Simone Missick Tells All Actors to ‘Recognize the Power That We Do Have’

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Photo Source: Joe Chea

“In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast” features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and Awards Editor Jack Smart for this guide on how to live the creative life from those who are doing it every day.

For inspiration on how to empower yourself as an actor—a profession that doesn’t usually feel empowering—listen to every word of Simone Missick’s advice.

“We have to walk [into audition rooms] knowing that we have the most power, as opposed to looking at it like, ‘Oh, I’m the person with the least power in the room,’ ” the stage and screen actor tells Backstage. “It’s like, ‘They would be lucky if they got me for this particular project.’ Sometimes you get to tell yourself that for years! I certainly had to tell myself that for years of nos.

“How could you continue to do something for 10 years and continue to believe in yourself if you didn’t have a certain level of empowerment?” she adds. “So many more actors would be so much happier with the process of going to work, the process of auditioning, which is another part of work, if we recognize the power that we do have to advocate for ourselves.”

The Detroit, Michigan native and Howard University graduate appeared in bit parts and guest TV roles throughout those “years of nos” in New York City, she remembers. “It took a while but those nos, thank God they happened!” Her breakout role as Misty Knight on Netflix’s “Luke Cage,” opposite Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, and Alfre Woodard, gives Missick the distinction of being the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first black female superhero on screen.

She recently starred as a badass bounty hunter on Season 2 of Netflix’s futuristic sci-fi venture “Altered Carbon,” and now leads Greg Spottiswood’s CBS hit “All Rise,” playing the fearless, flawed, and funny Lola Carmichael, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. Amid the pandemic’s interruption of Hollywood productions, the legal drama became TV’s first scripted series to air a virtually filmed episode May 4. As of the recent Season 2 premiere, COVID-19 safety protocols are in place both on set and within “All Rise” itself; Missick and her cast members act using masks, face shields, or plexiglass screens just like today’s real-life courtrooms.

Missick says the series has always meant to “replicate not only what [it is] like in the real world, but also, what [it is] like in the real court system.” On the virtual Season 1 finale and now, she and her co-stars (Wilson Bethel, Jessica Camacho, J. Alex Brinson, Ruthie Ann Miles, Lindsay Mendez, and Marg Helgenberger) have had to adjust their techniques and performances. Crew members set up cameras beforehand, for example, meaning actors are left sharing coverage at all times. “When the camera is on, you are always on,” explains Missick. “There is no opportunity, there is no need, for you to dial it back.”

What are the secrets to great “mask acting”? It’s a question actors may have to contend with for months to come. Expressiveness is more important than ever, says Missick, when half of your face is obscured. “I think that masked acting can be even freer for actors...because it allows for you to let everything that you would normally bring be present. Because it’s needed! It’s necessary.”

Maintaining safety amid the ongoing pandemic is another way for actors to advocate for themselves, as Missick points out. “One of the things that is always hard for actors on set—and it doesn’t matter at what stage you’re in—is advocating for yourself. I’ve seen a lot of people over the years just do things that were unsafe because someone asked them to. And it might not be until later that they say, ‘I was uncomfortable with that,’ or if they get injured, ‘Yes, I probably shouldn’t have done that take a second time.’ ”

On the set of “All Rise” and to her fellow actors in general, Missick urges others to speak up. “[If] you feel unsafe and someone is asking you to do something, you have to advocate for yourself. You have to. I don’t think, especially during this time, anyone would fault that.” SAG-AFTRA also has COVID-19 protocols in place and resources available to working actors with concerns or complaints. 

Listen to more of Missick’s great advice, and stay tuned for casting insider Christine McKenna-Tirella’s thoughts and recommended reading. Her Backstage casting listings for the week: a social media campaign seeking improvised self-tapes, Creede Repertory Theater’s digital production “To the Moon,” and Court Theater Chicago’s “Theatre For One” plays.

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