by Award Winning Director (and friend) Millicent Shelton! Thank you Millicent for your attention to this.
We appreciate you!
1. Joseph Alvarez How was it going to school at Princeton University? Princeton
was where I discovered that I wanted a life in the creative arts. I worked Props
for the Triangle Show and toured during winter break. I loved it. Does the industry treat you differently when they find out that you’re from Princeton? Not
really. It just lets people know that I am book smart.
2. Drea Wright Thompson What are the best things parents can do to prepare children for this industry? I think all parents should support and help
their children achieve their dreams whatever those dreams are. Tell them that
they can achieve anything if they work hard enough. Nothing worth having
comes easy. Encourage your children to believe in their dreams while they are
young so that when they are 11 &13 they will start actively taking steps in the
direction of achieving those dreams.
3. Sashani Nichole What is one piece of advice you can give other talented up and coming female directors to help them break into Hollywood or work with someone like yourself? You will be challenged, often and without remorse, so
stay strong, stay smart, stay cool and never give up.
4. Ellen Schoeters How did it feel when you got your first directing job? Scary and
exhilarating all at once. I am always confident on the outside but inside I had to remind myself “I can do this!” Do you feel that amazing energy running through your body when you are working? Yes, even on the toughest days, I am thankful
to be blessed to be able to make a living doing something I love.
5. Love Rose: What keeps you inspired as a director even in between projects? My
goal is to be better, hone my craft, and do more exciting projects. I always see
room for improvement that’s what inspires me.
6. Patricia McRae As an established Television Director would you consider having Job Shadow opportunities on set for people interested in directing? Yes, a lot of
people have shadowed me and gone on to do great work. When I first started, I
was given an opportunity to shadow other directors and that opened doors for
me so I pay it forward. If so, what would be the process for applying? The
producers of a show have to give their approval before I can allow someone to
shadow me. I only have shadows on shows that I am returning on. Send me a
resume and get on the list. It’s a very long list.
7. Adrienne Renee Who is your most important mentor and why do you consider him/her to be that? My mother is my most important mentor in life. She dared
me to follow my dreams and gave me enough confidence to believe that I could
achieve them. Paris Barclay is my mentor in career. He allowed me to watch
him direct for 3 years. It was like a Master class in Television direction! He is
always there to support me no matter how busy his life has become. I admire
his craft, his intelligence, and his lightness of making it all seem easy when it’s
not! I also wanted to know what you think will define the evolution of female
directors over the next few years? We have an Oscar winning female director,
Kathryn Bigelow, and plenty of other Emmy award winning female directors in
comedy and dramatic television directing. If that’s not evolution, I’m not sure
what is. We have to continue to work and to do good work while pushing for
better hiring numbers.
8. Dolann M. Adams What draws you to your projects? I love projects that have
rich, complex characters. Do you prefer directing comedies or dramas and why? I
love both. Having experience in both dramatic and comedic shows has made me
stronger as a director. I can give drama a little levity when necessary and all
great comedies must have heart. Have you found and directed the project that
made your heart sing? One of my all time favorite shows that I directed was
MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE. Working with Andre Braugher, Scott Bakula and Ray
Romano was truly special. I loved working with John Ridley again on AMERICAN
CRIME. The cast was amazing and John creates such deep characters that it
creatively challenged and inspired me. How do you work with actors on set? I
like to see what an actor gives first. Based on that, I give notes to bring out what
is working and create subtle changes with them to shape a scene. I embrace the
collaboration. Do you prefer lots of one on one rehearsal or are table reads
sufficient? When working on episodic television, there is not a lot of time for
rehearsals. We run through it for blocking once or twice then quickly have to
find the pulse of the scene during filming. The performance evolves take after
take. The Producers determine whether or not there is a table read. I find table
reads to be very useful.
9. How have you mentored the next generation of women directors? Directors
have mentored me and I believe in paying it forward by looking for up and
coming female directors to help. Many female directors have shadowed me but
often it’s being a sounding board and offering advice that helps the most. What
kind of projects would you refuse to direct? I don’t direct what I can’t get
creatively behind. What kind of projects are you dying to direct? I would kill to
direct Idris Elba in LUTHER on BBC.
10. Nicole De Do you think there will ever be more black sitcoms like the 90s era?
Shows like Empire and Black-ish are doing very well. Viola Davis just won a SAG
Award for her performance on How to Get Away with Murder. If people keep
watching, networks will make more of these types of shows.
11. Joshua R. Lamont TV moves so fast, what do you need the most from your actors, crew and assistants on set? Everyone has to be on his or her “A” game
including me. We don’t have the luxury of time. The actors have to know their
lines, the crew has to work fast, my assistant needs to be supportive, and I need
to have my homework done. What is the one thing you’ve learned from actors
while being on set? Actors have taught me to listen and watch openly. How do
you establish your own style while keeping within the tones of the show? In TV,
I’m a guest director. I have to keep the established language of the show yet
work my vision in it. I embrace their style and make it my own. I begin by
watching lots of episodes of the shows that I direct prior to working then read
the scripts leading up to my episode so I know all the back story. After that, I
relax and daydream my script.
Director Millicent Shelton
Thank you again Millicent and Thank you TwinkSTARS for your Awesome Questions!!