Cynthia McWilliams: The Lady Behind The Laughter
From stage plays to the small screen sitcoms, there seems to be nothing the beautiful and talented Ms. Cynthia McWilliams can’t do. You may recognize her as Trina Shaw, Kevin Hart’s entertainment attorney on BET’s “The Real Husbands of Hollywood,” but what you may not know is that this talented actress has done a variety of voiceovers, stage plays, and award winning television shows all while giving back to the community and promoting causes important to her. In between tapings for season twoof BET’s hit show she had a moment to chat with us about it all. Check out what she had to say about working with Kevin Hart, her childhood, and much more.
Parlé Magazine: There are so many aspiring actors looking to get their big break and even more who give up on that dream due to the difficulty of the career and getting in. What drew you to such a demanding career and why do you continue building it?
Cynthia McWilliams: Well my mother told me a long time ago that people who really love acting don’t choose it as a career, it chooses them. She told me that when I was very young because she knew it was going to be a hard road (to travel) and also as a way of explaining it to her friends why she supported it. You know when you’re from the Midwest parents don’t really support careers in the arts but her and my dad always did. And I do it because I love it. It came to me so early and I have literally been doing it since I could read.
Parlé: Usually support like that comes from parents of similar fields and interest, are any of your family members also entertainers?
Cynthia McWilliams: No, not at all (laughs). I come from a very Midwestern working class mentality kind of people. My father has worked at the same company for 20 years and was in the army when my mother was pregnant with me. My mother went from her job to being a full time mom while finishing school and that was pretty much it (Laughs). My brother is a teacher and his wife is a social worker and everyone is very professional. I’m talking the most Midwestern hardworking kind of people. (Laughs) I even went to a very good academic college prep school and it was very much expected of me to go to school, get a good education, and make something of myself but I had a passion for the arts so I went a different route.
Parlé: You mentioned that your passion for entertaining started at a very young age, how old were you when that happened and how did you discover it.
Cynthia McWilliams: Hmmm, I’d have to say definitely when I was 10. We lived very close to a library when I was growing up. Yeah, I used to be a bit of a nerd, and I would hang out in the aisles where I discovered 811.5 stacks where all the plays and poetry were. I would sit there for hours and just read and I feel in love with that art form. I actually started out writing trying to figure out how to re-create it. So I wrote a play when I was 11 years old and submitted to a production company and it was picked up, which was crazy. I literally called in to a radio station and asked the guy who was being an interviewed, who was a play producer, how could I get involved and he said he would read my play and he decided to produce it.
Parlé: That’s truly amazing. Most 11 year old kids are out playing in the park and you were getting your first play produced. How did that feel?
Cynthia McWilliams: It was really amazing. I remember when he met me he couldn’t believe I was so young but he had already decided to produce it and said to me, “I guess I’m working with you then.” (Laughs) I remember going to the first session and meeting all the adults cast to play the characters and they all looked at me strange and I looked at them strange, it was all just strange but what can you do (lol).
Parlé: I’m sure that would be awkward for anyone especially a young child. Your parents really must have believed in you to encourage/ chaperone you in these endeavors. Do they play a key role in your life?
Cynthia McWilliams: They do. I think I have an amazing family and I think it’s a part of why I do what I do. I’ve learned how important it is to have a strong family unit particularly as young girl. No matter who your parents are there are so many things in the world that pull at you and can take you off course and family and parents keep you focused. I just thank God for my parents because they kept me on track when things threatened to pull me away. Had I not had that strong family I don’t know that things would have gone the same in my life. I believe that it’s important to have that family unit, not to say that single parents wouldn’t be able to do the same things for their children, but that it’s easier when you have a partner. Beyond a mother and father but more of a community, grandparents and neighbors, and friends all getting back to the idea of being accountable for more than one’s self and that we are tied together and need each other as a culture.
Parlé: That’s definitely a message a lot of communities can benefit from. Do you plan on using your platform as an actress to promote this message and any other things important to you?
Cynthia McWilliams: Absolutely. I hope to spread my messages and uplifting beliefs for the rest of my life. My father always said the day you decide that you’re done growing is the day you may as well decide to lay down (to die). It’s important to keep growing and helping others grow because when you learn you know better and when you know better you do better.
Parlé: You mentioned knowing better and doing better, it reminds me of the fact that you are also an activist for young women knowing better and empowering themselves. Can you tell me more about your stance on that and why it is important for you?
Cynthia McWilliams: Uh well the most obvious reason is because I’m a woman and I have a master plan to take over the world (laughs). No, I think it’s important that women understand their power and the value of themselves in the world and community. That we are the origin of it all and when women are strong in education and values etc., that things start off right, that at the end of the day men need us. I think that men learn to love from women in some way and that when we love and know ourselves better we can show them/others how to love and care for each other better.
Parlé: Taking a segway into your work, there is a man in your life proving to consistently need your help, at least while in character. How is it playing a supporting role on The Real Husbands of Hollywood?
Cynthia McWilliams: I love my show, I love my stints on the show, and I love my Kevin Hart! Working with him is great, he is an awesome character and one of the most humble, wonderful working partners I’ve had ever. I’ve had the fortune to work with some really great and talented men, but Kevin is so unique in the fact that he is so in love with what he does and so grateful for it. He’s just so incredibly talented and even while working as hard as he does and doing it all he is humble about it and he is just the funniest brother. He’s like a little brother constantly running around causing trouble but making people laugh and everyone on set loves him like he’s our little fearless leader leading by example. Now as far as me doing the comedy thing I was scared to do this job honestly (laughs).You know I had come from series of episodic shows so it was really my first crack at doing a full on comedy show and I had to learn a lot about the rapid fire of comedy. Even though I had come from the theater and trained in improv it was definitely something to audition with no script, only an idea and trying to be funny in front of some comic greats who have worked with the best. Let’s just say I was scared to death! 30 minutes of getting curveballs thrown at me and trying to stay afloat is hard to do, but I did my best and made it through the audition and got to do another 15 minutes with Kevin and we just seemed to click. He’s so quick and hard to keep up with but you just keep trying.
Parlé: Now having been immersed in the world of comedy is this a genre of acting that you will continue to pursue?
Cynthia McWilliams: I’m going to continue to pursue whatever brings about some income (laughs)! ABC, NBC, FX, Showtime, HBO, whoever is hiring I will be there and we will figure it out. I love working, I truly do. A friend of mine mentioned that the show was on hiatus and that it must be nice to have a break and I told her “I don’t want a break” (laughs). I just hope to keep on working but I do hope that I get to play more funny women because I don’t feel that there are enough of us out there. Often women are seen as funny because they are the butt of a joke but with women like Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig comedy is changing and there so many awesome female comediennes out there. I would like to see more funny black women like Erica Ash who came from Mad TV and will be in the second season.
Parlé: I’ve heard that along with empowering young women another goal of yours is to help redefine femininity, would being funny and career driven be a part of the plan?
Cynthia McWilliams: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think somewhere along the way people kept the idea that boys are supposed to be smart and funny and girls are supposed to be dainty but there is so much more that we can be. I see how some women have taken their independence seriously as most men would and work hard like them normally would but what it seems is that they forgot to take their confidence and their humor. Men don’t really get stressed over too much and know how to relax more and I think that women can learn a lot from men. Like its ok to be funny, funny is sexy. What guy doesn’t like a girl that can make him laugh?
Parlé: I totally agree with that sentiment and touching on your message about community support, how would or how do you give back to help those coming up in the entertainment industry?
Cynthia McWilliams: Well when I was in Chicago I used to participate in Afterschool Matters and Chicago Arts Education program as well as for the YMCA and now that I am in L.A. I look to do the same thing and give back as much as I can because I think that youth and education go hand in hand and that education is the best way that you can help anyone. Just being there and listening and talking to them at the beginning stages of their careers and helping them understand and move their life forward. If the time comes that I can start an organization of my own, I will. Until then, I’ll still look to be a part of organizations that help kids actively figure out their path.
Parlé: You seem to be accomplishing so many things between your work on T.V. and your work with the youth, what else can we expect from you in the future?
Cynthia McWilliams: I tell you I feel like I’m not doing nearly enough. I always ask myself “what should I do next?” Instead of just being happy with what I have done so far (laughs) but the most recent projects are on T.V. We just started filming season three of The Real Husbands of Hollywood and I’m looking forward to getting back into theater through a play that a friend of mine and myself are working on now. I’m also looking to maybe get back into more episodic shows and expanding, maybe into some independent films. You can also keep up with me on Twitter too.
You check out what else is new in Cynthia’s world here: Twitter @cyncityforever Online http://www.cynthiamcwilliams.com/
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