When it comes to bright new talent in entertainment within the Black community, many of these creatives can be found at or have attended the American Black Film Festival in Miami. I found myself attending the film festival and I wanted to hear from Mr. Black Panther himself director Ryan Coogler speak about his journey to the being one of the hottest directors. While there I experienced the positive vibes from being around all of those in attendance. It was euphoric and energizing, Black excellence at its finest. There were many activities going on for attendees to partake in, one of the most entertaining was the HBO comedy competition hosted by Yvonne Orji aka Molly from Insecure. Before Yvonne’s comedic talents slew the audience, I happened to meet two actresses; one very charismatic Amber Jones and a very shy, jovial Toree Alexandre. We spoke about projects and exchanged business cards, little did I know one of these actresses played the younger version of the villainous Black Mariah on season 2 of the hit Netflix series Luke Cage.
Dapper Dr. Feel: How did you get into acting?
Toree Alexandre: My mother was a ballerina in England, and she put me in dance classes growing up, so I was performing in dance recitals from a young age. The turning factor, however, was when I played Johnny Appleseed for a history assignment in my second-grade class. When I put that metal pot on my head and got up in front of my class to perform, I knew I wanted to play Mr. Appleseed in a feature film one day.
DDF: What was your reaction to getting the Black Mariah role?
TA: I was at my desk at work and I screamed (internally), and cried a little! People at work already see me talking to myself daily, whether it is to memorize lines, or just a friendly convo with me, myself, and I – so they didn’t think anything of my strange behavior.
DDF: You mentioned you love classical theater, what made you get into it?
TA: The juiciest part of getting to know my characters is text analysis, and many classical pieces give you tons of text to sift through. From the metaphors to the parallels to the allusions to the rhymes to the symbolism to the imagery, it all gives you an inkling of how the playwright created the truths of the characters you are portraying, and how you as the actor can then insert yourself into the mix and do justice to those fully-realized characters. The depth, backstories and the intelligence of the Shakespearean characters are absolutely enthralling. I write poetry and am working on a few scripts, so I definitely take notes from great writers!
DDF: What was your process of preparing for the role?
TA: I watched the first season of Luke Cage, studied Mariah and her habits, imagined all of the things Mariah would do if she were on vacation in Jamaica, looked deeper into her relationships with Mama Mabel and her Uncle Pete, and how that played into her interactions with people and her hopes and dreams for the future of Harlem… also, dissecting what snapped inside her head for her to pitilessly pulverize her cousin to a pulp was a trip and a half… Ms. Woodard was captivating in that scene; I loved it!
DDF: What is the difference between theater and film?
TA: It’s just a different medium, so the scale is changed and you make adjustments accordingly. There is no real difference; it’s all acting! It really depends on the style of the show itself, that is part of what informs an actor’s choices.
DDF: Did you get to meet Alfre Woodard (Adult Black Mariah) or any of the main cast?
TA: Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Ms. Woodard (yet), but I was so grateful to have met LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Curtiss Cook, Jayden Brown (and his granddad), Chaundre Bloomfield, Mehki Hewling, Shannon Harris, and Jeff Auer. A lovely group of people!
DDF: How does it feel to be apart of a series that celebrates Black women?
TA: Black women are an integral part of how and why we are all here today. I celebrate Black women daily, so Luke Cage fits right into the puzzle! It feels like I am honoring the influential women in my life, so if I can honor them and pursue my passion simultaneously, what could be better than that?
DDF: What are your goals short term and long term?
TA: I am going to be a full-time actress and writer. I will be on stage and on the silver screen! I will travel the world. I will go back to school to study medicine, or mathematics, or both! My ultimate goal is to be of assistance to those in need.
DDF: What is your advice to young women in entertainment?
TA: Wah fi yhu, cyaan unfi yhu, as my grandmother would say. In other words, what’s for you is for you. Be your best self, work hard, be happy wherever you are and in whatever you are doing, and God and the Universe will take care of the rest.
Make sure to follow Toree Alexandre as she makes her way towards stardom in Hollywood and theater.