Danielle Moné Truitt explained her transformation and journey from where she humbly began. Her words softly spoken and genuine, concerning the ins and outs of entertainment life. She expresses her desire to examine her accomplishments, further excel at her craft, while inspiring others to strive towards excellence.
1. Who are some of your mentors? What directors/actors would you like to work with?
DMT: Some of my mentors are Roger Guenveur Smith (School Daze, Deep Cover, A Huey P. Newton Story, etc), and John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood, Poetic Justice). Both of them helped me with some of my aspirations and John, recently, took me under his wing, especially behind the scenes on "Rebel". People I would like to work with: Barry Jenkins, Ryan Coogler, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington (August Wilson plays), Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Marshala Ali, and Traci Ellis Ross.
2. How has theater, voice-overs, etc. prepared you get to where you are now? ("Princess and Frog", "Aida", "Dreamgirls", "Hair", "A Raisin in the Sun", etc.)? Give 1 or 2 examples.
DMT: I have a degree in theater, which has provided a strong foundation for acting. Any plays in "For the Record", a series of plays based on top filmmakers' famous movies (Especially “For the Record: by Quentin Tarantino”). You had to be spontaneous, which made me resilient. Live theater was a boot camp for my career. This became an education for various kinds of roles, because I had to perform for long periods of time. It was challenging, finding new things and being in the moment. That’s how you grow. Theater prepared me and gave me confidence. I've played so many characters in the past (building endurance)...and now I'm able to sustain in "Rebel", where, I am in almost every scene.
Sometime shifts are all day and night (like 1pm to 1 am). I've taken the weight on being in a tv show. My husband has been an integral part of my journey. Little triumphs we've prayed for. Now, he doesn’t have to be breadwinner. We figured we started this together, we will figure it out together. I can finally earn a steady income to help pay with the expenses. Together we are champions. We have a motto. #truittcandoit! God has blessed me and given me grace. One day, one of my sons ran me a bath when I came home after an exhausting day at work. That was special to me.
3. What was one of your favorite movie characters growing up? Favorite plays?
DMT:“A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry. I graduated from college and this was one of the most memorable I've acted in. It's my favorite because of the universal themes the characters are dealing with.
Burnadine"Burnie" Harris -"Waiting to Exhale"- When she torched the car in the driveway.
Eddie Murphy- "Coming to America" So many characters he perfected, along with "Nutty Professor". This incited a passion within me. I didn’t know or realize it at the time.
Frankie- “Set it Off” Vivica Fox.
And “The Mountain Top”
4. Rebel is a multi-layered character. How would you describe her? How much is she like you? What experiences are similar? Different? How has the death of her brother, Malik (Mikelen Walker) changed her forever (in your own words)? Explain Rebel's creative style and poetry.
DMT: Rebecca "Rebel" Knight is fixer, who needs a lot of fixing. Things in her own life need to be dealt with. TJ, (Method Man) her husband, is supportive of her, but she struggles with this relationship. She’s a hero, who needs a hero. Our similarities: We are both from California, the Bay Area. We are both similar that sometimes we are hesitant to trust people. We are strong women. If we set out to do it; there is no plan B.
Differences are I am softer and a bit more vulnerable and sensitive than Rebel. I try to embrace and listen to advice, where Rebel is more instinctual, headstrong, and impulsive.
Her relationship with Malik is disturbing. She won’t come out and say that she needs help or how she feels responsible. Her mother died, also which adds to the agony of the situation. If she gets justice for Malik, maybe then she can have some sort of resolve and forgive herself.
Her creative style -Women of the Bay area, always are decked out, no matter what. It doesn’t matter, we are going to be fly. At the funeral everyone is decked out. In scenes, Rebel is able to express her style, she's fierce! She can express herself freely now that she is no longer restrained by the uniform of the force. She embraces who she is.
Before I finished reading the final script, I thought Rebel needs an extra-curricular activity. I was delighted to find that the writer added a poetry session into the script. She needed to have something of her own. When you have a creative talent; it shines through. Poetry is a lifeline that she normally wouldn’t get to use as her artistic voice.
5. Why is Blaxploitation coming back, if so, how is this role pivotal for African American women/women of color in our society? People have compared you to the "female Shaft" and the modern "Foxy Brown"? How does "Rebel" compare to these characters? Have you ever met Richard Roundtree or Pam Grier?
DMT: I’ve never met Richard Roundtree or Pam Grier, but maybe someday soon. Blaxploitation- Now, we have been enduring all the killings and the assault. There is a stirring up of a revolution in the hearts and minds of the people; in ourselves and how we are portrayed in the media...how the media tries to depict us.
We have more opportunity…and "Luke Cage" opened up a door for a badass black male hero that is bulletproof. It’s awesome! We need to see more images of ourselves in tv and in movies. We need to be owning more businesses, running media, seeking justice, and saving more lives. A celebration of the black community.
When I did the screen test for "Rebel"; I was a bit nervous. John Singleton was amazed at how I pulled off Rebel. It was like magic! At the time, I didn’t realize it, but my life was forever changed.
This was the best audition of my life; I studied for like 5 hours straight. I knew that he was impressed, but I didn’t know how much. I came out of the audition and broke down and cried. It was a life-changing event. I had waited and struggled so long for something like this. My family and I prayed for years for an opportunity such as this.
John wanted "Rebel" to have a walk like “Shaft”. So, I created my own walk. Richard Roundtree’s walk is symbolic. When Shaft walks down the street, he’s ready to kick some ass. There was a need to establish a strut-walk. That’s what John wanted. I am honored that people have referred to me as the Pam Grier of 2017. People see the character as nostalgic, as it brings back an era that was once a pivotal part of our history and culture in cinema and television.
6. Tell me about Rebel’s character and your relationship with the cast? Working with Giancarlo Esposito, Mykelti Willamson, and especially husband Clifford Smith "Method Man"?
DMT: Rebel has many layers and complexity. TJ and Rebel still love each other, but can’t seem to get it together. She and "Mack" (Brandon Quinn) have been partners for 3 years. However, tainted it may be... you can't just throw that away. Life is never just black and white.
After the funeral, Rebel sits in her house for many days feeling self-pity until she has a vision from her mother and Cheena (Angela Ko) comes to cheer her up. Rebel states “I can’t change what happened, but I can get justice.”
Mykelti (Rene/dad) is so encouraging, he plays my father on set, but like a real father, we have an incredible bond. He’s already been in my shoes and has a lot of great advice. There’s a cool father/daughter vibe. It’s natural and organic.
Giancarlo Esposito (Charles) is so kind, but not a respecter of persons. He treats everybody with respect. He’s very serious about his work and pushes me to do the best I can. My favorite scene was when Rebel asks Charles not to release information on Malik to the press.
Method Man(TJ)-is supportive and comfortable on love scenes, funny and brings a lot of life to the set. He's goofy and kind; similar to who he is in person.
DMT: Getting the role for Rebel!
8.Give two quotes that you live by. Explain.
DMT:“If an opportunity doesn’t knock build a door.” Make your own way. “Your opinion of me is none of my business.” In my personal life, I can’t be so dependent on other people’s bad opinions. They can’t rock my world. On the other hand, when people have a good opinion, I can’t get a big head or crave their positive feedback.
9. Where would you like to see yourself in 7 years?
DMT: I see myself resting and having produced many projects, heavily in film. I will have a theater company and space. Hopefully travel the world. I want to inspire people to make their dreams become a reality.
10. What advice would you give aspiring actors/entertainers?
DMT: If something is for you, God will give it to you...no one can take it away. Nothing of any value will come easy. Work hard and become involved. Try to be of service to other people. My family has a church ministry where we feed the homeless and the community. We have prayed with police that are hurting and need prayer. Be eternal and become your best self. We have a great opportunity to be strong healthy people. I want to be the Michelle Obama of the inner-city and pour greatness into people! I want to inspire people to live differently!
Also, First Fridays is a live music event with up-and-coming musicians. #morethanahashtag. We perform monologues and songs to promote unity.
Finish these sentences...
The character Rebel reminds me of......"the strength I’ve seen and experienced in the lives of black women that I have encountered growing up."
Being an entertainer feels like...."mastering my craft, giving a gift, being my best self, and being close to God."
My momma or daddy always told me.... “Your own character will take you further than the characters you play.”
Photo credit for photos: @birds_eye_photo
Stylist credit for photos: @beatricenikole
Makeup credit for photos: @rhealone