Interview with Leslie Black, Filmmaker, Actress, & Producer

Interview with Leslie Black, Filmmaker, Actress, & Producer

Columbia Native, Leslie Black Redefines the Lense of Police Brutality on Motherhood. The recent viral news of harassment against a Black Columbia, SC resident is a symptom of a larger disease that sits at the foundation of society and the modern-day policing system. While many have chosen to fight back through physical protest, legislation, and social media, actress, producer, and Columbia native Leslie Black is fighting back from the producer's chair.

As a Black mother in America, Leslie Black is using her platform to not only raise awareness on police reform but showcase the effects of police brutality on Black mothers through a new lens. With the Summer release of her new short film, "Mommas," Black is showcasing the effects of this epidemic on the mental health of the Black community, the disconnect between both sides when discussing issues with police brutality, and more.

We had the privilege of coordinating an interview with the amazing actress, producer, and Columbia SC native Leslie Black as we discussed her career in film and how she's using her creative lens to combat police brutality.

Written by and starring Leslie, MOMMAS is a gripping thriller about four Black mothers each grieving the loss of a son claimed by police brutality. When the legal system fails to bring accountability, the women take matters into their own hands in a high-stakes gambit for justice.

As a Black woman filmmaker, Leslie is part of a new generation of artists bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront of the American consciousness.

As a resourceful creative, Leslie Black can also speak to the challenges and rewards of being a marginalized filmmaker in the age of COVID-19.

Note: All the pictures are provided by the interviewee. 

Interviewer: Do you believe we have much mental health awareness in the black community?

Leslie: No, I do not. I do believe that there's a missing link between education and the people who are administering it. Mental health is very important in our community and it's very important to me because I had a sister who suffered from mental illness. I saw the effects of the community and in some cases those who were over mental health hospitals not understanding how to properly manage the needs of mental health patients. So, I feel like there is a great need for people to expand their mental health awareness, education, and how they navigate situations where a mental health crisis might occur. Specifically, the community needs to understand that losing one's mental
health can happen to anyone. It happened to my sister. She was really normal at one point in her life and then a traumatic experience triggered her mental health to decline drastically.

Interviewer: Can you tell us a little bit about your past projects and your future projects?

Leslie: In the past, I've worked on various independent projects, major television and movie projects and I've done several stage plays. I have been a part of Lee Daniel's hit television show Star. I was in a movie called Party Boat where I played a pirate. Most recently, I had a role in Dolly Parton's anthology series called Dolly Parton's Heartstrings. I currently have some new projects coming up including my own written and produced a short film called Mommas, set to come out this summer. I like to describe it as a mother's reply to police brutality and how it affects the Black community. I also recently booked a Lifetime movie coming out soon through my agency called the Jana VanDyke Agency.

Interviewer: Without giving away too many details, can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming short film?

Leslie: Absolutely! Like I mentioned earlier, it is a short film about police brutality. The theme of the film highlights a lot of hidden stories within the film surrounding racism, loss, grief, mental health, forgiveness, and of course police brutality. This story ultimately culminates into an ending of hope. Hope to share understanding and a desire for a resolution to what is happening with the African American community and the lives lost and broken by police brutality. It's very tragic that we keep seeing the same scenario play out with the loss of children, mothers, and fathers at the hands of police officers. With this project, we pray in Jesus' name that it inspires some sort of change.

Interviewer: Can you tell us a little bit more in detail on how you're using your creative lens to combat police brutality?

Leslie: Yes, I am hoping that through the lens I've used to create Mommas that people can see the wrath that this has caused among the African American community. I also want people to understand what it is like for a mother to lose their child and how that affects their mental health. I want people to understand the great lengths that a mother will go to seek out justice for the names of their children. Unfortunately, what we are seeing is that a lot of people who are killed in the African American community by the police are not seeing those officers brought to justice. So it is my hope to convey a story that showcases their quest to find justice and what that looks like when justice is served for members of the African American Community.

Interviewer: Who is your inspiration?

Leslie: To be honest, my inspiration comes from a lot of different factors. My inspiration comes from myself and a lot of the trials and tribulations that I have endured in my past. It comes from the artist community where I've witnessed my peers use their talents to showcase their art through films like Monique, Thandiwe Newton who is one of my favorite actors, Angelina Jolie, and more. I'm also inspired by Directors and their bodies of work like Malcolm D. Lee and Barry Jenkins. Just seeing how much effort and just compassion that they put inside storytelling.

Interviewer: Do you like something other than acting?

Leslie: I love a lot of things outside of acting. I am very into my family life, traveling, entrepreneurship ventures including my real estate firm where I own several rental properties throughout the Southeast.

Interviewer: Why did you choose acting?

Leslie: I like to say that acting chose me. It's one of those careers that I'm thankful to have discovered so many years ago. I chose it because it gave me an outlet to be a storyteller. When I was a little girl, one of the first things I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. I would always spend my days writing short stories and little books with special covers. My Dad would take those books and tie little strings around them so they almost linked like three rings that you could use for books. As I got older, that love for creating stories transformed when acting showed me a different medium of storytelling.

Interviewer: Where do you see your career five years from now?

Leslie: I see a lot of elevation. I see myself being a part of many major productions in various lead roles. I also see myself becoming a more intricate storyteller, having my projects on higher platforms, and just seeing my name in lights.

Interviewer: Throughout your career, did you face any hurdles? If yes, then how did you overcome them?

Leslie: think I've faced a lot of hurdles just in my journey in acting alone. You know life can sometimes get in the way of things and, when they do, I think what has helped pull me back is my faith in the lord. I've also been blessed with having a strong support system. I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by like-minded actresses and actors who support each other and keep each other going. Those in my community understand that sometimes life can get in the way and that sometimes there are obstacles. It could even be something as simple as taking on a full-time job that now keeps you from being able
to become a full-time actor. So when those obstacles come up, just being able to navigate that time in your life with a support system that reminds you what your goal is and how to balance whatever has been placed in front of you.

Interviewer: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Leslie: I think the best piece of advice that I've received throughout my journey as an actress is just to audition and let it go. I think just having that mantra in mind has helped me out a lot. You know, sometimes as actors, we hold onto those experiences because we feel like we embodied the part in its entirety. But one thing you have to keep in mind about acting is that it is completely out of your control.

When you send in your audition tapes to a casting director it is completely up to them and what they're looking for. In the normal professions, you go to school and get your diploma and you have a higher chance of getting a job in your field. In the acting profession, it doesn't always work like that. You have to go out and audition and you have to do your best while hoping and praying that your performance is in alignment with what those casting directors are looking for for that project. You'll beat yourself up if you try to hold onto the audition. So it's best to do your best and then move on to the next opportunity. If it's meant for you then it will be.

Interviewer: If you could meet your younger self right now, what advice would you give her? 

Leslie: I would probably tell her not to be so hard on herself. I think throughout my journey I have been really hard on myself just wanting to be perfect. Over time I've learned that perfect is not always what it's made out to be. It is ok to make mistakes and fall down and pick yourself back up again.

Interviewer: If you could bring about one change in the world right now, what would it be?

Leslie: I would change racism. It would really bring me joy for people to judge someone for what's in their heart and not by the color of their skin. I'm a military brat so I grew up overseas. I was raised in an environment where I was not raised to be prejudiced or see someone else's color and it defined how I interacted with that person. I didn't experience racism until I moved to the United States. So, I think that it's heavy here and it's in the air here. I just wish that we could love one another without the context of our skin.

How can we follow you on social media?

Leslie: You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @leslieblackacts and on Facebook as @LeslieBlack
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