Last February, Melissa Toussaint got her break in acting when she landed her first television role in the American drama series, ‘Quantico.’
Since then, the Haitian-Canadian actress has worked on significant projects, including six-part drama series, ‘Bad Blood,’ and the film ‘Mother!’ directed by Darren Aronofsky, both set for release in the fall. In the movie Mother, Toussaint stars alongside Javier Bardem, Jennifer Lawrence and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Her career is on the rise, but Toussaint’s beginning was not as hopeful. She was born in Montreal but moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with her twin brother at the age of one. At seven years old, they relocated to New York City, and after high school, she moved to Toronto. While in Toronto, she experienced culture shock. She says “I really felt like I was an immigrant although I was Canadian. She adds, “It was interesting having to re-learn how to go about it day by day.” She tried returning to the United States to rejoin her family but was deported and brought back to Canada. She was unable to see them for more than seven years. “It was the hardest thing for me,” she says.
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Toussaint identifies with the current situation in the U.S. faced by immigrants, since the appointment of President Trump. She says, “My heart goes out to anyone who's gone through that because it’s indescribable to be told you can’t see the ones you love. So, you’re forced to see their lives through pictures and talking to them on the phone, and it’s not the same.”
Last year, she returned to the United States to see her brother.
What was that like?
It was insane. I have two nieces that were born after me that never met me. It was amazing just to see them. A lot has happened. You realize how much time has passed, how much you’ve changed, but a lot still the same. I’m shaking talking about it. I felt like it gave me my breath back. I felt like I was empty for a very long time. It just gave me that extra oomph that I needed to keep going.
How did you get into acting?
I’ve always loved TV. I was one of those kids that my mum worked a lot and when I was living with her, TV was like our baby sitter.
It was around high school. You earned a credit if you auditioned for the high school musical. So, I did that. I think that’s pretty much how I started thinking that I can get into acting.
I did not really pursue that until I moved to Toronto after high school.
It was a few years later, I was working a nine to five, and just remembered, those times, high school, the things you did. So, I started taking acting classes, and just kept taking classes, taking courses and auditioning.
For me it’s just something I was always drawn to, I always fascinated by. I had to get around to the point of realizing that it was something I could do, and there was a way to go about it. It’s interesting because, I’ll be honest, for a long time, it was like that dream that I wanted it, but I didn’t really think that I could attain it. There’s still that doubt because all around me, especially in my culture, it’s like, what are you going to do with that? In my family, it was more like, come home and say that you’re in the nursing program, that’s something spectacular, other than saying you wanna be an actress.
So, I went through that for a long time. Even coming back to Montreal, I had quit acting. I had said I wasn’t gonna act anymore. I was gonna try to figure out something else out, but it was always still in me. I felt like if I didn’t keep trying, I was gonna have that regret.
Is it any more difficult as a woman of colour in the film industry?
Oh yeah, it’s a lot more difficult. The roles are fewer, that’s just pretty much it so, you just gotta keep getting out there. I still struggle with that and I still just try to figure out, well how can I stay working.
So, like I said it’s educating myself more to the business and trying to figure out other aspects in film industry that I could work on. Because I do strongly feel like there needs to be a stronger presence behind the scenes in order to solve this problem of not having the roles. So, I can’t just sit around and wait for more people to be behind the scenes. I have to sort of take ownership of that myself.
What kind of advice would you give upcoming women of colour trying to enter the film industry?
I’d say, focus on the work. Don’t focus on when you get out there, what roles are gonna be there for you. Because if you focus on your education, on your training and you audition, you get out there to local theatre companies, and you just start putting yourself out there, and just start to create a presence for yourself, like a name for yourself. And just letting people know, yeah you do good work. It’s gonna be a lot easier if you’ve got the chops. It’s gonna be. At the end of the day that’s what’s gonna open the doors for you.
Obviously, you have all these exciting things happening for you. What more do you want?
I’ve always had this dream of being just a working actor so, that would be great. I’ve spent so many years struggling and dealing with the uncertainties of the business, self-esteem, just everything that comes with the business. I find now what I’m looking forward to is continuing landing good work, continue to work with good people and learning from them.
Read 3572 times Last modified on Saturday, 02 June 2018 14:17
Sandrinette M. Maniania is an artist and freelance journalist. She has a bachelors in Communication and in journalism. She recently completed her masters in journalism at the University of King's College.
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