I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Nadège August.
Actress Nadège August is a multiple award-winning actress. Currently, she can be seen as ‘Joan’ on Tyler Perry’s drama Ruthless on BET. Audiences will recognize her from Nickelodeon’s Young Dylan as the titular character’s wayward mom, ‘Darlene Wilson’, and prior to this recurring on Zach Braff’s ABC comedy Alex Inc. Nadège is also the creator, producer and host of the edu-taining podcast What The Fockery; and continues to gain fans as the creator, writer and lead of the hit comedy web series, Bougie Dilemma. She won 2019 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama for David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer winning play, Good People; and has earned two NAACP Theatre Awards nominations for her talents on stage.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Nadège! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
The pleasure is all mine! My origin story is pretty complicated. Born in Brooklyn, NY to immigrant star-crossed lovers (Haitian-Cuban-French) who divorced by the time I was 4 years old. Ended up in Marseilles, France until 8 then Port-au-Prince, Haiti until 14 and finally back to my birth place at 14. Grew up with cultural confusion, a single mother, empathy, a modicum of poverty and a keen awareness of humanity, Yup. an average childhood! Nothing to see here.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was one of those kids who always knew what she wanted to be when she grew up but simply didn’t know what it was called. No one in my immigrant family was in the arts. Some may have thought of it, but not one pursued it. The biggest celebrity in my hood was a kid on The Cosby Show — who left Bushwick as soon as he could — Dondre Whitfield! My immigrant family did not quite understand what that was all about. But his “making it” somehow, gave me permission to try. Little did I know- unlike him, who had a parental figure helping him navigate through the maze of showbiz — I would have to go at it alone.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Being called a “stank ho”! I can’t believe that I am still stopped and asked if I am the “stank ho girl “from the movie The Brothers. That was my first on screen appearance in what is now a classic Black Hollywood rom-com film — it starred Shemar Moore. People still stop me to ask for confirmation, Yes, that was me — Ursula, French speaking Black woman. We are talking of one scene in an entire feature. And somehow, that stayed with the fans. I love them so much.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
Picture this: Untrained aspiring actress in Brooklyn, NY sees a casting in Backstage for an off-Broadway play. She grabs a High School graduation photo, a 5X7 of herself, adoringly holding a red long-stemmed rose. Show up to the open call, fully prepared to dazzle. Imagine the horror of discovering that no one else brought their High School graduation photo!
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Were it not for that moment, I would not have discovered this essential worker known as the “headshot photographer”. Mistakes are fodder for comedy but usually after time heals the wounds.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Prepping to shoot another season of BET’s Ruthless. The plot thickens for my already complex character “Joan” and the work excites me! An indie I star in, Out of Time, just got released on Amazon. My podcast What the Fockery keeps me quite engaged. I entered the podcasting space late 2018. My convos are with people who lead non-normative lifestyles. So much to learn about humanity!
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Life is challenging. Period. You owe it to yourself to respond to your heart’s song. If that tune says this career path is a “must” then go for it, unapologetically. And yes, it’s ok to be a multi-hyphenate. The more you know, the richer your life is and the characters you may end up portraying will be the beneficiary of all of your life experiences.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
1) This country, this planet has never been homogeneous. The industry needs to reflect a heterogeneous society back to itself.
2) Diversity provides a variety of perspective and I truly think inclusion is a great tool for the development of empathy.
3) Let the Ladies shine! And by that, I don’t mean do away with male leads. We need more female and persons of color in front and behind the camera. The notion of identification- seeing people who look like ourselves on screen.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. To compare is to despair. I wasted a lot of time looking at others whom I perceived as having the career I wanted and feeling like I had no chance. Absolute waste of time. Even your twin, should you have one, isn’t you!
2. A High school graduation picture is only useful for grandparents to adorn their walls with.
3. It’s ok to ask for help. I still wrestle with that one. Probably why I’ve never had a mentor and made lots of (preventable) mistakes.
4. Ease up on yourself. Your so-called perfectionism is an excuse not to get things done.
5. Failing is temporary. Yes, cliché- you really learn more that way. One of my first TV jobs. I had a scene that was very emotional — the character had just lost her dad. I was being a total social butterfly on set and not focusing on the work since I thought I had time. Suddenly, someone had a brainstorm and decided to shoot that scene earlier than planned. Lesson learned — Be ready at all times!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
With the pandemic, I think it’s been hard to compartmentalize. We do just about everything from home now and it’s more exhausting than we realize. I have found that making your bedroom a sacred space, where your body has a Pavlovian-like response to it. The bedroom is for rest. No TV in the bedroom.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I held a civilian job out of college in Manhattan. I was an office administrator of sorts for a computer consulting firm. When I told my boss, Mitch Pessin, that I would be leaving soon to pursue acting, he looked at me as if I said that I was going to pursue “bubble-gum chewing” A few weeks later I book an off-off-Broadway play. He purchased tickets for all of his employees and they made a night of it. When I went in to work the next morning, he pulled me aside and said: “Listen. I really think you’ve got something there. So yes… follow your calling.” Fast forward to MP, co-signing my car lease to help me get to Los Angeles. The only caveat was a promise. I remember his words so clearly: “You will be in the position to do the same for someone someday. Promise me you will help them.” Oh also, he had no interest in being stuck with a lease for a Saturn. So, I had better make sure I wasn’t going to embarrass him. I am happy to report, I did not embarrass him. He is still one of my favorite and most influential figures in my life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
Do for others what you wish they’d do for you if you were in their situation.
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Living those words keep me from too much self-indulgence and absorption.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Charlize Theron AND Shonda Rhimes. Charlize is fascinating, brave, a humanitarian who manages to be private. Shonda Rhimes, because she helps shape the world. Ms. Rhimes productions are the perfect example of what inclusion and diversity look like. A visionary who is right on time. Bridgerton, Grey’s Anatomy… America is ready.
How can our readers follow you online?
My website http://www.realnadegeaugust.weebly.com