“It’s not cute to ignore injustice against other people simply because they don’t look like you” With Actress Michele Lyman

Care more. Speak out against cruelty, hate and evil wrong-doings. Silence is complicity. We are all people of great influence. The people…

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Care more. Speak out against cruelty, hate and evil wrong-doings. Silence is complicity. We are all people of great influence. The people in power are there because we put them there. We can also take them out. We all have a voice. Use it for good. It’s not cute to ignore injustice against other people simply because they don’t look like you. It’s a perversion of the heart to not care about the rest of the country and the world just so you can stay cozy in your little bubble. Care More. Speak up. Vote. Turn your heart towards all humanity.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Actress Michele Lyman. Raised in Brooklyn New York, Michele Lyman is an actor, singer, writer, director and producer. She has her sights on one day being a fully working creative, no longer needing a day job to pay the bills.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was a child I always loved music and sung constantly, no matter where I was. I was usually singing a Diana Ross song, I adored her! I was always in the choirs at school. I wrote songs and recorded them on my little tape recorder. When the movie “Fame” came out, I was elated to discover that the school existed in real life, and I was determined to go there. It seemed everyone at my junior high school knew that I was auditioning because there was this girl in my choir who started telling everyone that I wasn’t good enough to get into Music and Art. She would also make a point to sit behind me in choir rehearsal and whisper to her friends rather loudly so I and the rest of the class could hear, all the ways in which my voice wasn’t up to par. Every time I came into contact with her, whether it was at gym class in the locker room, or eating in the cafeteria, she would make a point to burst out in song and then make a snide remark like ‘that’s how you sing’. I was so glad I didn’t let her shake my confidence to the point of not auditioning. She did everything she could to get me not to audition, but I really wanted to go to that school, so I pushed past the fear and any insecurities I had. And boy did I have a lot. When I saw all those other kids at the audition it scared me. There were just SO MANY. The chances of getting into the school were small, and waiting for the results was nerve-wracking. When I got that acceptance letter, the joy I felt was indescribable. People underestimating me, continues to this day, but I still press on towards what I want to achieve. I have learned how to ignore all the voices and follow my own true voice. My 4 years of High School at LaGuardia H.S. of Music and Art was the best. To be surrounded by so much creativity, so many like-minded people, daily, was truly a gift. I built up my confidence at that school. One of my teachers told me about Sarah Lawrence College, she thought I’d be a good fit and told me to check it out. I did, applied and was accepted. That opened up the world of the theatre to me. I had been intrigued by acting and wanted to try it after some students from the drama department at M&A came into one of my classes and acted out a piece. But I was a music major at M&A and there was no double-dipping.

One of the first things I did when I got to Sarah Lawrence was sign up to audition for “Song Class”. Song Class was a part of the Workshop Theatre. It was very popular and hard to get into. At the end of the semester there was a big performance, “Song Night” that everyone came to. It was a hot ticket on campus! Besides Song Class, I started to check out the other classes in the Workshop Theatre, and soon became a part of the theatre community. My first acting role was in my freshman year, in the play “Balm in Gilead” by Lanford Wilson. I played a junkie, it was a small role with no lines, I think I grunted once when one of the leads called my name. I wasn’t happy about it when it was given to me, I wanted some lines! But, I ended up loving it because it taught me discipline on stage. I was on stage the entire time and had to maintain that state of being strung out while sitting on a chair, in full view of the audience, every now and then I’d nod out at an excruciatingly slow pace, just to the point of catching myself before I toppled over. Julianna Margulies was the lead in that play and she was already a very good actress whereas I was just getting started. But it was enough to light the fire for acting inside of me. When people came up to me afterwards to tell me how believable I was, it made me feel really good. That part taught me that there are no small roles.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

October 5th, I actually just wrapped on my second film. It’s called “Acceptables”. The current social and political climate is disturbing to me. I felt the need to channel my discontent into my art, so I wrote a short screenplay. It starts off with a first date between two people. It’s cute and playful and what it should be in a sane world, but it takes a turn for the worst due to the policies of the presidential administration. To me, it’s what could happen, if we continue to let the people in power go un-checked. When you let people in power get away with anything, they will do anything. They won’t stop, things will just get worse. And before you know it, they’ve completely changed our democracy. I’m also auditioning, but I refuse to wait around for someone to notice what I have to offer, I’m taking my career into my own hands.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Nothing to offer on this front, but my future looks bright, so we’ll see.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think you have to “really” want to do this. It can’t be a fad. It can’t be because you’re chasing fame and fortune. You have to love it. Very few actors reach the status of fame and fortune. Very few are even solely working actors, without the need of a thrival job. You have to be doing it because you LOVE it. You love the craft, you love exploring other parts of yourself while working on a role. You love the challenge of taking on something that scares the hell out of you, you love feeling the energy of an audience when you’re on stage, or the energy of the cast and crew when you’re in a groove and you’ve successfully pretended that there isn’t a camera staring at you and a boom over your head. YOU HAVE TO LOVE IT! Even if you know you might not make it, even if no one supports you or cheers you on. You have to love it enough to cheer your own self on, and just keep going.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Care more. Speak out against cruelty, hate and evil wrong-doings. Silence is complicity. We are all people of great influence. The people in power are there because we put them there. We can also take them out. We all have a voice. Use it for good. It’s not cute to ignore injustice against other people simply because they don’t look like you. It’s a perversion of the heart to not care about the rest of the country and the world just so you can stay cozy in your little bubble. Care More. Speak up. Vote. Turn your heart towards all humanity.

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. Relationships are very important, so try to find your tribe early on. Don’t just make genuine connections, but also keep nurturing them and stay in touch with people. At Sarah Lawrence, I was in quite a few productions with many people who are now very successful actors, showrunners and writers. We spent a lot of time together. But once college was over, we all parted ways claiming we’d keep in touch, but it doesn’t happen by circumstance, you have to work on keeping that connection. I wish that I had not lost touch with so many people because it’s hard to find your tribe when you’re older. Sometimes this journey gets to be pretty lonely, and it would be nice to have a group of people who you can trust and rely on and they can trust and rely on you. I tend to be very loyal and giving to people I care about, but the older I get, I’m realizing I don’t usually get that in return. I really wish I’d had the foresight to actively form my tribe and nurture that through the years.

2. This is a journey, not a sprint. Enjoy the journey. The journey is never over. There is no final destination. Don’t worry about how long it takes to get to the next level. As long as you’re making consistent progress, then the work is working. Just do the work, and don’t sweat the timeline. I took a 15-year hiatus! I just came back in 2015. I had no footage, no reel and an ancient resume. Prior to leaving, Backstage was a physical paper we picked up from the newsstand. When I came back to the business, Backstage was online, and you could load all of your stuff into an online profile. Talk about a shock, a completely different world. It was a bit daunting, but I started with what I had. I had an iPhone 4s, which I propped on some books, and recorded myself doing a monologue from a Tyler Perry movie. I booked my first short film from that monologue, with no audition, to a casting notice I saw on Backstage. Production was relatively quick with getting me the footage and then all of a sudden, I had something else to work with. I booked my first play, “In Defense of Glitter and Rainbows” written by True Rodriguez, by submitting an old headshot that my daughter said still looked like me. Once I realized that my progress wasn’t a fluke, I went and got new headshots. And I just chugged along until I had enough footage to create a reel. Once I had a reel, I felt more confident that I had an appealing package, so I started sending out submissions to agents. That submission process got me the agent that I’m currently freelancing with. Slow and steady. In the summer of 2017, I wrote my first screenplay, I shot it in September 2017, and it’s gone on to win several awards on the festival circuit. And, I myself, have won several Best Actress Awards for my role in it. I never saw it coming. Wasn’t even looking for it. I just wanted to create something from start to finish. In addition to writing “Getting Over”, and starring in it, I produced and directed it. I had never produced before, it was a learning experience. I had never directed before, but I’m totally type A and was confident I could, so I did. And, I ended up being nominated for Best First Time Director. I was just focusing on the work. Do the work and everything else will fall into place. Turns out I loved directing and producing so much, that I decided to do it again for my second film “Acceptables. I hired the same DP from my first film, Marc Fratto. He’s also my editor. We work well together. Marc and I huddled up around his computer for 9.5 hours editing the film. I’m proud of what we did and look forward to sharing it. I’ve also written a web series, which is a continuation of my first short. And, I’ve written a feature, but both of those are going to have to wait until I have some financing in place. I am compelled to not just act but also to write. I took creative writing at Sarah Lawrence, it seemed like a natural progression since I was always writing songs and poems.

3. Sometimes you will not get the support that you want or need. Even from your hundreds of Facebook “friends”. There are people whose posts I constantly like. I constantly wish them well and congratulate them on some new achievement they post, and they NEVER do the same for me. And to make matters worse, even though they don’t publicly support you, they will send you private messages wanting you to hire them. It’s a weird thing, but I suppose this is just something I’m going to have to deal with. I have been very tempted to shut down my Facebook personal page, but I also have my film pages connected to it, and I found my film crews through Facebook. There is some good to it, but it is not the barometer by which you should measure your potential success. No matter what, you have to keep going, regardless of whether people support you or not. Support yourself. Believe in yourself, because sometimes that’s all you have to work with. But that is enough. You are enough. When it comes down to it, I’m not trying to be social-media famous. My goal is to be a working creative artist. That’s what’s important to me.

4. Don’t worry about getting the job. If you get an audition, that’s a blessing alone. You beat out hundreds, sometimes thousands of other submissions to land a coveted audition spot. Show up 100%, be ready to work and give what you have to offer. You have a few precious minutes to give from your talent. So, give. Don’t try to impress, don’t try to guess what “they” want. Read your sides, do your breakdown, whatever your process may be, and go into that room prepared to do the work. Don’t waste time agonizing over what you wear and the perfection of your hair or makeup. Focus on the work. Book the damned room! I had an audition for a film last summer that I didn’t get. I know I did good work, I felt great about my audition, but I didn’t get the part. It was a lead role. The director, Francesco Nuzzi of Open Iris Entertainment sent me the nicest email about my audition and told me we would work together one day. You know how people say nice things and then nothing comes of it? Well, he actually meant it, because this past May 2018, we did work together. Frank gave me a lead role in his next film, “Troll”, WITHOUT an audition. Your chances of booking everything you audition for, are slim. Remember to be grateful for each chance to audition. You never know what may come of it.

5. Sometimes you just have to let go and move on. I remember when I returned to the biz and I took my first Casting Director Workshop. I went into that room and performed those sides with full force. I had prepared them and knew what I was doing. I was also nervous as hell, but I did it afraid, no holding back. When I was done, the Casting Director exclaimed, “Damn girl! That was great. Where have you been, why haven’t I seen you before?” She then went on to ask my contact information and said she had a role in an Ava DuVernay project that was coming up, that she thought I’d be perfect for. When I left that room, all the other actors were giving me the thumbs up, or mouthing how great a job I’d done. I NEVER heard from the Casting Director. EVER. Oooh it bothered me SO much! Especially because she had said that in front of everyone and built up this expectancy. It took me awhile to realize she wasn’t calling and not be upset about it anymore. Maybe I wasn’t really ready yet. Maybe Ava had already cast someone else. Maybe it just had absolutely nothing to do with me. Sometimes there isn’t a deep lesson to be learned, sometimes it’s simply “it wasn’t meant to be”. And, sometimes, the only way to get stronger is to be forced to use that strength. You never know what you’re truly made of, if you never go through anything. Have compassion on yourself and others. We all learn our lessons at different paces. Don’t let any person or circumstance bog you down so much that they take up residence in your brain. Sometimes there is no explanation. And even if there is, the explanation may still not satisfy you. Just let it go.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There’s a gospel song in which the verse says “What God has for me, is for me”. It’s one of my favorite songs to sing. I belted some of it out in my agent’s office when she asked me on the spot, to sing something, in our first meeting. I try to always keep that message at the forefront of my mind. No matter what anyone else is doing, getting or experiencing, my race is my own, and what’s for me is for me. No matter how much or how little support I get, no matter if I’m not receiving a bunch of “likes” on my social media, it does not matter. What God Has for Me Is Indeed for Me, and when that door opens, no man can shut it.

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?

My mother encouraged my passion for singing, when I was child. When she saw I was really serious about it, she went and found a vocal coach for me to work with. We weren’t financially well off back then, and I know it must have been a struggle, but she made a way for me to go every week. She came to every show I did and cheered me on.

In the past 3 years since I’ve returned to the business, my daughter, Nia Morgan, has been a fantastic help. As I said earlier, I took a 15-year hiatus so I could focus on being the best mommy I could, but I often talked to my daughter about past performances and things I used to do. When she was going off to college, she encouraged me to return to doing the thing that I loved. I was very hesitant, because I was older and heavier, and didn’t think the business would receive me. But in her sophomore year, I realized that I had to give it a shot, or I would just remain in the tortured state of “what if”. Nia is my reader when I get a request for a self-tape. She took photography in her last semester at college and she takes new headshots of me, when I want to change up my look. She also discovered her love of makeup in the past year, and has become quite good, so I hired her as my Makeup Artist and Still Photographer for my last film. She was the Still Photographer for my first film “Getting Over, and even pitched in also as a PA. I respect her opinion and let her read my scripts when I’m done, to get an honest reaction and genuine feedback.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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 see this. 🙂

Viola Davis. I admire her work, her talent, her authenticity. When I’ve watched her in an interview or heard her speak, she completely draws me in. I resonate with her energy. And if she’s unavailable, I would happily meet with Ava DuVernay or Oprah. All of these amazing women are on my dream board and I hope to work with them one day.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My performance website is: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are: TheMicheleLyman. I also have a site where you can watch the film trailers and check out information on the films I’ve created at:

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