Having made her acting debut in the church with the congregation filling the building with applause, Courtneii Ciara knew from that moment she was put on this earth to change minds and hearts with her art. While the task may appear daunting to some, she took her calling seriously with all the strength of a warrior. Fear has only fueled Courtneii’s curiosity and pushed her into wonderful opportunities more than once and this time we get to watch in the featured short film Do As I Say.
Hailing from the beaches of Florida with the cultural roots of California’s coast, this Clark Atlanta Alum has performed on stage in theater productions such as “Romeo and Juliet” and several short films that reflect her range and growth.
More unique than the spelling of her name is the tone and talent that spews out through the screen for audiences worldwide. We talked to her about professional goals and personal aspirations and we have it all here for you!
Blossom: What attracted you to the role of “Dominique Johnson” in the dramatic short film, “Do As I Say?”
Courtneii: The message of the film resonated with me as an artist and the constant internal pulling to follow your heart and chase your dreams. Most artists are misunderstood by those closest to them and that was evident in Dominique’s case but the symbolism, in the way she stood up to her mother and a turned down money to remain in a seemingly safe job, is a common struggle. That struggle never gets old and the cannot be told too many times. Women of color are especially expected to stay in a box set by society’s standards and whether she is a mother or not she must break the mold and achieve her destiny.
Blossom: How did you remain positive and focused in your role on the film?
Courtneii: Instead of focusing on the negative words of the mother to my character I chose to hear the love in her voice, the fear of her daughter making a mistake that could destroy her life is what the mother was really trying to communicate. All parents want their children to excel in life and when a parent believes their child is making a mistake it’s common that they voice their concern to guide their child. I especially appreciated the fact that Dominique was able to see past the words and embrace the love when she told her mother she loved her right before starting her new life.
Blossom: How do you evaluate success within your role (or any role)?
Courtneii: To evaluate my success on stage I pay attention to the audiences responses whether it be laughter or crying I check in with them to ensure I am doing a good job and connecting. With film I am obviously unable to immediate check in with my audience but i do check in with myself and I found that if I am connecting emotionally to role then I will connect through the screen.
Blossom: Thinking back over your career, what has been your greatest accomplishment?
Courtneii: My proudest moment was after I hesitantly auditioned for a role in the Clark Atlanta Production of “Romeo and Juliet”. I was approached by a staff member about auditioning for the play, though I had no intention of going out for a role I was convinced to anyway. Shakespeare is extremely intimidating to me and I did not think I could pull off any role in the play but I did, I ended up being cast as Juliet. Earning the title role was surprising and the challenge of understanding Shakespearean language was one of the best parts of the experience.
Blossom: What actor inspires you most?
Courtneii: Diahann Carroll is my all time favorite actress and the film that inspire me most are Claudine. The authenticity she brings to the role is what I desire to do when creating my characters and their back story. Another actress that has inspired me significantly is Dorothy Dandrige, star of Carmen Jones.
Blossom: From a professional standpoint, what would you say are your greatest strengths?
Courtneii: Firstly, without bragging too much, I’d say my inquisitive nature has served me well in my career and my need to find out everything I can about a character has helped me bring life to my roles. Secondly, my ability to focus, once my mind’s made up that is it. I’m not a fan of indecisiveness. Finally, I’ve my passion in life and I am not afraid to acknowledge that and stand by my art. Being passionate has been an anchor in my acting career, especially during tumultuous times.
Blossom: Thinking about the last film you saw, what made it memorable and why?
Courtneii: Due to my deep love for romance and storytelling, the last film I watched was Paris Blues starring Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll. My passion for film attracted me and my love of music. This movie and the character Diahann played keeps my eyes glued every time, not to mention the music and love stories being told.
Blossom: What is your ideal role?
Courtneii: Ideally, I’d like to see more women of color portrayed as super heroes. I would play an African-American heroine on an Action Packed adventure or the first female James Bond character. If had I had chosen a runner-up, I’d star in the biopic of Diahann Carroll.
Blossom: In 10 years where do you see yourself, professionally?
Courtneii: I will definitely be living in my truth, doing what love and expressing myself through art and mentorship. Representation in the arts is important to me and part of my purpose is to help create that content for those that come after me. I hope to help eliminate some of the doubt in little brown girls about how they fit in this world while helping to resolve the issues stemming from misunderstood children who need to express themselves in the arts.
Blossom: Describe your acting style?
Courtneii: Though I’m still learning and developing my style, I will say I like to go after any role that I might find challenging. I like to question the writer about the character’s back story or create a backstory while thinking about how that shapes a person’s decisions, past and present.
Expect to see more from Courtneii in the near future and in the meantime follow her on Instagram @CourtneiiCiara. Until next time Live in Bloom!