On this brisk sunny day, I caught up with Thea Camara on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. She was preparing for her Red Carpet premiere of the Spike Lee’s new movie “Chiraq”. She invited me along for some power shopping in the beautiful stores on Michigan avenue. Thea showed up in her signature style wearing a smile that could light up a room. We exchanged hugs and caught up on family news before we dove in deep about the success she has experienced in her acting career.
I share some of her insights and teachable moments here.
1. Where did the love of acting coming from? When I was a little girl, my parents would entertain their guests. My father would play his harmonica and my mom would sing. I found myself questioning, “Why didn’t they pursue their passions? Why didn’t they develop them?” I vowed to myself that when I discover my talent, I would lean into it. I loved watching movies. I would connect to characters and do reenactments for my family and friends. I remember watching Good Times and saying I could be Thelma. Then I saw “Annie Get Your Gun” and I totally connected to the character. That’s when I knew I wanted more. So, my parents allowed me to attend a community acting class and it was there, where I was told that I was a “natural”. I completely fell in love with the process.
2. So many people think it is too late to follow their dreams. Please share with us how old you were when you got started in the industry and how you started? What obstacles have you had to overcome? Well, I believe its too late when you’re 6 Feet underground. There’s a great line in one of my favorite movies called Shaw Shank Redemption. Get busy living or Get busy dying. I chose to LIVE! I official reconnecting to the thought of being and actress in 2006-2007. I believe I was around 43. I decided to take some time off from Corporate America. While I was off, I caught Tasha Smith on the Mo’nqiue Show (which is no longer on). She was talking about her acting workshop T.S.A.W (Tasha Smith Acting Workshop). It sparked my interest all over again. I decided to attend her 3-day workshop in Atlanta. From there I felt fueled to just go for it. I was warned that the rejection is real and I needed to have some pretty thick skin to survive. There were many obstacles but the one that comes to mind is keeping the balance. Having your priorities in order is key. I have a strong faith and an extremely supportive family.
3. Many would say you do not fit the industry standard when it comes to your beautiful look? How did you refine beauty for yourself and the acting world?
I accept myself just as I am. I make no excuses for my curves or the extra weight. When I walk in the room I walk in with full figured confidence. I’ve learned over the years how to package what I have and wear clothing that compliments my figure. Let’s not get it twisted, the industry is focused on image, age, ethnicity, etc. You must fit in a category. My focus is to make sure that I’m my best version of me when I show up.
4. How has coaching enhanced your vision? What were some key profitability centers that your coach helped you design?
Recognizing my strengths & weakness was huge. I know today that I’m not only an actress but I can write, coach others, and much more. Making sure that you invest in yourself is key. Having someone to listen to you, critique your work, and your thought process is important. There are many techniques to use. Most times coaches can see something in you that you can’t see in yourself. However, I had to become vulnerable to receive the gift. It’s important to invest in yourself.
5. What projects are you currently working on and what is exciting about your life now? Over the summer I was able to join the cast of Spike Lee’s latest movie Chiraq. I’ve recently completed an episode on Chicago Med as Irma Dunn the lab technician. This show will air December 15, 2015 on NBC. I also appear in Christopher’s Nolen’s latest feature film called For the Love of Christmas, Kings TV pilot ( Chris Love), and two feature films Lost Girl (Ed Wilson) and Uncovered (Trex Tehaila).
6. Many women struggle with balancing work and family. What’s your secret for keeping it all together? I keep what’s important #1 and that’s my relationship with God and my family.
7. What opportunities opened the door for you and what tips can you offer others that want to have the success you have had? In my opinion each one has perpelled me to the next. However, building relationships with people in the industry has yield me much success. My biggest break before working on Spike Lee’s newest film called Chiraq was with Christopher Nolen. Unbeknownst to me; Christopher had been watching my work over the years. He choose me to play the mom in his movie 72 Hours. The ensemble cast had some heavy hitters: Harry Lennix, Teri J. Vaughn, Brely Evan, Timon Kyle Durrett, Cynda Williams, Brian Hooks and Tangi Miller. From there I worked with Kimberly Conner on two of her films Jump In with Karen Malina White & Before I Do starring Omar Gooding, Jensen Atwood. I was also casted by Michael Lanus in his film called The Hood staring Malik Yoba, Darren Jones of Chiraq. What’s next for me is a feature on Dick Wolfs Chicago Med airing Dec 15th. I helped when & wherever possible on film production as a PA (Production Assistant) or as an APOC (Assistant production office coordinator). Stand-In, wherever there is a possibility to learn. I asked lots of questions too. Being visible on social media is key as well. I would engage with industry folks as much as I could. Sharing there posts, showing up at their events, etc.