Emayatzy Corinealdi: Breaking Through Hollywood
In the land of Hollywood, actors dream of their big break daily. Ultimately there are few starring roles leading them there, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of talent. Take the beautiful Emayatzy Corinealdi for example, the Panamanian-Italian American born actress who stole the hearts of many critics during Sundance’s 2012 Film Festival. In her first lead, a break out role in the film Middle of Nowhere, Corinealdi shined as a young woman making tough decisions and embracing an ever changing journey as her husband’s sudden jail sentence hinders her promising career. Her performance as Ruby not only garnered her much deserved attention but also several award wins and nominations, catapulting her into mainstream media’s gaze. Full of life and gratitude the young actress spoke with us about the role, working with other great actors, and her passion for what she does. Check it out.
Parlé: Over the past year this role, among the 30 plus credits you have, has been widely regarded as your breakout moment, why do you think that is? Why not sooner?
Emayatzy: You know, I think that it’s simply because of the nature of the role. It’s not often that you have roles where you can portray a fully nuanced woman specifically who’s at the lead of the story. In this case that’s what it was. I think for me it’s been one of the struggles of the career that I envisioned for myself, balancing the kinds of roles that I want to do with the kinds of opportunities that are coming my way. They don’t always match up (laughs) you’re not always getting the Middle of Nowhere opportunities, the Rubys. It doesn’t always come so you have to decide what kind of career do I want, a career that’s just a quick flash in the pan where everyone may know me but I’m not being nurtured or have the substance to be an artist or do I wait and be strategic and choose those roles that really move me in that way. For me the latter has been my belief of the kind of career that I want. The kind of career of those actresses that I admire and what they create so when Middle came around it was an opportunity for me to portray this full women that I’ve seen and I know and it turned out well because those are the kinds of stories that excite me the most.
Parlé: Ruby and her story seem like a complex character to play especially in a first time leading role. Was it difficult?
Emayatzy: Well when you do a lot of indie films you do these other leads that never come out, that never see the light of day. You know what I mean (laughs) so this was definitely my first lead in the sense that it carries this kind of weight, this kind of substance and was finally seen.
Parlé: And in finally being seen in this light how has it affected you personally as well as your career path?
Emayatzy: Umm, you know it’s affected me personally by just giving me that extra encouragement to just continue on. Even though the times in between (acting jobs) may seem a little bit long and daunting it’s worth it. Middle of Nowhere showed me that it’s worth it to be diligent in seeking out those roles that really mean something to me rather than doing what’s being offered. Career wise it did help to open up doors and present other opportunities. I was able to have meetings and be up for other roles I probably wouldn’t have been up for if it had not been for Middle of Nowhere. But that’s also just one of those catch 22s where it makes it a little bit difficult as a female actor and when you add as a black actor. When these kinds of roles don’t present themselves as often as they should you find yourself in these situations where everything turns out good (in the moment) and you want to keep that ball rolling but you have to be strategic in what you choose next.
Parlé: Other black actresses have also mentioned difficulties in getting acting gigs, is it true that there are very few roles for women of color?
Emayatzy: I think it’s true, I really do think it’s true unfortunately but it’s one of those things where it could be completely true but you can choose to focus on it or not. That’s kind of been my take. It’s true that the roles aren’t as many for other actresses, and not even just black actress all the minorities but you can still take that fact and position yourself to either create other opportunities for yourself or just be aware of it and moving forward from that. You don’t need to hold on to it and it causes you to become paralyzed or stagnant because this fact is making you feel as if you can’t succeed. I definitely don’t feel that way as a result of this. You process it and move on; you know what you have to do.
Parlé: Absolutely. Well it’s great you landed the role of Ruby, one I can see that you are very passionate about. How has she been different from your previous characters?
Emayatzy: Ummm, you know I think with Ruby it really was one of those roles where it was just a full experience. This woman had pure happiness, pure zeal of life and these wonderful expectations this life she planned out for herself. Then you see her at her bottom in full despair as things are unraveling before her. I think that having that full spectrum is something you don’t always have, even in lead roles if it’s not written correctly. That’s what made it different for me.
Parlé: Forecasting to the future and picking up on your strategic choice, what would you like to see in the next role you play?
Emayatzy: I want to do some action! I have always wanted to do something action related like Nikkita that’s just what I love. I’m a tomboy at heart and always have been (laughs). You know I have three brothers and we were always rough, and tumble, and fight, and dirty, and muddy and that’s what I love. I just want to jump around and kick some behind and do all that kind of stuff (laughs).
Parlé: As Ruby you had the opportunity to work with great actors such as David Oyelowo , Omari Hardwick and Lorraine Toussaint, are there any other actors that you would love to work with on future projects?
Emayatzy: You know what, I just want to continue to work with actors that will allow me to grow. When you work opposite someone who has been in this business a long time or someone who is just a really great strong actor it forces you to step up your game and you grow from there. So I just want to work with actors who force me to do that. The last film that I just did, Miles Ahead with Don Cheadle, is another example. When you work with some one of that caliber there’s so much room to play. There is somewhat of a freedom in that so ultimately anyone who has that is who I want to work with.
Parlé: And going forward, aside from working with great actors, what will keep you motivated to continue choosing roles like Ruby and chasing the dream jobs?
Emayatzy: A couple things. One is that I love it, I really do enjoy it. When it comes to something like acting you have to love it or I don’t know why else anyone would ever do it (laughs). And then what keeps me going when that love starts to diminish is knowing that all of this is working together for my good. In some kind of way the roles that I get and the roles that I don’t get all work together. The opportunities, the people that I meet, the experiences that I have, if we look up 10-15 years from now and there are more experiences even outside of acting, it all worked together. For that helps keep everything in perspective for me. There is no thought of something having to be a certain way it all works together and I believe that God is always orchestrating and I have piece in that.
For more on Emayatzy check out her social media links below and get your copy of Middle Of Nowhere which was released to DVD January 13, 2015