Who wants to watch the same stories over and over on TV and film?? Bring in some fresh writers, directors, DPs, talent, producers and allow new stories to have life.
As a part of my series about TV’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cylla Senii. Cylla is a versatile and daring artist who shines both on screen and behind-the-scenes. Born in Queens, NY and raised in Georgia, Cylla has taken the Big Apple by storm and used her drive to create, direct, produce, write, and act in her first digital series, Situationships, which has recently been picked up by BET Digital. She is thrilled to be producing 4 more series, and you can also find her acting in several digital and television shows in 2019. Cylla looks forward to producing and acting in more content and thriving as an artist in New York City and beyond.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Queens, NY, and when I was three, my family relocated to Warner Robins, GA. I was always fascinated with TV at a young age, and always told my parents that I wanted to act and direct when I got older. You’d always find me drawing cartoon characters and writing little comic strips when I was little. I acted in a lot of plays throughout school and was definitely a theater kid. I really enjoyed my childhood growing up in Georgia, and I always had big dreams to move back to New York and take the city by storm. After I went to UGA and graduated, I did just that!
Can you share a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Absolutely! Right after college, I had the wonderful opportunity to work in production for Bobbcat Films. It was my first real introduction to working in the film industry and also seeing how the director, actors, and producers all came to life on set. It was the foundation to the start of my career, and it definitely helped me come to the conclusion that I really needed to make my way to New York to immerse myself in the film and entertainment industry. Once I got to New York, I worked in advertising for several years, while at the same time, I was also creating my own content.
The first year that I got to New York is when I came up with the idea to make my show, Situationships. I thought it was a fresh and fun idea to create a show about millennial dating, and I worked with my amazing network of friends to make this idea come to reality. I was also inspired by a lot of amazing filmmakers like Issa Rae and Lena Waithe who were also creating their amazing shows, and I set out to create something of my own. It was a really fun and creative time. About 4 years later, my show has made its way to BET, and I’m extremely happy about that.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story that happened was realizing that my business card for my show happened to get in the right person’s hands. It sat on their desk for several months until they finally looked up the show and thought it was great. A year and some change later, I had the amazing opportunity to get my show picked up on a major network. Always have a business card! You never know where it may go. 🙂
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was during a time I was working in advertising, and my friend and I were going to lunch. I was hungry and already had a small yogurt in my hand. We got on the elevator, and guess who’s there. Lee Daniels! My friend thought he was a stylist, and therefore he probably thought I thought he was a stylist too. So, pretty much there was no elevator pitch happening on the elevator. And then the moment was gone. Biggest lesson is to always be ready for who might get on the elevator with you and don’t have a yogurt in your hand. Lol
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, I am directing, writing, producing, and starring in my show, Situationships, which you can watch at BET.com! I’m acting in several series which will premiere this year, and I’m also producing Wingmen (the spinoff of Situationships), Classic Ivy, 161 Feet Under, and Mistake which will all be available this year.
I’m 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?
- Diversity is extremely important in tv and film, because it allows new voices to be heard in an often marginalized and male dominated medium. If there’s no representation, then it ultimately reflects our culture in a negative way and tons of talented creatives will not get an opportunity to share their work.
- Who wants to watch the same stories over and over on tv and film?? Bring in some fresh writers, directors, DPs, talent, producers and allow new stories to have life.
- It’s 2019, and it’s really getting old. Just do it.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
- Simple. Hire more women and people of color in your writing rooms. And not just one.
- Seasoned vets in the industry should support new talent trying to grow and give them a chance to learn. Rather than seeing them as competition, see them as opportunity. We all had to start somewhere, and you could be that person that helps someone get their first chance.
- Overall, just give more support and resources to underrepresented artists in entertainment so they can have an opportunity to start their careers. We all can win.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone told me to start sooner. I would have wasted less time. Especially in college, when there’s a ton of film equipment you have access too. 😉
- Ask for support. It’s okay to ask for help, and your project will be stronger for it.
- If you have a team, learn to delegate. Sometimes if you are too close to a project, it’s good to allow fresh eyes to help support you with it. It also allows other people to have an opportunity to learn as well if that’s what they’re trying to do also.
- Enjoy the present. Life is now, not in the past or future. Enjoy your accomplishments and celebrate them more!
- Learn to be patient. Don’t rush either. Some of the best things can happen when you take your time and allow your best work to shine.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Get some rest. A lot of people feel like they always have to be on and always creating something. If you are tired, rest! You have to recharge and take care of yourself especially when working in a creative field. Otherwise, you will experience burnout, and your work and health will suffer. It’s okay to rest, I promise.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
My movement would allow others to know they are capable of living their dreams. All you have to do is start, work hard, and have faith that if you don’t give up, you will be able to live 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?
I am grateful toward the entire cast and crew of Situationships for taking the time to share their talents on an idea I had years ago and for believing in it. Without their support, everything that transpired could not have happened.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I went to my favorite place for bubble tea recently and got an awesome life lesson quote under my cup. “Success occurs when your dreams get bigger than your excuses.” It’s extremely relevant to me because sometimes you have to let go of old ways of being to make way for the new things you truly want. And I definitely let go of those excuses.
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. 🙂
Rihanna!!!!! I love her, and we’re both Pisces so we would obviously have an amazing time. She’s a phenomenal artist, business woman, and a true powerhouse. Always giving and also speaks her mind and isn’t afraid to be her most authentic self. I would love to meet her one day. #Navy
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @CyllaSenii! You can also like my show on Facebook @situationships and on Twitter and Instagram @situationshipny!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!